The Sick Card

As someone who is working their ass off to live a better life, a life of recovery and happiness and self-love, it angers me to my core seeing people who play “the sick card” to their advantage. But that’s the thing about mental illness, no matter what label it has attached to it by psychologists and professionals, it’s a manipulative son of a bitch.

When we’re sick we become monsters, shells of the person we one were. We become liars and co-dependent on things we never saw value in before.

Then, there’s treatment.

We finally find a team or a psychologist who doesn’t make us feel like hopeless cases, who genuinely believes in us and wants nothing more for us than an improved quality of life. There’s actual tools we can use to better ourselves. Things in our life begin to turn around; we see goals we never thought we could achieve being met, new life aspirations and motivation and self-confidence. For the first time in years that light at the end of the tunnel isn’t just some cheesy ass metaphor used on motivational posters or in the abstract way. That darkness that only we can feel and see soon turns into a light, and dammit it feels so good to finally find that exit door out of all this shit we’ve been hiding in for years.

But it’s not like that for everyone.

Some find peace and comfort in the constant worrying of those around them, the phone calls or text messages of friends and family checking up on them to make sure they’re ok. They thrive on the sympathy of suffering from their mental illness, they cloak themselves as the patient and find that having this illness is the perfect scape goat for real life. Treatment, whether it be outpatient or inpatient or hospitalizations, isn’t meant to be fun or ClubMed. That shit is painful, even more painful than life tends to be, but that is their safety net.
Life gets too stressful or something happens that they don’t like, there they go pulling out the sick card they have neatly tucked away just for moments like these. Soon the sympathy and support of others comes pouring in and they gain that control of others back. For some reason, they thrive on manipulating people to feel sorry for them and make them go out of their way to prove that they care about them. It’s almost as if they’re trapping others into a world of misery because hey as the saying goes, “misery loves company”.
Real life becomes their treatment (meaning it’s soon a place they no longer wish to be, even though it’s where they need to be) and treatment becomes their life. It’s no longer a name they see or want others to see, but it’s an illness of epic proportions that they use to greet the world with.
Others in their life are forced to learn how to walk all over again around them, as not to break the egg shells strategically placed all over the ground in their home. One false step can cause the yolk to ooze out of the once complete shell, the shrapnel of broken shell digs and cuts at the heel, causing pain for the person stepping on the broken shell and that perfect excuse for the mentally ill person to absolutely lose their shit and spiral back down into whatever hole they have dug for themselves.

I Remember

I remember sitting in the back row of Mrs. D’s social studies class.

I remember how warm the room was, the noise of gym classes outside running the mile.

I remember another teacher rushing into our room, demanding Mrs. D to turn on the television.

Not a single one of my classmates or I could comprehend what was going on. My teacher put her hands up to her mouth, she became statuesque in front of the screen. From an 11 year olds perspective, I thought we were simply watching television. The weight of what was unfolding before our very eyes was a foreign concept to most of us in that room.

How do you explain to a room of 11 year olds that what you were seeing was thousands of innocent people being murdered by terrorists? College doesn’t teach future educators how to explain tragedy to children.

One tower fell. Helicopters flew around the other. News reports voiced over the video being broadcasted live all over the country.

And then… The bell rang.

Suddenly, we were thrust back into the reality of life. Things kept moving forward for us as we were not anywhere near the city. Many kids kept asking if we were going to get out early; the naïveté of childhood evident. Teachers answered these questions as sensitively as they could. Science was the typical science class, as was home and careers as was english and math. All of us witnessing something so unspeakably tragic, yet life had to keep moving forward.

I don’t think I ever felt fear like that until I got home and was getting ready for bed that night. Nothing else besides coverage of what they were calling a terrorist attack was on tv that night. No matter how hard we tried, we couldn’t escape news coverage of the tragedy. It was no longer live, but more and more footage was being reported by those who were down in the city and saw first hand the chaos that was ensuing.

