May 3rd (and present)

May 3rd: Hello Dolly, Edinburgh Castle, Wings

I chose to yet again sleep in late because I was so dang exhausted! I finally got up and out, messaged the Chicago people to see if they wanted to meet up and so we went to the National Museum of Scotland together! It was quite an experience seeing the actual (stuffed) cloned sheep named Dolly. She was the only embryo to make it out of 277 cloning attempts. She even had some lambs of her own! SCIENCE. IT’S AMAZING.

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I also saw The Maiden (see previous post). That was quite something. Yikes. And I learned quite a lot about Scottish history at the museum, and saw some pretty cool old clothes and such. Fashion is so interesting, how styles change while some aspects of fashion linger, how certain statements can be made through someone’s outfit – human beings are so endlessly fascinating!

Anyways, after that, the Chicagoans and I went to the meeting location for the Edinburgh Castle tour. Now that was really something. We learned about Ewert, about the castle, about the kings and queens, about Sir Walter Scott, and our tour guide even sang. Thank goodness for the new Canadian friend I made on the tour, she video taped him singing! (She is going backpacking across the Scottish highlands, and I hope she’s loving it!!). I am going to try to attach a clip of him singing a song about a Scottish man who must go off to war for the British, and how he is saying goodbye to his beloved.

Some views from the Castle:

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Sir Walter Scott, the person whose memorial I took a picture of yesterday, was crucial in saving the Scottish Highlander traditions. He wrote poetry and romanticized the Scottish culture. Before him, anything native to Scotland was on its way to being eradicated – the kilts, the bagpipe – it was a way to keep the Scottish under English rule. But King George IV was intrigued by Sir Walter Scott’s works. He liked the sound of Scottish Highlander culture, he basically became a giant fan boy. And so King George IV arrived at Edinburgh Castle, wearing a kilt that didn’t fit him quite right, and pink stockings. The Scottish people who saw him thought it was hilarious. So they’re outside the castle cheering for King George IV, who is absolutely loving it. He thought they were praising him and adoring him, not finding him a laughingstock. So he decided that bringing back Scottish Highlander traditions was important, all because of Sir Walter Scott.

Later on, another fan of Sir Walter Scott, Queen Victoria, came to Scotland to see it in person. She (presumably) clutched her copy of Sir Walter Scott’s works to her chest, eager to see Edinburgh Castle. When she arrived, she saw the Castle and was very disappointed. Downright dismayed. She had expected a CASTLE. Not just a collection of old buildings. So she had a grand entrance built for her. She was a fangirl of Sir Walter Scott’s works and Scottish traditions but also wanted things to go her way. And ever the perv, she even had kilts on her Scottish soldiers cut down to above the knee, all because she wanted to see some man-calf. (When our tour guide, a Scottish man named Greg, did his impersonation of Queen Victoria, I was going to cry from laughing so hard!!)

And I know I mentioned the name Ewert earlier. Charles Ewert. This guy was just amazing. He was highly regarded by all. He fought in the Battle of Waterloo, against Napoleon’s troops. There was a certain group of soldiers in Napoleon’s army – the 45th Regiment. The golden eagle was their standard/symbol. This regiment was the toughest out of all of Napoleon’s military might – they were the ones who all of the others looked up to because of their strength and strategy. But during the Battle of Waterloo, Charles Ewert was such a bad*ss that he captured the golden eagle standard of the 45th Regiment, and when Napoleon’s armies saw this, morale suddenly dropped. Everyone became disorganized. There was no one who could lead them through this battle if the 45th Regiment was taken down. We all know how Waterloo went and yadda yadda Napoleon was defeated.

But before that battle, there was a time when Charles Ewert had been fighting Napoleon’s troops in the mountains (I don’t remember where for sure… Italy? Germany?). It was winter. There were only a few men of Charles Ewert’s troop who managed to escape Napoleon’s army. They had to fight the bitter cold and snow as they trudged their way through the mountains. As they were walking, Charles Ewert heard a wail. What on earth could that be? he thought. So he searched for the source of the cry – it turned out to be a baby. A baby in the arms of his dead mother. The mother had frozen to death, using her clothes to swaddle the baby and keep him warm and alive. The baby still tried to drink from the mother’s breast. Charles Ewert swore to protect that baby and find the father.

Ewert found the man who was the father of the child Ewert found – he was a sergeant of the 60th Regiment. He was distraught at hearing the news of his dead wife, and swore to find his wife to put her to rest properly.

The child was raised a healthy and happy boy (but not by Ewert, if I remember right). Ewert encountered the father of the boy once more in his life, years later – the man had actually found his wife and gave her a proper burial. Ewert was offered a large sum of money in repayment for saving his son. He refused to take the man’s money, but then was offered a silver watch, which he did accept.

Charles Ewert was buried and the grave was long forgotten and paved over. Years later, to commemorate his strength, but more importantly, his strength of character and his goodness, he was reburied on the Esplanade of Edinburgh Castle. How did they know it was Ewert for sure? He was buried with the silver watch he received for saving a baby’s life.

So Ensign Charles Ewert is right by the very front of Edinburgh Castle.

By the way, the aforementioned STONE OF DESTINY is housed within Edinburgh Castle. So when I got to see it, I was like… wow. This is it? It’s literally a rock. You can see where the stone mason connected the two broken parts. There are also the crown jewels there, and a wand-like thing? Very sparkly. I wasn’t allowed to take pictures of these things though, which was kind of a bummer.

My Canadian friend and I went into the memorial at Edinburgh Castle for all of the soldiers and others who had been killed during different wars. It was a very powerful place. Seeing the books and books and books of names of people who had died for their country, died to save others, died to protect, it was really moving.

The oldest part of the castle is the smallest, plainest building, but it still has some pretty amazing stained glass. Especially considering it was made in the early 12th century. It’s called Saint Margaret’s Chapel. It’s the oldest building in Edinburgh.

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You can also go into the room where Mary Queen of Scots gave birth to King James VI. There are a LOT of stories I learned on this tour related to the history and everything, but I don’t think I can write down all of them in one post! Maybe in future posts.

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The Unicorn is the national animal of Scotland. In mythology, a unicorn is the only animal that can take down a lion. Guess which national animal has a lion as its symbol (hint: it’s a land that starts with an Eng).

There’s also a couple of museums within the walls of the castle – there’s one for prisoners of war, where there’s a door with a carving of one of the first uses of the American stars and stripes. I thought that was pretty cool. There’s also a military museum, where my Canadian friend and I met up with our American and Portuguese friends.

After touring the castle, we went to a place that had live music. The live music was absolutely incredible, and we were in such a small bar, we really were right up close to the musicians.

We talked and talked and talked and unfortunately, I had to leave because I was meeting up with my friend who I was staying with. I treated her and her boyfriend to dinner since I owed them that at the very least – they had helped me so much by letting me stay with them, and it was so great to see my friend again. Plus, she even taught me how to do the bench press! I think I’m pretty dang good at it for a beginner, haha.

