It has taken me years to get back on my feet after being diagnosed with depression, anxiety, and ADHD during my freshman year of college. I remember how surreal it felt to know that my life wasn’t the way it should be. Finally, someone could put a label on the complicated mess of feelings, somatic symptoms, and obstacles I had dealt with for the better part of my childhood and adolescence.

All it would take to feel better was medication and scheduled therapy, so they said. So for a year and a half I played the game (so to speak), taking the lowest possible dose of Zoloft plus Ritalin (“as needed”) and went to see a psychologist weekly (sometimes biweekly).

I was ecstatic because I would finally see how it felt to be “normal” and “happy”. Just like someone who suffers from physical illness or disorder, I dreamed of being ‘cured’ and knowing what it would feel like to have optimal mental health.

Nevertheless, this system worked for a while until it started to dawn on me that my new Zoloft-fueled feelings weren’t authentic. Perhaps I wasn’t bothered by Amy* sleeping with a guy I liked because it really was no big deal, rather than an inability to feel anger due to the medication I was taking.

As a result, I started to question my reality. 

I explained my apprehension towards continuing to take Zoloft to my psychologist and we made a plan to wean me off of it. I didn’t experience similar adverse effects with Ritalin, so I chose to remain on that medication.

A couple months after I stopped taking Zoloft, once the nasty side effects ceased, I felt like new again. Of course, I was a bit more emotional (maybe even irrational at times), but I finally felt real. I relished the fact that I could feel anger, sadness, and all kinds of emotions when they were warranted, as opposed to making cognitive assessments of the appropriateness of said emotions in a given context. This new normal seemed to work for me.

Over time, I stopped seeing my psychologist, too. At first, I made excuses about time, money, and whatever else. I cancelled more appointments than I kept. Finally, I convinced myself that I could be okay on my own. I manipulated myself into believing that my depression was transient. I was free. Cured.

The stigma associated with mental illness provoked me to escape – at all costs – from any aspect of having one. Rather than call my psychologist to schedule an appointment, I would bottle up my feelings. When I couldn’t take it anymore, I would take my anger and frustration out on those around me (my parents, Luke, and even myself).

When I gained 20 pounds, I used it as ammunition for blaming myself for any problems I experienced. (“Oh, your friends didn’t invite you out because you’re ugly now”) I became the self-destructive person I always had been, but all the more dangerous because I falsely believed that those experiences were all behind me. I thought that my renewed depressive and anxious episodes were something that resembled “normal” anxiety and sadness.

I listened time and again to people around me talk down about mental illness. I even mentally victim-blamed others like myself who suffer from real and dangerous mental illness (and disorder), labelling them as weak or whiney. I knew that I fit those descriptors, too…but I was more focused on distancing myself from that stigma than being true to my own beliefs.

Rather than become an advocate for myself (and others) by speaking out and getting the help I needed – even if that meant budgeting time and money to do so – I internalized all the negative energy and experiences. This process intensified over the last 6-7 months.

Before my diagnoses, I tricked myself for over 6 years into believing that this is just the way life is: daily panic attacks, tears, and anxiety about my social and emotional well-being. I accepted a less than enjoyable life under the premise that everyone lives this way and that those who don’t vocalize their problems (like I do) are just “bigger people” because they can accept these feelings and still be able to function.

In the past 9-12 months, I’ve reverted to that lifestyle. I don’t recognize myself in the mirror anymore. Sure, I own my successes and I recognize my failures, but I don’t feel like a participant in my own life. I’m a spectator, along for the ride. Bumps included.

I stopped living for me and started living for others. I inquired about others’ lives and reached out more than I had before. I thought that the perceived decline in my social life might be due to being introverted or having a tendency to self-isolate.

Once I reached out, I was able to make plans and have something fun to do almost every weekend. It was exciting to want to socialize and to have access to as much as I wanted.

Despite my efforts, things turned sour at the beginning of this school year. I became a burden, an annoyance, a friend who needed to be coddled and reassured of their worth. I recognized that my “normal” mask wasn’t doing its job. People could tell that I wasn’t happy-go-lucky and fun-loving all the time. I’ve realized that people don’t want to be around someone who can’t pretend to be those things.  

But I tried to make things work. I backed off a bit, thinking I may have came off too strong. I stopped asking about others and waited for them to come to me. When I felt excluded, I avoided bringing it up. Except no one seemed to notice and I felt an even deeper need to be included. I was hurting myself more and more each day by trying to be a more perfect image of the type of friend I thought others wanted to have.