I remember watching footage of people jumping out of windows, people crying and covered in what looked like a brown clay. I knew that it was in New York and I too was in New York. I wasn’t sure if I too was going to die that night. I remember hearing planes flying over head, and I prayed that it wouldn’t crash into my house.

They say you never forget where you were on days of tragedy, such as the bombing of the World Trade Centers.

I remember.

Dear Self.

Eat as if you love yourself.

Give nutrients and love
to the most precious of gifts you’ve been entrusted with.

Don’t deny yourself the pleasure of food
for without, you wither away, like the flowers in the fall.

Be patient with yourself.

You’re a work in progress
and you don’t have to have it all figured out.

Enjoy the labyrinth of life.
Observe and appreciate each stone you step on
as you wind in and out of the paths.
Not one singular path is the right one.
Be flexible with yourself.

Let the past be free.

Release that bird from the cage
that you’ve been holding hostage for years.
It’s place is not inside your home
where you can be with it any time you choose.

Watch as it flies away into the distance.
Say a cheerful goodbye
for when it leaves, you will have less clutter,
one less thing to clean up after or worry about.

Take a break.

Go for a walk, and enjoy the moment.
My dear you have all day to live inside your head.
Clarity comes in these moments
when you observe the wind
the air
the smell of fresh cut grass.

Life and the demands can wait for a moment.
The stressors of life can weigh you down.
It’s ok to step outside every once in a while
and appreciate all you have in life.

The most important of all is this:

Treat yourself like the valuable jewel you are.

When Violence Hits Close to Home

A week and half ago or so there was a fatal stabbing not too far from where I live. It’s a sobering thought simply knowing that there is still a murderer running around free somewhere out there. Police have no leads, and this poor woman is receiving no justice for what happened to her at the hair salon she was working at.

What kind of world are we living in? I feel like almost on a daily basis there’s breaking news of someone getting shot or stabbed to death. From innocent hair stylists to police men to children and so on. It breaks my heart watching the news or seeing posts from local news stations pop up on my newsfeed telling of yet another fatality.

I had a sobering moment yesterday on my way to a meeting for work. I ended up driving past the salon where the woman was stabbed. It was a building I have passed countless times throughout my life, and in a neighborhood that I always viewed as safe and quiet; only this time the mood on that road seemed darker somehow. There was still kids riding bikes or walking with their friends, people were mowing their lawns and going about their daily lives as if the events of a couple weeks ago were just distant memories. Maybe it’s because I haven’t driven up that way in a few weeks, but I felt almost a heaviness in the air as I was at the red light, with the hair salon to my left.

There were balloons, cards and countless flowers spread on the front steps of the building. It broke my heart knowing that this young woman ran out of those exact doors I was looking at, begging for help from anyone who saw her bleeding. I could picture her collapsing on the sidewalk as she lost consciousness. It’s a sobering thought knowing that the community I live in and the surrounding areas of the region are not as safe as I once thought them to be.

As children we see the world through rosey glasses. We view our neighborhoods as innocent and safe, a place where nothing bad could possibly happen. So when we’re faced with tragedy so close to home, it’s a shock. Tragedy is always shocking, but when it’s so close to home and in a town that you have driven through on your way to the mall countless times throughout life, it hits a little harder.

We begin to realize that the world isn’t as safe as we once thought it to be, and we can become scared of the places we once went without a care. The world we once viewed through our childlike naïveté is tarnished by news of murders, attempted murders and violence of any sort. Our schemas are challenged, and the fear we once avoided by ignorance is brought forth.

It scares me to see all of these violent acts being committed, and it seems as if lately they are more frequent. The picture perfect world we once thought existed is shattered like glass hitting a brick wall.

Blasts From the Past

I keep having these dreams where those people who walked out of my life when things got tough were back in my life. We’re laughing and doing all of the things we used to do when we were close. It’s such a strange feeling when I wake up from said dreams, because all of these emotions come flooding back, but the strongest one of all is anger.