So we went to this place called Wings, which has exactly what the name suggests. Wings for days. I was in heaven! The restaurant even had a TV with a very old game console hooked up to it so we could play Bomber Man. I lost about 30 seconds into each round, haha.

Wings had such great nerdy memorabilia and so many things related to comics and TV shows that I love! And the food was top notch. So overall, that place would get like, five Michelin stars from me haha. (Yes, I know that it only is supposed to go to three, don’t worry.)

So we walked home from Wings and we talked and my friend helped me sort out what I really want to do in life. She gave me a simple layout of how to figure out what I want to do – I said, “I want to help people,” and “specifically, the LGBTQ+ community.” And you know, there are ways for me to do this. But now I see that I would rather do that in my spare time. Doing it for a job is just… too much for me. I realize that I would be burnt out within a few years. What I have always wanted, what I’ve always dreamed of has always been working for Disney or Pixar in some capacity.

So I’ve decided recently that I’m going into coding. You’re probably thinking, “Why?” and, “So what?” and, “How is this related to Disney/Pixar?”

Let me ease your weary minds. The thing is – they need software developers at Disney/Pixar because they do a LOT of the work there. How did Rapunzel’s hair move the way that hair should in Tangled? New software. How did Merida’s hair move and bounce so naturally? New software. So I figure, hey – this would be my way in. If I wanted to go into the art aspect of the job, I’d need to go back for my undergrad in fine arts, preferably at RISD or CalArts. I’m good at art, but I’m not stellar – I know my limitations. I would need to catch up on years of not practicing, learn how to do a ton of Photoshop, get extremely good and have a super creative storytelling style with my art.

And you know, I’m very interested in getting a degree in fine arts one day. I really am. But for now, I see that coding will get me at least one step closer to my goal. It will make me marketable. It will help me get into places and jobs that I couldn’t get into before because I lacked the skills. And if anything, I don’t have to go into Disney/Pixar, I could go into developing software for fMRI machines. Working on eye tracking studies. Stuff that ties in my love of psychology with whatever skills I have.

I was at a café the other day (in America) and heard the song that had the lyrics, “What are you going to spend your free life on?” and I decided I’m not going to spend it on waiting. I’m not going to waste my valuable time doing something I don’t want to do, doing something that makes me miserable and stressed. I want to do something that gets me excited every day. I want to do something that brings me joy. I want to follow my bliss – something that my high school graduation speaker said to us. Follow your bliss. I always liked that saying, but I forgot about it for so long because of how depressed I was.

When I was depressed – I really couldn’t see things as they were. I was so miserable and everything was so much darker. Everything seemed like a crisis to me because it genuinely was at the time. I couldn’t handle the littlest of things – things that I can just brush off easily now. I couldn’t see my way out of the dark, find my way out of the cave. And now I see only sunlight. Now I can see the path I need to take. I can fight whatever demons try to bring me back into the dark because I know what they look like now. I just honestly couldn’t recognize the signs for so long, which is frustrating, but I only have compassion for myself and understanding for why I did certain things. I purposefully would do things that made me more miserable (i.e.: isolating myself, staying in my bed all day) because I did not believe I deserved happiness, didn’t have the motivation to do anything better. Lack of motivation is a real problem with depression, and the inability to be able to escape the emptiness and sadness within just takes away any remaining scraps of motivation.

So go – follow your bliss. Find what makes you happiest. If you find yourself feeling like you cannot get out of the darkness, please seek help. Find a therapist, a psychiatrist. Call a helpline. There are resources out there to help you. You’re not alone.

As always, thank you for reading! Sending you only best wishes and all my love! ❤

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May 2nd

May 2nd: Free walking tour, new friend from Brazil, best gelato I’ve ever had in my life

I woke up pretty darn late on Tuesday. I was very tired from a long day of travel and activities, so I stayed in bed. When I finally stopped lazing I walked around the Royal Mile, and I ate at one of the places JK Rowling worked on Harry Potter (The Elephant House)! I tried Scottish fish pie for the first time, and I actually liked it. An Australian gent sat next to me, we struck up conversation, and I made a joke, and then I said, “JK, JK” and he understood my pun and totally geeked out!! (Get it? Like JK Rowling?? I’m so witty.

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I rushed out of the Elephant House in order to make it to a free guided walking tour of Edinburgh. I arrived just in time (it’s becoming a bit of a habit). I became fast friends with an older couple from Chicago and a 27 year old guy from Brazil. My Brazilian buddy and I were cracking jokes all throughout the tour, and the Chicagoans were lovely and quite funny too. 

I learned a lot about Scottish history – and as for Harry Potter-related things, I learned plenty of that too! Here is the grave of Thomas Riddell and his son, Thomas Riddell, the inspiration for VOLDEMORT.

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There were also the graves of people with the last names Moody and McGonagall. William McGonagall, specifically. The worst poet ever. This guy loved Queen Victoria. He wrote her poetry and sent it to her, and the response he received was basically, “Yeah man that was not great poetry at all… don’t come to the castle to see the queen. This is the opposite of an invitation.” SO William McGonagall goes to the castle to see the queen. He shows the guard the letter he got and the guard says, “My dude, I hate to say it, but you were totally rejected. If you’re as good of a poet as you say you are, why not recite some for me right now?” And so McGonagall does exactly that. He recites some really bad poetry – he rhymed the word “scene” with “green” multiple times. It’s pretty painful. Whether the guard deemed the man worthy of seeing the queen, I cannot recall, so it will remain a mystery.

Some more pictures of Greyfriar’s Kirkyard:

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That last picture is of the Flodden Wall, which was built to keep out invaders many, many years ago. There were a lot of “Build that wall!” jokes made, like how it was paid for by the English.

Also – related to the Greyfriar’s Kirkyard is the little dog statue. Long story short – the dog was supposedly the companion of the person who tended the graveyard, but when that guy died, the dog continued to protect the graves, and was given voting rights and rights to the city. Is it true? There are a few parts of the story that don’t quite line up, but it’s still super cute.

Trigger warning: some gruesome descriptions

On the tour, I also learned about Mercat Cross, a place where news about the city (AKA gossip) and news from other places (which would be 3 days late by the time that it arrived in Edinburgh) was announced. I also learned that the punishment for criminals who committed minor crimes (as in, not deserving of death) was to have a nail go through their ear so that they were pinned to the gallows in front of Mercat Cross. Then, the crowd would jeer at them and curse and throw things. The only way to get off was to tear their ear, which would brand the person permanently as a criminal.

Fun fact: beheadings were exclusively for the upper classes, while being hanged was for lower class citizens. To behead, they had The Maiden, which was not slanted like the French guillotine. The Maiden didn’t really work effectively – for the last person to be killed this way, it took 4 tries to get someone’s head off all the way.

End of trigger warning 

So one of my absolute favorite stories from the tour was about the Stone of Destiny (ooooooooo, ahhhhhhh). The Stone of Destiny was how the Scots used to crown kings. The to-be king would be on the Stone and the crown would be placed on his head, and bing bang boom, you got a king. But the Stone of Destiny was taken away from the Scottish by Edward I, a king of England, and was placed under the throne of Westminster Abbey. And that is where it stayed for years and years, even after King James the VI/I, even after the unification, England held onto the Stone. 

