I Want to Talk About Dysphoric Mania (or Mixed States)

Before I begin, I’m going to try to reel this blog back in and let it be a lifestyle blog, talking about whatever is going on in my life, whether that’s the writer side of things the student side of things or what have you. Put simply, I’m going to try and let this blog flow naturally from whatever I feel is relevant to talk about at the time so as not to alienate those who have been reading this blog for a little bit. I’d also like to try and blog a bit more regularly, but there are no promises.

The last time I blogged was at the beginning of April, probably a week or two before I started slipping into a little bit of depression; however, it was relatively mild compared to what I was used to. I still had some motivation to do things, even though it was less than it usually was (so I had zero motivation for work, just for school), my appetite was unchanged, and I didn’t have the usual fervent desire to sleep in really late and go to bed as soon as I could. (But I was binge drinking on the weekends, so there’s that.) It was just feeling down and grouchy and irritable and a little bit burnt out. A busy work day made me more irritable than it usually would–I railed against it, in fact, screaming in my mind, “I don’t want to do this! I can’t stand this,” but being able to do it anyway, so could it have really been depression?

In fact, I thought it was all just mere burnout. Once the semester ends, I told myself, and I get some breathing room, I’ll be back to normal.

Of course, that didn’t exactly happen. Even when I started precalculus I still had some of the depression, but it was starting to dip more into anxiety at that point, so I thought of speaking with my psychiatrist about getting put on an anti-anxiety medication. And, no, I didn’t call her right away. I didn’t feel it urgent enough and told myself I could wait until August to have it taken care of. I simply thought I just needed a chill pill so the pressures of getting into a DPT program didn’t seem so much.

Then, out of nowhere, I started feeling good. Really good. Things were falling into place. I was doing great in precalculus and doing much better than I expected. Things at work were going great–my clients were building back up again, my Pilates class was building up since it was moved from Friday to Wednesday. Observation hours were going great. I started at a skilled nursing facility, so three settings in the bag. I was able to fit in more physical activity.

I thought I was just gaining a new lease on life and finally accepting that I was not a fraud and that I really am an awesome person capable of doing awesome things so there is absolutely no reason for me to feel insecure or worry about how intelligent I am to handle the hard sciences and so on and so forth.

After four good days though, four days that felt perfect, I began journaling my thoughts, and I realized what it was: hypomania. It makes rational sense since such an episode can precede or even proceed depression. And so it was then I had to admit my depression was bipolar depression. It also explained my ability to suddenly be on the AMT for a lot longer than 30 minutes and then following it up with a session of resistance training and still having energy left over to do more and more things.

Prior to this, I’d been stable for a little over three years. I thought I had put bipolar disorder behind me. I thought I had finally developed the strength to be able to overcome any ensuing episodes. Turns out I was really just in remission and was tipped over the edge from all the stress in my life. I’d argue it’s positive stress, but even good stress is still stress.

So I’m on week six of this roller coaster of hypomania/mania/dysphoric mania, and I’m not going to lie and say it’s all awful–some parts are just really freaking awesome. I’m almost done with a rough draft of a contemporary YA novel, and I’ve been on a hiatus for over two years! Granted, I’m on medical leave, but even if I weren’t, I still likely would have started writing a novel. Even when I was at work I wrote enough poetry to make an anthology. You’ve gotta do something with the manic energy, after all. You can’t just let it get pent up.

So the jarring reality that I’m a bipolarite for life is daunting when the future, that is me being in PT school, will allow for no slip-ups.

But I don’t want to talk about depression or hypomania or even mania. I want to talk about dysphoric mania because I don’t think it gets spoken about enough. I’m going through a little bit of dysphoric mania right now, luckily without any suicidality–but I feel down and want to cry but with the energy to do things (I didn’t want to come home from biking and would have biked all day if it weren’t for the fact that I’m married and have a husband who needs me. And if it weren’t biking, I would have wandered off somewhere else, likely blowing more money from my savings or going to bars or something. I really did not want to come home).

Depression gets enough attention. I believe most people have experienced some sort of depression throughout their lives, whether it’s situational or clinical. The percentage of people with bipolar disorder, however, is small (2.6%) and may be bigger since a lot of people don’t seek diagnosis for it or are often misdiagnosed because they are unable to grasp when they’re manic. In contrast, 6.7% of people experience a major depressive episode at least once in their lifetimes. But 15% of people will experience some form of depression. So while there are those out there who believe you need to suck it up, pull yourself by your bootstraps and move on, no one really talks about dysphoric mania because it is so unlike depression.

It is the type of mixture of mania and depression that can get you typecast as crazy.