So, I tried to re-evaluate if I had done or said something wrong. I thought that maybe I might be to blame for my problems. In effect, I gaslighted myself. I criticized my own thinking, deciding that I was being either irrational or foolish and not intuitive or perceptive (as I had previously thought). I began to question my reality (again). I didn’t trust my own assessments of things, consistently asking for others to weigh in on a situation and tell me what they thought was real.

At times I would make sure that everything was okay and would be reassured that it was. This fueled my thought processes, further confusing my conception of what was really going on in my life. But asking for reassurance never fixed the problem. It never made me feel more secure, happier, or loved. Nevertheless, I bit my tongue and continued to go to events (when I was invited) and reaching out in order to maintain friendships and relationships.

In the last month, my creeping suspicions arose again. In a sense, I am a dandelion. 

Sure, some people can see past the fact that dandelions are weeds and even find beauty in them…but no one would really miss them if they weren’t there. They’re a nuisance, even.

It dawned on me that the only reason communication was intact between myself and others was because I continued to reach out and start conversations. Here I was, bright yellow and ever-present — asking for someone to pick me, to choose me, to prefer me. I became infuriated when I was passed over for the red roses in my life. Red roses are inviting, have apparent beauty, and seem to say “pick me, you won’t be disappointed”. But unlike dandelions, red roses can hurt you because beneath their facade hide sharp thorns. Red roses, unlike dandelions, hold power over others. Try as I might, my attempts to be empowered resulted in others holding power over me.

As a dandelion, I spent so much time making myself accessible and available that I didn’t realize that I had lost my appeal. I wasn’t a red rose. I didn’t think I even wanted to be a red rose. But I was jealous of them. I wanted someone to see me, as I was, and recognize how dependable and loving I could be. However, my best qualities weren’t displayed on the surface, but rather were integral to my character. Unless someone takes the effort to really appreciate them, no matter how hard a dandelion tries, it will only ever amount to a child’s disposable flower crown (at best) – essentially, dandelions are perceived as replaceable.

I don’t want to change who I am, but I sure as hell don’t want to be in my current position either. I have seen how it feels to be a dandelion and I will remember to appreciate the dandelions in my life. I have also seen how I can be fooled by my own intuition whether it relates to my self-concept, my reality, or my relationships. Moving forward, I choose to believe in me before I believe in what others tell me. 

I’m tired of expressing how I feel only to be gaslighted or forced to apologize for my words.    I was raised to advocate for myself and that quality had been all but stamped out after years of being told I am “too emotional” “dramatic” or “overly sensitive”.

No matter what someone tells you, it is imperative that you own your truth and recognize that both you and your feelings are valid.

I’m tired of waiting. Waiting for someone else to text me first, to invite me out first, or to post an Instagram collage on my birthday when I did the same for them. While seemingly minor, these experiences add up over time and contribute to a sense of worthlessness. I have lost my patience because I have waited too long for reciprocal acknowledgment. I am exhausted because I have given so much but the result has been a net loss.

The bottom line is that I simply do not have the energy to reassure myself that my friendship with someone else is healthy and nourished. I need something in return, some evidence that I am not the only one who cares. I need proof that I am appreciated in spite of being a dandelion.

What’s worse, I’ve run out of ways to solve this conundrum. I am stuck.

I can’t express how I feel, because I know how that ends.

I can’t wait for others to notice that I’m gone from their lives, because I’m only hurting myself by letting them continue to treat me like a weed.

And I can’t just move on, because I do love and cherish these relationships. I invested so much time and energy into these relationships that I simply can’t go without something in return.

I’m left with several questions: Does anyone care? Does it matter that I’m losing my will to withstand and my ability to grow? Will anyone recognize that they’ve done me wrong? Will they admit to lying by omission, not appreciating my presence, and allowing me to recognize that I’m simply a weed and nothing more?

History tells me the answer to all these questions. I pray that somehow I’m wrong.

I hope that by writing about my experience I can remind others (and myself) about the dangers of relinquishing control of your own truth to others around you. The important thing is that I have learned a few lessons through these struggles.

