This goofy picture was taken exactly one year ago today on New Year's Eve. I was a senior in high school, had just received my first college acceptance letter, but was probably giving the biggest, yet, fakest smile I could. I was not taking the first months after my Papa's death well, and as I've written in many posts before, I had severe anxiety attacks daily, followed by an overwhelming sadness, emptiness, and loss of self worth. If you look at a photograph like this though, along with all of the other smiling photographs taken during that time like Thanksgiving family photos, my senior portraits, you would have no idea what was going on inside me. A smile can be a mask, a photograph is just a captured moment. When I look at this photo, I do remember laughing as I found a selfie-stick in my closet and brought it down for John to put together. You can see I'm being my silly self as I'm in my pajamas, no makeup, messy hair, bunny ears on top of my mom's head. Though, I look deeper into the memory. After the photograph was taken I was going to head back to my room and pack my duffle bag, for the next day where I would be beginning the new year of 2016 by driving to Martha's Vineyard to visit my family.
New Years Day began with an accident. Miles from home I was lying on the side of the road as an EMT rolled me onto my side and strapped a thick neck brace under my chin. At the time, I remember feeling ashamed more than grateful. It was an accident, but I still put the blame of my totaled car on myself and the fact that I hadn't yet reached the Cape was considered another "failure" of mine. I did not understand after wishing for an ending for so long, I was still here.
It was when my mom looked at the remains of my car and started to cry, and the EMT's called it a "miracle" that I began to realize how special this situation was. "You certainly had an angel looking over you." they had said. My mom cried and looked at me and said, "I just don't know how you are okay."
Do I thank the Subaru for keeping me safe? Chance? Was my Papa my angel that made sure I stayed safe? Am I supposed to view this as a reason about why I'm meant to be here? Or does shit just happen, and I was just lucky?
2016 began with a BIG bump, but I think that BIG bump jumpstarted something that I needed.
I took initiative when I made the decision to return to therapy for my anxiety, and find a therapist that was a good fit for me. I made that decision on my own, and I got myself there. I was proactive and did some online searching. I sent my first email out, recieved my first response, and booked an appointment for later that week.
It is weird where everything went from there.
I needed help, and I got it. I spent time in the adolescent unit of a hospital for my mental health; not where myself, or my family, or anyone would have imagined me to ever be. My nickname has always been "Happy Haley."
You don't expect these things to happen to you, or you expect this only happens to a certain "type" of person, but that isn't true at all. Mental health is serious, and can be so delicate, and is just as important as physical health. A broken bone needs to heal, and I needed help in healing as well.
Yep, that is the bottom I had reached. I sure hope that was the lowest I will ever reach, and that I can only bounce up from here with everything I have learned.
Soon came being discharged, graduating high school, continuing writing, deciding to share my voice and story with others, and getting articles published on the internet. Beginning to discover the worth.
By Fall I had moved to the city and was beginning my college career.
I read a 5 page speech aloud at a banquet and began my college journey by sharing some difficult parts of my life, and how change turned for the better,- to a room full of my peers, professors, other faculty members, and the president of my college.
Kicking social anxiety right in the ass!
"Did I really just do that?"
By October I stood up in front of a different room of people, and shared a toast I had written for my mom and John on their wedding day.
I am resilient. I fall down, sometimes I stay down for a while, but I get back up and I keep working on all that I need to work on.
Mental health struggles are isolating, and terrifying places to be.
My mom has reflected on the year with me. She said that with showing a lot of effort, good things will come from it. It takes time, but they always do.
You can't snap out of it, you can't change your thinking immediately, you can't just "be happy", but you can work work work at it.
I'm writing in a coffee shop right now. A place that I probably would have been too scared to drive to alone this time last year. When my anxiety led to a fear of parking lots, sitting in a restaurant, or public places in general.
I have been laughing and smiling and finding comfort at this year's latest family parties, whereas last year I would've needed to leave early due to an anxiety attack when nobody had known what had happened to me. (Not related to my family themselves they rock)
I still get anxiety attacks, but infrequently, and know now that they always pass, and I can/will rise above them.
When I think back to 2016 I can only say, "Weird." It has been weird how things have turned out. How can the absolute worst and the absolute best things happen in the same year?
I am not sure if this has been the worst year of my life. Or maybe it has been the best year of my life because of all the accomplishments. Maybe both. Years come and go, and I don't pay much attention to the solid view of them. I do know, 2016 will be a year I won't forget and will encourage myself to remember and keep in my heart.
