To The Girl Whose Dad Is Dying

To The Girl Whose Dad Is Dying

You can still hug him even tighter than the last time
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You begin to fear that one day, you will stop what you are doing and try to think about his laugh. That you will try your hardest to remember the sound of it. You will close your eyes. You’ll picture his smile, his crooked teeth, that dimple in his cheek, but you just won’t be able to hear his laugh. You will feel completely paralyzed with shock. How could you forget the sound of your own fathers laugh? It seems as surreal as not being able to recognize your own face. But you’ve heard the stories, you’ve read the blogs, you’ve seen the movies.

You will be reminded of the inevitability of death everywhere you go. Empty seats don’t look the same anymore, because you know that one day he will be gone and that empty seat will stay empty. That one song he loves wont make you smile, but instead, it will bring tears to your eyes, because you know that one day you, the sound of him singing along with it in the car will just be a distant memory.

You will constantly think about everything he’s going to miss. Your college graduation. Walking you down the aisle on your wedding day. Telling him he is going to be a grandfather . Holding your first child in his arms in the hospital, with tears in his eyes. You’ll think about all of those milestones. You will think about how your children won’t get to meet him and hear that laugh that you still pray you wont forget.

You won’t want to talk about it. If you don’t talk about it, if the words don’t slip from your mouth, then it won’t feel real. You’ll cringe at the words “I’m sorry” and “I’m here for you” and “You’re not alone”, not because they aren’t genuine, but because the more people offer their support, the more you realize you need it.

You’re going to wish you took more pictures together. You will look through your photo albums and cry because there aren’t enough with him. He is the light of your life, he is your hero, and all you have left to remember him by is a couple pictures you took on vacations with your family.

You’re going to wish you laughed more at his stupid jokes, even if they weren’t funny. You’re going to wish you said “I love you” more often. You’re going to regret slamming the door in his face in the seventh grade because of some stupid argument, because you know now that it wasn’t worth it. You’re going to wish you hugged him just a little tighter the last time you saw him, because who knows if it was the last hug you’ll ever get from him. You’re going to regret every single day that you didn’t tell him exactly how much he meant to you and how much you appreciated him.

The thing is, you still have time. You can still tell him you love him, you can still laugh at his stupid jokes, you can still take pictures with him, you can still hug him even tighter than the last time. Make the best of every second you have left with him because it could be the last. Cancer takes away time, something we all take for granted. It tells you that time doesn’t stop for anyone because life comes and goes by the numbers. But the meaning of time is impossible to define until you’ve realized the value of each moment. So take each moment, grab it, and hold on to it. And remember, no matter who tells you otherwise, you will never forget the sound of his laugh.

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A Senior's Last Week Of High School

The bittersweet end.
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Well, this is it. This is what we've worked so hard the last four years - who am I kidding - basically what seems like our whole lives for. This is the very last week we will set foot as a student in our high school's hallways. As most schools are getting ready to set their seniors free at last, it all begins to set in - the excitement, the anxiousness, and also the sentiment and nostalgia.

For seniors, the years since our first day as a freshman at the bottom of the high school totem pole have seemed endless, but as we look back on these last few weeks, we realize that this year in particular has gone by extraordinarily fast. It was just yesterday that we were sitting in our classrooms for the very first time, going to our 'last first' practice, and getting our first taste of the (very real) "senioritis". With all that's going on in our lives right now, from sports and clubs, finals, and the sought after graduation ceremony, it's hard to really sit down and think about how our lives are all about to become drastically different. For some it's moving out, and for some it's just the thought of not seeing your best friend on the way to fourth period English; either way, the feels are real. We are all in a tug of war with the emotions going on inside of us; everything is changing - we're ready, but we're not.

THE GOOD. Our lives are about to begin! There is a constant whirlwind of excitement. Senior awards, getting out of school early, parties, and of course Graduation. We are about to be thrust into a world of all new things and new people. Calling our own shots and having the freedom we have so desperately desired since the teenage years began is right around the corner. Maybe the best part is being able to use these new things surrounding you to grow and open your mind and even your heart to ideas you never could before. We get the chance to sink or swim, become our own person, and really begin to find ourselves.

