Live with it

The worst part about living with anxiety is that you’re living with anxiety.

It doesn’t go away.

No matter how many exercises I do, or how well I progressed in therapy; no matter how many friends tell me not to worry about things, anxiety doesn’t go away.

I can learn to manage. I can learn to accept all of my anxieties, but it’s still there.

My anxiety is a part of me that I am slowly learning to live with. I’m even getting better at it. But that doesn’t mean there aren’t times where it flares up.

I’m writing this while on an airplane – only my third flight, and my first flight I’ve done on my own. I’m proud of myself because I lived through another anxiety attack.

I struggled and wanted to cry and my tips and tricks could only do so much, but I lived through it.

As I calmly sit through some turbulence, I’ve realized my anxiety isn’t with flying. I actually kinda like flying – it reminds me of rollercoasters, and surprisingly, my claustrophobia has yet to act up on a plane. My real anxiety comes with waiting to board.

I could not tell you why. I don’t understand it myself, but waiting to board the plane sends me into a paralyzed fear.

I worried for days about my taxi coming, checking in, going through security, and the possibility of a lengthy delay. I brought books, snacks and music. I was prepared as I could be. I made it through. Everything was easy, quick and painless (thank you smaller airports!) I was nervous, of course, but it was easy to ignore.

Then I sat down in the lounge, opened my book and promptly felt like vomiting.

I had a panic attack.

Silently and by myself.

My face felt numb and itchy. My whole body was hot. When I experience panic attacks I immediately need to seek out fresh air. Not really an ideal situation for an airport.

My point is, anxiety is hard. It doesn’t go away just because I’m prepared. It doesn’t go away just because I know logically there is nothing to worry about.

Anxiety is always there. It sucks. It’s hard. It’s made me very sick, it’s made me cry. I get shaky and every instinct in my body tells me to run.

But we manage.

We live with it. Because we have to.

-Red Hot

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Grad School is Hella Hard

It’s hard y’all.

It’s busy, stressful, overwhelming, chaotic.

There are readings and then more readings: required readings, supplementary readings, readings for your own research, and readings you should be doing just in order to stay relevant. There are so many emails!! Emails about classes, about scholarships, about supervisory committees, about upcoming conferences, about workshops, about get togethers because if we’re all on the edge of a breakdown at least we’re here together. There are opportunities: for scholarships, outside research, work, projects to contribute to, conferences to present at.

On any given day I am at my desk responding to emails, doing the readings, asking professors for tips about class discussions because I don’t know how to talk over the baby boomer who likes the sound of her own voice, and trying to remember that I’m here for an experience – not just to add another degree to my name. More than anything, I need to remember that right now, these two years are to push me as far from my comfort zone as possible. I need to travel. I need to relearn how to make friends again. I need to learn how to make friends my own age when I am the youngest in my class by a decade, and I have a job that allows me to work independently and from home. I need to learn how to have fun. I need to learn how to let myself go exploring on weekends, plays during the week, dinners and clubbing when I just want to watch Netflix in bed for the 9th night in a row. I need to learn how to be on my own. I need to learn to cook for myself, keep myself occupied, and how to be sick on my own when there’s no one to hold my hair back as I sob-vomit into the toilet. I need to learn what it means to be putting my wishes and needs ahead of those of my friends and family. I need to learn how to do things I want to do, and not because I think others want me to do them. I talk about being independent a lot, but the truth is I don’t think I’ve ever fully been myself. Even now, I’m resorting back to safe study habits and what I should do because I’m too overwhelmed to experiment with my new individuality.

This is all my long-winded, kinda disoriented way of saying it’s hard. It’s a lot of work. There is so much being thrown my way.

But I love it.

The readings are (mostly) interesting and when they aren’t I just don’t do them (sorry profs!) The emails are from my professor who is determined to learn about me as a person and wants to make sure I feel welcomed. They’re emails that invite me over for dinner because he knows I’m far from my family. They’re emails that tell me of an upcoming scholarship just because he thinks I can be competitive for it. The opportunities are ways I’m meeting new people, and getting involved in ways that still let me stay away from Undergrads on most occasions. The extra hours at my computer are because I’ve been approached by 5 professors who want to be part of my supervisory committee and I’m trying to figure out what questions I can ask that will allow me to find the best fit. The sticky notes all over my room remind me of due dates, sure, but also of things like “book that Halifax trip”, “look into cruises leaving from the island”, and “get business cards made.”

