if this is what crazy is…

I called him in sobs, crying about how everyone would think of me as his crazy ex-girlfriend. He replied that it wasn’t the time to worry about such things, and while it probably wasn’t, what I got from that was: it was true. People already thought that.

Then I spent the next year of my life worrying about what people (who I actually no longer talked to) thought about my mental state. Turns out I was only crazy when I was worried about whether or not I was crazy. It’s an ugly, never-ending cycle.

It’s not so much that I want the word crazy to be diminished from the English language, because that could turn into a slippery slope – insane, nuts, etc. They would all have to go, too. And, after all, they are just words – letters put together in black and white on crisp paper. Words don’t mean anything, so I often wonder what it is about the word “crazy” that I hate.

Recently, after a long heart to heart with one of my truest friends, I understood. It’s not the word; it’s the way it made me feel. Speaking about a particularly rough period of my life, she pointed out, “You were never crazy, you just thought you were, and that’s what made getting better so hard.”

Crazy.

I have dark drawings of fucked up girls in my sketchbook with the word crazy scribbled underneath.
I have poems written in tattered notebooks with central themes about what it felt to lose my mind.
I have scars, both visible and invisible, that prove to show just how “crazy” I really was.

Or maybe it’s not “how crazy I really was” but more so “how crazy I really felt.”

Knowing what I know now, I would chalk up my behavior to poor coping skills rather than the loss of my own mind. In other words, I was never really crazy after all. I was just a girl who needed so badly for others to validate her.

If I had an idea, I needed validation from another human being that it was good.
If I was upset, I needed someone else to tell me, gosh darnit, I deserved to be upset.

And if I didn’t get those things, it turned ugly.

Did I scream? Yes.
Did I cry? Yes.
Did I spit insults? Yes.
Did I act out? Yes.

It turns out when people don’t validate your feelings, the end result is crazy.

But was I crazy? No.

I never really was, but I did know my behaviors were off.

Too much.
Too           dramatic.
Too                         intense.

I didn’t know any other way to cope with how out of control I felt, it was what I had learned.
Still, recognizing that my behaviors made ME feel shitty meant I needed to do work.
Believe me, I did.

After the work is done, the final and most important trick is learning that you don’t need the approval of others to live your life.
If you can get that skill down pact, you’re golden.
Crazy is no longer a thing.

See, what’s hard for me to understand is: What does crazy even mean?

cra•zy: (adjective) mentally deranged, especially as manifested in a wild or aggressive way.

Hmm… okay. That definition means nothing to me.

Mentally deranged?
Nope. Not even on my worst day.

I guess I say things other people don’t.
I explore my feelings and put them out there and love and care.
Some people choose not to do this.
Neither one of us are crazy.

I have come to realize that it is so easy to be manipulated when you think you are crazy. At least it was easy for me to be manipulated. You’ll do anything not to be crazy, which is such a waste of time, because the process of doing your best not to be “crazy” turns into you doing a bunch of stuff you don’t want to do, which actually feels crazy. You following?

I’ve seen many articles about how awful it is that males throw around the word “crazy” and how terrible it makes females feel, and I agree. The problem is it’s such a vague word, it’s hard to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes it hit home. It’s not just males, either – females use the word in reference to other females, too.

Really, we just all have a different perspective of how to handle situations. While I agree that there are healthy and unhealthy ways to express negative emotions, there’s no crazy and not crazy. It’s just what people have learned.

It’s a hard concept for me to write about, because it’s complex, but I guess what I’d like to say is that crazy is one of the most debilitating things to be labeled as.

For a while,
My writing was CRAZY
My need to share was CRAZY
Any expression of emotions was CRAZY
My feelings for other people were CRAZY
And so it goes.

So I locked myself up in a cage and tried to be as perfect and as non-crazy as I could be.

Guess what?

I never achieved perfect or non-crazy, so hence, I was just left in a cage.

It was boring in there.
I’m glad I’m out.

Whatever word makes you feel caged up and controlled, I hope you learn a way to let it go.
People can think anything in the world about you and it just doesn’t freaking matter. At the end of the day, you have to live with yourself.

I guess I just realized that whether I was crazy or not,
I was still breathing.
I was still waking up every day.
I was still walking through life.

And there was an easier way – letting go of what others thought and thinking more about what I thought about myself.

That’s freedom.

War on Bullying isn’t working; where do we go from here?

As a nation, we are all pretty aware of the bullying issue. There are anti-bullying campaigns on social media, through commercials, and even movies about it. It’s real, too. The numbers are extremely sobering; suicide is the third highest cause of death for teens.

While we’re all aware of this issue, we seem to all disagree on how to solve the problem. Not only does it lead to suicides, but school shootings seem to be happening almost daily now. This book  explores the connection between bullying and school shootings.

From my own experiences with bullying (you can read my post from 2011 here), I’ve come to realize that no administrative help was going to fix the problem. Because administrators did try to help me, and when they intervened, it just made things worse. Their intentions were in the right place, but unfortunately it just led to more issues.

The thing is, bullying isn’t a new phenomenon. If you are like me and watch 24 hours of the Christmas Story during Christmas, you know poor Ralphie and his brother were bullied. No, I am not suggesting that we retaliate by punching the shit out of the person (although it did seem to work for him…). But I think the main difference between bullying then and bullying now is the internet. Kids don’t get away from it when they go home at night. Ralphie wasn’t sitting on his cellphone watching his bullies have a fun night out via social media. Man, he was busy thinking about his Christmas gift.

Almost 10 years after my own struggle with being bullied, I’ve come to the conclusion that we need to not go after the bullies necessarily, because in the end, it’s never going to stop. People will be assholes. Furthermore, I’d argue that the people who bully have their own issues they need to work out and that’s why they pry on the weaker. Hell, I’m almost 25 and I still know people who are bullies.