It is the type of state that made me attempt suicide by trying to drink myself to death (I didn’t even get to the point of throwing up since you can drink so much more and be fine when you’re manic, but not like I knew that!) and being absolutely ambivalent that I failed. I did wind up, for the fifth time, in a psychiatric ward convinced I’d be healed of the mania by the time I got out. I’m so used to being more depressive than manic, but when I think about it, there was a time when I was hypomanic for three months when I was on Abilify, but it never ping-ponged because I was blissfully unaware. I simply thought I had developed a hyperthymic temperament. If I had been aware, my mood likely would have started undulating the way it has been.

In my normal depressive episodes, I wouldn’t have even had the energy to do something like that. Or it’s more like I wouldn’t have had the motivation. I could think about it, even make plans, but I never would have followed through with any of them because dying itself takes a certain amount of energy. But with dysphoric mania? All those dangerous impulses you’ve had cycling in your head are suddenly a manic hamster on a wheel, and you just choose the most appealing way of hurting yourself to stop the insanity.

Your flights of thoughts are not fun anymore. My flights of thoughts include biking, writing, studying, reading, writing, writing, writing, more reading, wanting to go out biking but it’s too late, listening to music on full volume pretty much all day, occasionally coloring, cooking, cleaning–there’s always so much to do, do, do, and never enough hours in the day. I don’t want to slow down. What is slowing down anyway? It’s all about speed! Also, sometimes impulsive spending. My bike was an impulsive purchase, but one I made knowing I still had plenty of money in my savings.

Yet, during dysphoric mania, the thoughts darken to slitting your wrists, drowning yourself, jumping from a tall building, drinking yourself into a stupor, doing something absolutely reckless that makes you high but also has the potential to kill you, speeding really fast while raging against all that is slow and crying that you’re like this and why do you have to be like this and wishing you were just plain-old depressed because when you’re down it’s actually burdensome to be full of energy and you wanna claw off your skin and cry while exclaiming everything is so wonderful and jump of a cliff while realizing you have a book to finish and–

My dysphoria today makes me feel down and sad, but it doesn’t preclude me from wanting to do something about the energy. That can be a blessing and a curse, but I made it a blessing because I went out and biked for several hours instead of hopping on over to a bar and drinking myself into a blissful slumber. I cried a little bit (tears mostly leaking from my eyes) when I found myself at a creek and started wading through it because the sadness is just so profound, but I got back on my bike and continued on a journey that was still thrilling. There were times throughout this little trek that Iwished I could bike so fast I’d go flying, so I took a few calculated risks to get that rush, but there were times that I did temper it when I came upon an especially rocky area that could damage both me and my bike.

I have been very fearless as of late. I know I’m still at it when I wake up in the morning and ask myself if I’d still like to go skydiving, and if the answer is yes, then I know I haven’t found my way back to the rational world.

Sometimes dysphoric mania, however, can leave you not wanting to do anything, so the energy is a winding buzz of caffeine x100 that makes you want to scream–so you sometimes do–and tear your skin off because all you want to do is sleep but you can’t without downing a higher prescription of your sleep medication than what you normally would take. It was this type of dysphoria that made me try exceedingly hard to die by overconsumption of alcohol.

It’s not fun. It’s moments like these that make me want to reestablish some semblance of normalcy. I’m going to be honest: Hypomania is absolutely fun, even with the rage and irritability. Mania itself isn’t so much because the energy is too much, and when you’re in a situation where you have to temper it (it’s much easier to control when hypomanic) you might appear bizarre to the people who know you: you cannot stay still so you pace or rock on your heels or snap your fingers, you’re not controlling your rapid speech, you’re an excess of you (my morbid sense of humor was slightly out of control when I was observing at the VA), you scream in your car to release some energy, you sing really loud to release some more, and when you are in a situation where you can indulge the energy, you’re looking for thrills that will tear the most out of you, even if you are aware you will look absolutely absurd.

You can also survive on much, much less sleep. I nearly went the entire night without sleeping but decided I should probably try because the energy was starting to become unbearable; however, I survived on roughly four hours of sleep without any issues. Even hypomanic I still have some sense to try and get in at least six or seven hours. Normally, I need more than that because the Seroquel takes longer to drain from my system, but it drains from my system within 30 minutes to an hour upon waking versus the three hours it normally takes so that I stop feeling groggy.

I get mixed at least once a week, sometimes more depending. Last Wednesday threatened to do me in with a mixed state, but I biked like a maniac and was able to ward it off. I even brought myself down to hypomania the next day from having done so. So of course I went out and bought my own bike. What a great coping mechanism!

