Sometimes, you know exactly what makes you anxious, and sometimes, you have to power to get rid of it, but sometimes, you have to be brave and let it stay.
Well isn’t TimeHop just lovely? We’ve always wanted a time machine to be able to go back and relive or change the past, so we invented an app that allows us to see what we posted on social media on this day last year, two years ago, etc. Now obviously this is meant for us to reminisce on the pictures we took in high school, laugh about our young and naïve Facebook statuses, and question what the heck we were even talking about in that tweet, but sometimes you unbury something that wasn’t meant to be exposed.
Yesterday, I was scrolling through and pleasantly remembering that exactly one year ago, a friend of mine and I explored Little Italy downtown, ate too much pasta, splurged on a cannoli, and navigated the streets of Baltimore like pros. As I continued to scroll, I reached the bottom and came across a Facebook status from 5 years ago. Now usually my TimeHop doesn’t go back that far because I wasn’t as frequent a social media user and didn’t have much of anything interesting to say, however, on January 17, 2010, I did.
“and as my world crashes and burns around me, I’m forced to stand on the highest and narrowest cliff, isolated, knowing the disaster will reach my little slice of safety because I can’t be safe forever, nothing is perfect, everyone is going to fall off eventually.”
Okay, high school self, take it down a notch there. Funny thing is, I remember writing this, I remember posting it, and I remember the feelings that surrounded it very clearly. I’ve always been a writer, and I’ve always admired flowery words and visual metaphors. At the time that of this status, I was 16-years-old, a junior in high school, and currently experiencing my lowest of lows. This was the time when depression had taken me over and swallowed me whole. I was killing myself in AP classes, but my ‘B’ grades were never good enough. I was playing sports, but my performance was never good enough. I had friends who tried to reach out for me, but I was not good enough. Who wasn’t I good enough for? Me. I never lived up to my standards for myself, I could always have done something better and I always felt like I was letting down everyone around me.
I’m going to be honest, because we’re all friends here, but suicide was not a foreign thought to me. I never attempted, or even planned to, but the thoughts were there, and it is a very scary feeling when you don’t want to live anymore. According to my status, everything was falling apart, I was alone and facing impending doom. What a tough thing for a 16-year-old girl to be feeling, and here I am 5 years later, and I wish I could tell myself that things would get better. (Maybe we should look into a FutureHop so we can give ourselves advice from the future…) It was saddening to read what I wrote so long ago and be reminded of those feelings, but at the same time, it was also eye-opening.
I am in no way going to sit here and say that I have made a full recovery from the mentally sick teen that wrote that Facebook status, because I still struggle with mental illness every day, however, there is a big difference between that girl and this girl. When I was 16, I didn’t admit that I was depressed, I thought it was normal. I didn’t realize that my neuroticism was driving me up onto that narrow cliff. Today, I can say that I’ve accepted and embraced the way that my mind works differently. I know when I fall into my pits of depression, I know when my anxiety is inhibiting me from normal functioning, and I know when I’m being neurotic and irrational (most of the time). I no longer throw around the idea of suicide, but I do still experience days when just being alive is hard enough and breathing is my biggest accomplishment. Although I am not at my lowest point, I also know that I’m not at my highest and there are some things that I am dealing with right now in this season of life.
This TimeHop surprise gave me hope though. I have overcome so much since then and while sometimes I still feel like my world is crashing and my slice of safety is disintegrating, I know that I am not going to fall. I am not isolated- I have friends who understand and listen, I have a mother who has learned empathy, and most importantly, I have a God who loves me in more ways than I can ever comprehend and who anchors my soul, and will not let me fall. Nothing is perfect, yes, I was right when I said that, but the good news is that we’re made perfect in our imperfections. Mental illness will forever be a struggle for me, but I’ve become who I am because of it, and I will continue to learn, grow, and recover. Maybe I’ll look back at this in another five years and reflect on my continued progress.
Time gives us hope. Hold on. Don’t quit. You’re worth it. You’re good enough. You’re not alone. You have purpose. You are here for a reason.
For whatever reason, my entire life, I have been an over-sharer. I will tell you anything if you ask, and sometimes even when you don't. I don't feel shame or embarrassment and I don't hide my secrets. To be honest, I don't know why I'm so open about everything and sometimes I hate it. I'll tell someone something and immediately regret saying it, not because I don't want them to know, but because I feel like I can't just keep things to myself. Don't get me wrong, I can easily keep a friend's secret or successfully execute a surprise, but when it comes to my personal life, it's a free for all.