A good friend of mine reminded me of a quote this past week that said something to the effect of the people we once loved are the ones we hate the most. I never thought I would hate these people as much as I do, and the conflicting thing about this is that if they ever called me up or texted me when they were in trouble I wouldn’t hesitate to talk to them.

I’m a pretty forgiving person when it comes to friends. I try not to hold grudges because being alone isn’t something I’m good at handling. There have been countless times where I gave people chance after chance, even when they continued to let me down and hurt me.

It’s like my past friendships are coming back into my head, and I’m not all too sure what this means. Do I miss them? More than I would like to admit sometimes. Do I have a lot of resentment? You betcha. But I think what makes these dreams mess with my head is the fact that I would still give anything to have them be an important part of my life.

They say the past isn’t something we can change, which is hard because I feel almost like it’s coming back to bite me. I wish I could change; ever since these dreams have been happening (almost nightly), it’s brought up all of the things I did and said when these people were in my life. How I took their friendship for granted, how I pushed them just enough away that they didn’t have full access to what I was going through but were still in my life. How I felt/feel abandoned and betrayed by them and how they decided that I wasn’t worthy of their friendship any longer because what I was going through was too much for them to deal with.

Yet with these blasts from the past, I’ve learned just how far I’ve come. I went from being broken and feeling hopeless of ever changing, to confident and hopeful for my future. I’ve become more cautious about who I let in and who I need to set boundaries with. I’ve learned how to effectively deal with conflict and use those ever so lovely interpersonal effectiveness skills often. I’m more assertive and less of a doormat; and to top it all off: I’m more mature and have a sense of who I am for the first time in my life.

These dreams have seemed like a curse for the past few weeks. My mind has been working on overdrive to try and analyze what this means and what the emotions are that they bring up. Yet I’m realizing now, the more I work through these brought up issues, that they’re also a blessing. It made me realize that who I am now is not who I was back then.

Every person from your past lives as a shadow in your mind. Good or bad, they all helped you write the story of your life, and shaped the person you are today

– Doe Zantamata

Livin’ The Dream

It started out as a joke that whenever someone would ask how I was, I’d respond with “livin’ the dream!” Only now if you know me, you know that when I get down time and get into my head, I wonder some really deep almost philosophical shit. I’m not sure what brought this on tonight, but I’m sitting here wondering how do you know when you’re actually living the dream?
It’s easy to say it when you’re joking and you’re actually working towards your dream, but do we ever wake up one day or look around our world and realize we are actually living it?
Here’s what my dream looks like:
Have my degree in clinical psychology/mental health counseling
Have a job as a psychologist
Own my own place
Have a gentleman caller in my life (yeah, I called a boyfriend a gentleman caller so deal with it).
I’d say my dream is pretty black and white. Right now I’m starting my senior year of undergraduate (eegats! so exciting!), working two jobs to get by and all the while keeping my eye on the prize. I know what my dream is, what the end game is but like with a lot of things in my life, I wonder if I’ll even realize it when the time comes.
Do we ever really live the dream? I mean, time moves so incredibly fast that I feel like half the time I don’t realize the significance of things until they’re just a memory. What if instead of living the dream, I’m missing out on parts of my life right now that were once a dream to me? Bare with me here guys, I know this is all getting to be some Twilight Zone thinking shit in here.
The fact that I’m even in college (and doing well might I add) is a dream come true, but it took me sitting down to write this to realize it and have it hit me. Shit, the fact that I’m alive is a dream. If you know my story you know the meaning behind that last sentence, but my past dream was to live a life of being happy, confident and motivated. To 20 year old Jess, this time of my life is a dream.
I’ve muttered the phrase “livin’ the dream” countless times over the past few years, but I never really meant it. We live in a constant state of future chasing. In different times of our life the end game can change drastically, and as we get older we see it alter greatly. So I guess to answer my own question here (sorry, us psychology majors who love research do this all the freakin’ time!), it takes reflection of your past self to realize if you are living the dream or not. Only it’s not living the dream, as much as it is living a dream; because let’s be real, you’re dream life a few years ago is more than likely not the dream life you wish for now.

