Reality Bites


I don’t usually do movie reviews on here, but last night I watched a movie called Reality Bites that resonated so strongly with me that I feel I must share it.  I actually saw the movie for the first time probably a year or two ago, but I came across it again recently & was disappointed to find that it is no longer on instant on Netflix.  However, I also stumbled across a copy of the DVD at Wal-Mart this past weekend for only $5, so naturally I jumped on it.  If you’re not familiar with the film, it was directed by Ben Stiller & stars Winona Ryder, Ethan Hawke, Janeane Garofalo, Steve Zahn, & Stiller himself.  Though it is now 20 years old (I KNOW, HOW THE HELL IS 1994 20 YEARS AGO?!!!), I find the film is just as relevant now as it was the day it was released.

reality bites

Yes, it’s amazing how much the world has changed just since 1994.  Pay-phones are now obsolete & have been replaced with cell phones that are basically miniature computers.  We’ve also gone from bulky VHS tapes to DVDs & Blu-ray, while clothing & hair styles have of course changed tremendously as well.  And yet the core issues that the characters face are the exact same issues that 20-somethings are facing today.  It’s funny how much the world changes & yet how much it stays the same.  If you’re a 20-something & you haven’t seen this movie, you really must add it to your list because this film is basically the story of our generation: college graduates trying to enter the workforce in a crappy economy & to navigate the real world with all the treachery, disappointment, excitement, fear, & joy that entails.  I also appreciate that the film asserts that friendship really is the best foundation for romance & that a person’s career is only as satisfying as the rest of his or her life outside of work.  To me this is a film in which the characters & the lessons they learn about life, & in turn can teach us, are more important than the plot.  I for one find such films are usually the best.  Additionally, there are a lot of really touching lines.  In the spirit of such, I’m going to share some of my favorite quotes from the movie.  Some are full of intense meaning while others are strictly humorous.  Indeed, reality bites.  But it isn’t all bad.

reality bites 3

  • Troy answering the phone: “Hello, you’ve reached the winter of our discontent.”
  • Troy: “I am not under any orders to make the world a better place.”
  • Lelaina: “All right, fine. You wanna be in a band?    Go ahead.  Play every night.  Play three times a night!  Don’t just dick around the same coffee house for five years.  Don’t dick around with her or with me.  I mean, try at something for once in your life.  Do something about it, but you know what?  You better do it now, & you better do it fast, because the world doesn’t owe you any favors.”
  • Vickie: “He’s weird, he’s strange, he’s sloppy, he’s a total nightmare for women. I can’t believe I haven’t slept with him yet.”

nightmare for women reality bites

  • Lelaina: “I’d like to somehow make a difference in people’s lives.”

Troy: “And I . . . I would like to buy them all a Coke.”

Lelaina: “And you wonder why we never got involved?”

  • Troy on the answering machine: “At the beep, please leave your name, number, & a brief justification for the ontological necessity of modern man’s existential dilemma, & we’ll get back to you.”
  • Troy upon seeing Lelaina in what is supposed to be a stylish white dress: “You look like a doily.”
  • Lelaina: “I just don’t understand why things just can’t go back to normal at the end of the half hour like on the Brady Bunch or something.”

Troy: “Well, ’cause Mr. Brady died of AIDS.  Things don’t turn out like that.”

brady bunch quote in reality bites

  • Troy: “You can’t navigate me. I may do mean things, & I may hurt you, & I may run away without your permission, & you may hate me forever, & I know that scares the living shit outta you ’cause you know I’m the only real thing you got.”
  • Lelaina: “I was really going to be somebody by the time I was 23.”

Troy: “Honey, all you have to be by the time you’re 23 is yourself.”

Lelaina: “I don’t know who that is anymore.”

Troy: “I do.  And we all love her.”

reality bites 4

 

  • Troy: “There’s no point to any of this. It’s all just a random lottery of meaningless tragedy & a series of near escapes.  So I take pleasure in the details.  You know . . . a Quarter-Pounder with cheese, those are good; the sky about ten minutes before it starts to rain; the moment where your laughter become a cackle . . . And I, I sit back & I smoke my Camel Straights & I ride my own melt.”

This is a film that reminds us that life isn’t easy & we all have to make compromises sometimes.  We all become hypocrites at one point or another, we all make mistakes, & we all “sell out” on some dreams to accomplish others.  As the characters are forced to face in the film, making our dreams a reality is sometimes much harder than we anticipated (partially due to a bad economy), but there is no exact timeline we have to follow in life either.  And perhaps the most important thing we can take away from this film (aside from some great laughs) is that making your dreams a reality, no matter how grand they are, is worth very little without taking pleasure in the small, every-day joys of life & without a few good friends to share them with.

 

Murphy’s Law of Nursing


This post is meant to be entirely humorous & should not be taken to mean I hate my job.  Anyone who has been a nurse for more than a few weeks or months will smile & nod because you know these are all so true.

