The Epitome of Anxiety

You won’t like this post, so go ahead and stop reading here. It’s not for you; it’s for myself. You is the collective you, as in everyone.


My stomach hurts and turns and you can’t even tell that I’m constantly on the verge of puking. I can barely even choke down water. Food disgusts me and it’s unappetizing and you couldn’t convince me to want my favorites, but I force myself to eat something, so that I can pretend to function.

On the palms of my hands are scratches and little half moons from my nails. Up my wrists are more scratches. The hairband on my wrist isn’t for my hair. It’s to snap myself back to reality discreetly, when I’m losing touch again. I used to draw on my hands but I can’t do that now. It’s easy to say the table scratched me. It’s not easy to explain a mess of scribbled ink on my hand. There’s more scratches on my legs. I like to hold sharp objects.

My eyes are greener today. It’s not for any other reason than that I was crying recently. I hate crying. My medicine stops me most of the time, except when it’s all too much. When it’s a little bit of everything.

My words start to change. I become more sophisticated in speaking when I am like this. Contractions start to leave my language. I am unable to control it. My tongue becomes raw from the way I slide it across my teeth. I speak slower, more carefully but again, this is not in my control. My jaw is tight and despite the constant pain, I will disregard this and clench and grind my teeth harder and harder, just to feel something. My laugh isn’t real; even if it came naturally, I will convince myself that it didn’t.

My head feels heavy, with the achy feeling that comes from taking a drowsy medication or crying too much. It’s like this for days. There are dizzy spells where I’m not really dizzy, but almost rather out of control of my body. I can see my hands do what they are told, and my mouth say what I need to say, but I’m not making any of that happen. Thoughts come and go. They are thoughts no one should have but still they come, and sometimes I welcome some of them. Not existing would be easier than this.

My feet still know what to do. They are heavier than normal and it takes more effort, but the muscle memory of dance forces them to be where they need to be. But when I sit, my legs bounce. It’s uncontrollable and when I notice it, I always try to stop them. It’s a different kind of pain.

Sounds and sights are everywhere. They are loud in my ears and bright in my eyes. I can hear you chewing from across the room. The tap tap tap of your pencil hurts not only my ears, but my eyes too from the repetitive movement. I can’t go outside, because it’s too bright. But the artificial light is almost worse. The glow of other screens—movies and computer—invades my vision. I can hear the cars, the heater, the water dripping, the clock, the shuffling of blankets, the creak of the wood, and every other little sound. Fast movements make my eyes feel like they are being stabbed. But slow movements make a dreadful ache. The only fix is when all sounds are of my choice, my creation. The clicking of keyboard keys, gentle songs that I choose. The light of my phone is welcoming even with the pain it causes, because it means that I’m escaping. The ringing in my ears drives me crazy and the thoughts in my head are shouts. Every little thing is bothering me. It all is causing me physical and mental pain.

When my skin is touched by anyone else, it leaves an invisible rash. It physically hurts and almost burns. It leaves my skin crawling and makes me flinch sometimes. It doesn’t matter whether it’s an okay touch or an undesired one; it still echoes for hours to come and if this becomes a memory, I’ll remember how uncomfortable I was. Even my clothes and blankets hurt my skin sometimes. But water does too. And lotion.

I tell you I don’t like country music. I tell you that I don’t like this person or that. I don’t like going to this place or eating that. I don’t like these animals or like to go to that person’s house. I don’t watch that movie anymore or I don’t walk down that street. Some of these truly are dislikes. The rest are triggers. They cause me many of these symptoms. They aren’t the only cause, but they certainly affect how bad they are.

It’s called sensory overload. It comes with my anxiety. Sometimes, I am having a panic attack right in front of you, and you don’t even know it. Other times, I will disappear for the same reason. Those times, I usually need some help to recover from it. But lately, no one is there. No one notices and no one asks.

People say they are looking for attention. It’s not that kind of attention. The only kind of attention I want is comfort. I want someone to tell me they are there and to help me through it. I’m not looking to be popular. I just want someone to care enough to give me a reason not to hurt.

Sometimes my thoughts are a constant loop of how I am the definition of anxiety. It’s not just that though; sometimes I am the epitome of anxiety.

Take the time, baby mine.

❤ Annee


Mr. Fox is in the Building

“Mr. Fox is in the building…” It’s a code one of my previous schools used for lockdowns. Looking back, it wasn’t the most discrete code, but all of the students knew what it meant. We had a real lockdown at one of my schools and I don’t really remember it being scary. There had been a situation blocks away with someone in a hotel. They’d kept us afterschool though, and I remember parents everyone, showing up and wondering where the heck their kids were.

