Monday, April 29, 2013

Lost in the Clouds

Recently I have found that every time I go home to my parent's house I sift through old childhood books and memorabilia that I collected as a child. Deep in the recesses of the basement I came across a story that I vaguely remember called Lost in the Clouds, a My Little Pony Read-Along Book. After reading the book I was amazed at it's relevance for my life today and loved it so much that I would like to share this heartwarming little story with you today:

Lost in the Clouds

It was sunset. The ball of light which had shone all day long was slipping low behind the dark green hills which surround the ponies; Show Stable. Now that dusk had come, all the ponies were safe at home and ready for the night. The hills and pastures were bathed in a golden light.

By the time the shadow of the old sycamore tree was crossing the stable path, all of the ponies were in the stable. Well, almost all the ponies. Medley and Firefly were still outside enjoying the cool evening air. Besides, they had a lot to talk about.

"I'm so excited about our adventure tomorrow. I don't know if I'll sleep a wink!" exclaimed Firefly, as she stomped the ground with her front hooves.

"Just think," said Medley with a smile on her pretty face, "tomorrow morning, when our friends are still sound asleep, we'll be high in the clouds. Isn't it wonderful to be able to fly!"

In spite of her worries, Firefly slept soundly. As the light of dawn was just breaking over the eastern horizon, Firely was nuzzled awake by Medley. She blinked and opened her sleepy violet eyes. 

"Wake up! It's morning," whispered Medley softly, careful not to wake her friends who were still sleeping. In just a few moments both ponies were outside.

"It's not such a pretty morning, but I'm sure the sun will burn off those foggy clouds," said Firefly.

"Of course it will!" exclaimed Medley anxiously, as she rustled her wings. "Come on, let's go!"

If their friends had been awake, their eyes would have grown wide with wonder, as they always do when they watch Firefly and Medley take off. A flying pony! Just the idea is almost too wonderful for words!

With strong thrusts of their wings, Firefly and Medley galloped along and lifted up off the ground. Less than a minute later, they were climbing higher, circling the Show Stable in wide arcs. Soon they were lost in the clouds.

For hours the two playful ponies romped from cloud to cloud. But by the time the sun was high overhead, it still hadn't cleared away the thick gray clouds. Occasionally, they would lose sight of each other, but only for a moment.

Firefly and Medley were having so much fun, they failed to notice that instead of floating away, the dark clouds were growing thicker. The wind blew harder and a bit chiller, but even the change in the weather passed unnoticed. The two flying ponies were having so much fun, they could not see that danger was luring in the stormy sky.

Firefly was the first to notice how dark the day had become. A large drop of rain landed with a plunk right on her noce. When she turned and looked for her friend Medley, she discovered that Medley was nowhere in sight. At that same instant, Medley called out to her friend Firefly.

"Where are you? This fog is so thick. I can hardly see the tips of my wings."

But no answer came back. Only the sound of her voice as it echoed off the clouds. "Firefly... Firefly... Firefly. Help me... Help me... Help me. I'm lost...I'm lost...I'm lost."

Hours later, Medley and Firefly had still not found each other. By now it was sunset. What little light had shoe during the day was fading fast. Soon it would be dark and the ponies would have no chance of finding each other. Although they tried to act brave, both Firefly and Medley were frightened. A cold, pale-green moon rose above the clouds and cast a strange light down upon the ponies.

Back at the Show Stable the missing ponies; friends were beginning to worry. They had awakened that morning to find that Firefly and Medley were gone, but that didn't cause them alarm. They knew how much the two flying ponies loved to play in the clouds. Even when they hadn't returned by mid-afternoon, no one was upset. But now it was dark. Firefly and Medley had never stayed out this late before. 

Moondancer galloped out of the stable, and the other ponies followed along behind. "Perhaps my glow will shine through the dark and the clouds. If I glow brightly enough, Firefly and Medley may see me and use my light as a beacon to lead them back home."

Although Firefly and Medley were still far apart, they both saw Moondancer's glow at the same time. Like a star on a hilltop, it twinkled up through the darkness. Using the light as a guide, the two lost ponies flew as fast as they could toward home. In a few short minutes, they landed safely on the hilltop where their anxious friends were waiting.

It was silly of us to get separated," said Medley. "We must be more careful the next time."
       "I'll never let you out of my sight, Medley," said Firefly. We will be safer if we make sure we stay close together."
         Less than an hour later, all the ponies were sheltered safely back at the Show Stable. Tired from their long day's adventure, Medley and Firefly were the firs to fall asleep. They dreamed of sunnier days to come, when they could fly freely through the blue sky.

The End

Friday, April 12, 2013

A Lullaby to Myself

I used to sing myself lullabies 
Before I’d go to bed,
Dreaming of far off kings and queens
Dancing around in my head.

I would wake up each morning 
And see nothing but grey
Wishing to fall back asleep
The the verses I would pray.

I used to sing myself lullabies
Of a time far off in my past
When I was young happy and free
A Time when my world didn’t spin so fast.

I would meander down the streets slowly
As if my legs carried more weight than I could bare
Pondering why I was so unhappy
Why I really simply just did not care.

I used to sing myself lullabies
Tangled with images of Frodo, Dumbledore, and Harry
Losing myself in the ancient stories
Where life was riddled with spells and magic and fairy.

I would resent the friends that never called
Hated people who could be so happy in a world so mean.
Didn’t they see all of the violence, the poverty,
These girls clicking their phones and Facebook at age thirteen?

I used to sing myself lullabies
Of prince charming finally coming to save Snow White
Instead I’d get disappointing texts leaving me perplexed
What’s with all the games, the drama, the Fight?

I’d look at myself in the mirror and see all of the Wrongs
To big here, to small there, why can’t I just look like Her
Drowning myself in a sea of negativity
Essentially becoming my own worst nightmare and saboteur.

