Conquering Brighton, Part 2: Recovery and Catharsis

Conquering Brighton, Part 2: Recovery and Catharsis

Sometimes, revisiting a place that once caused a lot of pain can truly be liberating.
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[Trigger warning: discussion of anxiety, panic attacks, and dissociation].

My sister knew I was nervous.

As we drove to Brighton, I felt slightly on edge. I was irritable, and I knew this was because I was anxious. As we emerged from the parking lot and onto the high street, I felt the presence of the fog. As we walked down to our hotel, memories of the streets and my dissociation emerged, but I could handle them. They were not unpleasant like they used to be.

As it turned out, we were at the same hotel as last time. I remembered the lobby, where the anxiety used to start as we left the hotel for the day. I remembered the rooms and its bathroom, the place I recalled looking at my hands that had then felt so disconnected from my body. This was the past; I remembered where I was now, and how far I had come.

We settled in for the night, and the next day we went to the center of the city. Perhaps fitting for such dull, gloomy weather, I was a little disappointed to find the fog creeping back, as well as the memories of how flat the world had felt during my anxiety episode.

I was still on edge. As I looked around, the world felt a bit unreal, as if my mind felt like it was looking through glasses with the wrong prescription. As we walked down different streets, I kept thinking about how I had felt as I walked home from the pier five years ago; how fake it all felt, like I was in a dream. I was a little disappointed, but more so afraid. What if it actually happened again?

It was then that I decided to react differently.

That’s OK, I thought. I did not fight it. I did not allow the memories or anxiety I experienced to root themselves. I accepted I felt that way, and I moved on. It was oddly empowering: I had learned not to care so much about the symptoms of anxiety I experienced at times, and here it was paying off.

We even went to the pier, where the panic attack had happened. I got on with my day, and eventually no longer paid attention to the feelings and thoughts. I felt my anxiety lessen, and I managed to focus on the world around me.

The thing is, this was not a new ability for me: I had learned to not pay attention to the symptoms. Previously, in my own confusing and private experience, these feelings of dissociation and dread that I constantly felt were all I could focus on.

But that was five years ago.

When you learn to understand something -- an entity that previously controlled you, in this case -- it loses its effect.

Having a mental health problem now is an entirely different ball game but in a good way. It is often like playing an MMO and playing the tutorial level, fighting the same enemies, although this time the experience you have and your big fuck-off sword destroys these enemies in a few hits.

As my medication kicked in, as I socialized more, as I forced myself to do everything I was uncomfortable doing, I saw the fog that surrounded me fading. After a while, it went away. There are still bumps in the road at times -- that is inevitable, but I know when it emerges I know how to not let it bother me. Anxiety is no longer the monster I cannot beat.

So when I returned to Brighton, it was actually cathartic. It was me accepting that something that had originally torn me apart was now no longer able to do that. I knew visiting again would be stressful, but I had no idea it would be so liberating. It showed me just how far I had come.

The irritating thing about anxiety is just how much it can make you fear something, even if it is irrational to others. For a brief period of time, I was afraid to look at television screens because looking at them seemed to drive my anxiety wild. I was afraid to shower because I knew that when I closed my eyes, my head would run wild with existential thoughts. This is what anxiety does to you, and unless you have experienced it, explaining it is incredibly difficult.

But it does get better. A few years ago, I recall myself breaking down in tears, hopelessly desiring that I would feel better, that it would all just go away. At this point in time, I faced a glass wall; I could see the other side, the side I had once been on, and desperately wanted to get back there.

What it took for me was medication, therapy, time and exposure to help me break through. For another person’s recovery, they might need something else. Maybe medication does not work out and therapy alone is the answer. Maybe it is both, or neither; that is OK. But never forget that the glass wall can always be broken.

I have gone from being home-schooled, afraid to venture out into the world, to a university student that works and studies in the United States. I have come a long, long way. Recovery from mental illness is hard, but with the right support, it can be done. I am proof.

Cover Image Credit: Robert Wheatley

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I Weigh Over 200 Lbs And You Can Catch Me In A Bikini This Summer

There is no magic number that determines who can wear a bikini and who cannot.
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It is about February every year when I realize that bikini season is approaching. I know a lot of people who feel this way, too. In pursuit of the perfect "summer body," more meals are prepped and more time is spent in the gym. Obviously, making healthier choices is a good thing! But here is a reminder that you do not have to have a flat stomach and abs to rock a bikini.

Since my first semester of college, I've weighed over 200 pounds. Sometimes way more, sometimes only a few pounds more, but I have not seen a weight starting with the number "1" since the beginning of my freshman year of college.

