25 before 25

It’s a list! Like Taylor Swift’s…but with a twist.

I was at a loss (again) for what to write while I wait for my next appointment/procedure, when I came across Taylor Swift’s “30 Things She Learned Before Her 30th Birthday” article in Elle. This was a great find because I happen to be turning 25 in a little under a week – woop woop, Pisces friends. I’m not a big birthday gal anymore, since I had the best parties as a kid and got that out of my system. By best parties, by the way, I don’t mean the glitziest or that I had tons of guests. My mom was just great at tailoring themes to my weirdness.

I don’t want to blatantly copy Taylor’s idea with 25 things I’ve learned before 25, so I give you…

25 Health Lessons I Learned Before 25

  1. Write everything down: You’ll have much better luck identifying trends and going head to head with doctors who challenge your symptoms.
  2. Flavored water: I’m the worst at drinking enough water, but I love flavored sparkling water. When I’m feeling bleh and know I’m not hydrating properly, I head to CVS and load up. It helps me feed my sweet tooth, as well, without doing myself the disservice of getting back on the soda bandwagon.
  3. Hot packs (and ice packs): The loves of my life. The ones with straps that allow me to hobble around the house (or sneakily wear them under my clothes in public) are even better.
  4. Always have snacks in your purse: Especially salty snacks – gotta keep the dizziness at bay.
  5. Always carry bandaids: This one is less personal and is more of a general fact for women. Will they ever stop making shoes that are designed to hurt us?
  6. Keep the receipt for your copay: Hospitals and urgent care centers love to send me bills after I’ve already paid for my services in the office. I used to just pay them the second time and they would pay me back, and we would have this nice little back-and-forth.
  7. Defend your preferences: I had a horrible, painful reaction to morphine the one time it was administered and the nurse told me to tell future nurses that I’m allergic. Every time I do this, I’m asked how I know that I’m allergic and what happens, and I used to feel bad for saying “well, it hurts” as though that isn’t reason enough. Not gonna lie – I fluff up the story a bit now. I was close to blacking out from the pain that shot up my neck and into my head, so whatever I think is necessary to avoid that, I’m going to do it.
  8. It’s okay to ask to schedule around that time of the month: Woo, being a lady! Maybe this is just me, but I never thought to do this before. I used to just hope for the best. But, after a particularly awkward OBGYN appointment, I thought to bring this up when my vascular doctor scheduled a procedure about a month out of the appointment I was in at the time. She was glad that I did, and honestly, there was nothing awkward about it whatsoever. Why haven’t I been doing this from the start??
  9. You can explain yourself without apologizing: I’m still working on this one, but I’ve improved over the years.
  10. Skip mass transit if you have to: I hate to spend money, but I’ve learned that sometimes I have to prioritize getting home quickly and safely. This has involved taking a car service or a cab, at times. I’ve finally stopped beating myself up for doing this.
  11. Be open about your food concerns: There are times when I know that I need to eat very lightly or carefully, whether it’s due to pain or due to nausea that turns me off of my favorite foods. It’s such a relief to feel comfortable enough to explain to close friends and family why I can’t eat particular foods at particular times. Plus, it can actually be helpful to have a real response to “I don’t care, what do you want to eat?” Wellll, let me tell you…
  12. It’s okay to sleep at unconventional times: Louder for the people in the back! Needing a nap does not make me a child. It does not make me lazy. It means that my body is working a little harder than usual and needs a break before a breakdown. Sleep in general is super important, of course, but making peace with having different needs from others has been huge for me.
  13. The internet isn’t (always) bad: I’m grateful for my academic background because I know how to go about research in an informed manner. I know the signs of a factual, science-driven publication versus…well, the other stuff. I, like many others, have let WebMD diagnose me with a long list of fatal illnesses in the past. However, I’ve also found a lot of great information in public forums. If you know how to assess a source and take everything with a grain of salt, the internet can be hugely helpful.
  14. Always get the DVD copy of your MRI/CT/what have you: I mentioned this in my last post. You never know when you’ll need it.
  15. Never assume that the doctor “would’ve” or “should’ve”: I asked at my last appointment if my surgeon from the original kidney surgery would have seen evidence of Nutcracker syndrome when he was operating in that same area. My vascular doctor said no. I have also assumed that I’ve had certain tests done already because my kidney has been under investigation for so long – also, no.
