He said he knew the secret of being content

My Suitcase Semester

“I want to go home.”

The tears weren’t streaming down my face yet, but I could feel them coming; waiting at my lids like backed up traffic. Maybe he couldn’t see them through the computer screen. My voice wasn’t quavering I don’t think, but it was full of desperation, as if he could do something about it, as if I could do something about it. But there was only silence at the other end.

I would finish my last course at the University of Jyväskylä in one week’s time. I would be finished. There was nothing left for me here. There was only my longings for home and my wish to be with my fiance. There was only the lingering of winter and the cold freezing rain that kept falling. It felt like anxiety was the only thing controlling me. Why did I feel this way? But I had almost gotten…

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I saw a therapist

My head throbbed. It stung. It felt like it was being poked by tiny slivers of glass.

All I could think about was everything I had to do, and how I wasn’t doing it.

It started the first day of school, spring semester of my sophomore year. No, actually I don’t remember when it started exactly, but that is when I really noticed it. The headaches. The headaches came whenever I angered or stressed. They came in little bursts, just like how long I was upset. Soon they started to come in longer sessions. This is when I would go weeks with one constantly there.

It would be so distracting. Sometimes I couldn’t think of anything else but my headache. And sometimes it was like it wasn’t there, until I thought about it. I began to stress even more because of them. I would worry about not being able to do homework or go to class, or think straight. People that I would mention it to would throw out extremes that made me ache even more with worry.

But no, this was not when it started. This wasn’t the first time I felt like this.

My second semester of my freshman year of college is when I first felt the physical effects of anxiety (Spring semester must be cursed). I have always sweated more when I was stressed, even more than I already do. I have hyperhydrosis, which pretty much means, I sweat…A LOT and when I stress, it pretty much doubles. I was stressing so much that the sweat glands on my hands has swollen into red, itchy, stinging bumps.

I went to the health center at my school and saw a doctor, who reminded me that I have hyperhydrosis and talked to me about stress. Then he suggested I see a psychologist/therapist. I was outraged.

Therapists were for people who had something wrong with them. They were for people with completely messed up lives or brains. They were for people who were mental. Gosh. This doctor thought I was crazy. That is what I thought.

This last semester when my headaches became an issue, I went to the health center again. I saw someone who I trusted. I was told I was having chronic tension headaches. I was given an anti-inflammatory medication. I was talked to about stress (in a much kinder way). I was told that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to think about seeing a therapist on campus. They could talk to me about better handling my stress, because stress isn’t going to end after college. I will always have it. I considered this.

I must say I was still quite cynical of therapists. But a little less so after some things that had happened with myself and others I knew the past year. I still thought: therapists were for people who didn’t have friends to talk to. But I was desperate; more desperate than I have ever been in my life.

The first session was free. What could I lose?

For those of you who know me well, this was a huge step for me. You might have heard me say this before but I do NOT like asking for help. So Ali Clark going to a therapist might have been a hilarious joke to some…or a giant concern.

It was a lot different than I thought it would be. The first session she tried to get to know me. We talked, like regular people do. We discussed why I came there, what was happening. We found out we both love the Lord and strive to follow Him.

After each session she gave me an assignment. At first it was, do breathing exercises, write down times when you don’t have anything scheduled, try a relaxation CD, things like that. Then it became, find time to spend with God, read your Bible, pray, be silent, bring your favorite Bible verse and tell me why it’s your favorite.

It made me realize. God uses people to work in your life that you never would have thought He would use. He uses things that you would never have considered doing. He pushes you out of your comfort zone and helps you grow in ways you never imagined you could. He takes your stereotypes and crushes them. He shows you that you do indeed need help, and then He gives it to you.

The planning scared me

I have always been a girl with a plan; whether it was a plan for a hang out with friends, a sleepover, a habit to kick, a new routine to follow, or my future career path. 

