The Scamp has Some Feelings

I have long neglected this blog. I didn’t mean to. In fact, I started this blog to be the exact opposite. It was my safe little corner of the world where I could work through being so far away from my family for the first time, and be able to share what it was like for this little Scamp to live abroad.

It then morphed into a way for me to process my grief and my reverse culture shock. From there it become my coping mechanism for the horrors that I went through with CSUF. It was a place to share my gratitude and voice my fears.

I am not sure what it will be now. I haven’t sat in this space for a long time. I was too emotionally drained to even try and write for fun. I was too much of a zombie to try and be witty and pithy and admit to the world that my life was reduced to writing, stressing about writing, and trying to get all the work done for all 47 jobs that I took on….or that I failed the UK driving exam for the second time.

Today I handed in my PhD. A month ago I started a full-time job. I commute almost two hours one way, work from 9-4ish and still sort of worry about money. Soon I will have viva prep and hopefully by October I will be a full fledged doctor. My travelling and adventures will now be limited to preset times during the year with prior approval from my boss (who I love and will give me the time off).

Today I ate two cupcakes.

Today I saw a photo of a woman I went to high school with at her sister’s graduation. Standing next to them was the woman that told me I was a cheat and a plagiarist and that if I didn’t apologise for being white I’d never be a good academic.

Today I text an ex who used me to cheat on his gf and (I’m pretty sure) is a complete sociopath. I knew that if I messaged him I could justify feeling crappy about myself and pretend that I was not upset by seeing a photo of the woman that all but broke me.

Today I should be happy about finally submitting my thesis….and I was. Then I spent a little too much time overthinking and creating a plot of misery. So, in order to not waste my first time back in this space by sharing the acknowledgement page from my thesis. It is but a small gesture to the people who refused to let me fail. There were a lot of people who did not make it to the list, but that doesn’t mean I don’t love them or appreciate them. Here it is, exactly as it looks…complete with a thanks to my supervisors that I am still on the fence about. This means I can end this day with feelings of gratitude rather than feelings of self-loathing.

This thesis has been a labour of love (and sometimes loathing), and there are several people that deserve much more than a few lines at the start of this work. Thanks to:

• Tansy Jessop for having lunch with me at the 2015 Assessment and Higher Education conference and making sure that my TESTA journey was a successful one.

• David Carless for helping me refine the recommendations and pointing me in the direction of a strong definition of feedback. • David Nicol for saying to me, ‘You should be critiquing my model! It worked in the time it was written, but it is time for something new’. You will never know how much that bolstered my self-confidence.

• My supervisors, Joan McLatchie, Velda McCune, and Mark Huxham – thanks for taking a chance on a cat loving Californian. I know that I have tried your patience a few times, but we got there in the end.

• The Llama Ladies- You are the best friends a girl could ask for.

• Errol Rivera- You talked me off many a ledge and helped me outline many a draft chapter. I’m forever grateful.

• Joe Ameen- A million thanks for the chats and life advice.

• Dr Ana Georgieva- You kept me sane and reminded me to be kind to myself.

• Martha Caddell- You are the best mentor a girl could ever want. I hope I’m half as great as you one day.

• Anne Tierney-Because everything’s better with puppets!

• Kelsey Austin- My travel buddy, my heterolifemate, my unwavering support. I love you and our many adventures.

• Declan- you know why.

• Mondo, Brandon, Jackson, and Matt- I love you.

• Wombmate-You gave me nephews, you listened to me cry and you never let me forget that I am better than my anxiety.

• My parents, Rick and Michelle- I’ll never be able to pay back what you’ve given me. Thank you for never squashing my wanderlust and for all the support. I love you to the moon and back.

The Scamp and Mental Health Awareness Week

As social media gears up to celebrate mental health awareness week (14-20th of May) in the UK, I am gearing up for the onslaught of cliche inspirational posts that make me want to bang my head against the wall. This year the focus of the week is on stress and whether or not we are coping well.

I can already tell you that I am not coping well. Anyone who has ever undertaken a PhD will tell you that the end of the write-up is no picnic.

I saw a post the other day that said, “You are not your mental illness”.  Maybe you aren’t your mental illness, but I am very much mine….and I don’t think I am alone in that thought.

I am sad more than I am happy. I struggle with crippling self-doubt. I find it hard to leave my flat for days at a time because I am worried about the what people see when they look at me. I’m anxious about my future and often find sleep elusive. I cry out of frustration when I can’t do things well the first time. I constantly feel like the universe is shitting on my head while a little black rain cloud follows me around. I am extremely hard on myself and the people around me, and they often bare the brunt of my moods and feelings.