  16. Ask for clarification again…and again: Sometimes I zone out and start in with the nods and “yeps” while a doctor dumps information on me. An example: that time my primary care physician told me that my heart doesn’t draw blood back as quickly as it should and then carried on with his checkup…what does that mean? Is that called something? Now I make sure that I don’t leave an appointment without enough of an understanding that I could potentially explain the situation to someone else.
  17. You can say it’s time to stop when things are getting a bit out of hand: I’ve let a nurse spend an hour trying to insert an IV line in about seven different spots along my arms and hands. I let another nurse struggle to place two catheters (TWO?) for much too long before telling her that I’d rather just do the scan without one. Don’t let your desire to be a nice, easy patient keep you from remembering that you are ultimately in control.
  18. Know your safe places: Living in a city, it’s helpful to know where I can go to sit down if I’m starting to feel a bit off while I’m out and about. There are parks everywhere, but in the colder months I’ve utilized public libraries, specific coffee shops that tend to have seats available, Sean’s workplace, and certain train stations where there are plenty of benches. Keeping a few of places in mind gives me a safety net – peace of mind for my anxiety brain.
  19. Have a “kit”: Speaking of anxiety, I have a “kit” on my phone made up of things I found while in a good headspace that I’ve saved for times when I am not. It’s mostly art – photos, videos, poems and posts that never fail to pull the curtain back a bit when I’m stuck in the dark. There are also apps I use to distract myself, such as Sudoku and Tumblr, which help me focus away from unwanted thoughts at night so that I can get to sleep.
  20. A little exercise is better than none at all: I love going to the gym, and I feel my best when I’m in a routine that involves going to the gym nearly every day. Whenever I’m feeling sick for an extended period of time or have an injury, I fall out of that routine. I used to lose my motivation completely during these times. Currently, my cardio is limited to walking, so I’ve been making sure that I keep up with my floor workouts at home. This isn’t the level where I’d like to remain, but that’s okay. Getting back in the gym will be amazing, but I can make my smaller efforts in the meantime.
  21. You can say no to medication: You. Can. Say. No. To. Medication.
  22. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket: Just because a diagnosis seems probable does not mean that it will definitely be confirmed. Heck, I’ve been officially diagnosed before and had the diagnosis revoked. Multiple times. Be open to change, always always always.
  23. You might need a third opinion: I’ve seen a lot of specialists. A lot. I’ve been dismissed, and I’ve been told that there was “no way” certain conditions could even be considered. It happens. Guess what? You can “thank you, next” a medical professional. I’m definitely not saying that you should cycle through doctors until you find the one who tells you what you want to hear, but if you’re truly not convinced by one person’s opinion, go forth and keep pushing.
  24. Gloves: My hands are never going to be a normal human temperature. I accept this. I’ve stopped questioning whether or not I should take gloves with me when I go anywhere. The answer is always yes.
  25. Live like your world could be turned upside down tomorrow: I try to imagine the changes I would make in my life if I was ever given life-altering news. What would I do differently if faced with a situation where I could lose my current abilities and opportunities? We hate to think about this, but none of us have any particular amount of time guaranteed to us, and I am not saying this to be grim. I’m saying this because I’m now realizing that the most important thing I’ve learned from my experiences is that if you’re waiting for someone to tell you that time is running out – don’t. Do everything with that source of motivation, and watch how your life changes.
Looking at 25 like “seriously, try me.”

hospital aside, A+ day!

me, January 1st: new year, new me #health

me, 2am, January 3rd: wakes up in the emergency room

Just to start out on a positive note, January 2nd was an awesome day. It was a total bro day, if anyone remembers How I Met Your Mother back when it was lighthearted and full of laser-tag. I was taken out for a great breakfast, brought to a go-kart track where I did NOT come in last place, wandered around my favorite library, had a lovely & cozy dinner, and then saw my NHL team win 7-2. All with somewhat enjoyable company, to boot. You’d think I was someone’s beloved elderly pet about to be put down, the way this day was arranged.