Until one fateful night in 1950, when four Scottish lads got drunk and decided, “That Stone belongs to Scotland! We must take back what is ours!” And so they did.

…Sort of.

They snuck into Westminster Abbey late at night. (How they did this while drunk is beyond me.) They then rocked the throne back and forth so that they could get the stone. Remember, there are only four drunk men. They get the stone, and on their way out, they drop it. 

THEY BROKE THE STONE OF DESTINY. 

The Stone is then split into two – a big piece and a smaller piece. The big piece is buried somewhere in Northern England, while the four guys kept the smaller piece and brought it to a shady stone mason. You know, the kind of stone masons your mother always told you to stay away from. They talked to the stone mason and asked if he could repair the stone. The stone mason is like, “Oooohhhh I know what that is. Where’s the other piece??” They told him they had buried it, and he basically says, “You buried sandstone in the wettest, most acidic, coldest land??” So the guys panic and go and get the other half right-quick. The stone mason connected the two pieces together.

And then they brought it to Scotland where they were lauded as heroes!

HAHA JK.

They brought the stone back to Scotland, true – but one of the men, Ian Hamilton, KEPT THE STONE FOR A COFFEE TABLE.

Time passes, and he starts feeling guilty and starts thinking, “Yeah, maybe I should give the stone to Scotland…” So he does what every rational person does. He left it with a priest. The priest was like, “Oooohhhh I know what this is. But I don’t know what to do! What a moral dilemma!” So he gives hands it over to the law and lets them figure out what to do with it.

The police took it, and then the Stone of Destiny was returned to its rightful place in Scotland! 

HAHA JK AGAIN.

Before it was returned to Scotland (which it was, eventually) it first was returned BACK TO ENGLAND. When England finally gave the Stone over to Scotland, there was a huge procession – this big parade where there were bagpipes droning and the Stone was brought up to Edinburgh Castle. But the bagpipers weren’t playing that traditional Scottish song that almost everyone knows. No, the bagpipers played the Mission Impossible theme song as they brought back this ancient, broken (then fixed), ridiculous Stone of Destiny. I mean, honestly though… the Stone literally is a slab of rock. No decorations. Just… a regular old rock.

The story doesn’t end there though. Scotland is going to have to hand over the Stone to England once more for THEIR crowning ceremony. I’m still not over this, haha.

I even took a picture of the greatest gelato there ever will be and ever has been. My Brazilian buddy suggested we go to this place that is apparently world famous, and we did, and WOW I DON’T REGRET IT AT ALL. It is world famous for a reason. 

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Brazilian dude and I hung out for the rest of the day, it was quite lovely. I was so glad I made such a wonderful friend.

We walked up Calton Hill – the place where they wanted to make a Parthenon replica but they ran out of funding midway… so all that’s left is a bunch of columns. Quite amusing. But the views are great!

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We also went to the Royal Mile Tavern for dinner, and got fried Mars Bars. I wasn’t going to try it because I was afraid I was going to love it, but then I tried it (due to peer pressure) and then I loved it and ate a lot.

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Here are some more pictures of Edinburgh Castle, and of the Sir Walter Scott memorial. I’ll talk more about Sir Walter Scott on the next post!

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Anyways, I realize that this post is SUPER late but that’s because I was typing up all of those blog posts on my phone and it was taking wayyyyy longer than I would have liked, plus I didn’t want to waste time inside when I could be either exploring or sleeping, haha. 

This is just the first of eight blog posts remaining. Oy. Seven left to go! I got this 😀 Haha I hope you all enjoyed this as much as I did! Wishing you all the best!

As always, thank you for reading and sending you all my love! ❤ 

May 1st

May 1st: New airplane friend, old karate friend, climbing Arthur’s Seat

I woke up pretty late and was moving pretty slow on Monday morning. I just didn’t want to leave, and didn’t feel like getting out of bed after having such exciting days previously. I went and grabbed a banana at the lovely supermarket across the way, got my stuff, hopped on the bus to the airport, and realized midway through the bus ride that I was running very late. I needed to have already been at the airport before 10:30 am… but I didn’t panic or freak out at all, like I would have in the past! I just calmly thought, welp, I’ll get there when I get there. It was my fault for moving so slow, but there was nothing I could do about it. I recognized where I messed up and learned from it. This may seem like something minor but I really have always had a hard time with beating myself up over everything. I’ve noticed that now, I don’t apologize as much as I used to. I’m nowhere near the person I used to be. And I’m going to continue towards getting better.

Anyways, I arrived at the airport at the nick of time, got everything all set, and got to my gate. It all went pretty smoothly, and I’d like to credit that to my calmer demeanor and more “take things as they come” attitude.

I got on the plane, sat down, found out it was the wrong seat (second time I’ve done that this trip), and then sat in the row in front next to a lovely red headed Irish woman. She and I talked about everything from politics, to mental health, to the LGBTQIAP+ community, etc. She was straight but was an excellent ally. And she helped me more with figuring out what I should do with my life. She seems to be leaning towards me going into social work to be a therapist for the LGBTQIAP+, but the more time goes on, the less certain I am about that. I fluctuate from thinking, “Yeah! I’d be great at this!” to thinking, “I don’t know if I could do this…”

It was a really fantastic plane ride, albeit short. The lady was kind enough to wait for my bag at baggage claim with me. We talked more on the bus towards Waverly Station in Edinburgh, but she got off a few stops before me. I got off the bus and immediately saw my friend Cara’s boyfriend, Joe. Joe is a doll, complete sweetheart. I really was so grateful for all his help. He and I walked a bit and I took in some of the sights of Edinburgh but I was so hungry that we went to a place called “Burritos and Shakes!” They definitely will never be sued for false advertising, at least. Haha, I was so hungry, that everything tasted amazing/maybe it really was as good as I thought it was!

Joe and I talked quite a bit about the mental health field. He’s been in it and knows it very well. It really is so draining. I just don’t know if I really want to continue with it.

Anyways, we arrived back at his and Cara’s apartment and I still appreciate them for paying for my bus trip. I dropped off my stuff, and explored. I went down the Royal Mile and climbed up Arthur’s Seat… but I didn’t make it to the top. I don’t regret my decision though (because I’m living a life with no regrets now) but also because there were ambulances and I heard someone crying for help on the steep upward climb… I don’t think I would have been much help if there was a serious crisis situation since I only know CPR and basic First Aid, plus I get woozy at the sight of blood. So I just said, “Nope” and turned right around.

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What’s really funny is that the yellow flowered bushes are entirely made of thorns. Stick your hand in and it’ll get all ripped up. These bushes line the sides of Arthur’s Seat – if you fall off the side of the ridge, you’re gonna tumble through all those bushes. And if you lean on the side of the ridge, there are also more of those bushes. So the only advice I can give is stay down the middle of the path. Which is kind of like what I’m doing now. I’m trying to stay a lot more balanced, a lot more centered. I don’t want to tumble down through the thorns again. And I don’t want to push myself so hard that I need to lean on something (or someone) – only more thorns that way. Middle of the road is where I will try to stay.