It’s really different to be a staff member during lockdowns now, rather than a student. I’m the one making sure the door is locked and the blinds closed. I’m the last one to the designated spot.

A week ago today was the Parkland shooting in Florida. It was the biggest school shooting since Sandy Hook. Since then, the media has predictably and figuratively exploded. Everyone is talking about it. There’s at least one conversation about it each day at work, and more at home. Since yesterday alone, there have been 2 districts within 100 miles that have reported threats. At least 1 additional district had a lockdown today that was reportedly not a drill. Police presence on campuses has increased. More doors have been locked. Name tags are required of staff. Students are watching their words and asking what they should do if they see a threat on social media. Class debates on gun control are a daily staple. Classes are never left unsupervised. And some students are certainly being handled as fragile. Less conversations happen around them and everyone is more wary.

Blame is thrown every which way. Of course, with my background in Sociology and having taken criminology, terrorism, and specifically studied school shootings, a lot of staff and students come to ask me questions. “What’s different with this one?” “Do they know the motive?” “Where?” “How old was the shooter?” Having kept up on the news articles and other reports, I’m usually able to give answers to a lot of these questions, particularly what’s different. I’ve spent the time analyzing statistics on the topic. I’ve ran the tests myself to look for significance and understand what the common shooter, and the shooting “looks like.”

What I struggle with is the speculation and redundancy of “solutions” and blame. I wish I had a word analysis of frequent use in articles, media, speech and news following instances such as this. If we did, I think a lot of the common words (besides the obvious shooting, shooter, school, etc.) would include: Gun control, violence, video games, motive, here, my kid(s), they should be in trouble too, why didn’t they…, what if, why, liberals, conservatives, republicans, Columbine and (insert whomever is currently President or FBI director here).

A lot of times, I keep my mouth shut tight while these conversations go on. I know that if I get involved, I will get frustrated and have difficulty explaining in simple Facebook-layman’s terms the statistics and other things I have studied. I also like to take the time for the event to cool down so that I can formulate my thoughts, hence the reason this post hasn’t come out sooner, even with a previous shooting. Additionally, I always find it incredibly useful for controversial situations to focus on supporting the argument opposite my opinion. This allows me to see the strengths and weaknesses of both sides and gain understanding of where everyone else is coming from. Altogether, I feel I’m able to come up with some decent arguments for either side that I like to use to counter conversations with. Let it be known that each of the articles I will cite in this post will be scholarly peer-reviewed articles with actual studies unless otherwise stated.

For the argument of “video games cause/bring/encourage violence” (one of my favorites to counter) I’d like to bring to the table the article, Video Games and Youth Violence: A Prospective Analysis in Adolescents by Christopher J. Ferguson (2011) which findings conclude that both violent video games and television are insignificant in comparison with crime (not just shootings, but all violent crime among teens). The sample size for this article was 300 youth. Not enough for you? Here’s another: Violent video game effects on aggression, empathy, and prosocial behavior in Eastern and Western countries: A meta-analytic review. by Craig A. Anderson (et. al). This study additionally found very limited correlation. The samples that did have a correspondence were few and far between. There was no differentiation between males and females, which I would say is another big part of this argument, that males are more subject to video games to lead to violence than females. This study says differently. There are countless other articles studying the same thing with different samples and different focuses that have resulted in very similar findings. So tell me again how video games and/or television is the cause of violence? And why is your personal experience better than a study of hundreds of randomly selected teens? Oh, I didn’t realize it was you yourself that feels more violent when you play video games…carry on then….

For the argument of “it’s this idiot generation that spends their time eating tide pods. It was different in my day.” With this idea, I’m not going to go out and say that kids are smart, however I am going to say that you probably weren’t much smarter in your day. One thing I will agree is different: stress and the way mental health is handled. I’m not going to focus on that a ton right now, but I personally believe that stress levels have changed. Students, particularly teens have an immense amount of school work and pressure placed upon them. It’s often said that Generation Z (current elementary-high school students) are the ribbon generation, where everyone gets something for their participation. That had to come to be somehow, and who is it that is giving those ribbons? Who is pushing their children to win and putting that pressure on? Blue participant ribbons aren’t enough for many people, and we push student to do more. They are drowning in life and in school work and in the mere controversy on every topic surrounding them every day. This is not to say that this all hasn’t existed previously, however it is amplified by ever present social media and communication. With this argument, I hear a lot of “kids brought guns to school when I was a kid and no one did anything then.” My article to help with this point is not a scholarly approved, however I believe the purpose will be served the same with a mere Wikipedia article, focusing in on the dates of school shootings. The first one listed is in the year 1764. Take a moment to think about that. The United States was founded in 1776. Over a decade earlier IN WHAT BECAME THE UNITED STATES, there was a school shooting. 10 people died (more than just guns were used). Jumping ahead past several instances, into 1900-1910 there are 17 schools shootings. In a single decade. This continues on. There are 479 reported shootings listed on this page. There were shootings when you were in school, no matter your age. You may not have heard of them, but during this time, news was very local or very world based. It was not until the 1980’s into the 1990’s where broadcasting became more available and constant. 1980 was the year of the first 24 hour news broadcast and at that point, it was boring. This is why media began spinning stories. They were bored. Their viewers were bored. They wanted money. Now we have constant news from hundreds of sources. You are certain to know within hours, if not minutes of an event’s happening. This has it’s pros and cons, but again, that’s another post.

