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When I think of acceptance in social terms, I think of two religions or denominations accepting one another, meaning that although they don’t agree on everything and they certainly don’t understand each other very well, they can agree to disagree, if not appreciate one another or even admire certain things about the other.

Or I think of accepting those of different sexual orientation. A straight man may not at all understand a gay man’s sexual preference, but he can still learn to appreciate the gay man, and vice versa.

And the examples could go on.

I’ve been thinking about acceptance because I know that I need to not only accept where I’m at right now, but also accept what I’ve left behind and the things that happened during the months prior to moving back home.

What I realized is that just as a religious group doesn’t have to like another religion’s beliefs in order to accept the people of that religion, I don’t have to like that I left behind so many good things, and I don’t necessarily have to understand it either. But in order to accept it, I need to stop fighting it. I know that it’s okay, even necessary, to feel angry and/or sad about it, but I can’t let those feelings overtake me. I need to learn to appreciate that I had those experiences (even the bad ones) instead of fighting the memory of them off.

In other news… here’s what I’m looking forward to about this weekend so far:

  • Going grocery shopping tonight with my mom and brother (I know that sounds kind of ridiculous, but I honestly love grocery shopping… especially when I don’t have to pay for the groceries!)
  • Getting coffee with my old roommate and one of my closest friends who will be in town tomorrow. I miss her so much.
  • Taking my brother Nathan to a movie at the cheap theater tomorrow night.
  • On Sunday I’m getting coffee with an old friend who lives in town.
  • Sunday night I’m spending time with my sister
  • Knowing that March starts on Monday!

That’s it for now. Happy Friday!

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I’m not going to lie.

It gets exhausting… to the point where I get angry sometimes.

Angry at everything that’s happened in the last four months,

and angry at the place I’m at now.

But sometimes I think the anger is a good sign… it’s a sign of life in me. See, I didn’t feel anger once until I really started trying to get better.

But like I said, it gets really exhausting sometimes… never knowing how I’m going to feel the next moment. I can feel completely fine, motivated, inspired, even ambitious one moment and completely depressed the next for really no reason at all. When I’m low, I can tell myself that the thoughts I’m having are irrational, that the feeling is going to pass, that everything is going to be okay, that I’m strong, but it doesn’t matter. I literally begin to believe that it’s not going to be okay, that I shouldn’t have hope, that I should just give up.

But I continue to fight anyway. And I will keep fighting. And this will get better.

Maybe real hope is when you really don’t feel like things will get better, but you keep fighting anyway.

And at the same time, I can feel completely depressed one moment and then great the next. And it comes like sweet relief, and I realize all the many blessings I still have. I try to store up these moments because I’m never sure how long they will last.

But I’m not giving up hope. I’m not.

Sometimes a person says something that just makes you stop and think.

Saturday night I got coffee with my friend Cody. I have history with him. I dated him when I lived in Milwaukee (although he lived here.) After dating 8 months or so I broke up with him. A couple years later we dated again and again I broke it off.

Maybe it didn’t work because it was long distance… maybe it didn’t work because we were incompatible.. but honestly, I think it is something with me. See, Cody is one of those guys that girls are lucky to get. He’s one of the most genuinely nice guys I’ve ever known, and he would have done anything for me. Anyway.. that’s a story for another time.

When I was in the hospital and thinking about who I wanted to hang out with when I got out, he was one of the first people that came to mind. I’m as vulnerable as I have been for … well, maybe ever. Cody makes me feel safe, and I knew he wouldn’t judge me. There are honestly very few who I feel comfortable around at this point.

So we got coffee. I was telling him about how I’d be here at least through the summer, explaining that I really screwed myself out of a lot of things in  Milwaukee… that I’ve thrown a lot away, and that I have a lot to figure out again. He looked at me and repeated something that I had once told him: “You may have thrown away a lot, Sarah, but now you’re in the position to do whatever you want. You don’t really have any holds. You’ve told me the same thing more than once. And you have time to figure it out- what you want to do now that things have changed.”

It really made me stop and think. I have told him that before.. with envy even. Even though I was pretty happy with the way my life was going, I was still getting footloose… still unsure of how I wanted things to play out. Yet I couldn’t just drop out of school because, well, first of all I really liked it and wanted the degree, and secondly I was too much of a coward to do it.

It’s just another positive way to spin my situation. Life is not a race. I have time to figure this stuff out… and at this point, I really can go in whatever direction I decide to go in. Sometimes I really start worrying that I won’t be ready by next fall.. well, you know what? It would be okay if I wasn’t. It’s not a race. I have steady ground beneath my feet, but I still haven’t built the new “foundation” that I’ve been talking about for a while now.

It meant a lot to me that Cody said that. Partially because I really needed to hear it, but also because it shows that he cares… and that at one time my words had somewhat of an effect on him.