I become a completely different person when I’m mixed.

Right now I am sad and want to cry and am silent and when I do speak it’s in bursts of short chatter, but I am also thinking about how much I freaking love mountain biking and my mind is obsessively fixated on practicing on the mountain biking trail at the Augusta Canal so I can then go mountain biking at Bartram Trail of Clark’s Hill and I desperately want to do it tomorrow but I also want to mark out the path I’m going to take to work and need to bike that so that way there are no screw-ups that make me late for work or put me in any kind of danger and I bought myself a mountain biking outfit that I’m really thrilled to get and really want to start a mountain biking club and–

And that is the state of my mind right now.

Some days I simply feel crazy.

 

 

Why I Have Chosen Physical Therapy

I have decided to change the direction of this blog a little bit to match more with how my life currently is. I haven’t had much time to write the third book of The Stars Trilogy because I always find I’m having to prioritize studying–and I perceive my life being this way for quite some time. (I knowing I’m pulling a George R.R. Martin with the last book in the trilogy.) So I’d like to start documenting my experiences as a pre-PT, non-traditional student who has a Bachelor’s in English and just needs to complete pre-requisites in order to apply. I was thinking of documenting things after being accepted but figured it’d be much more beneficial for future pre-PT students to understand just what they’re going to have to do to make their dreams work for them.

I plan to start applying the fall of 2019 so that way I can hopefully start either the summer or fall of 2020 at University of St. Augustine. My plan is to take the GRE this summer, so I’ll definitely be able to write about that and document what I’m doing to prepare for it–and hopefully my preparation gives me a decent score.

Currently I’m taking anatomy and physiology II and medical terminology, and I foresee A’s in both of them when the semester is through…which is soon. I’m not taking a full course load, mostly because I’m able to pay for school out of pocket with my job as a personal trainer–and trying to do a full course load would not be at all friendly with the type of schedule I’d like to keep to train my current set of clients. I don’t want to take out a loan until PT school, as I know that’s when the debt will start building up.

***

I’ve thought for quite some time about why I’d like to do physical therapy. It’s likely a question that’s going to pop up in a PT school interview. Hopefully by then I’ll have the reason down to three concise sentences, but I’d like to use this post to really put out there why I’m pursuing PT.

Back when I was a trainer at the Y and in desperate need of a second income, I applied for a PT rehab aide position, got the interview, and had to get an immediate answer about whether or not I’d gotten the job, or else I would have been stuck working Walmart (the hiring manager was going to hire me the same day since he saw my customer service skills at the Y). So thank goodness I received a reply and got the job as a rehab aide, or else thing would likely be very different right now, and probably not in a good way. Not to put down Walmart workers, but a lifelong career there is not an aspiration of mine.

I worked there for about three months until I had to go where the money was, but it was being a rehab aide that launched me on this journey of self-discovery. As a rehab aide, I was toying with the idea of PT school but was terrified of having to take chemistry as a prerequisite. But I loved the rehab side of the human body more than the personal training side. I knew I wanted to rehab people. I fell in love with the way patients would express a deep sense of gratitude because the PTs either rid them of their pain or greatly decreased it. It’s not the gratitude that I’m after, of course. It’s the knowledge that I would be part of a profession that aims to improve someone’s quality of life.

As a personal trainer who trains many clients going through rehab, I love how physical therapy has improved many of their conditions that otherwise make my job a little bit harder; I have to rack my brain for a way to work around the pain. Oftentimes that is not easy. In reality, I want to be the person who one day treats that pain. I want to be a part of that since pain can severely decrease a person’s quality of life. I would know, having dealt with fibromylagia, a bone spur in my left ankle, and a jammed hip.

Pain can be an all-consuming force, the only thing your mind can fixate on throughout the day. It can prevent you from doing the things you want to do, from doing the things you need to do. It causes disability world wide.

Physical therapists aren’t magicians, but they are on the front line in pain management since they take a holistic approach that involves neither surgery nor medication. Surgery can be costly, and while there is no shame in needing to take medications, physical therapy provides a long-term solution to pain management. Medication for pain simply masks the symptoms–they generally don’t target the cause.

My local community college was supposed to get a PTA program, and I was absolutely set on this, had already signed up for it, only to be told that they, in fact, failed in getting the program. I was then going to settle for either OT or OTA. I’ll admit to feeling a little bit lackluster about having to settle for this. After all, the biomechanics of the human body is what draws me toward physical therapy. The only draw toward OT is the idea that it’s still rehab and it still helps people, but I don’t have a true, concrete reason for wanting to do OT the way I do with PT.