I used to sing myself lullabies
Of never growing up
Of having parents always there to tuck me in
With my animals, my toys, and my trusty sippy cup.

But now I realize that  I have to grow up too
To change the world and finally be someone
Figure out that life is greater than just me
Finally realizing the grown-up me has just begun.

I’m singing myself lullabies
Of a society for my children better than mine
So that they will see the world as a fairytale
And a live a life simply exquisite and divine.

Now I realize there is a road that once diverged
And I took the road less traveled by 
Because there were many turns, many bumps
And of course many odds that I would defy.

I’m singing myself lullabies
Now floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee
Having a dream that one day we will not be judged
And bringing Power to the She.

Because life is only but a dream
And no one is alive that is Youer than You
I’m grateful to be here in the present
Dear Past: I bid you adieu. 

Monday, April 8, 2013

Then said one who was fear-filled
  and frieghtened because he had no skills
  of music
  or art
  or crafts;
who was not free of self enough to share the thoughts
  that enveloped his mind;
  and whose song was not of joy-

"What can I do to be a part of the fellowship of life?"

And he answered, saying:
"We, being many, are each members of one body
  but all members have not the same office;

Having then gifts differing,
find what is renewal for your own mind and heart.

And you who are leaders-
  and you are all leaders-
Be careful lest you lose yourself in a game, a song, a craft-
  and keep in mind only what is 
  re-creative for you.

If you are indeed wise,
you will not bid others enter the house of your joy
but rather help each to the threshold of his own joy.

And even as there are many paths to the Kingdom of God above,
so there are many paths to abundant, creative living
here on earth,

Be it ever your good pleasure to find new ways of helping others
to release their imprisoned splendor;
And make of their lives a thing of beauty."

The Pursuit of Happiness

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” - United States Declaration of Independence.

  While the U.S. government has done a pretty good job ensuring the rights of life and liberty, the pursuit of happiness is another matter altogether. First of all, what exactly do our founding fathers mean by ‘happiness’? Is it money? Is it health? Is it friends, family, and ties to your community? In reality, it is a mixture of all three, but the foundation ladies and gentlemen is your health and here’s why: 1.) If you are sick and incapable of working it is pretty difficult to have a steady flow of income let alone have the ability to be an active participant your community. 2.) It is that much more difficult to stay positive and optimistic when the body is sick and void of energy, although I have known many people who have been amazingly positive and influential despite their illness. If the core of happiness then, is health, how can one proactively help their mental and physical well-being? There inlays the issue: it requires money...and lots of it. 

This past year I have been on a pursuit to regain my health and energy in an all-natural manner. But it has come at a very hefty cost:

-Yoga membership: $90/month
-Princeton Club Membership: $40/month
-Naturopathic Doctor: $130 per appt.
-Cost of Supplements: around $120/month
-Gluten free, dairy free diet: not calculable but there is an outrageous price difference in the cost of natural foods versus anything packaged, canned, or part of a multi-billion dollar corporation.
-Hair, skin, and nail products that don’t have toxic chemicals (i.e. 1. sodium lauryl/laureth sulfate, diamine toluene sulfate, PEG-3 cocamide, aminomethyl propanol, and any paraben) The cheapest shampoo from your local CVS or Walgreens that fits these requirements is Burt’s Bees Shampoo at $8.50 a bottle. Add conditioner, body wash, moisturizing lotion, and makeup... well, you do the math.
-And last but definitely not least: Time. Time cook and eat your food. Time to go to the gym or to a yoga class. Time to get outside and walk around. Time to relax and enjoy yourself. Time to be able to sleep a comfortable number of hours. Time to be with your loved ones whether it’s family, friends, a significant other, or your children.

To most people, all of the above is considered a luxury. First you need a job that pays you well enough to at least be able to pay the bills: mortgages or rent, health care, TV and Internet, cell phone, car insurance, and gas. Only then can you even begin to think about spending money on other things without going into debt. In the United States over 45% of those 15 years and older have incomes below $25,000 while the top 10% have incomes exceeding $82,500 a year. Does anyone else see a problem with this? Well actually, yes. The Social Security Advisory Board said in their 2009 document “The unsustainable cost of health care”: 

'The cost of health care in the United States is growing more rapidly than the incomes of those who pay for it. If these costs continue to rise as rapidly into the future, the standards of living and economic security of retirees and workers alike will be put in jeopardy.'

The vast majority of our country is barely making it. They are overworked, overstressed, living off of caffeine and sugar to keep them moving while their bodies are rapidly deteriorating. The National Institute of Mental Health says that in a given year, approximately 20.9 million American adults have a mood disorder...and those records are probably nowheres near accurate given that many people can not even afford to go to the doctor to be given that diagnosis in the first place. And what does that doctor do for those mood disorders?  Put them on medication of course! For those that are unhappy, give them some Prosac! For those that can’t sleep- give them some Ambien to knock them out! For those who can’t sit still and concentrate- dole out the Adderall! Yay! Problem solved! The FDA can say “Hey look! We are keeping our Americans happy!” Little do those Americans know that these medications are severely interfering with their body’s natural chemical balance and are causing them even more health problems ($ in the doctor and pharmaceutical company’s pocket. See and the reason they weren’t feeling well in the first place was probably because they are overstressed (Netflix Watch Instantly: Stress-Portrait of a Killer), drinking soda (aspartame: please please please go to, it’s what got me to stop drinking Diet Coke once and for all) not getting enough sleep and exercise (Netflix: The Science of Sleep, The Incredible Human Body), and not eating foods that actually provide some nourishment for the body (Netflix Watch Instantly documentaries: Food Matters, The Beautiful Truth, Food Inc, The Botany of Desire, The Future of Food). And the fact that we are medicating children is downright asinine. Of course they can’t concentrate when they are eating nutritionless lunches, sitting for the majority of the day under florescent lighting without fresh air all while trying to listen and learn from teachers who are also stressed out because the ‘No Child Left Behind Act’ has mandated that their curriculum be geared towards passing national standard tests. 