Everything is changing so fucking fast. Everything is being thrown my way all at once and I’m struggling to catch it all. But at the end of the day, I’m proud of what got me here. I’m proud of where I seem to be going. And even though I struggle on a weekly basis with feeling like an impostor, I know I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be.

-Red Hot

Messy Life Continues

I seemed to have gone on a hiatus without actually telling anyone. Sorry.

At the end of August, my family and I headed to an island for a vacation. After that, I moved in to an apartment building on said island.

I’m here to work on my Master’s degree and it’s my first time living away from home.

I should be excited right? I am.

Sometimes.

Other times, something will go wrong and I just want to pack everything up and head home.

The first few days were so rough. I hadn’t started school yet, and I knew absolutely no one out here. I had multiple panic attacks when moving it because the place felt dirty and a little bit like a prison cell.

I’m very close with my family and watching them leave was so hard. I opened my door and shouted down the hall to them as they were leaving. I waved out the window. I called my mom about an hour later crying because that was the last hug from her I was going to get in months.

It’s been hard.

And then school started, and because of my professors schedules we had one class every night for two weeks before getting a month long break while our other classes start. I was thrown into the whirlwind of adjusting to a graduate program, and one that started at 100% nonetheless.

I had moments where I really missed my family and my friends (remember, I still don’t really know many people out here), but it was getting better because I was so busy. I realized just how responsible I am when cooking and cleaning for myself didn’t seem like a big change. I also realized that I am terrible at grocery shopping, and that the laundry machines are so different from what I’m used to.

It’s getting better and everyone has told me that time will help.

I know that. I do. But I also still kinda want to go home.

I feel a bit like I’m just pretending to be an adult. It was fun for a while, but I miss my bed and my dog (so much!), my friends and my family. I miss being comfortable. I miss having real conversations with people who know me deeper than the front I put up when I have to socialize with an island of strangers. I miss talking to my friends face to face instead of through texts. I miss sitting beside my sister on the couch watching Law and Order reruns. I miss my brother coming into my room to complain about his manager or to tell me a story about his friends. I miss my cat walking across my laptop when I’m writing. I miss my dog following me everywhere and hearing his claws clack against the hardwood floor.

I miss so much.

I know that I have this amazing experience ahead of me. I know that I’m very lucky. I know I’m going to study something I am so passionate about. I know that I had to move out eventually. I know that the good days are starting to outweigh the bad. I know I’ll treasure the time I do spend at home more than I did when I lived there everyday. I know I’ll make more friends eventually. I know that this place will stop feeling like a strange bubble once I’ve been here long enough to make it familiar.

I know it will get better – or at least easier.

I’m getting tired of pretending though. I want to be home.