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Some wise words from the Scots.

Anyways, during dinner, I ended up doing some drawing! I’m so thrilled. It means I’m really on the way to recovery when you see me drawing my favorite Avatar: The Last Airbender characters, haha.

Then, when I finally returned back to the apartment, I got to see Cara!!! I missed her so much. It was so great catching up. I watched her and her friend play Portal 2. It was just so great.

Alright, so that was Monday. I only have 5 more days to catch up on! Haha 🙂

Wishing you all the best, sending all my love, and thanks for reading!

April 30th

Sunday, April 30th: Food, exploration, Trinity College!

On Sunday, I wandered leisurely to the Temple Bar area of Dublin. It was my last full day in Ireland, I didn’t have any plans, but I knew there were a few things I wanted to accomplish before I left. I didn’t see everything I wanted, but I know that I will be returning to Dublin someday soon. I would kill to go to Trinity College.

Anyways, so I made it over to Gallagher’s Boxty restaurant, where I had the best shepherd’s pie of my life. I also started talking to a man from Argentina. He told me about how his father had been very strict on him while he was growing up, and still was to this day. I told him that his life is his life, he gets to decide what he does, and it’s best to let his father’s harsh words to roll off him like water off a duck’s back. He has two daughters, and is raising them alone. He doesn’t want to become like his father – and I told him, he doesn’t have to. He can just be more aware of his actions and words than his father may have been. It was a talk that reflected how much I learned from therapy. It’s shown me not only how far I’ve come, how much I’ve grown, but also how much I love helping people and just listening to their stories. But I noticed that I really enjoy teaching too, and guiding people. I’m still trying to figure out what I want to do. I honestly don’t know. Project management sounds pretty cool though, as does digital marketing… but I don’t think I like the idea of working for a big business. I still have a lot of work to do.

By the way, I found out that shepherd’s pie is usually just lamb, unlike what they do in the states, where it’s just beef. The shepherd’s pie I had at Boxty was both! It tasted a lot like my mom’s ground lamb Persian dish. It was sooooo goooood.

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Delicious.

After the amazing food, I went around, popped in and out of stores, found a couple of souvenirs, and went to Trinity College for a guided tour and a viewing of the Book of Kells.

And all I can say is… wow.

I learned a lot of cool tidbits about Trinity College, like how architecture isn’t a major there because of how the people who wanted to add buildings kept screwing over architects and never paid any of them. Also, in the 1700s some drunk university students threw some rocks at a senior professor’s bedroom because they hated him, and then the professor took out his gun and fired a warning shot into the air, and then the drunk students went and got their guns. There was a fire fight between the students and the professor, and the professor didn’t evade a bullet in time and got hit and died. The students were not convicted of murder, they were let off the hook because the judge decreed it was a harmless prank that went awry. They were expelled from the university – not because they murdered a professor, but because they broke the glass windows, which was damaging school property. That was what they were expelled for. Man, I would never want to live in the 1700s.

Here is a picture of Trinity’s bell tower. If a student walks under there and the bell rings while they are under it, there’s a superstition that says that the student will fail all of their exams!

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I also saw the Book of Kells and its accompanying exhibit, but I was not allowed to take pictures of any of it, unfortunately. But wow, the Book of Kells is unbelievably intricate and detailed. It has existed since the year 800 AD. Think about that. It felt like I was looking back in time. What an amazing experience. Also, if you haven’t seen the movie The Secret of Kells, it’s quite good.

I did get to take pictures of the Long Hall of the old library of Trinity. Enjoy!

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The old library also houses the oldest harp ever discovered. It’s truly beautiful. The national symbol of Ireland is the harp, and it is the only country that has a musical instrument as its symbol!

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After seeing the Book of Kells, I stopped at a cafe. And just by chance, the people sitting behind me were from Northeastern University! I talked to the two girls about their studies and what their plans were, etc. It was so great to meet fellow Bostonians! They were quite lovely, and they were planning on going backpacking together around Europe! I wished them luck and I wandered a bit more.

I went to The Celt for dinner, where there was live music. It wasn’t the live Irish music I was hoping for – they played several John Denver songs, which I loved, but wasn’t expecting, haha. The music was great though, and I was seated with random strangers, which gave me the opportunity to talk and make more friends. I have noticed that I met a lot of Australians.

Anyways, the food was excellent, and there were ACTUAL VEGETABLES. Oh man, I nearly started crying from relief. I never thought I would miss green things so much.

Marvel at the beauty of the green beans.

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Also, I ordered a chocolate and lavender mousse. Wow. That was probably the best dessert I have ever had.

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Mmmmm. I’m still day dreaming about that. It was so amazing!

I left The Celt pretty late at night and also stumbled upon a statue of James Joyce, which I have to show to my senior year roommate who read Ulysses over the course of a semester. The main thing I learned from her rants about Ulysses is that I never want to read Ulysses, haha.

Anyways, that was that day! I have lots to say about Edinburgh, so that will be in a different post.

As always, thank you for taking the time to read my blog, and I hope you enjoyed it! Thank you and sending you all my love!

April 29th

I know I am waaaaay behind now on my blog posts, but I’ve been prioritizing sleep while in Edinburgh and time with friends, which I think is important!

EDIT: Pictures are being added gradually!

So, here it is, one of the most interesting days of my time in Europe so far:

April 29th: Belfast, Giant’s Causeway, Terrifying Rope Bridge

I woke up at 5:30 AM (again) and slept in till 5:45 (again) but this time I didn’t have much of a choice but to get up and get going since I had a longish walk ahead of me. We were meeting outside the Gresham Hotel, at the Millenium Spire, also known as the “Stiffy by the Liffey.” Its name, Millenium Spire, is even funny, because the expectation was that it would be made and done for the millenium, back in 2000. It wasn’t done till 2003!

Anyways, while standing by the giant needle, I struck up conversation with an older couple from Canada, mentioned I was from Boston, and someone else said she was from Boston too! The Canadians were quite nice (par for the course for Canadians), and I enjoyed talking to them. I couldn’t tell if the person from Boston disliked me or not, haha.

Anyways, so we all boarded the bus after waiting a solid half hour outside in the early morning. We got on and first headed to Belfast, where some people would go to the Titanic Museum, and some would go do the Black Taxi Tours around Belfast. I chose the taxi tours because I really wanted to learn more about The Troubles. History fascinates me. At a rest stop on the way there, I became friends with a student from Australia who was studying abroad in Edinburgh but was visiting Ireland for a few days before exams. So the trio became the Bostonian, the student, and me.

When we had crossed into Northern Ireland, at the point where we crossed, there used to be a huge checkpoint where people entering and exiting would have to go through thorough inspection. With big scary guns. Now – we just drove past a sign that said, “Welcome to Northern Ireland.” That’s it.

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Blurry picture, but it was the best I could do with little notice!

When we arrived in Belfast, I couldn’t believe how different it was from the rest of Ireland. It has such a different vibe. My trio sat in the taxi and we were joined by two older men on a business trip.