My weight has fluctuated, my health has fluctuated, and unfortunately, my confidence has fluctuated. But no matter what, I haven't allowed myself to give up wearing the things I want to wear to please the eyes of society. And you shouldn't, either.

I weigh over 200lbs in both of these photos. To me, (and probably to you), one photo looks better than the other one. But what remains the same is, regardless, I still chose to wear the bathing suit that made me feel beautiful, and I'm still smiling in both photos. Nobody has the right to tell you what you can and can't wear because of the way you look.

There is no magic number that equates to health. In the second photo (and the cover photo), I still weigh over 200 lbs. But I hit the gym daily, ate all around healthier and noticed differences not only on the scale but in my mood, my heart health, my skin and so many other areas. You are not unhealthy because you weigh over 200 lbs and you are not healthy because you weigh 125. And, you are not confined to certain clothing items because of it, either.

This summer, after gaining quite a bit of weight back during the second semester of my senior year, I look somewhere between those two photos. I am disappointed in myself, but ultimately still love my body and I'm proud of the motivation I have to get to where I want to be while having the confidence to still love myself where I am.

And if you think just because I look a little chubby that I won't be rocking a bikini this summer, you're out of your mind.

If YOU feel confident, and if YOU feel beautiful, don't mind what anybody else says. Rock that bikini and feel amazing doing it.

Cover Image Credit: Sara Petty

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6 Crystals All College Students Need

When there is nothing else to alleviate the stresses and anxieties of higher education.
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As college students we undergo a boatload of stress, anxiety, and sleepless nights. Many of us turn to various remedies that we have deemed adequate to alleviate these stresses and anxieties. For me, I find my remedies in healing crystals. Now, I understand that most people would mock or dismiss using a handful of rocks to solve all of your problems. And some people would question the sanity of someone who believes that these said rocks have any healing powers at all. I can understand that. I myself am not even quite sure that these crystals have healing power. I am sure, however, that if you believe that these crystals will solve your problems, they will. The power of suggestion can be everything and more when you are stressed, anxious, or sleepless.

How I look at it, is that the crystals work almost as a placebo to calm or "heal" you of whatever seems to be bothering you. And, in my experience, it has always seemed to work. I have composed a list of six crystals that I think would benefit most college students during the intense, emotional school year.

1. Amethyst

Purpose: Amethyst is powerful in protecting the mind from negative thinking that so often happens during your college years. Its so easy to fall into a daze of negative thoughts when you are ties of up in a handful of exams and a few essays. It also works to alleviate stress related to work, by emanating prosperity and success. To increase our work effectiveness in college, it can also be used to facilitate cognition and communication

2. Aquamarine

Purpose: College students often get caught up in their everyday routine of going to class, doing homework, going to club meetings, and rarely finding time to themselves. Aquamarine helps to liven up sluggish behaviors. By encouraging personal time to enjoy life and appreciate the wonders of the world. It is also powerful in encouraging self-respect and inner peace.

3. Blue Lace Agate

Purpose: Blue Lace Agate works to calm and sooth emotions by reflecting images of peace and serenity. Peace and serenity are both scarce during your college days, especially during finals week when the only peace and serenity you find is in that cup of coffee you chug down before you 8 A.M. Human Anatomy final. By protecting us from negative emotions, Blue Lace Agate leads us on a path of understanding and learning, away from any and all anxieties.

4. Clear Quartz

Purpose: Like it is described, Clear Quartz is powerful in clearing away negativity and toxins with in the body. It is used to open up the mind to new and enlightened perspectives, clearing any communication or cognition blockages. For college students it can work to suggest new insights when suffering from writers block. It can set you on a new track when you have hit a dead end.

5. Jade

Purpose: Not only can jade be useful in riding the face for wrinkles and tension that can become early onset in anxious college students, it can also be used to inspire you to push past any limitations and give you the wisdoms you need in order to succeed. Jade can also help to bring you prosperity in you life. At our age, it is easy to see any obstacle and quit, but Jade can encourage you to push past those self-imposed limitations and prosper in your successes.

6. Pyrite

Purpose: Typical adjectives used to describe college students are "poor" and "broke." Pyrite however channels money and abundance which can be beneficial to those student who are having to beg their friends to meal them in the dining halls. Pyrite also helps to focus your confidence and encourages the belief that "you can and you will." Sometimes a little help in making dreams reality is what college students need in order to succeed.

Cover Image Credit: Conscious Lifestyle Magazine

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