Is the pursuit of happiness something that is achievable for all Americans? Absolutely not. I’m saying this to all of you that are against social welfare programs and who keep saying, “Why should I pay the bills of someone who is sitting on their ass and not working!” The reality is that they will never be able to climb out their situation without some sort of assistance whether it is Unemployment, Social Security, or Medicare. I would never be where I am today without the love and financial support of my parents. Just think of how many people can’t afford to buy decent clothes for their interview because they have to first think about putting food on the table, who don’t have a car to get there and have to time their lives around an outdated transportation system, and who never had parents around to motivate them to go to college. 

One of my first and favorite college course was Journalism where I learned the term ‘Groupthink’. It is a psychological phenomenon that occurs within a group of people, where the desire for harmony or conformity in the group results in an incorrect or deviant outcome. Group members try to minimize conflict and reach a consensus decision without critical evaluation of alternative ideas or viewpoints, and by isolating themselves from outside influences. Loyalty to the group requires individuals to avoid raising controversial issues or alternative solutions, and there is loss of individual creativity, uniqueness and independent thinking. The dysfunctional group dynamics of the "ingroup" produces an "illusion of invulnerability" (an inflated certainty that the right decision has been made). Thus the "ingroup" significantly overrates their own abilities in decision-making, and significantly underrates the abilities of their opponents (the "outgroup"). What those professors ultimately were trying to teach us was that we should make our own decisions and do so with a critical eye. Contrary to popular belief, the decisions that our government makes are not always right nor moral and the media more often than not is blurring the truth or at least skewing what we do and do not hear. 

In 1990 the Voyager 1 space craft took a photograph of Earth from 6 billion kilometers away. In that photograph the planet is so small (at 0.12 pixels) it appears as a barely detectable dot. In 1996 the famous astronomer Carl Sagan placed humans within the context of an infinite universe in his speech “Pale Blue Dot” which was inspired by the photograph ( Sagan summarizes by saying “It has been said that astronomy is a humbling and character-building experience. There is perhaps no better demonstration of the folly of human conceits than this distant image of our tiny world. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.” In other words, we are all interconnected here on Earth- we breathe the same air and are made up of the same particles as the plants and trees around us. Because of this phenomenal universe our decisions, whether they be large or small, affect someone else on this planet. Like it or not we do have the responsibility to help each other out. Once jaded and egotistical I thought that all of my decisions only affected me- me, me, me. With the decision to take better care of myself and those around me I have learned a lot, and realize that it IS my responsibility to help as many people around me as I can. Because there are a lot of great people out there with incredible hearts. Something must shift in the way our society views taking care of one another.  Everyone should be able to have the ability to eat clean food and to have another inexpensive alternative to the products that contain so many toxic chemicals. I hope that one day enough people will realize this and voice their opinion because everyone deserves to have the opportunity to find calmness, healthiness, and happiness. Don't you think?

               (Hindu term used at the end of yoga practice meaning ‘The light in me bows to the light in you’)

Sunday, April 7, 2013

At the end of the tunnel there will be Light

I'm going to go ahead and tell you a secret : I'm not perfect. Nor is anybody for that matter, and you should immediately be skeptical of anyone who tries to convince you otherwise. It took me a long time to get to the point where I'm at today... and man, it has been long struggle. Which is strange I guess, seeing as I am only 24 years old. My confusion and poor decision making all began when I was about 16-years-old. Prior to that I had always been a relatively happy kid.

The picture above is me at 6 years old camping with my family out in Colorado. I am the girl on the right and standing next to me is my sister Brenna, who is about a year and a half older than me.  I was a fairly quiet kid -- always reading, writing, and playing every sport under the sun. I attended a Catholic school and lived in a bubble of bliss for 8 years. Everyone in my school went to a school on one side of town, while I went to a public high school on the other due to where my family lived. My freshman year I attended Robert M. La Follette. It was a school completely different than the ritsy West-side world I was accustomed to. I went from a class where most of the mom's were housewives and spent their free time helping out at the school for various programs to a school where over 60 percent of the students were on free lunch. I never had drank, did drugs, and knew nothing whatsoever about sex. You can imagine my surprise when girls in my class already had children by the time they entered high school.

At La Follette I found my place in the social hierarchy by being an athlete and high honor student. I had many friends, but somehow I felt very alone, very self-conscious, and felt like I needed to escape to a time and place much different than the one I was in. The darkness and deep thinking nature manifested into all sorts of unhealthy behaviors. I was a perfectionist and would overwork myself to the point of exhaustion, the 4.0 was something I saw as mandatory in order to get into University of Wisconsin - Madison, and I felt that I needed...must... be the star of every sport I played -- whether it was softball, basketball, or golf. I wanted to be funny. I wanted to be pretty. I wanted the boys to like me. It all seemed to be very controllable at that time, but obsessively so. The phrase "addictive personality" has and always will fit me to a tee.

When alcohol entered the scene my sophomore year it blew the winds of what would eventually metamorphose into one big hurricane. 

I'm sure many people reading this know what this feeling of constant grinding feels like. It is manifests into a deep dissatisfaction with life in general... nothing is good enough and nothing truly satisfies. Alcohol became a release for my hard-wired personality. I would drink not to be silly and have fun, but rather to try and stop the constant thinking and to decrease my ever-increasing insecurity with myself. We all did. Isn't that what drinking alcohol is after all? To release -- to forget--- to make poor decisions and have the excuse of drunkenness to blame for your actions?  

All of my friends from that period of time have since fought similar battles as myself. They were each vibrant personalities who felt like they were in a cage during those high school years and didn't know how to quite express themselves. Some came from broken families, some came from abusive families, and some came from families so overbearing that they felt completely suffocated and just wanted to experience an easiness that never seemed to come. We were all trying to figure it out, whatever that might mean. I don't think that anyone in this world can ever quite figure it out due to the fact that problems and conflict will always slap you in the face when you least expect it. Our presence in each other's lives during these confusing years was a comfort for me; yet I still didn't feel like they really knew the real me. Can one ever know truly know another person? I remember thinking that all I wanted in life was to be completely understood by just one other person...yet that person never seemed to come. 

