Tag Archives: Mental Health

Trash TV + Running

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Question: What do trash TV and running have in common?

Answer: Everything!

I am not ashamed to admit that while I’m watching trash TV, I can run all over creation (figuratively, of course). “Repo Games,” “Judge Judy,” “COPS,” “World’s Wildest Police Videos,” “Jerry Springer,” “Maury”… I watch it all.

This morning, the gym was blissfully empty. There was just little old me, sweating my ass off, watching the “Repo Games” marathon. You know, exercising the same brain cells that are earning my Master’s degree in clinical mental health counseling.

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Sometimes I also watch “real” TV while I run, but the trashy shows are just so much more entertaining. I particularly like the trivia shows — hence today’s “Repo Games” marathon.

I ran 4 miles while people got their cars repossessed for thinking that California is a territory of the U.S., that the video game acronym GTA stands for “guns thrown around,” that an octogon has two to four sides, and that there is a television show called “That ’90s Show” on which the characters smoke weed 😉

Watching TV while I run may not be the best use of my smarts, but it sure does beat staring out the window, or staring down the time on a long run.

#sorrynotsorry

Question: Do you have a guilty-pleasure trash TV show?

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Surrendering (And How It Wasn’t as Bad as I Thought It Would Be)

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“Mama said there’d be days like this, there’d be days like this, Mama said…”

Okay, I’m done. I’m no songster, anyway. The lyrics just floated through my brain and seemed so appropriate for today’s post 😉

I’m not usually one of those women who willingly admits she can’t do something. Actually, I’m more of one of those I-Am-Woman-Hear-Me-Roar types.

I always try to be straight with you, so I’ll be straight right now – the mixture of activities taking place in my life right now is stressful, and at times, overwhelming. I am completing my Practicum experience, attempting to solidify summer employment, working on securing an Internship site for the next academic year, planning a wedding, trying to fit in regular exercise, and managing my apartment as well as daily living tasks and weekly schoolwork. Whew!

[Please note: I am in no way trying to insinuate that my life is any busier or more action-packed than anyone else’s; in fact, I am trying not to play the comparison game these days. I’m simply stating that my life is chaotic in my world.]

That being said, sometimes I need a little assistance balancing everything. After weeks of debating and weighing the pros and cons, I decided to seek counseling at the college’s counseling center.

I thought I would waltz right in, flash my college ID, and get started discussing stress with one of the counselors. Come to find out, my college’s counseling center requires a record of a recent physical and immunization records, as well as a completed student medical information form before the counselors can see any student—even a graduate student. Hence why I made a trip to Richmond in the middle of the week for a physical.

As I was texting Ian about my difficulty in even establishing an appointment, he said something to me that resonated deeply because it is such a prime controversy in this country right now: This is a ridiculous amount of hoops. I wish it were this difficult to buy a weapon. (That’s a different topic for a different day.)

You might be asking yourself, why would you choose to see a college counseling center when there are “real” counselors all over the place? The answer is, for three reasons. Primarily, the college counseling center is close, and there is no waiting list for new clients. Second, it is a free service afforded to all students, graduate and undergraduate. Private counseling practices can be very pricey. Third, and perhaps most difficult to admit, I don’t hold a particularly positive view of college counseling centers. I say “real” counselors in quotes because the counselors at colleges are real counselors—they have experience and training, and many of them graduated from programs similar or identical to mine. They are often stereotyped as either young, hot-off-the-press graduates with little or no experience in the issues experienced by college students who “don’t really help you,” or antiquated older men who live to prescribe medication. In reality, they are rarely either of these undesirables. Hey, after completing 60 credit hours post-Bachelor’s degree and 700 hours of experience, I won’t appreciate it too much if future prospective clients don’t think of me as a “real” counselor! I’m making the best attempt I know how at overcoming my mental stigma against seeing a counselor on a college campus.

So, here I am, ready to see a counselor for the first time since I was fifteen… and still waiting for the results of my physical to arrive. I kind of doubt the counseling center will turn me away if my blood sugar is too low or my cholesterol is too high. I just want to talk to somebody about my freaking stress level!

