Since around the summer of 2016, I have been taking escitalopram (Lexapro) to manage my PMDD and anxiety. I’ve always been an open book about it; after all, it has definitely helped me tremendously and improved my quality of life overall. I know anxiety medication isn’t the best option for everyone, but for me, I tried everything else the “natural” way and this was the only thing that worked. So here I am, almost four years later, still taking 10mg of Lexapro per day. Sometimes people ask me if I ever plan on getting off it, or if I would recommend this medication to others struggling with anxiety. Today, I’m going to answer all those questions and tell you a little bit about my personal journey with this SSRI.

Before I was put on Lexapro, I was previously taking Zoloft for about two weeks. I had to stop taking Zoloft because it essentially turned me into a zombie: numb, exhausted, unable to focus, basically just walking around as a shell of myself. I remember at one point, I was taking a walk with my friend and I had to call my mom to come get me, because I was so fatigued and dizzy, I couldn’t walk anymore. So the Zoloft didn’t last long, and I switched to Lexapro shortly after that. This time, the drug was a great match for me and I didn’t have any intense side effects. I don’t remember very much about that time, because it was almost four years ago, but I know my anxiety started to greatly improve from there. I would still have anxiety from time to time, but it was nothing like the intense panic and irritability I was experiencing before. 

Last summer, in 2019, I decided to try weaning off of Lexapro because I felt like I was getting too used to it. My anxiety was still very low, but I was almost too numbed out, if that makes sense. I was starting to have a difficult time feeling anything at all, so I assumed that I had simply been taking Lexapro for too long. I talked it over with my doctor, and told her about the other side effects that I was experiencing. She told me that I could either slowly wean off of the drug, or we could switch to something else. I decided to wean off the drug to see if it was possible that my brain had adjusted to making more serotonin without the aid of the drug (that would obviously be the best case scenario). She also switched me to a new combination-hormone birth control pill, which she said would further help me with my PMDD.

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Weaning off of Lexapro, or any other SSRI, can be an extremely difficult experience. Many people go through critical periods of irritability, anger, depression, suicidal thoughts, and upsetting physical effects as a result of being taken off the drug. In extreme situations, some people even have to be hospitalized until their bodies can adjust- even if you wean off slowly. I weaned off as slowly as I could over the course of 21 days, cutting my pills into smaller and smaller pieces. I didn’t experience depression or suicidal thoughts, thankfully, but I did have some really atrocious physical symptoms. One of the most common side effects of withdrawal is experiencing “brain zaps”, which are tiny, localized seizures that feel a bit like your brain is being zapped by electricity. For a few weeks, I was having up to hundreds of these brain zaps throughout the day, and I was so dizzy at some points, I would have to crawl around on the floor to get places. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through, and it was at that time I had a clear understanding of why people have such a hard time getting off Lexapro. Alas, my symptoms finally subdued and I decided that I had finally successfully weaned off Lexapro, and that would hopefully be the end of things.

But of course, it wasn’t. Around November or so, about three months after getting off Lexapro, I had an extremely severe spell of insomnia and anxiety, possibly caused by my PMDD. Regardless, my anxiety skyrocketed over the course of just a few days, and I couldn’t figure out why. It almost felt like somebody had flicked a panic switch in my body, and no matter what I did, my heart wouldn’t stop beating uncontrollably. I was constantly filled with a sense of edging dread and panic, and it severely took a toll on me during the last few weeks of my fall semester. Somehow, I managed to turn in all of my assignments and finish on the Dean’s List, but during that time I was only sleeping 1-2 hours per night and I was sobbing constantly. The only thing that could get me through the night without vomiting from anxiety was to constantly take Ativan (an oral sedative also prescribed by my doctor). My mom, obviously concerned about this downward spiral of anxiety, brought me a leftover bottle of Lexapro that I had kept from the summer. She assured me that my anxiety would probably improve, and if I ended up feeling better on the drug, we could talk to my doctor about getting back on it. 

Per usual, my mom was right, and my anxiety and edge gradually started to melt away over the course of the next two weeks. I also started to regain my normal sleeping pattern again, which was incredibly wonderful, and now I can average about 8-10 hours of sleep. I’m also constantly in a state of serene calmness, which I have a huge sense of gratitude for. I definitely needed to get back on the Lexapro, at least for the time being. I’m not sure what caused that bizarre spell last November, but I’m extremely grateful that it’s over and I feel “back to normal.” It’s so nice not to feel my heart pounding all the time. I feel more centered, alert, and of course, much more happy.

There’s still a chance I’ll try to wean off Lexapro again in the future, but honestly, that last experience was so traumatizing, it’s not even a possibility in my mind right now. At least, it’s not a possibility for 2020. It would be nice to feel perfectly happy and healthy without the aid of medication, but it’s also my responsibility to take care of my body and my mind. For now, I’m so happy with where I am, and I’m so grateful for having less anxiety. I’m also extremely proud of myself for getting through that difficult period. I don’t like writing about it and reliving that time in my life, but I think it’s important to share with other people. If I can aid or comfort even one person with my writing, that’s good enough for me.

Anyway, that pretty much wraps up my overview of Lexapro. As you can see, I’ve had a predominantly positive experience being on this medication, but it’s not the best choice for everyone, just as Zoloft happened to not be the best choice for me. Nonetheless, I hope you find this article helpful, and I’m happy to answer any more questions about my experience on Lexapro!

At the time of writing this, we’re in the odd transitional period of daylight saving time and my mood is feeling a bit…off. I occasionally go through periods where I’m just in a bit of a funk, and this is just one of those times. And no, the sky getting dark at 4pm is not helping!

Anywho, with that being said, I wanted to write something cheerful today in an effort to lift my spirits. This isn’t my typical how-to post or informational piece, but I thought it would be nice to do something a little light-hearted, especially in the season of being thankful! I hope you guys enjoy.

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Throughout my entire life, I’ve always felt an extremely strong connection to animals. I do consider myself to be an empathetic person, and my warm feelings towards others extent to (almost) every living thing. I say “almost” because I’m not the biggest fan of creepy-crawly bugs. Besides that, though, I’ve always felt an extremely strong sense of respect towards animals. I am fortunate enough to have my sweet family dog, Duke, and I’m looking forward to adopting my own animals once I graduate college and get my own apartment. The first animals I’d like to adopt are fancy rats, then I’d like to rescue cats and possibly birds. Once I move out of the city and (hopefully) start my own farm business, I want to rescue dogs, goats, chickens, and cows. Whenever I ponder my perfect life, I always see tons of animals in the picture. I hope someday I can live a simple life surrounded by my sweet animal friends, from teeny-tiny rats to giant bulls and cows. 

