I am an Extrovert, and I am Depressed

Saturday, March 18, 2017

I'm the type of person who likes to seem like they have their shit together. I understand on a conceptual level that my happiness matters more than the opinion of others, but I secretly get a smug sense of satisfaction when my external appearance and personality makes it seem like I have my life together more than everyone else. 

The last time I went to the airport, I spent more time thinking about how I could fabulously get through security with an air of grace and style than I did actually packing to leave. I didn't care that I hadn't slept in almost 48 hours, that I should be excited about returning home to see my family but was instead feeling scared and frustrated. All I cared about was turning heads with an awe of "that girl looks flawless in an airport, her life must be so together." 

The truth is, I don't have my life together- at all. But the truth is also that it's all too easy to make it seem like I do. And the validation I feel when another person compliments how amazing my life seems always keeps me from spilling the truth. For my friends living in the states, my life seems like the coolest adventure ever. I live across the ocean in a huge metropolitan city, I go to exclusive events with pretty people, I'm constantly seemingly doing something cool that's helping my career or my status in life. 

And for my friends here in London, it's all too easy to look in my closet and pick out an outfit that's appropriate instead of the trashy jumper I'd rather be wearing. It's part of my day to put on makeup to cover the bags under my eyes, to put my hair up in a cute twist so you can't see that it hasn't been washed in almost a week. It's all too easy to make myself so unbelievably busy that it looks like I'm doing great - I'm happy and involved and engaged with the world. Constantly ignoring that there's a point where being busy is an avoidance mechanism. You can't be depressed if you don't have time to think about being depressed. 

And my personality doesn't help either. I'm an extrovert in the worst way possible. I can hide my depression with my confidence when I speak to others. Hide my exhaustion with my boisterous voice when I'm networking in a room full of people. My personality tells me that the more I fake it till I make it, the happier I'll be when I come out on the other side. I'm constantly telling myself that my depression is fleeting. If I go to one more event, pretend for one more day, maybe tomorrow is the day I'm not pretending anymore. 

And this is not to worry you, this isn't a call for help, I'm aware of my mental health issues and I'm handling them privately. This isn't about social media, this isn't another millennial complaining about society, this isn't about making the world feel #relatable and creating a false sense of togetherness. But this is about the realities we create for ourselves. You never really know what's going through a person's mind. You're never going to feel the way they see the world, you're never going to truly understand someone's demons. But what can we do? We can empathise. We can stop judging. We can stop putting people on pedestals.

Try to keep in mind, extroverts can have depression too. And in my experience, my personality has made it so much easier to hide it. Mental health takes so many different forms, and we have to remember that what's on the surface is almost never what's going on behind the scenes. We have to forgive ourselves and accept that we will never live up to those surface level expectations we place on ourselves. But we must also try to see each other past the facade we wear to mask our demons.

Thoughts From a Museum

Sunday, February 5, 2017

I just attended an exhibit at the V&A Museum entitled "You Say You Want A Revolution". I spent three hours walking through 1966-1970, listening to music and the voices of those revolutionaries who saw injustice and stood against it, whether it was through protest or art. With that era, we saw the rise of movements which are still alive and pushing for change today- the multicultural movement, feminism, LGBT liberation. In walking through the exhibit it is impossible not to notice the similarity between that time and now, not only for the movements which it created but the dissonance which is growing around the world.

I recently saw on the news that Donald Trump and his compatriots were complaining about a protest at UC Berkeley. However universities, even specifically UC Berkeley, have been an integral and long-standing part of revolutionist ideals- this is not a new concept. Young people are the backbone of revolution in this country- the most passionate,
forward thinking, refusal to take shit from a government who never cared, type of people. To imply that they should cease their protests at the anger of a man who represents everything they stand against is laughable. In the exhibit, there was a whole room devoted to university students fighting The Establishment. Not only those at Berkeley but those at Columbia who locked themselves inside university buildings in protest while teachers threatened to resign if the police tried to invade. Those at
Kent, Ohio who were killed while peacefully protesting on campus. Universities have always been a place where political activism thrives, and I don't expect that to change in the near future, nor should it.  Universities encourage the exchange of ideas, the practice of critical thinking, and it is the first time many people experience the world outside of their comfortable bubble. 
Universities have for decades been an integral part of meeting and organising not just for students but for communities as a whole. I find it frightening the idea that Universities should be at the whim of governmental agencies attempting to discourage students from questioning the world around them. Regardless of these attempts, I don't believe it will work (unless the goal is to make University students angrier and more passionate).