-Red Hot

My Life Through the Words of Others

  • “Uh oh, here comes the green eyed monster.”
  • “People pay a lot of money for hair like yours. Never dye it.”
  • “You’re offensively delightful.”
  • “You’re like a kinder surprise on the dance floor.”
  • “Dab again and I’m locking you out.”
  • “I love my bi best friend.”
  • “My roommates think you’re really pretty.”
  • “But you take some of the best selfies I’ve ever seen.”
  • “Woah. You have really big eyes.”
  • “You’re pretty too, but you got those ‘fuck-off eyes’ you know?”
  • “I’m a big fan of your Instagram.”
  • “Thanks for the advice, my social media guru.”
  • “You have such interesting encounters.”
  • “Tim Hortons: Canada’s safe haven and match maker.”
  • “I’m pretty sure my ex thinks I’m a lesbian and we’re dating now. He only ever sees my Snapchats where I call you bae.”
  • “Don’t stress; we’ll stay in touch and be friends for a long time.”
  • “Is this even real? It sounds like fanfiction. There’s so much angst!”
  • “And the academy award for my love life goes to…silence” (Cards Against Humanity)
  • “And once again, no one is surprised.”
  • “Sometimes you say things I do not expect.”
  • “You would make a really good slut!”
  • “You have a real wild side, don’t you?”
  • “We should call you Sinamon.”
  • “She’s a light weight.”
  • “That one’s sassy.”
  • “SAVAGE.”
  • “I like that you swear. It makes me feel better about myself.”
  • “We’re back row people.”
  • “I hope to be as petty as you someday.”
  • “I wanna judge students so badly. Can I have your job?”
  • “She’s too smart for me.”
  • “For a smart girl, you’re not very bright.”
  • “If you were used to working this hard maybe you wouldn’t have had an asthma attack.”
  • “Why are you such a stuck up bitch?” (Sent to me anonymously)
  • “I did have feelings for you. I pushed you away, and that is one of the bigger mistakes I made in high school.”
  • “I’m going to have to cut you off. She is feeling threatened to the point of irrationality due to our friendship.”
  • “What did he send you?!”
  • “Remember me?” (Accompanied with a dick picture)
  • “Bitch.”
  • “You’re such a bitch.”
  • “Can someone give her a hug?”
  • “She’s genuine. What you see is what you get.”
  • “I love that you never censor your face. I always know exactly what you’re thinking.”
  • “You should enter this writing contest.”
  • “You’ll never be a writer.”
  • “Please keep writing.”
  • “She’s one of my fav– uh, former students.”
  • “You’re our rock.”
  • “You had to grow up very quick. Don’t forget to be young.”
  • “You work hard and it shows.”
  • “You’re going to make those kids (especially the girls) feel so empowered and inspired to pursue academia.”
  • “You’re perfect.”

 

-Red Hot

The Hard Stuff

The day I came out (God, I still hate that phrase) was the same day I jumped in front of a car.

To be fair, the car was a close friend’s in the parking lot at school. It was, on my part, (supposedly) a joke. She was going really slow, and I just kinda bumped into it. Also, I guess I had technically came out to that same friend two days earlier – though it was an accident.

At the time, coming out and jumping in front of a car seemed worlds apart. It’s looking back now that I realize how connected the two things were.

Since coming out, I’ve been very open about my bisexuality – even when I was warned that talking about it so much would become what everyone knew me for. I didn’t and don’t care. If just one person had told me being bisexual was a thing and was okay before I turned 19, my life could have been very different. For starters, I probably wouldn’t have jumped in front of a car – no matter how slow moving it was.

Coming to terms with my sexuality is not something I discuss very openly. Even before posting this, I debated whether I wanted to share or not, but ultimately the theme of this blog is exposing myself.

I talk about what it means to be bisexual, representation, stereotypes, and everything since I came out, but I don’t talk about how I got there.

I don’t talk about the overwhelming fear I felt on and off since grade 8 that someone would mistake me for a lesbian even though I really like boys. I don’t talk about overcompensating by saying I was so straight it wasn’t even funny. I don’t talk about what it was like to think I might have been in love with a best friend at some point, or how much easier life could have been if she was a boy and I could actually like her. I don’t talk about the quick Google searches in incognito mode so I could figure out what bisexual meant and how to determine that I was one. I don’t talk about how I wished I was a lesbian because at least people “get” that. I don’t talk about the suicidal thoughts I had, or how I thought it’d be so much easier if I just ceased to exist. I don’t talk about how I had a mental break down at a Christmas dinner and to this day my whole family thinks I was just rude and not in the middle of a massive identity crisis. I don’t talk about how even though it’s gotten easier to say offhandedly “I’m bi”, I still cried and forgot all words when I told my parents. I don’t talk about the struggles or hardships, or the very real reality that for a while jumping in front of a car seemed like the preferable option than coming out.

 

I went to my first Pride this past weekend. It was amazing.

I was so nervous before going but it was honestly the most love and support I had ever felt. Everyone was authentically themselves. My best friend came with me and told me she loved her bi best friend.