1. If you run out of alcohol swabs, saline flushes, tape, or any such thing it will always be while fully garbed in an isolation room.

2. If you bring more than one IV start kit, you will get it on the first try.  If you bring only one IV start kit, you’ll miss it & have to go back for more supplies.

nurse-cartoons-relevant-experience

3. Insulin drips, PD (peritoneal dialysis), & other such patients who require a reduced nurse to patient ratio will always come in 2’s & 3’s which will invariably screw with staffing.

4. Management’s idea of fully staffed will always mean no one ever takes vacation, gets sick or injured, requires surgery, has a family emergency, has a baby, or calls out due to fatigue & exhaustion.

5. The patients who are the sickest &/or in the most pain are often the least vocal about it, sometimes because they are truly too sick to waste energy complaining & sometimes because they “just don’t want to bother you.”  On the other hand, the least sick patients are often the ones with the longest list of demands, many of which are far from reasonable.

disatisffied patient

6. The most popular time to admit or transfer a patient will always be at the very beginning or end of the shift.  And they will always come in 2’s & 3’s & 4’s.

7. The doctors who are the most difficult to get up with in the middle of the night will always be the ones who never order any prn meds or anything that would help save you from having to wake them up at 0300.

8. The patients whose family members are really close to them & truly take good care of them are often the most reasonable & even downright helpful to the nurses.  On the other hand, the patients whose family has ignored them or cared for them poorly will often be the most rude, demanding, & generally impossible to deal with.  A lot of this probably stems from guilt & embarrassment of course, but it’s nonetheless a frustrating paradox to observe someone who has clearly ignored their sick mother for a decade suddenly  watch you like a hawk & quite literally TRY to find a problem with every single thing you do.

demanding patient

9. If you need to perform a STAT glucose check, that will be the exact moment that the glucometer needs to be QC’d.

10. The patient who needs 3 different IV antibiotics, blood transfusions, IVF, & Dilaudid/Phenergan on a regular basis will be an impossible IV stick.

iv cartoon

If you’re a nurse or anything medical, feel free to comment & share your own Murphy’s Law stories.  I’m sure there are tons more.  We really do have the best job in the world, but we have to be able to laugh at the absurdity of it all or we won’t survive.

 

 

 

America’s Mental Health Crisis


I’ve had several different topics up for consideration on the blog this week, but in the wake of the tragic suicide of Robin Williams I’ve decided to continue my focus on mental illness.  As our country, indeed our world, tries to come to terms with the paradox that a comedian as brilliantly talented as Robin Williams could suffer from depression so severe that he would end his own life, I hope that we will each open our minds to understanding the true gravity of mental illness.

Every few years when a celebrity commits suicide or dies of a drug overdose, our society gives a cursory nod to mental illness & the same old platitudes are rolled out over & over: “Anyone can suffer from depression.”  “Get help.”  “Don’t suffer alone.”  While all of these things are true, the sad reality is that true change never happens.  The same old stigmas against mental illness persist which only contribute to the negative cycle of these diseases, making it difficult for people to even seek treatment.  For those who overcome the stigma & do seek treatment, the lack of adequate resources continues to make finding & continuing treatment a true challenge.

robin williams

To understand the gravity of mental illness, one must first understand the prevalence of the problem.  According to the National Institute of Mental Health, a branch of the National Institutes of Health, some 18.6% of adults in the US suffer from some form of mental illness.  Read that figure again: 18.6%.  That is almost 20% of the population!  (Please note this does not even include substance or alcohol abuse.)  Anxiety & depression make up the largest percentage of this figure with schizophrenia representing about 1% of the US adult population & bipolar disorder about 2.6% of the US adult population.  While these figures may seem low, consider that out of every 100 people you know, at least one or two of them are probably suffering from one of these serious disorders.  Regarding anxiety & depression, the NIMH reports that almost 7% of the adult population in the US has suffered at least one major depressive episode in the past year & that about 18% of the adult population has suffered a major anxiety episode in the past year with a life-time prevalence as high as almost 29%.  Furthermore, it is estimated that as much as 25% of homeless people are suffering from a severe mental illness.  Shockingly, suicide is the tenth most common cause of death for adults in the US, according to the CDC.

I do not mean to overwhelm you with numbers & statistics, but my point here is that mental illness is extremely common.  It does not discriminate against age, race, gender, religion, wealth, intelligence, or talent.  ANYONE can suffer from mental illness & many do.  For some people mental illness is transient & with proper treatment they may never suffer from it again (this is more common with SOME cases of anxiety or depression).  But for others it is a chronic condition that will persist throughout their lifetime (for example, bipolar & schizophrenia are rarely, if ever, transient conditions).

bipolar-quote

Sadly very little is understood about the causes of mental illness.  Certainly most doctors & scientists would agree that mental illnesses are affected by both nature (genetics) & nurture (environmental factors).  But for the most part we are just treating the symptoms with mental illness because we really don’t know the exact cause.  There is little research in this field so sadly there are not as many advances in treatment as one would hope.

