Dear 16-Year-Old Ella

Dear 16-Year-Old Me,

First of all, dry your tears and march your sorry self back from the street sign at the top of the street. It may feel like an escape right now and the New York City skyline is always pretty, but for God’s sake it’s nearly midnight, and no matter how far you run away, the hurt is not going to leave you. Besides, it’s your birthday, and you should not be spending it sitting on damp grass while your parents wonder where you are.

Things may suck now, but you haven’t seen nothin’ yet. Your life is about to collapse around you. Everything you’ve become obsessed with and are working towards—Yale, the perfect grades, a million activities, being president of CGI, having a boyfriend—is going to very nearly kill you. Literally. But you are a million times stronger than you think. You’re made of steel and diamonds, and you are going to learn to stop lying to yourself.

But before you discover exactly how strong you are, things are going to feel impossible. You’re going to try to jump out of windows and overdose on pills and cut yourself with razors and gouge a surprising amount of skin out of your left arm (you will see those scars everyday for years and hate yourself for it). You’re going to have panic attacks where you can’t breathe and think you’re going to die. You’ll get slapped with a million labels. They won’t just call you depressed and anxious. Now, there will be bipolar disorder, borderline personality disorder, anorexia, ADHD, OCD. You’re going to have to leave school and a life that you’re equally in love with and hate to go to an outpatient clinic for close to six months. You will make the choice to leave, and it will be the right one. Trust your gut.

You’re going to learn that everyone has demons and that just because someone looks intimidating, it doesn’t mean that they are. Speak up whenever you can and offer people advice when you’re participating in the groups. Then, listen to what you’re saying and apply it to your own life. Stop being such a hypocrite. And don’t get yourself backed into a corner in the supply closet by that creepy boy. He will say awful things, and you’ll be too scared to yell.

That time your gym teacher told you that you were overweight if you could pinch an inch of skin on your hip is, honestly, one of the most ridiculous things ever. You need to eat more than one cup of yogurt a day, and don’t start pretending it’s a game. The weight that you will lose won’t be pretty. Your ribs are going to stick out, and your arms and legs will get incredibly weak. And if any of the traditional logic about the importance of nutrition doesn’t convince you, listen to this: None of your bras are going to fit anymore, and you will have to go back to wearing the ones you got when you were 14. It will be embarrassing. You will also have to constantly see doctors who will ask you all kind of questions, and your mom will get hyper-involved in your eating and drive you crazy.

You will also have to spend a week in a hospital. Don’t freak out about it, even when they draw your blood in the emergency room and drive you in an ambulance through a snowstorm. Instead, use the week to meet interesting people and collect observations for later writing. When they stick you in that windowless room without heating, a clock, a window, or a chair, do not hyperventilate. They will keep you in there longer. Also, stand up to that cow of a psychiatrist. She will be wrong about everything and unnecessarily cruel. Furthermore, don’t sit there silently when they try to force everyone to watch Sandlot even though one of the girls was once raped while the movie was playing. She will freak out the entire time, they won’t do anything about it, and you will regret not doing something. And wear your prettiest outfits the whole time you’re there, you’ll feel much better when you’re cute.

CGI will be what makes you want to come back to school. Return with all the glory of General MacArthur, but know that senior year is going to be rough. We the People will at first suck monkey balls, but then become your favorite thing ever. You will say stupid things in the process. Apologize for them. Your English teacher and class will make you so happy you want to cry. Trust her when she says good things about you. She will be the first teacher to really, truly like you without any ounce of pity. You will also win awards at Penn Model Congress, thanks to brutal determination and an award at RUMUN, thanks to an amazing teammate. Use this as proof that you are capable and strong.

Your case manager at school will be your hero. Believe everything he says. He will be responsible for your graduation and every good thing that happens in school that year. Thank him profusely and know that even that won’t be able to express your gratitude.

