Friday, December 28, 2018

It's Been a Hell of a Year

Well, you guys, it really has. It's been a hell of a year, and it's almost over. It's been quite some time since I've updated, mostly because I felt like the biggest thing I needed to update on was the heaviest and hardest thing to talk about and that I couldn't talk about the stuff that happened after until I addressed it. However, with the year coming to a close, now it feels like it's time.

. . .

Back in December 2017, I was home for "Christmas" (aka, I visited in the beginning of the month because holiday flights are outrageously priced), and that trip started out pretty rough. If any of you know me well or pay attention to my posts on Instagram (and previously Facebook), you'd know that I cherish my great grandmother (Babcia) like no other. It's a really special thing to have someone that ties your family together in such a way, and I've always held on to that and made sure that I never took it for granted. Every person she ever met fell in love with her. If you were having a baby, or a wedding, or a birthday, even if she didn't know you directly, you probably have some of her crocheted items. She just loved to make things for people, because she simply loved people. It was hard not to love this woman, and I was no exception.

She'd been on hospice for about six months at that point, and it was clear that she was reaching the end of her life. But not being there every day to see her slow decline, for me the decline was exponential, and when I saw her in her very frail, assistance-required state, I was in complete shock. I had a little bit of a true mental breakdown that day, and I spent that trip cherishing the little moments with her and making sure that she knew that I loved her so, so damn much, because I didn't know if I would ever see her again, because anything can happen on any timeline.

From the moment I made the decision to move out of Michigan, I did so with the knowledge that I would be spending Babcia's last years apart from her. Thinking about it, I barely got any time with her as an adult, and there are dozens of questions I wish I could have asked her during that time. But still, I called as often as I could just to say hi, and I always booked extra days on my trips so that I could see her as much as possible. Like clockwork, I was back in Michigan every six months. I never wanted to have to say that I couldn't remember the last thing she said to me or how she looked just before she died. I left Michigan in December knowing that the end was soon, ready or not, and I had to go home anyway. That was the hardest plane ride I've ever taken, because every piece of me wanted to stay with her and soak up every moment.

When Patrick and I first began our relationship, I knew eventually I would move out to be with him, and he knew from the very beginning how important Babcia was to me. He swore to me that no matter what happened, he would get me to her in time for me to say goodbye, at any and all costs, no matter how long I had to stay away from him. When I got the call in early January, he kept his promise, and I flew out the next morning to be with her and with my family.

I got about one and a half lucid days with her, and I spent the rest of the time by her side with my family, until she took her last breath four days later.

If I'm honest, I still haven't fully grieved her loss. It's so easy to forget that it never happened, because she wasn't a part of my daily life for the past 4-5 years. It's hard in the moments when my hand brushes one of the afghans she made for me, or when I see the little antique mental calendar she gave me, which I keep set meticulously to her birthdate. It would be especially hard when I call my grandmother to chat, and I'd keep waiting for her to ask if I want to talk to Babcia. She'd never ask, and eventually I'd realize why.

When I was little, that woman swore to me that she would live to see my wedding day. I ended up eloping, which didn't bother her one bit as long as it made me happy, and she held on well past her promise; she held on until I could kiss her goodbye and be with her when she left, and that's truly the greatest gift she ever could have given me. She made sure that I wouldn't have any regrets.

I stayed to take care of whatever needed to be taken care of: babysitting, errands, funeral arrangements, phone calls, school pickups... whatever my family needed, because I knew that I really wouldn't feel like I could grieve until I got home and felt comfortable in my own space, and therefore I could handle things with fewer emotional breakdowns. I held hands, I picked poems, I put together photo boards, I set up spreads, I gave gifts, I stitched up last minute clothing mishaps... and then I watched the most important woman in my life be set into the ground. I sorted, organized, and cleaned her room/belongings, gave everyone all my love, and then I went home to let things sink in. It realyl hit me one day when I was in Joann Fabrics, and on an end cap I saw the exact yarn she'd been working with in December just before I left, and I had a breakdown in the store. In my darkest moments, when I miss her the most, I watch the video that my cousin sent me a few months before Babcia passed. In the video, she tells me she misses me and that she's proud of me and that she loves me and Patrick. It's my most prized possession, along with the necklace that Babcia was wearing just an hour before she died. It's been 347 days, and I haven't taken it off since my grandmother handed it to me, still warm from Babcia's skin.

My memorial tattoo for Babcia 

Four generations of strong, beautiful women. 
(Kelly Karnesky Photography)

When I got home, I crocheted. It was therapeutic for me, being that Babcia taught me to crochet herself. I vowed to try to crochet one afghan for every month until 2019 (12 afghans). I made it to five before life became a whirlwind and we didn't stop doing until... well... we still haven't stopped doing stuff this year.

In April and May, I was sick. Two separate times, I had colds (or honestly probably the flu) so bad that I was convinced I'd end up in the hospital. I lost a lot of time during those months, and they mostly feel like they never happened.

