I Remember (Grandpa)

I remember chrysanthemums in the garden. He told me to pick off the dead-heads and I was confused. I thought they were still beautiful.

We would spend days spent playing hide-and-go-seek. I would hide among his clothes in the closet, covering myself in the dirty laundry as a disguise. I didn’t care. I was six. Even though he was 6 foot 6 and wider than a car he would play along, hiding behind curtains and wherever he could squeeze himself in.

There were countless picture books, page by page. Peter Rabbit. The Very Hungry Caterpillar. My sister and I snuggled close, one on each side, pressing ourselves as close as we could to see the pictures.

There were weeks where the bruising around his head was bad enough that he had to cover one eye with gauze because pus kept oozing through. I remember how terrifying he looked, but I wasn’t scared.

I gave a  class presentation on heart implants in third grade. I was so proud that he was one of the first people in Utah to get one. I told the class that we was only supposed to live for a few years after the transplant and how it had been eighteen and he was still here. I didn’t comprehend what that might mean.

One day, he brought me Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. His face fell when I said I had already read it.

We always celebrated Christmas at his apartment, eating cream cheese and crackers for hours. There was a wreath that would talk if you clapped, and I would play music box carols so many times that my mom would get mad and tell me to stop.

For a while, he came to live with us. My mom let him sleep in her room and she took the couch. My sister and I kept barely-foot-wide passages through our toys so he could walk, but our mom yelled and made us clean them up.

I remember the day my parents told us he might not make it through. I cried. Hard. Tears streaming down my face. For a while, he left the hospital with barely enough energy to walk. He smiled at us anyways. I thought there was hope. We spent days at the park. He would sit with my mom and watch my sister and I play. We begged him to come play with us, but he would just shake his head and chuckle.

When he went back to the hospital, we visited him constantly. He couldn’t remember who I was. I taped the picture I drew him on the wall anyways. I remember the couch when they told us, the feel of the fabric on my legs, my dad crouching down in front of us. He cried, too, the first time I can recall.

I wore a sparkly pink skirt to the funeral because black was too sad. We ate cream cheese and crackers after, just like Christmas. The smell of his apartment made me cry all over again.

Mental Medication

I’ve been struggling with anxiety and depression ever since I was a child. I’ve gone through therapy before, and am in therapy right now to try and rectify the situation with my mental health. Therapy is great. I would highly recommend it to anyone going through struggles with mental illness. There are a lot of things it can help with, and it’s definitely had a large impact on my life.

Unfortunately, therapy can’t do everything. This is my second time going through it and, although it helps an incredible amount, I’m still having a lot of struggles. It’s been a long and painful ordeal even getting to the point where I accepted that I needed therapy, and it’s taken even longer to come to the conclusion that I have right now: medication is the next step for me.

I’ve been on antidepressants for about two months now and even though it’s not perfect yet, it’s a huge step in the direction towards recovery for me.

Let’s get medical for a second. Most commonly, depression stems from a serotonin imbalance in the brain. Serotonin is a type of neurotransmitter, allowing signals to be transferred between cells. Antidepressants essentially account for this lack in serotonin, allowing the brain and other parts of the body to carry on.

As my therapist put it, antidepressants rewire the brain in order to be able to function properly.

The question lies in this: if mental illness is a chemical imbalance and medications help to counteract these chemical imbalances, why is the use of medication to combat depression and other mental illnesses so hard to accept?

Society has a highly stigmatized view of mental illness. Since mental illness lies inside the body as opposed to an external physical impairment, it is viewed as a “fake” illness. People who don’t suffer from a mental illness simply don’t understand that mental illnesses are entirely out of the victim’s control. Often, mental illness stems from genetic reasons or chemical imbalances within the brain and body. Someone with a mood disorder or a mental disorder doesn’t have any say in this.

There have been times in my life where I have been told to “just get over it” or “stop being so depressed, you’re making the rest of us sad.” I don’t blame the people who have said these things. They just don’t understand what it’s like to go through a mental illness.

Because mental illness is viewed as something that (no pun intended) is just in the head, society doesn’t understand that medication is oftentimes needed in order to decrease symptoms. And, unfortunately, this trickles over to people who do have mental illnesses. If you are told over and over that you’re just making it up, you doubt yourself. It’s a twisted form of brainwashing. Once you believe that the mental illness is your own fault or that you are just a faker, it is exceptionally difficult to accept medication as a solution. If you are “not sick,” then why would you need to be treated for it?

For me, at least, medication was an admittance that something was wrong with me. It was the confirmation that I was “crazy,” that I wasn’t “normal.” Neither of these are true.

Medication is a route that some people have to go for their mental illness in order to be able to function. It’s a route that I have to go in order to be able to function. There is nothing wrong with that.

If you have cancer, you get chemotherapy. If you break a bone, you get a cast put on. And if you have a mental illness, you take medication to feel better.

A Little Bit About Love

A little bit about me: I don’t step on sidewalk cracks. I get annoyed when people talk to me while I’m reading. I always use the same bathroom stall. If I find a song I like, I’ll listen to it on repeat for weeks until I hate it. I get angry when I’m hungry. I’m obsessed with pink. I push up my glasses even when I’m not wearing them. I play with my hair constantly. I love watching people when they think that no one is paying attention. I get addicted to games on my phone really easily. I hate orange juice. I can’t concentrate on anything for more than half an hour at a time. I love makeup more than just about anything. If I watch a scary movie, I end up sleeping with the lights on for the next three days.

You may be wondering why I’m telling you all this. I have an announcement: I’m in love. She’s the most beautiful, most understanding person I know and I am head over heels for her (hint: it’s me).

Not only am I the greatest person I’ve ever met, but falling in love with myself has some definite benefits. No one knows me better than myself. I’m always there for me. I know how to make me happy. I never have to have the argument with me over where we’re spending the holidays. I always get to pick the movie. I can trust me. I’m never going to run off on me. And last but not least? Love is hard. I’ve been through a lot of bad relationships. I think everyone has. It’s a part of life. It starts out great but then you start fighting. Things go down the drain, and next thing you know you’ve got to give back the comfiest sweaters you own.

Granted, falling in love with myself wasn’t exactly easy either. The thing about knowing myself better than anyone else is that I’m really good at seeing my flaws. And trust me, I have a lot. I’m painfully familiar with them, and I find new ones all the time.

A part of loving yourself is learning to accept these flaws. Yes, I have them, but they are a part of me. Even the best, coolest, prettiest people (hint: it’s me) mess up tremendously. It’s going to happen. No one is perfect.

The thing about flaws, though, is that you can work towards fixing them. It’s hard, but it’s doable. I’m going to work towards growing, and while I do I’m going to be right by my side loving myself and encouraging myself to keep going. That’s a huge part of relationships, especially ones with yourself. That’s something I’ve found out the hard way.

Step back and look at yourself: yes, there are parts of you I’m sure you hate. But there are also parts of you that are unique and phenomenal. Of course, work towards self-improvement. But in the meantime, accept your flaws and learn to love yourself anyways.