Moving onto our beloved topic of gun control. It is really difficult to take something away from people that already have it, particularly when that something is a given freedom. But let’s play with that idea. Take away guns. What happens next? Suddenly there is no way to hurt people? I always like to tie this idea into motive. Motive is never a clear idea because there are so many factors that influence everything we do. However one thing is common, and that is that events like this take place to create chaos, pain and confusion. Attacks work because they do that. The media, again, helps in this by spinning stories and spouting off even more things. If you take away guns, violence and attacks do not go away. In an article by James Alan Fox and Monica J. DeLateur in 2013 titled Mass Shootings in America, analysis found that enforcing more gun control would have limited results in prevention of mass murder. There have been a number of situations, including terrorism situations in recent years where guns were not needed to create chaos. Other weapons like knives, can create this same chaos. Sure, there aren’t as many deaths, but this still induces fear. Another common one is driving vehicles into things. For this reason, most government buildings have really large flower pots outside them, and it’s not for decoration. Those are blockades to protect. This problem will not go away with guns being taken away. If this situation were to play out and cause guns to become illegal, the underground sales would initially skyrocket and likely level off later on. In addition to that, grandparent laws would prevent current gun owners from losing their guns. That’s the same thing that keeps people in prison even if a law is altered in a way that would have made their crime legal or less of a punishment. So then we decide not to take away guns. Then what happens? Nothing really changes….unless, there is another solution. But what is it?

This brings me to motive, my least favorite question to be asked when incidents occur. Every single time though, someone inquires, “Do they know/have the motive?” No is the answer. It’s always the answer. Even if there was a note from the attacker, deliberately laying out the motive, there will still be questions. You are asking to know the cause of the effect when it is much more complicated. Why do you do anything that you do? It’s a complicated collaboration of influences from a variety of sources, values, beliefs, peers, learned and observed behavior, and so, so much more. No one and nothing is without influence, both conscious and subconscious. You may not even know what is motivating you to do whatever it is you do. This is where I like to turn my attention away from the media and away from the attacker. I like to look at those in the community/area/school. A student may commit an act of violence like this, but why, did the other kids in their class not act in the same way. Sometimes in order to best understand why a behavior happens in some, you have to look at why it doesn’t happen in others. What is causing these other kids to not act out violently? Is it their beliefs? Their friends? Love? Family? Goals? What is it? I don’t think that there is a clear answer to this question either. There is no one answer and as far as I know, it hasn’t been studied in depth (likely due to sensitivity around students within the premise of what the study would include). What is it that motivates people to act in accordance with the boundaries of comfortable society and maybe more importantly, should they?

I don’t have all the answers; I don’t even have most of them. I can’t say what the solution is to stop things like this. Perhaps there’s an underlying problem/theme altogether that we are missing; something that is broken and has to be fixed. I can say that I don’t think situations like this will decrease. With each one, it triggers another set of discussions and situations. Sometimes the tipping point for one person is for another to act. I don’t enjoy watching all of this unfold in the world, but it is our reality and we have to learn to either accept or change that.

Be sweet, parakeet.

❤ Annee

Listen Loud

If you listen with the Spirit, you will find your heart softened, your faith strengthened, and your capacity to love the Lord increased. —President Henry B. Eyring

This post is going to go in two extremely different directions. There is always more than one side to a story and sometimes different stories, happening at the same time can be like alternate sides of a coin. That’s kind of how this last week has been for me. It’s been a pleasing reminder and a rude awakening all at once.

This last weekend I went on a spontaneous trip to New York. It was fantastic as most random adventures are. As before every trip, I prayed for safety and guidance. This was particularly important in this instant due to the rare nature of the trip and my lack of familiarity not only with my travel companion and people I would see, but also with the place I was going. New York is often seen as a busy city, somewhere to hold on a bit tighter to your wallet. I was aware of what I was walking into, and knew that I would need heavenly guidance to get me on my way and avoid negative situations. I’m happy to report that there were no problems or altercations of anytime. I felt totally safe the entire time I was there and for that I am immensely grateful. However, this serenity did not come without my own decision making.