In June, we geared up for the biggest trip Patrick and I have ever taken (either together or separately), and we finally finally got ourselves to Australia (and it happened to fall just before his birthday- the big 50- so we definitely counted this enormous trip as part of his birthday gift).

I have a best friend named Ellen. Ellen and I met about four years ago on a writing website, and became fast friends (she's actually the one who told me I was HSP, which changed who I am as a person and how I view/take care of myself in such a huge way that I wouldn't be the same person I am today if I'd never found out/met her). We'd type chatted and video chatted for years and we swore that we'd meet someday. That day finally came.

We landed in Melbourne and spent the most incredible seven days traveling around the city with my best friend. We met her fiance and their dog, I met their cat and saw their brand new house that I watched her stress over for literally almost a year. We tried Aussie snacks. Planes, trains, automobiles, trams, trolleys... We definitely got around the city, and I'm telling you all that if there had been any conceivable way that we could have stayed, we would have. (Nando's, I miss you)

Our trip to Australia, combined with meeting such a crucial part of my life in the flesh for the first time, was a truly life changing experience, and it was worth every single thing that we had to go through to get there (and back).

I know there's a strange stigma around internet friends, and I'm here to tell you to cut that shit out, because I have met some of the most important people in my life on the internet, some of whom I've still never met and still cherish. I met my husband on a blogging website. I met my best friend on a writing website. I met another one of my close friends on a pre-Instagram photo website. I met another one on a suicide chat room, in my darkest moments, and he saved my life (and then kept saving it over and over again while I got through what I was going through). 

Internet friends can be as unimportant or as crucial as you allow them to be to you, and they're truly no different than the way I'd communicate with my family back home, living so far away. Most of my relationships have at one point been text/phone/app based, and that's just the way that I connect with people best.

Puggle and Gruggle (The Lost Forests)

Melbourne Zoo

Puffs (The Play)

When we got home, we celebrated Patrick's 50th birthday properly, complete with cards, gifts, decorations, and a fancy dinner of his choosing!

We didn't have much time to recover from our trip from Australia before I had to head off to Michigan again. I do generally space my trips out to be approximately every six months, and this trip just happened to fall in that six month mark. I hadn't had any firm plans to keep going back every six months after Babcia passed, but this was a special occasion because my cousin was getting married. Patrick hadn't been back since December of 2015, so it had been a long time since my family had seen him, and I figured that a wedding would be a good way to introduce him to all of the family members that we had missed the first time around. This was also one of the last Kupski weddings that there will be until my sisters get married, and I wanted to party with my nutty family as an adult. I wasn't going to upload any photos in this post, but I feel like I have to now because EVERYONE deserves to see my grandmother, Bev, dancing with three beer bottles in her hands, God bless her

So I flew back about a week earlier than Patrick to get in some quality friend time (and just in time too; my best guy friend was in a deadly car crash just two days before I flew in and he somehow made it out alive, so I definitely wanted to soak up as much time with him as I could just to reassure myself that he was still there) and a little extra family time, and then Patrick flew in a couple of days before the wedding. Of course, it was sweltering hot in the days before he got there and then as soon as he arrived, it poured rain most of the time (but we both live for that, so no ruined trips here). We also got to see my mom's new house while we were there, which she closed on just a few days after I flew in. We are beyond thrilled for her; she's definitely worked her ass off for this, and to be able to do it entirely on her own is awesome.

Me and these girls <3

A day with Zach and some big puppers

Closing day for Dina!

RIP Copper

Bev tearing up the dance floor!

When we got back home, we settled into our regular routine (with the added bonus that I finally established a reasonable sleep schedule for myself after literal years of struggling).

We also, after a stressful fiasco where the wrong car ended up in our hands and nothing could be done about it until we got back from Michigan, got a new car. Our lease was up (2015 Mazda CX5) and we are still absolutely thrilled with our 2018 Nissan Rogue SL AWD.

. . .

My last bit of news is something that we've been working towards for as long as Patrick and I have been together. I know most people work towards this goal too, but for us it was a little bit different- Patrick is 50 now and feels like at his age, he should be more settled, and both of us are extremely noise sensitive, so apartment just wasn't working out for us (it's truly detrimental to our health). We have been desperate to get into a house for years, but it wasn't even remotely possible... until recently... We pulled every string we had, and we had finally finally finally gotten to a good place and we were ready to begin the home buying process.

Our only question was where. We LOVE Oregon, but the housing prices doubled in just the three years that we were living there, and staying in the PDX area was impossible for our budget. We were never going to go back to California. We considered places like Bend, Oregon and Everett, Washington and even Boise, Idaho, until one night Patrick and I were driving to dinner and it hit him: Why weren't we looking at Michigan? I'll admit, I was skeptical at first, but I warmed up to the idea eventually.

