Friday, October 31, 2014

What Anxiety Feels Like

     I know when people hear someone say they have anxiety, it seems kind of trivial. It's like, "So you get nervous sometimes, don't we all? What's the big deal?" Sure, we all get nervous sometimes, but it's more than that. It's not just nervousness. It's a lingering, unrelenting feeling of worrying and uneasiness, sometimes for no apparent reason.

     For me, there are a lot of specific scenarios that make me anxious and that I know I'm going to be anxious in. One of the main ones is during thunderstorms. I know a lot of people love thunderstorms and say that thunder is calming, and I have never understood that. If I even see a flash of lightning through a window or hear a rumble of thunder, my heart starts beating a million miles an hour, my hands shake like crazy, I get lightheaded, and a lot of the time I get nauseous. A lot of people know I have a horrible fear of lightning but it's not just that I'm afraid of it. There's something about the flashes of light and the cracks of thunder over and over again that just makes me feel like I'm in the worst possible place I could be. No matter where I'm at, even if it's a car or a building away from windows, my anxiety overrides my reason. I can tell myself a million times that I'm perfectly safe and that the odds of being struck by lightning in a year are somewhere around 1 in 1,900,000 and the odds of being struck in your lifetime are 1 in 12,000 (I don't like these odds), but my anxiety always wins.

     There are a million and one things I could bring up that give me anxiety, but the point is, it's nearly everything. Not that everything gives me anxiety all the time, but sometimes the smallest things can make me freak out. Sometimes it's just being home alone, sometimes it's remembering something bad that's happened to me, sometimes it's driving while it's raining, sometimes I don't even know what it is. The point is that a lot of people don't understand that it's not just being a little nervous once in a while. Picture being so anxious that you're short of breath, your hands and arms are shaking, you feel like you might throw up any second, and you're lightheaded.

     The best way I can describe it is like the brief moments right before a car accident, when you know something is about to happen and you know it won't be good, but it hasn't happened yet. It's like that few seconds that go in slow motion right before the collision when you're just waiting for the impact and hoping it doesn't do too much damage, except it doesn't last just a few seconds. Sometimes that feeling lasts a few minutes and sometimes it lasts all day.

     I've figured out ways to manage it and make it a lot easier to go through my day when I'm anxious without having to take medication. There was a point when I thought I needed it, but I've learned otherwise. I don't want to be dependent on any sort of pills to make it through each day, so I've figured out that if I listen to relaxing music and visualize it that it calms me down and makes my mind a lot quieter. I've learned that if I take deep breaths and focus on one sound around me that it helps calm my nerves. Meditating helps too and I'm sure there are a million other things I could do. Anxiety isn't always debilitating but it isn't fun, especially when it progresses into an panic attack, but I sometimes have to just let myself freak out and let it out before I can feel better. In a way, I have to let go of the feeling of the few moments before the collision and let it happen.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Tips For Taking Self Portraits

I consider myself to be pretty good at taking self portraits. I take self portraits for pretty much every project I get the chance to do so for. Self portraits are my favorite because I don't have to worry about posing people or finding people when I need them and I always know exactly what I want, so I'm just the best subject I have. Since I do them so often, I've figured out that there are many ways to make it easier and tips that can be really helpful.

  • Use a camera with a flip screen
It's so much easier to see what the picture looks like and be able to compose it when you can actually flip the screen to see it while you're in front of the camera, kind of like when you take a selfie with the front camera. If you don't have a camera or access to one with a flip screen, you can put a mirror behind the camera so you can see the screen in the reflection. 

For this photo, I set the camera on a chair in front of me and flipped the screen toward me. I used the timer and would give myself a few seconds to set myself in front of the camera and I looked in the flip screen to place myself in the shot.

  • Use a tripod 
Using a tripod is much easier than having to set the camera on top of a chair or stacked boxes (which I do a lot) because it's easier to move and get the angle and height you want. If you don't have a tripod, I would suggest using a friend if you can. You can just set up the shot and settings how you want and ask your friend to to hold the camera in the right spot and press the shutter release. If you don't have friends or a tripod, then I guess you're stuck using chairs and boxes. 

For this photo, I set up the shot with a friend in my place and set all the settings on the camera before handing it over to my friend and asking her to keep it in place and press the shutter release once I was in the place I had set the shot around

  • Use the timer 
You can just set the timer on the camera so after you press the shutter release you'll have time to get into position. It's even better if you have a little remote shutter release so you can press it from far away instead of having to run to and from the camera to get into the shot. 

I came up with the idea for this photo while taking a shower, so I actually ran out and grabbed the camera and set it up on the counter pointed toward the shower. I set the timer to give me enough time to hop back in the shower and get into position behind the sliding glass. 

