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! ❤

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!

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!

Poetry

Today I took chances, I took risks. I did things to help people. I made people laugh, I made people feel happy. Today, I am finally the Serena I used to know, the Serena that was buried deep down under the depression.

I went shopping, I bought myself a sketchpad, some markers, and some clothes. I tried on the clothes and although the harsh lighting in the dressing room allowed me to see every “flaw” on my body, I still felt like, “Wow. I look pretty dang cute!” I feel confident. Beautiful. And hey, it may sound conceited, but I’m glad that I can say these things now. I’m happy with where I am now.

I saw a friend for dinner, and that was great too! I am just so happy with how gorgeous it was outside today and how much I accomplished and how brave I’ve been today.

So anyways – I’ve been reading Rupi Kaur’s book of poems “milk and honey.” It’s beautiful. Truly. I highly recommend it to anyone and everyone. After reading it, I got inspired to write some poetry of my own, so here are some of my poems.

To preface the poems, I’m going to say – I really have always loved haikus, so I ended up doing a series of haikus. I love how every syllable is of the utmost importance, and there are only so few available to use. Here they are!

Introduction
A haiku has five,
seven, then five syllables,
and only three lines.

It is not easy
unless you are a Sokka,
who is “not an oaf.”

Here are some of mine –
Haikus I wrote for all of
you, my friends, my heart.

  1. Living Body
    These stretch marks are my
    battle scars, my war paint, my
    proof that I’m alive
  2. Loving Body
    I have never loved
    myself more than today, when
    I was just myself.
  3. Breathing Body
    In – blue. Out – red. In –
    ocean. Out – lava. In – peace.
    Out – flames. I breathe fire.
  4. Ocean Body
    I am far vaster
    than you know. Inside me dwells
    fish, seaweed, and love.
  5. Rising Ocean Body
    I could drown you, drown
    you with all of me – instead,
    I want you to float.
  6. Moving Body
    Feet move, eyes blink, I
    stretch. Brain hurts, heart aches, I sleep.
    Heading towards health.
  7. Explaining Body
    I could tell you all
    about my childhood, about
    my sadness, but why?
  8. Shopping Body
    Today, I bought things.
    I talked to strangers, I spoke
    with friends. I’m so proud.
  9. Confident Body
    I can finally
    say, “I love myself.” I am
    happy with myself.
  10. Peaceful Body
    I always felt fear.
    Fear is now my friend. I love
    all the parts of me.
  11. Healing Body
    I try not to say
    “Sorry!” at everything.
    I’ve grown. Thank you, love.

Sending you all peace and love! And as always, thank you for reading! ❤

Life is improv, improv is life

The image above is mine! I made that! Please don’t use without permission.

Today was a very self-care focused day. I went to the gym to work out, I am making sure I have everything in order before my trip, and I went to a therapy session today. It was a really hard therapy session for some reason. Maybe because I had to rehash all the same stuff that my old therapist already knows, but it was just very difficult.

I’ve decided that I’m going to take a computer science boot camp course this summer, in addition to the martial arts classes that I have put on hold since I injured my hip. I also plan on doing improvisation classes! I think that will help tremendously. Improv always helped me feel confident. Plus, I just want to laugh, I want to have fun, and most importantly, I want to make people laugh. That used to bring me such joy. I made such good friends that way. It was really life changing when I made the decision to go into it, because not once in high school did I ever perform in a play or anything.

How I ended up in improv is a funny story in itself, actually. I was at my first ever football tailgate that Boston College had put on for the freshmen. I had never been to a football game or a tailgate in my entire life. I was 18 and brand new to college and willing to try anything. So when I stumbled across a “Pie A Senior In The Face” stand, I had to do it. But instead of taking the whipped cream-covered paper plate and tossing it at the garbage bag-covered senior, I sprayed a little whipped cream onto my thumb, put it on the senior’s forehead, and swiped it across her forehead, saying in my best Rafiki impression, “Siiiiimbaaaaaa.”

The seniors loved it. I was so proud of myself for doing that, because I mean, I didn’t know these people! I just randomly decided to do this for the sake of comedy. And they told me I had to go to their auditions. So I went to the auditions, not knowing that I was auditioning for a role in their murder mystery, and that I didn’t have to audition for the improv part of the CCE. The CCE is open to anyone and that’s what’s so beautiful about it.