While inside the exhibit I was struck when I remembered people I constantly see criticising musicians, artists, filmmakers, and writers for "being political". They claim they just want their entertainment "without all the political crap". But that's the thing- these forms of communication have always been political. The songs we love, the movies we watch, the books we read. They change us, they make us think- whether we want to or not. The music festivals you attend today like Burning Man or Glastonbury, have significant ties to the political activism of the 60's, something we can't ignore or force away. You cannot enjoy a song by the Beatles and say you don't want your entertainment to be political, it's a hypocrisy which shows the world that you would rather not think, but live in ignorance to the reality around you. For generations, entertainment has been a driving force for awareness and change, and it's not something we should ignore or push down for our own convenience. 

Politics and the arts have always been linked

The saying "history repeats itself" has always seemed so trite to me, but once you have an understanding of history, you start to realise it's not that history is doomed to cycle itself forever, but that people and society are simultaneously never changing and always changing. We repeat ourselves, take 10 steps back before we can take 3 steps forward. While we may have new technology and new fads, the issues and arguments which plague our society has not changed all that much for centuries. 

What we are seeing today has been coming for decades. It's the culmination of thoughts and movements, of the pull between freedom and power. It's not a new concept, it is one which is traced throughout history over and over again in different times, different places, different styles. This won't be the last time the constant tension between people in our world comes to a fight, as it certainly is not the first. A revolution is coming, the proverbial writing is on the wall. And while I fear what that may mean, I take solace in the notion that we are entering an age of creativity and innovation. An era where new ideologies can take flight and change the world. I know many people are fearful that we won't win this fight. I realise that it will be difficult, however, the past few weeks alone we have proven that we do not stand alone, but next to millions who are also ready for change.

Someday it will be our story in the museum exhibition, and I hope we give them something inspiring to write about.

New Year, Not a New Me?

Thursday, January 26, 2017

I'll admit it, I'm one of those people. You know the ones. The people who always make New Year's resolutions and then proceed to break them and forget all about them until December 31st rolls around and they throw it back on the list because they didn't get around to doing it this year. Yeah, that's me. I will say, I did actually make a video for the New Year last year, in which I asked questions to my future self (feel free to watch it I'm actually really proud of it). I had planned on making a sappy sentimental video answering the questions and making new ones, but then I was just too tired and too depressed with 2016 so I ditched the entire idea and opted to stay in bed. 

Does this mean that I was finally free from the New Year's resolution cycle? Can I now live my life free from the never ending disappointment of another failed resolution?

No, of course not. Instead, I have opted to set some slightly more reasonable goals for the year, one of them being 'continue setting goals'. What I mean by that is to stop trying to change my whole life all at once, to have these fantastic goals to integrate (and continually do) for my whole year, which just isn't realistic. Instead, I'm opting to make one of my resolutions to set goals each month, goals that are accomplishable within a month, and can help me work toward bigger goals. It's almost like I'm slowly figuring out how to be an independent adult (I hope this gives me some serious brownie points...and that I don't have to make the brownies....or do the brownie dishes).

I've also realised that it's not enough to set a goal and try to achieve that goal. I have tried and tried and tried again, and at some point, you will always fail. Something will inevitably happen that causes you to have setbacks in a goal you were shooting for, or to miss the goal entirely. And in the past, it always made me want to give up, it made me depressed and angry at myself. But as I move into 2017, I've decided for myself that there is too much hate in the world right now for me to add to it by hating myself. So, at the advice of a beautifully written blog post by Jesse Cale about weight loss, I've started to tell myself 'it's okay, I love you' every time I mess up or do something that's not helping toward my goals. 

It's actually been quite liberating, and it's allowed me to recognise the accomplishments I have made and stop trying to mico-mange every aspect of my life to the extent that I stop enjoying living it. I've found that some days I have really high motivation while others it's hard to even get out of bed. It's been almost a month and I have a new appreciation for those days when I accomplish so much, and a new understanding with myself that it's okay on the days that I don't accomplish anything. 