Free Write- Poetry

Sometimes I feel like a grenade.

My trigger has been pulled,

and I know the explosion is coming.

When will it come? When will I explode

into millions of tiny pieces, hitting everything around me

with fragments of the shell I was.

The built up pressure continues rising inside me

after the pin is yanked.

Who is holding this weapon in their hand,

knowing all too well the damage it will cause others?

There’s no time to think about the consequences now.

It’s too late. There’s only seconds left

Until I detonate and take out everyone who’s in reach.

A split second of fear kicks in as I know the pain I am about to cause.

There’s no turning back though.

I can no longer control this anger,

This thirst for making others feel just as shitty as I do.

After I release my fury, I know I will have victims hit with the shrapnel of my anger.

There’s more to lose, and more underneath this explosion than I have ever let on.

Sometimes, I feel like a grenade

The Unknowns

I have never been good at the whole letting my guard down and letting people in. To be honest, my track record with it has been shit and I realized that if you keep a distance nobody can hurt you. Do you want to know how that works out? Not well. I become like this island, where the only thing keeping me company is that ever so familiar swirling darkness. Pain is almost like a friend of mine, or was, I don’t even know any more. All I know, is that pain (depression,anxiety and what have you) is consistent. Yes, it hurts like hell, but when you get accustomed to it always being there, there’s never a let down of it walking out of your life.

Relationships in my life have always been inconsistent. I guess those are the key words for this post: consistent and inconsistent. That guard I talked about is a result of said inconsistent relationships. Not in the romantic sense, but in the more personal sense with friends who I considered myself close with. I love the quote from One Tree Hill that says “people always leave”; I found it to be true and even when I realized it, the pain caused by their absence from my life never alleviated. It was always those who I managed to let my guard down with that ended up leaving, and each time it got harder and harder to not shift the blame inwardly. None of the people this is referring to have come back into my life yet… except for one.

What brings all of this out tonight is my ex-boyfriend. He, like the rest of those I tried letting in, left. It hurt like hell, especially after last time. We were broken up for a few months when I decided I needed to talk to him, because I missed him. That conversation turned into us making plans to catch up. I cancelled my plans I could have had that night, and I was so excited to see him again, but here’s the kicker. He stopped talking to me that whole week. So I asked for an explanation, and he rescheduled, only to once again stop communication with me. I was crushed, I felt not good enough and not wanted. This one I turned inwardly on myself. There had to be something wrong with me for him to lead me on like that.

So imagine my surprise when I received a message from him this week. Of course I couldn’t be mad at him, I didn’t/don’t have the emotional energy to be upset. We have been talking daily since then, and this time he asked if we could meet up some night this week. To be honest, I want to go so badly, but with this time I am not expecting anything. I don’t expect for this night to actually come to pass. Maybe I like being emotionally manipulated, maybe I don’t do well on my own, or maybe subconsciously I am looking for an excuse to spiral downwards. Whatever it is, I don’t know what this is going to be become.

That guard I let down with him is back up. I can’t get myself to reopen my heart to him, because I lost that trust I had for him when he blew me off (yet he continues telling me he misses seeing me). I don’t know if he’s playing me again, and that scares me to death, especially if we do actually meet up and I go right back to those feelings I had for him before.

Not knowing how something is going to turn out was never my thing. I’m a planner and scheduler, so this whole situation is new to me, yet I continue to talk to him all day because the feelings I have for him are coming back.

I’m probably going to regret this in a week or so, but who knows.