As I mentioned earlier, the accessibility to treatment for mental illness is sorely lacking in this country.  Not only are there far too few psychiatric facilities for the seriously ill, but access to outpatient therapy is far from adequate.  For example, without insurance my therapist would cost almost $200 a session, a price I could not afford to pay more than a few times a year & a price that would be absolutely prohibitive for many Americans.  Prior to the 2008 passing of the Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act, more commonly known as the mental health parity act, insurance companies were not required to provide equal access to mental health treatments.  Even after this, many insurance companies provided minimal access to mental health treatment.  With the passing of the ACA, we can only hope that mental health services will finally begin to expand & that greater accessibility will finally take shape.  The sad reality is that those suffering from mental illness, particularly severe mental illness, are more likely to have difficulty holding down a steady job which translates into being uninsured & unable to afford the treatment they so desperately need.  It’s a vicious cycle that often never ends.

Despite the prevalence of mental illness, Americans have been slow to understand the gravity of these disorders.  The stigma against mental illness is real.  Far too often those suffering from anxiety or depression are accused of “just not being thankful enough for God’s blessings in their lives,” showing a clear misunderstanding of these disorders.  Or how often have you heard someone casually scoff that a person who is a bit moody or difficult to handle “must be bipolar”?  Indeed the lack of knowledge of mental illness has led a great deal of the population to confuse schizophrenia with multiple personality disorder, the latter of which is actually an extremely rare condition.  I for one grew up thinking schizophrenia was the same as “split personality” when in reality schizophrenia is a completely different, though just as serious, disorder.  Again a lack of understanding of mental illness leads to a great deal of fear surrounding these conditions.  How many times have you read a novel or seen a movie in which a serial killer or some other heinous villain is depicted as being schizophrenic, psychotic, or otherwise mentally ill?  Indeed, after almost every mass shooting or bombing, the accusations of bipolar, schizophrenia, & general mental illness are thrown out by every media outlet.  Once again this feeds into the fear of mental illness.

mental illnes quote

The reality is that research has consistently shown that those suffering from mental illness, particularly severe mental illness such as bipolar & schizophrenia, are actually far more likely to be the VICTIMS of violence, be it abuse, rape, or murder, than to be the perpetrators of such violence.  But this is NOT the picture depicted by the media, whether in response to real-life tragedies or in books & films.  Tragically, even within the healthcare field, there is a great deal of prejudice against mental illness.  Far too often the moment a nurse or doctor sees a mental health diagnosis, an eye-roll ensues & the patient is viewed though a considerably different lens than someone without such a diagnosis.  What I’ve found in my own practice as a nurse is that patients who are actually mentally ill, if treated properly, are in fact no more difficult to care for than anyone else.  While I’ll be the first to admit that I feel ill-prepared to handle patients in acute psychosis, in general I’ve found that mentally ill patients do not deserve the negative stereotypes so unfortunately assigned to them.

My point in writing all of this today is to help people understand that mental illness is extremely common, but it’s not something of which we should be afraid or ashamed.  Though the treatments available are far from perfect, they can & do make a tremendous difference.  If you’re looking for a personal perspective, I am happy to report that I am already feeling significantly better since starting my own anti-anxiety medication just a week ago.  With a combination of cognitive behavioral therapy with my therapist, regular saturation in music & other such relaxing activities, & now Prozac, I can honestly say my anxiety is becoming more & more controlled.  While I have no idea what it’s like to suffer from a severe mental illness, I do know that having my anxiety better-controlled is greatly contributing to my quality of life.  But I couldn’t say that if I hadn’t sought treatment last year (first through therapy & now additionally with medication).

Furthermore my hope is that after reading this you will become more aware of your own prejudices against mental illness.  We’re all guilty of them at times.  Having a dear friend who is bipolar has radically changed how I view mental illness, as have my own struggles with anxiety.  What I’ve learned is that mental illness is just one aspect of a person; it doesn’t define them.  No one chooses to be mentally ill just as no one would choose to have diabetes or heart disease or cancer.  I’ve also learned that sometimes just being a friend & lending a supportive hand & a listening ear is one of the greatest things you can do for someone suffering from mental illness.

I am not my mental illness

 

As former NJ governor Richard Codey stated, “For too long we have swept the problems of mental illness under the carpet…and hoped that they would go away.”  But the reality is that these problems are not going away & probably never will.  But if our society can decrease the stigma against mental illness & increase our understanding of these conditions, we can offer more hope to those suffering.  Remember, if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem.  Be an advocate for proper understanding & treatment of mental illness.  Stand up to those around you who propagate negative, harmful stereotypes against the mentally ill.  The grim situation of the mentally ill in this country will never change until our attitudes about mental illness change.