And, really… pretty much anyone at anytime in their lives has the freedom to choose what path they want to go down. So often we settle.. settle for our mates, for our jobs, our location, and a million other things. Sometimes it’s because it seems easier, but a lot of times it’s because we never really consider any other option… and I’m sort of being forced to. And in a sense, that is a blessing.

In my last post I wrote about how I’ve definitely made some progress since being released from the hospital. I thought I would make a list of things that have helped so far… (in no particular order)

1. Blogging
-Creating this blog and writing about my experiences, getting advice and encouragement and stories from people who can relate, and reading other blogs has been very helpful. Thank you guys!

2. Rest
-The meds I’m on make me REAL sleepy. Giving my body time to rest has been helpful.

3. Writing
-Again, blogging, but also writing in my journal

4. Being open and honest with those around me
-Prior to hitting “bottom”, I had cut many ties and was pushing away almost everyone that cared about me. Although I’m still not quite comfortable enough to reestablish many of those connections, I have been very open and honest to my family (who I’m living with) and a few close friends.

5. Working out
-Not only does this naturally make me feel good, but it gives me something productive to do three-four mornings a week. Along with cardio, I do some weight training which my doctor told me would help with mood swings.

6. EATING
-Prior to hitting “bottom”, I had almost stopped eating entirely. And when I started trying to eat, I had a really hard time getting/preparing/eating the food. Sometimes I still don’t have much of an appetite, but I make sure to eat three meals a day. Before all of this happened, I NEVER had a problem with my appetite (in fact it was rather excessive at times:) )

7. Upbeat music
-I’m all about the chill/sad/emotional songs, but upbeat music can really help when I’m not feeling so great.

8. Reading
-Giving my mind a break from my own thoughts

9. Doing things for my mom
-Cleaning, doing dishes, running errands and whatnot not only make me, again, feel productive, but it also feels good to help out my mom.

10. Positive thinking
-I literally sometimes just tell the bad thoughts to go away and make up my mind to stop thinking them. Sometimes this works; other times it doesn’t. It has been extremely helpful though (essential, really.)

11. Giving myself time
-This one I struggle with. I keep thinking that my family will start pressuring me to make progress more quickly… that they’ll say I’m just being lazy. That’s just ridiculous. They KNOW I’m not lazy and never have been, and they will give me plenty of time to keep getting better and “functioning” at a higher level.

12. Medication
-Another one I struggle with, and believe me, I dragged my heals on this one. But I honestly feel that my medication has helped… but I will write a whole post on that some other time.

13. My stay in the hospital
-I really didn’t want to go into the hospital. It was something that others encouraged me to do and I finally did out of desperation (and fear, really.) It ended up being really good for me, but again, I’ll write more on that another time.

14. My family
-The most important. I’ve had a lot of issues with my family… in fact, they were the last people I wanted help from. A lot of my own issues stem from things that happened either in or to my family. And yet… the night I hit bottom I remember lying on my bed, tears flowing from my eyes, sobs racking my body… feeling that nothing was real, everything was meaningless, what point was there? It was by far the most pain (physical or emotional) that I have ever been in. I remember desperately wishing that I had never been born. If I could have chosen to rewind time and erase my existence, I would have done it in an instant. I wanted to die, but I knew that it would hurt a lot of people… which led me to think of the people that love me, and the people that I love and didn’t want to hurt. And I thought of my family. And I thought to myself, “I still believe in love.” And I repeated that over and over. I knew that the people who loved me most, who loved me unconditionally, were my family, and I thought, “I have to let them love me.” And I repeated that over and over. And I called my mom. Later on, I decided that part of the new foundation for myself that I was going to build would be based on my family. Not on the premise that they are perfect, or that nothing bad will happen again, but on the premise that they have always loved me and always will. And for that, I am very, very blessed.

What are things that help you?

Emerson said: “Trust thyself: every heart vibrates to that iron string.”

I have honestly been making a lot of progress since I got discharged from the hospital and moved back home. When I first got out, I feared being alone. My head was really foggy. I had a hard time concentrating on what people would say to me. Night time was especially bad. As soon as dusk started approaching, this sense of dread and fear would overtake me. I would try to keep myself busy, which seemed to help, but I would never have left the house.

Now, I don’t mind being alone. My mood swings are way less severe. I’m not as tired all of the time. I can concentrate a little better and the night time anxiety is not nearly as bad. A lot of the same symptoms are there, but just not to the same extent. I feel like I have so much more strength to fight off negative thoughts when they approach. There are definitely bad days and bad moments, and I know I have most of the journey still in front of me, but so far things have progressed further than I would have thought by this time.