When the tour began, I couldn’t really take pictures of most of the murals on the Protestant side just because of where I was sitting in a seat where I would have had to reach over someone to take a picture, so I didn’t want to do that. Besides, honestly, I’m not really a fan of that side after the tour. Basically, on the Protestant side, there are mostly murals commemorating people who killed many Catholics. On the Catholic side, there are murals with so many of the names of people who died and fought for freedom. Too many children were killed. Sure, there were some murals depicting the members of the IRA, but they weren’t painted to look like the bad guys, but as people who fought for freedom. So many Catholics were dying during The Troubles that they asked if they could bury some of their dead in a Protestant graveyard. The Protestants agreed, but under 3 conditions. I can only remember two – they had to have their own gravedigger, and there had to be a 9 foot wall surrounding the dead body on all sides, just in case the Catholic person’s body sunk in the ground. The wall was to protect the Protestants from a Catholic desecrating their ground.

I will never understand religion.

So I’m going to put some pictures of the murals and of the Peace Wall, which I signed. I wrote, “There is beauty in all of us” because I couldn’t think of anything better to say, haha. I hope it inspires someone. The Peace Wall is made of three parts – a bomb proof part, a bullet proof part, and a grenade lobbing proof part (the top fence that is to prevent people from lobbing grenades). There was also a grenade fence on the Catholic side – it would catch grenades and keep the explosions contained to one side of the fence. The grenade catching fence is the green one next to the Peace Wall.

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Note the ages of many of the people who died. There were 11 year olds who were killed.

After Belfast, we went to Giant’s Causeway, which was simply amazing. There’s apparently a lot of folklore surrounding the Causeway. But it was beautiful. The stones were all formed into hexagonal shapes naturally.

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While at Giant’s Causeway, I kind of slipped and fell (I was fine, just got a bruise on my knee and my ego) and to soothe my bruises I got some mint chocolate chip ice cream. And that was some of the best ice cream I’ve ever had.

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I also crossed the Carrick-Rede rope bridge!! Unfortunately, my phone decided to die at that point because it was quite cold out, but here are some pictures of the sights before I got on the bridge.

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I won’t lie, as I crossed to the other side the first time, I panicked. I looked down as the wind picked up – first mistake. And then I froze – second mistake. And then I decided to quickly walk across to the other side because I didn’t want the rope bridge to be the end of me! Once I made it to the other side, it was incredible. The wind was so strong and fresh. All I wanted to do was sit there on the spongy grass all day. It was such an amazing experience. I’m never going to forget that. It was exhilarating. It was life changing. It wasn’t a blessing for that my phone died when it did, because I was able to really enjoy the moment. It was amazing.

I fell asleep a few times on the bus on the way back, so I don’t have any pictures of the scenery on the way from Northern Ireland to Dublin. But I loved seeing the sheep, the cows, the horses, and the rolling green hills – all so typical of Ireland but still so lovely to see.

After getting off the bus, the Australian student and I searched for food, but split ways when she found some pizza. I was looking for food that would be more Irish than American, so I wandered and then ran into an older married couple from Australia who I had talked to briefly on the bus. So we talked and ended up finding a place for dinner that was just absolutely amazing. The food was excellent, the conversation was deep, and the company was wonderful. They even covered my dinner and we exchanged numbers, addresses, and emails. They were the sweetest things!

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Anyways, that’s the end of that day. It was a fantastic day and I’m loving the freedom that traveling alone gives me.

As always, thank you for reading and sending all my love to everyone!! ❤

April 28th

Friday, April 28th:

I woke up at 5 AM. And then again at 5:30. And then again at 5:45, which is when I surrendered and just got up because I had to get my butt over to the Heuston train station at 6:40. I made it there for 6:45 (running was involved).

On the first train, I befriended three college students visiting Dublin from Baltimore. I talked to them and we chatted about various things. One thing I’ve noticed – almost everyone I’ve talked to here mentions Harry Potter and Game of Thrones at least once, haha. Unless that’s my fault and I’m the one bringing them up. It’s like the chicken and the egg dilemma! (I know it’s not, don’t worry). On the second train to the bus we got on, I sat with a lovely Irish woman who was just commuting to work from where she lived to Limerick. She works in IT. She said a few things that struck me – 1. That whenever she leaves Ireland she realizes how green Ireland really is. 2. She hates the Irish accent – and then I had to demonstrate a Boston accent for her because that is truly hideous. I really hate the sound of my voice when I’m talking to Irish people, because their voices just sound so musical. And 3. She suggested that I look into project management business analysis, website design, and digital marketing. That was immensely helpful. I’m definitely going to seriously consider these as options.

Anyways, we got on a bus that took us from the Limerick train station that was headed to Bunratty Castle. I couldn’t stop staring at the rolling green hills of County Clare. It was stunning. Pictures cannot capture the beauty. Vast expanses of green land just stretched out up the hills and areas of land were just separated by hedges or stone walls that might have been built hundreds of years ago. It’s even better than I could have ever imagined. County Clare has no farms with crops, only cows and sheep. It’s very peaceful. Nature is very healing.

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On the bus, I learned that farmers are so superstitious that they refuse to cut down fairy trees, and so roads would have to be built around the trees. I learned that there used to be a train that was so slow it took 2.5 hours to go the distance it took our bus only 20 minutes to go. I learned that rhododendrons are suffocating native plants in Ireland. I also learned a lot about Irish history, some of which I forgot to mention in my previous post. I’ll get to that in a bit.

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Above: a fairy tree where the leprechauns live!

So we went to Bunratty Castle first. What an awesome experience! It was built in the 14th century AKA 1300s. It was built by one major clan, the MacNamera family, and then taken over by the O’Brians in the 1500s. The O’Brians were the most powerful family in Munster and there are many different O’Brian castles in ruins across County Clare.

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The Bunratty Castle in particular is placed right by the Shannon river, the longest river in Ireland. The other O’Brian castle that we saw (that was intact) was at the Cliffs of Moher (more on the Cliffs later).

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The Bunratty Castle had so many treasures and everything was just so old. We sat on benches that were hundreds of years old made of massive trees that must have been hundreds of years old when they were cut down. We learned about the layout of the castle, and why it was built the way it was. The first room that you enter into is the soldiers’ quarters, essentially.

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The 50 common soldiers would be on one side of the room, behind what was called a “line of demarcation” that the floor tiles we aligned to make. The line cut the room in half. The other half, nearest to the fireplace, was were the 10 highest ranking officers would sleep. All of the soldiers slept on wooden cots or straw beds. The reason why the soldiers’ quarters was the first place you entered into was because in the case of an invasion, this would be the first line of defense. Other ways that the castle was built to defend it from enemies: spiral staircases spiraling to the right, a murder hole (okay to be honest that’s what it sounded like the lady was saying but I couldn’t quite make it out), and trap doors. The staircases spiraled to the right because if all the soldiers had to hold their swords in their right hands, it would be very difficult to attack and swing if the wall was right there. So the people who had the advantage were the ones higher up the stairs. The murder hole literally was a hole in the ceiling where the defenders of the castle would pour boiling hot water or even boiling animal fat onto the invaders. And the trap door just was a really, really long drop to the dungeon… which was basically just a pit where no one would get out (I’m glad I skipped the dungeon, I get spooked pretty easily). The next room we entered into was where the leader would sit in his big fancy chair and have his secretary sit next to him while they went over the judicial duties, granted people land, and other kingly things. There was another line of demarcation – the fireplace in the center of the room was the line no one could cross, and everyone had to stand up except for the king.