The evening took a minor turn when I fell sick and had to be carried (I think? or dragged?) to the hospital. Two hospitals, actually, because apparently the first one was closed.

I don’t remember what happened, which is hard to admit and a little bit scary. I remember leaving the game, but not running into a bar restroom and getting sick, and definitely not anyone climbing into the stall to get me. I don’t know how I got to the hospital…and to me, the strangest part is that I don’t remember any progression, of neither pain nor drunkenness. I also don’t remember any point where I thought I was anything other than completely fine.

Full disclosure: I was drinking during dinner and the hockey game, which paints this whole situation in a different light. When I show up to a hospital hobbling around like a drunk, wounded animal and I’m sober, that’s major cause for concern. When I’m brought to a hospital in that same state and I’ve been drinking, there’s not much interest in investigating what’s going on. And I get it! I get how it must have looked. I’ve had those college experiences, guys. I’ve absolutely drank beyond my limits before. I’ve even thrown up after drinking. However, I have never had any drinking experience that felt like this, or transpired the way that this went down. The closest incident would be my first ever ER visit for this same pain, when I had two beers and then we discovered my misshapen, hydronephrosis-ing kidney. And I was told that I had massive kidney stones but then the doctor took it back.

I’m grateful that I wasn’t alone and that Sean took action by getting me to the hospital, which was clearly no easy feat. Still, I can’t help feeling disappointed in the outcome of the night because I try to be strategic about my hospital visits. I feel like I’ll only make progress on getting some answers if the doctors catch my kidney (or whatever godforsaken organ it is now) behaving badly, but I’ve had those experiences where I’ve gone to an emergency room and they don’t have the right equipment for imaging, or it was so busy there that by the time I was seen, my body had calmed down on its own. I had this dream that if I went back to the emergency room, it would be the last time – they’d finally find it. I truly believe that if they had done an ultrasound on my kidney this past visit, they would’ve seen some interesting and potentially informative things. Anyway. Maybe next time!

The pain was still very present throughout the course of the next two days, although Sean went hardcore nurse mode on me and definitely helped bring me back to life. For whatever reason, as the kidney pain chilled out, I quickly came down with a bad cold in its place. The really nice thing about colds, though, is that I know what they are when they happen AND they go away.

I still believe I might know what’s going on with this sudden spike in painful episodes. I’m away from the city now on operation clean the old house, as well as to get some doctors appointments taken care of. In a shocking twist, I actually pulled myself together enough to go out for my engaged friend’s bachelorette party last night, which I’m so grateful I was able to do while I’m here. I slugged straight seltzer all night but I dance so poorly naturally that I don’t think anyone questioned what was in my champagne glass. I woke up to the ol’ pain around 4am but was able to fall back asleep (thanks to my badass aromatherapy sloth) and the rest of today went pretty smoothly.

Time for my uplifting moral of the story, friends:

There’s a lot of shame in this game.

No matter if it’s alcohol, caffeine, gluten, whatever – there will always be people who think I should just do less of this or more of that, and that I’m still suffering because I’m not disciplined or invested enough to make those changes permanent. Listen, if cutting out any of those things had ever proven to help, I’d be more than happy to make that a permanent lifestyle change. They just…haven’t. If this experience has taught me anything, it’s that I need to stand up for the way that I take care of my own body. As anyone should, y’know? And because everything seems so fragile right now, I’m not going to drink at all until I get some answers. As we know, I’ve had plenty of weird occurrences without any alcohol in my system. This most certainly is not a sure-fire way to keep my pain at bay. It just seems like the intelligent thing to do right now.