Discover youtube and The Vlogbrothers. John and Hank Green will change your life. You will become an infinitely better thinker and on several occasions put off self-destruction because tomorrow one of their videos is going to be posted, and you don’t want to miss it. Also, find and read as many authors’ blogs as you can. They will give you so many healthy adult role models and get you through nights when the self-loathing feels oppressive and paranoia is on the rise. They are worthy of demi-God status, but don’t forget that they are as human and real as you are.

Write. Write a lot. Write even when it doesn’t make sense and the words seem to come out all wrong and awkward. People will somehow like it, and it will sometimes be the only thing you like about yourself. That idea about starting a blog: do it and don’t give up, even when you don’t feel like you have anything left to put into it. You will somehow fall into the world of books and authors and publishing, and you will feel at home for the first time in years.

Additionally, do not let yourself be talked into things you don’t want to do. Just because someone tells you you’ll like it in a month, does not mean that you will, and it does not matter how much you think they’re going to be angry or hate you for it. Just don’t do it. It’ll bother you to no end when you’re older, and it will create horrible habits. And don’t take medication you don’t want to simply because adults and doctors recommend it. You will get knocked out, get confused, become manic, and sleep through important things if you don’t start using the word no. It doesn’t matter if someone has a million diplomas from fancy universities in their office or is the leading doctor in a field, they don’t know you best—you, however, do. Even if your parents say they are going to kick you out of the house if you don’t take one more pill, say no. They won’t end up doing it, and you’ll feel better, both physically and mentally.

But most of all, love. Love with everything you have. Devotion and passion and compassion will bring you everything beautiful in the world.

Love your friends and treat them well. They will hold you together when you’re falling apart at the seams. They will become the only reason you don’t kill yourself on multiple occasions. And they will make you happier than anything. Also, trust them, sometimes more than you trust yourself. They are very rarely wrong and will love you back, no matter what happens.

Unconditionally love your family as they try do the best they can to help you. Be nicer to Pippa. She deserves it. Treat your cats as if they were your children. You will discover that they can make any situation infinitely better. Don’t give up hope: Pushkin will eventually become less skittish and one day start sitting on your lap.

Love things and places and people. Just let yourself do it. The world is a million times better when you love it.

And learn to love yourself.

You’re gonna be alright, somehow, and you’re going to live an extraordinary life. I just know it.

Finally, get over yourself and stop wearing those shapeless, shiny soccer shorts when you go swimming. It isn’t a good look.

Love,

Ella

_____________________________________________________________________

I decided to write this letter after discovering that an updated version of “Dear Me” will be coming out soon. You can get to the book’s website by clicking here. Basically, the book is a collection of letters to and pictures of various famous people’s 16-year-old selves. It’s beautiful.

Earlier in the day, I had read Laini Taylor’s latest blog post, “Creating Your Life,” which can be found here. She writes about the importance of having the courage and passion to live out your daydreams and not to let them become passive thoughts in your head. And she uses two amazing quotes. The first one is by Mary Oliver, and I have also loved it for a long time.

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

And the second is this:

Ever since happiness heard your name, it has been running through the streets trying to find you.

It’s by Hafiz, and so impossibly wonderful. I love it. She even made a picture with the quote on it.

Lovely, no?

Laini Taylor is one of my favorite authors and people, and I would love to be able to live a life like hers. That post was so beautiful and inspiring, I cried. It got me thinking about how I would go about living out my “one wild and precious life,” and writing this letter was a nice reflection on how I’ve gone about that in the past and what I’m doing to live an extraordinary life right now.

About fifteen minutes later, I checked my youtube subscription box and discovered that George Watsky, one of my favorite youtubers, had made a spoken-word poem/letter to his 16-year-old self that he had performed and filmed. It’s wonderful, and you can watch it just below this text.

If you also want to write a letter to your 16-year-old self and make it public, I’d love to read it. Just leave a link in the comments.

And as always, you can also find me on tumblr at http://emleng93.tumblr.com/, if you’re into that kind of thing.

Clouded Thinking

This is day three of clouded thinking. I am not a happy camper.

I just took a U.S. Capitols test, and my speed is markedly slower than last week.

I am petrified that this change will be permanent.