Once the ball started rolling, it started rolling fast, and I'm happy to report that I'm typing this up from my couch in our new living room. And I do mean OUR living room. At the end of September I flew back to Michigan to house hunt, found the one we wanted within about a week, and the negotiations started. Initially I was supposed to fly back home after that, but after we learned that we could have me sign all of the papers on my own without Patrick (it was supposed to be just him signing), I ended up staying for about a month and a half. I had high blood pressure and a pretty serious eye twitch by the end of the process (honestly it started in the beginning of the process), and I finally took the plunge and cut off all of my hair out of stress/frustration but... we did it. Sight unseen (for Patrick, at least), we bought a house and closed on November 2nd. A few days later I flew home, packed up the rest of the apartment while Patrick was out of town, then when he got back we coordinated with the movers and had our stuff shipped to Michigan. The next morning we packed up the car, and drove across the country with two cats and a 20 gallon tote bin full of fish (not something I'd be eager to ever do again, honestly).

Feeling more like myself than I ever have, post-chop

We arrived in Michigan on November 15th, and we've been home ever since.

Life has changed quite a bit for us already. We've been busy with little home projects, painting and hanging and decorating and replacing, in between Patrick traveling for almost all of December, and me doing odds and ends jobs for people I know for a little extra cash (and really, more to help out the people I love). Plus I'm finally able to see my family more often than once every six months. I've seen them more in the last month or so than I have in the last 5+ years, and I get to go to sleep at night knowing that I get to watch my sisters grow up and be with my family as they get older.

I think the only thing that could make this all more perfect is if Babcia had been here to see it.

Hedwig "Hattie" Kupski
Our Babcia
February 29, 1920 - January 15, 2018
With Me Always

Monday, November 5, 2018

Going Backwards and Forwards All At Once

Well, the cat's out of the bag. Now that everyone who needed to be told has been, it's time to announce... I'm moving back to Michigan.

That's right-- This blog will almost be obsolete soon. I started it to document my journey to a new life across the country in California, so that my family could follow my story and keep up with me as best as we could manage. Now that I'll be back in Michigan, the Michigan friends and family won't need updates like this (although I'll still keep it semi-updated for west coast friends and family).

But wait-- I know what you're probably thinking. Did it finally fail? Did my nutty idea to move across the country to move in and be with my x2 aged boyfriend (at the time--- he would become my husband in 2014) that I met on the internet and had only met three times in person before I did so, finally fail?

If that's what you were thinking, I'll have you know...


Patrick and I have been dreaming of buying a home together for years. Obviously, many young couples share this dream. However, Patrick is older, and we have had it a little rough. We're both extremely noise sensitive, and we're not made for apartment living. We are moving from an apartment on the third floor (wow, those stairs) that is on the corner of two main roads, one of which is an ambulance route, in a city that is so grossly overpopulated that the ONLY things being built right now are more apartment buildings for the contractors moving into the area to work at Nike, SalesForce, Intel, or any other number of huge tech companies. Talk about noise... and gridlock (seriously, it has taken me nearly 40 minutes to go 4 miles).

We love Oregon. We truly do. We'd stay forever if it was feasible. However, our dreams of owning a home there were realistic... when we moved there. However, due to the number of people that have moved to the area for the above stated jobs, housing prices have jumped quite drastically. By the time we'd saved up enough for a down payment on something that was in our price range when we'd moved there, prices had doubled (and will continue to do so), and our down payment wasn't enough anymore. We'd been chasing a market that was/is growing too rapidly for anyone but the wealthy and those who can get their companies to pay for them to relocate to the area.

Patrick and I were toying with different areas to move to, such as Bend (OR), Everett (WA), and Boise (ID), but none of them were really what we wanted. Bend is up and coming, but was still a little out of our price range. Everett, while beautiful, was in Washington, which was something we didn't want. And Boise housing prices are doing the same thing as the PDX area because of the booming tech industry (which would be good for us if we could get in there now), but... it's Idaho. It'll be a while before the area flips from red to blue, which is a concern for us wherever we go. And all of these options were just as bad as the next because... We've lived in Oregon for over three years, and we can count on one hand the number of friends we've made. Starting over in a new area in a new city again just seemed so... lonely.

So one day, while driving to dinner and debating all of these things, it hit us: Michigan is established, the tech industry is also growing, and my family is there. My sisters are growing up without me and it breaks me every day, and my older family is only getting older. Suddenly, the decision became so easy, and from that day forward we put the pedal to the metal and did everything in our power to make this happen. Once again, everyone we talked to thought we were not only nuts, but not going to follow through. But we researched areas, we found a realtor, a financial officer, and a title office. We narrowed what we did and didn't want in a house. It felt like that exercise that football players do, jumping one foot into each tire... Except all of the tires were moving and on fire and I had to jump in the tires from Michigan and Patrick had to jump in the tires from Oregon via the phone.

But we did it. After spending over a month and a half in Michigan away from one another and a lot of high blood pressure/eye twitching, we signed the papers and as of the middle of November, we will have made our way across the country and landed back in Michigan in our new home, keys in hand. Over five years ago, I did a similar trip with a friend who supported me wholeheartedly. Now, I do it with my husband and our two cats, to our new home that we've been dreaming of since the day we moved in together.

It's been a long road, and I never once thought I'd ever be back here, making the decision to move across the country again, back to where I came from, and to a place Patrick has never lived before. But here we are, and I couldn't be more excited. I only wish that my Babcia could be here to see it.

