Tuesday, May 1, 2018

Fighting my Own Brain

One of the things I hate most about BPD is that my brain fights my brain. The rational part of my brain knows how I’m supposed to think and feel, but the emotional part tells me different. The emotional part is usually overpowering and tricks me into thinking I’m supposed to feel all these negative emotions. Right now, it’s telling me I’m supposed to feel anger and jealousy. Let me explain what’s going on (mixed with story time).

Back in 2013 I got my master’s degree in psychology. Yay! Unfortunately, the school I went to did not explain the degree I chose was not eligible for licensure.  Thus, the only way for me to become licensed was to get a second degree (nope, I couldn’t just take the missing classes). That presented a problem financially. You see, the government allots you a certain amount of money for each degree you pursue, and I had basically used all of mine up. It seemed my only options were to take out private loans (not a good idea) or go for my PhD (ha ha, nope!) For years I was stuck. I had a degree, but not many options.

In 2014 I got a job working in a therapeutic day school. It was at this point that I started to realize I had a passion for education. I worked on and off as a paraeducator for several years and loved it. I was still stuck, though, in the education front. Then, in 2016 I got hired at my current job and everything changed. I learned they partnered with Boston University and offered employees scholarships. I could finally afford to go back to school! I started my Master of Education in Teaching and Curriculum (focus in Special Education) a year ago this month. I was on way to becoming a licensed teacher! However, I ultimately decided that I did not want to go through with the practicum. It felt too overwhelming, and I knew it would be difficult if not impossible for me to pass the math MTEL (this isn’t me putting myself down. MA has some of the hardest state tests in the country, and the MTEL represents everything my NVLD causes me to struggle with). To put it in perspective, I took three practice tests and maybe got a handful correct. I just didn’t want to shell out hundreds of dollars over and over.

Originally, I decided I would just stick with being a Para. It was a perfectly respectable career choice. However, things changed once again when I did some research for my boyfriend (who lives in NH). Let’s switch gears and talk about him for a second. He has a bachelor’s degree in political science. Back in 2014/2015 he started grad school to pursue his teaching degree but had to drop out after a semester because of surgery. He has Avoidant Personality Disorder and has always been scared to basically move forward; so, for years he didn’t work or go to school. We’ve been together on and off for 4 years and on for 2 years. Since he met me, I found him his job (which he loves) and got him back into therapy.  I also spent a ton of time researching school and program and licensure options for him.

During my research I learned that NH has various alternative methods for pursuing licensure; one of them being the, “Critical Shortage List.” The way it works is you need two classes in SpEd and passing scores on the Praxis. Once you have that, you fill out a statement of eligibility, and you are able to be hired as a SpEd teacher in a NH district. You are then assigned a mentor (through the Department of Education) and fill out a beginning of plan. You go through a list of competencies to see which you’ve fulfilled, then you make a plan to complete what’s left (you have 3 years to do it, but it can be done sooner). I was excited because this seemed like a much better route. One that aligned with my style of learning; learn as you go. Plus it worked cause we are moving in together in July, and we will be closer to his area.

Originally this was the plan my boyfriend was going to go with as well. However, yesterday he was officially accepted into a grad program and they told him he’d be able to get his license within a year. This is when my emotion brain started to get to me. It wasn’t fair that I’ve had a passion for teaching and special education, that I struggled for years to figure out how to move forward, that I kept hitting roadblock after roadblock; and he basically avoiding doing anything until I came and pushed him and helped him, and now he’s going to become a licensed SpEd teacher before me. I mean, this has been my dream longer. Yes, he started going for his teaching degree in 2014, but it wasn’t SpEd. He just decided he wanted to do SpEd this year. I felt angry, jealous, and like why isn’t there anything that I “have over” him? I felt inferior, like a failure.

It's hard for me to get out of that kind of thinking, the black and white brain; but I managed to write down some rational thinking that has helped. Here goes…..

  • I already have a master’s degree. One where I wasn’t told I could not get licensed. Therefore, I was stuck for several years with little to no options. My roadblocks were more of less out of my control. Even if I wanted to go back to school sooner, I couldn’t unless I put myself it debt I couldn’t pay back (private loans are not eligible for forgiveness).
  •  NH has an easier route to licensure than MA does. They only have one teaching certification while MA has three (primary, initial, professional). I wouldn’t even get my professional license until I worked three (?) years under my Initial. Aside from that the MA state teacher tests are a lot harder and there’s more of them.
  • I could have gone down a licensure root in my current program, but deep down I knew that wasn’t right for me and it would have been bad for my mental health. I shouldn’t force something because it’s the traditional route.
  •  I have been in the actual field longer than him. He works as a life skills tutor and I am a Special Education Associate. I’ve been creating behavior plans, taking data, writing progress notes, going to IEP meetings. The degree program I am in is for people who already have experience in the field. Most stuff he’s going to learn, I’ve already learned or have been doing.
  • He may not even look for a lead teaching job until 2019/2020, which is when I plan to do it (I could do it for this year, but it seems a bit too soon and I want to finish my degree first). If this is the case, we’d both be working as lead teachers at the same time. Another thing to keep in mind is that I will be under the Alternative IV program and I’ve probably already completed a lot of the competencies.
  • Technically he could have been licensed years ago if it wasn’t for the surgery.
  • One of the main reasons he is doing this is because of me. His own words were that he would not have been able to do this on his own, and I am the reason he has his job and is going back to school. I’ve been an inspiration to him, and it’s because of me he’s moving forward in his life.
  • He hasn’t had it easy. He’s wanted to move forward, but his disorder has stopped him. We both struggled to be where we are at, but for different reasons
  • Like he says, we are a team and when one succeeds we both do.
My emotion brain is still fighting me, it is still telling me I am inferior. But my wise mind is slowly getting stronger. I really am proud of him because I know how hard this has been. I know that's how I really feel. My brain just wants me to believe different.

Friday, April 27, 2018

Spirit

My spirit is inside me, it connects me to the universe. I am part of the universe and the universe is part of me. I am made of stardust. There is a spirit in the earth. In the rocks, trees, flowers. In the stars, moon, and sun. A spirit that flows through and connects each of us to the Universe. Invisible, quiet, sometimes bold and in your face. You can't see your spirit, can't see the spirit of the universe, but it's there.

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

BDD

I have Body Dysmorphic Disorder. I had speculated for a long time, but only recently got diagnosed. What is BDD? Learn more here

Having BDD means I have a very warped view of my body at times (but not all the time). I have been trying to get better at catching myself when I'm beginning to stare at a certain part of me for too long. Having BDD doesn't mean I always hate my body, I don't. It's just when I get into the BDD headspace, those dark thoughts take over. The truth is when I started getting more attention and liked more it was because of my body. I was modeling, doing sex work. Suddenly people found me sexy and I wasn't the loser I was in middle and high school. Thus, it was cemented in my head that the best thing I have going for me is my body. Of course, I know that's not true, but again when I'm in the BDD mind frame the dark thoughts come in. So what helps and doesn't help when I am struggling with my BDD?

DO be logical. Having NVLD means I'm very fact base. For example, my friend pointed out two pics I thought I looked different in, I was actually the same. The only difference was lighting and posture. Another time she schooled me on what having a uterus means for a woman's stomach.

DON'T tell me "you look healthy." When I am in a BDD frame of mind those words can be very triggering.

DO remind me I am thin and 120 is a low weight.

DON'T tell me, "you're a beautiful person. Weight is just a number," or anything like that. It's super unhelpful.

DO message me privately (if I post in public). Sometimes it helps better if I have a one on one conversation.

DON'T say something like, "well if you're fat then what am I!" or "Wow, you're 120? wonder what you think of me being 150?" This is literally the most selfish and ignorant thing you can say. My BDD has NOTHING to do with how I see other people. Do not make it about you.