Most importantly, if you’re reading this & you feel like you might be suffering from a mental illness of any sort, I hope you’ll have the courage to get help.  The world can be a cruel place for the mentally ill, but nothing is worse than suffering in silence when help really is available.  To those who are lucky enough to not suffer from mental illness, open your eyes & your mind to those hurting around you.  Don’t diminish their disease by telling them it’s not real or they’re just looking for pity.  Encourage them to seek proper treatment & be that listening ear when they need it.  You never know when you might save a life by doing something so simple.

mental illness not contagious

 

Statistics & other information found at:

http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/suicide.htm

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/Statistics/index.shtml

http://www.nationalhomeless.org/factsheets/Mental_Illness.pdf

Slaying the Anxiety Monster


Yesterday I did something I’ve been pondering for years . . . literally years.  I got a prescription for anti-anxiety medication & started taking it.  I’ve considered doing this for YEARS now but every time prior to yesterday I’ve backed out due to fear: fear of what others might think, fear of how my opinion of myself might change, fear of side effects, fear of “giving up,” & just basic fear of the unknown.  Growing up in a society that quite literally tells people with anxiety, depression, & other mental health issues that they “just aren’t thankful enough for God’s blessings” & other such nonsense coupled with my own perfectionist personality makes admitting that I might need medication for my anxiety incredibly hard to accept.  But yesterday I finally said “Screw you!” to the fear & admitted that, for right now anyway, I need more help than I’ve been able to give myself.

anxiety meds

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while or if you know me in real life, then you probably know that I’ve been struggling with anxiety issues practically since birth.  I can be pretty good at hiding it because outwardly I am so “put-together.”  In reality my life really IS quite together.  It’s just that my brain is always on “overdrive” which makes it very difficult for me to truly relax because my mind is always thinking, thinking, thinking about a million things.  It’s a blessing & a curse as I’ve detailed on this blog in various posts from time to time (see: http://athicketofmusingsblog.com/2014/07/28/shut-up-brain-part-2/ & http://athicketofmusingsblog.com/2014/02/06/shut-up-brain/ & http://athicketofmusingsblog.com/2013/08/17/inexplicable-anxiety/).  But lately due to a variety of external factors in my life, it’s been more of a curse than a blessing, & my usual coping mechanisms have not been enough to keep my head fully above water.  I’ve been drowning myself in music & essential oils & all the other things that normally help me . . . and they just haven’t been enough.  It’s not that these things haven’t been helpful at all . . . but the anxiety has not receded significantly like it normally does in response to these coping mechanisms.  If anything my anxiety has continued to grow steadily over the past month or so.

I really can’t describe to you how hard it is to admit this.  I’ve been seeing a therapist for just over a year now & this is honestly the first time in that year that I’ve felt like my anxiety has truly taken a turn for the worse.  I’ve had a few bad weeks here & there but nothing like this.  Until the past month I’ve felt like I’ve been steadily climbing upwards, steadily improving.  But somewhere around the end of June I feel like I hit a brick wall, tripped over a boulder, & slid all the way down the mountain.  After all the progress I’ve made over the past year, having my anxiety overwhelm me again is incredibly devastating.  I really felt like for a while I’d slayed the beast that is my anxiety.  But I guess the reality is that I had just put it to rest for a while.  And the truth of the matter is I should be rejoicing over how well I did for so long.  Instead of berating myself for struggling with this issue, I need to remember that like most chronic health conditions, either mental or physical, unfortunately anxiety rarely goes away forever, despite preventative measures & the best treatment.  The sad reality is that no matter how many times you fight the anxiety monster, every new battle is still frightening &  sometimes overwhelming.  

hello-my-name-is-anxiety

I know there are some people who will say I’m “giving up & taking the easy way out” by taking medication for my anxiety.  But the truth of the matter is I’ve tried everything in my power to control this on my own for YEARS now . . . basically my whole life.  I also REALLY don’t want people to think that I’m saying therapy isn’t helpful because I literally cannot express to you how incredibly helpful it has been for me.  Finding my current therapist was one of the greatest decisions of my life.  And the essential oils I’ve been using are also amazingly useful & have helped me tremendously as well.  And music has been my lifeline for most of my life; there is no question about that.  There is no doubt in my mind that for many people these kinds of coping mechanisms are more than enough to manage their anxiety or other mental health concerns.  But unfortunately I’ve just reached a point where these things aren’t enough for me anymore.  I sincerely hope to get back to the point at which these normal coping mechanisms are sufficient for me.  But the fact of the matter is I’m not there right now, & I shouldn’t feel the need to apologize or explain myself for that.  If I had any other type of health condition, almost no one would question my need to take medication for it.  But if you have mental health concerns, far too many people, even well-meaning people, expect you to just “get over it.”  Would that it were that easy!  Trust me, if I could just will myself out of my anxiety, I’d have done it a long, long time ago!!

katy perry

I’m going to end today’s post with the incredibly eloquent words of a very dear friend of mine who has provided so much encouragement to me over the past few years.  In fact she is the person who encouraged me to find my therapist last year.  I have so much to thank her for.  This message she sent me yesterday describes her own experiences with mental health over the past few years & was a courageous (& very effective) effort to assuage the guilt & fear I had regarding “giving up & taking medication” for my anxiety.