This is partially related to animals, I suppose, but I’ve also always had an extremely strong connection to nature. Being a New England girl, I’ve grown up surrounded by farms, mountains, snowy winters, beaches, you name it. There is so much diversity in New England, I’m grateful that I get to experience it all. It sounds cheesy to say, but I’ve always felt like the flowers and the trees were my friends, especially when I was growing up. I didn’t have a lot of friends, but I did have my imagination and my flowers. To this day, I’m still so fascinated by plants and animals, and I love getting out into nature to take all the beauty in. It’s a really great source of anxiety relief for me.

Like many people, music has always played an enormous part in my life. Not only do I love listening to music, I also love expressing myself through singing. I remember first getting into music in the fourth grade, when my class sang “Wide Open Spaces” by the Dixie Chicks as our elementary school graduation song. That experience alone sparked my passion for singing, and since then, I’ve sung in two a capella groups and taken voice lessons outside of school. I don’t sing much anymore, but it’s still a huge part of my creative identity. And, of course, I love listening to music as well. I love to take walks around campus with my headphones in and pretend I’m in a music video. 

I talk about my mom a lot, but I still don’t think I give her enough credit on here. I feel very fortunate to have an amazing relationship with my mom, and I love her more than anyone else in the world. She’s been through some really tough things that could have knocked her down, but instead, she became stronger than ever and built an amazing life for herself. She’s a maternity nurse, and she’s loved by so many people for the amazing work she does. She’s also very accepting of me as a person, and remains open-minded to the decisions I make for myself. Above all, she takes great care of me. Whenever I’m sick, anxious, sad, or something in-between, I can always count on my amazing mom to comfort me and help me through adversity.

Lastly (but certainly not least), writing is a substantial form of happiness and peace for me. I write when I’m feeling down, when I’m flying high, when I’m bored, or really anything in-between. I would say I spend between 2-4 hours of my day writing, and I wouldn’t want it any other way. Being an introvert who has always struggled to express myself, I cherish having my writing skill as an outlet to communicate with the outside world. It’s a very freeing experience to know I have a talent, and it gives me comfort to know I can always rely on my voice to get me through the hard times. 

Anyway, those are the top five things that make me happy, but there are so many more things I’ve left out. I’m planning on publishing the “50 Things That Make Me Happy” tag sometime later in January, so be on the lookout for that! I’ve had a really lovely time writing this, and fills me with gratitude to reflect on all of these beautiful gifts in my life, especially my family.

 

I’ve had an anxiety disorder for my entire life. I believe my anxiety is partially genetic, but additionally, environmental factors have definitely played a role in my mental health. Surprisingly, most people don’t seem to realize that there is a profound overlap between mental and physical health. I could go into a lot more detail on all of these specific correlations, but for this particular topic, I’m just going to touch on the relationship between anxiety and fatigue. 

Interestingly, fatigue is listed as one of the top three symptoms of an anxiety disorder. For some people, this may be because people with anxiety tend to lose more sleep because of their condition. When insomnia and anxiety link up, the results can be devastating for your sleep schedule. For me personally, I sleep just fine at night, but panic attacks and anxiety attacks completely deplete me of my energy. There is a phenomenon known as the “anxiety attack hangover,” which more or less describes the feeling of being drained or “jet lagged” after having the attack. This is something I’m all too familiar with, and I have some thoughts on why this probably happens to me.

Going into fight-or-flight mode uses a ton of energy. Anxiety itself uses up a lot of energy! Feeling my adrenaline spike, my blood pressure heighten, and my breathing accelerated always leaves me feeling absolutely destroyed after I recover. The production of adrenaline itself uses up a ton of glucose and energy, which is probably why folks with anxiety disorders (including myself) are always so dang tired afterwards. 

However, anxiety itself is not the only thing that can cause me to feel fatigued. As I’ve mentioned a few times before, I have a prescription for Ativan, which belongs to the benzo drug class (Xanax is a more common benzo you may have heard of). Ativan is used as a short-term treatment for people with anxiety and panic disorders, and is also used as a sedative before medical procedures.

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In a nutshell, it’s a pretty strong drug. I don’t take Ativan often, probably only about ten times a year, because it’s designed for short-term use only and can become highly addictive if taken too often. When I do take an Ativan, I’ll usually feel extremely calm and a bit out of it, because the drug causes my heart rate to significantly slow down. The last time I took an Ativan, in preparation for a speech in class, I decided to forgo my usual coffee in fear that an “upper” would interfere with a “downer.” This may have been a mistake, because I became SO exhausted and chilled out after my speech that day, I was essentially incoherent. I went to lie down in my room around 3pm, and didn’t wake up until 6:30pm. I was completely disoriented for the rest of the night, because frankly, that’s just what Ativan does to you. I guess the only silver lining is that I did get through my speech without having a complete breakdown.

So, yeah. Fatigue and anxiety is a lose-lose situation, in my case. If I don’t take medication and subsequently have a panic attack, I get fatigued. If I take my medication and avoid an attack, I still get fatigued. As I previously said, I very rarely take Ativan, so most cases end with me having a full-fledged panic and consequently feeling tired for the rest of the day. I really can’t win with my anxiety.

Now that I’ve gotten the depressing things out of the way, let’s talk about what you (and I) can do if you get hit with those post-anxiety sleepies. One thing that makes me feel better is to take a little nap, or even just lay down and do nothing for an hour or two. This is the time your body NEEDS to recharge and re-center, so there’s no reason to have guilt. If you have the resources, practice some form of self-care to get you through the rest of your day. Practice some deep breathing, meditation, or treat yourself to a bubble bath. Put on a video or a funny movie that makes you laugh. 

Having an anxiety disorder is not your fault, and it shouldn’t be treated as such. If you’re comfortable with it, make sure your professors and family members are in the loop about how anxiety can affect your mental health. In my personal experience, most people are more than happy to listen and help you in any way they can. I promise you don’t have to go through anxiety alone!