As the years have passed I have realized that not all plans are fool proof. Not all plans work out. I was the girl who was devastated when friends canceled on plans. Let me repeat: DEVASTATED. I still get upset sometimes. When my plans were made, they were “set”. I counted on them. I relied on what I thought was their “unchanging steadfastness”. When things went a different way then what I planned, I let it crush me. 

I find that I seem to always contemplate and think and blog about the future, planning, and trusting God. These are things I have always struggled with. I think many people do (please raise your hand!). 

After realizing that things don’t always go according to plan, that plans fall apart, that people let you down, I started to become afraid of planning. Not short term planning. I didn’t stop making plans to hang out with friends later that week or to plan a friend’s birthday party coming up in a few weeks, but the long terms planning shut down completely. 

Someone mentioning next month, next semester, or God forbid next year, was likely to make me scream in terror (just ask Caleb). I would actually freak out and tell that person that I couldn’t discuss that far in advance (not saying this doesn’t still happen on occasion). I am getting better, but it is still hard for me. 

I know that God has a plan and it’s better than mine. But that doesn’t mean I’m against planning, or that I have stopped. I think it’s important that we prepare for the future that God has for us. Planning can be part of that. But that doesn’t mean I should be devastated when my plans aren’t followed. 

I should rejoice in plans that fall apart because I have faith that better ones will fall together.

Planning isn’t bad. It’s my attitude about planning and the future that I need to keep in check. And when I have my heart and my head in the right place, knowing that God has it all figured out, that is when I become excited about the future, instead of scared. 

Check out more thoughts about planning and expectations

I thought I’d have it all figured out by now

When I was younger I thought I knew a lot of stuff.

I thought milk was bad for you (since milk is pretty much heavenly like chocolate and candy). I also thought that you would go to jail if you didn’t enroll in college after you walked across the stage at your high school graduation. I remember each moment when I embarrassingly realized that I was mistaken. They were both pivotal moments in my life because 1. I  hate being embarrassed/feeling stupid & 2. I hate being wrong.

I had perceptions about life that were changed. I found out that milk has calcium and is actually good for your bones. I also found out (perhaps a little too late) that you don’t HAVE to go to college right away, or even at all.

As I grew, my perceptions changed, just like I did.

I learned from people who were older and wiser. I gathered information and thought out my beliefs and goals (even if at first they might have just been copied).

You know how, when you’re younger, you thought your parents knew EVERYTHING? They were all knowing. They had an answer for your questions. They knew all these things and you didn’t know how they could possibly remember it all. But of course, they were your parents after all. When you became a parent and you were old, you would know everything too, right?

After I realized that not everything I knew was true, I began to think about what I would learn and know in the future. And then I began to have expectations for my future self.

Just like Ariel, I would meet my true love when I was 16. I would also be fully physically developed, with no acne, AND I would have perfect hair. Did I mention I would be incredibly stylish? Yes. This is how I would be when I was 16….so I thought…when I was 11. Because 16 was then the perfect age.

In actuality, when I was 16, I was convinced that I was going to be single forever (because I had a list that no boy could match) and change the world by becoming a microbiologist and doing medical research to cure the world of every disease (acne was probably one of those diseases).

I turned 20 years old last week. I believe that I am the female version of Peter Pan. I always wanted to fly to Neverland so that I wouldn’t have to grow up. But I have left my years as a child and now I have left my teenage years. I never thought this day would come so soon and I never thought I would feel so unchanged. I thought by this time I would have figured out exactly what I wanted to do with my life. I would know what I wanted as a career. I would have a plan. I would be a stronger Christian. I would break out of my introverted shell. I wouldn’t have anymore acne (just kidding…..maybe).

But I think that I will always feel this way. Maybe not exactly this way. But I think that the older I become the more I will realize that it doesn’t matter how old I am. I will always be growing, learning, becoming wiser (I hope).