But, just as I am my illness, I am part of my treatment. I take my medication every day. I see my therapist every two weeks. I do yoga and practice mindfulness to slow down the negative thoughts and racing heartbeat. I wear bright colours and crazy prints so that people focus on my clothes and not my face. I work hard

I watch a lot of baby animal videos.

I’m one of the lucky ones though. I can afford to get my meds, afford to get help and have a really great support system.

Today is American Mother’s Day, and I called my biggest supporter to wish her a good day. I haven’t seen her in 6 months, and haven’t even really been able to Facetime with her in the last couple of weeks. She still checks in every day, tells me it is going to be okay and reminds me that there is a lot of good that comes from working hard and occasionally asking for help.

She also funds some of my adventures.

So, for mental health awareness week, I am going to embrace my mental health challenges and continue to work towards learning how to keep my depression and anxiety from running my life. It is a process. Last week was a really great week for me. Everything went my way and was smooth sailing. The two weeks before that were stressful and draining. It’s a balance that I am still learning to navigate. I don’t often get it right, but I have a therapist and a clear plan of action to help manage the bad days.

 

If you are struggling in the UK, here is a helpful site to get help:

https://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/your-mental-health/getting-help

If you are struggling in the US, you can find help here:

http://www.mentalhealthamerica.net/finding-help

The Scamp and the Happiness Challenge Day 4 and 5

I’d like to say that I continued with the happiness challenge, but in truth, I haven’t.

I’m about to get way more honest and way more personal than I probably should on such a public space, but in truth, writing helps me process, and I am better with the written word than I am with anything else, and this has always been about my journey, the good, the bad, and the heartbreaking.

The happiness challenge came about because I have been feeling increasingly depressed in the last few months. I’m distracted at work, neglecting school and research, and slowly spiraling into a really bad place. Yesterday it all finally came to a head. The boy ended his relationship with me. This probably should have happened months ago, but I desperately clung to it thinking that since we loved each other things would get better. I clung to the idea that I needed to be in a relationship, that I wasn’t overloaded with work, school and residual trust issues that come from jumping into relationship too soon.

I’m crushed. Not in the same way I was when David cheated on me, but in a way that makes it clear to me that I need to do a lot of work toward really healing. There is a profound sense of loss, a slight sense of failure, and the realization that I still have a lot to figure out about myself.

The one thing that I do know is that I am extremely loved. My sister sat with me until I could drive home yesterday, my mom put aside her grading to sit with me and let me cry about finding myself in this situation again, and my brother gave up his lunch time today to listen to me cry. He told me to “buck up little camper” and reminded me that sometimes shit just doesn’t work out. I made a comment on facebook about needing puppy and cat videos and my friends sent me texts, emails, and fb posts of puppy and kitten videos. No one asked what was wrong, and no one hesitated to try and make me feel better.  One person I did tell offer to come over and let me box out my aggression. One of the members of my cohort let me cry on her shoulder in the middle of a parking lot today and reminded me that I have the support system I need around me, and that I will be okay.

I know that I will be okay. I know that I didn’t date in high school, and very little in college, so dating and breaking up is normal, and I’m about ten years behind schedule from most people in this area.

My first instinct whenever something bad happens to me is to run away. I have to admit, my flight instinct is in overdrive. I would love nothing more than to run away from this and not deal with it.

Instead, I called the counseling service on campus, made a list of all the things I need to do for school and for work, and gave myself permission to cry if I need to. I’m allowing one more day of light work and homework, and then it is back to business and onto some serious and deep healing.

I am truly humbled by the love, puppy videos, concern, and unquestionable support that I get from those around me. I will never be able to say how grateful I am for that.

 

The Scamp Reaches

Today I sound like a strangled goose. The cold came out of nowhere, and I feel icky. I think the boy gave it to me, but in truth, I am sure the stress of the last few weeks didn’t help. I tried to muscle through work today, but I did not get as much done as I would like.

The problem with feelings like this is I tend to get sucked into the negative. I throw a little pity party, and wallow in my feelings until they drive me crazy. I’d like to say that it is just the winter blues, but since California has yet to have a cold day.When I was in Scotland, I recognized that I needed some help, and I was strong enough in my surroundings to get the help. The little wellness center tucked between the walls of a souvenir shop and an Indian restaurant helped me discover that not only was I not crazy, but I wasn’t broken either.

I don’t have that support system here. Sure, I have my family and a few really good friends here, but without insurance, I have been reluctant to seek the help, even just for a check in and a reminder that I am not as batshit crazy as I think I am.

My class being cancelled, lapses in planning and organization, and the overwhelming urge to stick my head in the sand has made me rethink that reluctance.

 

Luckily I am surrounded by people that encourage me to do what I need to do to get through the days. Two of my best friends have been more than willing to talk to me about the benefits of professional help, and that hiding in bed all day is not a good idea.

In the meantime, a little snuggling with my cat will have to get me through.