Someone asked me recently, “Can’t you use some of the techniques you’ve been taught for helping clients deal with stress?” Well, yes and no. That task is easier said than done. It’s kind of like talking to your best friend about what’s bothering you over and over and receiving the same answer each time, and then finally breathing a sigh of relief when you gain a fresh perspective from talking to someone else about what’s bothering you. Yes, I can apply what I’ve learned to my own life, but I think a fresh perspective is just what I need right now.

For example, my meltdown a few weeks ago was actually not the result of stress over floral arrangements or photographers’ prices or cupcake flavors; it was the result of cumulative stress. Since said meltdown, I’m happy to report that my stress level has been reduced significantly 😉

Again, I’ll be straight with you – it’s not easy admitting to people that you need help managing life stressors that others seem to balance with such ease and grace. When I worry about what people might assume when I tell them I’m seeking counseling, I try to remember that each person has unique stressors in his or her life, each person possesses different coping mechanisms, and each person experiences a different outcome as the result of the stressors and the ways they deal with them.

For the first time in my life, I’m looking forward to the ways counseling can benefit my personal life, let alone my career. Stress can be a difficult animal to harness and subdue, and I’m looking forward to letting someone else help me take the reins for a bit. As always, updates to follow!

I’m off to the gym to sweat out a little stress 😉

Question: How do you cope with life stressors?

A Hodgepodge of My Thoughts

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In my mind, the best kind of learning is unanticipated or unplanned lessons. I got a healthy dose of such knowledge this weekend. Warning: The following is a collection of my scattered, slightly overwhelmed thoughts.

I mentioned recently that I had a bit of a meltdown related to wedding planning… So naturally, I took a week or so off from the planning agenda and focused on me, myself, and I. I exercised mindfully and got myself more centered. I ate well and tried to stay away from the booze. I scheduled a physical and discussed diet and exercise with my doctor. And perhaps most importantly, I put a lot of effort into ensuring that I got enough quality sleep. All of that helped a lot, and when I was finally ready to think about wedding business again, I was actually excited about it.

Maybe some most people live(d) to plan their wedding and soak(ed) up every minute of planning bliss, but I am not one such bride. Don’t get me wrong — I’m loving exploring color schemes, floral arrangement possibilities, menu options, and dress styles; I’m just not so gung-ho about the pressure surrounding it all. It literally feels as though if you get engaged today, you should have had the reception venue and the photographer booked yesterday.

Okay, enough of my rant.

This weekend has been a busy and planning-heavy one. Ian and I had a venue tour scheduled for 4:30 yesterday, a belated Valentine’s Day double date with my parents at 6:30, a cupcake tasting at 1:00 this afternoon,

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and a plantation tour at 4:00. Whew! Needless to say, I am on information (and junk indulgent food) overload right now!

I don’t think I did myself any favors by indulging in (a savory but insanely unhealthy) Mickey D’s breakfast this morning… But on the other hand, it’s nice to know that my body has grown used to wholesome, nutritious foods, and that that’s what it craves. It pretty much rejected hashbrowns and McGriddles, which is fine by me. I don’t need more than one warning that grease and trans fat are no match for my Kashi with banana slices or my Chobani with chia seeds and granola 😉

Ian and I planned a more health-conscious dinner of grilled chicken Caesar salads and fresh mango and Granny Smith apple. Between the cupcake samplings and the multiple ciders at Cap Ale Friday night, I’m pretty sure I’ll be on workout double-duty next week in preparation for Operation Spring Break Cruise (T-minus 22 days!). My plan isn’t of the stereotypical cleanse-or-fast-until-I’m-bikini-ready variety; more so, I’m trying to tone up and do as much cardio as possible in preparation for a week of fantastic food and fun in the sun. I’m also attempting (attempting being the keyword) to train for a 10k at the end of April.

This weekend has been absolutely fabulous, especially seeing Ian so animated and involved in asking questions and touring venues. I am beyond ready to kick back with my salad, put my feet up, and watch some mindless TV.

[Yet again, my apologies for the photo-light post. I’ve been way too busy, and honestly, way too uninspired recently to write much of substance. I’ll have more for you when I’m not feeling like such a cottonheaded ninnymuggins. Thanks for checking in!]

Hope you are having a phenomenal Saturday, blends!