And finally, know that it will pass. Know that the road to progression isn't linear.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Stress

I have been having a hard time lately dealing with stress. I definitely think I am having anxiety about all the big changes coming up. Living with Daniel, finding a new job, getting used to living in a new area. I'm basically uprooting myself after spending so much time trying to find stability.
I feel ashamed of myself. I want to talk about it, but every time I try to type it out I become angry and feel humiliated. I become paranoid that people will think I am getting worse, that all my progress is erased. Nothing seems to come out right, nothing is worded right. I'm also paranoid about being honest. I don't know who's watching, who will rat me out, who will betray me. Certain people have said stuff to me, stuff that's caused me to be even more paranoid and stressed.
Tonight I got overly upset and angry because I messed up putting a screen protector on, and I the shipment of postcards I ordered was messed up. Both instances ended up being an easy fix (refund and replacement), but because I was feeling stressed (and didn't help I had a stressful conversation at work) I was in an irritable and fragile headspace.
I'm trying to remind myself that this is temporary, that it doesn't mean I am "regressing" or that all my progress has been erased. I'm just having a hard time now. It's just difficult to not have blinders on and focus on the negative. Feel like everyone has me under a microscope and is judging me, or thinking I am falling apart. It doesn't help that I've been told some things by certain people, and I can't really talk about it because I'm paranoid.
I hate feeling like I have to defend myself. I hate feeling like I can't admit I'm having a hard time. Because when I do, I am making myself vulnerable and then I get paranoid about what other people will think. I get paranoid that they will think this is how I am. They will forget all the progress.
I need to stop this is just causing me to become more stressed, upset, and paranoid. I am in a thought spiral and I feeling like crying from frustration. I'm so scared and paranoid about being honest about having a hard time. I want to scream.

Shame and Change

There are parts of my personality I know I can work on. In order to do this, I need to have a sense of humility and humble myself. This is something that I have a difficult time with. Not because I'm conceited and think I am perfect, but because I have a difficult time dealing with shame. I feel deep shame in who I am, and talking about the things I am ashamed about out loud causes even further shame. I have a fear people's reactions, I fear being perceived as not making progress, and I have a tendency to focus on the "negative." One set back or "bad" trait erases all the positive and all the progress.

I also have a tendency to catastrophize. For example, I used to be super strict about how often I eat fast food. I have since become a bit more lax about it, and there have been times where I've had McDonald's or ordered out more than twice in a week. In the broader aspect, it's not like I'm eating fast food every day, but my brain focuses on that small amount of time. Having Borderline, you all know I'm very black and white. So I go from, "I'm being too strict" to "I'm a disgusting fat pig who eats like shit and I should probably kill myself." The point of this is to relay that admitting I can improve in some aspects turns into me catastrophizing.

Okay, so what do I want to work on?

  • Eating healthier: Look, I'm not into these food or diet fads. I will never be a person who counts carbs and calories. It causes me too much anxiety and confusion, and in my opinion takes too much mental effort. What I am good at is setting concrete goals. Fast food only once a month, cut back on bread carbs, continue to not drink soda and alcohol, sweets on special occasions. Eating healthier isn't what's hard for me, it's admitting I have to. Because my brain tells me that if I admit I don't always eat great then I am a failure, people are going to rub it in, I'm going to be punished and the universe is going to make me fat. And, as I've said many times before, I'd rather be dead than fat. I also have a lot of health nut friends who, in my mind, can't wait to rub their healthy lifestyle in my face. I'm sure I'm being irrational, but trying to rationalize with my brain is like trying to herd cats.
  • Being more tactful in communication: I've recently been told by a couple of people that others take issue with how I communicate. Now, ignoring the fact that a lot of people in this day and age can't handle blunt and honest communication and would rather be catty, make snide comments, talk behind people's backs, and tell everyone else they have a problem with you except you; I admit that I can sometimes be intense. I am really bad at making "I" statements, or starting with the positive. But why? I think it's important to understand why I communicate the way I do. There are a few reasons;
  1. NVLD presents a lot of Asperger's in that I don't always realize when I'm not being tactful and I struggle with social interactions. I am blunt and too the point, and I don't always read peoples reactions well.
  2. I spent 6th-12th grade being bullied, lied to, feeling like an outsider in my own home. For much of that I was abused by my step mom. I was always the one who never spoke up, kept quiet. So when I finally found my voice, you can damn well be sure I'm going to use it. 
  3. I am constantly being interrupted. By my family, friends, my boyfriend. So I've learned to be quick and to the point, and sometimes that comes out as tactless.
  4. I struggle to put my thoughts into words, and so I've found the best approach for me is not thinking about it, and just speaking.
  5. I've been abused. Emotionally, sexually, physically. I've had people walk all over me, take advantage of me, threaten me, threaten my life. Simply put, I won't keep quiet. People have a problem with strong women. Women are always softening their stances with, "I'm really sorry," and "I hope this doesn't upset you." But when a man does it? It's celebrated.
  With all this being said, I recognize that there are some people who just can't handle blunt people. So, I am going to try my best to word things carefully, maybe even write them down. The problem is, when I have to start thinking about every single word I say and wording things perfectly, I start to become anxious and paranoid.  The people who say this stuff to me, don't understand that I'm not always like this. When I am super blunt it's in these situations....

  1. I am scared to approach someone so I want to do it like a band-aid...right off and to the point.
  2. I am in a certain mood. I am frustrated, irritated, etc.
  3. I have already tried the "fluff" approach.
This causes more issues in my head. I think people see me in a certain way, I become angry, I get defensive, I feel I need to prove myself, I feel I need to scream at them that they are wrong about me. I get into "blinders" way of thinking. I only see the "negative." I then start feeling immense shame, which causes self-judgement, which causes worry, which causes anxiety, which causes shame, which causes...you get the point. 

I think, what I need to do first is start letting stuff go. People suck, people do annoying things, but I can't keep letting everything get to me. If someone wants to suck at being a decent person, that's on them. I need to stop speaking up against every tiny annoyance. I should save my breath for bigger and more important things (like human rights). That will be my goal this month, only saying something if it's directly affecting me and my life in a negative way. If I do need to communicate with someone, I will write it out first and have someone read it.

Of course, this makes me feel like a piece of shit human who can't function like a normal adult, but hey. Win some, lose some. I'll basically spend the next several days dwelling, getting angry and irritated at everything I do, and feeling like a waste of space. Because if you think you're too hard on me, remember there is no one harder on me than me. There are days I hate myself so much I want to rip myself open and climb out. I know I'm being irrational and I'm letting Beth take over. I'll let her play....for now.

Wonder

This stick I picked this week was, "wonder."

I enjoy watching my students innocent like wonder. They are curious about everything, even the simplest of thing. Things, I believe adults take for granted. This week I have been teaching my RTI group about animals from different habitats, and I have found myself learning and wondering about these animals as well.

Sometimes it's hard for me to wonder about things. Wonder=worry. I like things just so, and I like to know what's going on and what the plan is. Wondering makes me worried and anxious, but I want to let go of that. I want to come back to that childlike wonder, my students have.

Sunday, April 8, 2018

Bad Day.

Today was a bad day.

I felt frustrated dealing with the MBTA, I was reminded of a painful time during worship service, I couldn't focus during yoga, I hated my body and felt disgusting all day.

It was a bad day, but tomorrow is a new day.

Wednesday, April 4, 2018

Compassion

I am late writing this, no real reason. Just never got around to doing it. The stick I picked for this week is compassion. Compassion, I believe, is something I have in abundance. I am finding though that more and more, my compassion is reserved for those who deserve it and it has its limits.

I cannot have compassion for someone who decides to shoot up a school because he was bullied. I cannot have compassion for a man who rapes and murders a woman because he's lonely in rejected. I can fight for better mental health and rehabilitation services, but my compassion for monsters has drained.

Sometimes, it's hard for me to be compassionate when I am having trouble. My spoons and energy run low, and there are times I just need to focus on myself. As I mentioned before, sometimes my compassion runs out. For example, I was trying to be compassionate toward this person who is going through a rough time physically and mentally, but she kept being super bitchy, snide, and rude to me. I'm sorry, but you don't get to treat a person like shit and expect them to take it. I would never be unkind, but I am not giving more of my energy to this person.

For this week I've been trying to be more compassionate toward myself. Not judging my judging, and letting things go.

Friday, March 30, 2018

Moving Along

I've had a stressful week. Nothing major, just a lot of little stresses that built up. For me, sometimes those little things can be worse. It takes longer for me to come back down to base-line, and if I'm not in a good or neutral space before the next trigger happens, I will be brought further from it. When I'm dealing with a lot of external stressors, it affects me internally. I become irritable, this week I've been dealing with body image issues; and I become anxious, depressed, and paranoid. I've been trying my best to come back to the promises I made to myself in my Serenity post. When I caught myself staring and obsessing over a body part, I told myself to stop. It was just going to get worse. I stopped myself from engaging or engaging further with people who were stressing me out. I rationalized as best I could when I started to feel panicky. I also have been doing my best to let things go, and remind myself other people probably are not thinking and obsessing on things the way I am. I'm looking forward to this weekend, I just got new CBD oil, and I get to give my nephew some awesome Easter presents.