Well. Fingers crossed we’ve solved this problem by the playoffs.

välkommen, år av grisen

Thinking about a whole new, fresh, unsullied year laid out in front of me is overwhelmingIt’s a good sort of overwhelming, though. Not to get all sentimental on everyone but 2018 brought me more than I expected, & things I didn’t know I needed. I’m using the word “things” very loosely here, referring to experiences, relationships, realizations – all of that wholesome stuff. For your viewing pleasure, I have narrowed the year down to sixteen pictures, from pageants to hospitals and everything in between.

from top left, clockwise: 1) Miss NY USA 2) Accepted a grown-up job 3) Hospitalized on my lunch break 4) Visits with hometown friends 5) Reunited with my pageant love 6) First date with some idiot who drew on my hand 7) First NY baseball game 8) Concert for pre-teens with my best friend

One of the best things about this year is how much time I was able to spend visiting with my favorite people: friends from home, friends from college, pageant sisters (well okay, just the one). It was a goal of mine to put more effort into making time for the people who make my life more whole and holy crap, I actually sort of accomplished it. ?!?

same: 1) moving out of the apartment I had literally just moved into because I quit the grown-up job 2) London! 3) Lake George 4) Panorama 5) Polo and burgers and pints 6) Newport, RI 7) SCOTLAND 8) Christmas, AKA food and naps and food and naps

That empty room picture in the 2nd set seemed necessary, to acknowledge that I achieved my 2018 goal of moving out (yay!) aaand then had to move back to my old place a month later. These things happen. BUT, shortly afterwards I went to London, took my first trip to Newport, went back to Scotland (never going to shut up about that) and had a great end to the year.

All in all, I’m extremely pleased with the way 2018 progressed. Sarah and I had our annual coffee/snacks/New-Year’s-list-making session a few days ago and created our own outlines for 2019. Drum roll, please…

  • Be nicer to your teeth. Your enamel situation is scary. Do better.
  • Approach your personal work (writing, this blog, artistic endeavors) as if it’s paid work. Schedule it into your calendar like you’re working a shift.
  • On that note, finish your screenplay.
  • Rebuild your ankle strength. We want to have the option to wear heels in the future.
  • Read 24 books. That’s 2 per month. Honestly it’s kind of pathetic. You can manage this. Also, use Goodreads to keep track.
  • Be in a position to start paying your student loans by the time fall rolls around.
  • Actually use your budgeting app and any other budgeting methods to see that you stay on track to meet your financial goals.
  • Speaking of apps, use Duolingo again. You were getting weirdly good at Swedish.
  • Embrace the library.
  • Your job requirements (and I don’t care if this is part time or full time or whatever) are that you receive BENEFITS & a STEADY CHECK. …or start making enough money to pay for insurance out of pocket, if it isn’t provided. You really just need to get this insurance situation together. 
  • Stop buying cheap stuff that falls apart. This is mostly in regard to clothes. Wear what makes you feel good, and we know you feel best when you’re not feeling shabby. 
  • Use all those beauty products before they expire rather than taking five years to use one mascara. Why do you have so much makeup? You don’t wear makeup. #stopbuyingmakeup2019
  • Sew the godd*mn T-shirt quilt, it has been literally four years.
  • Have a travel savings for 2020. 
  • Have 100 followers on this blog. A reach? Probably. Still a goal? Sure.

I think this is a good start. I’m also stealing a few right off of last year’s list, because I did not meet these goals:

  • Take more pictures with friends and loved ones. Those sunset pictures aren’t going to make you feel the same way twenty years down the road. You’re cute. Your friends are cute. Take some dang pictures even if it makes people groan.
  • Make some headway on learning to cook, please. I’ll give you simple goals: try cooking a steak, making a sauce from scratch, and an Indian recipe. Maybe your own masala sauce? You can’t keep eating oatmeal and frozen peas. 
  • Develop better cleaning habits. Make yourself a chart if you have to. You’re a clean person but you are forgetful and I know you put cleaning on the back burner when you have other things going on. Put it in your schedule. You’re good with schedules.
  • Take some Red Cross classes. Get yourself connected with the right regional group since you currently are not, and start participating! 
  • If logging in a food diary keeps you healthier and more sane, do it. Don’t worry that you’re being too strict, too anal, too anything. If it’s helping, do it.
  • That goes for anything. If it’s helping, do it.