Field Day

Remember that time when I wrote a post called The Field Day Planning Committee? Well, that day has finally rolled around.

I went to bed at nine thirty last night so that I would be able to get out of bed on time. I really hate having to schedule myself like this because of the medicine, but a day running around in sun, playing games is worth it. I woke up at around five forty, feeling wide awake and ready to take on the day. Such a welcome change from my falling asleep in the school library at 7:45 every morning as the librarians look at me judge me from behind their desk.

After doubling back to take my medicine, I ran up three flights of stairs to one of the history rooms where we were supposed to meet. Cecelia handed me my tee shirt and I pulled it on over the one I was wearing.

I like this shirt for two reasons: one, because it is shamelessly pretentious and two, because I love Executive/Judicial so much. I may not have been able to compete with them for most of the day because I was judging, but I was able to at least physically feel that I was part of the department.

Cecelia and I walked down to the field together. It felt odd moving against the tide of bodies as everyone pushed towards the school. The air was chilled, and I thought about how a really great title for a book would be “I Should Have Worn Pants.” I mean, it would totally work for a memoir or a book about gender. I filed it away in my folder of “genius ideas” and went back to talking to Cecelia about menu planning for our beach trip. It appears that I am going to be the only meat-eater there, which puts a real damper on my hamburger and bacon eating plans.

I filled up two giant water coolers at the spigot at the bottom of the water fountain that I think is there for cleaning shoes and for dogs to drink. It took a long time, and I kept having to alternate between hands to hold the valve back. Cecelia and I carried it across the field to a table where they promptly disappeared. I know that they made their way back to the gym office this afternoon, but I have no clue where they were in the interim. Running away with 30 gallon coolers is not an easy task.

Soon enough, setting up was done, and everyone was descending on the field. Executive had won trivia and was already first in the standings. We held the boys race and the girls race, and I stood at the third corner, making sure that no one cut it. I was so close to the line that I could feel people’s shirt sleeves brush me as they ran past. Our department got second in the girls.

Relay, wheelbarrow, and three-legged races and a Beanie Baby toss followed, and I found myself desperately wishing to be with my department instead of standing on the sidelines making sure that people touched the white line before turning around. Walking around with a clipboard enforcing rules is a lot of fun, but it’s not the same as hanging out with your department and cheering people on.

Next, we had tug of war, which has always been one of my favorite Field Day events was incredibly complicated. First of all, making sure that the rope is evenly placed between both cones is tricky and nearly always leads to an argument. Second, there is no fair way to making a bracket out of nine teams. Someone will always get a by. After a lot of yelling, it was decided that three of the teams would split third place. I’m always surprised and frustrated by how much arguing it takes to get to an agreement that both parties would have found to be okay in the first place.

The more organized events were over, and it appeared like I wasn’t needed, so I skedaddled off  to eat watermelon and watch Executive play soccer. I may not be a very good soccer player myself, but I make a very good enthusiastic fan. Hopping up and down on the balls of my feet, clapping my hands, and yelling “go _____” is one of my specialties. The game went on forever. Regular time became overtime which became more overtime which turned into a shootout that became sudden death which finally turned into another shoot out with the big regulation sized goal. We did not win, but I had loads of fun.

Everyone headed over to the Badminton court to watch our department win first place, and I took a few breaks to head back to our booth for a watermelon eating contest. I discovered that if you fill your mouth up with watermelon, you can partial chew it and swallow large pieces whole. Because it’s so watery and soft it goes down just as easily as a capsule.

This post will be updated with the entire story tomorrow.

In a related story, I got into the shower with my socks on and didn’t notice for a good two minutes. I like to think that this was because I don’t often wear socks and am not used to taking things off my feet before I jump in, and not because I was too preoccupied with singing “Na na na na na na BATMAN” in various accents and pitches.