  1. Don’t change your lifestyle in order to be more palatable to other people. Go to therapy, take medication, or meditate if that’s what helps you be the best you. Don’t do those things in order to become someone you are not because you will fail time and again. I thought that healing meant becoming someone new, but I was wrong. If you cast away your true self in the process, there will be nothing left to make you you. It’s important to embrace your faults and allow for some of your quirks to remain.
  2. Don’t associate with people who pick and choose when they are there for you. Even on my best days, I have felt utterly alone. Your support system should lift you up when you’re down but also celebrate when you succeed. If others don’t express interest in your life, or even refrain from sharing theirs with you, its not worth it.
  3. Finally, BE HONEST. If you don’t love and cherish someone in your life, it’s better to tell them how you feel than to perpetuate the relationship where they give more. It’s a waste of someone else’s time and frankly, it’s rude. If you do love and cherish those people, tell them. Maintain connections with people who maintain connections with you. Some express their emotions more than others but everyone needs support and attention from time to time.

This takes it back to Kindergarten (“the Golden Rule”), but please please please treat people you call your friends the way you would like to be treated. 

*Clearly, not a real name.



Truly Madly Deeply

Sometimes we experience tragedy without being directly impacted. I guess, you could say I’ve found the right place in a Social Psychology Graduate program (Oh yeah, that happened. More on that later…), but I think I’ve always been this way. Individual experience is so much more than internal thoughts, attitudes, and beliefs. I am highly sensitive, empathetic, and too deeply wrapped up in emotions. I know that, believe me. And I love nothing more than when these characteristics are hurled at me as insults, when I think these are the very things which make me me.

I wrote a blurb on Facebook this week about how the WDBJ shooting impacted me. Ever since I’ve felt…different. Forgive this hackneyed tidbit of advice, but — life is precious. I want to savor every moment, love every creature, and benefit everyone and everything in anyway I can. I sound sentimental as hell and I’m not sure what I mean by this, but I want to live life.

Life has been amazing to me lately.

I’ve been overworked, sleep deprived, and often felt lost or like a failure…but I’m important, valuable, and have a lot of wonderful experiences ahead.


Back to grad school … I spoke with a professor about a month ago regarding applying to my school’s program for next fall. She knew I would graduate this fall and I was somewhat disappointed that I would essentially sit here waiting for next fall after completing my undergraduate coursework. However, she mentioned a 5 year program I didn’t know about, where I could enter grad school THIS fall and complete my Bachelors degree on time as well as obtain a Masters degree spring the following year.

Instantly, I wanted to say no. I wanted to give up and be done with school, but where would I be? Truthfully, I have no idea what I’m doing with my life.

There’s something so satisfying yet terrifying about admitting this.

But I think we can all say that at some point (maybe even now) that we have felt this way. Regardless, she told me to think about it and let her know if I was interested.

I took a leap and called her back the very next day and in a whirlwind two weeks — along with a multitude of pulled strings all thanks to my former professor — I now find myself in grad school.

I’m shocked. I have imposter syndrome like you couldn’t imagine. “I don’t deserve this, I”m not smart enough, talented enough, driven enough….I’m not in the right place.” It sucks. I can see that I am talking myself down when at the same time, I know that I am exactly where I am supposed to be right now.

How many times in my life will I be able to say that? I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be right now. 

Sometimes it takes a little reflection at the end of the week (or blogging) to come to terms with that yourself. Sometimes it takes learning about a tragedy, which may not directly impact me, but through societal factors and personality factors I’ll likely learn everything about during my graduate studies, impacts me as directly as it impacted the families of Alison Parker and Adam Ward.

I already said my political piece on the issue, but I think the human component of learning about tragedy should be addressed as well. So while I’m exactly where I’m supposed to be — I’m nervous.

I’m afraid of failure, of success, and of stagnancy.

But life is wonderful because I can feel all these emotions at once. I can simultaneously celebrate and mourn.

I’m learning how to balance my emotions. I know I’m an emotional person and it doesn’t take much to make me angry or to make me cry. But it also doesn’t take much to make me smile or laugh.

The coming months (years? eek…) are going to be stressful. They’re going to be draining and make me question everything.

There’s something about growth and struggle…some quote. Whatever that may be, I think that’s going to be my new motto.

All I know is that I have a grad acceptance letter plastered to my fridge and I’m trying my best to recognize that leaving a few dirty dishes in the sink tonight do not mean the end of the world tomorrow. That sometimes I need time alone, sometimes I need coffee or wine or mac and cheese.

Through all of this rambling… I’m learning about living my life for me, for whatever that requires in a given moment or situation, and remaining cognizant of how fortunate I am to be here as well as how deserving I am of all the opportunities and accomplishments thus far.