Serenity


Serenity: The state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled.

I have been thinking about serenity without even thinking about the particular word. In other words, I have been thinking about what I do that is contributing to my stress and anxiety and robbing me the bliss of serenity. Now, obviously, every second of my life is not going to be filled with serenity. Stuff happens, people get stressed out, and I have an anxiety disorder. I am talking about the actions and decisions in my life I could easily stop or change. So, what are they?

  • Going on social media first thing in the morning. Look, sometimes I need to go on the internet in the morning if I forgot something for a lesson or I want to blog or work on homework (gotta find the time somehow). What isn't good for me is grabbing my phone as soon as I wake up and scrolling Facebook or Twitter. The main culprit of my stress is social media. So, I have vowed to not go on it until I am at least on the second bus to work.
  • Giving my time to people who obviously don't care. I have tried the whole, "kill them with kindness." I brightly say hello to someone who I know isn't too fond of me. Usually, I get a mumbled hello back. I've tried having conversations with this person and it always seems stressed and forced. You know what? I'm done. I'm not going to continue to give energy to someone who feels so negative towards me. I'm not going to be mean to them, but I'm not going to go out of my way to be nice.
  • Debating things I have a solid opinion on. I'm done debating about gun violence, racism, sexism. You're not going to change my mind and I'm probably not going to change yours. If you're someone who is interested in hearing my side or learning more, that's different. But I'm honestly tired of, "well what would you change?" I've stated my stance multiple times. Right now I'm only interested in action.
  • Pretending I know something I don't. I love football, I love the Packers, but I really couldn't tell you all the different plays, calls, penalties (though I usually know them, just can't recognize them when they happen most of the time). I will do quick research so I am able to seem like I know what I am talking about. I don't care about Basketball at all, but I will look stuff up on the internet so I can shoot off random texts to my Brother-in-law. I pretend I have knowledge of stuff I don't, and not only that but I seek knowledge in stuff I really don't care about. And you know what happens? I get stressed, I get overwhelmed. I don't even need to seek it in stuff I care about. I love baseball, but it's not worth getting stressed out over learning the names of every single player on the Sox roster. When I'm discussing something in a debate, I will try to sound smarter than I am by doing half-assed research, and spout off facts I learned 2 minutes ago. No more, I focus on what I know and be proud of it.
  • Dwelling or focusing on something I know is going to stress me up or upset me. My credit card balance is going to stay the same no matter how much I look at it. I know it's going to get paid off. I don't have to keep staring at it. The more I stare at a body part the more it's going to become warped in my head and the angrier and stress I am going to get.

All of these are things that are contributing to my stress level, and they are things I can stop. Will I be perfect and quit cold turkey, never doing them again? No, it takes time and I know I will stumble, but with everything it takes practice...and some serenity.


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Spring Cleaning

I've been thinking a lot about how my spirituality plays a role in my life, and how I need to start incorporating it more. For Ostara, I charged my stones and did a fresh sage smudging (after writing a list of things that no longer serve me, and burned them).

Today felt like so much stress and icky stuff was gone. I never considered how much bad juju was floating around, and how that bad energy was affecting me. It builds up in subtle ways. I guess yesterday I did my own version of "Spring cleaning."

I've changed my beliefs a few times. When I was younger I believed what I did because that was all I was exposed to. I didn't really have a choice, and I probably didn't know I even had one. When I reached my late teen years and realized Catholicism wasn't for me, I began to look into Wicca (thanks to a friend who identified as Wiccan). Soon I did as well, and I believed what I did because that's what books told me. I thought there was only one way to be a Wiccan. Book of Shadows, Altar, believing in the Horned God, and triple Goddess.

As I got older, I struggled with my beliefs. I found myself second-guessing myself; half believing, but convincing myself otherwise. I felt a strong spiritual connection to nature, but other parts of being Wicca just didn't speak to me. When I did an alter it felt like I was adhering to a set of standards. I was supposed to have an altar, supposed to believe in the god and goddess (and the whole notion of them mating, and the goddess giving birth to the god, etc). During the holidays I identified with the natural aspects and symbolism. I didn't, however, identify with the parts that contained a god and goddess. I didn't identify with the use of tools. But I still forced myself to do it, because that's what I was supposed to.

I thought I must be a fake Wiccan. I tried to find something that fit for years, but it always felt forced. Then, at some point, I just let it come naturally.  I did do some reading, and realized I was Pagan and that the amazing thing about being Pagan is that there are many who feel the same way I do. I also realized this is my spirituality and unlike the religion of my youth, I didn't have to be forced or expected to do things a certain way.

I am very nature-based. I worship nature, the universe. I don't believe in an anthropomorphic god. I don't use tools or have an altar. Even my gemstones are from nature.

I feel connected and content in my spirituality.

Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Guidance

The stick I picked this week is, "Guidance."

I thought about what guidance means to me. How I give guidance to my students, how people in my life have offered me guidance. Guidance can come in many forms. Sometimes we need guidance making a decision, sometimes we need guidance with big life changes, sometimes we need guidance learning something new, and sometimes we need guidance navigating emotions.

This week I am going to focus on taking guidance from my peers, and guiding my students in the most loving way possible.

Sunday, March 18, 2018

On My Spirituality

I identify as a Pagan Unitarian Universalist. UU being my religious/spiritual community and Paganism being my personal spirituality and beliefs. So what do I, as a Pagan, believe/not believe? Well, let's break it down.


  • I believe in nature, the earth, and the power of the universe.
  • I believe there is a "force" (best word I can use to describe it), a feminine being that is an unconscious part of the universe. She is not directly involved in what happens, but we can tap into her with the choices we make. 
  • Bad stuff that happens (that's man-made or created) is a direct result of free will.
  • I do not believe in hell or the devil.
  • I do not believe in anthropomorphic, personified god.
  • I do believe Jesus was real, but I believe he was a great preacher, human. Not the son of God.
  • I believe in science, in the big bang, and in evolution; but I also believe there is a spirit intertwined in the universe. I just don't believe it's watching over us and deciding whether or not we get into Heaven.
  • I do believe something happens when we die, I just don't know what. I used to believe in reincarnation, but now I'm not sure. I think I still do, but part of me is scared to believe in that. I'm starting to believe more and more that we somehow become part of the vast universe. This is a subject that honestly scares me a bit. I have a lot of fear about death and getting older. I still learn towards reincarnation. Earth is reborn and renewed all the time, I bet stuff in the universe dies and comes back refreshed. So, why not us? I am just scared because I don't want to be reborn into a time when earth ends. Also, thinking about not being with people I love is scary.

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Ten Years.

Ten years. It's been ten years since that fateful weekend in 2008. Particularly, ten year since the Ides of March. The day the brunt of it all went down. Sometimes it's hard for me to see how much progress I've made in these past ten years, but I always come back to one of my life lessons, "compare me to me," and perhaps the best "me" comparison is to the one in 2008. So, let's take a trip back.

Ten years ago....


  • I had just started a job working in a call center for a dumpster company.
  • I was living in someone else's house.
  • I was in a relationship that I forced (even though I didn't realize it at the time).
  • I did not have a proper diagnosis. More importantly, I did not have BPD diagnosis.
  • I had friends, a community, and was part of the local RHPS cast. What I didn't have were the skills to prevent everything from spiraling out of control, losing almost everything, and all because of a breakup.


Now it's ten years later. Don't get me wrong, it hasn't been all uphill. As I've said, the road to progress isn't linear. My life was unstable for a long time, I endured abuses, got sucked in with the wrong types of people, had a major breakdown that matched the one from 10 years ago. But now, on this day, ten years later I can say...


  • I've had stable housing and a job for the past year and 8 months and year and 5 months.
  • I not only have a proper diagnosis but have researched and learned about it to the point I am extremely self-aware. I've learned skills, completed a DBT program; and although consistent therapy has been, well, inconsistent, I am at a place that is much different from ten years ago.
  • I've had outbursts, bad days, but this time around I react to them differently. I have the skills to process, reflect, fix and/or move on. That breakdown I mentioned? Unlike 10 years ago, I was able to recognize I needed to go and get myself help. Unfortunately, it ended in a traumatic experience (not by my fault).
  • I have a partner who supports, loves, and celebrates me. Someone who has seen me at my best and my worst; and I him. This July we are moving in together.
  • I have a career, one I am working to move up in. I am on my way to earning my second Masters
Don't get me wrong, I still struggle, but I now have the skills to react to those times in a way that isn't detrimental to my life.