In Which Ella Becomes a Literal Rocker

I’ve started rocking lately. I’ll be in class or alone, and then all of a sudden, I’m moving back and forth or in a slow circle. And while I do have a few ticks like compulsive leg wiggling, this one is new and strange. But perhaps the most frustrating thing about it is that I haven’t been able to come up with some sort of explainable pattern. I do it in class, I do it in the car, I do it while alone, and I even do it standing up. And in a weird way, the rocking is incredibly soothing. Unfortunately, it also makes me look like I’m insane, otherwise I’d be all for it.

The other bizarre sensory thing that’s been happening lately is this odd sense of floating. It happens the most often when I’m carrying my backpack, which is odd because that’s when I’m the most weighed down. I’ll lose sensation in my feet, I won’t be able to feel the weight of the bag, and a force will start to carry me forward. It’s the same force that has been making me rock. It’s long and royal blue with little flicks of yellow in its tail. It’s all airy and gaseous, just like the preset backgrounds on Macs.

Imagine that you’ve got a band of elastic wrapped around your chest. It’s about an inch wide, and it’s loose enough for someone to grab. Suddenly, it starts to gently pull you backwards. Then, some other force from behind pushes you forward, and you just move. Back and forth or floating. It’s like soft hands on your back, only this time there’s no uncomfortable pressure.

I have a lot of trouble with touching people if I’m not the one initiating it. Someone last year tried to slip their hand around my waist as a joke, and I screamed and somehow ended up on the floor with my arms in front of my face and my knees up to my chin. I will also fall to the ground if you come up behind me and touch my sides. (Of course, by mentioning this, I’ve pretty much guaranteed that someone at school will try to do this.) So in many ways this floating and rocking is scary.

I’m amazed at how these tiny pills can make my brain do so many strange things. And while I wish that this amazement was the positive type, I’m just plain freaked out by it. Letting something external intrinsically change who I am and how I feel is terrifying. I want to be in control. But until the day that I get the keys to this metaphorical car, I just need to learn how to relax and have faith.

On Boating, Mirrors, and Victory

Today was another day of feeling dizzy and off. The odd sensations of floating/boating haven’t ceased. I felt like I was paddling a canoe through first period. Second period, I floated around in an inner tube. Third, I spent in a row boat. By forth, I left for a very long sail for Nantucket with lots of breaks for dead man floats. I haven’t yet returned, and as of right now, it doesn’t appear that a return ticket was booked.

So by the time I got home, I was done. Really, really, really, really done. But rather than letting myself slid over into freak out mode, I decided to get creative. Whenever I get freaked out by side effects, I have a panic attack, and that panic attack is almost always the result of disassociation. To fix that I parked myself in front of the huge mirror on the wall at the foot of the stairs. I could sit on the stairs and see my whole body and behind me. That way I would know that it was me. I grabbed some yellow rice and chicken from the fridge, made popcorn, and poured myself some juice into this awesome cup that I made when I was five.

 

I have two observations about this mug. One: I clearly have excellent potential to become an artist and Two: I have never been good at accurately depicting my body.

Then, I turned on my iPod and just sat there and watched myself eat. I still felt like was the model of buoyancy and that I was gaining pounds by the mouthful, but I wasn’t panicking. I was just sitting there, eating food and waiting it all out. It’s the first time a long time that coping skills have been an hundred percent effective in the face of side effects. Maybe it was my Rainy Tuesday playlist or yellow rice that did it, but I’d like to think that it was me, that I did something entirely right for once, and that I can overcome my challenges all by myself.

Victories like that one twenty minutes ago are never as loud as my failures (Crying in English, crying at lunch, crying in French, etc.). Mostly, they go unrecognized. I write them off as flukes and tell no one or the people around me don’t notice. But I am going to tell you, whoever is reading this blog, about this one. I’m going to make sure that you know about it. And in doing that, I am going to make sure that I am not going to let it slip by the wayside either. I’ll build on what just happened today. I’ll force it to become a pattern. I’ll make it so that I never panic about side effects again. I will. Just watch me.

On a completely unrelated note, I have suddenly been forced into the position of hand-washing police in my house because people around here apparently haven’t passed pre-school health.