While I'm on the subject of failed resolutions, one that I have had for years is keeping up a daily planner. Something about the beautiful pages and all of your responsibilities spread out nice and neat in front of you in colourful pen has always appealed to me for some reason. And every year, inevitably, I buy a way too expensive daily planner convincing myself I will actually do it this year, I fill in the first three weeks, and then I don't find it again until July when I'm cleaning my closet. 

And this year, was going to be no different. I marched to the Westfield right before Christmas, I walked into the fanciest Swedish print shop I've ever seen, and I bought the beautiful fancy daily planner. This year (I'm telling myself) is going to be different. You see, in past years I just left it up to my daily tasks, which arguably I didn't have stuff to do every day and forgot. This year, my daily planner is so much more, it is an amalgamation of all my thoughts, dreams, successes, failures, and goals. I am doubling my planner as a private diary as well, documenting each day of my 2017. 

So far, I've filled in every day, and I've been excited to work on it and put it together. I hope I continue to document my year and work toward these hopefully more reasonable goals, but even if I don't it's okay; because there's too much hate already going around and I'm not going to add to it by hating myself any longer. 

*We will not be talking about how procrasination has been on my resolution list for years and I am only just writing this almost a month into 2017. It's off the list because it's one of those 'unreasonable goals' I mentioned. 

Pictures of the Women's March: A Collection

Saturday, January 21, 2017

Yesterday I marched with an estimated 80,000 people in the Women's March London, joined by hundred's of thousands of others in 70 countries around the globe. I find something simultaneously calming and empowering about peacefully marching against racism, sexism, homophobia, inequality, and religious intolerance. This is a collection of my favourite pictures from around the globe from the protests, I hope you enjoy and are inspired as well. 

My own photograph standing in Trafalgar Square 21 January 2017
My personal favourite sign I saw today. Photo Dan Kitwood / Getty Images

Proud to see this from my home state, Nashville TN. Photo Andrew Nelles/The Tennessean
Another beautiful shot from Tennessee. Photo T. Wilson. 

The amount of diversity and voices lifted up today is inspiring, change is for all. Source Unknown. 
This woman may be my hero, amazing. Source Unknown.

Some of the most hilarious and amazing signs out in full force. Source Unknown.

New York City, Source Unknown

Even protests in Antartica and I'm living for it. Photo @lindazunas 
I absolutely love seeing visibility for those with disabilities, let's work to normalise not stigmatise. Source Unknown. 

Source Unknown. 

One of my friends protesting in my hometown, her dance moves are contagious. Photo Paris Woodhull.

Build Bridges, Not Walls. Source Unknown.

Another bridge in London #BuildBridgesNotWalls. Source Unknown. 

One of my Internet friend's marching in her hometown. Photo @sophiamarsh. 

Brilliant throwback, I saw many of these signs out today. Source Unknown.

Source Unknown 

If you made it all the way to the end, I hope you enjoyed this collection. While it may seem that things are snowballing downhill fast, it's easy to see the passion and commitment of so many around the globe. We have work to do, and I don't know about you, but I'm ready to get to it. 

Christmas Away from Home

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Those of you who know me will know that I love Christmas. I love everything about Christmas, from the sappy music, the big tree filled with ornaments, to the lights on every street corner. Christmas in my family is a huge deal, filled with traditions and memories which make every year feel like a beautiful snapshot in time.

Family pictures with Santa are always a must

This year will be my first year away from home during Christmas in my entire 23 years of existence because I'm staying in London during the holidays. It's not been easy to realise that I won't spend Christmas eve frantically wrapping presents with my mom while we watch Christmas Vacation. I won't be reading Twas the Night Before Christmas to my younger brothers. I won't wake up Christmas morning to a full stocking, excited gift opening, and an epic Christmas breakfast.

I guess it all comes back to my family. I'm really close to my family- I always have been. I know a lot of people my age don't really get along with their parents or feel obligated to spend some time with them at Chrismas, but for me it's the exact opposite. It's a weird day if I haven't talked to my mom at least once; even if it's just a simple text and not a Facetime or sitting down for dinner. I talk to my family about every detail of my life, they give me advice and support me, and Christmas is an amalgamation of how close we are and all the traditions we've built for each other.