I think I’ll always feel a little out of the loop, a little silly, a little dumb, and maybe even a little childish. I think I will always feel this way because I know that this is not all there is. It’s not just a bunch of silly screwed up people on earth. There’s something bigger. God is bigger. He holds me in His hands and tells me that I am still a child. I will always be His child. I will never know what I’m going to be like next year or ten years from now. I won’t always know the right thing to do or say. And I think it’s supposed to be this way. I may not like it all the time. I may get frustrated. But that’s because I’m just a child, trying to understand. What I need to do is trust that God knows. It’s God’s plan. It’s His timing. And everything will work out for the good.

I don’t have it all figured out, but He does.

 

Check out my new blog I will be keeping for when I’m getting ready to study abroad in Finland and when I’m actually there in the Spring!

My Suitcase Semester

I’ve had a passport for almost a year, but I’ve never been out of the U.S. I have a bucket list full of places I want to see and things I want to do and many of them are far out of my reach. I’ve always known I wanted to study abroad. I never thought it would be for a whole semester. And I never thought it would be in Finland. 

In January I went to visit the Study Abroad coordinator at my school. I already had researched what I wanted. My school has exchange programs with international schools in several different countries and I knew this would be the cheapest option (this is my biggest barrier of all time). I looked through the different countries and tried to find universities that had classes that were similar to my major…and were taught in English. I narrowed it down to 3…

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Snow White Didn’t Steal My Heart

I finally saw Snow White & The Huntsman. I had heard mixed reviews from people I work with at the movie theater. I had been looking forward to seeing it despite the blemish of Kristen Steward as Snow White. I was hoping that this could be overlooked if everything else was well done. Let’s just say I was glad I didn’t pay any money to see this because then I would have ranted about it for weeks.

First, let me go over some good points (AKA why it gets all 2.5 of my pretty blue stars). Most of these go to Charlize Theron, the actress who played the evil queen. She was exactly what I always thought the villain in Snow White would be. A beautiful, strong, power hungry, beauty obsessed woman who had a messed up child hood. Her character is the one that intrigued me most throughout the movie and is the one I awaited to know even more about. She was terrifying and brilliant.

Now on to the not so great stuff. No, Kristen Stewart did not overcome her terrible acting. I think the writers knew that she couldn’t handle the role because she barely had any lines whatsoever, minus her short and awkward speech near the end. Her character was lacking in that she had no qualities that were seen in action, only what people said of her. We were told she was beautiful (the fairest of them all) and pure and brave, but I never exactly saw it. I think if Snow White the character from the stories and fairy tales wasn’t known so well, the movie would have been completely confusing. She walked around. Stood there. Gave her “Kristen Stewart Awkward Stare” that makes me think a vampire will come out of no-where and everyone was pawning after her.

The best part of the movie for me (or you could call it the worst) was near the end when Snow White and the evil queen were struggling/fighting and Snow White finally killed her. The queen sat there, completely frightened as she died, and Snow White just stared at her (with her awkward stare) and just said: “You can’t have my heart.” I cracked up laughing in the theater. It was so lame. It was so lame that I laughed (just imagine what everyone else in the theater was thinking while this happened, then maybe you’ll laugh too).

This movie was made to make money. Kristen Stewart supplied the Twilight crazed fans while Chris Hemsworth supplied the drooling women. It probably did the job. I was at least curious enough to see it. But I wouldn’t ever waste my money on it.

This is my first movie review that I’ve ever typed up, written out, or even posted online. I don’t claim to be an acclaimed critic or even know what I’m talking about. I’m just a girl with a job at a movie theater this summer that allows me to see any movie for free. I accept criticism, ideas, suggestions, arguments, and opinions. And if you want me to see a movie before you do so you don’t waste your money, just let me know! I will see it and write something up. Also, if you want to know if a certain movie is kid appropriate, or any other specifics I would be happy to add those things in as well. I am going to learn as I go this summer and I’m happy for help.