On Sad Ruminations

Today, I went to school for the second day in a row–something that I’m supposedly supposed to celebrate. (They call me a “writer” because of word choices like that.) As I sat in the Large Group Instruction room this morning, choosing my next elective (the history of the 2000s), I was met the overwhelming disappointment that my “celebrations of achievement” are all just living up to the norm. They’re nothing exemplary at all.

No one else gets high-fives for attending class or not crying. But I do, because I’m different. And that different hurts. It hurts so much. That different makes me feel entirely alone a lot of the time. It makes me awkward, unwieldy, scary. I’m not like the rest. I don’t fit in. People don’t know how to respond to me, and I don’t know how to respond to them.

I know that everyone is insecure, even the people that I idolize, but I am sure that this suspicion of awkwardness is well grounded in fact. I miss pop-culture references. It takes me minutes or days to figure out dirty jokes. “What’s the difference between deer nuts and beer nuts? One’s a dollar fifty, the other’s under a buck.” left me confused for about a week. (As it turns out the joke is not about deer poop, as I initially thought after two days’ reflection.) I tend to repeat things, ask abstract questions (Do you ever think that people would still like you if they could see inside of your brain? Do you ever think about how abstract the concept of money is? Isn’t our ability to communicate amazing?), or just have no idea how to talk to someone (Namely, boys. I really suck at talking to boys. They’re intimidating, and rarely seem to like me.).

So it’s nights like tonight that leave me thinking: Will I ever be independent? Will I ever leave home? Will I ever go to college? Will I ever be loved by someone else? Will I ever get married? Will I ever be able to have children? Will I ever be halfway normal?

Somedays, like today, I would do anything to be taken off of all of these brand new medications and to go back to January or December when I spent weeks in bed. Sure, I was horribly, horribly depressed, but I owned my brain. I didn’t forget where I was or wander around the hallway in circles for half an hour wondering where I was supposed to be or what I was doing. I didn’t feel like I was floating or that I was actually hovering above my own head, looking at the world with a bird’s eye view. I didn’t feel as I do now, as if I am caught on a boat, being gently pushed by waves, leg muscles constantly shifting to maintain balance. I’ve got a royal case of “sea-legs” which hasn’t halted for weeks, and it scares me. It really, really does. The knowledge that this is how the rest of my life will be is terrifying and makes me incredibly unhappy.

And as my thoughts spiral and I start to sob, I think about how my classmates don’t know how lucky they are. How incredibly, incredibly lucky. They are all leaving for college next year. They have beautiful, rosy futures. They have lives that don’t revolve around doctors’ visits. They’ve never spent time in a psych ward or months in outpatient clinics. I don’t think they know how much I am jealous of them and how very much I admire them. Those incredibly lucky and wonderful people are why I fought to go back to my high school and not to some therapeutic boarding school; they’re why I try to go to school every day; they’re why I love my classes so much; they’re why a lot of this pain is worth it. I’m going to miss them so much when they all leave. So, so much.

But despite all of this, I have my courage, and I have my hope. I must stop crying, and I must begin my work once more. I am determined to force the answers to my questions to become “yes.”

Wonder Drugs

With this new medication change, my head has been feeling incredibly fuzzy and cloudy. This, coupled with lots of anxiety, has led to numerous panic attacks and a complete distrust of medication.

Tonight, however, I took some Xanax midway through a forty-five minute panic attack, at the suggestion of my mother. Twenty minutes later, the fog cleared, and I did a complete about face.

I was reminded once again how much things are rolled together. The good comes with the bad, and security comes with fear. And I should never ever distrust medication completely.

While I am still too rattled to write anything of substance, I have many post ideas rolling around inside my head, and I promise to post something over 1000 words tomorrow. Scouts’ honor.

On Sonnets and Hard Work

Last night, I had to write a sonnet. A sonnet, I thought, A sonnet won’t be hard at all. And at the time, it made a lot of sense. After all, I’ve written poetry before. I even won a contest for it in sixth grade. I write. I write A LOT. And writing isn’t exactly a challenge for me. This sonnet should take an hour tops.

