Shine a Light

So often, I go AWOL from the blog because I’m uninspired or busy with school. I’m quite disappointed in myself when I am so uninspired because, as a writer, that kind of block is the absolute worst. But this time, I had to disappear for a while because my mental health was down the drain. I’ve been pretty active on Twitter, but I need to give the blog some more attention. I just didn’t have anything conducive or not depressing to say.

Since my mental breakdown a few weeks ago, I have been feeling so much better. I have always seen writing as therapy for me, but my last post was probably the most therapeutic of them all. I’ve been more social and happy and free. It has been quite the last few weeks of the quarter. I’m finally feeling good enough to share a few updates.

It is finals week again. I am stressed out, but I am not in the anxiety pit. That’s a win, for sure! I’m feeling pretty good about my finals this quarter, and I’ve done well in my classes so far. Who knew that my worst quarter mentally and emotionally would be my best academically? What a rush.

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Ending the term means that the holidays are upon us! Yes, Thanksgiving has already passed, and I missed out on my chance to blog about the struggles an eating disorder past has on that holiday in particular. Chipmunk version? We hosted a Friendsgiving, I went to my grandparents’ house the first weekend of our (whole week!!) of break, and then I had actual Thanksgiving with Matthew’s family. I didn’t feel bad about myself for having three celebrations. Not one bit! ((Also, Roseville, California is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been. It brought back Amsterdam vibes with colorful trees and cotton candy skies.))

But as many who have a mental illness know, the holidays are a trying time. Family can be overwhelming, everyone is full of this cheer and happiness that you’re unsure you know how to match. All the questions people are going to ask about your love life or your future (the latter of which is really stressing me out). It is all very…much. And it’s difficult to navigate. I’ve been in recovery for a while now, and I still have a hard time.

I’ve always really liked Christmastime, though. The lights, the trees, the smells…pink noses and heavy coats (which are pretty nonexistent in LA, but that’s not the point). Last year, I was in London for this time of the year.

~~Wait, Ashley, you were in London last year??? We had no idea!!!~~

I know, I know, but I have a point! Nobody celebrates Christmas like Londoners. You haven’t lived until you’ve walked down Oxford Street under hundreds of lights or wandered through Winter Wonderland in Hyde Park drinking mulled wine. It is a feeling like no other, and you can’t help but drown in the Christmas cheer. It’s involuntary!! Ever since I got to experience that absolute joyous time, I have a better appreciation for it. I mean, yes, I am one of those don’t-skip-from-Halloween-straight-to-Christmas people, but I do love Christmas! I love the cheer and the colors and the warmth in people.

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I used to only see the worst in people, especially myself, but now I see otherwise. Yes, the holidays are still hard because it is an overwhelming time not meant for introverts. I still want to sit alone in my room and have me time. Often. But people mean well this time of year. They want you to feel happy. It is that well-meaning that makes me excited this year. I can’t wait to shower my friends and family with love–though, I try to do that more often anyway. I bought the girl I nanny a cute present, and I cannot wait to give it to her! Matthew’s presents just arrived in the mail, and wow, I am so excited for him to open them!! I’m still searching for the perfect things for my roommates and family, but I’m giddy just thinking about them.

Over the weekend, when I wasn’t studying, I sat in and watched various Christmas movies–Elf and How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the live-action one) and it was a rather enjoyable night. After seeing the live, musical version of Elf a few nights ago with Amy, I was even more in the mood for Christmas cheer! I closed down the weekend by watching two of the cheesy holiday Hallmark and Freeform movies with my roommates. We laughed, we cried (from laughing so hard), and we drank and were merry.  Seeing the houses around SLO start to put up lights and decor is only adding to the merriment.

Basically, I’m happy. I’m cheerful. I’m not out of the darkness, but I’m finding the light. It’s in the form of colorful string lights, but that’s beside the point. I’m not completely dreading the holidays as I usually am, and that is a huge step in the right recovery direction.

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To all those struggling with this time of year, I believe in you. You don’t have to enjoy it or anything, but I believe that you will make it through. I believe that you will overcome all of this hardship, darkness, depression, mental illness. I know it’s hard, but I know how strong you are, even if you don’t see it.

That’s all I have for you right now. Must get back to studying (cue the arduous groan).

I can do this. You can do this. We can do this.