Frustrated with my CC’s inability to get the PTA program, I began to look in to other PTA programs. There’s one about an hour from where I live, so it’d be an hour commute to and back, possibly either 4 or 5 days a week. My dad didn’t think it was such a good idea considering the wear and tear I’d put on my car. He told me to just stick with OT. At the time I agreed.

What ultimately pushed me toward PT was a stroller workout instructor who casually dropped she was in PT school. I was taken aback by this information considering it was roughly 10 AM on a weekday when I was speaking to her, and so I was wondering why she wasn’t in class. Most DPT programs are full time, Monday through Friday. Later she explained to me she was doing a flex program through the University of St. Augustine. As you can guess, I immediately began doing my research.

As I looked into the program, I settled on switching from OT to PT. The program would still allow me to work until clinicals, as it’s a 4 year instead of a 3 year program, meaning you’re usually not taking more than 12 credit hours a semester. It’s flex in that most of the material is online, and you go on campus twice a month on the weekends for about 16 hours at a time. The university is 5 hours from where I live, so I can drive there on a Friday afternoon and spend the weekend there.

Things are very different when you’re married. My husband makes decent money, but I don’t want him to feel financially burdened while I’m in school. This flex program will keep the burden off him, at least until clinicals. I also know he strongly disapproves of me going away for college and living in a dormitory. When you’re married, that marriage does have to take some sort of priority in your life. College can’t override it, or else the marriage won’t survive.

Maybe you’re wondering why I don’t look into a local program. It’d be much cheaper, for sure. For one, the university doesn’t take anatomy from a CC, so I’d have to take out a loan to take their anatomy class–it is much pricier! Another reason is that their program is 3 years, and I’d have to quit my job to survive. A final reason is they highly suggest the rest of the prerequisites be taken at a 4-year university, so I have a strong suspicion they look more favorably upon people who have taken those classes there. This doesn’t mean I’m ruling them out as an option, but they are going to be my last option when I’ve exhausted all others.

I’m at the point where I refuse to settle for less. It’s PT or, as a final option, PTA. I’ll suffer through the hour commute, but only after I’ve applied to my program of choice 2 or 3 times and still can’t get in. Yet, if I can’t get into that program, then I’d likely stand no chance at getting into the local program here. US of A is known as the school of second chances for those who have been kicked out of their university’s previous programs. I’ve heard great things about this program, and I truly believe online learning is where things are going to be headed, especially as more working adults return to school and do not have the luxury of quitting their jobs. But that’s a post for another time.

I’ve had a chance to see what OT is like since I’ve been doing observation hours at the VA. I am absolutely certain I don’t want to have to settle. Perhaps I’d enjoy it. I don’t know. What I do know is that because I can’t find my ‘why’ behind wanting to do that instead of PT, then OT certainly isn’t for me.

You need a ‘why.’ You can’t go lightly into the medical field with a vague reason for why you want to do whatever it is you want to do. Money isn’t a good reason. You’ll burn out fast, grow bitter, and probably end up treating your patients poorly. Ideally you’ll be in the medical field for most of your working life, so you need to make sure it’s a career you absolutely want to do. Not to mention you’ll have loans to pay back if you’ve had to take some out. So make sure you’re taking out those loans for a career you’ll know you’ll stick with for a while.

I decided all of this back in October, so I’ve had some time to chew on it. My feelings for this haven’t lessened any. If anything, they’ve only strengthened my resolve as the days have passed. I want to get into DPT school more than anything else right now. I can’t see myself wanting to do anything else now that my mind is much more open to possibilities beyond what I was searching for within my English major.

I’m a dreamer. I’ll do whatever I have to do to make my dreams work. I’ve made most of the dreams I’ve ever had come true, so I know I’ll make this one happen.

Eulogy for My Cat

It’s been another long while since I’ve blogged on here. My last post was July 13th, which was a mere week before my cat, Neko, had to be put down. That’s when the drive to tap into my limbic system just fizzled out. The words weren’t there. The feelings were overrun by ways of keeping myself distracted–throwing myself into my job and throwing myself into my schoolwork.

If you’ve never felt the affection of a pet, it’s hard to understand the despair you undergo. I’ve lost loved ones, but considering I didn’t even see them yearly, their passing was nowhere near as devastating as losing my cat. And I can’t know what it’s like to lose a child. I’m not interested in ever having children, but I can tell you the loss of my cat has left a deep crevasse in my heart so unscalable that crampons and miles of rope won’t help.

Some people like to think the love of an animal is shallow. They only enjoy your presence because you feed them. That’s not the case at all.