Who knows what challenges and heartaches 2017 will bring, but I know that I will get through it somehow. I've seen, felt, and survived the lowest of low places and feelings, so bring on what is yet to come!
Resolutions don't tend to last with me.
Instead I will create reminders:
Thank you thank you thank you 2016, and all of you amazing people that have been an active part of it.
I hope this brings some hope or perspective to those wondering or fearing what the new year will bring.
I wish for strength for us all.
I will kindly say,
"Hey, Welcome, 2017, join the club! :-)"
but also firmly say,
"Bring it on, 2017, this girl's ready for ya"
My site is named "Very Haley" for a reason. I have always been very clear about who I am and what makes my soul shine. If my mom saw something in a store she would say "this is very Haley!" Or a video of another person doing something silly or dancing around looking like a fool, "that's very Haley." In other words, this is me. I fall down, I get up, and this is my story. Very Haley. As real as can be.
I hate this feeling.
Like I'm happy, but I'm not.
Like I'm trying too hard to be happy.
That I feel so many things all at once, to the point where I almost feel nothing at all.
I keep searching for a "reason" because that's what everyone wants to know, right?
There isn't one. Sometimes there just isn't one.
I have been making efforts to get out of my yearly winter slump. I haven't been isolating as much as I want to, and I have been getting out, going on drives, seeing friends, and I know that has helped.
I haven't been writing much, mainly because I have been so busy since Christmas. I brought my laptop to a local coffee shop and opened to my blog. I started writing, but after every sentence I found myself deleting words, starting from the top, having no clue what to say. It was frustrating. Often times writing is what I can count on, it helps me to feel stable, and less alone. When my fingers freeze above the keys I feel very very lost. I could feel the frustration fuming and my eyes becoming glossy. I slid my laptop into its case and walked back to my car after 15 minutes of looking out the cafe window. My mom had called me, asking if I could pick up my stranded brother at a shopping plaza on my way home. I didn't give her a full answer, and I hung up the phone after a long silence. I have been so sensitive to the little things lately and I don't know what is going on with me. I took a long way home and drove some roads that really didn't make sense to go on. I was fighting tears and I just felt so awful and empty and sad and the worst part was that I had no idea why. "Not knowing what to blog about" didn't seem to cut it. No, it had to be more than that.
As much as it seems like I should not be alone at times like these, I have learned that these are my moments to recharge. I cry, I jump to conclusions, I get irritable, but then I go for a drive, grab a snack, take a nap, and recharge.
When I got home I tried my best to bite my tongue. When I don't feel well, all that comes out it is attitude and I was trying to prevent that. If I snap my mom and I will just fight and I will feel worse. I couldn't have that happen. I told my mom I just needed to rest so I knew I would be alone. I took a nap and a few hours later I was calm and back to myself again.
That is what I call my "recharge."
I was so proud of myself after last week's therapy appointment. I talked a lot, and did a good job at explaining what was on my mind. I was prepared as well, I had emailed her a word document prior to the appointment, so in case I was choking on my words, I would have something to turn to. She read through my writing, telling me we could go back to some things next week.
Today's appointment, didn't go so great. I showed up, but I had no idea what to talk about. I began talking about a challenge she had given me the week before, and why it was difficult for me to complete. I expected I would have more words about it, but I guess I no longer found them necessary. So the question came, "What do you want to talk about today?" and I let the dreaded words "I don't know" slip. I let her babble, and I had my short responses and I could feel my face getting heavy, knowing she could tell.
"I know you want me to just keep talking for you, but this is your session." She smiled, and I know she was giving me permission to just open up about whatever, but I had nothing. I felt stuck.
I have been reading articles on Psychology Today trying to find any ways I can to improve in therapy and get the most out of it. One thing I have been working on is taking the time as my own and saying whatever is on my mind and being more open, and having trust. I have been working outside of therapy, so that I can get down to business in therapy.
Some days, it is easier for me than others.
I just started crying, and I hate crying in front of people. She asked if I wanted to sit in silence for a while and I agreed. I just sat there awkwardly wiping my tears and biting my lip when a thought popped up.
I know that I shouldn't be hard on myself in these moments. I know it is okay to cry, okay not to be okay, okay not to know, okay to feel whatever you feel, okay to sit in silence, but I did not want that.
I want therapy to help me so I can stop feeling so poorly all the time. I want to use that time to work on me so that I can help me, and I can not do that when I sit there not knowing what to say, shutting down and struggling to wake myself up, and just crying when I feel embarrassed, overwhelmed, or uncomfortable.