-Ash

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Perfectly Out of Key

Lately I’ve been AWOL. In life, over text, on the blog. Heck even my twitter is lacking originality and creativity of any kind. It’s all about Steve Harrington’s character development in season 2 of Stranger Things.

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The last time I fell into a pit of darkness was my junior year of high school. There was a giant severing of my friend group, and (separately but by people involved in said severing) I was shunned by my friends because I didn’t despise Taylor Swift for dating Harry Styles. So many people I cared about decided I wasn’t important enough to keep around, so naturally, I decided I wasn’t important enough either. Junior year was one of the hardest and most isolating years of my life.

Here I am, five years later, and the pit of darkness? It’s still here, too. I’ve gone through periods of time in college where things are pretty bleak and I feel like I’m thirteen years old again and hating myself. But this last week or so has been different. I haven’t felt this off since…well, a long time.

I’ve been messing up by days so badly that I missed a paper deadline, I forgot about a sorority event, I didn’t do a homework assignment on time, I screwed up travel plans, and I have three more classes to take than I originally thought to graduate. Any work I do isn’t just unappreciated or not respected, it’s downright degraded. I don’t have enough money to buy groceries anymore so I’ve been living off bags of Doritos left over from Parents Weekend. I hate my body as much as I did senior year of high school. I’m acting like a bitch to people I care about.

This is me @ everything:

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Last Thursday I cried during my bowling class, which made me look like an idiot. I was bowling very poorly, but that shouldn’t have been as upsetting as it was–and I’m in a freaking bowling class. I was going to get to spend two hours in my next class doing nothing but writing Book 3 aka My Senior Project, I was supposed to be in a good mood! But I was not only in a bad mood, I was in a pissed-off, scream-into-pillows, pull-my-hair out mood. I went home that day barely able to hold back tears. I walked into my dark bedroom and got in bed, only leaving once to get yet another bag of Doritos. I hated myself. I hated that day. I hated everyone.

What’s wrong, Ashley?

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I wish I had a better answer, but that is exactly where I’m at right now.

I’m feeling empty again, unlike other times. It’s worse. And I can’t seem to let any of this anger or need for escape go. It’s similar to when I had anxiety abroad, and all I wanted was to scream at everyone for the utter insipidness of their conversations. I couldn’t say a word without wanting to burst into tears. I didn’t want to feel it anymore. What’s different about this time is that I don’t want to feel anything anymore. I want to go to sleep forever and not have to deal with the pressures of school and my friends.

Maybe I’m more angry that I can still feel like this after so long. After so much work. And after so much time, I feel like I still can’t talk to so many people about any of this. I can’t just be completely honest when someone asks me what’s wrong. By the time anyone notices something off with me, there is a culmination of things and they’ve just been piling up for so long. It’s not even about anything anymore.

“Are you okay? What happened?”

“I got an 87 in bowling today.” It sounds so stupid, right? Right! But it’s not just bowling, it’s making dumb mistake after dumb mistake. It’s never being able to be stressed about school because other people have a far more intensive workload. It’s about trying to be mature and do adult things and failing miserably. It’s about never being able to be tired because I went to bed before midnight. It’s about seeing every other person happy or healthy or secure in what they’re going to do with their life and I still feel so all over the place. And it’s about not being able to just say these things out loud to people.

I wish I had something positive to say after all this. I always want to end on a good note, but right now I feel pretty hopeless. I know it’s temporary and I know it’s in my head…but that doesn’t mean it sucks any less. And it doesn’t mean my feelings are any less real.

I don’t know what kind of slump this is yet. Because Thursday was one of the worst days of my life–and if you have read this blog at all, you’ll know that’s saying something–but Friday was such a high. I met my great-grand-little and she’s so cute and sweet. I got to laugh with my sorority family, whom I love so much. I felt things. But other than that? I just…don’t.

I’m doing my best not to let this numbness tear down everything I’ve built up in the last five years. Or anything I’ve worked so hard to overcome for the last twelve (oh, my God, has it really been that long??). But I also don’t see myself letting go of this darkness right away.

You remember that one Fairy Odd Parents episode where Timmy asks Cosmo and Wanda to take away his emotions? That’s how I feel right now. Or…I don’t feel? Basically:

“How do you feel, Ashley?”

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I don’t know, I just feel like I need to be honest. Sometimes I don’t know my thoughts until I blog about them. I’ve just been rather uninspired and very much empty–maybe for longer than I realized. I guess I just think it’s important to note this:

Depression is hard. Recovery is harder.

