Friday, July 1, 2011

An Evolution of Self

Life Stress Test

Your Results

You're highly likely to develop a stress-triggered illness due to everything that's going on in your life. However, your coping skills and the efforts you make to reduce stress can minimize this risk. Talk to a mental health professional if you need treatment. Support groups and convenient online forums can be beneficial, too. Common stress-related illnesses to watch out for include:
Back pain
Common cold
Chronic fatigue syndrome
Autoimmune diseases
Heart disease
Heart attack

I got this quiz from and I know I just talked about this last post, but I thought it was interesting just how many illnesses are related to stress.  The common cold?

Anyway, this isn't supposed to be about stress.  This is about something else.

The low I was experiencing has largely subsided, which is nice.  I feel much less likely to implode than I did earlier this month.  The urge to blog during this low was strong, but I know that my thoughts tend to take a turn for the weird (not the good kind) at those times, so I felt it best to keep them to myself.

Again, anyway.  A song.  I don't feel like a post is complete without a song.

I've had the past couple days to myself, no work, no friends, no whatever else people usually have occupying their lives.  So I decided to spend this time trying to clean out the room I've been using since I was twelve and try to put all the stuff I own now in it so everything's not just scattered around my parents' upstairs area like so much dust in the wind.  Of course, this hasn't happened, mainly because I found a bunch of old pictures and ended up spending all my time on those.

It's odd to look at old pictures of myself.  I feel like I've changed so much as a person that it's like looking at pictures of someone else, or a series of someone else's I vaguely recall from some point in my past.


I thought I'd put up a few of them, partly for amusement, partly to try and sort out what it is I really feel about them.  Here we go:

This is me around five or six, maybe?  I have no idea.  Either way, I like this picture because I seem kind of really happy in it, which I've found didn't happen much throughout my life.  Usually I'm not smiling at all, or the smile is fake, and maybe I don't have the best smile here, either, but I am clearly thinking something along the lines of "Yeah, look at this spread.  I made out this year."  Good for me.

Fun facts about this picture: that weird little white scraggly thing on the table above my head is an Easter tree.  It had little ornaments of things like bunnies and colored eggs my mom and I would hand on it before we set it out a few days before Easter each year.  My basket of goodies was always sitting under it on Easter Sunday.  I can't remember when that tradition stopped, but I remember that it was fun.  Also, that little doll on the bottom right?  I remember that thing.  It was two-sided, and you could twist the head, middle, and skirt portions to mix and match the designs/faces on both sides of it.  I played with that for years.

In the end, though, it probably got chewed up like most of my other toys.  I've always had a bad habit of chewing on toys, pens, the inside of my mouth, whathaveyou.  That's part of why I have a permanent jaw problem.  Next picture:

Again, I don't know exactly how old I am in this one, but I'm going to guess around nine.  This is around when my "chubby phase" was starting, which lasted until around Jr. High.  The weird thing about this "chubby phase" is that I was made to feel as if I was so fat.  I don't remember who, if anyone, ever implied I was fat or said anything mean to me, but I know I felt different from everyone else and eventually altered (i.e. stopped) my eating habits in order to slim down.

Looking at pictures now I don't think I was very fat at all.  Maybe I was a little bigger than kids my age were then, but why did I feel so bad about myself?  You were fine, little-kid-self, I wish someone had told you that.

Those two other girls in the picture (if it wasn't obvious, I'm far left) are interesting for two reasons.  One, I don't have any idea who they are, but I do know they are older than me.  Two, the distance between me and them, along with my incredibly bad posture, go a long way to explain my failings as a social creature far better than I could ever try in words.  Next:

I am eleven in this picture, and it is the year 2000, if you couldn't tell by that seemingly ghostly image floating behind my head.  It's actually Disney World's Epcot ball with a giant light-up 2000 sitting on top, but it's too dark for you to see the ball itself.  This was taken during a family vacation, and we are waiting for a parade to start.  I had only gotten those glasses within a year or so.  When I was in fifth grade we were learning some math skill using time, and whenever the teacher would call on me to tell her what time it was, I couldn't do it.  She thought I was messing around and verbally chastised me in front of the class on more than one occasion.  However, my parents figured out that, when they pointed something out to me and I said I couldn't see it, it wasn't because I didn't turn my head fast enough.  They took me to the eye doctor and found out I was incredibly nearsighted and could only see about six feet in front of my face.  At school the day after I got my new glasses, I remember the look on my teacher's face.  She was the first adult I had ever seen look so guilty.

Those glasses looked awful, and they were pretty thick since my eyes were so bad.  And that hair looks disgusting, even though I know it was always clean and brushed, and even if I eventually got it cut and sent it to Locks of Love, I can't believe my parents let me look like that.  Gracious.

This is me just a year after that playing Foosball with my brother on Thanksgiving 2001.  My hair is still recovering from the disaster of a cut I got earlier that year.  Around this time is when I started losing weight, and for some reason I know I got that shirt from Marshalls.  This Thanksgiving in particular a lot of family was together (somewhere around forty-fifty people, I think) and the cousins all got together and played a huge game of RISK, which I had never played before.  It was crazy intense, and people stuck around until after midnight to finish it.