Things we don't even know yet are in the works with new people we haven't even met yet. These friendships we find will be the ones to last us a lifetime. The adventures we experience will transform into the advice we tell our own children and will become the old tales we pass down to our grandkids when they come to visit on the weekends. We will probably hate the all night study sessions, the intensity of finals week, and the overpowering stress and panic of school in general, just like we did in high school... But it will all be worth it for the memories we make that will outlive the stress of that paper due in that class you absolutely hate. As we leave high school, remember what all the parents, teachers, coaches, and mentors are telling you - this are the best times of our lives!

THE BAD. The sentimental emotions are setting in. We're crying, siblings are tearing up, and parents are full-out bawling. On that first day, we never expected the school year to speed by the way it did. Suddenly everything is coming to an end. Our favorite teachers aren't going to be down the hall anymore, our best friends probably won't share a class with us, we won't be coming home to eat dinner with our families...

We all said we wanted to get out of this place, we couldn't wait, we were ready to be on our own; we all said we wouldn't be "so emotional" when the time came, but yet here we are, wishing we could play one more football game with our team or taking the time to make sure we remember the class we liked the most or the person that has made us laugh even when we were so stressed we could cry these past few years. Take the time to hug your parents these last few months. Memorize the facial expressions of your little sister or brother. Remember the sound of your dad coming home from work. These little things we take for granted every day will soon just be the things we tell our college roommate when they ask about where we're from. As much as we've wanted to get out of our house and our school, we never thought it would break our heart as much as it did. We are all beginning to realize that everything we have is about to be gone.

Growing up is scary, but it can also be fun. As we take the last few steps in the hallways of our school, take it all in. Remember, it's okay to be happy; it's okay to be totally excited. But also remember it's okay to be sad. It's okay to be sentimental. It's okay to be scared, too. It's okay to feel all these confusing emotions that we are feeling. The best thing about the bittersweet end to our high school years is that we are finally slowing down our busy lives enough to remember the happy memories.

Try not to get annoyed when your mom starts showing your baby pictures to everyone she sees, or when your dad starts getting aggravated when you talk about moving out and into your new dorm. They're coping with the same emotions we are. Walk through the halls remembering the classes you loved and the classes you hated. Think of the all great times that have happened in our high school years and the friends that have been made that will never be forgotten. We all say we hated school, but we really didn't. Everything is about to change; that's a happy thing, and a sad thing. We all just have to embrace it! We're ready, but we're not...

Cover Image Credit: Facebook

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6 Things I Learned From My Time Inside The Psych Ward

Sometimes our darkest moments have the most to teach us.

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Only the nurses were awake when I arrived at 4 a.m., shaky and exhausted. It had been a long night spent in the ER, and I just wanted to sleep. One of the nurses showed me to my room, a small space with a bed, a bathroom, and a large chair. The intake paperwork only took 20 minutes or so, and then they left me alone to rest.

The built-in radio by the window was mostly static, but if I tuned it just right, I could listen to Frank Sinatra on the '50s station. Something about that music playing softly in my hospital room made me feel safe. I watched the lights of downtown Cincinnati sparkle like fallen stars in the dark and could feel myself healing, as cheesy as that sounds.

I still felt uneasy by morning but made my way to breakfast anyway, then to group therapy, then to lunch, and so on. I kept my days full like that for the next week, going to every scheduled activity and therapy session. For the first time in a long time, I was putting real work into my recovery.

Here are some things I learned during my hospitalization.

1. Getting help is not a sign of weakness.

The EMT who rode in the back of the ambulance with me had a kind smile. He let me crack as many jokes as I wanted in my poor attempt to cope. I told him that I asked for help because I felt unsafe and wanted to start treatment again. I shared how afraid I was to be admitted to a hospital an hour from campus in a city I'd never even spent the night in before. I was scared that the doctors there wouldn't be able to help me. I dreaded the scissors at the nurse's station they'd soon use to cut the strings out of my favorite sweatpants. I was terrified that the state I was in would break my mom and dad's heart.