Further reading: https://www.getthegloss.com/article/how-to-deal-with-the-anxiety-attack-hangover

Image: VectorStock

As many of you who tune in regularly know, I struggle with having an anxiety disorder that manifests itself in almost every area of my life. Sometimes my anxiety is set off by specific things, such as loud noises and needles, but often, it is provoked randomly and interferes with my daily life. This is especially distressing when I’m trying to sleep and my heart won’t stop pounding, or if I’m sitting in class and I suddenly feel a giant wave of panic.

Although my anxiety is definitely much more severe than an average person’s, it has actually gotten better in recent years. From the summer of 2016 to the summer of 2019, I took a moderate dose of Lexapro to manage my anxiety symptoms. Now, I’m off of my antidepressant and I take a natural 5-HTP serotonin supplement instead. I also take a combination estrogen pill, which even further manages my anxiety and overall health. In rare emergencies that I am really having a full-fledged panic, my doctor has instructed me to take Ativan if I need it. This has also been really helpful for me -incredibly helpful, really. Especially if I know I have a shot or a doctor’s visit coming up, I can rely on taking an Ativan to prevent me from passing out.

While all these pills are good and dandy, there’s another component that really helps me manage my anxiety. My dog has been my number one supporter throughout my entire teenage years and into my young adult life. Dogs in general have the amazing ability to sense emotions from their humans. In fact, dogs can literally smell the change in your mood, and many will immediately spring to action to assist you in any way.

For example, Duke, my yellow Labrador, inherently knows that crying or sniffling means I am upset. Even if I just blow my nose with a tissue, he always thinks I’m crying and immediately runs over to me, wagging his tail in concern. If I am crying and Duke approaches me with concern, that usually is enough for me to pull myself together and smile for him. Especially if he starts licking away my tears, that is almost always guaranteed to make me laugh.

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If I am panicking or visibly having an anxiety attack, however, Duke reacts differently. Instead of being vocal and causing commotion, he usually gets quiet and just lays down in front of me. Or, he’ll come up to me and lay on top of me. Deep touch therapy (or deep pressure therapy) is a real practice trained to service dogs when their owner is having an anxiety attack, because it has a calming, organizing effect on the body. The fact that Duke knows I need his comfort and support without even asking is amazing, and shows just how in tune dogs really are with their best human friends. 

Something that I hear come up a lot on anxiety forums is whether or not people with panic/anxiety disorders are qualified for service dogs. For me personally, I would say it depends on the individual case. If your anxiety has complicated to the point that you can no longer leave your house, I would say that person definitely qualifies for a service animal. If your anxiety prevents you from getting the help you need, then I also think that would warrant a service animal. That being said, there are cases in which a person with anxiety may still want an animal without it being registered as an official service dog. One way to do this is to register your pet as an emotional support animal, which is easier to do but does not grant your animal access to as many establishments as a service dog would.

I myself have wondered if my anxiety is intense enough to justify a service dog. Like I said before, my fear of needles and hospitals has caused me to reach a point where I would almost definitely avoid going to the hospital at all costs, even if I really needed to. When I have really bad panic attacks, I lose my vision and my hearing, and that can be really traumatizing to go through all alone. If I at least had some sort of trained companion, I would probably be more open to leaving my house and going to medical offices without the fear of having a panic attack all by myself, because the service dog would be able to comfort me and perhaps even stop the attack from happening altogether.

That being said, I have no plans to go out and apply for a service animal right now. I would worry, actually, that I was taking the animal away from someone who needed it more than me. It is something I think about for my future, though, especially since I’m becoming an adult and I’ll have to start doing things on my own. If I do end up reaching a point where I can’t even go to work or seek medical help because I’m too scared of having a panic attack, then I’ll really start to think more seriously about it.

Anyway, that is my personal experience with animals and managing my GAD. Do you have any heartwarming experiences with your animals treating anxiety? Let me know down below!

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The debate for later start times at school is not a new subject, but it’s something I find completely fascinating. Especially since this is something I experienced firsthand during my time at public school, I consider myself a fairly reliable participant.

I can’t remember off the top of my head what my elementary school start time was, but I believe it was 8:30 (or close to that). The older I got, the earlier I was forced to wake up for school. By the time I hit high school, I was getting up between 5:30-6:30 for my school day, five days a week. Being a natural night owl with a super busy ADHD mind, going to bed at midnight and getting up before sunrise did not fly well. 

I would say it’s pretty objective that most teenagers are not getting enough sleep. And sadly, the societal consensus for why this is the case is usually tied back to teenagers being “lazy.” But research is starting to prove differently: having an inability to get out of bed in the morning is more so related to human biology, not attitude.

There is a lot of in-depth scientific research pertaining to this, so I’ll be sure to source those links at the bottom of the page for you. However, the broad consensus of the research is the following: The adolescent body does not start to feel sleepy until around 10:45pm, and does not naturally wake up the following morning until about 8am. 

When I was in high school, choir and band were not considered part of the standard curriculum. If you wanted to learn an instrument or join the chorus, you had to show up at 7:24am for music class, and regular class hours began at 8am. Even worse, if you were in the select acapella class (which included myself), you would have to be at the school AT 7am for practice. My teacher was not very forgiving for this time- even if you made it at 7:05am, you were more or less ridiculed for not taking the class seriously. This is not an exaggeration. 

I was exhausted every. Single. Day. Until about ten in the morning on an average day, I couldn’t even focus on what my teachers were saying to me. My main focus was basically just keeping my eyes open and staring at the wall so I wouldn’t collapse in class. Sometimes, I would go hide in the spare band room to catch a few more winks, if I could.

It doesn’t matter what time I go to bed- if I get up at 6am, I’ll stay awake until after midnight the following night. If I wake up at 10am, I’ll stay awake until after midnight. If I stay awake ALL NIGHT, I’ll STAY UP UNTIL AFTER MIDNIGHT. It seriously does not matter what time I wake up- I always go to bed ridiculously late.

Being tired all the time certainly did not help my concentration, and it really shows now that my life is so different. Being in college, most of my classes don’t start until 11am, and I can sleep in relatively late because I live on campus. Waking up feeling refreshed and energized makes such a huge difference to my ability to focus, and I’m having a much better time being at college. When I’m here, I’m actually excited to wake up and learn for the day, while in high school, I dreaded everything about it. This was partially due to a number of different reasons, including high school just sucking in general, but my tiredness did play a pretty substantial role. 