This is getting lengthy. Happy New Year, friends. Here’s to your health, in the hundred different ways we use the word. Here’s to knowing what you want and taking it at your own pace, not someone else’s. Here’s to stumbling, starting, trying, struggling, failing, trying again, trying again, & trying again.

big ankle keeps on turning…

I remember when I seriously thought I wouldn’t let myself go a month without posting. Okay. Does it make it any better if I promise there hasn’t been much to mention? I’ve only had two visits to urgent care this month – woohoo! Other than that I’ve been either at work or at home, asleep. Or at the gym. I keep remembering how fit I was this time last year (for the pageant #tbt) and it occurred to me that I could actually pursue being in shape without the pressure of having to walk onstage in a bikini.

Alright, health. The first urgent care trip was right at the start of the month. Remember that ankle injury I keep casually mentioning? Well, I attempted a night out in the city without wearing my ankle brace and turned my ankle YET AGAIN. This particular turn was so glorious, so passionate, that it immediately swelled to twice its size and was impossible to walk on. The friend I went out with shipped me to my boyfriend’s workplace (I may have been running to McDonalds at 1am when it happened), and he shipped me home. The two of us went to urgent care the next day, where I was put in an air cast and told that I need to see an orthopedist because I probably/definitely have nerve damage. Well, joke’s on you because my insurance doesn’t cover specialists within a 2.5 hour radius of where I live! I’ll just wear my ankle sleeve forever.

We may or may not have gone for pints directly after that doctor’s visit.

The second visit was this past Monday. I worked all evening on Sunday with no problems, but when I arrived at the restaurant where Sean (he does have a name) and I were supposed to get drinks and have a mini-holiday celebration with some of his crew, I was hit out of the blue with extreme fatigue and dizziness. I’m somewhat permanently a little bit lightheaded since my blood pressure is irregular, but this was different. This reminded me of the stroke incident back in February. I wasn’t panicked – I just decided that I wouldn’t drink anything besides water while we were out.

About three small glasses of water into the night, the nausea kicked in. I went outside for some fresh air and over the course of the five minutes I was out there, it became harder and harder to stand on my own. My entire left side was weak and I was having a bizarre amount of difficulty speaking coherently. Still, no panic. We went back inside and I forced myself to eat a small, inoffensive piece of potato to see if some food would bring me back to Earth.

Thaaat was all it took for me to run back outside and projectile vomit all over everything. It was likely the most nonchalant vomiting session of all time, as the few scattered people outside genuinely did not notice. One of Sean’s friends, who knew I wasn’t feeling well but didn’t know the details, came out to say goodbye as we obviously had to leave at this point. He went in for a hug…and I had to reject it. Mind you, this is someone I had only met once before, and only very briefly. Just “ahh, no, nope, don’t touch me, sorry.” Amazing.

We sat up for a while at home working on some crackers and water while I clung to a hot water bottle, and headed to urgent care the next morning. The rundown of that appointment was that I don’t have the flu and I’m not pregnant, so…I’m good. Thanks? However, Sean did get himself checked out while I was there, which I’ve been asking him to do for a long time. He also does not have the flu, nor is he with child.

…we went for a pint again after that visit, as well. This is becoming a strange and delightful routine.

~

On another note, my rheumatologist let me know that my lab results from November were normal, except for a serious vitamin D deficiency. It’s a relief to officially rule out some of the potentials that have been hanging over all of this for years, like lupus. I’m plowing on by reopening the kidney investigation next month with a nephrologist my dad trusts and likes a lot, so I’m excited to see what he makes of everything. I do have a new idea of what could be going on with ol’ left kidney, based on my own research. I’m not ready to talk about that here, now, but I will absolutely bring it up with the nephrologist in January.

Y’know, I had this hope that I’d dive right into a new job in January, but I have these two separate, important appointments back home that will require a lot of traveling. Unless I just stay home. Truthfully, I’d love to do that. My Christmas present to my dad is manual labor in & around my mom’s old house – whatever needs taking care of. This will probably include taming the backyard, scrubbing the floors and walls, and boxing up old things. Let me tell ya, that house hasn’t been deeply cleaned top to bottom in a long, long time. Maybe it’s worth sacrificing a month of job progress to be home, battling dirt and nicotine stains, feral cats and wild shrubbery. I can still research and apply for jobs as long as I have my laptop, so there’s that. Plus I’ll have my piano handy. I’ll have friends and family (and doctors!) nearby.