Eventually high school ended and and we moved on to the next chapter: college. I lost touch with most of those friends from my high school years, went to UW-Madison, and began my winding journey into adulthood. Freshman year was everything I imagined it and more. It was full of strange and exciting new people, enticing sights and scents, filled with nights of blurry memories where all of us Badgers who worked hard would get our chance to play hard. University of Wisconsin was the only school I applied to; my grandmother, both of my parents, and my eldest sister graduated from there and I wanted more than anything to become part of the Badger legacy. I never got involved in clubs (something I regret) but found refuge in a small sporting goods store I worked at on State Street called Sports World where the employees and owner became more like family than co-workers. I had no idea of what I was doing or where I was headed... and that really bothered the perfectionistic me. I was studying my ass off during the week and then from Thursday-Sunday morning I would be in the throws of partying. My body felt the effects and I chose (like I always did) to ignore it.

The last picture is near and dear to my heart and really is a great representation of my freshman year and my college career in general. It was taken in Detroit when the Badgers made it to the NCAA Sweet 16 basketball game back in 2007. I'm the drunkard on the far left, the girl with the bangs was a Sports World co-worker, I subleased the apartment the following summer from the guy in the red blazer, and I worked and dated the guy on the far right. I thought I was too cool for school being the only freshman hanging out with all of these seniors. Due to this immense sense of coolness I stopped hanging out with all of my freshman friends (which is of course very uncool) and started going out 5 or 6 nights a week with my boyfriend and his Jewish friends from the East Coast. My boyfriend and all of his friends all had excellent GPA's and had jobs lined up for the next year and so basically lived an "Old School" type of lifestyle. The next fall they all left after for their various jobs across the U.S. and I began my sophomore year at UW-Madison. 

It was a wake-up call. 

I realized I had no idea what I wanted to major in, I had lost all of my  friends from first semester of freshman year, and I felt immensely lost and insignificant. My eating disorder that had started when I was 16 became a full-blown. My diet was filled with aspartame products like Diet Coke, coffee, and I had oh-so-smartly decided that I would eat a diet of almost completely fruits and vegetables. I weighed myself obsessively, and at this time I probably weighed about 115 pounds. While some women can pull this off I was mostly muscle, and bones would protrude from my back.  I was essentially starving myself. I looked at myself in the mirror knowing I looked sickly but actually enjoyed the desolate struggle of it all. I felt like it matched my mood about life in general, when in reality it was darkening my world in a way that took a long time to recover from. 

This had started when I was in high school and by my sophomore year in college my body was finally starting to scream at me and shut down. Any time I would eat something I became immensely bloated and my stomach would ache. Due to the fact that my digestive system was so acidic and sick I had absolutely no energy -- I remember coming home from class and just lying in bed for hours. I couldn't concentrate either. Words would dance across the page and I would spend hours fruitlessly attempting to memorize names and dates. I would eat meals in my room, embarrassed to eat in front of anyone. I would go 3 or 4 days without drinking after a night of partying and eating Ian's pizza with the rest of the normal students. Gradually I went out less and less because I would be miserable anywhere I went. I remember literally feeling like I was drowning or someone pushing down on my chest and wanting to take a deep breath... but it never came.

That same winter of my sophomore year my Grandmother's house burned to the ground while my family was spending Christmas vacation in Mexico. We learned when we landed in Milwaukee that my uncle and Grandmother were both inside... somehow my Grandmother narrowly escaped...and my uncle didn't. It was an unreal event and felt as as though God was playing a trick on all of us. My family dealt with it in the way that most problems were addressed: to ignore it.  Ignoring something doesn't mean that everyone isn't thinking about it though... the tragedy reverberated throughout every conversation for the rest of that year. His family had been one of many secrets: his father dying of alcoholism when he was 17 and he didn't even attend the funeral. Apparently he left for a couple of years for California during the drug induced 1960s generation and later lived in Europe for a while doing who knows what. He told me growing up that he wanted "Sympathy for the Devil" by the Rolling Stones to be played at his funeral and still to this day I have no idea of what in the heck this really means. I'm assuming I get most of my addictive, passive-aggressive tendencies from him.  After the fire my Dad became more and more reserved and said very little to anyone. I had always been extremely close with good ol Butch... he was and still is my best friend. My summers were spent on the softball diamond with my dad coaching me from the 3rd base line, or seeing him throw down his clipboard due to a stupid shot in basketball, and he attended every. single. one of my damn junior PGA golf tournaments. I could always see him hiding in the bushes about 50 yards behind me and would look for reassurance after every shot. Yes I was codependent and growing up may have been difficult because I did depend so much on him, but I wouldn't trade that relationship for the world. I was his "Little Tiger". So when he broke down crying to me after the fire happened you can imagine how worried I was. He was my rock... what would happen now when he was broken? So in my own brokenness I tried with whatever strength I had left in me to be his rock.

Somehow I made it through that year. Somehow I managed to keep a smile on my face in order to hide my anguish and pain from everyone that I knew. Even from myself I guess. I was never one to really get in touch with my emotions... but eventually those tears finally surfaced, and once they started they didn't stop.

At the end of that year I remember saying to my mom, "Something's just not right. I'm unhappy... very unhappy, and I think I should see someone." And thus began a long, arduous road down the pharmaceutical industry path. The first woman I saw oh-so-long-ago was Dr. Cunning (I should have known then). She was an ex-marine with a forceful, commanding presence. I was skeptic about being put on any medication in the first place due to the fact that I had watched antidepressants kill the spirit of another member in my family. So I asked her what differentiated one medicine from the other. And do you know what her response was? 