Wednesday, March 14, 2018

NVLD vs GAD

I am learning new stuff about my NVLD vs anxiety.

  • Some of my memory issues are more than likely aligned with my anxiety (and low distress tolerance)
  • I apparently have stronger verbal abilities than I thought.
  • My biggest deficit is my visuospatial ability (common with NVLD).
  • "Visual" does not necessarily mean seeing something. The reason I have trouble remembering directions, instructions, lists is because I have to visualize and organize them. (•visual-spatial-organizational, lack of image, poor visual recall faulty spatial perceptions, and difficulties with spatial relations).
  • The reason I have trouble generalizing reading is because of our deficit with part-whole or big picture vs details.
  • My impairment of spatial organization of complex visual info indicative of NVLD, while my poor verbal memory is more my anxiety.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

On Love and Dates.

Something that was a struggle for my boyfriend and I was choosing an anniversary date. Our relationship was on and off for the first year and 7 months, and so was our status. We were boyfriend/girlfriend for about ten months, then when we kept getting back together we never made it official, but we were more than platonic friends or intimate friends.

We've been back together consistently since April of 2016. I struggle with being rigid, and so I had a hard time considering our anniversary to begin in the year. People wouldn't know we've actually dated longer, and that bothered me. But then it didn't seem right to start it in 2014, especially since it was on and off and I dated other people during that time (he didn't). That didn't really give an honest picture either. Both of us didn't want to erase our romantic past, and I struggled with being literal and rigid.

In the end, we decided to make it April 22, 2016. That was the day we got back together. While we acknowledge we dated on and off for a year and 7 months, we also realized that time carried a lot of pain and we needed to leave that behind us. I don't mind explaining that when people ask how long we've been together, "2 years, but we dated on and off for about a year and a half in the past." I also realized my mom went through the same thing. Her and her husband (then boyfriend) dated for about 5 years, broke up for several, then got back together before getting married.

Focus

I picked it a couple of days late, but this week's stick is "Focus."

I think there are different types of focus, some I'm good at and some not so much. One of the traits of NVLD is inattentiveness, so it's really easy for me to lose my focus when I am working on something. I will often jump from task to task or get distracted by youtube.

However, I am really focused on my goals, what I want, and how I am going to achieve it. I am good at focusing on organizing my plans and breaking down my goals.

This week I am going to try and focus on not jumping too far ahead, and getting overwhelmed by abstract stuff.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

I Like Abstract Art?

Having NVLD means I am bad with abstract thought and reasoning. I like things to be concrete (the S in my ISFJ). Sometimes I get into these thought spirals where I stress about future plans. I start thinking about all the unanswered questions, how things will work out. I'm not talking in some philosophical way. I mean, literally. When will I move? Will I make enough money to own a car and pay my credit card? How are the logistics of moving gonna work?

I start freaking out even though it's not for another 4 months. I have a compulsive need to know everything now, to not have things so abstract. My brain starts spinning, asking more questions, thinking of more scenarios.

So I took some CBD oil, did yoga, and deleted posts that weren't serving me (I'm trying to get better at venting on my blog).

I'm calmer now, but it's still a lot. Of course, I start getting anxious about being stressed. How it affects me. Will I die sooner? Worse, will it affect how I look? How my body looks?

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Things That Make Me Go..AAAAHHH

De-stress post. This is to get all my little pet peeves and annoyances out. I realize a lot of these are because of my NVLD and anxiety and thus cause me a need for control and to be rigid.


  • People who stop in the middle of a busy walkway/path/store/whatever.
  • When I am trying to understand something about myself on an intellectual level and people respond, "awww, all that matters is you're a good person. Don't worry about the label!" Or so BS. Like, fuck you, I want to understand.
  • People who wait until the last minute to settle the logistics/details of a plan.
  • When people assume my tone/intent online.
  • When people say they will get back to me at a certain time and don't. 
  • When I have a deadline, and I make it clear and people blow it off.

I've actually blanked, so I may come back to this.

Practice Makes Perfect

I have been trying to work on a few things that I usually have a hard time with because of my anxiety.


  • Confrontation. Not, hostile, but if someone upsets me or I'm worried about something they said (or think they are mad); I am trying to get better at asking them or talking to them directly about it.
  • Asking questions that I fear the person's reaction, or being let down by the response.
  • Being open, honest, and direct about my feelings, needs, and wants.

I've practiced it a few times this week, and so far so good.

Monday, March 5, 2018

This Strong Willed Woman Had an Angel's Heart

My boyfriend and I will be celebrating our 2 year anniversary in April. However, we've been dating for about 4 years. The reason we are celebrating a 2 year anniversary is that in the beginning, from 2014-2016, we were very on and off (I also dating other people during that time). Our relationship was hard in the beginning because he was in a very different place. Because of this, he ghosted me 3-4 times during that 2 or so year period. It was painful and caused me a lot of distrust. My boyfriend has a lot of shame, a lot of anxiety. Because of this he isolates, is scared of everything, and he'd rather lie and tell me he did something than tell me he didn't and risk upsetting me.

A lot of our relationship, in the beginning, was uncertainty. We were only officially boyfriend and girlfriend for about 10 months, and really it was because I kept begging. Yes, I admit I pushed him into it. Despite the isolation and ghosting, every time we got back together, it was romantic. We've never been platonic friends. Hell, we've never been friends who fuck. I knew that we were meant to be together, but he didn't and because of that I had to deal with a lot of painful waiting.

His opinion on us getting married someday remained consistent throughout or relationship. He just didn't see himself marrying me. When he first broke up with me he talked about this in his letter, telling me he couldn't see himself marrying a woman with my past. It was painful to read. Whenever we talked about the future of our relationship, he'd get upset. He couldn't see himself marrying me. I was putting myself in a relationship that had no future. Then, I chipped away at his layers (he tells me I've discovered layers about him even he didn't know were there), and learned that it wasn't so much me he couldn't see himself marrying, but he couldn't see himself marrying anyone. Not because he didn't want to, but because he felt he'd never be ready or okay enough. He had also been looking for this perfect woman. A Disney Princess if you will.

One thing my boyfriend is good at is telling you what you want to hear. Sometimes he believes what he says. Because of this we've had many heartbreaking moments. This past summer he waited until he was literally driving to pick me up to tell me he didn't want to go to New York. Mind you, this was maybe an hour after he said me a text saying he was on his way and looking forward to our trip. He called me having a complete breakdown. He doesn't do this because he's manipulative or a bad person. It's part of his "stuff." He'd also rather cut his arm off than hurt me.

When we got back together in April 2016, he still held onto the opinion that he couldn't see himself marrying me. Then the tides began to shift. He admitted he was in love with me. Something he had no for a while but was scared to admit to himself. He was the one who made the decision to be boyfriend/girlfriend again. Of course, it wasn't all picture perfection from that moment on. 

We've had many conversations about our relationship, and what I need from him. I've discussed how important it is that he always be honest with me. I've told him that I'd rather be upset about him missing an appointment than learn he's been lying for weeks. On the whole, he's improved a lot. He wants to, he's told me he wants to prove himself to me. It's still hard at times for me. He's a natural liar, and it's hard to tell when it's happening. Now, I want people to know when I say lying I don't mean about big stuff. He didn't cheat on me and lie about it. Nothing like that. I mean little things; not going to therapy, not paying a bill, lying about being excited about plans. Stuff that if he told the truth might upset me or make me disappointed in him. Obviously, the latter isn't true. What I'm disappointed in is when he feels he can't be honest with me. He has been honest, but part of me still has trouble believing certain things he says.

We've been talking about moving in together in July. As it gets closer, we've been having more serious conversations. Where are we going? What's our budget? How much do we need to save? We've talked about marriage. he tells me he fantasizes about marrying me, having a future with me. His mother says that if he's thinking about living with a girl it means he's thinking about marrying her. All of this makes me anxious. He used to say he couldn't see himself marrying me, now he can? I have a hard time seeing the gray. Recognizing that people change and change their minds. Even if I got past that, there's still the fact that he's really good at telling people what they want to hear. He's canceled on me last minute several times. The first time he broke up with me, he talked to me like everything was fine and even made plans for the following weekend. So then how do I know that he isn't going to do the same? Tell me in June he's not ready? On top of that, someone close to him said stuff to me that made me even worry more. It's them being overly worried, and I made rational conclusions about what she said, but of course, that anxiety seed was planted.