At the same time, those anxieties didn't hold a candle to the fact that I still needed help, and as scary as it was to ask for, I got it. That is a strength I didn't know I had. As we pulled up to the hospital, the EMT gave me a tiny package of cookies and told me that I was brave.

2. Friendship is a healing force.

The other patients, ranging in age from 18 to late 60s, were some of the most loving people I've ever met. There's always an air of comfort among those who understand you, a feeling of freedom to just exist as you are. We paced the hallways during the slow afternoon singing songs from "High School Musical." We made ice cream sundaes with snack pack Oreos and half-melted ice cream. We could cry with no questions asked besides "what do you need?"

There was no hiding, no stigma, no shame.

The oldest patient, a woman who lived to make other people laugh, treated me and the other college-aged girls like daughters. She told us jokes at breakfast and gave life advice at lunch. There was a mutual understanding between all of us there that we were not fighting this alone. To connect with others like that during such a lonely time is like breaking through the water's surface for a breath of fresh air. The way we bonded together like a makeshift family was unexpected and utterly beautiful.

3. A week without internet is good for the soul.

The moment I was admitted, my cell phone was shut off and put in a locker somewhere else on the floor. Without the internet and social media, the days felt a lot longer, conversations were more fulfilling, and I had less generalized anxiety about checking my accounts. I couldn't read any depressing news headlines, and I couldn't get left on read. There was no longer a tiny screen to filter the world through.

I found that time away from my phone provided me with a lot of opportunities to ground myself in the present. Instead of sitting on my phone at dinner, I could focus on the meal and the people I was sharing it with. I went to sleep much faster at night without an endless scroll of tweets to read. I know life without the internet is practically unheard of in the real world, but it was nice to be separated from my screen for a while.

4. There's nothing wrong with needing medication.

The stigma surrounding psychiatric medication had gotten to my head during the year leading up to my hospitalization. I thought if I stopped taking my pills, I could learn to manage and adjust to the world without needing them. Obviously, I was very wrong. During my stay, I had to change the way I thought about medication, working to perceive it as an aspect of my treatment instead of a punishment for being sick.

Adjusting back to my doses helped me to slowly feel like myself again. The brain is an organ like all the others, and sometimes the right chemicals aren't being made. It's nobody's fault, but it's still something to be managed. For some people, medication can help with that. Once I pushed past my own internalized resentment, I was able to utilize that resource and take control of my recovery.

5. Recovery isn't a choice you make one time.

I had to choose recovery every morning I woke up in the hospital. Going to therapy, taking my medications, and practicing self-care took energy and effort. Breaking unhealthy patterns and relearning how to manage a chronic illness is difficult, and on some days, it felt nearly impossible. With encouragement and patience from my treatment team, it became more natural each day.

I also learned that recovery is not linear.

There will be times when I'm thriving and others when I'm definitely not. The ups and downs of life make no exception for me, even when those dips and highs become extreme in ways that disrupt my life. I kept forgetting that I do have a choice, that I've always had a choice, to keep going and striving towards a healthier state. My problems won't be gone, they'll just be a little easier to carry.

6. There is a time to leave.

On my last day, I was hesitant to leave. In the hospital, you are protected from the world and its chaos. A week staying inpatient wasn't going to fix all my problems, and I knew I'd have to go back to school and finish the semester. I had to return to my life. This would be the starting point to a brand new treatment plan for me. Of course I was worried I'd make the same mistakes again, but a stronger part of me felt ready to face both the good and bad times ahead. I left the ward with a collection of new coping mechanisms and a newfound hope for the future of my mental health.

I am grateful for the beautiful stories and lessons that were born from the dark, and I will never forget my time there, the people I grew to love, nor the single stretching hallway that we made into a home.

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