Christmas has also taken on a special meaning for me since my dad passed away three years ago. My dad loved Christmas, and he was just as much part of all of these traditions as my mom and brothers. Traditions we built together as a family before he got sick, and traditions we honour him through by continuing on. It feels weird to not be celebrating the way I always did with my dad, the way we always did as a family. I remember one Christmas he actually used white cleaning powder along the bottom of his work boots and walked around our living room from the fireplace so it looked like Santa had been walking around. I remember driving up to Gatlinburg every year and singing The 12 Days of Christmas on repeat until we could do the entire song without messing up. I'll never forget the year he bought himself the 50th Anniversary Edition Monopoly board, one of the only times I remember my parents buying something for themselves. We still use that board every time we play. 

On the other hand, this feels like it's part of growing up. I know that I'm reaching an age where it's normal to branch out and do my own thing and that it doesn't mean I love my family any less. I recently had a thought where I realised that my own mom used to spend every Christmas morning with my grandparents, but she's obviously spent it with us since I can remember. It's a normal part of becoming an adult- branching out from your parents. No one ever tells you that how hard that is though. When you're in school, all you can think about is getting away from your parents and living your own life, but as soon as you move out and have a job and bills and relationships all on your own, you can start to miss all the things that are comfortable to you. Everyone tells you it's hard to be a grown up, but I guess I didn't listen. On some level, I'm not ready to let go of some things, and Christmas is definitely one of those comfortable traditions that I'm clinging onto.

As much as I hate being away from my family, I realise there are new traditions I can build for myself. My life is my own to make of it what I want, so I'm going to try my damnedest to make it interesting. I think some traditions I'm incorporating here in London include- Christmas crackers (which we don't have in America, but I love the paper crowns), drinking mulled wine and walking around the fair, and buying myself a few choice presents just because I can. I've also built myself the ultimate Christmas Jams playlist on Spotify, and I love riding on buses and listening to it while I look out at all the lights on the London streets.

Making this Christmas fun with matching PJ's
I knew Christmas was going to be hard this year without my family, but I never expected myself to be so caught up in the traditions I'm missing out on. I'm excited about my future, and I know that as I grow older I'll build some of my own traditions, but for right now I'm going to reminisce about our past Christmases and cherish the years I have left in the comfort of my traditions. 

Since I am in London for Christmas, I've made a vlog of some of the Christmasy things I've done in the city. Click below to watch, and have Happy Holidays!

What it's like to be sick overseas

Sunday, December 18, 2016

So it is now mid-December, and officially the second time I have been violently ill in a month. Let me start by saying, this is not the first time I have complained about being sick in a foreign country, and it probably won't be the last (actually, god, please don't let me get sick again I've paid my dues). However, I do feel like I can give some unique insight into being sick in a strange place.

From fab to drab in a matter of hours

What sucks worse that being sick in a different country is being sick and having none of your family or friends to take care of you. I'll admit, I'm one of those cry-baby friends who wants to be pampered and taken care of. I will make having a common cold seem like I'm actually laying on my deathbed. Being in a foreign country makes everything seem ten times worse. No one is here to bring me soup? Fluff my pillows? I don't even have a TV to marathon Friends on and have my boyfriend come change the DVD when it's time. It's honestly hell.

Another thing I quickly discovered is the difference in how health care works. Don't get me wrong, health in the UK is amazing, and it's free. However, it is just so different from back home that I usually walk out of the office wondering what just happened. The first time I went was about a month ago. It was the first time I actually got sick since moving here, and it was a walk in clinic that took patients on a first come first serve basis. I was seen within 20 minutes (though I've heard this isn't the norm). I walked into the office, and the doctor had a desk? And I sat behind the desk and just talked to them. Then they came around and checked my lungs and throat, but there wasn't a big table to sit up on. No awkward paper clothes. No rolling chair for the doctors and nurses. I didn't even see a nurse the entire visit. It was bizarre. And at the end they essentially said, 'eh, you've got a cold, come back if it's not better in a few weeks'. At which point I went home to continue my suffering. Alone. 