As you can see from the source links I provided below, I’m not the only person trying to advocate for later school starting times. What do you think about young students getting up between 6-7am for classes? Do you think it’s an unhealthy practice, desperate for an update? I’d love to see high school start times get pushed later ahead within my lifetime.


Sources:

https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/child-sleep-zzzs/201712/debate-continues-about-early-elementary-school-start-times

http://theconversation.com/why-teen-brains-need-a-later-school-start-time-65308

https://www.sleepfoundation.org/articles/teens-and-sleep

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Academically, I am one of the most stress-free people I know. I always get between 8-10 hours of sleep. I rarely spend more than an hour a day on schoolwork. And yet, consistently, I am a good student who manages to turn in all of my work on time, often with high markings. 

The most interesting aspect of all of this is that I do have ADHD and learning disabilities, but instead of wrestling with it, I use it to my advantage. I realize what my limits are, and I don’t try to push myself towards objectives that will simply be a waste of time. For example, I am NOT a textbook reader. I never have been, and I never will be. Rather than sit in my room and spend four hours trying to absorb a textbook, I’ll do other work instead that I know can be easily maximized. I can write three papers in four hours, so I might as well knock that out instead.

In all my three years of college, I’ve probably spent thousands of dollars on thirty or so textbooks. Realistically, I think I’ve opened three of them in my life. I’ve never failed (or even come close to failing) a class.

If this is ringing any bells, I have an exercise for you- make a list of all your academic strengths and weaknesses. Can you do anything about your weaknesses? If yes, it might be time to buckle down and work harder. Or, do you have a disability that prevents you from excelling in a certain area? Stop sweating about it. Focus instead on what you do well, and I promise you will flourish.

Like I said, I’m not a textbook reader. I have a really hard time sitting myself down and reading something that’s simply not interesting to me. I don’t enjoy answering questions on worksheets, especially if they’re self-explanatory and sound silly to answer. And, the worst, is taking tests and exams. I do not like working under pressure in those types of environments, and having my objective knowledge tested in a subjective method has never meshed well for me.

That being said, I have my strengths. I love to write essays and find it really easy to punch them out. I can write an A-grade, five page paper in less than two hours. I’m also very comfortable in group discussions that enable me to share my thoughts, and can intuitively figure out subject matter very quickly (without reading the textbook). I am comfortable with admitting what I’m not great at, but I’m also not afraid to admit what I am good at. I believe, in general, we need to give ourselves more credit. 

Like I said, because I have figured out my learning style, I am able to excel in the majority of my classes without stressing myself out exponentially. This is one of the biggest ways I keep my stress down- I focus only on doing my best, and if I feel like a task is a waste of time or energy, I find a way around it. That’s not to say “Give up when things get hard,” rather, “When things get hard, try not to stress too much. Carry out your work in the most effective way to your health and learning style.”

I always strive to do well, but I’m not obsessed with being an A+ student. College is a short channel in my life, it doesn’t define it- so I’m not going to work myself into a panic over the small stuff. I am totally and completely happy with soaring through college, and take B’s with gratitude. I am solidly okay with being “just average”, as long as it means my happiness and my health needs are met. I could never justify pulling an all-nighter to get a perfect grade on an assignment that won’t even matter in five years.

I have an article similar in nature to this one, which deals with how I manage my time at college. As a full-time student, I take six classes, post four blog articles a week, write for my school’s lifestyle magazine, and I still have time to take care of myself and get 8 hours of sleep per night. Like I said, it’s all about priorities. If I am assigned a fifty-page textbook reading for something I could just ignore and figure out myself, that’s exactly what I’ll do. Do I feel bad about that? No. That time is now going to be spent on something else, like an essay draft I’m really looking forward to starting early. 

I hope this doesn’t come across as “slack off,” because that’s not what I want people to do. I don’t slack off- I maximize my time. Trust me when I say your mental health is more important than turning in every single assignment with flying colors, even if you feel like the weight of the world is on your shoulders. Take initiative to spend time with yourself and learn who you really are, and from there, everything will become a little bit more manageable. Every once in a while, it’s so important to let yourself relax.

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The first time I ever picked up “The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman was in my eleventh-grade English Comp class. This was a new, fresh experience for me, as the majority of literature I read in high school was written by men- usually pandering on about justice and freedom and the American Revolution. I’m not trying to say I don’t think that part of history is not important, but it bothers me looking back that I hardly ever learned about women’s lives in the 1800s, and additionally, their contributions to the founding of this country. Seriously, I started learning about the Boston Tea Party and the constitution and all those related events starting when I was ten years old, and where I come from, those are the only “American History” subjects I learned about every single subsequent year. I appreciate my English teacher for introducing literature written by African Americans and women, because by the time I reached high school, I was exhausted and bored from hearing about how our country is solely built on rich, white men.

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Anyway, this isn’t intended to be a rant on the public school system. This is going to be a different kind of a rant, I suppose, but it is backed by my unwavering love and appreciation for Gilman’s feminist short story. If you haven’t read “The Yellow Wallpaper” before, I’d advise finding a PDF online and giving this important piece of literature a read-through. 

First off, let’s talk a little bit about Charlotte Perkins Gilman herself, and how her life experiences ultimately inspired her to write this story. She was born on July 3rd, 1860, into a family of poverty after her father abandoned her mother. Her mother was not affectionate to her children, her schooling was often erratic, and her childhood was ultimately composed of isolation and loneliness. One of the ways Gilman found solace was through her love of literature, and she frequently visited her public library to expand her horizons. 

In 1884, Charlotte married and had a child- a girl named Katharine Beecher Stetson. After giving birth, Charlotte suffered from a serious bout of postpartum depression, though her symptoms were scoffed off and not taken seriously. She was ultimately believed to be a weak, fragile woman by her first husband, and thus, her interest in feminist literature was sparked. After separating from her husband (unheard of at the time), she had an extremely awesome lesbian relationship with Adeline Knapp, became active in several feminist organizations, and penned “The Yellow Wallpaper” in 1890.

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Ugh, what an icon.