Between dancing, laughing, and cheering my head off, I didn’t think of the emotional aspect. Not until I saw the group of parent supporters march past me. I don’t even remember any of the signs, or what sent me over the edge. I remember saying (or hearing) “Oh, it’s the parents!” I remember that huge rush of fear from my closeted days surging forward. And then I remember turning to my best friend and asking her why I was crying. I’m still not sure of the answer. I think it was from relief and happiness and an overwhelming sense of love.

The weekend was way more than I could ever imagine and I want to send out a huge thank you to everyone in the community, everyone who made Pride happen and who made me and my friends feel welcome. You made me forget about the hard stuff while I was there, and then gave me the oppourtunity to reflect back on it and appreciate it for getting me here. Thank you.

-Red Hot

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University Graduate – say what?

University Graduate – say what?

I graduated University a week ago.

I graduated a week ago.

Someone gave me a degree.

I’m now a University graduate.

I graduated University a week ago.

Maybe if I say it enough it will feel real?

I had two ceremonies as I was enrolled in a smaller University/College that was affiliated with the University of Waterloo.

I’m a UW Alumni (or is it Alumna? I didn’t take Latin).

I had two ceremonies. I walked across a stage in my 5″ blue stilettos twice. I was given a class ring, and a degree that’s sitting on my bookshelf. I chatted with the Chancellor (twice) and got pictures with my favourite professor. I listened to so many speeches. I wore a long shapeless gown twice in unbearable (Ontario) heat. I sat beside a close friend from high school, making jokes and staring at a broken clock.

I did it twice. And it still doesn’t feel real.

I assume that by writing all this down – by working through my thoughts – maybe I can acknowledge in a timely fashion that I graduated.

I should be happy, excited, and proud.

At least that’s what everyone keeps telling me. I should looking forward to my next steps – my next journey.

In reality, I wake up every morning and stare at my four month school calendar and worry that I still have an essay to write even though classes finished two months ago.

I think, in reality, I’m just ignoring these feelings, this acceptance of finishing such a monumental event.

My cousin and I are the only two in our family to have University degrees. We graduated a day apart. We did it, dude!

Maybe if I say it enough it will feel real.

There were two moments – one at each ceremony – where the acknowledgement of what I have done threatened to consume me.

An offhanded “You should be proud of yourself” brought tears to my eyes.

I blamed the heat I was suffering through.

A booming “Here are your 2017 graduates” had me choked up. I swallowed, made a stupid snarky remark, and followed my friend across the stage.

I am proud of myself.

Holy hell am I proud.

I have worked so hard to get where I am. I paid for all of my own education. I worked as many as three jobs at once. I didn’t really have a social life for a long time, yet I still have a handful of friends I would do absolutely anything for. Anything.

I didn’t network in the traditional sense. I stuck my nose in my books and only came up to accept a praise on an essay I had written a few days before because my perfectionist ass wouldn’t sit down and write it until I absolutely had to.

I discovered so much about myself, the world, and our future.

My heart grew and then I hardened the outside so no one would know just how deeply I care.

My mental health suffered drastically and then I did something I never thought I would do – I got help. I reached out, asked for help, and then ran with it as my new mission.

I made it through four years.

I made it through nearly $40,000 of school fees. I made it through terrible courses with great professors, and great courses with terrible professors. I made it through essays. I made it through frosh week (barely). I made it through a couple of fails and low marks. I made it through two more seasons on a competitive dance team. I made it through eight different jobs. I made it through probably a hundred books. I made it through twice as many essays. I made it through the rough times and the oh so good times. I made it through 3am essay-writing sessions. I made it through classes I barely went to. I made it through expensive meals on campus, and this new iced coffee addiction that is making me jittery as I type this. I made it through friendship ups and downs, and came out with my long-term best friend and a best friend that I can’t believe I met only in third year.

I made it through University.

I am so proud.

Writing this all down is helping, but more than that, is a conversation I had with Jess.

My best friend who still has one more year left. My best friend who isn’t living ten minutes away anymore, but I can’t be too mad because I’m moving across the country in a few months. My best friend who isn’t super mushy, but who texted me all week telling me she was proud of me until I told her I was proud of me too.

She wished me luck.

She told me I looked great.