I think these lessons apply to everyone, though. We need to celebrate our victories, own our achievements, and brag about our own abilities. We need to smile in the face of hatred, power through in the presence of bullies or toxic influences, and keep our heads on straight and oriented towards becoming a better person and human being.

My life has turned around the last month. I’m enjoying work again, feeling like myself, and understanding that life isn’t exactly what I want but it’s what I need right now.

Happy happy Friday

x Danielle


I’m Thankful For . . .

In the midst of one of the craziest semesters yet, I’ve started to see that I have no game plan for dealing with stress. I’ve noticed my blood pressure climbing in recent check-ups and doctors visits. I’ve been gaining weight, feeling sluggish, and getting sick more frequently.

My emotions fly from one end of the spectrum to the other without any clear cause or explanation. Sometimes I step back from my situation and ask myself why I’m reacting so emotionally. Almost always, I can’t find a reason. I’m convinced that stress plays a huge role. 18 credit hours and a weekend job make for one stress-filled semester, with little time to breathe or discover myself.

In the past week I’ve went from healthy and organized, prepared to register for my final semester of undergrad — to torn apart, suffering from a sinus infection requiring antibiotics, and more distractible than ever. Luckily, all the problems I encountered reached solutions (and I finally registered for those necessary classes thank god).

I wanted to make it to the end of the semester without breaking down. Without losing my shit. Unfortunately, there is only so much stress one person can take . . . especially one with my reactivity. Although, I’m trying to forgive myself for this and see the benefits of my anxiety.

Regardless, I have a job to do for the next week and a half. Finals, my work schedule, and regular appointments and commitments will remain. I’d like to take time off to de-stress, but that’s not happening until May. So, I’m confronted with learning how to manage my anxiety in a constructive way.

Of course, I thought that I was managing quite well. But I’ve really been ignoring the root of the issue, pressing on and becoming a workaholic/time-bomb who never has any fun.

For this reason, I’m listening to the advice I’m given.

1. I’m going to try to step back and assess the situation before a freak out even has the chance to start.

2. I’m going to live a little – sometimes – and not worry about all the deadlines and projects, because there will always be something left to do and I can’t put off my happiness until my list is complete.

3. I’m going to try to like salads. I love pasta, peanut butter, and potatoes more than anything on earth. I love salads, too, as long as there’s a lot of cheese and dressing involved. I don’t know when I stopped loving vegetables. I do know that my health is starting to suffer from my awful appetite and that amazing metabolism I had is changing. So, salads.

4. I’m going to laugh at myself. When I cry, when I fail, when I miss a bus or I’m late for ___. I need to find the humor in even the most disheartening everyday occurrences or else I’m bound to fall apart.

5. I’m going to get more sleep. Duh. I somehow relish the fact that I’ve never taken naps and can get by on 6 hours of sleep. Nothing about that is normal or something to be proud of. Oops…

6. I’m going to learn how to be grateful and start my own gratitude list. (Hey, mom!) All in all, I have a very privileged life. I have a wonderful support system, amazing genetics (regarding my health), and qualities for success and happiness. I’ve just never put those things into a perspective which doesn’t criticize and question. I used to call myself a “realist”, but in reality I’m a pessimist . . . and it’s taken me until now to admit that.

Of course, I’m going to struggle with these changes. It’s going to be difficult and I’ll still probably be my emotional self at the end of it. Mainly, I just want to enjoy life. College has made me responsible and goal-oriented to a fault. I’ve worked on my abilities to the neglect of my human, internal self and I need to recognize that my mind and inner self need care and attention, too.

If anything, I hope you can take from this the importance of loving yourself, your life, and the danger of taking life too seriously. In everything I do, I’ve worried about perfection and efficiency. Human beings are not perfect, and efficiency is a quality I should look for in a household appliance — not a person.

I’m thankful for being who I am because I’ve learned that I’m not perfect. But, I am worthy of love and happiness.

Let’s learn to be grateful – not just for what we do or who we know, but for how we act and how we view our experiences.


Featured image is yet another beautiful view out our window of Lake Michigan, taken a couple weeks ago. I’m so lucky. 


Horses into Sheep

As 2014 leaves us and we move into 2015, it’s only fitting to write about my past experiences as well as future goals. Of course, people will say it is cliche to do such a thing, or even to make New Years Resolutions. I think that if you want to make a change, and starting a new calendar off with those new goals in mind is how you accomplish said goal — go for it.