How do I trust him, then? Well, for one he has come a long way and changed a lot since we first met. His issues now aren't so much lying, but avoiding things. Two, not to brag, I've pushed him to do things no one else has. I helped him find his job, I helped him get back into therapy. Third, he hasn't lied to me about bigger stuff since New York. He's better about telling me up front if he doesn't want to do something. I am also better at helping him feel like he isn't obligated or that I'm not going to throw a hissy fit. Fourth, we've had a lot of conversations. I told him one of the ways he can build up trust his by communicating with me. Yesterday we discussed our plan for the upcoming months, I talked about how he needs to be sure because if he changes his mind last minute he's screwing me over. We talked about how it's okay for him to have doubts and feel scared. He told me he is scared because he wants everything to work out, and for us to be together.

One of the perks of loving someone is you get to know the deepest parts of them. While he is good at lying, I've gotten good at both knowing when he is and pulling the truth out of him. Still, I struggle. I struggle to believe he really wants to marry me someday, that we are actually going to move in together. I recognize, though, that a lot of this is my own anxiety. My nack for worst case scenario and catastrophizing. I realize I'm also generalizing, but at the same time, I feel it makes sense that I am. On top of all that, people around him have doubts; and even though they haven't talked about it as deeply as we have, the paranoia is still there.

I believe him. I know he's in love with me, and I believe I'm the one he wants to be with. The change is both big and subtle. I know he's not just telling me these things. It's hard to explain why. But the way he talks about me, dotes on me, adores me. The stuff I've done for him.Things have shifted. I just have to get better at trusting.

Wisdom

The stick I picked for this week is, "Wisdom." Whenever I think of wisdom I think of an old man, white beard, calm and serene. People in his family, town, and community come to him for sage advice. When I was younger, I probably thought wisdom or being wise meant being smart.

Now I see wisdom as a deeper type of intelligence. An intelligence you can't learn from a book or from other people. Sure, you can be influenced by other wise people, but the wisdom lies in you. You're the one who has to tap into it. To me wisdom is finding the deeper meaning in life's decisions. Having the wisdom to walk away from a toxic relationship. It's one thing to say, "this person is bad for me," and another to reflect on why, how it affects you, or how it plays a role in the broader aspect of your life.

I believe I have wisdom, but I also believe I don't always use it. The dictionary defines wisdom as, "the quality of having experience, knowledge, and good judgment; the quality of being wise." Experience is such a vague term. People have experience in various things. Also, how much experience? I have experience in teaching, but I don't know if I have wisdom. Maybe I do.

My goal for this week is to make wise choices, really think about my decisions and why I'm making them. If I make an unexpected choice, I will reflect on why.

Wednesday, February 28, 2018

March Forward

Most people who have known me for at least 10 years (jeez, has it been that long) know that March is my least favorite month of the year, and March 15th my least favorite day. Obviously "bad" stuff happens throughout the year, but there are certain things that stick out in March. The focus being my first suicide attempt (2004), and my first major psychological breakdown (2008). It would be the latter that would affect me emotionally, mentally, physically, financially, and socially in the months after. I won't tell the story again, but in March of 2008 my then boyfriend broke up with me. I was not yet diagnosed with BPD, and if you know anything about BPD (if you don't look back in this blog, or google), then you know it was not something I handled well. I still struggle when I lose someone today, and I've had years of therapy and a chance to build skills. Image me not having any skills or even knowing what was going on. So how bad was it? I quit my job, I screamed and begged, I threatened to kill myself, I have panic attack after panic attack, I obsessively called him and showed up at his house. I'm not proud of all this, but I've never hidden it.

In the months that would follow I'd lose friends, get kicked out of my apartment, and have night after night of night terrors; waking up in a panic. I didn't know I had one of the most severe mental illnesses in the DSM, I didn't know what I was dealing with, and I didn't know how to handle it. More than likely I disassociated (more than once). That experience is scary enough when you know about it in detail, imagine having never have heard of it. It would be about a year and a half before my ex even uttered a word to me. I spent most of that time obsessively wondering when he'd contact me.

For years I viewed March in a negative light. I dreaded it.  Over the past couple of years, however, I've tried to view it in a different way. It's still my least favorite month, and that weekend in 2008 is still one of the worst experiences of my life, but it was also the beginning of my journey to better mental health. At the time I was no stranger to therapy, I had been going on and off since I was 14. However, I was being treated for all the wrong things. Bipolar II, ADHD, a kid having a tough time. The thing about Borderlines is we need specific therapy, we need to learn specific skills. It was my friend, Tiffany, who first pointed out what I might be dealing with, and it was not long after that I started Dialectical Behavioral Therapy (DBT). The therapy designed by someone with BPD specifically for people with BPD. Of course life happens, and it would take me until 2016 to successfully complete a DBT program, but sometimes things don't come easy, and though I'd experience heartbreak, depression, anxiety, breakdowns, abuse, and hard times over the years; each month, each year that passed I would gain more skills, more practice, and more awareness.

I try to have a positive outlook when March comes around. I always say, "compare me to me," and if I compare the me now to the me in 2008, I see two different people. I have a more stable life now; a great job, nice living space & roommates, I've rekindled friendships that were lost during that time, and if my ex never broke up with me I would not have met Daniel; whom I am so in love with. Have I been an angel since then? You've read my past blogs, of course not. The difference now? I'm aware of the why, I have an immense inner perspective, and I have the skills to (most of the time) react to it in a non-harmful way.

I can't control how my thoughts react to March, but I can control how I react to my thoughts. March is a major self-care month for me. For at least one month; I stay out of debates, spend a little less time online, read more, focus more on my prana, focus more on how my body feels, &and love myself just a little extra. I can't change the past, but I can change how I react to the past. 

Ready? Set. March.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Criterion #6 & #8

One of the hardest aspects of BPD for me to control is inappropriate anger and anger outbursts. While I've come a long way, it's still something that I struggle with. On the plus side, I have been able to recognize my triggers.

For one, most of my anger outbursts happen online; someone doesn't understand what I'm trying to say, someone misinterprets what I'm saying for being mean, calling me or insinuating that I'm stupid, telling me or insinuating that I haven't made progress. Here's the caveat though, my reactions depend on my mood. If I'm in a good mood, then I won't react with anger. However, if I'm irritable, frustrated, or tired (just woken up) then I am more likely to snap or lash out.

The irritability can trigger my anger in "real life" aspects. I've snapped and lashed out at people getting my food order wrong, I've yelled at customer service reps over the phone, or I've yelled at random people in my way or who irritate me. Again, my reactions are mainly based on my level of irritability. Unfortunately, all three of my disorders cause me some form of irritability. I have, however, worked on this. I do yoga, color, I will pre-write what I want to say before calling customer service. These strategies are helpful if I'm in a place I can do them, or I have time to think about an upcoming event or interaction that might upset me. However, what I continue to have trouble with is spontaneous triggers, when I'm not fully cognitively aware, or if multiple things happen to me during the day and I'm far from my baseline (for people with BPD, it takes us longer to get back to baseline. So if a trigger happens, and then a second one happens before we're back at baseline, it can elevate us even more).

Sometimes, when it gets really bad, I will disassociate. While in this state, I'm aware of my actions, but I can't control them. It's like I'm standing outside of myself, telling myself to stop, but I won't listen. Unfortunately, I haven't quite learned how to deal with disassociating.

It's hard for me to open up about this because I feel a lot of shame surrounding my anger and behaviors. I am also affected in other ways; migraines, panic, night terrors. I am not trying to get sympathy by saying, "poor me," but trust me when I say no one punishes me more than myself. Both consciously and unconsciously.

Monday, February 26, 2018

Growth

The stick this week I picked is, "growth." What does growth mean to me? One of my yearly affirmations at one point was, "compare me to me." Meaning, compare present me to past me. How much have I changed? How much have I grown? A couple of years ago, I decided to go through all of my diaries I had been keeping since I was 11 or so. A lot of it was painful to read, especially the teenage years. But one thing I noticed was that it was like I was reading the diaries of someone else.