When I moved out, I didn’t take Neko with me because I didn’t want to force her into an environment she would be unfamiliar with, so I left her with my parents. Yet, even though my mom had always fed her, her affections were tied to me whenever I visited. Her audible purring was enough to let me know that my presence made her happy.

She was never a lap cat, but she always loved to be near me. And I’ve been using the excuse for so long that I don’t have enough time to write the third book in The Stars Trilogy, when, in reality, it’s been hard to write it because she is no longer here. I wrote the first two books with her always at my side. She was a constant fixture in my writing life, and writing, frankly, is not the same without her.

I have started the third book, of course, 500 words a day at a time, but my writing life feels so empty because she is no longer here to purr by my side, to lay on my notes, to beg for pets when I’m just trying to type something. Even when I moved out and left her with my parents I cried for a week because I missed having her near me so badly. I missed waking up and she wasn’t there to greet me. Eventually I accepted her absence, as I knew she was much better off with my parents. But it’s been five months since we had to put her down because she may have had stomach cancer, and accepting that she’s gone is not any easier.

I still cry a few days a week at night when I’m in bed by myself because my husband comes to bed a little later. And I always tell myself that if something ever came along and said it’d grant any wish in exchange for my soul, I would wish to have her back and have her live forever so that even when I pass, she can go on to bring someone else joy, and she can go on to keep experiencing the world in a different way with each person she lives with. Even as I type this it’s hard to keep back the tears.

I’m so bitter that she died too soon. She was twelve, and while some may argue that’s plenty, there are many cats who live a few years longer than that and some into their twenties. In fact, not only did we put my cat down last year, we also had to put down our little dog who got to live to be sixteen. And while I grew up with that little dog and spent more time living with her than without, her death just could not affect me the way my cat’s did.

You can bond with an animal the same way you can bond with a person, and it is so, so incredibly painful when that bond is severed by an untimely death that is so cruel and unfair. I wish I could believe suffering was meaningful, but it’s absolutely meaningless. I don’t know to what extent that she suffered–only that she did.

I can tell you that the day my mom and I put her down was the worst day of my life. And I’ve been run through the gamut of things.

Her death was so painful because she fought the vet every step of the way. She hissed and growled and spat, and I couldn’t even hold her as she fell asleep and they delivered the final injection that put her down for good. I screamed and cried and apologized to her all the while and couldn’t believe the nightmare I was experiencing. I cried the whole day. I cried for weeks after. What kept me together was just being distracted.

This world can be such a cruel joke, giving us the ability to feel so deeply that we’re paralyzed when our minds experience something inconceivable. And her death was and will always be inconceivable because why did I have to lose her so soon? How come I didn’t get to see her death miles away like I did with our little dog who was able to die of old age? We had another dog, too, who got to die of old age. And if my mom reads this, hopefully she won’t mind me admitting that she told me she would have preferred our little dog to go before Neko–and it’s only because she was old and showing signs of old age and Neko arguably was not old and was certainly not showing signs of old age. If she did have stomach cancer, it’s a type of cancer even young cats can fall prey to.

She’s occasionally in my dreams. Mostly I dream that she appears out of nowhere, as if her death was just a game of hide and seek. In these dreams, I hold her close to me and cry tears of joy that she isn’t truly gone. And then I wake up with a feeling of emptiness knowing that will never come true.

I do have moments where I want another cat. My parents have two cats now named Gracie and Tessa. Gracie’s a cuddle bug, and Tessa’s still new and so is distant from everyone, except when her and Gracie play. So I’m much more familiar with Gracie than I am with Tessa, and even though Gracie melts like putty when you hold her, I realize that my affections for Neko will never be replaced. I visit my parent’s house and yearn for her to appear out of nowhere. She’d probably be angry and jealous that I’m holding another cat, but I think she’d eventually warm up to the idea of living with two other cats and would hopefully become close to them.

I just wish I had more years with her. I thought one day I would be able to take her with me once my husband and I moved somewhere that accepted pets, but now that can never happen.

I’d like to be both more emotionally and financially available before considering adopting a kitty–and I’d want two so that they’re not alone when my husband and I are at work.

There’s no magic way of coping with the death of a pet. Being distracted was the best thing for me. I honestly didn’t think I’d be able to survive at work, but it’s the one thing that kept me going. I know if I didn’t have work to go to, I would have initially spent my time alone at home crying all day. I didn’t even think I’d have the emotional faculties to survive anatomy and physiology, but I’m so driven to achieve my purpose in life that I don’t think there is anything in this world that can stop me.