To everyone who has supported us through the last 5+ years, thank you. Thanks for letting me/us crash with you. Thanks picking me up at the airport when I arrive and dropping me off at grossly early hours of the morning. Thanks for darting around the metro area to meet me wherever and whenever I had time. Thanks for always being so excited for me/us to visit. And thanks for always being enthusiastic about all of these things, regardless of how bendy you may have needed to be in order to make all of it work.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

How Instagram is here violate your privacy and ruin your life

I'm not going to get into the full story, but here are some events that happened in the spam of about two hours:

1. I took a screenshot of someone's post in my regular Instagram feed, which I am to understand does NOT notify them that you have done

2. I posted this screenshot to my IG story, with a hashtag. My account is private, and to my understanding hashtags do not make your story visible to the public.

3. The person I screenshotted was not allowed to see my story- I had hidden it from them, and I have proof of this. However, they somehow saw my PRIVATE, HIDDEN story and MESSAGED me about the post.

4. When I looked back to see who had seen the story, they showed up on my "seen" list with another person- who they in no way, shape, or form could know- and their name was faded out in grey with the word Hidden next to their name, indicating that even though the story was hidden from them, they had still seen the post. This was the same for my ENTIRE STORY FOR THE ENTIRE DAY when I looked back on it.

5. When I went to report this to Instagram as a privacy violation, I went to take a screenshot of the fact that there was an option to "unhide story" on their page... And that option was not there. Instead, there was the option to "hide story." This person and I are not close, and I do not know them well enough to trust them with some of the private thoughts I share on my story, so I KNOW they were hidden before, which means...

6. Something about either the screenshot from my feed of their post (not their story, which notifies people when you take a screenshot of their story) or the hashtag made my account public enough for them to see my IG story, therefore causing a major privacy violation.

This person and I have had a conversation about the post, and as a person who doesn't like confrontation and didn't think it was a big deal to leave their information in my story because NONE of the people who can see my story would know/care about who they are or what they're saying/posting, I am feeling incredibly violated by this... whatever it is. Bug, glitch, setting, what have you. It was genuinely enough to make me go back to Snapchat so I could stop posting on Instagram Stories.

Saturday, April 28, 2018

When You Can't Have Closure

If there's one thing millennials have the desire to work on, it's their mental health. Not that we don't work on other things; if you are of the opinion that millennials are lazy and want everything handed to them on a silver platter, you should simply click away right now. Not because that is what this post will be about, but because I have absolutely no room for that opinion or negativity in my life.

Moving on, I have spent the better part of the last four years working on my own mental health. I've fought depression and anxiety for half of my life by now. I've been in therapy, I've been on medication, I've been in the hospital. But so far, the best healing that I've found have been the things I've done on my own (with some help along the way, mostly from people who are not mental health professionals).

I've been blessed with a spouse who understands that at this point in my life, since I have had to push it to the back burner for so long, my mental health is of the utmost importance. In order to be a functioning human being, I need to fix what's broken inside. However, delving deep into your own mind can be a scary and dangerous thing... But it can also be liberating.

I'm talking about repressed memories. It seems to me that the further you explore yourself, the better your own mind gets at exploring itself without your guidance, which can mean remembering a memory that you had locked away at 2am while everyone around you is sleeping, your spouse is leaving for another state the next morning, and you won't have anyone to talk this through with except for yourself.

Obviously, this happened to me. However, I was fortunate enough to develop a shockingly healthy habit a few weeks in advance to this revelation: video journaling. I'm the type of person whose thoughts move too fast for me to be able to write them down quickly enough. It's why I actually have a hard time writing, because my thoughts flow faster than my fingers can (despite the fact that I am a relatively fast typist), and why I have moved more toward voice-to-text while I am in the comfort of my own home. My limbs simply can't move like my mind does, so when I try to write down my thoughts in a traditional journal setting (I've kept many private blogs through the years, but can never seem to stick to them), I eventually get frustrated and stop. Which is why I began video journaling.

So when that repressed memory came charging back at 2am and I had no where to turn except for one single friend who was awake (bless the time difference... for once), they helped me by providing me with some tips they'd learned in therapy. And considering that this was a situation that I had no intention of bringing up with the person who featured in the memory (as the tips I received more or less leaned toward), I had to work through this on my own. Which is when I turned to video journaling.

And here, my friends, is where I tell you how I worked through four different scenarios on my own by giving myself the closure I needed, one being a repressed memory and the others simply being situations with other people in my life that have had no answers or resolutions. Please keep in mind that I'm sharing something that worked for me in a dark place, and that by no means is this the advice of a medical professional. If it works for you, fantastic. But try it at your own risk.

Step 1:

Turn on the camera and start talking. If this is your first time, introduce yourself and the situation. Explain what just happened. It's helpful if you can see yourself on the screen. Our brains like to talk to other people, so even though you are truly talking to yourself, your brain will flow a little better if it thinks it is having a conversation. It also helps with this next part.