Women’s reproductive rights and sexual health have always faced scrutiny, though perhaps the worst time to be a woman in this country was the 1800s. What we now know as PMS and PMDD was passed off as “hysteria” and “nervous depression”, and the believed remedy back then was to isolate women and confine them to their beds FOR WEEKS. Gilman herself was inspired to write this story after her postpartum depression, during which a male physician advises her a “rest cure” and told her to live “as domestic a life as possible.” After trying to live this way for three months and ultimately getting worse (because, as we know now, that’s not how hormonal-related depression is to be treated), she defied his commands and started to work again. Although “The Yellow Wallpaper” is an exaggerated version of her personal experience, there were certainly many women for who the story rang disturbingly true. Ever the badass, Gilman sent a copy of her story to the physician who initially prescribed her bed rest, but she never heard a reply.

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In short, the story is about a woman suffering from mental illness after three months of being isolated and closeted in her room (per her husband’s order, of course). She becomes obsessed with the ugly yellow wallpaper on the wall, and begins to imagine there is a woman on the other side, creeping through the paper, spying on her, and speaking to her. If that makes you feel unsettled, then I’m very glad. Paranoia due to being isolated is a very real thing women in the 19th century suffered as part of their “treatment.”

Charlotte’s story was published by the Feminist Press, and soon became a best-seller through that publication. Her story opened the doors to a new way of thinking- giving women control over their autonomy and thus power over their own physical/emotional well-being. As someone who suffers from hormonal-related depression and anxiety myself (PMDD), I cherish this story for shining a light on the power of women- not painting them in weakness. If you also suffer from severe PMS, PMDD, or have dealt with postpartum depression, you are entitled to a life full of vibrancy and freedom. Take care of yourself, socialize with the people you love, try to stay active, and most importantly, do what you need to do to feel better. Your health is the most important thing you own, so prioritize it and love it!

Read The Yellow Wallpaper here: https://www.nlm.nih.gov/exhibition/theliteratureofprescription/exhibitionAssets/digitalDocs/The-Yellow-Wall-Paper.pdf

Sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charlotte_Perkins_Gilman

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As a die-hard night owl, it can really difficult for me to feel motivated and driven in the morning. One of the ways I like to wake myself up (and wind myself down at the end of the day) is by writing. Handwriting in a journal is so different than typing on a computer for me. For one thing, handwriting takes more thought and effort, and it simply just feels more private than putting something in a word document on the Internet. I love utilizing my computer to write about pressing non-fiction topics and blog posts, but when it comes to my thoughts, feelings, and emotions, I definitely prefer journaling. Do any of you feel the same way?

I have a couple different types of paper journals I like to write in. The first is a dream journal, which I believe I have mentioned before in my college morning routine. It’s not a place for me to write goals or ambitions- it’s a place where I record the actual dreams I had the night before. Interestingly, I feel like writing down my dreams has actually made me dream more often. I’m not sure if there’s a scientific reason for this or not, but it would make sense to me that focusing on your dreams can make you more self-aware of them. Having a dream journal gives me something to look forward to in the morning, and exercising my mind first thing really helps me to wake up and feel productive from the get-go.

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I also have a more generalized journal, where I just record page-long entries about my emotions, experiences, or really just whatever is going on in my life at the time. I used to pressure myself to write an entry every day, but I realized pretty quickly that it’s not possible for me to have something interesting to say every day. It can also make journaling feel like a chore, which is the opposite of the point! Journaling should make you feel relaxed, happy, and willing to be open with yourself. 

Oddly, I’m not interested in re-reading my journal entries. In fact, I don’t think I ever have; I think deeply, I write my feelings, and then I literally close that chapter forever. It’s also partly because I’m embarrassed to re-read things I’ve thought and said in the past, because I am constantly driven to be a better version of myself and re-write the way I was before. Maybe someday when I’m much older I’ll decide to look back and read them, but today, it just doesn’t feel like the right time. 

Even if you don’t feel like there’s anything exciting going on in your life, it can still be beneficial to record your thoughts. You might discover something about yourself that you didn’t know was there before, or uncover an emotional issue you were bottling up without realizing it. Maybe you don’t even think of yourself as a writer, but that doesn’t mean you don’t have a story that deserves to be told.

Coming up next: Spirit Quartz: Ethereal Feminine Energy

 

I’m the first to say that my mental health does not define me as a person, but that doesn’t change the fact that it actively affects all areas of my life. I’m also not ashamed of my disorders- at this point in my life, at twenty years old, I have accepted them as a part of my identity, not all of it.

With that being said, anxiety, OCD, ADHD are not parts of myself that I immediately bring up to people when I’m meeting them. Unfortunately, we live in a world where it’s become “cool” or “trendy” to have a mental illness, and flaunt it at every opportunity. The reality is, most people who are actually suffering do NOT want their mental health to be the center of attention, and this includes me. I do not want to be defined by what is only a portion of who I am. The only times I really bring up my mental illnesses is when it’s relevant to the situation, and if disclosing it will lessen the amount of uncomfortable situations in the future.

Like many people, the neuropsych areas of my life that I struggle with tend to overlap. Generalized anxiety, obsessive compulsive disorder, and attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder almost always go hand in hand. I’ve written about this before on my blog- they all tend to cycle together and have very similar symptoms in my personal experience. If you’re interested in learning more about that, I’ll link that article below.

Today, I want to talk about how these conditions affect my day-to-day life. Certainly, many people have it much worse than me, but that doesn’t change the fact that my life comes with a unique set of challenges and adversities. I want to be open about these experiences, because I’m sure there are lots of other young people going through similar difficult things. My mission has always been to be an advocate and a voice, and that’s why I’m happy to be as transparent and honest as possible.

Anxiety really is the umbrella for quite a few of my problems, to be completely honest. Anxiety is extremely common in young and old alike, but when it reaches a point of disrupting daily functions, that is when it becomes considered a “disorder.” Anxiety has persistently plagued me since I was a toddler; it is both a genetic and situational disorder for me. This is one of the reasons Lexapro- an antidepressant- has been so impactful in my adult life. Antidepressants literally change the chemistry of your brain, which is incredible for people who were simply born with lower serotonin counts in their brain (such as myself). Obviously, medication isn’t the answer for everyone, but it has been a pivotal solution for my own health struggles. Medication does have some downsides, however, and I will be going into those shortly.