I think we need to teach kids better coping skills to deal with it when they do get bullied.

Really, although my experience was traumatic, it turns out that a lot of the emotional pain I felt was because I already had low self-esteem. So, basically, in my head, I sucked. Therefore, when I had 12 of my classmates telling me that I sucked, a red light started flashing in my brain that said, “They figured it out! They know you suck! Everything you’ve been thinking about yourself is real!”

In all reality, those kids knew nothing about me and didn’t need to affect me the way that they did. The problem, after all, was that I felt shitty about myself and gave in to the lies they were spitting at me.

Our generation has a problem sitting with feelings. We don’t like to feel things, mainly because we don’t have to. When we feel out of place, we go on our phones and check Facebook. When we are angry, we tweet about it. When we are sad, we watch a movie. We never learned how to sit with our feelings without taking action. Our society is so fast-paced that we have a reaction trigger. Something happens and we act quickly.

If you read my blog entry about my own experience, you’ll see that there were points that I wanted to die. I did not want to live. Now, almost 10 years later, I realize all the things I would have missed out on: two of my sisters’ weddings, the birth of three amazing cousins, college graduation, relationships, great times with great friends, a million laughs and smiles… I could go on forever.

We need to teach kids how to cope. How to stand up not only to their bullies, but to the personal voice inside their heads that are telling them they suck. It’s the only way we are going to save people from themselves.

Nursing and the Art of Finding Comfort in the Uncomfortable

A few years ago, someone close to me became very sick. I won’t go into the details of it, but I will say that it made a huge impact on my life. Those few weeks were terrifying and filled with breakdowns in the hallway of cold hospitals and the feeling of utter disbelief that someone’s body could attack itself the way it did.

I bring this up is because it affected me; it mattered. While I stood in the hospital and saw the people around me in so much pain, I also noticed the kindness and hard work of the nurses. The family came to get to know them pretty well. During their long hours they kept smiling and they were there at the blink of an eye if they were needed.

I was amazed not only by the nurses, but by the doctors in the ICU. I was amazed by the technology, the quick decisions that needed to be made immediately to save this person’s life, and when her life was saved, I was amazed by that as well. In short, this tragic incident opened my eyes to something I never experienced before.

So, now, two years later and countless hours of consideration later, I find myself taking the steps necessary to get into a nursing program.

This decision has been huge for me for so many reasons—I think the biggest reason is because for so long I have had zero confidence in my ability to do anything worthwhile.

I’ve always known that writing was a skill of mine, but with that, my ability to excel in math and science has been doubted time and time again. I made fun of myself for doing poorly and ‘hating’ these subjects. Eventually the jokes became reality — this behavior led to me selling myself short.

When I finished my dual-undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Public Relations, I was happy, but in the back of my mind I felt like I wasted time. I watched as my friends worked towards their graduate degrees and found myself becoming increasingly jealous. Why were they able to land jobs and finish degrees that hold so much importance in the world while my job consisted of posting to social media?

While this may be an enjoyable job for some people—and, admittedly, it can be a fun, stress-free, and social job at points—I just continued to get this sinking feeling that I had more potential. Because I was both incredibly happy for my friends while being jealous, I finally tuned into the feelings I had about my friends’ careers and realized the reason behind them; I did not feel good about my career choice. I was not proud of it and I did not feel fulfilled. I felt like I could have done better.

When this first became a goal of mine, I would toy with it and bring it up occasionally to others. No one took me seriously which angered me and in turn lead me to not take myself seriously. Actually, I don’t know if it was that no one took me seriously or I just perceived it that way due to my own insecurities.  I spent so much time building this image of myself as a writer and an artist – how could I trade that part of me in? Did I really want to abandon the arts for the sciences? Isn’t this an age-old dilemma?

Yes, yes, and yes. Well, I should say, kind of. It took me a while to realize that I was not trading in any particular part of me, I was simply just growing as a person and learning a new skill. The decision to go into nursing had no bearing on the spiritual side of me other than expanding it.

My main goal this year has been becoming more in tune with my own thoughts and perceptions of the world, rather than everyone else’s. It’s been difficult. However, I finally tuned in enough to realize that I’ve been thinking about this path for myself for two years now. If I did not take the plunge now, when would I? Would it be worth it to continue down a career path that I did not love and did not fulfill me just so I could feel comfortable in my own skin?

I decided it isn’t worth it. Comfort is our biggest enemy in life. The best advice I have ever received is to learn how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s hard. I am so uncomfortable right now and I am so scared. There is this chance I could fail and not get into nursing. I could get in and have a hard time with it. I could change my mind. All these things are possible, and yet, if I don’t give it a shot I have nothing. Fear of failure has kept me from so many things in life and I realize now that it’s time to put an end to that.

Science might take me a little longer to understand than I would like and my anxiety may work against me during my time in school – but I understand now that I’m not the only one with these fears and misconceptions. I think the difference between my behaviors and others are they keep going regardless of the fear, while I have let it paralyze me. In short, no one has a clue what they are doing; some just hide it better.

I realize now that I’ve been given the opportunity to do this thing again. I’m fortunate in this aspect. It’s nice to look around and realize that there is not one thing another person has that I don’t. My brain and my work ethic are just as capable as anyone else’s, but others have committed to a set path while I have had trouble with that. For so long I felt directionless, not knowing what I really wanted to do with my life. This made me angry – what was wrong with me? I’ve come to find that since I’ve worked on my self-esteem and own self-image, it’s been falling into place. I couldn’t make a choice before now because I wasn’t emotionally able to. I didn’t believe in myself enough.

But here I am — wish me luck!