Step 2:

Play the other person and give yourself closure. Apologize on their behalf for what they did to you. Explain their actions. Rewrite the story. Did you know that our memories aren't true memories? When you remember something, you are remembering the last time you remembered it. This is why memories become warped over time. You can literally rewrite your own memories by imagining over them. So do that. Stop the traumatic experience before it starts and, using dialogue (or whatever works for you), have a calm and rational conversation with yourself and the other person/people, playing all sides. Write the script in the way you need it to go. Don't forget the original memory or what happened, but change what you need to change in order to move past it.

While I'm not willing to share the repressed memory because it is much too personal, I am happy to share the other three scenarios that I rewrote for myself using this method. They're all friendships that ended without a word and without any closure. We were fine one day and the next, they simply stopped responding to me, after having been an integral part of my life for such a long time. So what did I do? I had a conversation with them. And on their behalf, I explained to myself why they did this, that they enjoyed my friendship but had to move past it due to reasons unrelated to me, that they wished me well, and that they were sorry that things moved in the direction they did.

I realized that I had been holding on to a lot of sadness that was parading around as anger towards these people, but today I feel like I've made a huge leap toward healing, and I no longer feel that anger. Of course I feel sadness, but I can feel it for what it is now; a loss. I talked to myself for over 25 minutes. I cried a lot and I was exhausted afterwards. But today I feel at peace.

This is a method that I will be sticking to for a long time to come and I've already started a list of "people" I need to have "conversations" with (although I may need an external hard drive soon; videos do not take up a small amount of space!), and I am happy to have come across it just in time for me to start taking my own steps toward healing. I may not be able to undo the damage that has been done, but I can stop these scenarios from creating more pain and hurt so that I can work on being whole again.

Friday, March 23, 2018

Let's Talk About Love

So several posts ago, I wrote about being an HSP and how I'd been attending a support group every week to help me manage my sensitivity, which has been one of the best decisions I've ever made. I also mentioned that I found the group on Meetup, and a part of it being a Meetup group is that new people are constantly joining. I would say that I'm one of about five regular attendees, and the rest have either been to a meeting before but don't attend regularly, or they're brand new. By now the routine of the group has changed (we've gone from weekly to monthly), but the core group remains.

It is truly very fascinating to see some of the new people who show up sometimes. Some are HSP, some aren't but they identify with some sort of social sensitivity, and some just show up to "check out the networking". One night, we had one of those "networking" type people show up, and while I was very overwhelmed by a lot of the information they provided, one thing they brought up really stuck with me:

They asked what love looks like to us.

It was a rhetorical question, meant to make us think and answer the question for ourselves, and that is exactly what it did.

I was very pensive the rest of the group, on the way home, and after I got home as well. I'd truly never thought about it before. I can obviously recognize love, but if someone were to ask me the best way to show me that they love me, I wouldn't have been able to answer them.

What does love look like to me?

I thought about all of the people who I feel love me the most-- which is to say, the people who make me feel the most loved, not that they truly love me more than all others.

I started with Patrick, and I thought about all of the moments where I feel most loved by him. For example, that morning I woke up from a terrible nightmare in which he died. I yelled myself awake, immediately went to find him, and he comforted me. I tried to go back to sleep afterward but I was still anxious, so I went out to find him again. This time he got up from what he was doing for work, spent as much time as was needed to make sure I felt safe and comforted, and then made sure that I was calm enough to get some more sleep by coming into our bedroom and checking the window shades, the blankets, and just overall making sure my space was comfortable. He didn't view me as an inconvenience for taking him away from his work or being emotionally needy. He saw that I needed something and provided it for me by going above and beyond, while at the same time never making me feel like I was being over the top, whiny, childish, etc.

When I woke up eventually (much later than I intended, but hey, nightmares don't really respect your timelines), I came out into the living room to find three gifts that he'd taken the time to wrap up (with Christmas paper, bless him). Why? He had ordered an add-on item from Amazon (which cannot be ordered by itself) and instead of ordering something for himself, he decided to go through my lists to see if there was anything I needed. So I woke up to a pair of gel moisturizing socks (which are INCREDIBLE), a boiled egg slicer, and a package of cable ties.

But why did he buy me things instead of something for himself? Because I'd been cleaning and organizing because we had a house guest, and he had seen how stressed out I'd been. It was a sweet gesture by itself, but then he went above and beyond to make the day feel like a mini-Christmas by wrapping up the items.

After I came home from group, I showered and kept thinking about what it means to me to be loved, and I thought about one of the most powerful things that anyone has ever said to me: "You're a priority." 

I know that to some people that seems obvious, or small, or insignificant, but to me to be a priority to someone is an honor. To me, it means that I add something so valuable to their life that they rate me higher than most things.

But what does all of that mean? Well, let's simplify it. Society deems "useful" people as people who can perform a task or a service. A lawyer is useful for their knowledge of the law. An architect is useful for their ability to plan out and create buildings. But I don't feel that I have any of those special skills. My skill is with the people I love, and as a result of being HSP I'm better than the average bear at dealing with people, comforting them, etc. However, most people don't view that as a real "skill", they just view it as being a good friend.