And that’s how I met some of my best friends, had the best laughs, had the most memorable times in college.

Anyways, today, as I was stuffing my face with food after my workout, I came to several realizations. First of all, when did I stop getting true enjoyment from food? When did I stop feeling like I had the time to just sit, eat, and only focus on eating? Why do I feel like I’m constantly running out of time? I’m so tired of feeling tired. I want to finally feel like my past isn’t constantly pulling me back.

Trigger warning: mentions of suicidality and depression

In high school, I was very suicidal. I didn’t know if I would make it to the next day. I didn’t see myself living past high school. I had this vague idea of what I was going to do if I made it to graduate college. I thought of being a doctor for a while (but those dreams were quickly shot down when organic chemistry happened, haha). I just honestly didn’t think I could handle another day back then. And yet here I am. Six years out of high school. I went to an amazing school and learned a lot, and I continue to learn.

I am grateful for my education. Boston College was my home for four years, and I miss seeing my friends and professors daily. I miss the pace and the structure and the feeling that I was good at something. Nowadays it’s hard to feel competent because I feel like I just keep tripping and stumbling and fumbling as I try to find my way.

Feeling competent and independent will boost my self-esteem by a lot. Part of depression is that it really lowers my self-esteem – it’s like my brain cannot stop berating me for everything I do, and then since I already think so low of myself, I do stupid things because I just feel so desperate for… something good. Anything. It’s like I’m similar to a substance user, trying to find an external rush of dopamine. I have a hard time at finding a steady, balanced feeling of being okay that comes from inside. It’s like I have been low, and then would peak, and then would go back to my default of lowness. Hope is hard to find when I’m deep within the cave.

I’m far more hopeful now, and I see more light, but I just feel like I still have this weird mentality where I feel like I’m running out of time. I am trying my best to just break the hold that the past has on me. I don’t want to keep doing what I’ve been doing for so long – it obviously hasn’t been healthy, and it hasn’t been working well for me.

Trigger warning over

So I have some solid plans now. I know where I’m going, what I want to do, what I need to do. I am getting much more organized, my thoughts aren’t always just focusing on how miserable I am or anything. Not only am I positive, but I see a bright future in whatever place I go to. As someone has said to me, “You are going to do great things.” And yeah, she’s right. I am. I’m going to kick life’s @ss. I’m going to do whatever it takes to make my life one that I don’t regret, one that I can say, “Yeah, I did everything I could, I tried new things, I took chances, I had fun, I made connections, I was happy.” I’m working on this still, and I have a long way to go, but I’m on the right path. I think I’m going to figure things out. Things are going to be okay.

EIGHT things I’m grateful for today: Productive days, chocolate, salad, melty cheese, improvisational comedy, whipped cream, people who are caring/people I get to connect with, and all my fellow Eagles.

As always, thank you for reading! Sending you all peace, love, joy, and wishing for only happiness for you.

Trigger warning: Discussion of substance abuse disorder

PS: I talked to the front desk person/a personal trainer at the gym, and we had a really great conversation about substance abuse. It was just so awesome to talk to someone who was in recovery, to see how yes, people can escape the cycle. I know that substance abuse is often viewed as a failure of the person who began using – but it isn’t that at all. A lot of the time, it’s an escape. It’s a way to stop feeling so bad – most people who use substances are people with a lot of trauma history, and may also have other mental illnesses. Substance use disorder is a hard mental illness to get through. The way the personal trainer explained it, “When you use, you feel so alone, and you feel like you’re letting down everybody.” It was heartbreaking to hear. But it was so fantastic to see that yes, people can make it through to recovery.

Meeting that personal trainer showed me that if she can get through to recovery, then I can get to recovery from my mental illness, too.

Peace, 4/19

Photo above by my best friend Betsy!

Today was my last day of the partial program! I have officially graduated, not just from undergrad, but from the partial program! Yay!!! This blog is now called Serena’s Adventures After TWO Graduations (not really, that sounds awful).

I have to say, I’m infinitely grateful for this partial program and the people there. The therapist there was phenomenal, and the psychiatrist I’ve been seeing has been seriously wonderful. I haven’t seen a psychiatrist in so long because I have had such bad experiences with various psychiatrists.