When there are moments when I can’t stand how horrible it is that she’s no longer here, I try to remind myself that I’ve got a lot of love in me to give to many a deserving cat out there. So I just have to keep chipping away at the obstacles in life in order to provide the best life for my future hypothetical cats. If there’s an expensive surgery that can mean the difference between saving its life or having to put it down, I want to have the means to be able to pay for that.

Before the vet claimed Neko may have had cancer, I thought she just hadn’t started eating yet because the antibiotics hadn’t fully cleared an undiagnosed infection from her system. Or she was just so stressed about being force fed that she couldn’t bring herself to voluntarily eat. I was willing, at that very moment, to dip into my savings and pay for her to have a feeding tube (the most expensive option) if it meant giving her the chance she deserved. I was not going to have her put down just because she wouldn’t eat. It wouldn’t have been fair to her. It would have just been too cruel. But whatever she was going through was far crueler.

It saddens me deeply when I think about how I couldn’t have ever possibly understood to what extent she felt the pain and misery of whatever illness she was infected with. It saddens me whenever I think about how scrawny she was on her very last day, how she had no energy, and how she barely meowed, even when I called her name. She was a normally chatty cat who loved to meow and purr and jump and run, and she wasn’t any of those things on her final day. It saddens me even more to think of what she must have been thinking as the vet held her down and stuck needles in her.

She hated the vet. Always did. She was a tyrant whenever we brought her, and the vet would have to wear gloves and need the help of a vet tech. So it was no surprise she reacted horribly when being put down. But it doesn’t make it sting any less. It just makes everything worse because she must have felt deeply betrayed.

If there’s an afterlife, and if there’s one for animals, I hope she knows how deeply remorseful I am that I couldn’t do anything for her. I hope she knows just how much I loved and still love her. I hope she knows that I wanted to do everything possible to save her, but at the end, there was nothing that could.

Mostly, I just want her to know that she was one of the best things that could have ever happened to me. If it hadn’t been for a boy breaking my heart when I was a freshman in high school, my parents likely would not have adopted her. Then I would have missed out on so much by not having her in my life. And who knows what choices I would have made in life had I not had the influence of an affectionate cat? Because I know her love has made me a better person, and I want to keep existing in this world with her love influencing how I live my life.

I am who I am today because she influenced a part of me very deeply, just as there are many positive people in my life who have influenced me and guided all the decisions I’ve ever made.

And I promise to keep living with her positively influencing me.

Degrassi for Teens

All right, so I’m going to stick with blogging just once a week. Twice a week is arguably a bit much considering that sometimes when I get home from work, I want to do mindless activities–namely, watching television. I might work a five hour shift that day, but sometimes I’ll start early to either work on client programs, train clients, or even shadow a class for a fitness instructor who may want me to sub for them in the future. Since Thursdays are my off days, I’ll blog on this day.

***

Since I write for teens, I thought it totally relevant to talk about one of my favorite television shows, Degrassi, a Canadian drama for teens (though not overdramatic like soap operas).

I began watching this show when it was Degrassi: The Next GenerationI watched it through middle school, high school, and a little bit through college before taking a long break from it, mostly because I began to float away from cable television and watch more television online. I only recently picked it back up because I saw that Next Class was on Netflix, and I was curious to see how this little gem had progressed.

I was not disappointed. I caught up on all four seasons and can’t wait for season five.

First, let me start off by talking about what’s so amazing about this series. If you saw 13 Reasons Why on Netflix, you’re likely aware of the controversy surrounding it. I enjoyed this miniseries and didn’t think it glorified suicide at all (I think I’ll write a separate post on this), but I do have to admit that it was an intense drama that seemed like it was trying to capture more of an adult audience.

Degrassi is entirely for teens with issues that are relevant for its time. There is no dramatizing issues for entertainment value. There is simply an exploration of issues to help teens understand themselves and feel less alone.

For example, Ellie Nash, one of the characters in this series, introduced the issue of self-injury, a coping mechanism she sought to use based on her tumultuous home life. While self-injury most certainly wasn’t and isn’t a new thing, addressing it as a problem was relevant during my time, as Next Generation is my generation’s Degrassi while Next Class is today’s teens’ Degrassi.

I can remember being a fourteen-year-old going through issues of her own and watching that scene and how sick I felt. Now as an adult (fully 27, far removed from being a teen) I don’t look at that same scene with as much horror because of my more objective perspective.

Don’t get me wrong. Self-injury is no minor matter, but it’s not this big, scary thing that it used to be now that we better understand its use as a coping mechanism. And Next Class masterfully handles this new perspective on self-injury when Zoe Rivas begins harming herself by digging her nails into her skin (Ellie cut).