So I curled up on my bed with my computer and started going through my mental catalogue of things that I had experienced that day. Writing about falling asleep in the shower was out. Not interesting. So was writing about the way I carefully observe my classmates and teachers. Too creepy. But writing about Eureka moments seemed like a great idea.

Everything was going swimmingly as I typed the first few words. I got up to feel some paper to determine exactly how I should describe it, and sat back down. I wrote about the way paper feels against your hand as you scribble on the page, capturing the way that it sticks to your palm and how your pencil can sometimes catch against a fiber. I had two lines. Then, I tried saying them out loud with em-pha-sis on every other syll-a-ble to see if it was in iambic pentameter. It wasn’t. I didn’t have ten syllables either.

I ran my hand violently through my hair and tried again and again and again. The process continued to repeat itself. Taking a few deep breaths, I pulled up some old poems that I wrote. Surely, I could just transform one of them.

A Childhood Summer

Summer meant golden sunshine and damp air

Running barefoot through lawns

As grass whipped in between our toes,

Parades of noises and color-

Flags, horns, and harmonicas

Up and down the street,

Cloud spotting,

Colorful orbs of water in balloons

Lobbed at each other,

Flips on the trampoline-

Front ones, somersaults, and back ones, too,

Hiding behind trashcans in

The first purple whispers of darkness

Playing flashlight tag-

But most of all it meant freedom.

Summer

Remember the summers of old?

The tall glasses of lemonade

With water beads pouring down the sides?

Or maybe the summer dresses with the skirts

That spun out around us as we whirled

Around and around the backyard

‘til we collided or just toppled over from dizziness?

What about the corndogs that we ate at picnics:

How they stained our fingers and face shiny with grease?

What about the way we laughed,

Long before you had to restrain yours to a girly giggle?

Maybe the time we sprayed Mrs. Hirsh

With our neon plastic water soakers

And she screamed shrilly at us as we jumped her fence and ran?

Do you remember what it was like to be a child?

You didn’t have to care about how you looked or what you ate.

We were golden with innocence then.

And even if I couldn’t adapt them, summer was a great topic. Good things always happen to me during the summer. I could write about the beach or Puerto Rico or the time I ate the most delicious pizza in a strip mall in the middle of West Virginia.

It did not go well. By this point, I was done. Really, really, really done with the whole shebang. I started to cry and do my normal rolling about on the bed, but I was not going down without a fight. I have never let creative writing kick my butt before, and I wasn’t planning on starting then. Gritting my teeth and wiping my face on my sleeve, I sat up. And my mother helpfully suggested that I write about how much I hate sonnets. So I did and got a little further.

Sonnets Suck

Five iambs per line we are told to write,

But under ten syllables you should stay

You must avoid the topics banal and trite

Or the teacher’s eye will turn away

Avoid the red pen for its marks your grade does fear

But it wasn’t working, and my thoughts started racing. And once again, I began to cry. Like if-I-keep-sobbing-this-hard-I-am-going-to-throw-up crying. I cried over how I couldn’t write this sonnet no matter how hard I tried and how I was an awful writer who would never make anything of herself. I cried over how jealous I was of my friends. Jealous of the way that they are living the life that I have always wanted to live. The life that I imagined having and have been working towards since I was in sixth grade. And I cried over the way that I can feel the medication messing with my brain. The way that I can feel the chemicals and hormones markedly shift with every medication change. The way that I sleep through first and second period everyday no matter how hard I try to stay alert. The way that my eyelids only open halfway and keep drooping even if I sit upright in a chair.

My mother brought me ravioli, but the tears didn’t stop. Each sob made my whole body convulse, and I kept gagging. She came in again and yelled because she was so worried. I continued to bawl. As I went to click on my internet browser to look up some example sonnets, my finger slipped and opened up iChat instead. Normally, when I do this I just instantly quit the program, but Audrey was on. And her screen-name on my buddy list was a Godsend. I’ll just talk to her and everything will be alright, I thought. “Hi,” I typed as I sucked in big breaths, holding it for three before exhaling. Instantly, she responded. Thirty minutes later, the blubbering had stopped, and there was only the occasional tear. Talking to her helped so much.