Since changing my meds up, there have been some ups and downs, but now I feel like the overall trend is upwards. I mean, sure, there are going to be rough patches, but there’s a lot more positive than negative. I just have to continue working on building and working on good habits.

One really important lesson I learned at the program (which I’m definitely going to practice because I still suck at it) is to do a sort of “scan” to check-in where I’m at emotionally. And then, most importantly, is recognizing what is the underlying thought behind that emotion. I’ve been running on autopilot for so long and not really thinking too hard about what goes on in my own head. I think everyone could benefit from this particular habit because sometimes you might be carrying a lot of anger or stress or feelings of being overwhelmed and not even know what’s causing it. I know I do that a lot.

Another really important thing to take away from this program was about cognitive behavior therapy: THOUGHTS influence FEELINGS, which then influence BEHAVIORS. So if I can focus and pinpoint what cognitive distortions are going on in my head- things like all-or-nothing thinking, catastrophizing, “mind-reading,” etc – then I can change those thoughts, replace them with better thoughts, and improve my mood.

And! Also something for everyone. Breathing is magic. I know, what a silly thing to say, we are breathing all the time as living beings. But! Just ten slow, steady, even breaths make a huge difference in how we feel. Slows down the heart rate, re-centers you, makes you feel so different from before you stopped for a second. So the way I like to do it – because I am a pretty darn big person with a big lung capacity, I breathe in for about 8 seconds, hold it for about 5-6 seconds, and then try to empty my lungs for however long it takes. It’s immensely refreshing. And it doesn’t have to be a big to-do, it just sort of helps reset the moment and gives a new perspective.

Breathing and visualizing things really helps me. I found that visualizing the ocean, visualizing a forest, or even just focusing on what breath I’m on (like imagining the number “2” for when you’re on your second breath) have all really helped me. I like to imagine the seagulls, the crashing of the waves, and myself just sitting on the cliffs of Beavertail in Jamestown, RI. That’s my happy place. I miss the ocean.

Anyways, back to breathing. When someone says something that really just pushes your buttons – breathe. Because you’re in control of your own buttons. You decide whether or not they get pushed or not. Breathe and allow the negative energy and frustration just dissipate while you

I had my aura read again today. Today, the person reading my aura said there was a lot of green – she said that I love myself, which is really huge for me – and she said there was white, and black, and red. The white is related to transcending. The black is basically for absorbing – being like a black hole, just taking in as much as I can. And she said the red – the red of frustration, of anger – it was leaving me as I was breathing out. This was all just amazing to me.

I’m glad that I am healing. I am glad that I’m doing all this for myself because it’s about d*amn time I did. It’s time that I took control of my own life, grabbed life by the cojones, and became my own grown person. I need to be an adult now, I’ve been taken care of for too long.

I owe someone the most sincerest of thanks for giving me this gift. Thanks for bringing me to these realizations, for always giving me the greatest advice, for allowing me to finally see what I need, what I deserve, what I want to do, what I have to do in my life. I finally am listening to the advice I was given because of a real wakeup call. I have grown and learned so much, and I continue to grow and learn. And to that person, I send only peace, warmth, positive vibes, and all of my love.

And I am so grateful to the people who continue to follow this blog and are checking in on how I’m doing. I really do appreciate your time and care. It means a lot to me and helps me feel like I’m not so alone. Some days are really hard, when I feel so empty and broken, and then other days like today – everything is so much more beautiful now.

By the way, I saw the movie “Your Name” today at the Coolidge Corner Theater. For those of you who have the time and ability to see it, you absolutely gotta see it. I was on the edge of my seat and my heart shattered like, five times and it was so perfect. Plus, I haven’t had the opportunity to hang out with my friends in so long! I haven’t had the chance to see a movie in theaters in probably 3 or so years! It was so great to experience that. That movie was beautifully done. And then hanging with my friends after the movie was also a fantastic experience. It was so great to just chill and chat and enjoy delicious things.

And as for planning the Europe trip – I’m officially going to Ireland, Edinburgh, and London. That’s what I’m sticking to, everything’s all paid for. I’m so thoroughly stoked! It’s going to be an amazing trip. I’ll post my full itinerary later.