Grace Cardinal discovers these moon-shaped marks on Zoe’s thigh and doesn’t immediately freak out and run to the counselor–as is what happened with Ellie when Paige found her. She addresses the problem right then and there since self-injury is not the hidden issue it used to be when I was a teen. There was no shame surrounding it, and as a result, we did not see any further incidences of self-harm among Zoe. Now this didn’t happen with Ellie, but there was more embarrassment surrounding her discovery than there was for Zoe.

Next Class addresses a lot of relevant topics. From the Syrian refugee crisis to dealing with post-abortion guilt (or lack thereof) to racism and micro-agressions, to the concept of stereotype threat, and how it’s not cool to be racist or homophobic anymore, it’s a show I can’t recommend enough for teens and parents of teens and writers of teen fiction.

I also love that the actors and actresses are fairly close in age to the characters they portray and not wildly a decade older than their fourteen-year-old character. Perhaps Canadian television is just different form American television in this aspect.

The beauty of Degrassi lies in its timelessness. There was totally a reunion episode in Next Class that brought back some of the character’s of my generation’s Degrassi. It was a joy to see some of these characters and how they progressed–and an even greater joy to reflect on these characters as as an adult.

I certainly watch Degrassi with a different set of lenses, ones that are more objective and filled with the knowledge that these characters’ struggles can be overcome. I find myself rooting for them and also wanting to tell them that their struggles are not endless. I especially related strongly to Maya Matlin, whose depression, suicidal ideation, and ultimately suicide attempt made me cheer for her the most.

As a teen, I would have agreed with her that the depression is unending. Even in my early twenties I would have greed with her! As an older adult with more perspective, I rejoice in her recovery with the knowledge that depression isn’t this horrible monster but another illness that needs treatment like any other one.

I could talk about this show forever, but I think as a writer, it keeps me on top of issues that are important for teens. Young adult fiction itself is a great vehicle for this, but I also have to remind myself that it’s largely written by adults. Degrassi, on the other hand, is most likely influenced by its young actors and actresses; thus, there is no purely adult perspective dominating the direction of this show.

Overall, this show, I think, is a staple in the canon of relevant teen shows. I honestly don’t think teens have enough quality options like that that don’t portray them as attitude-filled party animals.

 

My Return

It has been well over a year since I’ve been on this blog. I honestly did not think I was going to come back to it, not because I grew bored of it but because having a career is more time-consuming than school ever was. However, my book’s recent ranking (When Stars Die), the best it’s ever been (yeah, it’s free, but only because of the second book) was the kick in the pants I needed to get back to planning the third book–plus, this blog is still receiving views, so I’d be stupid to keep ignoring it.

Another reason why I wanted to drop my author platform entirely is because I also have a fitness platform. If you’re interested, you can find it here. I hadn’t the slightest clue how I was supposed to juggle both, but now I’ve accepted that this blog is enough and that I’ll simply pay for promotions so that way I’m not spending unnecessary time on social media trying to get my book noticed.

At this stage in my life, it’s just not feasible to devote even a slight ounce of my energy to social media. This blog will do just fine. I’m working almost 30 hours a week training clients and creating programs at my gym, like nutrition coaching; I’m back in school with the hope of getting into a physical therapy assistant program (so I’m actually devoting a lot of time to studying); doing continuing education for personal trainers; and trying to find time to do mindless activities, like watching anime.

I’m at a point in my life where sleeping in is a delicious luxury and sometimes waking up at 3:30 AM is slightly obscene but not nerve-wracking. I wouldn’t change things at all, but I’ll detail my journey later because it’s a good story of perseverance, and this blog has never been strictly about my books or even writing anyway.

The plan is to blog twice a week though I haven’t decided what days I’d like to do just yet. Expect two next week though.

Social Thursday: Why I Left My Job and Changed My Mind

This past week my blog had to go on another temporary blackout, the same one it had to endure while I was searching for a job in fitness. Well, unfortunately, I left my job as a fitness consultant/personal training intern because things started heading in a direction that had me on edge. The manager who hired me was let go (he was the sixth one in the two years the gym has been there), dramatic changes were underway, a district manager was thrown in the mix, and a new manager was brought on board.

These dramatic changes included losing the ability to sell walk-ins and take telephone inquiries; working more hours than what I was told I was going to be working; daily prospecting that adds wear and tear on your car, not to mention siphoning the gas from your tank (and I wouldn’t have minded this if the money I was making was worth filling up my gas tank more often–but it wasn’t); constant micromanaging that includes a continual update throughout the day of the number of appointments and sales we have–so it became too sales-y for me; being overly involved in numbers that made me realize the last time I was obsessed with numbers, I ended up in the hospital; quotas I did not feel I could meet with the current lack of resources; and an overall feeling of dread as I realized my original purpose for being hired was being sucked away from me.