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Inspired by the Inspiring

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Yesterday, my parents and I attended a morning service at a church that was not our own so we could hear my godsister, Mallory, speak about the missionary work she has been doing in Uganda for the past 18 months. Though she is, in fact, a missionary, she doesn’t like to be referred to as a missionary because she’s just doing God’s will where He has called her to serve. She has sacrificed a lot — seeing her family, spending time with friends, worldly possessions, a first-world lifestyle, things most of us don’t even realize we take for granted — in order to do the work she believes God has called her to carry out.

Now, I don’t usually get super-religious or super-political on Le Blogge because I’m not a believer in forcing others to read about my political agenda or my beliefs about certain laws or even my religious tenets. But I am a firm believer in Christianity, and just because I don’t blatantly paste it everywhere doesn’t mean I make a secret of it.

Anyway, the way Mallory got wrapped up (for over an hour, I might add) talking about the humbling and uplifting work she has done in Africa with the “street children” of Uganda and her calling to serve got me thinking… What’s my calling? What is God’s purpose for me? I’ve asked myself this question many times before, and I’ve never received what I would consider to be an answer. (It took me an exceptionally long time to learn that “no” is an answer, too.) I’ve always enjoyed the quote, “If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans,” as I believe that God has plans for me I may not yet have even imagined. I don’t think that God has in mind for me to give up everything (material) I have in this world and serve in a poverty-stricken, HIV-ridden, danger-imminent country thousands of miles away — a thought I’m not brave enough to stomach, let alone carry out. I think God may have plans for me closer to home.

During my junior year at Longwood, I was searching for a place to complete my mandatory internship experience. Most LU students fulfill their internship requirement during the summer after their junior year, but time was ticking by, and I still didn’t have a location in mind. One day, as I was probably panicking in a cold sweat in front of my computer, feverishly researching Richmond-area internship opportunities, my mom reminded me that my sister had completed a one-week sample internship in high school at the Faison School for Autism and that she had loved it. Then we both remembered that one of my mom’s dearest friends had a daughter currently working at Faison. Without any hesitation, I whipped out an email to the then-Director of Personnel and Hiring, inquiring about internship opportunities. Not only did he respond positively and with information that set my frenzied mind at ease, he immediately offered me an interview date and the possibility of 35 paid hours per week! I knew that I had struck gold even before I interviewed, but afterward, I felt incredible. I felt purpose-driven and useful and interested — something I hadn’t experienced at my previous thinkless Abercrombie or Aeropostale or Holiday Barn jobs. I didn’t know the first thing about autism, and I was frank about my inexperience and my lack of knowledge in my interview, but what I lacked in those areas, I made up for in hopefulness and willingness.

My first summer at Faison was 2010, and it was the learning experience of a lifetime. I learned more about autism and about myself than I would have thought possible. I learned that I can be patient. I can present the statement, Point to the green block, 40 times if necessary before a student responds. I can absorb sign language without being aware that I am learning. I can assist in an emergency on a spontaneous five-person team when necessary. I can handle poop and puke with an iron stomach when necessary. I can refrain from texting for an entire seven-hour workday — something I would not have thought possible for my 21-year-old self (hell, something I might not find possible now). You get the point. Bottom line, I loved working at the Faison School, and I fell in love with autism. As strange as that sentiment might sound, I could not get the quirks and personalities and orderliness and spontaneity of those kids out of my head.

With my acceptance to graduate school the following spring came the obviousness of the next step: I needed a job that would hire me for less than half of May, all of June, all of July, and half of August. I returned to the Faison hiring body to determine my fate. Sure enough, they were able to hire me for another summer, and they even threw a small raise my way! (In truth, everyone who was hired that summer made what I made.) I enjoyed that second summer even more than I had enjoyed my first — all new (to me) kids, all new ages, all new behaviors, all new (to me) coworkers… same old passion for what I was doing. I was terribly sad to leave on the last day of summer school. I vowed then and there that if possible, I would return for a third summer.

