The first time I noticed my fingers changing colors was my junior year of high school. It was January and I had just finished my last final for the semester. I was outside with a group of my friends waiting for my dad to pick me up when I looked down at my hands. They were pale white and they hurt, bad. They felt like they were burning, but burning like when you touch something that’s too cold. I tried to blow on them to warm them up because they felt like ice. Then they began to turn blue. As the pain continued, my dad told me with a straight face not to worry, that my fingers were just falling off. Then he had to calm me down after I convinced myself I had frost bite and was going to be fingerless. Keep reading »
Last year, I was on vacation in Berlin when I woke up at 4 a.m., unable to move. Searing pain began at the crown of my head and extended well below my shoulders, causing my head, face, and neck to clench up and spasm whether I tried to move or lie perfectly still. The most extreme combination of tension and aching I’d ever experienced, I managed to nudge my partner awake and whispered, “Drugs. Find a doctor.” We had to be on a plane in seven hours, and I was in the midst of a horrific migraine. Keep reading »
I’ll never forget the vacation my family took when I was 7 years old. It was the summer before I entered second grade and we drove up to Vermont for a week of hiking, biking and staying up past our bedtimes.
But the trip wasn’t so much fun for me. I had no energy to hike and was tired all the time. At the end of the week, during a stop at Attitash Mountain in New Hampshire, I began having such intense, mind-numbing stomach aches that I couldn’t even stand up. I threw up all over the scenic Cog Railway and my parents immediately got me into the car and took me to the hospital. I was running a fever and my weight had dropped to 37 pounds from my usual 50. Keep reading »
It’s hard, even now, to write the words, “I have Borderline Personality Disorder.” I hesitate before making the statement for so many reasons. The condition is a big mish-mosh of types of people and problems. You have to meet five out of nine criteria listed in the DSM-IV-TR for Borderline Personality Disorder, which means there are oodles of different combinations of said criteria and therefore so many different kinds of borderlines. I notice myself wanting to say I’m not like other borderlines, but isn’t that just like a borderline to present myself as special and unique and less scary/dangerous/weird/sick/unappealing than other borderlines? Still, one borderline is not like another. There are subtypes—discouraged borderline, self-destructive borderline, impulsive borderline, petulant borderline. There are typologies—the Queen, the Waif, the Hermit, and the Witch. Keep reading »
“Beautiful sisters,” the barista complimented, handing us our matching black coffees.
“She’s my mother,” I corrected, smiling at her deep blue eyes, vanilla-colored hair and tiny frame. I loved when people thought I looked like her.
“Good genes,” he said.
He couldn’t see the long ragged scar hidden beneath her sundress, the splinters along my own hips, or the secret pain we shared with just each other. Keep reading »
Every kid in middle school played hooky. I was a total goody-two shoes, but still a hooky master—I told my mom I couldn’t go to school whenever I woke up sleepy, lazy or just hadn’t finished my homework. And then I turned 13 and got my period. As the Jewish tradition goes, my friend slapped me across the face in the bathroom, screamed “Mazel Tov!” and it all began. The cramps were unbearable. They felt like someone was punching me in the stomach. I couldn’t even think of using a tampon because I’d have to change it every 20 minutes—like Missy Elliott, my flow was out of control. But like the little boy who cried wolf, my mom didn’t believe that her star hooky player could have cramps that bad and sent me on my way to school. It wasn’t until a month later that my mom realized I wasn’t playing hooky—something had to be wrong when four extra strength Motrin and a heating pad didn’t help my cramps. My mom immediately made an appointment for me at her gynecologist. Keep reading »
We tend to think of the concept of “pain” as something physical—something that involves blood, bruises or casts. But people with mental illnesses struggle with this entirely other debilitating concept of pain, one that literally saps the life out of them. I have struggled with depression, or unipolar depression. The National Institute of Health says major depression is when a person has five or more symptoms for at least two weeks. Symptoms include: fatigue or lack of energy; feelings of hopelessness or helplessness; feelings of worthlessness, self-hate or guilt; inactivity or withdrawal from activities that used to be pleasurable; trouble sleeping or sleeping too much; loss of appetite or dramatic gain in appetite; agitation; difficulty concentrating; and thoughts of death or suicide.
For me, depression has manifested itself in all these ways. Sometimes I can sleep for 12 hours straight and still want to spend the rest of the day in bed. Other times, I can’t sleep and seem to be living on my own anxiety-fueled adrenaline. The only common thread is feeling like a human being with all the joyful parts of humanity leeched out of her. Keep reading »
It can be something as little as the time I was standing in a hotel parking lot while on vacation one summer, and out of the corner of my eye, I saw a man walking toward me. He looked exactly like my father. The closer he got, the larger the lump in my throat became. Or, it can be something a little bigger, like the few dozen times I’ve walked past the building on the campus of Northern Illinois University where my father worked and pictured him galloping up the stairs with a huge smile on his face. Or, even the time when I found the blue-knit cap he wore during the course of his chemotherapy and radiation to treat an aggressive form of sinus cancer and up until the day he committed suicide two weeks after finishing treatment. Or, the smell of his clothes and how they’d remind me of his big bear hugs.
That’s Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in a nutshell. It’s the body’s way of trying to process the massive stockpile of emotions left in the wake of a traumatic life event. Keep reading »
Like most high school kids, I often fell asleep during class when I was bored. But my last two years of high school, it started happening more frequently and I couldn’t control it. At my after-school job at a coffee bar, I would drink ever increasing amounts of coffee to stay awake during the day. Most of my friends couldn’t drink java after 4 p.m. because it would keep them awake through the night. I would fall asleep an hour after drinking three cups.
By my freshman year of college, I was drinking 10 caffeinated beverages a day, but nothing kept the sleepiness and the lethargy at bay. I would oversleep my alarm every morning, much to the growing irritation of my roommates, and run to class if I hadn’t missed it entirely. Keep reading »
Fact #1: I am a woman. I have boobs, ovaries, fallopian tubes and, well, a place down under. I have had the joy (yes, that’s sarcasm) of a regular period since high school. Fact #2: I’ve never had sex. I graduated from college last week, but I’ve still never been in a relationship that’s gotten to that point. Which was why, after six months without a period during the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of school, I started asking myself if I was pregnant and how it could be possible. Did I drink too much one night and not remember hooking up with someone? Or was I a victim of sexual assault but had repressed the memory to the back of my brain? I was terrified of what was going on in my body, but I didn’t know what to do about it. After all, I had finished only a year of college and couldn’t handle having a kid. Keep reading »