And if you’re like me and you’ve struggled with this for years and you’re still having a hard time, I’m with you. It’s not always easy, and sometimes it gets you when you least expect it.

Keep working at it. I’m going to.

((I guess that’s almost positive?))

I’ll just be over here trying to feel something and do things that aren’t stress out and watch Stranger Things or The Office all day.

– Ash

I Put a Spell on You

It’s the spookiest time of year, folks!! October is upon us, and I couldn’t be more excited. Not only is Halloween one of my favorite holidays, but it’s also one of the reasons I wanted to become a writer! And in a few weeks’ time, catch me singing the first verse of “English Girls” by the Maine over and over. Mostly wishing I was in London in mid-October, like the song says. Like I so happily was last year.

But I digress.

Since it is Halloween time–aka the best time–I’ve been thinking about all the spooky, scary, and suspenseful movies I love watching this time of year. These movies either make me jumpy with (the good kind of) anxiety or nostalgic in the best kind of way. So here is my stockpile of movies I’ll be watching this month! And then throughout the rest of the year to fill the void.

Hocus Pocus

This is a classic!!

Yes, it’s a Disney movie, but it’s the perfect balance of spooky and funny, and with the all-star cast of the Sanderson sisters and the super-cute leading man, you can’t go wrong. Bette Midler, you get me!

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Halloweentown (and sequels)

Okay, okay, so it’s Disney Channel, (not quite as good as regular Disney) but it’s when DCOMs were the best movies to look forward to! I always think it would be fabulous to live in a town where it was Halloween all the time. With witches and goblins and trolls, there’s no end to excitement.

To quote Marnie, “Halloween is cool.” I couldn’t agree more!

The Nightmare before Christmas

So this is a crossover between Christmas and Halloween, but Jack Skellington is one of the most iconic Halloween figures of all time. Like the previous movie on this list, Jack lives in a world where it is Halloween all the time. I mean, he grows tired of it and decides to take over Christmas, but that’s not the point. The point is that Tim Burton knows how to successfully create a world that is dark yet humorous.

Sleepy Hollow

Calling on Tim Burton again, and Johnny Depp, of course, comes the tale of the Headless Horseman. It’s suspenseful, mysterious, old-timey, and um, hello, Johnny Depp. And Christina Ricci–one of my favorites. Like most movies on this list, there is a twist at the end that makes it worth the watch. And I just can’t say no to a period drama.

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The Others

This is, by far, one of my favorite movies. It was my mom’s favorite growing up, and she rented it at Blockbuster (remember those days??) for my friend and me to watch in our horror-movie-phase. It stars Nicole Kidman as an over-protective, religious mother living with her two children in an estate in the middle of nowhere. When her daughter starts claiming to see ghosts in the house, tearing down the curtains so needed for these children who are allergic to the sun, and the new housekeepers and gardener act suspiciously, the suspense almost becomes too much to bear! It still freaks me out to watch. If you like suspense thrillers, this one is for you.

The Awakening

Not based on the book I read in high school, thankfully, this film gets me in the suspense department, as well. It’s about a young woman who’s made a career of debunking seances, proving that these grieving people are wasting their money on a farce. She gets a request to investigate a “ghost” at an all-boys prep school in the country and takes the job. The only other woman on the property is an elderly housekeeper woman, played by Imelda Staunton aka Dolores Umbridge from the Harry Potter series. Don’t let that shy you away from this movie, though! You’ll find she has some out-of-whack viewpoints in this one as well. It’s decent as far as movies go, but it does a solid job of keeping you on your toes with a pretty great twist.

The Addams Family

And the sequels for this one, as well. I love this dark and twisted family, the way many of their beliefs are reversed and how they feel about death. Wednesday Addams is one of my favorite characters of all time! She is dry and cynical and pretty badass. I love when their baby brother is born and they try all kinds of outrageous ways to get rid of him, failing miserably each time. It’s entertaining. Or maybe I just have a dark and twisted mind? Maybe.

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It’s still a must-watch!

Caspar

And coming in hot for another one is Christina Ricci! This movie still gets me every time: a spooky house, a sweet little ghost, three obnoxious uncles, and Bill Pullman. You can’t go wrong! This movie always freaked me out for a long time, but I watched it every year anyway. I couldn’t get over how cute Devon Sawa (as human Caspar) was. I still can’t get over it, to be honest. That blonde hair, blue-eyed, sweet boy…hm, sounds a bit like someone else I know. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve picked up on the humor and this movie has only grown more sentimental in my heart.