Hmm. I think we have a January plan. Now let’s see if I get my life together enough to write again before December ends. Every year I make a list similar to a list of resolutions, but it’s more about things I want to accomplish rather than things I want to give up or tweak about myself. Granted, some of those things are always included, but I just can’t bring myself to think of it as my “2019 resolutions.” Why am I like this? Still, I think that will be the next post. Wow, a plan!

🙂

brave elvis

I don’t like writing under pressure. The “pressure” right now is only coming from me, because it’s been ten days since I last posted and I’m afraid that I’m just going to keep getting busier with work as Christmas storms closer. Still, self-induced pressure counts, and the result is that I’ve been sitting here staring at a blank computer screen for a decent amount of time. 

I guess I could just dive right in: I had my rheumatologist appointment last week. It was drastically better than the appointment I had last year, and I’m truly loving this doctor already. It was instantly apparent that she really sees things, and that she’s interested in potential connections that other doctors have written off as unrelated. Right off the bat, she took my 500,000 pages of medical records that I brought in a beat-up plastic bag from Burlington Coat Factory and made copies of everything. She went through my past lab results and scans, and pointed out an abnormal reading regarding my kidney from images done on my spine that no one had thought to mention before. She’s pushing me to go back to a urologist for that. Also, I have mild scoliosis. This makes so much sense, I’m pretty sure that I responded with “ohhh. yep. okay.” I was told by a chiropractor back in January that one of my legs is shorter than the other, and a masseuse told me that same month that the back of my ribcage (on my left side) protrudes further out from my back than the right side. I’m just out here confusing people left and right with my funky skeleton.

After she had finished absorbing the last five years of my life, my new rheumatologist ordered a massive panel of blood work. I know some autoimmune disease-related tests were in there, although I’m not sure what specifically or what else. I’m waiting to hear back about all that hootenanny sometime this week, I say with great optimism. In the meantime, life goes on. I’m making a goal of getting back into the gym on a regular basis, even though it’s going to involve a lot of night workouts. This is the fun of having a gym AND workplace over an hour away from where you live – if you want to exercise before work, your choices are to either bring all of your makeup/shower stuff in your work bag which is 1) heavy and 2) requires planning, gross…or skip all of that and look like a sweaty, ragged animal all day at work.

It’s a little bit funny…any time I’m waiting on test results like this, I’m bracing myself for two different versions of the worst. There’s the dramatic version where they find something, and it’s a serious something and my life is never the same. Then there’s the version where everything comes back normal, and I still don’t know how to move forward with this mission to fix myself. The opposing, more positive outlook is that either I’ll be lucky to not have any serious problems, or I’ll be lucky to have finally caught the issue so that I can start treating it. Maybe this makes absolutely no sense, but I prefer to think about outcomes that make me angry now, because then it’s out of my system. I desperately want to avoid getting emotional in front of doctors for the hundredth time. However, I can only really plan out my next steps if the results are all negative and it’s decided by the rheumatologist that this will have to be someone else’s mystery. This is because I have no idea what the other possible outcomes are. My kidney is to blame for everything and I need to have another surgery? This nonchalant scoliosis situation is actually my big problem and I have to go to physical therapy? Everything really was in my head this entire time? I can only speculate so many ideas. 

You know what? I am happy, I am lucky, and I am doing okay. That’s the mantra. 


waving the struggle flag

The lone “hey” is not a text I send very often, but I sent it yesterday afternoon. I’m a full-sentence-using triple-texter more often than not. Or a sender of spontaneous memes.

Yesterday was a different type of day.