Sure enough, I was rehired for the summer of 2012 in another entirely new setting. This time, instead of parceling out the summer students into already established classrooms, the powers that be decided to lump all of the summer school teachers and the summer students into one newly formed classroom. I admit, I had my misgivings about the system, but it worked beautifully. Every single day, I was impressed with the patience my coworkers demonstrated, the way people stepped in to help in emergencies without being asked, the way people volunteered for clean-up duties without hesitating, the flexibility and tolerance for change my coworkers displayed, and the hilarity we experienced on a daily basis. I truly would not have thought it possible to love each passing summer at Faison more than the one preceding it.

Now, here I am after three summers at the Faison School for Autism, preparing to begin a Practicum in two weeks at a day-treatment school for behaviorally- and emotionally-disturbed children and adolescents, some of whom have autism. I’m considering earning a certificate in Autism Spectrum Disorder Studies from the school where my fiance is studying medicine. Loving autism is a part of me now. It’s wormed its way into my soul and stolen my heart.

I think I have the answer for which I’ve been searching: maybe God’s purpose for me is loving and working with this misunderstood and rapidly-growing population. I don’t know for sure what God’s mission is for me as a future counselor, but I know that I have a passion for autism and for those individuals and families affected by it. I know that He placed this love and passion in my heart for a reason, and that He will guide me on His mission for me. I owe this realization to my godsister, who inspired me by speaking about homeless African orphans…

If you’d like to read more about my godsister’s work in Uganda, I’ve provided the link to her group’s most recent blog post. Or, if you’d like to learn more about the Faison School, here is the homepage.

The Cost of “Me” Time

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This morning, my sister and I indulged in manicures at our my new favorite spa, Maxx Nails at Innsbrook. I like this nail salon in particular among the many I’ve visited because it has a welcoming atmosphere, it’s clean and beautifully decorated (#nerdalert: it has excellent feng shui), and the nail technicians are so accommodating and professional — but this is all beside the point.

The point is, getting a manicure is one hour of “me” time. I can think (or not) about whatever I want; I can read a pleasure book or a magazine; or hell, I can let my eyes glaze over while my nails become beautified. It’s time spent in the ambience of white noise, the soothing sounds of gently flowing water, and the murmur of quiet conversation. It’s time during which I can get mentally organized and centered. I firmly believe that “me” time is essential to my mental well-being.

I’ve decided that a perfect French shellac manicure is next to cleanliness, which is, of course, next to Godliness 😉

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Let’s do a quick calculation here:

$30 per manicure x2 manicures per month x12 months = $720 a year!

Now, I don’t get manicures twice per month during every month of the year. But if I did, “me” time would cost me my unborn first-born. I’m a VIP member of the Spending Frugally on a College Student Budget Club, so this particular form of “me” time isn’t even a reality for me. The thing is, that doesn’t matter.

Why? Because the energy I derive from re-centering myself and the positive feeling well-tended and beautiful nails gives me carry over into my everyday activities. Even though I literally cannot afford to indulge in manicure “me” time on a regular basis, the one or two hours a month I do indulge are well worth the cost.

Let’s do another quick calculation:

24 hours a day x7 days a week x4 weeks a month = 672 hours per month!

If getting a manicure for one hour every so often can afford me much-needed refreshment and mental benefits over untold hours per month, the lightening of my wallet is unequivocally worth the cost. So if you ask me, you can’t truly put a price on “me” time.

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[While meant to showcase my fresh mani, the shameless ring shots will eventually phase out ;-)]

What is your favorite form of “me” time?

The Blog Turns One!

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It’s official: Saturday marks one year of blogging! Girl Emerging taught me tremendously about healthy living, recipes, dietary experimentation, fitness, running “competitively,” transitioning from lacto-ovo pescetarian to omnivore, and writing in a public forum. This site, as my new-ish extension of Girl Emerging and segue to more sophisticated blogging, has allowed me to expand my writing and healthy-living horizons. In fact, these days I find myself writing more randomly and freely when I don’t pigeon-hole myself as a healthy-living-blogger. I still think of myself as such, but I tend to think of the term loosely so I can incorporate a healthy “diet,” health-promoting exercise habits, mental health, and healthy daily practices (e.g. meditation, prayer, routine). I want to celebrate the first anniversary of my little slice of the blog-o-sphere (as well as accomplishing my goal of writing 250 posts by the blog’s first birthday) with something very personal.