Slowly, painstakingly, I wrote my poem. I muttered the iambs to myself and used my fingers to count out the syllables. I must have looked like a first grader anxiously trying to do math. And after every line I paused to talk to Audrey. And by midnight I was done.

Afternoon Fog

A Pearl gray adorns my window, dampening the day.

B Clear whispers of sunlight soon shall slip past

A So heavy thoughts of death won’t weigh.

B Silvery images of joy contrast

C The leaden darkness of our woe.

D A bird sings tunes of frivolity

C Quick! the tabby cat turns to his foe.

D His view is low in quality,

E But together we peer out wistfully

F And pray the charcoal haze will lift.

E He keeps his haunches raised, tail flicking eagerly,

F Paws tucked under, eyes looking for a shift

G Here she is! Her virgin rays do slice the morn.

G And from our dreary doldrums we are reborn.

It isn’t very good, and the lines have anywhere from seven to thirteen syllables, but it’s all mine. I wrote a sonnet despite the emotions, and you can’t take that away from me.

I’ve always believed that if you work hard enough, you’ll get what you want. Two years of babysitting bought me a whole new wardrobe in France. Hours of studying bought me perfect grades in school. And yesterday, it bought me a sonnet.

(P.S. Today in class, my AP English teacher said that I had some of the best descriptive language.)

Ella the Oversized Lab Rat

I missed school today after having attended for nine straight days. Last night, I had another really bad, vivid dream from the Geodon that woke me up at four a.m., and by the time for getting up to go to school rolled around, I became convinced that if I got anywhere near the train tracks, I would be hit and killed. After a minor freak out, I went back to sleep. To continue this series of unfortunate events, I woke up in a panic at nine, thinking that I was about to drown in the ocean and that I was in trouble for not protecting a little kid well enough.

This morning wasn’t my finest moment.

However, I was able to climb out of bed and get a lot of work done. I finished my homework on Shakespeare’s sonnets (five pages!) and spent some more time outlining my thesis. Hopefully, “Kate Chopin: Feminist or Liberationist?” is going to be a work to rival the Iliad and Grapes of Wrath. At the very least, it’ll be as good as The Baby-Sitter’s Club: Kristy’s Great Idea (a book I’ve never read, but I feel that I can accurately assume it’s worth). I’ve already got a legal pad full of notes, a binder with around twenty marked-up critical essays, and six pages of pre-writing.

Sadly, things weren’t exactly looking up. I started a new medication called Oxcarbazepine/Trileptal on Friday, and it’s been making me feel funny. Funny in a I-really-don’t-feel-normal-or-like-myself sort of way. It’s not enjoyable and led to a near full-blown panic attack on Saturday. Thankfully, my Dad put on my favorite movie, Miracle, and I calmed down.

On days like today, I just feel like an oversized lab rat. Every time I go to the psychiatrist my medication changes, as we continue in our quest to find the perfect chemical cocktail. Let’s see how Ella’s liver metabolizes this! Let’s see how her brain reacts to that! We accidentally sedated her? Whoops!

During therapy, we worked on a plan for me to be “my own best advocate” and to “own my body” (which totally sounds like it belongs on a NOW campaign poster for women’s empowerment) when speaking to the psychiatrist about my adverse reactions. Unfortunately, I know that if I can’t tolerate this medication, then electric shock therapy is left uncomfortably close to the top of the list. And no matter how intimidated I am by diplomas from medical school and dislike this new medication, I’d take it any day over ECT.

In the car home, I tried to broach the subject with my mother. That discussion did not go well, and I was told, “You just need to be patient. It’ll improve.” I sat in the car and cried while she and Pippa went into the grocery store to pick up seltzer. I just want my head back. I want my thoughts to be solely mine. I want to know that when I look down at my body that I am the one controlling it.

It’s evening now, and I’m sitting on my bed, surrounded by cats, full of hope that things will improve. Because things have to. I refuse to believe that the world is a cruel place.