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Women were not allowed in the room, but they instead watched from a window high up on the wall. There were also peepholes and hidden holes for soldiers to listen through so that if anyone was saying bad things about the king, they could immediately report it. That’s why they say “the walls have ears.”IMG_5976IMG_6021

Above: The women’s window. Below: A spy-hole for a soldier.

We went all around the castle, exploring rooms and even going to the very top. That was really incredible. I think one of the coolest parts of the entire castle was the antlers and deer head that was over 10,000 years old. That isn’t an exaggeration. The peat bog preserved the remains of an extinct prehistoric deer. Like I said, everything is SO OLD.

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After Bunratty Castle, we had lunch in Doolin. I had steak and Guinness stew with milk because I was told to try the milk and basically everything was amazing. I even struck up a conversation with a mom and her two older sons, and then later with a young-ish married couple. The married couple were so nice, it was so lovely chatting with them!

After all that, we went to the Cliffs of Moher. Words and pictures cannot do the Cliffs justice. It was life changing. I saw the Atlantic Ocean from the other side for once. The Cliffs are some 700 feet high.

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I even did something spontaneous while climbing up to the castle at the Cliffs of Moher. There was an older gentleman playing his accordion for money. He was playing Danny Boy, and then I asked if I could sing while he played. It was hard because he didn’t know how to play for a singer, but he appreciated my singing. And I appreciated him for giving me that opportunity, the experience of getting to sing Danny Boy while I was in Ireland, while an Irishman played the instrument.

I think the Cliffs of Moher are now my favorite spot in the world – I looked over the Atlantic and just thought about the people who I love who are in America, all the way on the other side of the ocean. It’s truly the most beautiful place you can imagine.

After the Cliffs of Moher, we went to the Burren, which literally just means “rocky place” I believe. Very beautiful. I stared out over the Atlantic Ocean there, too. The rocks were shaped so weirdly – they had circular indents, lots of holes, and were very cracked and broken. The rock is all limestone. I wrote two separate haikus, one for the Cliffs and one for the Burren.

The Atlantic blue
can’t keep my heart from going
all the way back home.

On rocks that look like
runes, I see the mountain tops.
I breathe in, and out.

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Anyways, after the Burren, we went to Galway. I tried to stay awake, but I didn’t get much sleep the night before, and the bus just rocked me to sleep. I didn’t want to sleep – I wanted to keep looking out at the water, to see the cows, sheep, and horses that were grazing, and to see the rolling green hills some more.

I was awake long enough to learn about the Potato Famine. People don’t realize how devastating it was. At least 700 people died PER DAY during the 5 years of the famine. If you weren’t dying of starvation and disease caused by starvation yourself, you knew people who were. The diseased potato crops were not the main reason why the Famine was so bad, it was the fact that the British could have helped, and didn’t. They helped at first by providing cheap barley, but then that stopped and basically, it was a tragedy that could have been prevented. To this day, the Irish have some things that lingered – they are told to finish their whole plate at meals, for example. The picture I’m posting below this is of a graveyard where the graves of the people who died by the Famine were just marked with rocks.

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After we made it to Galway, I wandered around a bit, befriended a person working at a souvenir shop, and ate dinner at Garvey’s, where I had the best fish and chips of my entire life. The fish was so most, delicate, and didn’t even taste like fish, and the beer battering on the outside was amazing. I thought I wasn’t going to have anymore French fries but… I didn’t want to not finish my plate. Luckily, some random men sitting down at a table next to mine were like, “You going to finish your chips there, luv?” And I was like, “Please take them!” I also loved their accents, being called “luv” unironically just made my day haha.

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We got on a train from Galway back to Dublin, and again, I saw the stone walls, the cows, sheep, and horses. While on the train, I was offered some real Irish whiskey to sip, and it was very potent!! I wasn’t expecting it to burn so much! It took me maybe an hour to drink less than a shot, haha.

I arrived back in Dublin as a changed person. The beauty of the Cliffs of Moher cannot be overstated. I wish I could go back and just walk and walk and walk. I really felt in touch with my Irish heritage there, and even found my great-grandfather’s surname and the crest of the clan.

I went to sleep a little too late, and this brings us to Saturday – I’ll put that in a new post.

As always, thank you for reading! Sending my love to everyone, no matter where you are!

 

 

To Dublin I go!

Well, here it is. The big day. I’m heading to Europe in less than an hour!! My stomach won’t stop doing flips. I’m nervous but excited. This is so huge! I can’t believe it’s happening. I’m at Boston Logan Airport right now. I’m waiting to board. This is it.

I’m so glad I went to the partial program before leaving for Europe. I am in a good place emotionally and mentally, I’m happier, and I can say I love myself and the person I’ve grown to become. This new chapter of my life is just beginning, and I am so proud of myself for how far I’ve come.

Please join me on my adventures!

All my love, and as always, thanks for reading!

Be gentle with yourself

Travel-related Section: 

So, for this trip, there is a lot that I have to sort out. Where I’m going to stay, what I’m going to do each day, how I’m going to get to different places, what I need to pack, what I need to pack things in… I have 19 days now before I leave. Yikes.

BUT!

I’m doing my research! I’m trying to find places to go to, things to do, looking for free walking tours, reading up on the best backpacks and the items that I’ll need to travel.

A dear friend told me about making my own list of places on a Google Map so that I can A) find out where places are in relation to each other and B) so that I don’t have to remember every place I’m going to, and I’m sharing it with you all so that you can see what I have so far, and I’ll repost this link in about a week when there’s more stuff on it. https://drive.google.com/open?id=1JAu32rI26mu13Wx_rCVF6zosuVc&usp=sharing

If people have recommendations of what to pack and what to prepare, please don’t hesitate to reach out! I would prefer to keep my backpack under 20 pounds to protect my back. I’m especially looking at good jackets to pack, and the best shoes to wear. If anyone has a jacket that they find is warm, waterproof (waterproofish is also okay, I’ll have an umbrella), and also isn’t going to take up a lot of space, please let me know! And as for shoes, I’m definitely going to get some Nike sneakers that will be good for my back. Might need orthotics, going to look into that. (I keep mentioning my back – for those who don’t know, I had back surgery in December 2015 because of a ruptured disk impinging on my sciatic nerve.)

Mental Health Section:

So to update everyone on today, I went to the intake for the partial program. The layout of the program is that I’ll start my day in a group where we set goals, then have self-care time, then have a group on Mindfulness (Monday), Self-Esteem (Tuesday), Managing Emotions (Wednesday), a Sensory group (Thursday), or a group on Family (Friday). After lunch, there will be a group on thoughts (Mon), Addictions (Tues), Anger Management (Wed), Spirituality (Thurs), and Relapse Prevention of Mental Health Symptoms (Fri). Then more self care time, and then a group on Relationships (Mon), Stress Management (Tues), Medication Management (Wed), Transitions (Thurs), Time Management/Weekend Planning (Fri), and finally, a wrap up group.