What I have learnt over the last six years of this bullshit is that it matters less & less what people think or what box you fit into: bipolar, depression, anxiety . . . We are all damaged in one way or another.  We just have to survive.  And maybe that sounds cynical, but to me it makes me want to find balance even more, because I’m determined to find the joy that remains somewhere & live it.  And all this is just part of getting there.

My anxiety might make my life a bit harder at times, but it also means that I appreciate the good times all the more because I know how it feels to be really down.  I may never truly slay the anxiety monster, but I CAN find ways to keep it in hibernation for as long as possible.  And as my friend expressed in her message yesterday, fighting the anxiety monster makes me all the more determined to enjoy every second of this precious life, “to find the joy that remains somewhere & live it.”    And if taking a medication is part of getting there, so be it . . . Hopefully it won’t be forever, but for right now it’s worth a try.  

Shut Up, Brain! Part 2


**Today’s post is a follow-up to this post from about 6 months ago.  It will make more sense if you read that one first:  http://athicketofmusingsblog.com/2014/02/06/shut-up-brain/

When I was in second grade, maybe first, a magician came to perform at my school.  I remember sitting in the back row with my best friend trying to figure out how he did all of his tricks.  We couldn’t just sit back & enjoy the show like all the other kids.  No, we had to analyze every trick & try to figure out how this “magic” worked.  Weird, I know.

But that’s just the way my brain has always worked.

brainI rarely take anything at face value.  I’m always analyzing things & trying to figure out the WHY behind everything.  This includes both scientific & philosophical matters.  Even as a kid, as I’ve said, I was like this.  I guess that is why the “magic” of childhood has never been very nostalgic for me . . . because I never really experienced life that way.  I’ve always been logical, practical, & inquisitive.  I was the kid who figured out Santa Claus wasn’t real & probably told as many people as would listen.  I’m sure this made me a real pain in the ass at times . . . and probably still does on occasion.

Sometimes I wish I could just forget about all of the hard things I see in life.  Part of being analytical is feeling things very deeply, even things that don’t directly affect me.  I like to think this makes me a good, compassionate nurse (& friend, wife, etc), but it also means I go home & worry about my patients more than perhaps is healthy.  When I see people my own age who are really sick, I can’t just go home & drink some wine & forget about it.  Trust me, I wish I could.  But instead I find myself thinking about how unfair life is & running through all the philosophical ramifications behind the difficult scenarios I witness every day of my life.

I’ve talked to my therapist about these things & she says the key to managing my anxiety about all these things is in finding balance.  Finding that balance between caring for people & trying to makes sense of life but being able to let go.  But letting go isn’t easy for me.  When I see problems, I want to fix them.  When I see someone struggling, I want to comfort them.  I constantly feel the need to be useful & accomplish something with my life.  As you might imagine,  this makes relaxing very difficult.  Is it any wonder I have almost 200 hours of vacation time saved up?  (Don’t worry, I’m using quite a lot of that time for our vacation this Fall, & I’ve even requested a day off here & there for some concerts I’m attending over the next few months.)

Anxiety mental health symbol isolated on white. Mental disorder icon design

I have no idea why I’m writing all of this.  It feels very disjointed & illogical, frankly.  (Ironic, I know.)  It probably sounds pathetic & ridiculous & possibly even a little arrogant.  I just know that my mind is a flurry of activity right now, & it’s really hard not to compare myself to others who seem to be so much more at ease about life.  Between my own bouts with sickness over the past month (nothing serious but unpleasant & physically exhausting just the same), some difficult situations at work on top of  finishing up my clinical ladder project, & worrying about one of my best friends who has been fighting her own demons lately, it’s just been a rough month.  For the first time in at least six months, I really feel like my anxiety has gotten the better of me at times.  I guess it’s an accomplishment to have kept it controlled for so long.

But every time it raises its ugly head it’s just a reminder that this brain I’ve been given isn’t an easy one to calm.

And sometimes I just wish I didn’t think so damn much.