Also getting honorable mention here is Caspar and Wendy. I love little Hillary Duff!

The Haunted Mansion

Because it’s Eddie Murphy, Disney, and it has a cool added backstory. Oh, and a creepy villain!

Edward Scissorhands

Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, and tragedy, the perfect mix for my Friday nights. So this isn’t a scary or suspenseful movie and it doesn’t involved witches, ghosts, or goblins, but it belongs on this list. It has that darkness of a Tim Burton film, with a protagonist who is lonely, uncared for, and has scissors for hands, with a pang of love and love lost. And it leaves me a bit jumpy and anxious at times, as many movies of the season do.

Honorable mentions: Beetlejuice, Poltergeist, Friday the 13th, Zombieland, and that one episode of Boy Meets World that still gives me the heebie-jeebies! (Season 5, episode 17, to be specific).

Oh, and IT—can’t forget my new favorite movie!!!

These are just my favorites and recommendations. There are plenty of other scary and suspenseful movies to sink you teeth into this October. I suggest Freeform’s 13 Nights of Halloween for ideas.

I’m so excited for this time of the year! I wish it would last longer than just this month, but with my friends, I know it will last all year.

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I’m going to see Matthew this weekend and he has a scary movie for us to watch together. Maybe it’ll make the next edition. We’ll just have to see!

Happy October, everyone! May your month be spooky and candy-filled and wonderful!

-Ash

The Last Time

Senior year of college…it’s a pretty scary place to be. Exciting, sure. But still scary. Four years ago when I started my senior year of high school, I was beyond anxious to get through it and get out of there. I couldn’t wait to start life over in college. Now, I’m dreading June. I’ve had the time of my life in college, and moving on from this place and really putting myself out in the world is frightening.

I’m trying to think of a movie or TV show that prepared me for this moment and I’m coming up short. They all skip this part!

Maybe that’s a good thing. That way I can figure this out without any unrealistic expectations sprung on my by Zac Efron or Jennifer Lawrence, ya know?

So far, I’ve unsuccessfully crashed a class, successfully crashed two (one of which was bowling–I know, I know, but it’s fun and I need that), went through the grueling process of recruitment for the last time, and felt more like an old person because of my hips and back than ever before. But it’s been an experience.

My recruitment experiences have gone: freshman rushee, sophomore recruiter, junior traveler, and senior RC. I’m glad I got to experience it in so many different ways.

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Going through recruitment as a freshman was exhausting and exciting and a bit stressful. But I had a completely open mind, having known absolutely nothing about Greek life other than what I’d seen in film and TV, and ended up in an organization that I love with incredible people. Sophomore year was even more exhausting because I had to do the whole process again while walking up hills in sky-high heels. Okay, okay, they were wedges, but it was still tough! Long days with little sleep and minimal food. And girl-flirting. SO. MUCH. GIRL-FLIRTING. But it was still a fun experience and I got to bond a lot with my pledge class. I’m so much closer to them than I thought possible. My third year, I escaped the heat and sore feet by jet-setting to London. You all know how I don’t regret that one bit. It’s been a whole year since I first stepped in that wonderful city!! And since I’ve met four people that completely changed my life. Did I miss recruitment? Not a bit. Did I miss the bonding time? Definitely. Was it worth it? You know the answer to that.

This year I decided to be a recruitment counselor, which meant I got a group of rushees and coached them through this experience. It was cool to see the other houses recruitments, since it’d been so long since I’d last seen any of them, and to get to talk to my girls about their own thoughts. I didn’t get to see them too much throughout the day, since I was stationed at a specific house, but I loved getting to chat with them at the end of the night. To check in with them and see how they were feeling about everything. So many of them had such different views about it than I did, but I so much enjoyed getting to chat with them about that. They’re all such wonderful young women and I can’t wait to see how they grow in their new homes (and out of them, for the ones who withdrew from the process).

I also got to be a part of a group of RCs–blue is our color! At first, there was awkwardness, as there typically is in a new group, but after seeing each other every day during meetings, we started to grow closer. The second day of recruitment, when we were all stationed at a certain house for almost the whole day, we really sealed the bond as friends: we made a snapchat group! They are honestly such amazing and strong women and I love them all, as well. I was so stressed out and emotional all weekend (I cried quite a bit) and they were right there to comfort me and make sure I was okay. Spending so much time together gave them a special place in my heart. It’s been two days, but I miss them so much already!