It's pretty evident here on this blog too. In my bio I tell you I have an anxiety disorder, and I tell you I have depression. Mental illness is not a stigma for me. Everyone knows about it. I'll tell people about my terrible relationship with my father. I'll tell people about my negative views on love and marriage. I'll talk about my past. I'll talk about my hurt. Call it blunt, I guess, but I'll share almost anything.
Is this a good thing? Not necessarily. Is it a bad thing? I don't think so. But it is annoying. It makes it harder to connect with people when everyone knows everything about me. It's also harder to understand people who are guarded and closed off about their feelings because, to me, it's not a big deal. But I have to remind myself that not everyone is comfortable sharing their personal lives. It's just me; I am an over-sharer.
I'm not looking for pity or empathy when I share my pain either. Believe me, that's the last thing I want. I think that most of the time I talk for the sake of talking. Really, if you just seem like you're listening then I don't expect any thoughtful feedback or advice. To be honest, I think that by sharing, whether verbally or through my writing, I am able to work through things on a personal level a lot easier. Sometimes you cannot simply talk to yourself in your own head and expect to understand what you're saying. My mind is a messy place. So I suppose I have to hear it, or read it, in order to process it.
And I apologize if you think I'm being negative all of the time. Gosh, that bothers me so much. I am voicing an opinion or sharing my actual emotions with you, sorry for being real. If you're going to ask me how I'm doing, I'm not going to be that person that says I'm fine, because 9 times out of 10, I'm not fine. I'm an over-sharer, and therefore, I'll over-share how I'm actually doing.
So here I am again, over-sharing about over-sharing. As I continue to learn more about myself, I also continue to learn that I like when I can but a label on something. I have learned that, when given the chance, I'll share. Who knows, maybe it'll help someone, or spark a thought, or lead to something new.
Cliche tourist photos and selfies in front of iconic attractions are great and all, but here are some tips I learned in London for different types of pictures that will help you remember your time abroad differently.
We are so used to taking pictures at eye level. We typically capture skylines and silhouettes, but I challenge you to look up when visiting a new place. Check out the architecture, learn the uniqueness of the city, explore from a different angle. I honestly have no clue where this picture was taken, but I can remember the story behind it clearly. We were on a photography excursion for class, and this was during our lunch break. We ate at a nearby café and, while eating outside, I noticed the interesting building art and string of lights connecting to the apartments. This picture allows me to remember unique parts of that day, because it is different from all of the other photos I took. Just look up.
Teach yourself about extended exposure and shutter speed. Learn techniques to capture motion and you’ll remember your trip in a whole new way. Luckily for me, I was taking a photography class in London and was supplied with a tripod and instruction on how to take such a picture, but a street bench and Google will do the same thing. This intersection is not relevant or important, however this picture captures the iconic red, double decker bus in a non-traditional way. When I look at this, I remember the constant bustle of those busses and their movement throughout the city. You can hop on public transportation and see all of London, traveling from one end to the other.
Don’t be afraid to look silly getting up close and personal with a plant or inanimate object. If it looks cool, take a picture, because those pictures will last forever and there are just some things you don’t want to forget. Photograph signs, flowers, animals, books, food, and your coffee cups. Embrace it! Don’t just take pictures of yourself, but really capture your surroundings. I took this picture at South Bank next to the Thames River at a little farmers market. They were selling plants and flowers and I remember the fragrances filling the air and the shelves of burlap. Yes, I probably looked ridiculous taking this, and no, the plant isn’t even that appealing, but it’s a detail of my day and a pleasant memory of South Bank that now I won’t ever forget.
Be creepy, be brave, don’t be subtle. Photograph the locals, their activities, and their culture. You’re in a new place and it’s inevitably going to have some cultural aspects that are different than back home. Embrace it! This photo is another shot from a class project, and my professor asked permission for us to set up tripods across the street. We all thought it was awkward and creepy, but a cool picture came from it. One thing I won’t forget about London is all of the business people gathering around the pubs after work for a casual drink and conversation with a stranger. There is movement, there is laughter, and there are stories. We received some humorous comments from our subjects, but nobody had an issue with a group of Americans capturing a scene that was routine to the locals. This picture encompasses what I learned of London culture.