My second time seeing a doctor here was just a few days ago and it was wildly different. I woke up feeling dizzy and almost passing out, causing a huge panic attack. I called the NHS hotline, which is honestly the most amazing service I have ever heard of and every country should have it. Anyways, after about 10 minutes of talking to me and making sure I wasn't having a heart attack, they booked me an appointment at the closest Urgent Care Centre to my house and told me I could see a doctor 30 minutes later. My mind was blown away. I called an Uber (because honestly who wants to walk to a bus when you're feeling sick), and I went to the office. An hour later (after staring confusedly at the weird desk again), and I was stumbling out in my fever induced hell dream to get my prescriptions and return home to roll into a coma in my bed. 

Overall though, there are things you don't realise are 'comfort' for you when you're sick until you don't have them. For instance, I always drink orange Gatorade when I'm sick. It helps keep me hydrated, and it's what my dad always bought me when I was younger. I associate it with getting better quicker, and I always have it on hand when I'm not feeling well. Of course, Gatorade is impossible to find here. The closest store I know of that sells it is a 30-minute tube ride away, and of course it's the blue kind. I have yet to be successful finding the orange flavour, so I suffer my illness without it.

Everything about living in a city alone becomes all the more daunting when you're sick. Want to eat? You have to walk to the supermarket and then cook it yourself. No one wants to do that. I don't want to do that on a normal day, let alone when I'm sick. So I obviously end up order way too expensive takeout and crying as I look at my bank account while I curse my immune system for doing this to me. 

All I've eaten today and it was delicious

Required to go to class/work? Guess what, you don't have a car- oh no, you have to walk, catch a tube, a bus, and then walk again. And then do it again to get home. I actually had a paper due this past weekend, which I woke up to with it half finished and a temperature of over 38 (100 if you're an F person). It took hours of emails back and forth with professors and sending in proof to get an extension, which I was luckily granted. However, the final straw was when they sent me paperwork to sign for the extension and it needed to be printed. I tried to laugh but I ended up crying because the closest place to print something was a 10-minute walk away and I hadn't even bothered to put on pants that day I felt so horrible. It took me about five minutes to say 'screw it' and e-sign the paper using Microsoft Paint. They didn't even question me on it. 

As you can probably tell, I'm sick of being sick. I feel like Pocohantas when John Smith brought her to England, and I feel like their stupid germs might kill me too. I can't tell if I keep getting sick from the public transport constantly bombarding me with germy people, the stress of my school work, or the dreary England weather, but one thing's for certain, I'm going to continue wallowing and dreaming of a day when I can breathe again without coughing up a lung.

I realise that all of this complaining comes from a very privileged place. I have had amazing opportunities which have allowed me to explore the world and live in one of the most diverse cities in modern history. While being sick sucks, I know there are thousands who suffer every day from chronic illness and illnesses much more severe than a little fever and a sniffle. I thought you would enjoy my little banter about having the head flu all alone here in London, but I am grateful for how healthy I am overall in my life. 

If you want to see more melodramatic ramblings about being sick overseas, you should watch my video about being sick in London below.  

Four Months in London- Where Am I

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

As you may know, I made a huge life decision back in April and decided to move back to London to attempt my Master's degree in Marketing. I've been here for about four months now, so I'm going to give an honest look at moving across the globe on your own. I wish I could say moving here was everything I ever thought it would be. Most of the time, I love the whirl of the city, the never-ending list of things I could do in one of the most culturally diverse places in the world. The reality is that I spend most of my days staring out the window during my hour long commute to class or laying on my couch scrolling through my FaceBook feed. 

Don't get me wrong, I have done some amazing things this year, most of which involve the amazing friend group I've made. I've had parties, gone to concerts, explored shopping malls, and even had a painfully complicated trip home to visit my family. Despite so much good, life here has also been regretfully difficult. It's been constantly questioning myself and my abilities, crying at little things that feel like they should be easy, and trying to find possessions before screaming because I left it in another country. 

One of my friends showed me a theory about a month ago, the 5 Stages of Culture Shock. When I first saw it I laughed, and I thought "I'm not going through culture shock! I already know about the culture here!" However, after looking at it again, I've realised that moving across the world all on my own has affected me more deeply that I could ever have anticipated despite living here for half of last year.

When I moved here last year, it was a dream come true. Fresh out of university, I was working at an internship in a huge city, and living with people all from the same country as me. I went on crazy adventures, and honestly, I didn't have to assimilate for the first 2 months I lived here because everything was taken care of for me. I don't think I was honest with myself about those last three months. It was hard, it was lonely, and it was scary. I've felt for a long time that London is my home, more than I've ever felt in my life, but I also notice that maybe my feelings were painted rosey with a nice dose of romanticism for good measure. 