*Ok, this last cartoon is purely for laughs.  It made me smile because it’s so perfect for me.  social anxiety party

To All the Misfits, Nerds, Geeks, & Weirdos


First of all, you’re awesome.  Don’t ever believe anyone who tells you otherwise.  Second of all, I am writing to you today to say I feel your pain.  You’re not alone on this journey in life & knowing that can be a huge factor in realizing that being a misfit is actually not a bad lot in life.  In fact the second reason I’m writing to you today is to tell you why I believe being a misfit can actually be one of the greatest things you can experience in life.  But we’ll get to that later.  To begin, let me explain why I feel I have the right to speak on these matters.

weird awesome

I’ve been weird practically since birth.  My mom swears I said my first sentence at less than a year old (“It’s good, Mom!” while eating; so fitting that my first sentence would be about food.  Ha!), causing her to nearly fall over in shock.  Certainly I’ve been weird since at least pre-school.  I remember very distinctly being the only child in my pre-school class who would sit down with a book during our free-play periods.  It never much occurred to me at the time that this meant I was a bit “off.”  I was so busy doing my own thing that I never really noticed.  Then I went to kindergarten & discovered I was the only kid who hated nap time.  While everyone else was blissfully asleep, I would lie awake bored & wondering how much longer this torture would last.  I would also wear ridiculous brightly-colored headbands just about every single day.  With my hair in a pony-tail.  It never occurred to me that this wasn’t stylish or that no one else wore their hair this way.  I just did it because I liked it.

Well, as we all know, kids can be pretty cruel.  And my care-free “be weird & no one really cares” days didn’t last forever.  Before long, the other kids figured out I was pretty weird.  Certainly I had a few friends here & there; naturally they were the other weirdos & misfits of course.  There’s nothing to bring people together like a feeling of mutual exclusion from your peers.

So to the other misfits, nerds, geeks, & weirdos out there today:

I know what it’s like to be the only kid in class who doesn’t know what “gay” means.  Who answers the joke “Is it ‘I da hoe’ or ‘You da hoe’” with “Idaho” because I didn’t realize this was some stupid joke that had nothing to do with the name of a state.

I know what it’s like to be constantly out of the loop on popular culture & thus have very little to talk about with the majority of your classmates.

I know what it’s like to be picked last in gym class over & over again.   And what it’s like to be laughed at because your athletic skills leave a lot to be desired.

gym class

I know what it’s like to hide your grades from your classmates because you know they’ll tease you for being a “smarty pants” or at the least they’ll try to make you feel guilty for “wrecking the curve.”

I know what it’s like to be excited for school to start because you love learning but at the same time to dread the social aspect of school because you have so much anxiety over whether your fellow nerds will be in any of your classes or, most important of all, if they’ll share your lunch period.

I know what it’s like to try really hard to fit in with the cool kids & to think they’ve finally more or less accepted you only to find out the whole time they thought you were just a pain in the butt.

I know what it’s like to never be sure if a compliment is really a compliment or if people are secretly making fun of you when you’re not looking or listening because the latter has happened enough times to make you paranoid.

On a more adult level, I know what it’s like to feel “old before your time.”  To wonder when most of your cohorts will realize that getting drunk is only a minor milestone in life, not one to be revisited every single weekend.  And then further to wonder if making such statements makes you incredibly boring & “old.”

Speaking of being old, I know what it’s like to be called “old at heart,” sometimes as a compliment & sometimes not.

And I still know what it’s like to be out of the loop about much of popular culture.  Only this time I don’t give a crap.  Because now I know that I’m not missing anything worth missing.

Now that I’ve reiterated all the reasons why being a misfit, nerd, geek, or weirdo sucks or at least can be difficult, let me explain why I think being different than the norm is actually AWESOME.  Being a misfit from an early age taught me some very valuable lessons that I think everyone learns at some point in life but learning them at a young age can be even more beneficial.

Being weird taught me how to be happy on my own & to realize that being alone is ok sometimes.

Being weird taught me that having a few close friends is much more important than having a lot of acquaintances.

On a related note, being weird means it’s easier to know if people really like you.  Because if they didn’t, they wouldn’t stick around . . . After all, there are a lot more normal people out there.  So if you’re weird & someone keeps coming back to you (romantically or otherwise), there’s a reasonably good chance they’re actually serious about you.

Trust me when I say this one is still a big battle for me, but being weird has taught me not to care so much about what other people think about me.  As Kacey Musgraves so wisely wrote: “You’re damned if you do & damned if you don’t/So you might as well just do whatever you want.”  Truer words have never been spoken (or sung, in this case).  Being weird has taught me that trying to please everyone is always a losing battle.  And so I’m slowly learning to just live my life how I see fit, knowing that those who really matter will not forsake me.

damned if you do

Being weird has taught me that life is more fun “on the edge” so to speak.  For example, being weird has encouraged me to try out different kinds of music that aren’t exactly mainstream.  I’m now a huge fan of lots of European symphonic metal bands when just 10 years ago I didn’t even know such music existed.  A lot of my favorite rock bands don’t even have a Wikipedia page or have one with only a few short paragraphs; point being, a lot of the best music out there these days is not what’s being played on the radio 24/7.  Nowadays I’m the one introducing my friends & coworkers to new music.  And being a weirdo, I still collect actual CDs & I’m very happy to lend them to my friends so they too can enjoy my favorite bands.