Today’s topic is more on the serious side. I’ve been trying to find a way to write about this practically since I began blogging. Unfortunately, I haven’t told most people in my life about this topic. I apologize to those of you who were not aware previously, especially my closest friends, but this isn’t something I’m at all comfortable discussing, for numerous reasons. I’ve decided it’s finally time to reveal it in a way that some might find impersonal, but in a way that gives me (a sense of) solace and peace of mind. I’m finally relieving the pressure I have put on myself for so long to keep this secret. So, here goes:

I have a seizure disorder. It’s not technically epilepsy and I’ve never been told specifically that I suffer from grand mal seizures, so the doctors don’t want to classify it as anything other than a “seizure disorder.” It’s well-controlled on anticonvulsant medication and monitored by a neurologist now, but things haven’t always been so carefree. I don’t think I’ve ever experienced anything as terrifying as waking up surrounded by concerned parents and paramedics asking me questions I can’t answer, being told I’ve just experienced something I can’t remember, and feeling intensely panicked. Most of the time, my seizures caused me to bite my tongue so badly that my speech was affected for a few days, eating and drinking were miserably painful, and my tongue now has permanent tooth-shaped indentations along both sides of it. Sounds awesome, no?

Fortunately, my family knows how to cope with this when it occurs. Even more fortunately, my medication has kept me seizure-free for nearly two years. However, I will probably have to take medication for the rest of my life in order to be able to drive and live a normal life. My neurologist has told us that there is no need for me to go to the emergency room when a seizure happens as long as I’m responsive within five minutes of the end of it. This condition isn’t something that even crosses my mind on a daily basis (even when I take my medication). I’m grateful that I’ve never seriously hurt myself or someone else during a seizure, and I’m also grateful that I’m able to drive. I have had to give up my license twice for six months at a time until my doctors and the DMV could be sure that my disorder was well-controlled — for my safety as well as that of other drivers. I literally thank God that all of that is behind me and that my health is good. I also thank God that the most I have to do to continue to live and drive normally is visit my neurologist to renew a prescription and file a form with DMV annually.

The reason I chose to share this with you is because for almost ten years, I’ve kept this secret to myself. Of course, Ian knows, and my roommate of four years knew (because she had to call the paramedics one evening when we were freshmen), but precious few people have ever been informed. One of the main reasons I’ve kept it to myself is because of people’s general insensitivity. Have you ever heard someone say something to the effect of, “Looking at that strobe light is gonna give me a seizure!” Let’s be honest — people joke about heart attacks, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, strokes, intellectual disability (i.e. mental retardation) and all manner of other serious conditions — and I’m not exempt when I say “people.”

I elected to finally share this publicly for three reasons: (1) As a future counselor, I need to seriously consider clients’ co-occurring health concerns along with their mental health conditions, as well as their feelings about said medical conditions. No one except my parents and Ian have ever asked me how I felt about having a seizure disorder. Decisions were simply made for me by doctors, and I was expected to go along with them silently. (2) This is a bit premature, but Ian and I both have a love of children and want little ones of our own. That said, it may not be possible for me to become pregnant while on such medication, though as I mentioned, the medication is vital. This is something we’ll need to carefully consider with various doctors in the years to come. (3) And lastly, I’m tired of pretending that this condition doesn’t exist in my body or in my mind. It’s high time I came out with it, because there’s no shame in having this medical condition. (4) Okay, I’m ad-libbing this fourth reason, because it was unanticipated when I wrote this post several weeks ago. Sometimes things happen that are simply beyond one’s control… like my annual appointment suddenly being postponed by the doctor’s office four months after I made it. It’s not fair, it isn’t just, and people don’t deserve the medical conditions bestowed upon them by genetics or by chance. The point is, life can go on, even when things are difficult or unfair. And in the grand scheme of things, this condition hasn’t altered my life in such a way that my daily living is affected or so that I cannot live “normally.” For that and for my good general health, I am grateful.

Guess the cat is out of the bag now… So here’s to a future of confronting my fears, facing my challenges head-on, and owning every part of myself — the good, the bad, and the ugly!

P.S. Please feel free to ask me questions — it’s part of the process I began initiating weeks ago toward becoming more comfortable acknowledging and discussing my condition 🙂