I often feel like there is something wrong with me. It is hard to help another person understand me, when I hardly understand me.
It is hard feeling so tired all the time. My personality screams energy, yet my soul seems sad and tired. Exhausted.
I have been hiding from the blogging world lately because I have been feeling off though I have been active and happy and smiley as well. Writing always helps me, so this post here may not be one I am excited about sharing, but I am doing this for my own self care.
All I can do is just wait because this too shall pass.
I am back in Connecticut.
I have tackled my first semester of college and I am excited for this 1 month break. A long winter break is reasonable after the many mental breakdowns and stress filled assignments that the finals period creates. I had never been swamped with that much work before. At least now I know it is manageable.
I'm not sure how I feel being home. It's nice to see my family, my friends, my cat and all, but I'm not super excited to be here. I like being on campus and feeling like the world is my own. My living space is quiet, I am not bothered, and I feel relaxed that way. It's not that I don't have freedom here, I guess I just like being on my own, and returning to family mode makes me irritable. I realize as I'm writing this how "typical teenager" this sounds, but in a weird way I think it is much more than that.
This time of year does not help my mood. I spend the wintertime wanting to fly south, move away from home, and start fresh somewhere new.
Growing up, I never really felt connected to my home. My family is here, my friends are here, everything is here, but I've never considered this my happy place. I never imagined that I would like being in the city as much as I have these past months. I think the busyness is good for me. The noise, the lights, the life. I am much more active. I walk everywhere even if it is to a "T" stop. There are so many things all in one place, that I feel like I don't have to escape quite so far.
I feel like I am definitely putting a lot of pressure on myself. I feel as though I should know by now where my "happy place" is, meaning an actual place in this world. It doesn't help that I haven't really been many places. I work every day on my mental health so my anxiety does not get the best of me. Sometimes I wonder if I would be even happier somewhere where the grass is greener and I can feel the sun in December more than anything else.
This break, I am in Connecticut, therefore I shall plan to see people in my life who represent the sunshine I seek. Seasonal Affective Disorder can really pull on you and trap you inside the darkness. My plan: I created a schedule for every day during my break and I am going to make sure to go somewhere or see someone each day to stay busy and active and keep my spirits up. This Wednesday I am having a friend over to bake cookies with while we both wear pajamas. It's the little things.
In one of my last posts, I wrote about how I was struggling to find my fit at college. Last night I ate dinner with two friends and I was effortlessly being me. When we left the dining hall we were all laughing and I could just tell that they were enjoying my company and it felt so good. I was my crazy, giggly, goofy, silly self, and I found friends that love that.
I do have people that understand and adore my personality. It was a reminder to me.
It hurts, but I can't expect every person I meet is going to like me, or isn't going to judge me at first glance. I can't expect someone to see me as I see them. Sometimes, people just aren't a good fit for you, and that's okay. I know this, I have just forgotten this while I was in my lonely rut. I do have friends that fit, maybe I was just looking in the wrong places?
I left campus knowing that I have friendly faces to see and hug when I return to campus come Janurary.
I have formed positive relationships with my professors. One, encouraging me to work at the writing center, as well as to visit her sometime.
I have the counseling center on campus as a support, and at my last appointment I was left with the reassurance and confirmation that I am "resilient." and that it is something I am. I have people that help to build me up.
Now, I need to relax and have fun this break. I do not enjoy being irritable, but luckily I have writing as an outlet to help me out. Irritability is a main symptom of anxiety disorders. I am not accepting any anxieties this break- no no no.
And that was my post-finals babble!
I'm back to the keyboard, folks! Stay with me these next few weeks.
Winter break begins. :-)
Some of you high school students may be considering the military, or community college, or not going to college at all. That's okay. Some of you may have absolutely no idea what the hell you want to do with your life. That's okay too.
This post, in particular, is written for those who do want to go to college but are scared that they aren't "good enough" to get in.
So here's the thing:
School has never been my thing. I have always loved school, and done well at school, but it has never come easy to me. There are different types of intelligences, the same way there are different types of learners. It is easy to become blindsided by this when growing up, intelligence seems to revolve around the grades you receive on a test.
I have always been a nervous test-taker, and a distracted studier.
My brain does not absorb information like a sponge, and sometimes I will need things repeated for them to really click.
I wasn't made for the school atmosphere.
I wasn't made to sit at a desk. I was made to walk through the woods by myself, using my imagination, making connections, and relying on intuition. I loved writing and psychology, but I was rarely tested on those things.