"It's basically like picking out of a hat... you never know what works and what doesn't." 

And somehow she "cunningly" convinced me to start antidepressant medication! I mean... these people are good. I was a hard sell, and somehow she made me believe that I would never be happy or get out of this "funk" without some sort of medical concoction to get me out. That summer I was put on 3 different medications which didn't work and made me feel sicker and sicker as the months went on. We finally settled on one before I went back to school.


But this time I decided not to return to UW-Madison. I felt so alone and lost and felt I needed a smaller environment and had heard nothing but good things about UW-Oshkosh, the university which my sister attended. Dr. Cunning decided that the Zoloft should be cranked up high enough that I would finally "see the effects"... even though I was away from home and hours from her office. Eventually she had me on 200 mg.  That Thanksgiving I had a colonoscopy due to the fact that I still could not digest anything. Immediately after that I felt lighter, cleansed, and rapidly started feeling better and better. But it didn't stop there: I began to feel elated. I started drinking Red Bull and 5 hour Energy Drinks and started eating less and less, this time not due to forced starvation but because I was so busy doing things like buying hundreds of books and reading about the Mayan Apocalypse. I started hacking into computer systems, making conversations with random people on the street, writing cryptic notes illegibly across paper, reading 500 page books in one night, sleeping with many men, and reading hundreds of books on the history of drama and acting. At night I would take Ambien, smoke pot, and let myself float into a Nirvana-like trance.  I felt like I was pretty damn close to the feminine face of God and became obsessed with prophesy and conspiracy theories. I entered a strange dream-like reality and finally felt like my soul was free from all of the heaviness that depression brought. Yes I was out of control, but in a way I am glad that I have experienced this mental state. Anyone who has entered a mania will tell you that it is the most euphoric state they have ever experienced. I felt like John Travolta in Phenomenon- problems that had been so hard to figure out became child's play. Even though I knew I was out of control (flying to Atlanta to see the ex-boyfriend mentioned above, spending thousands of dollars, lying, stealing, and driving at 150mph down the interstate) I was addicted to the feeling. I personally believe that people self-perpetuate "bipolar" because of this addiction to this problem. They eat poorly, drink too much, sleep too little, make life-threatening decisions, and ultimately find their mind and bodies crashing into exhaustion and depression. I will admit that when I returned to the deep in the throws of depression I would Google ways to return to Hypomania. I even found old supplies of Zoloft to attempt to self induce. Everyone out there with depression: it is very difficult to self induce.... and nor should you. It is a vicious cycle that never leads to peace of mind. It leads to addiction, regret, shame, broken families and relationships, and more often than not with a hefty debt that may take years to pay off.

When I finally pranced into my parents house for Christmas break they immediately knew that something was seriously wrong. Without my knowledge they called this Dr. Cunning and later forced me into her office. Cunning informed me that I was bipolar (something I later realized was a wrong diagnosis due to the fact that it was medically induced) and gave me 2 choices: 1. I could check myself into the hospital. 2. I could take heavy tranquilizers and then later start taking Lithium. I didn't like either of these options but most definitely did NOT want to have anyone hear that I was in the Psych Ward, so I chose the latter. She gave me heavy doses of Lorazepam to basically put me to sleep for a week and eventually I calmed down....WAY down. 

I took that Spring semester off from school and basically sat in my bed for 24 hours reading online articles about Depression and Bipolar Disorder and about medications. I would get up every once and a while and smoke pot to avert my mind from the pile of shit I thought myself to be. I would sneak down to the kitchen at night to feed the unending hunger that Lithium produced. After being at the top of the world for one glorious month I sunk to one of the blackest moods I have ever experienced. Lithium made my reality move in slow motion. I no longer wanted to be awake so I told Cunning that I couldn't sleep and she for once listened to my desires and prescribed me a whole host of sleeping pills. I slept on average about 15 hours a day. 

Somehow I managed to work that summer at a golf course, but hating every minute. The medication made me bloated and I constantly had acne (which had never been a problem in the past). That June I had even looked up ways to commit suicide and set up a noose in the garage which my father found later that week while I pondered the importance of my own life and how it affected those around me.  It was another bleak day in the history of Bleak Days. I felt a burden- most of all to my family who spent thousands of dollars for me to fruitlessly talk to therapists and psychiatrists that had no answer. There was no precise cause after all- no mental or physical abuse from others, and I definitely didn't come from a broken home. The cause and solution was within myself. Therapists would always say to me, "Amy you are so HARD on yourself" and "Is this the kind of self abuse you put yourself through on a daily basis?" Yes. Yes it was.  Every minute of every day I was my own worst nightmare. If you've ever seen Lord of the Rings you have seen the strange scene where Gollum talks to himself as though two completely different entities. That is essentially what I felt like. I felt as though there was this good, loving, compassionate, hardworking girl always battling and trying to conquer this ugly, discriminating, mean person. And although I was mentally not okay at the end of that long summer I was determined to finish school to make something out of this helpless being I had become... and so that fall I returned to Oshkosh. Not the greatest decision I've ever made, but hey, live and learn right?

I have no pictures from this period of my life seeing as I avoided cameras like the plague.

I thought I would be more happy once back around students my age and being productive. Unfortunately this environment lead me into a bleaker mood. Why couldn't I be happy like all of the other students? Other people came from circumstances much worse than my own and overcame those struggles... why couldn't I? Why did I no longer really even care about school or anyone around me? I still dragged myself to class every day but contrary the participatory me in the past, I was silent. I felt invisible. I felt that if the wind would pick up just a little bit more I might just blow away and never come back to this hell. Instead of doing homework I went home and locked myself in my room where I would lay in bed and read extensively on death and the afterlife. On 10/10/10 I made my first attempt at suicide. 

My sister was the one who found me. 