It hasn’t been the easiest week. It’s been this type of week, to be exact: I went to work yesterday in the same clothes I had slept in (but I’m extremely proud of myself for throwing on some mascara). My brain is being a bit of a bully lately and each time I think it’s over, she just lays into me again. I’m talking dark, brutal stuff that I don’t think would be beneficial to anyone for me to write about in any detail. Curiously enough, I can tell that I’m not far from that dark place even now as I write this. I see the waves in the distance. Since coming home last night, I’ve done everything that pinterest/tumblr/a hippie friend would tell a girl to do: I relaxed with a cup of green tea beside me, an aesthetically pleasing candle burning, applied some nice skincare nonsense, and technically I’m “journalling” as we speak. Still, those waves are coming. To the me of the near future reading over this post: please don’t delete this! I think you’ll need it more than anyone else will.

We were talking about my text.

I went spiraling down a rabbit hole yesterday thinking about my inadequacies and how the future will only magnify all of my current problems. I’m a burden to those I love and always will be, blah blah blah, really unoriginal depressed person thoughts. I thought a lot about my boyfriend and all the love he has to give, and how it’s so unfair to let him waste it on me.

I’ve been here before, with this exact same train of thought. Last year, actually. I called my boyfriend at the time and asked him if he’d rather be semi-miserable forever, or feel a lot of pain for a little bit but then be able to carry on just fine. He chose the latter, so I told him we shouldn’t be together anymore, and…yeah. That was, more or less, that.

All damn day I pushed back against the thought that if I simply cut this poor guy out of my life, he’d be happier, and I would be happier for finally doing something good for him. Even at my worst, I usually have enough sense to keep my wild ideas in my own bubble, but the price I pay is that when I get stuck in there, no one knows where I am, let alone that I need help getting out.

The biggest struggle of the day came from needing help, but worrying that if I opened my mouth, a bomb might fall out. In the interest of working through things, however, I decided that I could attempt to wave a little distress flag without going full crazy. I’d just have to hope that he could see it. After hours of looking at my phone and seeing an enemy, I awkwardly (without any intention of starting an actual conversation) texted him a simple “Hey” for what I think was the first time ever. I’m not going to say it felt like the right thing to do. It felt weird.

He responded in a similar fashion, and I didn’t say anything else. He asked if I had to work that night, and I said yes. The end.

…BUT IT WASN’T.

He showed up at my job last night and checked in on me. He figured out pretty quickly that I wasn’t okay and that I didn’t want to talk about it at work, so he listened patiently as I explained a little bit about this current job of mine. He proceeded to disappear for a moment and came back with hot cider and a cookie. He then insisted on buying two of my products, and ran away before I could give him his change. He also left behind a scarf and gloves for me to keep warm.

I’m not trying to show off here but honestly, what sort of a human does these things?

There’s a point to my bragging, and it is this: speaking up doesn’t have to be this grand, well-thought-out thing. It makes such a huge difference to have even just one person in your life who will recognize a flag when you wave one. Not only that, but it is brave to wave the flag at all. I had to swallow a lot of poisonous thoughts yesterday to get to a point where I could poke a hand out of my bubble, and I’m so grateful that I did. I’m equally glad that I didn’t try to wait until I was fine to speak with or see him. He took me for what I was when he showed up with nothing but caring concern and good intentions, which was definitely a less warm and fuzzy version of myself – but the warm and fuzzy did come back in their own time.

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A lot of things went right yesterday, and they won’t always, and that’s okay. That’s why this time, I’m writing about it.

Also, the next time I write will very likely be after my rheumatologist appointment next week, so I will be getting back to my original semblance of a theme soon. For someone who doesn’t think all of her life problems stem from anxiety, I’m sort of doing way too much writing about anxiety. Please don’t show my rheumatologist. Imagine she actually finds me on here. I’m giving myself another anxiety attack thinking about this. What a whirlwind.

running away to the Highlands

I’ve been wondering if I should write about the actual Bible-sized package of health records that one of my hospitals sent to my doorstep. Or my anxiety attack from earlier this week. Or the fact that I re-injured my ankle, ah ha! Who needs ligaments? Not me.

However, I still feel a little on edge, like talking about anxiety might be enough to send me back into the dark. I’ll get back to the health records ordeal, surely, but I have an overwhelming sense that it’s not a topic for right now. Therefore, I’m going off-theme. I’m going to tell the tale of what I did in October that made me very, very happy! After six years, I took a solo trip back to Scotland.