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I wouldn’t take back anything that I’ve done over the last four years, recruitment or otherwise. So many people say that Greek life isn’t for them, or that they aren’t “sorority girls.” It’s completely understandable, but also, have you met me??? I’m definitely not a typical sorority girl. But I love my house.

I joined Greek life because I thought it would give me that bond of friendship, a purpose I cared about, and opportunities to make great memories. It’s given me all of those things and more. I’ve met my best friends and bridesmaids! (Okay now, I’m sounding like a srat star…)

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It’s so much more than people give it credit for. After my God-awful high school experience–my life experience with depression and an eating disorder and anxiety…It’s given me such a loving and accepting environment to live my life in. I’m a stronger and more empowered person because of these people. They make me less afraid of post-college life. Ya know, when I won’t be watching The Office and eating truffle-salted popcorn with people I refer to as my Frat Rats. Or my Spookies.

Oh, who am I kidding? I’ll be doing that with them for the rest of my life. (Just less often…)

It might be too early to tell at this point, but senior year isn’t going so badly. Yes, I’m already a bit behind on my readings, I’m stressing out about sharing my writing with other people who want to be writers, and worrying about how my skills in poetry are still terrible. But like I said, I have bowling to diffuse that! And regular calls to Matthew to calm me down, of course. He’s so wonderful!!

This is my last hurrah at Cal Poly, a school that has changed my life forever, and I’m determined to make the absolute best of it. I just still can’t believe the person I’ve grown up into over the last few years. This ride has been insane.

-Ash

I don’t know about you…

…but I’m feeling 22.

Yup, I turned 22 this week, and being that a few of my friends aren’t even 21 yet, it’s safe to say I am kind of a grandmother. Instead of going downtown and dancing the night away, I stay in at night to watch TV or read a book (or 12).

Of course, there is usually wine involved, but that’s beside the point.

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We all know (or rather, you know if you’ve been around the blog long enough) that I really care about birthdays, especially mine. Every year that I’ve made it past middle school and high school is a year to celebrate. Even though I’ve come such a long way in my recovery, I’m still shocked that every time August 14th rolls around, I’m here to experience it. Kinda crazy, huh?

So much has happened to me in the last year, and I’m incredibly grateful for all of it. I studied abroad and had the time of my life–as if you didn’t know that already. I had a rough transition back to normal life, but I got through it. I started dating a pretty fantastic guy. I quit my job and got another that allowed me more time to read and write. I finished Book 2 and have started research and notes on Book 3. It’s been both the shortest and quickest year of my life.

And now I’m 22 and I feel like I’m supposed to be an adult. I didn’t go out the night of my birthday, other than a few drinks at dinner; I stayed home and watched a chick flick (Miss Congeniality, a classic). I woke up and remembered about all the responsibilities I have, like school. I completely forgot that school starts in a month. I have prep for recruitment and my classes and whatnot. Senior year is about to begin, and that will be followed by graduation. And then the real real world.

I have learned a lot in my 22 years on this planet, and I know I’ll continue learning and growing. Obviously that’s cliche, but that’s what this life is for me: growing up and figuring it all out. And for once I feel like I might not be failing at that latter part. Still totally freaking out about the future, but I’m confident that I’ll be happy.

I am excited for the year ahead. And all the wine I’m going to drink. I got a lot of it for my birthday–and not the less-than-fancy Barefoot I always pick up at Campus Bottle.

I know soon my birthdays are going to be something to dread. You know how adults get when kids ask them how old they are–wait, I am and adult now, too–but that’s not me yet. Maybe in three years when I can no longer say I’m in my early twenties. I still feel like a kid sometimes. A little naive. When I was younger I used to think I’d have my life more together by now. I mean, I have a nice job (though, it’s no career), I’m in a pretty serious relationship, and I’m happy. I hoped I would have those things, but they’ve only just recently kind of fallen into place. I guess that’s kind of lucky.

Cal Poly and SLO and college in general has kind of been like a dream, compared to the hell high school was for me, at least. I feel like I can do anything. Maybe I actually believe that now, too.

So catch my twenty-second year being filled with books, writing, wine, and indie movies. Oh, and school.

Thanks for riding this rollercoaster with me.

Ash