Being a misfit has given me a tremendous amount of self-confidence.  It’s still a difficult battle some days but I wouldn’t be the nurse or the person I am today if I hadn’t been a bit of a misfit all these years.  I wouldn’t have the confidence to deal with difficult patients, angry family members, & the life & death situations I’m presented on a frequent basis as a nurse.  Being weird requires confidence because you’re going “against the grain.”  At first you mightn’t realize it, as occurred with me as young child.  But at some point you & those around you realize you’re a bit different, & when that happens it requires a lot of confidence to continue being your good old weird self because of all the negative experiences I’ve detailed above.  This translates into a great deal of self-confidence as an adult which can push you to achieve a lot of things you might not otherwise have accomplished.

Being weird means that the older you get, the more your peers will recognize how awesome you are.  For example, when I went to college I had no idea that I’d make as many friends as I did.  I thought I was destined to always be a bit lonely.  Much to my great surprise & relief, I found that college was like heaven for nerds.  We might not have been the coolest kids on campus but we certainly weren’t teased anymore & on some level it was obvious that even the jocks & sorority girls (the stereotypical ones anyway) realized they really weren’t as cool as they thought they were & that we nerds were really the ones “running the show.”

Perhaps the greatest lesson I learned from being weird is that you should NEVER sacrifice who you are or what you believe (or don’t believe) for ANYONE.  If people don’t like you as you are, they’ll never like you because anything else you try to become will be fake.  And someone who is fake will always be discovered for what they really are.  Furthermore, being weird has taught me that being respected is more important, far more important, than being liked.  And that anyone who truly wants to be your friend (or romantic partner) WILL respect you first & foremost.

freak like me

To end my treatise to all of us misfits, nerds, geeks, & weirdos, let me introduce you to Freak Like Me by Halestorm, one of my all-time favorite rock bands.  If this isn’t an anthem for us, I don’t know what is. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4sXoA7B5yJo

To all of you freaks like me out there, keep being awesome, don’t let anyone get you down, & rock on with your bad selves.

Real Life Romance Is Better Than Fairy Tales


This past weekend I watched a British film called I Give It a Year which centered on a subject I’ve been pondering a lot lately: why some marriages/relationships last while others don’t.  A common theme I’ve come across in this regard is that real life ruins romance, that the nitty-gritty grind of daily life leaves even the most passionate relationships tasting stale after a couple of years.  The movie dealt with this very topic (quite good by the way, if you appreciate British humor).

Let me preface the rest of this post by saying that I’m no relationship genius . . . I don’t suppose anyone is really, but least of all someone under thirty.  But I have been with my husband for over a decade (married three years at the end of this month) & I can honestly say that our relationship has only gotten better over the years.

Sure, real life has changed our relationship over time, but we haven’t lost our passion because the foundation of our relationship (our friendship) has only grown stronger over time.  For example, yes, my husband doesn’t bring me flowers quite as often as he used to . . . But he doesn’t work at a florist anymore either!  And he still buys them for me on special occasions or even randomly when he knows I’ve had a bad day & just need a happy surprise to make me feel special.  (This happened recently when I woke up with a headache & broke the blender & he knew that I was upset by this turn of events.)  More importantly we both still take the time to do the simple little day-to-day things that show each other we really care & are invested in this relationship.

Living together does indeed open up a whole new can of worms so to speak.  For example, yes, my husband leaves empty toilet paper rolls in the bathroom all the time, & yes, there is a part of me that wants to scream “How hard is it to just change the roll?!”  But then I remember that I do little things that annoy him too . . . And he doesn’t scream at me about those things because we both have the presence of mind to realize that life is far too short to get angry over things that are of no real consequence.  So instead of getting angry, we just laugh, roll our eyes, & move on with life.  To us this is just the logical way to handle the everyday frustrations of life.

Some of my husband's gorgeous landscaping.  He's so talented!

Some of my husband’s gorgeous landscaping. He’s so talented!

This is not to say we don’t have arguments . . .  And, yes, they are usually in the car because we are both very strong-willed & proud & think we’re always right about everything  (I’m kidding . . . sort of), especially directions!  And, yes, there are definitely times when stress from work spills over into our relationship.  But when that happens we call each other out on it & we work to fix it quickly.  Furthermore, we’ve always had a “no holds barred” policy in which we can say anything & everything to each other.  Perhaps this means we say “mean things” to each other more often than we “should,” but it also means there is never an opportunity for resentment or bitterness to arise between us.  To put it simply, I don’t expect him to read my mind, nor does he expect that of me.  If something is bothering us, we don’t mince words; we just say it.  As my husband recently stated “If you can’t tell your partner to buzz off every once in a while, what kind of relationship is that?”  I heartily agree.  The important thing is that you get over it quickly & that the underlying anger/frustration isn’t allowed to fester & build into an explosion.