Yesterday, I had a rough day. I was lashing out at people, having anger outbursts, and generally being a shitty person (that's not to say I am a shitty person, just what I was doing was shitty). When I act like that, I get down on myself. I wonder if I really have grown and changed. A lot of people tell me I have, but I tend to hide outbursts like that. Mostly because I'm ashamed of myself. But if I'm comparing me to me, then I think I have grown. For one, my outbursts, 95% of the time seem to be isolated to online interactions. I can't say that for past me. Another change I notice is how I react to these situations. Before I would think I'd done nothing wrong, now I know I have and when I can, I try to fix it. For example, I plan on reaching out and apologizing to one of the people I lashed out at yesterday. Unfortunately, that's not always possible, and the best I can do is forgive myself.

I've also grown in other ways. I am clear on my career path now and have been at the same job consistently for a year and 4 months (or almost 2 school years). I used to move around a lot, only staying in one place for months at a time. Now I've been in the same place for a year and 8 months. Finally, before Daniel, my longest relationship was about 6 months. He and I are celebrating our 2 year anniversary in April.

So, yeah, I do still struggle and have my moments. But it's a lot less, and the big difference is how I react to it. I want to start being more honest about my outbursts. The thing is, BPD is extremely hard to deal with, and while it's not an excuse, a lot of my behaviors are part of my disorder.

As far as growth this week, I would like to see growth in my lesson planning. I am able to create lessons for my RTI and math groups, and I'm excited to actually plan something out, and use the information I've been learning in my methods and materials class.

Sunday, February 25, 2018

NVLD


In December of 2016, I was diagnosed with a non-verbal learning disability (NVLD). When I read about the symptoms, a lot of my behaviors started to make a lot of sense. NVLD presents a lot like Asperger's (in fact when I first did my testing, it was to see if I was on the spectrum). However, they are not the same disorder. According to Understood.org, "there’s a lot of overlap between Asperger’s syndrome and NVLD. Many experts consider them to be separate conditions that look a lot alike. Studies indicate that most children who meet the criteria for Asperger’s also meet the criteria for NVLD. But the opposite of that doesn’t appear to be true. Many children with NVLD don’t meet the criteria for Asperger’s." So, how does NVLD manifest for me? Let's take a look...

Social
  • Anxious in social situations. 
  • A tendency to “over-share” private information, or continue talking even when social cues indicate the conversation is unwanted. 
  • Difficulty understanding the rules of games. 
  • Concrete thinking; taking things very literally. Has trouble telling when someone is joking, when someone is mad or just in a bad mood. 
  • Trouble with nonverbal communication, like body language, facial expression, and tone of voice. 
  • Difficulty comprehending unsaid information or drawing reasonable conclusions without being told directly. 
  • Fear of new situations. 
  • Asks too many questions; disrupts the flow of conversation or interrupts frequently.
Daily Living
  • Has difficulty coping with changes in routine. 
  • Pronounced difficulty in adapting to new or complex situations. 
  • May be very na├»ve and lack common sense. 
  • Anxiety, depression, low self-esteem. 
  • May develop an inflexible routine for waking up, going to the store, or other common tasks, becoming upset if the routine is interrupted. 
  • Trouble dealing with change or unexpected setbacks, like a traffic jam. 
  • Sensual sensitivity (for me it's sensitivity to loud sounds and certain food textures). 
  • Gets lost easily. 
  • Trouble telling left from right. 
  • Taken from an NVLD blog, "I have excellent working memory and long-term memory. I can remember what I wore on the first day of kindergarten, things that were said years ago, and lines from books, movies, and songs. But because of NVLD, I often have trouble planning out events, gatherings or appointments in my head. That includes planning how to get to unfamiliar places. I tend to get lost frequently, even when I’m using my smartphone to guide me. I’ve realized I can organize and execute a plan if I write things down, whether it’s on my digital or paper calendar. Writing things down helps me see what I need to do spelled out in words, which is one of my strengths. And it’s part of why I always manage to get where I’m going, and remember meetings and appointments." 
  • Easily irritable. 
Learning & Academics
  • Attention to detail, but misses the big picture. 
  • Trouble understanding reading. 
  • Difficulty with math, especially word problems. 
  • Poor abstract reasoning. 
  • Messy and laborious handwriting. 
  • Trouble following multi-step directions. 
  • When writing, trouble organizing thoughts or getting to the point. 
  • Visual-spatial planning difficulties. 
  • Trouble reading maps. 
  • Many people with NLD are very good at rote learning, and they are able to do well in math just by memorizing data. But as they get older they struggle to solve more advanced mathematical problems that are based on recognizing concepts and patterns. 
  • Poor abstract reasoning. 
  • Confuses abstract concepts yet can recall sequences. 
As you can imagine, there are traits of my other two disorders (BPD and GAD that overlap with NVLD, or amplify some of the NVLD traits). Such as;

GAD
  • Difficulty handling uncertainty. 
  • The anxiety, worry or physical symptoms cause clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational or other important areas of functioning. 
  • Overthinking plans and solutions to all possible worst-case outcomes. 
  • Inability to relax, feeling restless, and feeling keyed up or on edge. 
BPD
  • Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger (e.g., frequent displays of temper, constant anger, recurrent physical fights). 
  • Black and white thinking. 
  • Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self. 
  • Affective instability due to a marked reactivity of mood (e.g., intense episodic dysphoria, irritability, or anxiety usually lasting a few hours and only rarely more than a few days). 
As you can imagine, dealing with all of this is hard. And if you don't deal with it yourself, it may be difficult to understand why I act the way I do sometimes. It's also difficult to understand how it effects me. For example;
  • My anxiety, panic, paranoia can lead to days of depression. 
  • I still struggle with anger outbursts. Especially online. 
  • I feel ashamed of myself often. 
  • I struggle sometimes with expressing my thoughts in writing and can become easily irritated if people misunderstand me, or taking something I say the wrong way.
I hope this has helped some people understand me a little bit better.

Saturday, February 24, 2018

Inconsistency

Since I moved back to Boston in 2015, I've had a very inconsistent relationship with behavioral health. When I first moved back, I decided to join Cambridge Health Alliance. They were the network I was with before I moved out of MA in 2012. I joined a DBT group, but I ended up getting kicked out for slamming a door. I never connected with a therapist for very long because all of their people are fellows and thus short term. The only consistent was my psychiatrist. Unfortunately, she left after a year. For a while, I was between Arbour counseling and CHA. I switched to Arbour to find a new psychiatrist (since mine at CHA left) and continued to wait for a therapist at CHA. Eventually, I ended up switching to a therapist at Arbour. Unfortunately, I realized after a couple of months that it was not a good fit.

I admit the timeline of everything is a bit foggy to me, but I know I saw a psychiatrist for a little bit at Arbour, and stopped because at the time I felt meds weren't right for me. At some point, I started seeing a therapist at a private practice and really liked her, but she ended up moving to D.C. From then on I struggled to stay consistent with a therapist; either because of scheduling reasons (going back to school limited my time even more) or because they were short term. At one point I stopped trying to see a therapist for financial reasons. I was in a DBT program and seeing a psych and each appointment was $15. I felt that the DBT was providing me what I needed at the time. I finished the DBT program in summer of 2017 (I had also previously done a partial program), and had trouble finding a therapist (this was at Arbour). I started to see someone but had to stop cause I went back to work and started school. I saw a psychiatrist a few times, but she left.

Eventually, I decided to switch everything over to Fenway. I had heard good things about their behavioral health system. I got an intake appointment this past November, and told them at this point I was more interested in a group setting than an individual. It would be a 3-month wait before anything happened. On February first I started a CBT group but quickly had to stop because I missed two weeks in a row due to having the flu. Now I have to wait until May for the next one. May is also the soonest they can get me in for a psych appointment. One of the reasons I didn't want to do individual therapy at Fenway, was because I really needed something skills based. Plus I simply couldn't afford therapy and group every week.

The problem now is, I am moving in July. Chances are they won't be able to get me an individual therapist until April/May if that. From what I hear, they are not taking new patients because they have a doctor shortage. Either way, that means I'd only be with a therapist/psychiatrist for a couple of months before I had to leave.

I don't really blame myself. I had to make choices based on scheduling and finances. It's just frustrating.

Friday, February 23, 2018

Sticks, Sticks. Which Shall I Pick?