Along with progress, however, comes this fear… this fear that I will crash again. And can you blame me really? As far as I knew, things were going great before all of this happened. I fear that once again I will fall. Actually, I think a more likely scenario is that I would do very well first and get sort of manic again before becoming really depressed. If I started feeling more depressed I would be more likely to ask for help.

I need to learn how to trust myself again. Yes, I’m doing better, but I have nearly no responsibilities. I take my brother to work and pick him up, clean and do the dishes, run errands for my mom… that’s really it. I don’t have a job. I don’t have school. I don’t have any of the responsibilities I had before. Last week I had an appointment on a day that I usually work out. Although there was still plenty of time to work out, I worried and stressed over it all morning… thinking, will I have enough time? I ended up having more than enough time. Little things overwhelm me very quickly now… whereas before, I could handle working two shifts, commuting to school in between, and then doing a night class again after my second shift of work. And I didn’t even really stress about it.

I have the opportunity to pick up some hours at my mom’s daycare. The advantage would be that I’m sort of a shoe-in, and I wouldn’t have to work many hours. I also have a lot of experience in childcare. On the other hand, the daycare is almost always short staffed and the children run wild (according to my mom.) It could be very stressful. I told my mom that in a couple weeks I think I would be ready to do that. And I think it’s good for me to work towards a short-term goal, though at the same time it scares me that I won’t be able to do it.

I need to learn how to trust myself again. To continue building that new foundation. To trust that although life will always throw me challenges, there will always be a way out. I don’t want to come out of this fearful of another crash. I want to come out of it stronger and more at one with myself.

did this book get published and find its way to the public library??

–is what I was thinking the other night after I read the first couple of chapters from I book I had just checked out.

Seriously.

I have been having trouble sleeping so I decided to try to find some “light” reading at the library. I used to always read before bed. I picked out a mystery novel that didn’t look like it would be graphic (don’t want nightmares!) and brought it home.

I actually laughed outloud. The writing style is… that of a 7th grader and both the characters and plot are unbelievably cliche. I am not exaggerating.

I guess the reason it frustrates me is that there are so many unbelievably talented writers that never get published. Not only is this one published, but it’s a series!

I also just finished reading Tortilla Flat by John Steinbeck. He’s one of my favorite authors… East of Eden being one of my all time favorite books. I guess I would have to say that this one wasn’t my favorite Steinbeck book by any means. It was pretty funny though and I’m glad I read it.

Next, I’m reading Jubilee City, a memoir that looks Jack Kerouac-esque. I’m looking forward to it.

What’s your favorite book??

It’s funny how sometimes places almost become like people, taking on characteristics that are so much more than the roads, buildings, parks or other things that literally make them up.

Today I went back to where I was living when my world crashed down around me just a few weeks ago. I had to pack up my things and pick up some mail.

I was honestly looking forward to it in a way. I don’t at all mind the two hour drive, and I was looking forward to having a productive day and closing some loose ends.

But it was really hard.

I lived in Milwaukee for three and a half years. Up until the end, it was a place that signified growth for me… growth and letting go, accepting the past while distancing myself from it, becoming liberated and strong, becoming ME.

And when I would go back to my hometown to visit, I would feel all the old ghosts coming back to haunt me… and I could never stay very long. I would rush back to Milwaukee and feel relieved. I would feel home.

As I was leaving Milwaukee tonight, I couldn’t wait to get out of there. It reminded me of all that I have left behind, still with no apparent reason… none that I have figured out yet anyway. My amazing roommates, my fulfilling job, my school where I was excited to learn… my friends. Milwaukee is now a stark reminder of how far and how quickly I fell. No one pushed me. In a sense, I guess I jumped. I just don’t know why.

And on the flipside, my hometown is now a place of comfort… still full of ghosts maybe, but I’m learning to be friends with them.

Sadness gripped my heart as I left Milwaukee tonight. I think it’s okay though… it’s a normal thing to feel, and I need to feel it before I can accept what has happened and is happening. The break from Milwaukee was very sudden. I was admitted into the hospital for almost a week and then came here…so my life in Milwaukee almost seemed a dream. I think it was good for me to have to be back there for a day and connect the two different realities.

I just hope that it can become a place of hope for me again.

I can’t believe how much I’ve given up… thrown away.

Are there places that symbolize something significant in your life?

In my “former” life (see “why i started this blog” page,) I worked with kids at a before and after school program. I worked with kids of all ages, but I think my favorite kids to work with were the kindergarteners. Of everything and everybody that I left behind when I moved home, it is them that I miss most often.

They taught me a LOT. This is just one story.

It was the beginning of the school year, which is often the most challenging time for kindergarten-age teachers (as well as the end of the year when they have no patience left!!) Many of the children have no experience in a group setting. Some of them don’t know how to really sit in chairs or eat at a table. Some of them have no respect for adults. Some of them are very, very smart and test their limits to see what the teacher will put up with. Some of them just aren’t used to being away from their parents or homes for very long.