7194e47f33ba8ad070443c7ace9ff9e4That being said, my goal is a simple one. A resolution which doesn’t quite line up with my overall life aspirations for the year, but a simple change which I hope will have lasting effects. This year I plan to walk 10,000 steps a day, everyday. I’ve been good about this the past semester living in Chicago and I’m sure if I had recorded my steps in Rome I’d have been successful as well. However, in the past I have been driven by academic and work achievements at the result of neglecting my physical and mental health.

This has become very clear to me, demonstrated through my conflicts with family and friends. I know that when I am active, it gives my mind some time to wander and decompress. I’m not saying that I’ve found the “cure” for sadness, or that no one has told me this before. My doctor tells me consistently to exercise more, but I think it’s important that I am choosing my own plan to add activity to my life. With walking, I’ll seek healthy choices in other aspects of my life as well. I’ll sleep better, eat better, drink more water, and decrease my caffeine and alcohol intake. Again, all possibilities which may result from increasing physical activity but which are not my main focus in the New Year.

I think the reason why our resolutions don’t work is because we create goals which are too broad with strict expectations for ourselves. (I also think that simply telling people who make resolutions they are being cliche or will fail is a contributing factor…but that’s for another post 😉 )

fb0be63b21255436cb2a86ee387b9c54We tell ourselves to “lose weight” or “be successful” or “find inner peace”. None of these goals are impossible or outrageous to achieve, especially not in 365 days. But life gets in the way. We have one bad day and suddenly eating a piece of cake means it’s all pointless and we drop our resolutions. Quietly, only weeks in to the year. Our friends laugh at this failure, not in a malicious way, but regardless we understand that our resolutions will never come true.

At least, that’s what I’ve experienced. Maybe my resolutions haven’t been about losing weight, or eating a piece of cake, but I think this is a common story for many of us. Which is why I want to walk 10,000 steps everyday and only focus on that aspect of my physical well-being. I’m not asking my body to burn more calories than it takes in. I’m not even asking for weight loss or changes in my appearance. I only want to add physical activity to my life, any benefits of this change are bonuses.

So, what exactly did 2014 look like, then?

5080653cb017630255e53ba51138ade9Last year, I studied abroad in Rome for 4 months. I visited Vermont and the North Shore with my boyfriend. I lost my grandmother suddenly after an MRI. I lost some friends, whether through mutual or one-sided factors. I experienced improvements and digressions with my family. I’ve feared losing my dog, even though I know that this is inevitable.

I guess I could look at the last year and say it wasn’t great. Sure, I studied abroad, but this happened and that happened and I’m not any closer to my goal of “X” than I was on January 1st, 2014. And honestly (here’s the big cliche theme that you’ve all been anticipating!!) “2014 Danielle” let all those setbacks ruin all of the wonderful things I did accomplish and experience. Even up until December 31st, I was letting the man who made lewd comments or the woman who cut me off driving (or walking) or the lack of Instagram likes on a picture determine my worth. I allowed for minuscule events in my life to overshadow making the Dean’s List or securing early graduation or all the great memories abroad and last summer.


I’m very open about my struggle with depression and anxiety, something I wish for everyone struggling with mental health issues to feel comfortable about discussing without feeling embarrassed or ignored. But I recognize that it took me years to get to this point. To tell friends, family, and complete strangers that my brain isn’t wired in the same way, doesn’t feed off of happy energy at a healthy rate. Instead, sapping all the happy feelings up and using them too quickly. My mood can plunge simply because my brain didn’t have any more endorphins or serotonin to circulate. I constantly seek that “moment” when I knew I was happy. Rather than enjoying happy memories, I think “wow, this is how it is to be happy… I wonder when it will happen again”, wasting those precious times. But, “2015 Danielle” (aha, here is the cliche) will continue to fight my body’s tendencies through action.

Most likely, I will still tweet about the lewd comments, still mutter under my breath at the slow walkers, and wish for more likes. But in the “grand scheme” of things … no one bad memory should alter my perception of my self and my abilities and my life. Of course, it’s day 3 of 2015. Someone is going to think or comment about how resolutions are bogus or always fail. But why should they fail? I have a healthy functioning body, I”m young, I have enough free time to walk around or skip taking the bus (I’ll miss you, 147) to class a few times a week. We all spend too much time waiting for things to happen to us, why shouldn’t we all aim to change our futures for ourselves?

I think I’ll be much happier knowing that this year was made better by my own changes in behavior.

X Danielle