For my birthday, my boyfriend's mother got me a bag of what I call, "inspiration sticks." Popsicle sticks with labels that have various words on them. Since the beginning of the year, I have been picking a stick at the beginning of the week and writing about what it means to me. It is also my focus for the week (I'll carry it with me or bring it to work and leave it on my desk). Originally I was writing in a journal, but I've realized that I am more motivated to blog. So, here are the sticks I have picked thus far, and what each means to me.

Intuition: I used to think I had really good intuition, but I've realized that's not true. I tend to worry and become paranoid. I also have trouble reading people's tone, meaning, etc. It's part of my NVLD. However, I have really good intuition when it comes to my boyfriend. So, I guess that's a plus.

Stability: For the first time in a long time, I feel like I have stability. I've been at the same job, with the same partner, and living in the same place for nearly two years. I know that doesn't seem like a lot, but it's huge for me.

Love: Probably the most important thing to me. I often say I am a Star Sapphire (I have a tattoo) because they wield the emotion of love. The hardest thing about love is loving myself when it's difficult.

Vitality: Yoga has helped me tremendously with vitality. Both physically and mentally.

Spontaneity: This is not one of my strong suites. I like things planned, I like them to go a specific way. Even when I do something last minute, I have a certain way of going about it. I have a hard time being whimsical and just seeing where things take me. Once in a while, if I have nothing to do, and I'm bored, I might go out and wonder. But, if I am making plans with someone, I like to know what we'll be doing. I've gotten a little bit better since my boyfriend is the opposite and just goes with the flow.

Confidence: This is still hard for me. However, I've become a lot more confident in myself than in the past. Unfortunately, I still question myself and my abilities. I'm afraid of doing something wrong. I am continuing to work on this and trusting in myself.

Potential: I must have thought I had potential to succeed as an educator, or else I would not have gone back to school. I think sometimes I underestimate my potential, which ties into my confidence issues.

(By the way the title of this post is a play on one of the rhymes we use in the classroom).

Thursday, February 22, 2018

Murder Stick FAQs

I thought I would put together some gun/gun law FAQs. You're welcome to research this info further if you like. Every Town is an excellent resource. Of course, if I got anything wrong, please let me know. Some of this is my own opinion (you'll know those parts). The main opinion I have is that the only people who should own guns are military and people who showcase historical pieces in museums. However, since I know that won't ever happen, I'll settle for something better than our current situation. Okay, onto the FAQ.

Q-Isn't there already an assault weapons ban?

A-Yes, at one point. The Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act was passed in 1994. However, that ban expired in 2004 and has not been reinstated.

Q-What's the deal with background checks?

A-Currently background checks are required on a federal level when purchasing a gun through a licensed dealer. Keyword being licensed, more on the later. This Gun Law Navigator is a helpful resource if you want to explore more federal gun laws.

Q-What about state laws?

A-Each state has their own set of gun laws which can either mirror federal laws or close federal loopholes. For example, NH and VT do not require background checks for all handgun purchases. Technically, if there is a conflict between state and federal law, federal law will prevail (supremacy clause). However, as we know this isn't always carried out. For example, federally marijuana is still illegal, but nothing has been done about that where state laws make it legal (for the record I'm 100% in support of federally legalized marijuana).

Q-Can domestic abusers buy guns?

A-Federally, no. Though those laws are limited mostly to married and cohabitating partners, with some exceptions. However, domestic abusers can find loopholes through state laws. For example, several states have the "boyfriend loophole." Meaning, unless an abuser is cohabitating or married to their victim, they can buy a gun. In some case, states do not submit all required info to the FBI when doing a background check. Using NH and VT as examples, neither states require domestic abusers to surrender their guns.

Q-How about mentally ill people?

A-Currently under federal law, a mentally ill person is barred from purchasing a firearm under two conditions; 1. They are involuntarily committed to a mental hospital and 2. If a court or government body declares them mentally incompetent. Here is the important part. Federal law does not require mental health records to be part of the background check system, and many states will not voluntarily submit them. In addition, here is more info regarding Trump's rescinding an Obama era law involving background checks and the mentally ill. Spoiler-it's mostly true.

Q-What's the "gun show loophole"?

A-Much like online sales,  private sellers are not required to perform background checks on buyers. They are also not required to record the sale or ask for ID. The loophole in the federal law states, "any person may sell a firearm to an unlicensed resident of the state where they reside, as long as they do not know or have reasonable cause to believe the person is prohibited from receiving or possessing firearms."

Q-Well, I heard that Chicago has the strictest gun laws in the state and the most gun deaths.

A-The notion that Chicago has the strictest gun laws is an outright lie, yet pro-gun people love to spread that myth. New York has stricter gun laws than Chicago, and it's gun deaths are at historic lows. The important thing about Chicago is that there are no gun stores and no loopholes for private dealers, therefore guns being used to kill people are coming from neighboring states, which surprise surprise; have very lax gun laws. More info here.

Q-Clearly it's a mental illness issue. Right?

A-According to the APA, "Mass shootings by people with serious mental illness represent less than 1% of all yearly gun-related homicides. In contrast, deaths by suicide using firearms account for the majority of yearly gun-related deaths." and "The overall contribution of people with serious mental illness to violent crimes is only about 3%. When these crimes are examined in detail, an even smaller percentage of them are found to involve firearms." Mentally ill people are much more likely to be the victims of violence than the cause. Furthermore, "mentally ill" is a very large and broad spectrum. When people speak of mental illness being the reason for these mass shootings, it feels like they are lumping everyone who deals with mental illness into one, "crazy person" stereotype. Finally, mental illness exists worldwide, yet we are the only country where mass shooting happen on a (sadly) now regular basis.

Q-Is it true about the UK not having any mass shootings?

A-Yep, read about it here. However, I have not researched whether what works in places like the UK and Australia would work in America.

Q-Are people trying to take away my constitutional rights?

A-No, but you also need to take into context when the constitution was written and how times have changed. The second amendment states, "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." This was written during a time when we didn't have assault rifles. It was written during a time where soldiers used bayonets that would miss half the time. Do you know why they always lined up so close together? To have more of a chance to hit their target. I know you think you're John Wayne and you need to own guns to overthrow the government, but should that day come, your AR-15 won't stand a damn chance against military tanks. As much as I want all guns to be melted down and turned into a statue of Malala, I know it's not going to happen. If you are truly the responsible gun owner you claim to be, then stricter gun laws shouldn't matter to you. It's a bit concerning that you, Mr. gun fetishist, really need to go to a gun show and buy a gun in 5 minutes rather than waiting. 

Q-Well, these school shootings wouldn't happen if we armed teachers, put guards at schools, and installed metal detectors. 

A-This sentiment makes me so angry. The government can't seem to find the funds for pencils, but they suddenly have money to put guns and metal detectors in schools? They pay teachers shit, but they can afford to pay armed guards? In addition, I work with inner city, low-income students who are mostly youth of color. You know, the kids who are going to grow up being told not to do something dangerous like wear a hoody or smile at a cop. And you want these 5-10-year-olds to walk through metal detectors and sit in classrooms where there are guns? You are a special kind of stupid. Finally, let's say we do arm and train teachers. So now they have to carry a gun on them while teaching? I know you think this is the wild west, but that's not how this works, that's not how any of this works. There is no guarantee that reaction time would be quick enough, that they wouldn't accidentally shoot a child or co-workers. I just can't with this absolute asinine opinion.

Q-If they don't use guns, they will just find another way.

A-No one is killing dozens of people in a matter of seconds with a knife. What about cars? Cars have a purpose. A guns purpose is to kill. Guns don't kill people! People kill people! Fishing rods don't catch fish, the fisherman does! Yeah, well it's a hell of a lot harder to catch a fish without the tool. How about homemade bombs? Let's tackle one thing at a time, okay?

Q-So what's the cause of mass shootings?

A-In my opinion it's a few things. It's toxic masculinity, it's state and private seller loopholes, and it's lack of mental health and crisis services. Not because people who are mentally ill are the cause of all these shootings, but because people are bullied and pushed to the point where they feel they have no other choice. A person does not have to be mentally ill, to benefit from mental health services. 

Q-So what's the solution?

