I’ve Got Incomplete Classes, Yes, But My Mental Health Still Comes First

*article originally published on The Odyssey Online*

For most people, summer is a time without coursework, tests and classes. Not for me. At least, not this year. I have two incomplete classes to finish in addition to my summer class. And you know what? That’s OK.

Before this past year, I had never taken an incomplete in a class. I was always the “perfect student,” getting my work done *mostly* on time, making good marks and staying up until the wee hours of the morning to study or finish a project. I was good at school. It was my “job,” and I did it well.

At least, until last semester. This past spring, I did something a bit… unusual. I put my college success behind my mental health.

If you really think about it, staying up until 3 a.m. to study for an exam, working 5 hours straight per day on coursework, not sleeping, not eating properly, stressing out all the time… it’s not healthy. It gets the job done, so to speak, but at the expense of our well-being, whether we realize it or not.

For years, I didn’t realize it. I didn’t even consider how unhealthy and detrimental these habits could be. But after getting my mental and physical health back on track during a gap year between my freshman and sophomore year (yes, I am supposed to be a junior, but I am a year behind, and that’s OK too…), I stopped thinking all of the crazy measures we go to for an “A” would fit neatly into my life.

There is an unspoken competition on college campuses: Who can get the least amount of sleep? Who is the busiest? Who was up the latest working? Who is taking the most credits?

It is unhealthy. It puts what really matters — mental health — aside.

The truth is, your grades in college don’t matter. No, really.

They don’t matter nearly as much as your mental well-being.

They don’t matter nearly as much as taking care of yourself appropriately.

Your grades in college mean nothing if you are not able to function because of stress, anxiety or exhaustion.

I may have had to take incompletes, but if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be nearly as stable in my mental health as I am now.

I still have depression spells. I still have anxiety and feel overwhelmed. But I don’t work through the night on studying or projects like I used to. I sleep. I eat food. I get fresh air. I drink water (because you cannot live off coffee, as much as I tried…and sometimes still try to).

I may have incompletes, but that doesn’t make me a failure.

I may have incompletes, and that is totally, completely, 100 percent OK. Because I am putting me first. For once.

This article was originally written for and posted on The Odyssey Online in Aspiring Journalism Professionals. 

xoxo

IMG_4747

Advertisements

Dear young Lexi

A letter to the girl on the left, who looks happy, but is aching inside. From the girl on the right, who has learned how to laugh and smile and feel joy.

“Dear young Lexi,

I wish I could tell you that you will be okay. 
I wish I could give you a hug and tell you its okay to cry, be angry, feel.
I wish I could tell you it’s okay to ask for help.
I wish I could help you see that life will get better.
I wish I could take the emotions and the struggles you feel and put them into present day me. Because I know how to cope with them now, and you don’t.
I wish I could tell you that starving yourself doesn’t fix it.
I wish I could tell you that the numbers on the scale do not change your worth.
I wish I could list the things that are so much better than being skinny.
I wish I could explain to you that you don’t have to have it all together.
I wish I could tell you that control over food doesn’t mean the chaos in life goes away.
I wish I could make the lies go away.
I wish I could have stopped you from all the pain and hurt and tears and heartbreak.
I wish I could show you how to love yourself.

But you will learn.

You will learn to trust the process.
You will learn to feel the pain and accept it is part of life.
You will learn to ignore the voice.
You will learn to tell society’s standards to fuck off.
You will learn to work on accepting yourself.
You will learn how to live life again.

And those lessons, they are priceless.

From,
Present-day Lexi”

xoxo IMG_4747

*originally published on my instagram

Why I choose cruelty free products and how you can too

*trigger warning: difficult discussion of animal testing conditions*

~

~

~

~

~

DSC_0054

Charlie’s 1st Birthday Photoshoot!

If you know me, you know I am obsessed with my bunny, Charlie. Obsessed.

When I got Charlie and when I went vegetarian, I also started to research the make up industry and learn a bit more about animal testing. I went vegetarian for moral, ethicalreasons; I started buying cruelty free for the same reasons.