This Slippery Slope

I’ve been asking myself a lot this past week how I’ve let myself get back to this point. Back to the point of being terrified of anything resembling a full meal, of making sure I stay constantly moving throughout my days and going for a 4 mile walk after I eat dinner, weighing myself every day and the days I don’t I feel anxious, isolating myself from friends because I am too fucking exhausted after working all day to move (yet I still somehow manage to go out and walk).
How could I have been this stupid? I know what I was doing wasn’t the right thing to do, but stupid me thought I could pull back out of these behaviors but we all know how fucking powerful that voice in your head is.
I feel so dumb, but in the distorted mind that is me, I also feel really fucking powerful. I guess that’s what it all boils down to: having power.
Power over what? I don’t fucking know, but the will I had to skip meals and go without nutrients makes me feel almost superhuman. God I am so fucking stupid.
Maybe it’s because my friend died, maybe it’s because I can’t shake the grief from losing my Grandma, maybe it’s because when my ex-boyfriend called it quits with me I fell apart more than I was willing to admit because I was hiding behind the shield of anger. Whatever it is, there’s been this whole inside me my whole life that these self-destructive behaviors fill. My ex filled it, and then it ended. I was falling in love (at least I think I was) and I’m starting to think us breaking up was somehow my fault. I’m taking blame for what is probably his shit but I feel like maybe there was something wrong with me.
These thoughts don’t make sense, but neither does relapsing back into my eating disorder after almost 6 months of recovery.
I feel so stupid. I should be stronger than this.

Why I Love Research

Being a psychology major, one of the requirements for my school is taking 2 courses surrounding the topic of research methods/statistics. I started out that journey hearing horror stories of how difficult it was, how much work and time and energy went into it, how I’d have to conduct my own study and write a paper about my research, not to mention the fact that being a junior and knowing I wanted to work with eating disorders and addictions I had absolutely no interest in doing any sort of research. Here’s why:

For the past few years being in a few treatment programs I’ve heard a lot about research. “according to research…”, “the research does say that…”, was an infamous line that came out of therapists mouth almost on a daily basis and frankly, I was sick of it. Research, as far as I could tell, wasn’t accurate. At least not for me. I’d smirk whenever the psychologists would start a sentence out using those phrases. How would research benefit me? Nobody ever included me in one of the many studies done, so how the hell do they know?

So when I had to take a research methods and statistics course, I thought “oh boy, here we go. This class is going to suck”. Sure I’d try my hardest to get a good mark, but once that year was over with I would have nothing to do with research for the rest of my life and career in clinical psychology. But something happened the more I learned of the methods, research is so much more than just one individual.

Anecdotally speaking, research pertains to the vast majority of a population you’re studying and what I love about it is you can gain further perspective into human behaviors and cognitions by studying a sample of the population. So to bring it back to myself, as much as I hate to admit it, I was in part contained into the population of those with eating disorders. The research behind the disorders make sense and the more I look into areas of research I can see now that what researchers found in their results and analysis make total sense.

I love coming up with research questions about topics in the field I am passionate about. There’s something intriguing to me about having all of these questions, reading what other researchers have found and trying out methods to test my hypothesis. If you told me a year ago that research would be an area of psychology that I would end up being passionate about I would have laughed at you, but now I am actually in the beginning stages of my 2nd research project. This time I have higher goals than just to get a passing grade. I’m working with my professor who was also my research methods and statistics professor, and this round I’m working with her instead of doing everything on my own. I’m genuinely excited and to be honest I would probably do the project even without the incentive of earning Independent Research credit.

Thanatology became a high interest area of mine last semester when I took the class. It was relevant because of everything I was experiencing with my Grandma, and knowing this professor had research interests in that area I knew it was a good match. We met a few weeks ago and decided to do a study on social media/networks and coping with death. I am so excited about this and get more so as I read more and more articles pertaining to the topics.

For this research I want to present it at a conference psychology majors from my college go to every year, and there was even talk at our meeting of publishing the research. All of these things are what I was wanting to accomplish the minute I fell in love with research. It’s so much more than numbers, it’s a way to observe human cognition and behaviors in a hands on way. Wanting to be a clinical psychologist my whole undergraduate career I can see now the more I get into research why it is so helpful to the field.

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