Trigger warning: Discussion of dysregulated eating and symptoms of depression

All of these topics will be super helpful for me. I know that for example, although I don’t use substances, I definitely am addicted to food/sugar. It’s a source of comfort for me, which obviously isn’t really healthy, especially since I turn to the foods that are worst for me (but easiest to get ahold of). It’s also a way for me to avoid and escape my problems.

I know I eat foods that are already prepared or go out to eat because lately I have so little energy that even cooking and cleaning are just such arduous tasks. I find that I get stressed out so easily from the littlest things. I feel so overwhelmed by something as small as cleaning my room, and because I get so overwhelmed early on, it just keeps piling up and up and up. That obviously is counterproductive, but who said that mental illness had to make sense?

Personal stuff over

I’m also finally going to meet with a psychiatrist who can recognize what meds might be best for me. Speaking to the intake woman today, she was mentioning how both Welbutrin (generic: buproprion) and Abilify (aripiprazole) are both very activating, meaning that they may exacerbate mania or hypomania. She even said, “People on Abilify sometimes will even notice themselves shopping more.”

To explain mania and hypomania – when I mention mania, I know some people may already be thinking of what some people call “manic depressive” disorder, but the stereotypical disorder that people may think about is really called Bipolar I disorder. Bipolar I has the sort of “highs” and “lows” that people think may typically think about, but what Type One Bipolar Disorder is NOT:

-the rapid fluctuation of emotions within the span of minutes
-being happy one day and sad the next
-flip-flopping on decisions

I mention these because the term “bipolar” gets thrown around far too often. Saying, “You’re so bipolar,” when one really means “You can’t make your mind up” is not only offensive to people living with bipolar disorder, but also is actively harmful to people with mental illness. Using a diagnosis as an insult is simply not kind to those who have that diagnosis. It’s like when people say, “That’s so gay,” (and I really hope that everyone knows that saying that is definitely not an okay way to insult someone). Phrases like these, when used flippantly, can hurt people’s feelings, and also add to the stigma surrounding people who have bipolar disorder (or identify as gay, in the case of saying “That’s so gay”). And that’s harmful to the person you may be insulting, but also to the entire community of people dealing with the stigma every day.

But anyways, what Type One Bipolar Disorder actually is:

-When a person experiences a full manic episode, and with a hypomanic or major depressive episode before or after the manic episode
-When the symptoms are causing distress
-When the manic episode and major depressive episodes are not caused by other disorders (like schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder).

(A coming blog post will have more about schizophrenia.)

Now, when I say a “manic episode” that does not mean “being very happy.” A manic episode can mean someone spending their most of their/all of their life’s savings very quickly, it can mean having so much energy someone stays up for two days straight, it can mean taking incredible risks, being sexually promiscuous, feeling out of control and having pressured speech – I won’t go into full detail, but here is a link to explain it better:
https://psychcentral.com/disorders/bipolar/bipolar-disorder-symptoms/

And here is a link on a hypomanic episode, since I didn’t really cover it (only because I need to go to sleep soon):
https://psychcentral.com/disorders/hypomanic-episode-symptoms/

Personal stuff:

Last but not least, I wanted to mention this – if you clicked on the link that led to my map of places to go to, you may have noticed that I have a list of LGBTQ+ Spaces. For those who don’t know, I am a lesbian, and I honestly still feel weird saying that because for so long, I was conditioned to think of that word as an insult and that I shouldn’t tell people. That’s why I’m particularly averse to people saying, “That’s so gay” in a mean way. Being queer in America at this point in time, quite frankly, is kind of scary. And I know that Europe isn’t always the most welcoming place for people either. I pass as straight, and honestly, that’s mostly because I’m too scared to not pass as straight. Someone once said, “Anyone can pass if they stay quiet enough,” and I just… I hate being quiet about this. I hate feeling scared of the judgment someone might pass on me, simply because of who I love. I also hate that I care so much about what other people think about me, but I hate that I have to care about what other people think about me about this topic because if I slip up and say something in front of the wrong company, I might have a serious problem.

The moral of this blog post is – Be kind. Be gentle with yourself and with others. Be aware of your words, because you don’t know who’s listening. And I am not directing this advice to anyone but myself, but feel free to stop by and take some words for yourself if you’d like. And for anyone who may be in the closet, not fully out, or even completely out – if you’d like someone to talk to about identifying as a part of the LGBTQIAP+ community, I’d love to be that person.

As always – Thank you for reading. ❤

Places to go, things to see

So, for my European adventure/journey to be a better me, I have a lot of things I plan on seeing (obviously). I would love some feedback on places to go to while I am in different locations, but here’s what I have so far as my travel plans:

-IRELAND-
April 26: 
Dublin (I am arriving SUPER early so I’ll have the full day to myself)
April 27: Day trip to the Cliffs of Moher
April 28: Day trip to Giant’s Causeway in Belfast(?) (My sister recommended that I go see that while I’m in Scotland because it’ll be easier that way, but I think I’d rather do it while in Ireland so I can make the most of my time in Edinburgh)
April 29: Day trip to Galway or Cork?
April 30: Dublin
May 1: Leave for Edinburgh (plane leaves at about 12:00, so I’ll only have time to have breakfast in Dublin)

-SCOTLAND-
Edinburgh
May 1:
 I’ll be arriving at about 13:45 (1:45 PM… I’m trying to get used to telling time the European way). I want to swing by the cafe where JK Rowling worked on Harry Potter, called The Elephant House. And then I get to see CARA!!! AHH! I am so excited!!! If you’re reading this Cara I hope you know that I am so psyched to see you because it’s been literally far too many years! Do you still remember any kata from Kensho Ryu??
May 2: Royal Mile, Holyrood House, Edinburgh Castle, St. Gilbert’s
May 3: Hike Arthur’s Seat, maybe see the Scottish Highlands (Ben Nevis, Three Sisters)
May 4: My train leaves at 14:30 (2:30 PM). It’ll be hard to say goodbye to Cara!!

-ENGLAND-
London

May 4: So I’ll be arriving at about 19:00 (or 7 PM). I won’t really have much time for much, but I’ll definitely try to find a pub or something after checking in at my hostel.
May 5: Globe theater!!!
May 6: London Eye, Tower Bridge
May 7: Westminster Abbey
May 8: Dover?
May 9: Wander around London. Leave for Paris

-FRANCE-
Paris
May 9: I’ll be arriving too late in the day to do anything really, but will hopefully get something for dessert in France. Because I mean, come on… macarons are probably the closest humans have gotten to attaining perfection.
May 10: Notre Dame! I love old churches. Remember how in my first post I said that I used to have panic attacks in churches? Nowadays, I have put my focus not into the religious aspect of the churches, but the art and architecture. Plus, I know I’ll be thinking of “God Help The Outcasts” while I’m there.
May 11: Le Louvre !! La Joconde ! Ah ! I’m just going to spend an entire day there.
May 12: Eiffel Tower and L’Arc De Triomphe, because I just gotta.
May 13: Versailles, because French monarchs were ridonk.
May 14: Walking along La Seine, singing songs from Les Mis. I think a bit of wandering just to explore would be good.