I remember everything. I remember being carried on a stretcher into the ambulance and the paramedics asking me my name, age, and what I had ingested (over 400 advil and jars of peanut butter, both of which I am allergic to). I didn't think I had the strength to continue enduring the hell in which I had created. I was ashamed to look in the mirror at myself --- ashamed that I was so selfish to a family that had loved me beyond measure --- ashamed that I had ended up in that hospital with nurses looking at me like I was just another deranged youth. Ashamed that I had ended up at a point this low. I didn't have the strength, I thought, to continue this battle.

I spent the next 2 months in the hospital and because I was still suicidal and had tried the gamut of medication I was put in the isolation unite, where I spent days looking at the cold cement walls. Due to the fact that I refused to talk to people and refused to participate making arts and crafts with the other misguided souls they kept me there for much longer than anyone else. If I was good at one thing, it was stubbornness, and I didn't want to listen or talk with any of the doctors. The head Psychiatrist was at a loss of what to do. I had been on almost every class of medication and had made zero progress besides the bout of mania that Zoloft had induced. And although I didn't want to be alive and living in my hellish world I had to face the reality that I was still alive and could not live in the hospital forever. Something had to get better, somehow, and  I was willing to do anything to give my parents that showed up every single goddamn day in the psych unit some sort of sense of relief. That December after reading extensively on the subject, I agreed to undergo Electroconvulsive Therapy. 

Many people have no idea what it is, or how it works. The thing is, no definitive answer to how or why it works. They hook up electrodes to your temples, put you to sleep, and use an electric current to hopefully jumble the neurons and chemistry in your brain. Some say it rewires your serotonin. Others disagree. It is a last resort due to the fact that some people are never quite the same or get their memory back. The brain, after-all, is the central hub of our mysterious bodies. I don't think there ever will be a science that quite figures out the human body... the human spirit and will cannot be explained. Miraculous recovery from sicknesses cannot be explained. The will to go on and keep fighting when the world seems against you cannot be explained. I had always been a fighter, and though I could not understand why that deep existential darkness permeated my soul I also knew that I wanted to overcome it. I searched far and wide for stories about people who had suffered depression and found happiness. To my horror, I found almost none. The success stories I did find said that they battled with depression  in cycles and never quite escaped it- they simply accepted the fact that they were unhappy at the core of their being. I knew that was not me... I knew that I needed to be the one to get through it and come out on the other side.  The only stories that gave potential hope was about ECT and its miraculous effects. So I said to the doctor, "Sign me up!" (At a later hospital visit I found out that many patients are actually requesting ECT and that doctors are very selective on the candidates and thus it is not so easy to simply request ECT. They make sure you have tried every class of antidepressant before they will even consider it. Also, it is extremely costly.) The first 6 sessions they conducted it on a single lobe to decrease potential damage (Some people have had horrible effects and never return to normal functioning life). I didn't see much of a difference in my being other than the fact that I couldn't remember what day of the week it was much less what month it was. The lack of memory I believe is one that is strangely liberating- you realize that it doesn't really matter what season or month or day it is because life is long and full of Time. The past no longer becomes important, especially because there is a lapse in memory for a short while (it does come back) and you start to see life for the moment...for the sounds, the smells, the silence of that time. They decided to conduct 6 more rounds (a total of 12 rounds) and to do it bi-laterally ECT... a procedure that is more risky. I'll be damned to say that I actually started feeling a little better the last two sessions. During this time (over the course of about a month and a half) I started seeing a nurse practitioner and she decided put me on Adderall and Lorazepam. This is something that is not very common at all. Adderall, legally, is only prescribed for attention deficit disorder, although sometimes is prescribed in elderly patients experiencing depression to get them up and out of the house. The doctor in the hospital gave the okay at the request of the nurse practitioner and from then on I was in her hands. Though the effects were not completely immediate, I saw a much more immediate effect than the 6-8 weeks it takes any other antidepressant to work. I wanted to get up and do things. I cleaned my room for the first true time in a year. I did my own laundry. I started going to places like Barnes and Noble again to read.

I could think again.

I remember specifically driving down the street to my parents house and realizing that I wasn't stuck in my usual hellish thoughts --- I was looking at the trees and the flowers and noticing their beauty. 

At this point in time I was living with my parents again and decided to enroll back in school at UW-Madison to feel productive and to start to retrain my brain to think about something other than my current situation. I also returned to work at the golf course I had worked at the previous summer. I started calling old friends I hadn't seen in years. Essentially, I started living again. 

But I still had not learned my boundaries. I was excited to actually feel goodness again and hence wanted to return to the college world that I had missed out on during the previous 2 years. I started going out again. I started drinking and smoking pot again. I started dating a man who was 10 years older than me and had just recently been released from prison. By mid-summer I was a whirlwind of trouble; The Adderall that had once slowly brought me out of the fog was now working in full force at a whopping 90 mg per day. Because it is very difficult to sleep I would take Lorazepam to chill myself out-- 4 mg. which a doctor at urgent care later told me is about equivalent to a horse tranquilizer. It started to not be enough mid-summer to get me to sleep. Sounds familiar huh? Much like my euphoria of 2 years prior. To give you a sense of how that summer went lets just say that by the end of that summer I had broken up with the convict, was living with a man who owned a store called The Pipefitter, had gotten an OWI and could no longer drive, and was binging and purging, lying, and trying to go off medication without supervision. For being what I consider to be a fairly smart girl I was making very stupid decisions. I have a picture for a workers permit (for the job that I didn't have) where I am high, wearing extensive make-up and my hair looking like I had come out of Cleopatra's Egypt.  I had a picture on the wall of my new boyfriends heated bathroom that said, "Life in the Fast Lane". And I was... but exceeding the speed limit as well. I had saved the entire summer to pay off debt from my mania of 2 years prior, pay rent at an apartment I never stayed at, and to save for what I thought would be my move to California. The OWI cost me over $1,500 and because I had to take a class and go to a court date, that meant I wasn't moving that fall. Instead I spent my days hanging around my boyfriends house watching Hung, Made in America, Boardwalk Empire, and any other HBO or Showtime shows I could while smoking pot and prancing around in my underwear for days at a time. I was not going to school, not working, and quiet frankly my dear, I didn't give a damn. I was alive and that's all that mattered, right?