She told me she was proud and couldn’t believe I had graduated.

She told me she was proud of me for getting into Grad School.

She told me “You made it!” She told me she couldn’t “get over how amazing and exciting it is!”

When I didn’t have the words, when I couldn’t find it in myself to acknowledge what was happening, or to be proud of myself, she did it for me.

She told me again and again how big of a deal this was until I believed her.

I succeed. And I should be proud. I am proud.

I earned a Bachelor degree in four years at one of the top Universities in the country. I graduated not only with distinction, but on the Dean’s Honour List. I got accepted into a graduate program that only accepted 12 people. I got in on a scholarship. I’m not in a ridiculous amount of debt. I was the first one in my family to tackle University. I have amazing references. I have great relationships with many of my professors (though only one stands out as being there the whole time).

I know there are a few people who are jealous of my success. I know there are people who don’t believe I had to work hard. There are people who believed my nonchalance attitude, and couldn’t understand why I was ever worried because I had “everything going for” me.

No I don’t.

My success was not handed to me.

I am not naturally smart – I’m actually quite stupid. But I worked hard, and I took detailed notes, and I retained the knowledge, and I studied something I was passionate about.

I am not in debt because mommy and daddy paid for my school. I did. I worked multiple part-time jobs while in school, and then full-time on top of that every summer.

I wasn’t always on the Honours List. I pushed myself – maybe too hard at times. I worked my way there.

I am not an outgoing and friendly person by first impression. I am not an easy friend. You have to work to earn my trust and I have to work to get people to stick around.

I did not apply to Grad School and get in right away. I waited 8 months, never really knowing where I stood. I sent weekly emails to make sure they knew my name.

My success wasn’t handed to me. I worked for it.

I graduated University a week ago.

I am so proud.

 

-Red Hot

 

It’s a Small World

“It’s a small world!”

I hate that phrase.

I can’t even tell you how many many times I’ve heard it in my 21 years, just that it’s been a lot. Hell, I’ve heard it multiple times in the last 48 hours.

I know I’ve always heard this phrase: muttered to people who are friends of my parents friends; whispered to me as my parents walked away from a 20 minute stop in the mall when we saw my mom’s second cousins; said with a smile and a shake of his head when my dad found out that his best friend from high school is my best friend’s uncle. It’s been shouted in gasps at the realization that I’m not a stranger but a mutual friend. It’s been an offhanded comment at work when a co-worker tried to set me up with someone I already knew. It’s been a cheer that followed a “she’s your cousin?”

“It’s a small world, eh?”

Always said with a smile. Always a sort of excitement. Always meant to be kind.

And yet I always find myself answering with a tight lip smile, quick nod, and an eye roll as soon as the other person looks the other way.

I hate this phrase.

I don’t remember when it started, just that in the past few years I decided I never wanted to hear this phrase again. Ironically, I’ve heard it more than ever.

I. Hate. This. Phrase.

Because it’s not a small world. Not really. Just my family has never left this region, and my friend’s families seem to be very similar.

It’s not a small world.

Yes, we are all connected in a way we’ve never been, and the outcomes of globalization is something I’m sure I will discuss another time, but it is not a small world. It is a world that is large and vast, with secrets in every pocket. It is full of billions of people who I have never met or even heard of, yet I’m supposed to believe that my soulmate lives down the street. There’s so much to explore in the world, but I’ve only seen a 20 hour radius.

Do not tell me that it’s a small world.

It’s not a small world.

It’s a small bubble that we seem to be stuck in. A small, safe bubble that we are comfortable with; we’re comfortable and we don’t want to leave because we’re happy believing that it’s a “small world, eh?”

I’m not happy with it.

In fact, I’m moving across the country in a few months and I’d be lying if I said that the phrase “it’s a small world” didn’t have any sort of impact on my decision.

Because it did. Oh boy, did it ever.

I’m tired of hearing “it’s a small world” when I haven’t explored the world. How can it be a small world when I’m moving to a city in my home country where I still won’t know a single person.

It’s not a small world.

It’s big and exciting. And I’m going to explore it. I’m going to get as far away from “it’s a small world” as I can.

-Red Hot