So to me, to be valued just as I am, with not a whole lot to bring to the table other than love and friendship, to be appreciated anyway is what makes me feel the most loved.

How BMI can create a life-long struggle with food

When I was just 11 years old, I began to develop breasts. It was December; I remember because the day I noticed was the day my best friend was staying over during winter break.

That summer, I went through an outrageous growth spurt. My girl friends started referring to me as "bubble butt." Fat started to redistribute on my body, and I began to gain in my hips and thighs against my will (and against my expectations- they didn't really cover body shape and weight gain in health class by this point, only menstruation and how the reproductive systems worked).

And then I entered middle school. It was a fragile time for me- I was very impressionable, as most kids that age are. I was trying to fit in and started to develop an interest in dating. For the first time, I realized that people could form an opinion about me based on looks alone.

That year was one of heartbreak for me, both in my social circle and within my family, and I had my first doctor's appointment since hitting puberty. In a fragile state of sadness, loneliness, and uncertainty, I had no idea what I was in for when my doctor said to me, "You're overweight."

She wasn't wrong, according to the BMI, which is what she used to justify this statement. 

I didn't feel overweight. I didn't even feel like I looked overweight. Sure, I wore a pants size larger than my friends to fit my bubble butt and strong, muscular calves into. And sure, I wore a shirt size larger- my breasts had developed quite a bit at that point, and they wouldn't fit into a size extra small anymore. But these were specific parts of my body that carried this weight, and my doctor didn't know how to take that into consideration. As far as my measurements indicated, I was indeed overweight.

At that point, I began to spiral. What if I wasn't fitting in because I was overweight? The person I liked actually liked someone else- was this because I was overweight? The person they liked was so tiny in my eyes (news flash, they were about my size but shrunken overall, shorter but the same build appropriate to their height). Maybe I could be tiny too.

I began skipping meals. "I don't feel good," became my go-to excuse at dinner time. I wouldn't buy lunch, and would often go the entire day without eating. Sometimes I allowed myself to have a Pop Tart in the morning so that I would have the energy to go to school. After school, I took naps to compensate for my energy loss.

And then my friends started to notice. They tried- and failed- to reassure me that I certainly was not fat, that there was nothing wrong with me. And when that didn't work, my best friend at the time threatened me. She was going to tell my parents.

That was enough to scare me into submission, and I began to eat at lunch again- after all, she couldn't see what I ate at home. I would just skip breakfast and dinner then.

But that's when I learned to binge. I remember how delicious that first hot lunch was when I proudly showed her that I was eating lunch that day. It was a bowl of mashed potatoes and gravy. It was so warm and flavorful and salty and delicious- I had no idea about carbohydrates at that point- and what's more is that it felt good. The chewing, the swallowing. It made me feel warm and fuzzy inside in a way that food previously did not make me feel.

I figured that all food was equal- and for the most part, it was. I still had the metabolism of a 13 year old.

Once I started to eat lunch again, food became an addiction. I began to eat dinner again. I would have seconds and thirds. It was as though a switch had flipped inside my brain. In my worry that I would stop eating again, I essentially destroyed my own will power and my appetite increased, as though my brain was stocking up for later, urging me to eat as much as I could, whatever I wanted.

In a way it makes sense, but on the other hand it was cultivating terrible eating habits that I would carry with me for the rest of my life.

From then on, I was afraid to limit my eating, lest I stop altogether once again. If I wanted something, I would have it. I destroyed my ability to say "no" to food.

I carried these habits and these fears with me all throughout high school, and every year I continued to be about ten pounds overweight, but I didn't look like it. I was curvy- truly curvy- in those feminine areas, I still carried those thick ropes of muscle in my legs- which all accounted for the initial ten pounds in the first place that put me into the "overweight" category. 

When I hit senior year, life became extremely stressful. I began staying home from school a lot. I began eating even more. That year I was 15 pounds overweight- and for the first time, I was actually overweight. I carried a little extra pudge.

Throughout these formative years, I continued to hate myself for it. Not a day went by when I was not focused on my weight and how I looked to other people. However, I continued to be afraid of limiting myself- of dieting, and what was more is when I did make any meager attempts, I failed almost immediately. I had ruined my will power.

College was even worse, and without the day to day activity of walking to and from classes like I did in high school, I began to pack on weight fast. There were some flukes, some ups and downs, in my early 20s in regards to my weight, but still I kept adding about 10lbs to my existing weight each year- only I wasn't getting taller anymore, like I was up until I was about 16. I was simply gaining weight, and I had no concept of how to deal with it.

Today, I am truly overweight. I have a hard time controlling my food intake- for me, food is a comfort, and one of the only things I can consistently rely on when it comes to making me feel better. And yet my self hatred in regards to food increases every single day. Every bite I take, I judge myself. I often avoid leaving the house if I'm feeling extra fat that day- even though I am still at the national average for size and height. Is that technically overweight? Yes. But there are more people my size out there than ever before. I should feel right at home surrounded by people my own size. Instead, I simply feel ashamed, like I'm not worth anyone's time of day simply because I'm no longer "thin."