I have talked to some highschool upperclassmen recently, who are all equally stressed and paranoid about college.
"I have to do well in sports, and get straight A's, and do well on the SAT, and go to work, and-"
"My SAT scores were shit, so I took the ACT and started crying 30 min before the start of the test. My anxiety gets so bad, I thought, "what if I get sick during the test?" A teacher came in and asked if I was okay and offered to let me take the test in her office."
"I probably won't be accepted to, but.."
"I literally can't do a presentation; how can I handle college?"
These are all statements I have recently heard from my high school friends, and family members. When I respond to those comments, I am not so much talking to them. I am talking to high school me.
This is what you need to know:
How do I know this?
Welp, I got accepted into 5 schools and I can assure you they didn't choose me entirely for my superb test scores and GPA.
I wish I could say, "don't worry", but honestly that never helped me. It is normal to worry, it is a stressful time with a lot of expectations. If you are applying to colleges, create a safety plan or a plan B, but also do not be fearful of taking a reach.
** There are very good schools with happy students that will accept students who work hard, care, but might not have had the "best" grades. **
You may not end up where you had wished in the first place, but things will work out.
Mental health issues are common among students, even though they are often invisible.
Many times colleges preach their "average GPA accepted" or "average test scores" but they do see beyond that and their website may not just come out and say it.
Your feelings do not define you.
I wish I could go back in time and shake myself and tell myself I was so much smarter than I believed.
My anxiety and depression have knocked me down and left me crawling, and I am a college student now able to say it is possible.
Your mental health never makes you "not good enough."
I have only 17 days left until I am home for my winter break.
At the end of the semester I have been focusing on myself more than anything. It is a stressful time.
I remember being a freshman in high school and going through this period of depression at the start of the winter season. I am now comparing it to my freshman year of college.
As a freshman, you meet new people. You cling yourself to whoever you feel comfortable with and just expect that will be your "forever" friend group. Many of my freshman year high school friends were still my friends by senior year, but many of us also fell out of touch just by our sophomore year.
I remember that freshman year of high school and feeling alone with myself. I thought I didn't have friends, even though I knew that I did. I thought I was a follower, or a backup friend, never anyone's first pick. I was completely putting myself down, and I knew I wasn't doing myself any favors by thinking that way. I just wasnt connected to anyone.
Now as a freshman in college, I am going through the same thing all over again. This time, I am able to look back and see that this is normal, and this feeling will pass, and that I can't expect to find "my people for life" within my first semester of college.
It's hard, and I can't blame this on myself. Some people I love, but can take in small doses. I get along with many people, but I still compare them to some of my friendships back home.
I called my 27 year old cousin crying the other day from my dorm. It's just been one of those weeks. She was also on the verge of a breakdown from her own bad day, so she said she was glad I called. "Haley, it is crazy how alike we are. If we were in college at the same time we would have been best friends." she told me. I agreed. She's 27, and I'm 18 but I can talk to her like I can't talk to anyone else. She just gets it. We have a lot in common with our personalities and our anxieties, and when she gives advice- it isn't the kind that makes me cringe or think "I shouldnt have said anything." She gives me hope, and makes me feel less alone. I need more people like that. She told me not to isolate, or be by myself. I said, "but I like being alone." She pointed out that as my issue. Introverts can easily isolate themselves because it's comfortable for them to do so, but doing so can also put themselves in a very sad and lonely place. We need a balance with people and time alone.
I got hot chocolate with one of my friends this week and seeing her just automatically lifted my spirits. But again, it isn't quite convenient. I need more people like her in my life. However, she isn't in my dormitory, or in my classes, or in my grade for that matter. She is a 24 year old that works in the marketing office at my school.
My cousin Erica and I facetime almost every week, and she's now over 2 hours away from me. So I'm lonely because the people I connect most with are not the ones I spend most of my time with.
I'm mature for my age, and I think a lot of that has to do with my past experiences. My personality also just makes me an "old soul" and I know that. I enjoy being around people that are older than me, sometimes more than people my own age. Age doesn't matter to me, I think I just noticed it ending up that way.
I think this is why I tend to shut down around certain people, and blame myself for just not connecting with others, or feeling out of the loop. There is nothing wrong with me, and I need to remind myself that.
Besides for reminding myself that, I'm not sure what to do. I am happy being independent and having my own time, but I'm also at a small school and haven't quite found where I fit yet.
A Boston social work student, using writing for healing. Sharing the peaks and valleys of an empath's mental health journey.