Days are going to be composed of good moments and bad moments. But everything is temporary, emotions will pass, time is fleeting. I don’t want to miss out on life anymore. I don’t want to keep trapping myself in my room. It’s my life. I decide what I do. I’m the one in control of my own thoughts. I’m the one who can make myself feel better or worse. I choose to be better.

7 things that I’m grateful for today: my breath, my friends and the people reading this today, my meds, amazing anime, art, the technology that allows me to communicate with you all, and my parents, sister, and rest of my family for always being so supportive, so generous, so caring, and for always having my back.

I’ll be posting something on animal cognition soon!

Sending hugs to all of you. As always, thanks for reading! ❤

NERD ALERT

Today I’ve grown a lot. I noticed I could say positive things about myself without the normal discomfort. I was able to just be a lot more at peace with myself while realizing that I still have a lot of room for work. I have been feeling not quite ecstatic or anything, but a lot more hopeful. A lot more friendly, outgoing. More like the Serena everyone used to know, there Serena I used to know. It’s frustrating to realize that it’s been really a medication problem all along, and I kept trying to get an appointment with a psychiatrist since like, February, but to no avail. Oh well, here I am now.

But I guess that means the meds are working! The person prescribing the meds has prescribed me 300 mg of Wellbutrin XL and 7.5 mg of Abilify. I’m not sure how those are going to work, but he said I’ve been under-dosed for so long. I don’t know too much about psychopharmacology but I can tell you that when you think of antidepressants, these aren’t the ones you think of first. When you think of antidepressants, many of you may think of SSRIs.

Many people know about what an SSRI is, which stands for “Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitor.” For those who don’t know what they are, some SSRIs you may have heard of are Prozac (fluoxetine), Zoloft (sertraline), or Celexa (citalopram). I’ve never taken Prozac, but I’ve been on Zoloft back in high school (didn’t work for me), and I was on Celexa for some time before it made things worse.

The way an SSRI works is that if there’s an action potential in a neuron (AKA it’s activated and firing) – but wait.

If you already know some neuroscience/biology, great! I’m including this explanation here because I feel it’s important for people who may not have heard about how neurons work to know a little more about themselves. I love learning and I love understanding the way things work. I hope I can share that with you, as well as give you a better idea of how our brains work and how amazing they are. If you don’t feel like reading all this sciency babble, skip ahead to the stars.

So we need to first know how the neurons communicate. The way neurons excite or inhibit the next neuron basically comes down to when the neuron is firing (AKA an action potential), there is an electrical charge that travels down the “arm” (axon) of the neuron. This is shown below. (I’m simplifying this part a lot because this is not the main part of what I’m trying to explain).

Action_Potential

The electrical charge goes all the way to the end of the axon (axon terminal/synaptic bouton). That is where the bubbles (vesicles) filled with neurotransmitters are waiting to be released into the space (synaptic cleft) between the first neuron’s axon terminal and the next neuron’s receiving end. In this particular case, the neurotransmitter we’re focusing on is serotonin.

To recap, the electrical charge has already made it down to the end of the axon and the serotonin molecules are dumped into the space between the two neurons. From here, you have some serotonin that makes it across the gap to receptors on the postsynaptic cell’s membrane. When the serotonin makes it over the gap and fits into the receptors, from there, that postsynaptic cell may be excited (fire more action potentials) or inhibited (reduce action potentials).

But quite often in people with depression, some serotonin just hangs around in the synaptic cleft. Just chilling. But then, a portion of those molecules get destroyed! They didn’t do anything, weren’t bothering anyone. But now they’re just somebodies that you used to know! One of the destroying enzymes is called monoamine oxidase (MAO, which is involved in another class of antidepressants known as monoamine oxidase inhibitors. I wonder what they do). The other is catechol-o-methyl transferase (COMT).

The serotonin molecules that survive the enzymes then may be taken back by the presynaptic cell. That presynaptic cell couldn’t let go of all of its serotonin babies and so they came back via transporters on the opposite side of the cleft where the serotonin is really supposed to go.

Here’s where the SSRI (the selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) is involved. The SSRI inhibits the reuptake of serotonin into the presynaptic cell. By blocking the serotonin from going backwards, more of it is able to make it across to the next neuron. And many of you may know serotonin and dopamine as those “happy” neurotransmitters (that’s not all they do but it’s relevant to depression).

