Confined No More

Confined No More

Escaping from the Confines of Society
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"You'll be damned if you do, you'll be damned if you don't."

If these words so accurately capture our society today, then why do we bother to please everyone, all of their opinions.

Over the past few months, I've learned an important lesson, one that will help me through life: Do what makes you happy and don't give a damn about what anyone else thinks. Make sure that you're doing things that make you happy, not what makes others happy. It sounds like the easiest think to do, doesn't it? In a society where we are taught to please everyone and conform, this is a daunting task.

After realizing the importance of this lesson, I decided to try it, give it a test drive if you will. What have I learned? I'm a really awesome woman who can speak her mind and stand up for herself. I learned that I will never conform and give myself up for someone else ever again. Unspoken rules that society tells you to follow aren't real. I learned that anyone and everyone should try this lesson out.

I am who I am and don't have any regrets. Everyone is their own person. I'm happier and content. If the world was full of people who lived this way, doing what makes them happy (within reason), accepting and joy-giving would become second nature to us. Maybe the human species could see the beauty that surrounds us at all times.

So...

"You'll be damned if you do, you'll be damned if you don't."

Cover Image Credit: Loren Jones

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Yes, I Had A Stroke And I'm Only 20

Sometimes bad things happen to good people.
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Recently, I read an article on Cosmo that was written by a woman that had a stroke at the ripe old age of 23. For those of you who don't know, that really doesn't happen. Young people don't have strokes. Some do, but it's so incredibly uncommon that it rarely crosses most people's minds. Her piece was really moving, and I related a lot -- because I had a stroke at 20.

It started as a simple headache. I didn't think much of it because I get headaches pretty often. At the time, I worked for my parents, and I texted my mom to tell her that I'd be late to work because of the pain. I had never experienced a headache like that, but I figured it still wasn't something to worry about. I went about my normal routine, and it steadily got worse. It got to the point that I literally threw up from the pain. My mom told me to take some Tylenol, but I couldn't get to our kitchen. I figured that since I was already in the bathroom, I would just take a shower and hope that the hot steam would relax my muscles, and get rid of my headache. So I turned the water on in the shower, and I waited for it to get hot.

At this point, I was sweating. I've never been that warm in my life. My head was still killing me. I was sitting on the floor of the bathroom, trying to at least cope with the pain. Finally, I decided that I needed to go to the hospital. I picked up my phone to call 911, but I couldn't see the screen. I couldn't read anything. I laid down on the floor and tried to swipe from the lock screen to the emergency call screen, but I couldn't even manage that. My fine motor skills were completely gone. My fingers wouldn't cooperate, even though I knew what buttons needed to be pressed. Instead of swiping to the emergency call screen, I threw my phone across the room. "Okay," I thought, "Large muscle groups are working. Small ones are not".

I tried getting up. That also wasn't happening. I was so unstable that I couldn't stay standing. I tried turning off the running water of the shower, but couldn't move the faucet. Eventually, I gave up on trying to move anywhere. "At what point do I just give up and lie on the floor until someone finds me?" That was the point. I ended up lying on the floor for two hours until my dad came home and found me.

During that two hours, I couldn't hear. My ears were roaring, not even ringing. I tried to yell, but I couldn't form a sentence. I was simply stuck, and couldn't do anything about it. I still had no idea what was going on.

When the ambulance finally got there, they put me on a stretcher and loaded me into the back. "Are you afraid of needles or anything?" asked one EMT. "Terrified," I responded, and she started an IV without hesitation. To this day, I don't know if that word actually came out of my mouth, but I'm so glad she started the IV. She started pumping pain medicine, but it didn't seem to be doing anything.

We got to the hospital, and the doctors there were going to treat me for a migraine and send me on my merry way. This was obviously not a migraine. When I could finally speak again, they kept asking if I was prone to migraines. "I've never had a migraine in my whole life," I would say. "Do you do any drugs?" they would ask. "No," I repeated over and over. At this point, I was fading in and out of consciousness, probably from the pain or the pain medicine.

At one point, I heard the doctors say that they couldn't handle whatever was wrong with me at our local hospital and that I would need to be flown somewhere. They decided on University of Maryland in Baltimore. My parents asked if I wanted them to wait with me or start driving, so I had them leave.

The helicopter arrived soon after, and I was loaded into it. 45 minutes later, I was in Baltimore. That was the last thing I remember. The next thing I remember was being in the hospital two weeks later. I had a drain in my head, a central port, and an IV. I honestly didn't know what had happened to me.

As it turns out, I was born with a blood vessel malformation called an AVM. Blood vessels and arteries are supposed to pass blood to one another smoothly, and mine simply weren't. I basically had a knot of blood vessels in my brain that had swelled and almost burst. There was fluid in my brain that wouldn't drain, which was why my head still hurt so bad. The doctors couldn't see through the blood and fluid to operate, so they were simply monitoring me at that point.

When they could finally see, they went in to embolize my aneurysm and try to kill the AVM. After a successful procedure, my headache was finally starting to subside. It had gone from a 10 on the pain scale (which I don't remember), to a 6 (which was when I had started to be conscious), and then down to a 2.

I went to rehab after I was discharged from the hospital, I went to rehab. There, I learned simple things like how to walk and balance, and we tested my fine motor skills to make sure that I could still play the flute. Rehab was both physically and emotionally difficult. I was constantly exhausted.

I still have a few lingering issues from the whole ordeal. I have a tremor in one hand, and I'm mostly deaf in one ear. I still get headaches sometimes, but that's just my brain getting used to regular blood flow. I sleep a lot and slur my words as I get tired. While I still have a few deficits, I'm lucky to even be alive.

Cover Image Credit: Neve McClymont

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I May Not Be A Perfect Christian, But I Am The Perfect Me

God does not judge us if we aren't "perfect"

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I grew up in a Christian household. Now I do not mean we had bibles everywhere and the manger set up year round, or anything like that. Instead, we are deeply rooted in our faith.

I grew up believing in God and a higher power, also knowing that heaven is real. I knew from a young age that times do get rough, but God is always watching over me and taking care of me. My faith was very strong even as a little girl, something that has always been important to me.

As I got older, I became less and less committed to my faith. It's natural, as you get older you have the opportunity to make decisions for yourself, and I wasn't making it a priority anymore. I didn't even realize it was happening until one Sunday I woke up and wasn't at church and didn't feel bad about it.

In college, a lot of people lose their faith altogether, but that's something that did not happen to me. I always had faith, but I wasn't as committed to it as I had been before. When things went wrong I knew I had God to rely on, but I forgot that I also had Him to rely on when things went well.

Once I realized that I wasn't as committed to my faith as I had been previously, I began feeling guilty. I felt that God was mad at me because I wasn't worshipping Him as much or talking to Him. But as it turns out, God still loved me.

God loved me when I didn't love myself. He loved me as I made dumb decisions. He loved me when I was happy. He loved me when I was mad. Regardless of the circumstances, God loved me. And guess what? He still loves me now!

I put so much pressure on myself to be the "perfect" Christian that I lost sight of being one at all. I never thought that would ever happen, but it turns out I'm not alone. We all take some time off or venture onto a different path, but at the end of the day, God still loves us.

I'm not a perfect Christian by any means, but God doesn't care. He loves me and thinks that I am the perfect me. He made me, as well as everyone else, in His image. When I don't love myself, He still loves me and thinks I rock, despite the dumb things I may or may not do.

I won't ever be perfect, but God doesn't care. He loves me and thinks I'm the perfect me, and that's all that matters.

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