A lot of my anxiety is very survival based, and my fight-or-flight instinct always seems to be ready for action. For survivors of childhood abuse (again, including myself), the fight-or-flight anxiety is a often result of feeling terrified and powerless as a child, usually due to some traumatic event. I am extremely conscious of danger, realistic or not, around me at all times. Anxiety plagues me with paranoia on a daily basis- while I am at college, I find myself constantly jerking around, watching other people, afraid that they are laughing at me and whispering about me. As anyone with social paranoia will tell you, it’s an exhausting cycle of worry and self-doubt. It can also effectively destroy friendships, if you’re constantly critical of yourself and others on such an intense level.

On the subject of this type of anxiety, my fear is also heightened by something coined “climate grief”. This type of anxiety is extremely common in young people, because it’s centered around a fear for the sustainability of my future, global warming, etc. Like I said, I’m a major hypochondriac, and my obsession with survival takes up an exhausting part of my thinking. When I get into this state of particular anxiety, it entails a lot of deep panic, crying, hopelessness, and frustration. The worst thing about climate grief is that there isn’t much I can really do about it, except lean on my closest friends and family for physical support and soothing.

Another form in which anxiety affects me is panic attacks and anxiety attacks. It’s estimated that 1-2 percent of the general population is suffering with a panic disorder, and as you may have guessed, I am one of those people. Anxiety attacks are much more common for me; I’ve only had about three panic attacks since 2015. There are particular circumstances that can trigger panic attacks for me- hospitals, doctor’s offices, blood, needles, claustrophobia (usually in the doctor’s office), and even low blood sugar are all catalysts for me to have a panic attack. For this reason, I always need to have my mother, a friend, or a trusted adult in the room with me when I need to get a shot or even a finger prick. The dread I feel about going to the doctor’s can start even weeks before my actual appointment. There is a name for having a fear of hospitals and medical procedures -nosocomephobia- and earlier, this year, I was officially diagnosed with it. Having this fear can often make me think irrationally, because it’s very likely I would consider avoiding going to the hospital, even if I needed medical attention. Subsequently, I am constantly afraid of developing illness or sustaining an injury. Doing so would first of all give me panic that I am going to die. Then, I would work myself into a panic about potentially having to go to a doctor or hospital. Then, my panic would spiral into a fear of having a panic attack once I got to the hospital, which is one of the worst possible experiences I can imagine happening to me.

Everyone’s panic attacks are a little bit different, but mine always entail “visual snow”, impaired hearing, and difficulty breathing. Visual snow is a neurological disorder characterized by a continuous visual disturbance, described as tiny flickering dots that resemble the noise of a detuned analogue television. This visual “static” slowly begins as a couple of flecks, but quickly takes up my entire field of vision until I can’t see or hear anything at all. It looks a little something like this.

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The first time I had a panic attack in a high school classroom, where my teacher was talking about blood types, I had absolutely no idea what was happening to me. I truly thought I was dying. The terror that washed over me as my hearing and vision disappeared into static is probably the scariest thing that has ever happened to me, and to this day, I work myself into intense states of anxiety, constantly plagued by the fear that it could happen again if I’m in the same room as someone talking about blood.

The second time this happened was in a church, and the priest was talking about the blood of Christ. The third time this happened was in a medical examination room, but the nurse was able to help me immediately by ducking my head to get the blood flowing again. This stopped the visual snow from happening, but I still threw up all over the floor. After having a panic attack, I’m always absolutely fatigued and feel lifeless for the rest of the day.

I normally don’t have sleep problems, but sometimes, my anxiety keeps me awake because I am worried I will have a panic attack. I worry when my mom is at work and I’m alone in the apartment, or when I’m alone at school- what if I randomly have a panic attack and nobody is here to help me? What if I collapse and hit my head? What if it’s not a panic attack, and I’m actually dying?

Welcome to the life of a highly anxious person!

So, that’s a look into my life with anxiety. We aren’t done yet. Now, we’re going to talk about Escitalopram, which is the drug I take to reduce my anxiety. My dosage of Escitalopram (my brand is Lexapro) started at 5mg, but about a year and a half ago I bumped it up to 10mg. Over time, drugs like Lexapro can slowly become less effective, so patients often have to amp up their dosage or switch to another medication. I have been on Lexapro for about two years, and it still appears to be working just fine for me. I still have anxiety, as you can clearly see, but it is much more manageable now than it used to be. I also used to struggle with depression, which is not something I have experienced since being on Lexapro. That being said, there are negative side effects that can come with taking antidepressant drugs like Lexapro. My side effects actually didn’t appear at the beginning of taking the drug- they started becoming noticeable to me about a year ago. The first thing Lexapro has affected is my overall sexual function. It may sound like a strange side effect, but it’s not uncommon for these drugs to lower your sexual libido and make it difficult to reach/sustain arousal with another partner. I haven’t had satisfying sex in about two years, which is when I started taking the drug. I know that probably sounds bothersome to an outsider, but it truthfully doesn’t bother me enough to the point that I would consider getting off the drug.

Another side effect with Lexapro that impaired memory and slow thinking. I have definitely noticed that my memory has gotten worse- sometimes, I can’t even remember what I did in the previous six hours. It’s difficult to describe how Lexapro has impacted my thinking skills, because it’s so frustrating and complex for even me to understand! The speed of my thought process is slower, my ability to think of relevant words is slower, and sometimes, my mind just feels completely blank. Again, for an outsider, I understand this probably sounds horrible and not worth taking the medication for, but like I said, these changes to my brain happened very slowly and I hardly even noticed them happening. At this point, I am used to it, and am even finding ways to adjust to this. I would love to be off lexapro in the future, because there are things about myself that I miss, and I also cannot drink alcohol while taking this drug (although that’s such a minor inconvenience compared to the other downsides). While weaning off lexapro is a future goal of mine, I have anxiety that my depression may return to me because of my compromised serotonin levels. Also, weaning off of this drug can have extremely intense withdrawal symptoms- some people are even hospitalized for this process. On the bright side, there is faith. It’s possible my brain has now learned how to make more serotonin on its own, and I may be able to continue living a depression-free life without it.

Moving on from anxiety and antidepressants, let’s talk about ADHD and my short-term memory skills. I was diagnosed with ADHD about five months ago, after going in for six hours of neurotesting at a nearby hospital. If you’re curious about my entire experience being diagnosed with ADHD, I’ll also link that article below. I’ll try to keep this segment short, because this article is already going to be crazy long.