Wrong. I wasn't really alive. I was living in never-never land with no plans for the future. 

That October I made an impromptu decsion to pack up everything and move out to California on my own. Without plans. Smart right? Technically I was not even allowed to drive outside of the state and was not even phased when I was pulled over by the police on my way up the West Coast highway towards Humbolt County. My luck: they let me go without even doing a search on my license. Eventually (no big surprise) I ran out of money and my old car was puttering through the mountains. The boyfriend I had JUST LEFT came to the rescue... buys me a couple days in a hotel, a flight back home, and for my car to be towed ALL THE WAY TO WI. I honestly don't know how people dealt with me during these crazy phases, but he did. Needless to say after the honeymoon phase of my return he learned really quickly that even though I now realized that I needed a college degree and would be actually doing something with my life, I was still bat-shit crazy. He stuck around for a couple of months until I was settled in a new apartment and signed up for classes, but then cut ties. Changed his number, never responded to anything. You can imagine how my mind reeled any time his image came into my head. Poor guy.

Anyhow, so back to college I went. This time 23. This time on a mission to finish school and get the heck out of the state of Wisconsin to start over in a place where every landmark brought back some sort of memory. 

It was a lonely semester though. I hardly talked to anyone. I basically went to school, studied, went to yoga & read about yoga, studied some more, watched some Netflix, and went to sleep. Not an entirely bad way of living, but humans are social creatures and the lack of human connection made extremely introverted. The Adderall, which I had now been on for over a year, felt like it was killing me. I was exhausted all of the time, couldn't see very well, started seeing spots under the florescent lights of the Van Hise building, and on top of it all was fighting what I later found out to be bronchitis. The week of finals I had to write three 10 page papers worth 60% of my grade (She gave us the topic that same week so there was no way I could do it ahead of time and was too proud to ask for help from the students with learning disabilities- McBurney Center). I also had a group project to work on and other tidbits here and there for other classes. Adderall put me in fight or flight mode, and I was fighting for some sense of relief, that is for sure. I told myself "just one more week that you need to be on Adderall and then you can take a break and let your body heal. But my body had been screaming long enough and I refused to listen. 

Two days before when Everything happened I had acupuncture. I had been getting it all that spring due to lack of energy and bodily pain. The doctor conducting it put a point on my arm that had pretty intense pain but I didn't say anything, thinking it must have been a potent point. I asked him after the session was out what meridian it was connected with and he informed me that it lead to the heart. The next two days I started to feel sick... I mean really sick. It was like all of the exhaustion that I had forced down deep inside me released and I now just wanted to lay in bed and not get out for a week. I crawled out of bed and went to class seeing as the papers were due at the end of the week and we were covering important material. During class I almost fell asleep and decided in between classes to lie down on the grass on Bascom Hill. I looked up at the clouds and noticed their shapes for the first time since I was a little kid. I wondered how I had let myself get to where I am and how I would ever get to a place I could call Happy. For some unknown reason I started crying... and I mean uncontrollably. In regular Amy fashion I tried to control it, saying to myself that I had another class to yet attend and multiple research papers to write-- there was no Time for such foolishness. To calm down I started to conduct deep diaphragmatic breathing. I remember getting up and feeling extremely lightheaded and airy... then deciding I would skip the last class in order to write the paper. When I returned to my apartment to sit down I was at loss of what to write. All I could see was the big picture...I couldn't look at the small details I needed to accomplish at all. I started breathing rapidly and crying, going into what I would consider something between a mix of a panic attack and psychotic episode. I remember calling my prison-released ex-boyfriend to tell him that I couldn't do it (and by it I meant life in general, which he was unaware of). He responded, "That's the way the world works kid, life is a constant struggle and you need to get used to it." My whirlwind of emotions started blowing again. "I could not get used to it apparently," I thought to myself. Words of failure, and stupid, and weak entered my head for the first time since before ECT. This time around I once again felt like I was in the eye of the storm with no way to escape. I should have known that situations like these eventually blow over -- or that in the long haul these grades and papers didn't dictate who I was as a person-- but I was exhausted and scared. I had been running away from Depression and Darkness for too long. Would it always chase me? Would I constantly be running from a demon that was always one step ahead of me? Would there ever be simple contentment with myself? What will my professors think? What will my parents think? What will my sisters think? What will my friends think? Should I raise my white flag and admit defeat?

And so I did. 

Out came bottles of Patron, hundreds of lorazepam and again Advil, Niquil, on came the tub facet, memories of broken glass, blood everywhere, sinking into a see of red water covering my mouth, my head feeling so light, my spirit feeling released, the pain subsiding into the warmth of it all. Around my neck a necklace that my beloved ex had given me- the one that had paid for me to return to this retched city. I've always had a flair for the dramatic, and this one topped the cake. Back came forgotten memories and emotions of simplicity, and all turned black. That happened at about 7pm on a Wednesday. Somehow, some way, I woke up on Friday. I have no recollection of a complete day. In a way, I feel as if I died during that time period. The doctors later told me (vivid image here) that I had inhaled my own vomit and it was in my lungs along with what looked like had been bronchitis. Somehow I had crawled to my bed. When I regained consciousness on Friday I could not move my body, only my hand which was inches away from my cell phone. I managed to press the Call button for the last phonecall -- to the man who had told me to suck it up because life is hard. I garbled something into the phone and he immediately called my parents who called 911. I have very little recollection of this ambulance ride, as I could not move nor hear anything at all. The world itself seemed muffled.  This time when I woke up in the hospital I could not hear nor speak to those asking me questions. Upon leaving the ambulance I looked up and saw Monsignour Ken, the first time in 9 years that I saw the priest from my Catholic school growing up. He took my hand and said a Hail Mary and it was then that I truly realized that things were serious, and that this time around it I was not reassured that I would be fine. I saw the tears and heartache in the eyes of my mother, father, and eldest sister. But more than anything, I saw Fear. After a week in the Intensive Care Unite they transferred me to the Psychiatric Floor where I stayed for another 2 weeks and by the time I got out summer had somehow arrived without me.