In light of accomplishing my goal of moving to London for real, here is my experience of culture shock. It may be brutal, but at least I know where I stand and hopefully I'll learn something about myself in the process. 

Stage 1: The Honeymoon Stage

This is when you arrive in a new place and everything is shiny and new. You're pointing out all the differences from back home and you're feeling so 'cultured' and 'enriched' to be somewhere so different. 

I don't think I went through this coming back. Last year, I definitely went to all the museums and saw Big Ben again. I was so excited to experience the culture and hit all the cool tourist spots. Moving back, I sighed as my mom called me and asked if I wanted to go on the London Eye when she visits this summer, internally cringing at the 30 quid I'm going to have to dish out for a giant ferris wheel. I haven't felt that need to go do the tourist stuff, I didn't spend my time giggling about how it's a 'lift' instead of an elevator. I'd done this before, I was ready to dive in and start my new life without the fluff.

Stage 2: The Distress Stage

Ah yes, the stage where all those little differences start to add up and become a big problem. You begin to feel confused and frustrated at how different everything is, and you realise that your support system from back home is completely gone. 

I can easily admit that I hit the distress stage and I hit it hard. I think the defining moment was standing in the supermarket trying to buy food. I was so frustrated because I couldn't find anything in their stupid stores and what they did have wasn't the right brand and wasn't the right flavour, and they called it different names. All in all I kind of had a breakdown. I don't think anyone ever thinks about how all the little minute details matter so much in a day to day life, but it all piles up until you don't want to get out of bed because it feels too overwhelming. 

Stage 3: Re-Integration Stage

You start to have a disdain for your new home, you reject it and begin to feel that everything back home is superior. You feel angry, frustrated, and even hostile to everyone around you, and you wonder why you ever left in the first place. You miss the familiarity of home and feel like you don't belong. 

I would say I'm currently at this stage. Add a stressful school situation into the mix, and I have become bitter and angry at the world for making my life so difficult despite getting everything I wanted. I'm constantly thinking about when I can go visit my family back home, and talking to my roommate about the frustrations of living in a giant city. People stop in the middle of the pavement and I roll my eyes and huff as I move around them. When I think about back home, I wonder why I didn't appreciate how what I had there was so good. 

Stage 4: Autonomy Stage

Finally, the first stage toward acceptance; when you begin to feel like yourself again. You begin to accept the differences and feel like you can to live with them. You feel more confident and better able to cope with problems. You no longer feel isolated; you’re able to look at the world around you and appreciate where you are.

I don't think I'm here fully yet. There are quite few days that I wake up and feel like maybe I'm starting to fully enjoy my life here, but then the following day the train is delayed and I feel like it's destroyed my entire week. I do think I will eventually get there the more I focus on learning and doing things I enjoy with people I get along with, but right now I'm teetering on the edge of simultaneously loving and hating everything around me.  

Stage 5: Independence Stage

You feel yourself again! You embrace the new culture and see everything in a new (hopefully realistic) light. Things start to become enjoyable. You feel comfortable, confident, able to make decisions based on your own preferences and values. You no longer feel alone and isolated.

Being truly independent and feeling like I'm happy and content seems like a distant glimmer. I've only been here four months, so I'm trying to give myself time to figure things out and hopefully get there. I genuinely don't how long this will take, or if it ever will, but til then I'm working on taking it one day at a time. 

So, if you're here wondering if you should take the plunge and move across the globe by yourself- I still say go for it but you've been warned. It's hard work. You constantly doubt yourself and feel torn about whether you did the right thing. I'm glad I moved here, I don't regret it at all, but I can't lie to myself and pretend it's butterflies and rainbows all the time. Living here is just that...living here. You still feel stress and anxiety, the things in your life that affected you before still affect you in another place, just now you have to navigate it on your own. This experience has for sure given me independence; I know that I'm capable of anything and that I know how to figure stuff out. I wouldn't trade that for anything, but I still think of my hometown and feel a pang in my chest for wildly different reality I've thrown myself into.

 photo envye.jpg
envye blogger theme