I believe I inherited my ADHD genetically. My brother was diagnosed with it when he was in middle school, and though my dad has never been formally tested, I’m pretty sure that he has it, too. When I was growing up, I never associated myself with having ADHD, because I have always been a very well-behaved student and earned decent enough grades. It never occured to me that the fact I was working twice as hard as everyone was abnormal, because I never directly brought it up to my parents and teachers. I can remember, even going back to elementary school, literally not having a clue what was going on around me. I struggle following verbal directions, especially lectures, and usually need directions/instructions to be repeated many times for me to actually absorb information. The only reason I managed to get through school (and continue to get through school) with decent grades is because I am constantly observing what other students are doing, and copy their actions to yield passable results. Most of the time, I don’t actually know what I’m doing. I’m just sitting in a chair, surrounded by other students, completely unaware of what’s happening but still complying on a motor level.

I would say that about 80% of the time, I’m not really listening to my professor. I don’t read the textbooks, or worksheets, or anything else that I know I’m going to forget after ten minutes. If something does not have personal significance, or just doesn’t make sense to me, my brain doesn’t even bother making the memory. In more scientific words , I have “weak, albeit intact, performances for non-contextualized word list learning and memory.”

And that’s not just me assuming things about myself. It’s printed in my neuropsych report that I have impaired short term memory skills, and low “working memory” task requiring “arithmetic skills.” According to my report, I struggle to comprehend mathematics above a 6th grade level, which is about the time I started seriously failing math.

It’s noteworthy to add that my teachers in middle/high school never referred me for learning disability testing. Instead, they chose to litter my report cards with words like “distracting”, “not trying”, “daydreaming”, etc.

I really wanted to give you that much in-depth information, because I hope it will help you better understand how ADHD and anxiety are connected. When your life and savings are more or less dependent on completing your higher education, it can be frustrating and worrisome when you feel like you have no clue what’s going on. It’s ridiculous to walk out of a classroom and think, “I’m spending all this money to sit in a classroom and feel utterly confused.”

Like I said, I get through classes by copying what peers are doing and mimicking their actions. I work much, much better when I can be alone in my own space, working on my own time, and absorbing information in a way that works for me. I am excellent at writing essays, and have an easy time focusing on organizing my thoughts into words. This works out great for me, considering most of my college assignments just consist of writing essays anyway. I feel like I’ve earned the right to be proud of the fact that I can punch out a five-page essay in about an hour. Having ADHD isn’t all negative- I am also an extremely fast worker, and enjoy rushing through things as quickly as I possibly can. I don’t care about being the top in the class, or earning an A every time. I want to be quick, efficient, and…average.

So, that’s more or less the deal on my daily life with ADHD. If you’re interested in a more in-depth analysis, like I said, there will be a link at the bottom.

Obsessive compulsive disorder is something that used to plague me much more severely when I was younger, but as I have aged, it has become much more manageable. I attribute this somewhat to my medication, but also to the fact that I have been in and out of therapy to work on these obsessive issues with professionals. I have counting compulsions, and compulsions to do everything possible in even numbers. It used to be a lot worse when I was in elementary school and middle school- everything, everything I did, I was consciously aware of doing in even numbers. I stepped on cracks in the sidewalks in even numbers. I flicked lights on and off twice. I got up to check if the stove was off not once, but twice. Or four times. Or six times.

I sometimes still catch myself doing this frustrating habits, but the more aware I become of the ridiculousness, the easier it is to ignore my compulsions. OCD is significantly intertwined with anxiety, because ignoring these compulsions can literally litter my mind until I give into it. I know nothing bad will actually happen if I do something in an odd number, but it’s the fact that I’m going against it that makes me obsess over the diversion. Like I said, however, I have been able to manage this successfully to the point that it’s hardly noticeable anymore, especially to outsiders. I would say I have a compulsion about 1-3 times per day, but there are also days when I have no compulsions at all.

Lastly, I want to talk about Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder (PMDD), because this condition feeds directly into almost all of my other mental issues (mainly anxiety and OCD). The easiest way to describe PMDD is as very intense PMS, that begins up to 7-10 days before your period and last for days afterwards. On an especially bad bout of PMDD, I can feel symptoms for up to 15 days, which can start to feel like it will never end. It’s common for people already suffering with anxiety to develop PMDD, and the symptoms are very similar. Interestingly, I will sometimes have a cycle with no PMDD symptoms, and feel generally fine for the entire month. And then, in the next month’s cycle, I will start to feel pretty shitty around the second week of my cycle and know that a rough emotional storm is coming.

The somewhat nice thing about PMDD is the predictability. I’ve had enough episodes of it to know when my symptoms are coming, and I am able to remind myself, “This is okay, you’ve gone through this before, you know it will be over eventually and you’ll go back to feeling like yourself.” Taking oral birth control can help with these symptoms, and that’s actually exactly what I do to regulate my PMDD. Before taking birth control, I would feel totally out of control and severely depressed in the days leading up to my period. Because birth control can regulate hormones and affects estrogen, it has actually been shown to help women suffering with the condition find emotional/physical relief. It’s important that everybody knows birth control is NOT just for preventing pregnancy. Birth control needs to stay readily available to women because it helps with so much more, like managing hormonal mental illness.

The symptoms of PMDD include lasting anger/irritability, sadness/despair, tension and anxiety, crying, lack of interest in people/activities, troubling focusing, low energy, food cravings, binge eating, trouble sleeping, feeling out of control, bloating, and headaches . Some women also experience frequent panic attacks, and suicidal thoughts, but thankfully, I have experienced neither of those as a result of PMDD. I have never experienced suicidal thoughts, and my panic attacks are few and far between.

Feeling the effects of my PMDD can be really scary at times, even if I know they will pass eventually. Sometimes, I look in the mirror and panic, because I don’t feel connected to myself, and like I’m in some sort of horrible dream that I can’t wake up from. The climate grief that I mentioned earlier, and my hypochondriac behaviors, become a LOT worse. My OCD compulsions in an attempt to gain control of my life become heightened during this time. I usually don’t want to leave my house, talk to people, or engage in the activities that I usually love doing. When my PMDD is at its worst, all I can do is lay in bed and try to distract myself with naps and emotional support. I can also become extremely paranoid while dealing with my PMDD- worrying that people secretly don’t like me, or that they’re out to get me, etc.