Animal testing is horrendous. Animals are subjected to experiments and treatments that often cause them intense pain. But, unlike us, they are helpless to do anything about it. Did you know that part of animal testing could be removing organs? Yep. You read that correctly.

Here are some other facts:

  • “We estimate that the top 10 animal testing countries in the world are the USA, Japan, China, Australia, France, Canada, the UK, Germany, Taiwan and Brazil, in that order.” (Facts and Figures on Animal Testing)
  • Supplying animals for testing is a multi-million dollar industry (What is animal testing?)
  • There are different kinds of animal testing (Types of animal testing)
    • research questions looking at future medical answers
    • genetic modification
    • regulation testing
  • Estimate for animals used for testing yearly is AT LEAST 115 million (Facts and Figures on Animal Testing)
    • That is over 9 million a month, 2 million a week, and 340k A DAY.

And that’s just the tip of the iceberg… (If you are interested in learning more, you can visit Cruelty Free International, this do-something article about animal testing, and the Humane Society International page. And for a REALLY amazing and comprehensive article on animal testing, you can visit this. )

So, how can I tell if something is cruelty free? Well, here is the tricky part… There are a lot of different messages about animal testing on labels and they aren’t all the same. Some companies say “not tested on animals” or “cruelty free,” but no one monitors this claim. Basically, it’s an honour code type thing (seriously, think back to college take home tests and how they tell you not to use the book but it’s really up to you if you abide by the honour code and listen to that… that is the same thing here). You can dig into this further and go online to the brand website for more information. There is the PETA cruelty free symbol, which means that PETA monitors these standards. And there is the Leaping Bunny symbol, which is arguably the one you want to look out for on products! Leaping bunny is the highest standards of cruelty free, making it the safest bet for cruelty free products.

Picture comes from Cruelty Free Kitty.

 

Here is another tricky thing… some parent companies are not cruelty free, but some of their branches are. For example, bareMinerals is cruelty free, but Shiseido, which is not. I will occasionally still by these brands (I love the matte lipstick from bareMinerals. I had tried it before I went cruelty free in my purchases), but I try to stick to totally cruelty free companies.

Where can you find cruelty free items? Actually, they are everywhere. You just have to know a few brands you like that are cruelty free. And there are a LOT of resources out there to help with that.

My personal favourite source of cruelty free information is Cruelty Free Kitty.  I absolutely adore this site. On it you can find guides to cruelty free products at Ulta, Sephora, Drugstores, Amazon, etc. I totally recommend taking a look around! These guides will also tell you if a parent company is not cruelty free, which is SUPER helpful.

As for me…what are my favourite cruelty free products? As a college student, I have to be a bit frugal with my spending, especially on make-up (which can get REALLY

IMG_4210

All of this make-up… it’s cruelty free!

expensive! Looking at you non-cruelty free Lancome and L’Oreal!). So I tend to go for the lower cost make-up. I mostly use Essence, which is a cruelty free brand you can find at Ulta. I love the brand. It’s not expensive and it feels pretty light!

I use method cleaning products at home, when I can! I am still making a transition to cruelty free in the home area! I throw out as I finish and then replace it with a cruelty free or homemade version! Cruelty Free Kitty has a list of cleaning brands if you are interested!

Why  should I switch to cruelty free? Honestly, I can’t tell you this. It’s your decision to switch and to know why you want to! For me, I would think about animal testing and immediately imagine my Charlie being the bunny in there. I couldn’t handle that thought. And I can’t save the animals who are still being put through these horrific tests, but if I can avoid buying things that support the practice (just like I don’t eat meat or fish for the same reason), I will ABSOLUTELY do that.

xoxo

IMG_4747

 

it’s been a bit

It’s been more than a month since I last blogged on here.

Over the past 4-5 weeks, I have opened this blog, thought about how I “should” write something, opened a draft, stared at it, closed the draft, sighed, closed the tab…. more times than I would like to admit.

The truth is, I didn’t know what to write.

I still don’t. But I want to write anyway and just see what comes.

I recently got the metaphorical rug pulled out from under me when I fell and broke my wrist. In treatment, you learn to build your foundation and go to that whenever you start to feel unsteady.

But what happens when your foundation doesn’t just crack… it collapses?