What's my point? Here's my point: stop using BMI as a reasonable way to determine whether someone is at a healthy weight. Stop telling little girls that they are overweight when they don't have the physical or mental tools to deal with that information and do something about it. Stop assuming that your medical "opinion" won't have lasting negative consequences on a person's mental health, causing them to develop habits that will backfire and destroy their psyche

Monday, March 12, 2018

2016-2017 Crochet Projects

It's been a while since I've shared what I've made with my crochet skills (particularly because I just didn't have a great winter and had no interest in crocheting), but I've recently made some things that I'm insanely proud of so now that they've all been given to their intended recipients, I thought I'd share them!

Some of these were made in 2016 and I just failed to post them. Whoops!

For this hat, instead of using the recommended yarn (which isn't available in U of M colors for purchase here in Oregon and I would have had to order it), I used two separate colors and simply switched yarn where I felt stripes should go. If anyone is truly interested I have written out the breakdown of how many rows per stripe. Just ask! My only regret is the length of the braids. I wish I'd made them longer!

These are so fun to make, and after just a few I had the pattern down and just kept cranking them out. I think they make great coasters! I also recently used them as buffet table decor at a garden party.

For the hexagon blanket, I chose to use an acrylic yarn instead of a cotton yarn (simply because we don't have a Hobby Lobby around here and I could not for the life of me find a cotton yarn at Joann's that had the same gauge as the yarn recommended in the pattern). So instead I used several colors from the Premier Yarns Deborah Norville Everyday line, which matches the gauge of the recommended yarn (and was a real pain in the butt to find, let me tell you. I spent a good 45 minutes in Joann's checking the gauge of almost every line of yarn). 

Differences between my way and the original pattern:
1. The yarn recommended in the original pattern yields 7 hexagons. The yarn I used yields 10, with a bit left over for sewing. (Pro tip: I used an empty paper towel tube, cut 6 slits in each end like fringe, and then wound each yarn on the paper towel tube next to one another and stuck the ends in the notches I made, that way I didn't have to keep running back and forth between wads of messy yarn in order to stitch my pieces together at the end)
2. Original pattern uses 5 colors. When I was done with 5 colors (50 hexagons), I found that the blanket was too small, so I added a 6th color in order to keep from repurchasing 5 skeins of yarn just to get two more hexagons per skein. 
3. I DID block my hexagons as recommended, but I found that acrylic yarn really doesn't need it and it was easy enough to identify the stitches I needed to put together when I laid it all out, plus my stitches are consistent enough now that the hexagons really were exactly the same size when I was done. All 60 of them. Definitely block with cotton yarn, though. Also if you decide to block with kebab skewers... Watch out for splinters. Once I learned my lesson, mine took about a week to come out.

I loved this pattern as well! This was the first pattern that I've ever paid for and even though it killed me to purchase a pattern, I have to say that it was worth it. Here are my tips for this pattern:

1. Make sure to firmly stuff the entire doll, ESPECIALLY THE HEAD. I initially tried to make the head a bit softer and squishier because this is for a baby, but I found that it didn't stretch the head to the correct size and as a result when I tried to stitch the ears on, they were enormous in comparison to the head. I had to run out and purchase more Poly-fil (I'd run out after finishing the body and actually had to stuff the middle with a lot of scrap yarn-- thank god I'm strange and keep all of the bits of yarn that I trim off when I finish anything) and then pull tufts of it through the spaces between stitches with a smaller gauge hook. That took a good few hours out of my time budget!
2. Make sure you're counting your stitches. He looks perfectly fine, but somewhere I lost a stitch... then added one to make up for it... and then somehow gained an extra stitch... and had to decrease again in order to get back to where I was meant to be. I'd forgotten how intensive amigurumi is on my arthritic hands (because auto immune diseases make me into a little old lady, lucky me!), so even though it still bothers me knowing that there are random stitches in the doll, I simply couldn't bear to take out the rows and re-do them. After 60 hexagons and a 10 inch doll, I was popping Aleve like candy. 
3. I made the doll with the same exact yarn that I used for the hexagon blanket (the dark grey) and used an F sized hook (which is a different weight of yarn and a different sized hook than the pattern calls for). Not sure how that affected things overall, but I think he's a great size. As a side note, if you use the yarn and hook I used, I needed a little over one skein of yarn and had to run out to repurchase just past the hips on the body (also I crochet things out of order-- the body was the last thing I finished so I really only needed like 15 yards or so more).
4. I love the top hat, but I really wanted to incorporate the colors from the blanket into the elephant to have them match. As a result, I ditched the hat, made a single crochet chain the same number of stitches as the last row of the body, and then made an itty bitty bow with this pattern
5. The pattern tells you to use wire for the nose, but as this was for a baby I used my common sense and ditched the wire. With amigurumi, your stitches are very, very tight most of the time and as a result you really can mold a piece with your hands (for example, one of the arms was a tiny bit shorter than the other... So I stretched it. They look perfectly equal to me!). So I was able to bend the nose myself. Also I forewent safety eyes (because despite the fact that they are called safety eyes, they are not safe to use around infants) and simply stitched little black eyes in with some spare black yarn I had. I did pop in the safety eyes just to figure out where I wanted to stitch them in and then I removed them, and I will say that safety eyes 10/10 always make everything look more professional. So if you're not giving this to a teeny tiny choking hazard, USE SAFETY EYES THEY'RE THE BEST 
6. If you decide to make this blanket pattern, I would highly recommend telling me so that I could tell you how I sewed it together. It was a really stressful point for me until I read through the comments on the page that explains how to stitch the pieces together and then made up my own method, which worked really well. The only thing I had trouble with was hiding the ends, and I'm almost positive that they'll pop out of their hiding places and just be little fuzzy surprises on the back of the blanket, but there's nothing I can do about that now!