There were times where I was prompted to go one way or another, to wait or to cross the street (kind of a big deal in NYC where pedestrian and driving rules are skewed). This was little guidance that I’m familiar with receiving. I did find myself in some situations I had not anticipated facing at this current time, but from the time I was young, I was told these situations would come someday. For the first time this last weekend (yes, the first), I was offered alcohol more than once, despite being underage. I was amazed and strengthened by the ease at which my ability to say no and explain my reasons for the refusal came to me. Immediately, I recalled how my young women leaders had taught me for years and years that if I decided upon such things while I was young, that the choice would become easier and easier when it came. And it was. It was incredible how easy it was, and how much I was edified by a choice I had made years ago.

In addition to this whole experience, I had a missionary moment at the most unlikely of times. This is where part of my other side of the coin comes in, because as I had been packing, I’d contemplated how I would read my scriptures in New York and whether I should bring a Book of Mormon or just read on my phone like I do at home. I decided to read on my phone, but looking back, I really wish I’d had a physical copy with me. I can’t say that it would have changed my missionary experience at all, but it would have given me the choice. Anyways, this experience. My friend and I went dancing, etc. etc. and we ended up having a couple of guys we’d met walk us back to our hotel (it was late, dark, cold and New York). I felt completely at ease with this and it really was totally fine. As we walked and I talked to one of the guys, the topic of religion came up. I shared some of my beliefs and such and he realized I was a Mormon, and not only was I that, but I was also the first Mormon he’d ever met.

He had many questions due to his limited experience and despite my sleep deprived state, I found the spirit taking over and I was able to explain to him things about the church in a way that he could understand. There were analogies I couldn’t have thought of on my own, but the spirit so strongly helped me. He asked about my belief in the Bible, and how true/literal/commanding I found it to be. With all of the news and discussions that happen today about whether everything in the Bible should be taken literally or if some of it was only for the people of that time, this was a totally valid question. He had trouble wording it and I have trouble even trying to explain it but despite this, I could hear and understand what he was wanting to know. I talked about how the Bible was like the original smart phone and while much of it was true, there were also parts that may have happened more figuratively than literally. The Book of Mormon, I related, was like an update on a phone. It gave new information and somewhat of a new operating system that helped perform tasks better. General Conference, or the words of modern church leaders were like more frequent updates that we received to help us keep up to date with the changing world and have things specifically apply to us.

He shared with me some of his family’s beliefs and how he was areligous, that is, he didn’t not believe in things, but he didn’t practice or specifically stick with one thing. He was so open with this and told me how his family practiced Judaism, but he didn’t really know much about it. At once, I was able to recall some of the similarities I’d previously studied between Judaism and Mormonism and told him about these. This made so much more sense to him and connected the conversation even more.

Many missionary stories similar to this one consist of dispelling rumors, but this guy was just so open to understanding and asking questions. He may have had predisposed thoughts, but with me being the first Mormon he’d actually met, it deemed as though he dispelled these and relied on me as a source. I can’t say that this will go anywhere for him, or that he’s even given it a second thought after that evening. For me though, the experience was so enlightening into the way that the Spirit can guide me through a conversation on a whim. I was not prepared for a conversation like that one. I hadn’t been studying vigorously, but I knew enough and that felt good.

My weekend spent in New York was a grand one and I loved it all. A few things bothered me though and it wasn’t until I got home and felt more relaxed that I realized what it was. This feeling of “relaxation” wasn’t that at all. It was a feeling of privilege and it really upset me. Having spent the last seven plus years in small Idaho towns filled with small town farmers, I’d grown accustomed to the ways. In these towns, it seems as though there is a basic level of equality wherein people only fall below if a) they make choices that lead them there or b) they are immigrants and are working to move up to that equality. I’ve recognized these two populations for years and work to respect them and try to understand where they come from. In New York though, I was reminded of all of the other inequalities. It didn’t seem to bother anyone there, that in the bitter cold wind with below freezing temperatures, there were homeless people sleeping under the shelter of construction zones. No one seemed to notice the people digging through the trash or looking for their next meal. There were comments about how people didn’t feel sorry for them because their own choices had led them there and if they really wanted, they could change their situation. There were comments about how money given to them would be used to buy alcohol and drugs. I can’t say with certainty that these are invalid, but they weren’t proven either.