My foundation was art, journaling, working my barista job, doing yoga, driving, and taking my bunny places. But if you break your dominant hand and end up in a full arm cast for two weeks (just came off today BITCHES!), and then have a short cast for 2-3 after that, and then a brace after that… what do you do when insurance doesn’t come through and you need to switch practices and therefore end up with a brace for a week AFTER the long arm cast instead of a different cast and you have to work and a removable hard cast is 600 dollars and so maybe that won’t work, especially without insurance, and having to wait a week to figure it out puts you without a cast and a week closer to going on vacation to a lake with your boyfriend and a week further from finishing with this cast business for good? (massive run on there, but hey, stream of consciousness writing currently).

Then what do you do–foundation less and confused?

I’ll be honest: I felt this making me start to slip. I felt my eating disorder warping it into a “you CAN’T do anything and therefore, since you can’t get the food easily you don’t have to eat it because it’s too hard and your arm hurts when you strain it.” I felt it telling me that, since I couldn’t be active (or at least as active as I was before the injury) I didn’t need as much (read like no) food.

FUCK THAT.

053A24F5-E20F-44C1-998B-390D72F55573

I made a sling out of a scarf because the actual sling didn’t fit my bulky arm cast.

The last two weeks have been spent on my floor with the bunny boy, then a week and a half at my bf’s where he helped me be a functioning (albeit down an arm, temporarily) human being, and then back here again playing more hours of sims 4 than I would like to admit… but I have a really nice virtual sim house to show for it!

In a way, I am thankful for my broken wrist. Because it taught me a lot about being a ‘person being’ instead of a ‘person doing,’ as my therapist likes to say.

Over these past two weeks, I have done exactly zero “exercise” (just sightseeing and thrift shopping), eaten water boiled bagels more times than I can count, had dinner and lunch out a ton (sometimes both in the same day), eaten ice cream to my heart’s content, and been super flexible with food in general…. guess what, I feel just fine and I am the same as I was before. Well, aside from the broken bone.

Because sitting and just being doesn’t matter. I don’t NEED to do ANYTHING to deserve food or love or life. I can simply enjoy being in the world.

That doesn’t mean I am not antsy about getting back to my life. I miss my job and yoga and journaling. But, I know I can always think back to these few weeks if my eating disorder ever tells me something bad is going to happen if I just take it slow and let me be me.

 

finding balance

In my opinion, one of the hardest things about “re-learning” how to live life and take care of yourself through recovery is finding balance. For much of the time one is in treatment, the day is simply JUST treatment. But leaving the world of formalized and center-based treatment back into the world of outpatient appointments and mostly free weeks results in a lot to be determined and time to be filled.

Balance.

It is something I talked about so much with my therapist and my treatment team. It is a vocabulary word that has been a staple in my language for the past 5 months.

Balance.

Balance.

Balance.

What the hell is balance.

I can’t say I have done a perfect job moving from IOP to outpatient and balancing recovery and life from the get-go. But I also didn’t expect that I would.

If I learned ONLY one thing in treatment (which is far from the truth…I learned more than I can communicate), then it would be that I cannot expect perfection because it is realistic, possible, human. I would disappoint myself literally every time if I expected to be perfect. Never in my life have I or will I be perfect. This transition is no different. In fact, the lack of perfection is what makes it so successful.

I have had to sit down and talk to myself. I have had to tell myself that “yes, I can eat that. I will be okay.” I have had to make a conscious decision to order the hard thing that would have been so easy to avoid. I have tried new things. I have internally fought and won. I have internally fought and lost. But I have kept going and corrected and worked my ass off for the recovery that I so want and love.

That is what balance is to me. It is realizing that I am going to have a few bad days…maybe more than a few. But that I can persist anyway. It is relearning what life in the “real world” is like… with the constant daily challenges that I was somewhat sheltered from in treatment. It is picking the hard things because I know I can… and more than that… that I have to. It is realizing the mental difficulties are all worth it because they get smaller and smaller with exposure.

And it is giving myself grace for the days when I have more trouble. For the days when I need some help. And for the moments when I question it all and keep going anyway.

It’s a process.

That is balance.