You go to bed one night, and while you don't necessarily have anything to look forward to the next day, you don't bear any ill will toward it. It should be just another day. You should be able to get up in the morning and shower, brush your teeth, wash your face, make breakfast, etc.

When you have depression, sometimes you really can't tell when it's going to hit. So sometimes, you wake up the next day and you just can't. You can't do any of it. And there's no clear reason why. It's as though someone has broken into your mind and taken you hostage.

It feels like there are two of you. One of them is the Real You, locked inside, with not enough strength to break through and override this new... Something. You don't know what it is, but it's familiar. And you hate it. This has happened before.

You end up spending the entire morning and early afternoon in bed. And you just can't. The Real You is screaming. "Get up! Get the fuck up! Get up right now, you don't have to feel like this. You can help yourself if you just GET. UP."

Sometimes, you can't get up. You will spend the entire day in that bed. You will forget to eat or drink. You will only get up to go to the bathroom once, and that's because you can't hold it forever. You will ignore all responsibilities and self care. You will spend hour after hour scrolling through the internet on your phone, begging to see something, anything, that makes you feel... Something. Anything. That thing might never come.

Other people pass you by on your various social medias. You barely absorb what's happening. The real you is desperate, banging at the bars on the windows of your mind to please, please let you out so you can join in the fun. It does look fun-- to do things, to move forward. To live life. But today, you can't do it. You care about nothing and no one. You can't even bother to care to hope that maybe tomorrow will be better.

But sometimes, the Real You wedges its way into the cracks of the bars on the windows, and you find that they're not so impossible to snap as you thought. Difficult, yes, but not impossible.

You start with getting out of bed and turning on the shower. Baby steps, you tell yourself. You get in the shower, and the routine of it sets in. You're able to complete your task with no casualties, and after that, everything seems marginally... smoother. Familiar.

You keep the ball rolling. You complete your face routine. You brush your teeth. You don't do a great job of it, but you braid your hair-- at least you did it. You pin it up, because you know that wet hair on your neck bothers you, and you can't have anything else bothering you today. You know that the progress you've made so far is fragile.

You get dressed-- in actual clothes that you can leave the house in, not just another set of PJs, nor even the PJs you took off when you got into the shower. Real, clean clothes. Clothes that you like. A favorite shirt, a comfy pair of jeans. You finally look presentable, if not entirely happy. You glance at the mirror several times but you can't look yourself in the eye-- yet.

You know you like tea, so you put the kettle on. Tea has been helping lately, on the days when it almost gets this bad. Tea will help.

The tea does help. And you're starting to feel things again. You start to notice you're hungry-- you haven't eaten for almost 24 hours. But not hungry enough yet. There is more progress to be made.

You throw open the windows-- it's a nice day for the second day in a row, after months and months of the gloom and rain of winter. You know you need the fresh air.

You already made sure that you're wearing real clothes-- a part of you was planning to go get the mail, and you didn't even notice. You're making routine decisions again-- a good sign. You walk, instead of driving, even though it's at least a quarter of a mile to the boxes. You know you need it. The Real You is getting stronger and the Something is gone now. The Real You is just undoing the damage, blowing away the fog. You know you can do this.

You walk to the mailboxes with your head down, not entirely thrilled to be outside but not hating it either. The sun feels good. You only hope that no one talks to you, because like the food, you haven't uttered a word in nearly 24 hours. You're not ready for verbal conversation. Baby steps.

You finally make it back to the house, mail in tow, and it strikes you-- you're finally hungry. You were always hungry, but now you care enough to do something about it and have the capability to do something.

You make lunch. You message a couple of friends. You pet your cat, who you notice looks very sweet in the sunlight.

Lunch is delicious. It dawns on you that you finally have wants and needs again. The fog has lifted, but the bridge you've built is still fragile. You are wary of the fog returning.

But you trek on for one more day. You won today. If it comes back tomorrow, you might not win. Sometimes the Real You is too tired of fighting to fight on that day. But maybe the next day you can do it. Maybe you can keep the ball rolling and keep doing it for several days in a row.

There's always going to be a day of weakness. Of overload. Where it's all too much. Outside forces can push you down, and you'll be fighting more than just the Something.

But today, you've won.