A-Sadly, this isn't easy. In my opinion, I'd like to see the following;


  1. An end to the private seller and gun show loophole. 
  2. Stronger counseling and mental health services in schools.
  3. All state laws to coincide with federal laws.
  4. States required to submit mental health records to background checks.
  5. A ban on AR-15s. Honestly, no one needs this gun. If you like target practice, there are other guns for that. Using this gun during hunting would destroy most of the meat. Feel you need protection in the home? Well having a gun increases the likelihood of a gun-related injury or death, but if you must, I'm sure a handgun will do just fine. Honestly, you can give up one type of gun if it means saving lives.
  6. Anyone found guilty of domestic violence is prohibited from buying guns, no matter what. Also, make all abusers turn their guns in.
Is this something that will happen over night? No. Is it easy? No. Will it completely stop gun violence? Probably not. But you know what really doesn't stop it? Doing nothing. Stop doing nothing. Stop thinking the anwser to gun violence is more guns. Stop using mentally ill people as scape goats.

#Neveragain

It's Not Me, It's You

Yesterday I spoke to someone from the Department of Education in NH. They told me that I could possibly use my SAT scores in place of some of the Praxis. I got excited and called my High School. It was surprisingly easy to get a copy of both my transcript and scores (the scores are in the transcript). However, my excitement quickly turned to discouragement as I thought, "wow, was I stupid back then."

I have NVLD. One of the ways this affects me is in math;

  • Poor arithmetic skills.
  • Very poor math skills
  • Difficulty with math, especially word problems.
  • Deficits in the areas of nonverbal problem solving, concept formation, hypothesis testing.
  • Many people with NVLD are very good at rote learning, and they are able to do well in math just by memorizing data. But as they get older they struggle to solve more advanced mathematical problems that are based on recognizing concepts and patterns.
  • Visual-spatial planning difficulties.
  • Poor abstract reasoning.

Okay, keep that in your head, as I give you the next bit of information. Here are my final math grades throughout all four years of High School.

*anything in bold from now on reflects the core subjects.
  • Algebra I-D+
  • Algebra II-D (first and second quarter I got failing grades)
  • Geometry-C
  • MCAS Math-U
Now let's move on to something more positive. Here are the classes I ended up with a B- or above (not including classes where I could get satisfactory or unsatisfactory);
  • Computer Lit I-B+
  • Fundamentals of Language Lit-B-
  • P.E.-A
  • American Lit-B-
  • Art Workshop-B
  • Biology-B-
  • Chemistry-B
  • English 11-A
  • Health 11-B-
  • Human Relations-A-
  • Math Sat-B-
  • Video Production 11-A
  • English 12-B
  • Exp. Childhood-B+
  • Health 12-B
  • Pottery-B+
  • Psychology-B+
  • Sculpture-B
  • Video Production 12-A
Now let's look at classes I got a C+ or below.
  • Civics/World History-C+
  • General Science-C
  • Italian 2-C+
  • Italian 3-D-
  • P.E. 10-C+
  • World History-C-
  • U.S. History-C+
  • Law-C
  • MCAS Science-C
So, looking at core subjects (Math, English, History, and Science). Here's how I did overall;
  • 7/16-I got a B- or above. That's 43%.
  • In math, I got a B- or above in 1/5 classes.
  • In my other classes, which could be categorized as electives or "specials" (as my school calls them), I got a B- or above in 12/16 classes.
I felt really discouraged, but even more so when I looked at my SAT scores;
  • 440 Verbal
  • 380 Math
I felt like, wow! Apparently, I was really stupid in High School. Then I started thinking about things. Here's my take-a-away from all of this;
  • Most of the classes I did well in were hands on. I learn really well kinetically, so this makes sense.
  • I was not diagnosed with a learning disability and aside from having support from a liaison, I was not in SpEd classes (though I'm pretty sure I was in middle school).
  • The classes I did the worst in were mostly math, which makes sense for me. People with NVLD, as described above, struggle a lot in math.
  • Because I have trouble piecing things together, trouble with word problems, etc, I don't do well with standardized tests. I also took the SAT with no accommodation.
Today, I have accommodations in school; I have a proper diagnosis, and guess what? I am getting nearly straight A's. I even got a B+ in geometry which is one of the most difficult things for people with NVLD. So, I wasn't stupid. I just didn't get the proper support and diagnosis I needed to succeed. I was an average student when it comes down to it. I graduated 119 out of 240. 49%...average. Yeah, I did shitty on the SAT, but fuck standardized tests. Oh, and on top of everything I was being bullied.

So, it wasn't me. It was the school system.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

It's been a while.

It's been about a year since I blogged. I'm not sure exactly why I stopped, but I've been wanting to get back into it. Even if no one reads, it helps me to have a creative outlet for my writing. Also, it saves me from having to write several facebook posts or lengthy status updates (do people even use that term anymore?)

I'm currently feeling both anxious and excited about the future. Daniel and I have plans to move in togehter in July. We are looking at the Franklin County area of MA (think northern western MA, near eastern VT and south-west NH). We are also considering Brattleboro VT. I'm excited, because frankly it sucks living two hours away from my partner. I'm anxious because I've never lived with a partner before, and so this is a big step. I'm also anxious because July seems so far away.

I also have some big plans for the future of my career that are both exciting and a bit scary. Currently I am going through my Master of Education program at BU (Teaching and Curriculum-Special Education track). My plan is to become certified in NH through their Alternative 4 (critical shortage list) program. Here's how it works;

  • Pre-requisite: 2 courses in special education, passing score on Praxis.
  • Fill out a statement of eligability (SOE) that would allow me to be hired in a NH school district as a Special Education teacher.
  • Get assigned a mentor.
  • Fill out a beginning of plan. There are a list of competencies I would need to fulfill and the beginning of plan would establish  which ones I've fulfilled (most likely with course work).
  • I then have 3 years to fulfill the rest of the competencies (and I can get a year extention if needed).
I like this plan for a few reasons;
  1. I like the idea of being hired as a SpEd teacher, but knowing I will probably have support and help when dealing with aspects of the job that allign with competencies I have not yet fulfilled. For example, if I haven't learned to write an IEP yet, more than likely someone at the school would help me or at the very least look over what I've written.
  2. Taking the Praxis is going to (from what I've been told) be easier than taking the MTEL. It's also one test (with different core tests) vs 4-5 seperate tests. Which means, less money.
  3. It just seems like a less complicated path to teacher certification. Less red tape and bureaucracy than MA.
So my plan/goal is as follows.
  • Finish this school year (June 2018)
  • Work one more year as a para (Sept 2018-June 2019)
  • Finish degree program (December 2018)
  • Take Praxis (sometime before summer 2019)
  • Apply for SOE for alternative 4 (summer 2019)
  • Hopefully get hired as a SpEd teacher for 2019/2020 school year
I am super excited about all of this, but also very anxious and nervous. I tend to be very rigid with my planning and, well, "best laid plans...." I naturally worry about all the, "what ifs..." I also have a hard time when I can't control my external world (it's imporant to me since I feel not in control internally a lot). I also have a lot of anxiety about getting older and being a "late bloomer." I'm excited about moving forward, but anxious that I'll be 37-38. I'm also, understandably, anxious about starting at a new job. Having to learn to navigate a new school, get to know new co-workers. I love where I work, my supervisors know me well, and I can be open about my issues. I also have a great relationship with the teachers I work with.

I've been managing my anxiety and BPD pretty well. I've had a spattering of anger outbursts, panic attacks, but I think I've been able to handle and come out of them quicker and more effectively. I'm however, frustrated because I really haven't had consistent therapy since I moved back to the Boston area in 2015. I had a psychiatrist for about a year, did a partial program, and completed a DBT program. However, I haven't had a therapist for more than a few months at a time. Either because of scheduling, the therapist leaving, or on one occasion I didn't think it was a good fit. I recently did an intake with Fenway in Novemeber, had to wait until February to start a CBT group, only to miss 2 in a row (I had the flu), and be told I had to wait until May. I called to get a psych appointment (my PCP is currently prescribing my meds), and I have to wait until May. Great, I'm moving in July. I plan on calling about individual therapy, but more than likely it will be a months long wait. I really don't want to look outside of Fenway. My whole reason for switching over is so all my providers were in one space.

I have also been anxious regarding my finances. This also ties in with my sometimes inability to be flexible and realize that sometimes things won't go perfectly as planned. This is especially difficult becuase I don't have the kind of salary where I can save and have money for large, unexpected expenses. It's one or the other. So I spend a lot of time hoping nothing goes wrong, and when it does I get discouraged.

Anyway, I've been doing a lot of yoga, writing, and I recently started a Queer coloring group. My UU community has also helped me tremendously. 

I think that's a pretty good update for my first blog in a year. Hopefully I can keep up with this.