This time suicide was not pre-meditated. This time I was glad to have woken up and could not express enough to those around me how ashamed and sorry I was. I had no idea what had exactly happened-- what demons or internal fire had swept through me in order to make such a rash and final decision. I had not only a 2nd chance, but a third. In a way I felt like I was reborn because I had to relearn everything. Shopping seemed strange and foreign, ordering food at a restaurant felt like a big deal, time seemed cyclical instead of linear, and nature felt awe-inspiring. For about 2 months afterwards when I tried to get up from bed or from going to the bathroom I would be lighteded to the point of collapsing. I also couldn't retain a movie that I had watched an hour before. In just one week in the ICU I gained 20 pounds and lost 30. I was frail and confused. I had little to no recollection of anything I had said or learned the over the previous 6 months. It was all a blur. People would say, "Don't you remember when you said this and this or did that and that" and I truly did not. I got to a point where I would just nod and say yes.  But there was a silver lining: I could do yoga positions that I previously was never able to do like a handstand and headstand, the first time I went golfing I shot a 78, I started playing basketball and made more than I probably ever did shooting around in high school. For the first time in 4 years I felt cleansed of all the medical waste my body was retaining. 

Doctors were in awe that I was even alive. A counselor I saw after I was released said, 

"Amy, I don't know how you survived. But I know one thing, God put you here on the Earth to do something, and you have not completed that job yet." 

This time around I got better -- for me. 

I started a gluten free diet, I read a lot, rested my body a lot, and spent a lot of time thanking God for giving me the opportunity to be here. I have given thanks to those who have reached out a hand. I now believe in the mysterious powers of the universe. I used to be consumed with finding out my purpose and frustrated with not being able to find my way quickly. Now I realize that maybe I was not meant to have an easy journey. My personal belief is that we are all here for some reason -- and what that reason is we can only guess. Since last May I have experienced synchronicity on a whole different level and have rejoiced in the fortuitous simplicities of life.  I've forced myself to only read positive articles and to delete the negative or fake Facebook friends and people I have kept around for one reason or another. I stopped caring so much about how others might see me or think of me-- and guess what guys, that is the most Liberating at all. In the end, we cannot make others happy or live a fruitful life until we ourselves are happy.

This journey has taught me so much in such a short time. And today I can honestly say I am happy. I am honest with others and with myself. I go out of my way to be nice and kind to others. I stick up for not only others but also for myself. There are many injustices and dark corners of this Earth, but if each one of us somehow is able to attain this kind of lightness, this kind of positiveness, the world will be bright enough to shine upon those deep in the dark struggle. My hand goes out to all of you out there looking for some sort of story to give you hope. I'm telling you right now: Happiness is something you must fight for. But it is attainable, and this is coming from someone who never thought it to be possible. You too can find happiness... I believe in you.

“Never say that you can't do something, or that something seems impossible, or that something can't be done, no matter how discouraging or harrowing it may be; human beings are limited only by what we allow ourselves to be limited by: our own minds. We are each the masters of our own reality; when we become self-aware to this: absolutely anything in the world is possible.

Master yourself, and become king of the world around you. Let no odds, chastisement, exile, doubt, fear, or ANY mental viris prevent you from accomplishing your dreams. Never be a victim of life; be it's conqueror.” 


Jessie J- Who You Are

Friday, April 5, 2013

Welcome to the Kama Bandha Initiative

What is Kama Bandha?


meaning "Love / Desire" in Sanskrit. Kama is the winged Hindu god of love, who is also the son of Lakshmi


(Sanskrit: binding, bond, arrest, capturing, putting together) is a term often employed in relation to yogic discourse and instruction. The term denotes a binding, lock or bondage that may be either internal or external to the body. Bandha may be defined as a particular focused and intentional action involving pressure, contraction or force on the muscles or some other bodily or sensate phenomena. In yogic traditions, bandha are to be studied, maintained and held principally whilst engaged in pranayama. According to the Himalayan Institute the word has been translated as “fetter, block, check, obstruct, restrain, lock.” In this sense bandha is described as the damming up of a river. But it also translates as “bond, connect, put together, unite, combine, join.” In this sense bandha is described as bridging over a river.

In Jainism, bandha, refers to the karmic process of binding of material karmic particles to the soul consciousness. This bondage is on account of kasaya or passions of the soul. As per ancient Jain text of Tattvarthasutra, bandha is one of the tattva or fundamental truth of this world. As such the samsaric soul is always found in bondage with the karma since time immemorial. Various bandhas are described and elucidated in Yogic texts and discourse. However, rarely is an exegesis of Bandha provided. Bandhas have been described in Hatha Yoga Pradipika in the chapter relating to Mudras. Ten mudra are codified in this treatise. Of marked importance, the chapter describes all bandha as mudra.

In essence, this page is a mixture of all of these definitions --- a personal attempt to awaken the soul, to connect, to bond, to unite all of us in our various stages of ecstasy and grief to produce Kama (Love).

In a world filled with anger, violence, ignorance, and darkness, I feel that it should be a personal duty of each and every one of us to realize the potential light that we have... to show others that happiness is a possibility even with labels such as "depression" or "bipolar".  I believe that negativity breeds off of negativity. In a similar fashion positivity feeds off of positivity. So go out in the world and smile and one person - hold the door for one person - compliment one person. Because at the end of the day, YOU are the rainbow in someone else's cloud.