I was originally hired to to simply sell memberships while making a salary in order to support myself as I learned the trade of personal training from someone else. Most of my sells were walk-ins, but I was still making them and was completely happy with this arrangement. I knew that with the new manager, I would no longer be able to do it. So it was with a heavy heart that I left. But I luckily left on amicable terms with the new manager, and I have no ill feelings toward him at all. After all, he is doing what he is being told to do, as any good manager does. My previous manager simply had a different philosophy that meshed well with mine. I still work out at this gym though (as my fiance’s guest), as it’s a gym I fell in love with during my time as a consultant. The experiences I gained there are unforgettable, and I learned even more what my limits are. And, yes, I do miss working there, being there daily surrounded by people I grew to enjoy having around. Even so, I knew it was time to move on. Yet, I thank my previous manager for giving me the opportunity to build the experiences I worked for.

I know I’ve talked about launching my personal training business this summer. That’s still going to happen. What I’ve changed my mind about, however, is working as a personal trainer for a gym. YMCA hired me on as a personal trainer, and I start training Monday! 

There are several reasons why I chose to go back to this route. For one, my job as a fitness consultant didn’t pan out, and I know that I never, EVER, want to do sales again, so finding another job in sales was out of the question. I also knew that I wasn’t going to be fully happy unless I was working in fitness. And while I loved working the front desk, greeting members and helping them with their concerns, the desire to do more than that, to make helping people a massive part of my life, kept gnawing at my heart. When a friend of mine told me YMCA was hiring, I knew I had to send off my resume before I lost this opportunity, as none of the YMCA in my area were hiring when I was looking three months ago. Joe Cannon told me the YMCA is a great place to work for trainers just starting out, and since he’s someone I look up to, I knew I could not pass up the opportunity to submit my resume to YMCA.

Call me a cynic, but I did not expect to even get an interview. After all, the job description said that it preferred a trainer with at least a year’s experience–and I simply have 3 months. Plus, I never trusted submitting resumes and applications online. When I was searching for a job a few years ago, I sent out over 40 applications and resumes and didn’t hear back but from two places. So the fact that I had to submit my resume online was also another reason that I was surprised I received an interview.

I tried not to get my hopes up for the interview, so during the week leading up to it, I didn’t think about it. I didn’t prepare for it. I was just going to let my passion for fitness and the desire to change people’s lives guide my answers during the interview.

I am so happy to say that during the interview, I realized working at the YMCA was my dream. I don’t have to worry about sales. The hourly pay is enough to have a living wage, even at part-time. I get to actually take part as a volunteer in many of the events the YMCA holds; thus, I have more opportunities to affect the community at large in a positive way. I’m participating in a kickball tournament next month, so it obviously offers many opportunities to bond with co-workers. And I’m just thrilled that in spite of my minute experience, I am being given a chance to change the world, one person at a time.

I am in a privileged position to be able to start from the ground up. I live with my fiance, who is able to support both of us with his job while I build up my dream career.

I cannot wait to begin the journey. My new dreams are going to be my clients’ dreams.

***

WSDAD

 Purchase When Stars Die at Amazon, Lulu, Kobo, and Barnes&Noble.

 

10 Hilarious Book Dedications That Actually Got Published

These are hilarious.

Books Rock My World

I love reading book dedications! Often, it is our first touch with an author. it is intimate to read those words that often show what they truly cherish in life, what they hope for the book, what they hold dear.

But sometimes, authors get bold, and instead of constructing a “proper” dedication, they write words that are unorthodox, honest and often humorous. Here are 10 of dedications like that!

  1. The Selection” by Kiera Cass
    hidad
  2. “Psychos: A White Girl Problems Book” by Babe Walker
    Strongest-Person
  3. An Introduction To Algebraic Topology” by Joseph J. Rotman
    book-dedication
  4. “The House of Hades” by Rick Riordan
    cliffhanger
  5. “My Shit Life So Far” by Frankie Boyle
    destroy
  6. “Austenland” by Shannon Hale
    colin_0
  7. “The Land Of Stories” by Chris Colfer
    af9ab3836bc0550c1df852c73d669790
  8. “Adventures of Huckleberry Finn” by Mark Twain
    IMG_4403
  9. “No Thanks” by E.E. Cummings
    ee_cummings
  10. “Post Office” by Charles Bukowski
    IMG_4404

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