Anyways this is completely unrelated to what meds I’m on. Haha, yeah, I just told you a lot of information just for the sake of learning! Fooled you!

***

I’m genuinely so glad to see myself doing this again – having passion for science, making jokes. I have always loved humor. I love to make people laugh, to make myself laugh. I mean, I was in an improv group for crying out loud! It was my job to make people laugh.

And – I was Nancy freaking Drew in a murder mystery musical! I still can’t get over that. That was always my life’s dream, to be in a musical, and to be Nancy Drew! And I did it! And it was so much fun, making people laugh, singing these freaking amazing songs with some pretty freaking amazing people. I miss my friends from college, but I’m still so glad I met the people who I’ve met since graduating.

It feels good. I’m starting to be me again. I feel stronger. I’m sure there will be ups and downs, some days won’t always be this good, but at least for today, today is a day where I can say that I am really starting to feel better. Thanks for continuing to follow me on my journey.

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

You can’t live your whole life in fear

Today was an interesting day. I went for breakfast with my mom, my aunt, and my dog. I went for a walk with them, and even explored a delightful antique store. I napped and ended up sleeping for more than three hours. After I got up, I went for another walk with a different aunt, same mom, same dog, and also my cousin’s dog.

I have to say – I really enjoyed just walking, looking at the blooming flowers, enjoying the fresh air, noticing the little things.

Last night, I just couldn’t fall sleep. I kept thinking about things that I did in the past that I couldn’t change and ruminating on all of my regrets and sadness. I keep crying every night. I know I cry a lot, it’s probably a learned behavior – I probably subconsciously learned a very long time ago that crying 1.) got people to soothe me and be there for me, 2.) got me attention and pity, and 3.) made me feel better somehow. So now I have decided I will overcome my weepiness. It doesn’t help me get anywhere or anything as an adult, it just makes me look weak. I can’t expect people to take care of me as an adult. I have to work on self-soothing, and so I will.

And I really just wanted to say how grateful I am for my best friend, Betsy. She’s stuck with me even through my lowest times – I’m in one of my lowest times right now and she’s still there, being a freaking saint. So thank you.

I am also so grateful for my family, so grateful for my friends who have been there for me even though I’ve been isolating myself for so long, even though I’ve been a really sh*tty friend lately. And I am truly so grateful for anyone who takes the time to read my blog and follow how I’ve been doing. I just really want to tell you how much you all mean to me.

As I was waiting for the MBTA train for Boston (late as always), a man saw my bright blue Boston College sweatshirt, and said, “Hey! Boston College! I wish I went there, I went to BU instead.” We struck up conversation. I really mostly just listened, and the more he talked, the more I realized that he gave good advice. He was 63 and living with so many regrets. He told me about how people are like cars and we have to provide our cars with good fuel (good food) and we have to exercise. He told me about how he had been a concert pianist and that he now was writing and investing here and there, but he didn’t seem happy, and he seemed to be really frustrated with how he lived his life. He was anxious for his friend who had been diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer but had recovered from it. He hadn’t heard from her and was worried, understandably so, but he said something that rung true with me too – he always thinks the worst when he doesn’t hear from someone. I do the same thing, I always think of the worst possible scenario for everything. But then it was my turn to give advice. I told him something as he was telling me about how he was afraid to take airplanes because of terrorists. I said, “You can’t live your whole life in fear.”

After I said that, he just seemed to genuinely turn around, repeating it over and over, coming to terms with it, and accepting it. And then I told him something that someone very important to me kept telling me, “Work smarter, not harder” – I meant it in the way that, if he decided to take a plane, then he should just be aware of what his surroundings are and if he felt something was suspicious, then he should trust his instinct. But I think it’s also something that I have never done – working smarter, not harder, that is. It’s time I start listening to that advice. And time I start trusting my own instinct as well.

I realize… In the past few months, I just haven’t been very mindful. I have been actively pushing people away. I haven’t been listening to anyone, not even myself. The people around me have always offered such solid advice, and I think I have some good advice too. I just have to take it, and work on it, and change, and grow. But it was so hard to grow, so hard to change when all I wanted to was to sleep, and cry, and eat. I had no motivation, no energy. That’s something depression does – it just takes away all of your passion, your desire to do anything. And the depression and anxiety just kept whispering these awful things in my ear, saying that I was a horrible person, that I don’t deserve love, that I don’t deserve happiness.