Sometimes we forget to take a picture of the things we see every day or that are typical to us. Hotel rooms, rental cars, your morning coffee shop, the view from your window. These are the things that make your trip special and so why not capture them! This is a picture of the incredible floor-to-ceiling windows in our dorm room. Firstly, we were incredibly lucky to even score a triple room accommodation, but then the room ended up being gorgeous, so of course I took a bunch of pictures. This one is my favorite because it shows the amazing window, the light that it would let in, and the exterior of the buildings on that street. I also love that the window is open, because that’s how it remained for the duration of our stay because our room did not have air conditioning, which is typical in Europe. I am also reminded of the fact that, during the time we were in London, they were experiencing an abnormally hot summer and the longest drought they’d had in a few years, another fun tidbit from my trip.
I think that there is real difference between death and loss. Usually, when we know someone who has experienced a death of someone close to them we say, “sorry for your loss”, and on one hand, I completely understand why we’d say that, but on the contrary, those two concepts mean two different things to me. I have been fortunate enough to say that I haven’t had to face an extreme amount of deaths thus far in my life. Great grandparents, distance relatives in foreign countries, family friends, and a loyal dog are the extent of the death I’ve seen. None of these impacted me very greatly.
But what do you do when the death that’s affected you the most, doesn’t even feel like death? You see, three summers ago I was volunteering at a Young Life camp in upstate New York called Saranac Village. I was there for the entire month of July, with no cell phone or communication with family back home. Before I left, everything was completely fine, nothing was wrong. During my first week there, I was called to the main office because my mother had called and left a message for me to call her back. That was red flag number one because my mom wouldn’t have contacted me unless it was urgent. My grandfather, my Poppop, was sick. They took him to the hospital and he was diagnosed with liver cancer. He was given a year to live.
But he was healthy before I left, how could this be true? A year to live? That’s not enough time.
A few days later I got another call. Poppop is getting worse. He’s taking chemo pills but he’s so weak he can barely move or speak. I talked to him. He told me he loved me and that he was proud but I could hear the heartache and the pain in his voice. But the pills were going to work. The doctors said a year. There was time.
Another call. Things were looking really bad. Nothing was guaranteed anymore. I was asked to pray over the phone, for Poppop and for the family. That meant so much to me. I hung up the phone and cried.
Less than two weeks after the initial phone call, Poppop died. And there I was, nine hours away from home, unable to see him or attend the funeral. I was close with my Poppop. Him and my grandmother are my closest family members. Now he was gone, and I wasn't even there.
I was so extremely fortunate to be surrounded by the most incredible people at Saranac as I was processing his death. My best friend was there, and she offered me support as a best friend should. But so many people, people who I knew for two weeks, loved me and cared for me in so many ways. Here I was on a gorgeous lake, surrounded by the beautiful Adirondack mountains, and being embraced by the most considerate friends. My grief was so different, I wasn't heartbroken or numb.
God had a plan and, like always, it was marvelous. I wasn’t meant to be home during the progression of my Poppop’s cancer. I didn’t have to see him suffer or become frail. My last hug from him wasn’t one of weakness. My last memory of him wasn’t of death, but of life, and that’s how I’ll always get to remember him. God knew I’d be at Saranac, the most breathtaking place I’ve ever been, and He knew that the people there would love me in the ways that I needed to be loved. I’ve never felt so many people truly care about me as much as I did that month. I felt so strong because of the support I had all around me.
So here I am, almost three years later, and I still do not have any closure. I’ve seen his ashes, I’ve been to his veteran memorial, our holiday dinners are one less, and I haven’t heard his joyful, bluegrass, singing, yet he still isn’t gone to me. Poppop isn’t dead. He’s lost. Don’t get me wrong, I know deep down that he is in fact dead and that he’s in a better place and that cancer is the very least of his worries. But how can I be expected to comprehend his passing if when I left for Saranac, he was alive and healthy, but when I returned, he wasn’t there. He was missing.
I am not sad when I think about Poppop. I miss him, of course, but I do not feel grief. I know that he’s still with me. I felt him at Saranac, I've felt him in London, I’ve felt him in California, and I’ve felt him here. I been thinking about it so much lately, about how this death is so strange to me. How much one’s reaction, both short and long term, can be drastically different depending on the circumstances and environment. About how much I wish he was still here, but how it also doesn’t feel like he’s even gone. It’s ambiguous. It’s confusing. But it’s beautiful.
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