Like I have stated, I have never experienced suicidal thoughts or tendencies, and I know the pain is not permanent. It is not my fault I have a hormonal imbalance in my body that affects my mind. I remind myself that it is not the end of the world, I pull my family and friends close, and eventually, I do start to feel better. I truly want everybody reading this, especially the young people suffering with mental illness and feeling hopeless, to know that YOU WILL BE OKAY. There are people here for you who want to help you and support you in whatever you need.

Because I take an oral contraceptive, my PMDD symptoms are a lot less severe than they used to be. I’ve mentioned in other articles that when I was in high school and early college, a lot of uneducated authority figures tried to send me to hospitals and crisis clinics because they wrongfully thought I was a danger to myself and others. I’ve talked in detail about these traumatic, scary experiences, and how it is resoundfully dangerous it is to call the police on a person in mental distress.

I repeat, DO NOT CALL THE POLICE ON A PERSON IN A MENTAL HEALTH CRISIS. (Unless they actually are a danger to themselves or others). For me and many others, however, calling the police or an ambulance on me when I am having an anxiety attack is the worst possible thing you can do. Even worse, making a person suffering in mental health distress feel like they are a nuisance, danger, or anomaly is a huge problem that I have seen across not only my college campus, but across the entire nation.

I’m not writing this article because I want pity or sympathy, I am writing this because I want to normalize invisible mental illness. I may have my privations, but that does not define who I am. I am a happy, healthy, and confident woman. If I can maintain my happiness, independence, and well-being, then I believe in you, too!

The relationship between ADHD and GAD: https://diplomatsdigest.wordpress.com/2019/04/12/the-relationship-between-adhd-and-gad/

Being diagnosed with ADHD: https://diplomatsdigest.wordpress.com/2019/01/16/being-diagnosed-with-adhd-at-19-my-experience/

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This article could very easily turn into an existential crisis, or, at the very least, criticism of modern corporate America, but I’ll try to keep it on the topic of psychology first and foremost before I derail into philosophy. I actually planned on writing this article months ago, but ironically, the posting schedule is lining up VERY well with my real-life stress. I’ve been absolutely drowning in it lately, and the more I stress, the guiltier I feel about letting myself relax. So why am I like that?

The year is 2019, and with the chaotic advancement of data and technology, I think we’re all feeling slightly overloaded. At the age of barely twenty, I’m already feeling completely overloaded with tasks and information. I can’t imagine what it’s like to add a family, a full-time job, bills, healthcare, and a house into the mix- and I sure don’t get excited thinking about it.

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It’s kind of sad, isn’t it? We as millennials are constantly being bombarded with criticism from the older generations, who constantly remind us that we are lazy, entitled robots who don’t know what hard work is. This sentiment really pisses me off, because it’s so lacking in perspective and a sense of reality. Each generation will be vastly different from the generation before it, mine included. We are the pioneers of the social media age, and while it’s a ton of fun, the constant change in technology places a lot of stress on my shoulders. Add in the fact that just being alive is becoming more and more expensive each day, college has been proven to increase the blood pressure of young people, and a buffoon is currently running our country, and boom! You have a recipe for stress in 2019.

It’s no one’s individual fault that these are the plights of a modern college student. If anything, I think it is collectively the fault of everyone in power- the government, the education system, and corporate America. Mental health has only recently been recognized as a valid universal topic, and up until recently we’ve been living in a very “suck-it-up-and-get-the-work-done” world.

I think that type of conditioning is part of the reason we have such a hard time relaxing. We are constantly set up to always be ready for the next task in life, one after another, like an assembly line of life. We are an assembly line, and the only way to survive is to keep chugging out labor for corporate America. Sometimes a lucky one sneaks out, but the key word there is “luck”. That, and unwavering hard work and self-assurance.

Even when the work is done, we still can’t escape the thought that there is something left to do. It’s all very relevant to the theme that society teaches us to never stop working hard, if you take any time for yourself to focus on what makes you happy, or anything that’s not work-related you’re “selfish”.

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The concept of selfishness has been really interesting to me lately. I’m in the middle of reading The Satanic Bible by Anton Szandor LaVey (great book, by the way), and one of my favorite notions he discusses is the celebration of the seven deadly sins. “Satan represents, indulgence, instead of abstinence” plants the seed to this idea, barely a quarter into the book. Also, here’s a quote from page 85 that more or less sums up my point:

“Satanists are encouraged to indulge in the seven deadly sins, as they hurt no one; they were only invented by the Christian Church to ensure guilt on the part of its followers. The Christian Church knows that it is impossible for anyone to avoid committing these sins, as they are all things which we, being human, most naturally do.”

I’m not saying I hate Christians, but I do agree that guilt is instilled in us for giving into our most human desires. That could be an entire article in itself, so I’ll try to keep it solely on “sloth.” Satanism isn’t the only religion that highlights the importance of self-care; I’ve also noticed a lot of positive mental health themes in Buddhism. I’ll link one of my favorite Buddhist talks by Ajahn Brahm at the bottom: it’s very relevant to this subject, and overall, just a really fantastic video.

Since a young age, we are instilled with the thought that any time we take out for ourselves is selfish, wrong, and unimportant. Basically, if we enjoy something that’s not related to work/income, we are led to believe that it’s less important. Obviously I believe that work is an essential part of life, whether we like it or not, but why can’t work be fun? Why can’t we be a little more silly, a little looser, a little less serious? Why, even after the work is finished, do we have such a hard time letting ourselves be selfish and relax?

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I think it’s possible to have a job you love and still be successful- it just takes a lot of hard work. I’ve been thinking a lot about my future- student loan debt, bills, rent, internships, jobs, everything. And I’m also thinking about the universe- how insignificant humanity is, how our entire history, in regards to the rest of the history of time, is absolutely minuscule. We have hardly even made a dent, and the truth is, after we die, we’re not really important anymore. The only thing that matters is right now- being alive in this moment, and enjoying life to the fullest before our timer runs out and we become infinitely meaningless.

It sounds cliche, but do what makes you happy and gives you the most joy. Optimize your life with as much fun as you want, because once you realize you’re dying, it’s going to be too late.

“Relax- Everything is out of control!” By Ajahn Brahm: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zY6Q-OnMTEE

Coming up next: Fashion Journal: 1970-1979

Photos: https://phys.org/news/2019-02-theory-universe-thought.html

http://www.rgbstock.com/photo/q0J6sos/Cookie+Cutter+People+2

https://thesatanictemple.com/