Now here’s where things get a little bit uncertain… I may skip Nice and Provence so that I can see my lovely friend Chloe! She was The Butler in the murder mystery musical I was in (Lady In Red… if you search “CCE Lady In Red” on the Youtube you will find it). If I do decide to stay in Paris for a bit longer to see her, I probably will just go directly from Paris to Rome. Not a problem though! I am sure I’ll see Nice one day 🙂

So if I do decide to stay in Paris a bit longer and skip Nice, this will be my plan:

May 15 – 17: Hang out with Chloe???

That’s as much as I’ve figured out right now. If I do go to Nice, I still don’t have much of a plan of what I’ll be doing there. I also don’t have many specific plans for the the next parts of the trip quite yet… still working on it. It will be updated when I have a more solid plan. I could really use some recommendations for where to go and what to do!

-ITALY-
Rome
May 17: No idea when I’ll arrive yet, but I’m assuming that I won’t get much time to see anything
May 18: St. Peter’s Basilica! Colosseum! Trevi Fountain! Spanish Steps!
May 19: Sistine Chapel! Vatican Museum!
May 20: Leave for Florence

Florence
May 20: Arrive in Florence
May 21: Galleria dell’Accademia
May 22: Medici Palace
May 23: Leave for Venice

Venice
May 23: Arrive in Venice
May 24: ?
May 25: ?
May 26: Leave for Vienna

-AUSTRIA-
Vienna
May 26: Arrive in Vienna
May 27: ?
May 28: ?
May 29: Leave for Salzburg

Salzburg
May 29: Arrive in Salzburg
May 30: Sound of Music Tour omg omg omg omg omg
May 31: Wander
June 1: Leave for Prague

CZECH REPUBLIC-
Prague
June 1:
June 2:
June 3:
June 4:

-GERMANY-
???Cologne???
(Still undecided where to go in Germany…)
June 4: 
June 5:
June 6:

-THE NETHERLANDS-
Amsterdam
June 6:
June 7:
June 8:
June 9:

Alright, I won’t lie, I have a lot of work to do to plan this. I have to sit down and organize my days so I know where I’m going, what I’m doing, etc, etc.

I could really use some help though! If you find yourself with some free time and would like to help, let me know!

As always, thanks for reading! ❤

Picking up the pieces

So I’m going to be practicing writing more regularly to make sure I get this down pat before I go to Europe. I’m also going to be using this blog as a place to educate/inform people about mental health and therapy, and to also monitor my own mental health.

Today, I’ve finally set up my hostel stays for Dublin and London, and my transportation from Dublin –> Edinburgh –> London. So that’s like, 1/4th of the trip taken care of! Wooooo. I’ve also decided to get either a duffel bag or invest in a new backpack. We’ll see. If anyone has any thoughts on what I should do (duffel vs. backpack) and if anyone has any suggestions for hostels to stay at in Paris, Nice (or Antibes), Rome, Florence, Venice, Vienna, Salzburg, Prague, Cologne, or Amsterdam, PLEASE let me know. I’m desperately trying to search for hostels where I won’t get bed bugs.

Also today, I set up an intake for a partial hospitalization program. A partial hospitalization program (or PHP for short) is one in which a patient will go to a hospital for about 8 or so hours (this one starts at 9:15 AM and ends at 3:15 PM) and it’s basically a mix of group and individualized therapy, as well as getting the chance to meet with a psychiatrist. I won’t be inpatient, I can go home at the end of the day, but for 5-10 days I’ll be going to the hospital to see therapists and a psychiatrist. I desperately need to meet with a psychiatrist. My meds haven’t been monitored or changed for five years. That’s a long time. So I’m finally getting myself over to see one. I’m going to work on cognitive behavior therapy (CBT) and dialectical behavior therapy (DBT) while there.

CBT is pretty much based on the idea that your thoughts lead to your emotions which lead to your behaviors. So to give a few examples:

  1. Suzy thinks that when Danny took the last pizza bagel bite, he was doing it to spite her because he hates her.
  2. Charlie is taking an exam and doesn’t think he is going to do well and because he isn’t doing well on the exam he is going to fail his class and because he’s going to fail his class he is going to fail out of school and never achieving his dreams.
  3. Sandra feels like no matter what she does, it is always wrong.

These examples are all based on different “cognitive distortions” that people may have. Suzy is both “personalizing” and “mind-reading” – she thinks that Danny is doing something and attacking her personally, and she thinks she knows why, with little or no evidence. Charlie is “catastrophizing,” and has “all or nothing” thinking. Sandra is “overgeneralizing.”

Personal information alert: Do not feel you have to read on if this is triggering to you

As someone with depression, I can identify with them – when I took the pre-ACT exam (I don’t remember what it’s called) I honestly had a panic attack in the middle of the exam because I could not figure out a few questions. The thing is though – I couldn’t answer the questions because my mind was racing. My racing thoughts/the cognitive distortions (thinking that because I could not answer those questions, that I was going to be a failure and never would amount to anything) influenced my emotions (fear, sadness, feelings of worthlessness) and that led to my behavior (crying, going to the nurse, running away from problems). I felt like everyone hated me for so long, and that I wasn’t ever good enough. I still am sort of unsure of where I stand with people – because I see myself as so low and unworthy of people’s admiration, I still don’t see myself as deserving anyone’s time, effort, or love. If anyone ever feels this way, I want you to know that A) you’re not alone and B) I love you. Please feel free to reach out to me if you need to talk.

Back to more information, no more personal info

So this self-love thing… this is where DBT comes in. DBT is based on Buddhism and focuses on mindfulness, self-compassion, and focusing on interpersonal skills. Mindfulness is super important and I realize that I haven’t been very mindful for the past few months. I realize that I’ve been isolating too, because I haven’t been feeling very good about myself. Just not feeling good at all, actually. So DBT is going to be really important for me to work on because I need to work on just pausing before I say something, thinking more about how what I say will affect the other person, and just basically not just doing things impulsively. I will mindlessly eat – not enjoying the food, just throwing it in my mouth and eat the food just to be eating. Mindfully eating would be enjoying each bite, taking time to savor it, to focus on the smell, texture, taste, etc. And to be compassionate to myself, I need to just… not keep kicking myself so much for every little “mistake.” I need to remind myself that there is no right or wrong when it comes to my journey in life, just different paths that lead to different roads. It’s so easy to say that though, much harder to genuinely feel like that’s the truth, and trust myself.

Anyways, so – if you find yourself isolating, if you find yourself having cognitive distortions, if you find yourself acting impulsively, and doing things without thinking, maybe check into CBT or DBT for yourself. There are plenty of books and worksheets online that you can use to help you. And just to remind you – you’re not alone.

Thank you for reading! ❤