My husband & I definitely talk to each other like this sometimes.  It makes for a lot of laughs!  :)

My husband & I definitely talk to each other like this sometimes. It makes for a lot of laughs! :)

Certainly real life can make romance a bit more “work.”  Sometimes my husband & I go days without having any real time together, especially since I work night shift & thus we can literally go days without even seeing each other sometimes . . . But instead of resenting each other for this, we allow the time apart to help us appreciate our time together all the more.  And we make the best of the time we do have.  We prioritize spending quality time together, knowing that nothing in our lives is more important than our relationship with each other.  We take care of each other in various ways, not so much because either of us is incapable of doing things for ourselves but because we realize that life is better together, & thus we take care of each other out of mutual love & affection.  We do not view each other as filling certain “roles,” rather we view each other as intellectual equals in a romantic friendship (otherwise known as marriage), each of us having unique but complementing traits.  Because we have such a comfort zone together, yes, sometimes we do become the worst version of ourselves around each other . . . But we also see the best version of each other a lot of times too.  And the best times are definitely worth all of the worst times.

I guess what I’m trying to say is we never went into our relationship (& thus our marriage, which is really just an extension of the relationship we had prior to marriage) with any fairy tale ideas.  Marriage isn’t a fairy tale because LIFE isn’t a fairy tale.  It never has been; it never will be.  Real life is mundane, stressful, & sometimes even dull.  But it’s also full of beauty, joy, & meaning if we look for it in the right places.  As someone who grew up watching Disney fairy tales over & over & over, amazingly enough I’ve always had the foresight to understand that no relationship is ever perfect.  Everyone fights at times.  I’ve said it before & I’ll say it again: if I can’t fight (I prefer the term argue actually) passionately with someone, I probably can’t do anything else passionately with them either.

cinderella marriage

[As an aside, I also think a lot of people have an unrealistic idea of what romance actually is.  A lot of people seem to confuse attraction, lust, or passing interest with romance when true romance is so much more.  Furthermore, I’ll be so bold as to say that romance isn’t having the proverbial butterflies in your stomach.  Real romantic relationships are built around a solid friendship, & real happiness is found with that person who makes you feel comfortable & “at home” when everyone else makes you feel nervous, afraid, or worse yet bored.  To me this is just logical & makes perfect sense but apparently it’s a bit more complicated because a lot of the world obviously hasn’t figured it out.]

I hope I haven’t come across as self-righteous or as if I think I have the perfect marriage.  I’m just trying to make sense of what I see in the world & to share a message of hope that real life doesn’t have to ruin romance.  I know a lot of people say my generation is clueless when it comes to relationships & that we don’t know how to handle marriage, but I want to prove those people wrong.  (And I like to think I’m off to a pretty good start.)

true love chickens

From the things I’ve observed in life thus far, I’ve deduced that a lot of people go into relationships & then marriage with the idea that everything is going to be perfect.  When real life creeps up on them & they realize that reality isn’t matching up with the fairy tale they imagined, suddenly they think they’ve failed.  I don’t know who or what is to blame for this phenomenon . . . I’m sure movies & TV feed into this scenario somehow.  But even as a kid I knew that the things I saw on TV weren’t real.  As adults we need to grow up & realize that real life is the nitty-gritty day-to-day grind & there’s no reason why that should spoil our fun.  I’m not at all suggesting anyone settle for someone with whom they don’t share real passion in all aspects of a mature relationship.  What I am saying is that real passion doesn’t have to be worn down by every-day life.

This is why I’m a huge proponent of living together before marriage because it allows you the opportunity to experience day-to-day life together.  In so doing, you can figure out whether seeing each other at both your best & worst, with all of the bad habits & general grossness that encompass everyday life, ruins the romance or whether it only makes it grow stronger.  (On the other hand I do not encourage rushing into moving in with a new significant other.  I am only talking about serious, long-term, committed relationships.)  It’s been my experience that when you have the basic ingredients for a sound relationship, a solid friendship combined with physical/romantic attraction, the daily grind of life will not ruin the romance at all.  It will only grease the wheels.

irritating love cartoon

**As an afterthought, I should disclose that my husband & I do not have kids yet so I have no idea how that tremendous variable will affect our marriage someday.  I can only hope that if we approach our relationship in the same logical but loving way we have for years now that the romance will continue to blossom despite the challenges that I know children can bring into a relationship.

***Here’s a great article that I believe explains what the ultimate relationship should look like.  Notice I said ULTIMATE, not perfect.  I believe if you have the qualities listed here, the romance & passion will NOT die over time; they will only grow stronger.  http://jamesmsama.com/2014/07/09/10-qualities-of-the-ultimate-relationship/