So here I am, stripped of everything that I ever loved and wanted to do. I have no straight path ahead of me, no idea of what I’m going to do. I have endless possibilities. I have the world ahead of me. I have so much I want to do, I don’t want to be 63 and full of regrets and sadness and fear.

I’m trying to change. Little by little. One day at a time. It’s hard and I’m really struggling at times, but I’m finally recognizing what I have to work on, what I can do better, what I will do better.

I’m not going to keep giving into depression. I do have to cut my Europe trip short though, unfortunately. I have to make sure I get my medications adjusted, that’s a number one priority. I have to make sure to see a psychiatrist and therapist regularly. I need to take better care of myself. I deserve love. I deserve happiness. I am good enough.

Much love to all, and as always, thank you for reading ❤

In flux

I realize that I haven’t posted in like, 3 or 4 days. There was a reason behind that. I didn’t feel mentally well enough, and honestly, I’ve been kind of embarrassed to see how emotionally labile I’ve been. My emotions are literally everywhere, one moment I’m fine and trying to be more at peace with the world and myself, and then the next moment I am heartbroken, sad, and frustrated with myself for not being better. I can’t seem to stop crying.

As I was talking to the psychiatrist at the partial program, he explained things to me quite clearly. He said that depression can be broken down into three main aspects: Mood (depression is classified as a “mood disorder”), activity, and attitude. Then those can be broken down further, and it seems that I have the kind of depression where my mood is very low but also fluctuating a lot and I’m often irritated at myself, and my activity levels are very low (staying in bed all day, sleeping a lot, not able to function like a neurotypical person), and my attitude towards myself and life is not great at all. The psychiatrist also added a new dose to the medication that I’m already on. I’m actually not sure if this little is going to make a difference. He thinks I’ve been under-dosed for five years, basically. I’ve been on the same meds for 5 years despite it not really working for me, which is pretty atypical.

Anyways, I’m trying to stay positive. Today is Easter. Although I’m not really religious, I like the message of the day – it’s a time of rebirth, of rising again, of celebration. I think I don’t celebrate the my accomplishments enough. Today I got out of bed, which is better than a lot of days lately. Today, I wrote this, I sent out some important emails, I’ve been looking at courses – I accomplished a lot. I need to completely kill my old ways of thinking, of always beating myself up for every little thing, and just sort of have that radical acceptance. I need to be reborn into a different person but… it’s not like I can change overnight, and I hate that. I just am so ready to be done with this cave.

So I’m in this weird transitional period of my life. Everything is changing. I can’t see myself being a social worker anymore because I just feel like I was so emotionally worn down from just being a mental health worker that being a full time therapist might be too much. The original reason why I wanted to go into social work was so that I could help the LGBTQ+ community, I wanted to be a therapist and an advocate. I wanted to help people. I still do. But I don’t think that I can do it as a therapist.

I’m looking at going back to school – for what, I don’t know, but Harvard Extension School is an option that I’m looking at. I just have no clue what would be my degree or major.

I have no idea what I’m going to do, what my career path will be. If anyone has any suggestions I welcome them. But as my aunt said, “You can’t be lost if you don’t know where you’re going.”

Happy Easter, Happy Passover, I wish you all love, joy, and peace. I’m sending out all of my love to everyone.

As always, thank you for reading! ❤

P.S.: I talked to my various family members about things today, which really helped me a lot. I’m grateful to have such a supportive, loving family. I’m grateful for the delicious food, the laughter of my cousin’s baby, the conversations I had with various family members today, the time I spent walking with my aunt and my dog, the hugs I got, the advice I got, the feeling of connection, and the feeling of being heard. I have a lot to be grateful for, not just for material things, but for the people in my life and the strong bonds I have with them. I’m still working on fixing my thinking to believe that I deserve to be happy (I have fallen behind on my affirmations) but one day I’ll get there.

P.P.S.: I found at my aunt’s house this really cool book called “Naked: How to Feel Naturally Healthy” and it was great at giving suggestions on how to feel more vitalized and connected to the world and yourself. I’m grateful for that book too! I got some good information from that on how to be more assertive, how to make a face mask, how to do a food detox, etc.

Thanks again!!