Months and months ago, I bought myself a round trip flight to Edinburgh for my birthday. It was a very sober decision/purchase, made at home on my computer and not while I was still at the bar. Anyway, after moving the tickets around three whole times, I finally settled on 17 days in October. I used a handy app called Tripline to plan a route from destination to destination, since there were plenty of cities and towns I didn’t visit back in 2012. I knew I wanted to see Inverness, Aberdeen, the Isle of Skye, and many others, so I booked hostels in the following loop:

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I started in Edinburgh, which I had visited before back in the ol’ college freshman days. I don’t want to pretend I’m a travel blogger, though, so I’m just going to give you the best moment and a picture from every city.

#1) Edinburgh – Reading my library book (“Rabbit, Run” by John Updike) in the Princes Street Gardens with coffee and an extremely decent sandwich.

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(This picture is from Greyfriars Kirkyard, not the gardens, in case anyone was thinking “that garden has tombstones!”)

#2) Aberdeen – Taking the longest walk ever to find Aberdeen Beach by Queens Links, seeing all the dogs and hanging out under the bluest sky.

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#3) Inverness – Okay, I’m in love with Inverness. At this point in the trip, despite everything being lovely, I have to go with my trip to Culloden Battlefield with my sassy German (Hi Sophie! I miss you.)

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#4) Isle of Skye – Hiking the Old Man of Storr with my newfound friend, who was kind enough to let me hitch a ride from Inverness to Skye, and even more kind to spend the entire day with me. Nothing like speeding down a single pass road in a German vehicle, putting me on the left side of the road but on the right-hand side of the car. Not terrifying at all!

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#5) Inverness – Okay, so I had a slight health panic in Scotland. I stayed up all night on the couch at my hostel in Portree because I had such strong pain, and when it was just as terrible in the morning…I decided to ditch my plans for the rest of the week and go back to Inverness. I almost felt guilty about it, as if I wasn’t “brave” or “adventurous” enough, but…it was my trip. I knew my brain and body would benefit from staying in the same place for a bit. So I headed back to Inverness, to my same hostel (the best hostel of the trip, hands down). My friend who went to Culloden with me even came back to Inverness for a day as well, and we had a great dinner together. Look at this hostel and tell me you wouldn’t want to hole up here for a while with coffee and a book.

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(New) #6 Stirling – Visiting two of my pals from freshman year at Stirling Uni! Plus Stirling was golden the entire time I was there.

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#7) …Anniesland? – I thought that the new hostel I booked for Glasgow was in Glasgow, but I goofed up and ended up staying in Anniesland outside of the city. This was a weird one. I’d say the best part was watching inspirational YouTube videos in my hostel. Don’t hate me, Anniesland. I’ll give you another Inverness picture because I ❤ Inverness.

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#8) Ayr/Turnberry – I went to Turnberry to visit a friend who’s working there, and I have to say it’s a tie between walking around barefoot on the beach near the resort, and our mini night out in Girvan – one of the most entertaining nights out I’d had in a while. I promised a woman named Linda that I’d take her to “the hood” if she visits New York. Linda, if you’re reading this, it’s an open invitation.

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I have to add that I ended up in Ireland for the last two days of my trip, where I didn’t take a single picture because I was too busy enjoying warm meals and fawning over the most adorable baby. I have a feeling I’ll be back in Ireland, so I didn’t stress about photographing everything at the time.

This is sort of a selfish post, since I want to have this to look back on when I lose my motivation. That, and to remember where I was October of last year versus this year. It really is true that you can never imagine how far you can come in just a year, until you’re looking backwards in time. I know that a year ago I thought a return to Scotland was ages away. Then it happened. A lot has happened this year, things I never could’ve dreamed of. I guess if anyone has made it this far into this post…don’t wait for the “right time” or “perfect” conditions to do what you’ve always wanted to do. Don’t be afraid to do it on your own, and don’t compare your journey to the journeys of others. Let your fellow travelers inspire you, but not pressure you.

And go to Scotland.