There was this boy who I’ll call Jackson. He was four years old, and he was VERY challenging to both me and the other teachers. I would arrive for my shift daily and hear about all the problems he had caused so far that day. Mainly he had a problem listening and remembering.

One day, still early in the school year, I saw Jackson do something he wasn’t supposed to do. I don’t remember what it was, but I remember that it was something I knew that he knew he shouldn’t be doing. I also knew that he had already had a rough day.

I called him over so that there weren’t any other kids around, and I very sternly started asking him why he did what he had done. I gave him a firm scolding. In fact, I think I was starting to really lose my cool. I wanted him to succeed, and the fact that he wasn’t was really frustrating me.

As I was going on my rant, Jackson started tearing up. His little lip started quivering. Now, in my day, I have made many children cry. In all honesty, in some cases when a kid cries it’s almost a relief because you feel that you’ve gotten through to them. Other times you know their tears are fake and only for pity.

In Jackson’s case, I knew that he was crying because he was frustrated with himself. I paused for a moment and thought of all the times I had seen other teachers being stern with him, scolding him, giving him consequences.

All of the sudden it became very clear to me that Jackson really was listening. I then wondered how much encouragement he had gotten… ever? I stopped my rant and told Jackson that I knew he could do better. “You’re a great kid, do you know that?” A smile on his face.

From then on, I gave Jackson encouragement every time I could. When he did make mistakes, I was gentle with him (while still making sure he understood what he did wrong.) Not only did I quickly become Jackson’s favorite teacher, but he also behaved far better when I was there.

I took grief for it sometimes. Other teachers thought he must be my favorite or that I let kids walk all over me. I didn’t really care what they thought, because both Jackson and I were happier. The truth is, different kids need different types of disciplining, different types of love. Out of the hundreds of kids I’ve worked with, Jackson will always stick out in my memory.

Sometimes things just aren’t quite as they seem. Sometime with a little re-examination, you can come to a whole different conclusion.

Have you learned any interesting lessons from seemingly unlikely places?

Love. It’s one of the most overused words in our language and society. In a sense one could argue that the word itself has become over-general or even cheapened in our society.

So… it’s Valentines Day and it’s got me thinking.

What is love?

Dictionary.com says: a profoundly tender, passionate affection for another person

three key words there:

1.) profound(ly)
2.) tender (which I would argue love isn’t always!)
3.) passionate

Another question I have is this: how do you know when you love someone? I think that’s definitely correlated to what you think love is, which makes that question pretty important.

And my final question: Is love enough? And by that I mean… in the sense of “romantic love,” if two people truly love each other, is that all it takes? Or is there more to it?

What do you think?

And finally… one of my favorite love quotes from the movie The Last Kiss:

“Stop talking about love. Every asshole in the world says he loves somebody. It means nothing. It still doesn’t mean anything. What you feel only matters to you. It’s what you DO to the people you say you love, that’s what matters. It’s the only thing that counts.”

A couple posts ago I wrote about how I met with a new psychologist for the first time. He basically asked me questions for the whole session, and I’m still thinking about some of them.

He explained to me that both Freud and another famous psychiatrist (I don’t remember who) found that a significantly high number of patients who came in with strong feelings of depression yet had seemingly good lives could not answer what they thought the purpose of life was and they did not find meaning in their work.

So, my psychologist asked me what I think my purpose is in life, why I’m here.

Now, first of all, I’m only twenty-two years old.

Second of all, what a big question. People ask themselves that throughout their lives. Some answer in terms of religion: “To spread the Gospel.” Some answer more lightly: “To have fun!” Some answer with philanthropy: “To help others.”

I’ve always asked myself big questions. I think that most people could be content doing a number of things with their lives. I don’t think there is only one profession I am called to do. In terms of religious or spiritual beliefs, I’m really unsure where I stand on a lot of it, so I really can’t answer from that perspective. But the answer that I’ve come up with in the past is pretty simple.

I answered the doctor: “To love. And to let others love me.”

And he actually gave me a sort of funny look and said, “Okay… well, more specifically than that?”

I said: “I don’t know. A few months ago I had a plan, and now I don’t really have that plan anymore. But I feel confident that there are a lot of different ways to love people, a lot of different things I can do.”

And in my journey towards “learning to live” again, I realized that this is still something that I believe. To love… and to be loved, is really the best you can do in this life. And it’s really not easy either. So many of my actions are motivated by things that are far from it. Heck, I could start a whole different blog called “learning to love” and I’m sure I wouldn’t run out of things to post about.

What do you think your purpose is? Your meaning? Why are you here and what makes you answer the way you do?