My grandfather had died that May.  His death was long and drawn out, which taxed everyone's patience and strength.  The will he left behind also caused some degree of controversy and arguments.  These problems, along with the fact that we had basically just lost the patriarch of our family, caused most of my family to lose contact and drift apart over the years.  Thanksgiving 2001 is one of the last big family gatherings we ever had.

Not at this point exactly, but somewhere near it, is when I started having panic attacks.

This is 2003-2004 during another family vacation.  I saved the picture as "2004" but now that I'm thinking about it I'm pretty sure most of the red had gone out of my hair by the time I started high school, and in this picture it's clearly still visible.  At some point in eighth grade I wanted to dye my hair red.  Fine.  Good for me.  The problem came when, after dyeing it, I didn't wash my hair thoroughly enough, meaning that some of the dye actually sat in my hair over night.  What I ended up with was an alarmingly red mess on my head that practically glowed.  There was little do be done unless I wanted to redye it, so I just left it that way until the semi-permanent dye slowly faded out.  In this picture it's actually starting to tone down.  When it first happened the harsh red coupled with my pale skin made me look kind of ridiculous.

That's my mom with me in the picture, by the way.  We're standing in front of the Dukes of Hazzard car which is kept outside Cooters Place, located in Gatlinburg, Tennessee.  My parents are fans of country music, so we've vacationed in Tennessee numerous times.  Around the area of Gatlinburg in particular are fun things like DollyWood, Dixie Stampede (both owned by Dolly Parton), The Comedy Barn, and possibly one of the funniest experiences of my childhood, The House of Knives.  I couldn't find a website for this place, and it might not even exist anymore, but man The House of Knives was crazy.  It was right by our hotel one year, and I made my mom take my inside just because I thought the name was funny.  Inside was basically a giant hunting goods store, specializing in terrifyingly huge and intimidating blades that I'm not even sure you would be allowed to take outside.

The funny things about The House of Knives, though, were the animals.  Lots of hunting stores have stuffed animals mounted on the walls, chilling in corners, etc., but this place didn't just have your run-of-the-mill deer and moose set up.  They had zebras and peacocks and all kinds of weird stuff.  All real.  How on earth did this backwoods paradise for serial killers get a hold of exotic animal corpses?  I thought the whole thing was hilarious.

Maybe my mind has exaggerated somewhat the deadliness of the weapons I saw there, but I know the zebra was real, and the experience took a boring vacation and made it somewhat less so.  More pictures!

Christmas 2006, I think.  This is what I looked like through most of high school, minus the glasses.  I wore contacts almost constantly in high school, except on days when I slept in, like Christmas.  Every year my mother takes pictures of my brother and I with each and every gift, making us hold it up and pose.  Neither of us take it too seriously.  What I'm holding there is a necklace with a dragonfly pendant.  If I recall correctly, I quite liked it and wore it quite a few times until I went to college, at which point I pretty much never dressed up for anything.  Those two strips of hair that are hanging in my face... those have always been a problem.  If you look back up at the picture from 2000 you can see them, one on each side of my head, straying ever so slightly from the rest of my hair.  It doesn't matter what I do with those things, they just don't want to be incorporated into the group.

Though, to prove I did at some points clean up and look nice, I've included one of my senior pictures from high school:

That's about a respectable as I can get.  My ability to smile at this point as been stunted, I think, by years of dealing with blind fear and anger that I could never properly understand or explain to anyone else.  I've been able to learn about what's going on, articulate myself, and cope with my problems better over the years, but those smile muscles still don't work the way they're supposed to.  I can only smile properly for a picture if someone does or says something to make me smile or laugh right in that moment.  Learning how to be happy was very hard, learning how to look like I'm happy might not ever happen.

Maybe it's too subtle for anyone else to see.  This is my with my brother and my father some time in 2007, and this is what I looked like through most of college.  See that little strip of hair separated just a tiny bit from the rest on my head?  See it?

Anyway (last of the entry, I swear), I got bangs a little over a year ago, maybe longer.

I still can't figure out if I like them or not.  This was my profile picture on Facebook for a long time, I just changed it about a month ago.  A couple weeks ago someone commented on it to randomly say they liked it, which made me laugh, because the person in this picture doesn't exist anymore.  The person in this picture has no idea what's going to happen to her in the next year, no idea what she's on the verge of.

This one does:

This is what a person looks like six months after they have a nervous breakdown, I guess.  I genuinely thought I was smiling when I took it.  Oops.

The problem isn't that I'm unhappy.  Almost every day I get to laugh at something and talk to people I love, in fact, I feel happy much more now than I have at most other points in my life.  The problem is that it's impossible to wipe the past off your face.  I'm not trying to say that my life has been difficult, it hasn't.  I am the one who has been difficult.


So there's that.

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