 

I dew not think this is working

As many of you might already know, I have been having reoccurring and painful headaches the last few months. It started the day school started. I remember the first 3 weeks of school I had a headache every single day. I didn’t know what was up. I rejoiced when I didn’t have a headache for one day. These headaches were sudden and short and sometimes I had several in one day. I especially noticed them when I was stressed, annoyed, angry, or irritated in any way. I would be in a stressful situation, be angry at something or someone, or even think about a situation or assignment and it would suddenly come instantaneously. At first they would last only 15 minutes to an hour and then they began getting longer as time progressed.

Throughout the rest of the semester I kept having them and over the past few weeks they have gotten severely worse. Sometimes they are like they used to be…sharp pain and then a squeezing feeling around my temples and sides of my head. Sometimes I would also have pain the very back of my head. Now I can hardly tell where it is. It’s all over. It’s in my upper neck, back of my head, middle of my head, sides of my head, and forehead.

Just within the last few days my nerves have been giving me hell. Have you every gotten a back rub and they rolled your skin up your back? It feels like someone is doing that under my skin on my head; from the back to the front. It’s this tingling that is tiny sharps of pain like glass poking the most sensitive part of you. Now it just seems to tingle all over whenever it wants to. Then sometimes it will quickly do the “roll” up my head, starting with a sharp pain the back.

I figured out that caffeine (Mountain Dew) significantly impacted my head. It eased the pain right away (the first time). The next time I tried it it eased the pain but it was still there. Although I think it made me so hyper I hardly noticed the pain (I don’t usually drink pop at all). Today I tried it again because I was desperate. It eased the pain a little, but just for about an hour. Even mountain dew isn’t enough.

I used to think that my headaches were not a big deal, but then they kept getting worse and I finally started describing them to Caleb and it wasn’t until he told me that that wasn’t normal or good that I realized it (maybe they are messing with my common sense too). I started researching headaches and I was for sure that I had chronic tension headaches. It seemed like exactly what I was feeling. But then I started getting them all the time. Like, every day, all day; just like today. I have had a headache for almost 12 hours today with no relief (did I mention ibuprofen doesn’t help anymore?). Then the nerves started feeling like they were going raw. Someone told me they sounded like cluster headaches and a precursor to a migraine. I don’t know anymore.

I’ve been keeping a headache diary where I detail how they feel and when and where I get them (did I mention I’ve been really shaky today?). I’ve also been keeping track on what I eat and drink as well as other factors.

It must be somewhat stress related. I know that. I’ve been trying to change some things in my life. I took a break from my college newspaper because that is the biggest thing that stresses me out. I bought a desk to organize my room and add to the lack of furniture. However, I realize you need something other than a 3 inch long screwdriver to do this, so now a bunch of desk parts are on my floor. I started drinking more water. But what stresses me out the most right now is the actual headache, which probably makes it worse.

I don’t know what the point of this blog post was. I just needed to get it all out there I think. I’m going to my college health center on Friday. I can’t stand it anymore. I iced my head last night. I hate ice. Hate it. But I did it with the hope that maybe it would help with the increasing soreness in my upper neck and back of head. Honestly I think it irritated my nerves, but I did it anyway because I’m desperate.

I’m a professional hider, or hermit. When I’m in pain or stressed I seclude myself in my quarters to get away from the world. I wouldn’t want to get irritated or annoyed and have a flare up or annoy someone by talking about my pain. So I am in a cocoon (I’m hoping butterflies don’t get headaches).  But really, I really need friends right now. I really need a stress reliever(s). I really need love. I really need Jesus’s healing (also, in case you didn’t know, it’s really difficult for me to admit I need help).

So, I’m not asking for medical advice, but I will ask for your prayers. Prayers that Jesus will reveal to me or my doctor what is wrong so that I can have relief and peace and joy. Or, even better, Jesus could just miraculously heal me (because He can!!). That would be cool kids.

On a different note, conjugating the subjunctive in Spanish isn’t nearly as hard as the preterit. Thank goodness.