I didn’t do anything though. I didn’t stop the comments. I didn’t spout off my usual round of statistics declaring how the majority of homeless populations suffer with mental and/or physical disabilities. I didn’t give away change or leftover food. I didn’t give away the second hat I had with me. I didn’t do anything to make these situations better, and for that I’ve been upset with myself. I let my own middle class white privilege get in the way. I let my fears be stronger than what I spent my college career studying. I let myself down.

It wasn’t just coming home that made me realize this. It was my brother, years younger than me. He’d also spent the weekend in a city, albeit much smaller than NYC. He spent his night there walking around the city and talking to the homeless. He shared food and such with them. He learned their names and addressed them by such the next day when he walked around and saw them again. He did what I should have done.

This struck me so hard, because of the struggles my brother has had. I’ve worked so hard for everything I wanted (college, jobs, etc.) and I’ve been thinking of myself as being so great. And then my brother, who’s lost so many things from making decisions, did the better thing. He didn’t let his skin color get in the way. He didn’t let his money, his time, his friends, or anything else stop him. He was the Samaritan, and I was the Priest and the Levite.

I spent my weekend thinking I was in tune with the spirit, and at times, I was. I don’t know how closely I was truly listening though and the residual sting of this has left me thinking all week. I can’t go back and change what happened, but next time, I don’t think the trip will be for me. It won’t be for the sights that I get to see wherever I go. It won’t be just to have fun. Next time, it will be to open my eyes, and to see what life is truly like. Not for the majority population, but for the people I ache to be more for. It would have hardly taken any money, any time, any effort, to change just one more person’s day. It would have been so easy.

This weekend served as a reminder; A reminder of the spirit I have with me and the skills and abilities I’ve been blessed with. Also, it was a reminder of what more I can do, every single day.

Give a hug, Ladybug.

❤ Annee

The Stigmatization of Failure

Life is really scary sometimes. And our society and education system are set up in a way that your only goal is not to learn, to gain an education or even to have something to do. No, the goal is to succeed. To do well. To avoid failure. The grading system of schools is a measure of worth in a way, telling you how well you do at something, supposing you try. It does take effort to do well, but you don’t have to learn to do well. You simply have to memorize things and give the teacher what they want. Students are so plagued by this sense of having to get things “right” that they don’t care if they are learning something.

I’ve heard in a few of my different Sociology classes about this Stigma of Failing. We are afraid to fail and so we sacrifice our learning for an “A” in a class in which we had the potential to learn things about life and about ourselves and more. We’re afraid to raise our hand in class unless we are certain that the answer we are giving is right. If it’s not, we feel embarrassed. Due to this stigma, many of my Sociology teachers and others have challenged me to raise my hand anyways. The worst thing that’s going to happen is you learn something new from your failure. This happens in dance classes too. My beginning social dance teacher always has encouraged me to try hard things. He says, “The worst thing that will happen is you’ll laugh.” Eternal Salvation does not depend on a 4.0 GPA.

This semester, all of my Sociology teachers have really implemented this idea. They want us to learn to fail, so that we can succeed and actually learn something. So to do this, many of my assignments that I do won’t count. That way there’s room for me to mess one up or forget to do one. There’s extra credit in my dance classes to make up for missed things and even some of the assignments in those classes will be dropped.

I ran across something a few months ago (I can’t recall where) that really struck me as interesting. It’s a challenge of sorts that I wanted to take on. So why didn’t I? I’ve been too afraid to do it as ironic as that is. It sounds really hard and very much out of my comfort zone. The thing is, that’s the point of it. What is it? It’s called Rejection Therapy. The idea is that you learn to embrace failure and learn from it. Once a day for a set number of days (30-100) you do something that will result in rejection. It might be asking for a raise with your job or a discount at the store. It might be asking someone to do something with you or asking someone to do something out of their comfort zone for you. The rules are this:

1. A rejection counts if you are out of your comfort zone
2. A rejection counts if your request is denied
3. At the time of rejection, the player, not the respondent, should be in a position of vulnerability. The player should be sensitive to the feelings of the person being asked.

Terrifying, right? To play this game, you actually have to let yourself fail. Every day. I think it’s something my teachers would definitely approve of just because I would be learning something valuable. I’m still too afraid to do it. But I guess it can’t hurt too badly to try. Maybe I’ll start at once every few days and just update this post as I am rejected and try to be rejected. I think that because I’m in the Mormon bubble it’s likely that I will fail to be rejected at least a few times because people are so nice and willing to serve. Even last night at dance I asked huge favors of people and they were all willing to help me. (Next time I’m taking them cookies). Anyways, will you help me with this challenge? Join me and help change the stigmatization of failure?