  • Put someone or something in your place to focus the camera on
If I don't have someone to put in my place while I focus the lens, I usually put something in my place depending on what I'm planning for my position to be. If it's close up, then I can sometimes put my hand out far enough to focus where I plan to be, but if it's farther I tend to find something that can stand on its own like a chair. Pretty much anything works.

In order to take this photo, I put the chair I am sitting in, in the spot of where I wanted the photo to focus. I focused on different parts of the chair and used the timer to get into position so that different photos had different main focal points and chose the one where I liked the focal point best. 

  • Plan it out
It's much easier to take the photo if you already know what you want it to look like. If you know where you want to be in the shot, you can set it up accordingly. At the same time though, I would suggest you play around with it and try different things if you get any new ideas. You never know what you'll end up liking the best. 

I had the idea for this photo for weeks before I finally did it. I had originally wanted to do it with someone else as the subject but figured it would be easier to do on my own rather than finding someone to take time out of their day to pose for me. I knew exactly what I wanted, and although I tried a few different angles and positions for this photo, I ended up with a photo similar to what I originally visualized. 

Monday, October 27, 2014

10 Things You Probably Don't Know About Having Deaf Parents

My mom and step dad were both born deaf, so we use sign language around the house and people seem to be really fascinated or weirded out by it. I get a lot of people who have strange assumptions or lots of questions about what it's like so this is my way of explaining.

1. My house is not at all quiet

Because my mom and step dad can't hear, it's just louder. My siblings can yell and scream all they want and it won't matter because our parents can't hear them. That means louder music, higher volume on the TV, and louder voices.

2. It's no different to me than having hearing parents

It's not strange to me at all. It's what I'm accustomed to just like most people are accustomed to having parents who hear. I'm used to it and it's my normal. 

3. There are sometimes communication difficulties.

It's like having a subtle language barrier. My mom doesn't always get my jokes or understand certain sayings just like I don't always understand all her signing and sometimes we find it difficult to explain things to each other. There's a bit of a communication gap sometimes.

4. Our house works a little differently

We had lights hooked up to the doorbell and phones when I was younger that would flash when someone rang the doorbell or called. I couldn't just yell to my mom whenever I needed her for something. I'd either sit and wave my arms and hope she noticed or I'd have to get up and go to her.

5. People never really know what to do around them

In public, when people try to talk to my mom, they're always surprised when they realize she's deaf. People used to call the house asking for her and when I would say she was deaf, most of the time they thought I was saying she was dead and they would apologize over and over. When I would have friends over, they would always say hi and try to talk to them even though they couldn't hear. A lot of my friends found it weird when I would talk about gossip and stuff in front of my mom that they wouldn't normally say around their parents.

6. Having a hearing aid wouldn't fix everything

My mom has used a hearing aid before and mostly all it seemed to do was annoy her. She often said it was too loud and she couldn't distinguish what different sounds were or where they came from. If I were to talk to her, she wouldn't understand me if I wasn't signing. Pretty much she just would hear if someone yelled for her or if there was some kind of commotion.

7. I have to interpret ALL THE TIME

Even as a kid, everywhere we went, one of my siblings or I would have to interpret. Whether it was at a restaurant or a store or any public place, if my mom needed to ask a question or talk to someone, it was always through one of us. I even interpreted parent-teacher conferences at school. When we would eat dinner or hang around the house, my siblings and I would have to sign our conversations even when we were just talking to each other so that my mom and step dad could know what we were talking about. It was never weird for me, though. Again, it's just my normal.

8. Sign language is simpler than speaking

The grammar is a little different. Lots of small words that don't have much meaning get left out because they're just not necessary. If I were to sign that, I would probably say something like, "Lots small words have little meaning so don't use because don't need." It's just condensed and that's similar to how they type and text, too. Also, facial expressions and body language are utilized. Because there's no tone inflection, deaf people have to use their faces to convey emotions, therefore, they are very expressive people.

9. Deaf people are ridiculously social

There have been multiple occasions where my mom has been approached by another deaf person, a complete stranger, in public just because they noticed she's deaf. Plus, every time my mom has ever run into a friend of hers, it takes days to get her away because they will sit and talk in the middle of a grocery store pretty much all day.

10. Deaf culture is a thing

Deaf people have a different kind of way of living. They have lots of little day to day differences and specific things they do, kind of like the lights attached to the phones. We always have captions on the TV, talk on a VP (video phone similar to Skyping but on a TV instead), the only time they listen to music is if it's because they like the bass, and there are even conventions and events specifically for deaf people to get together.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Misconceptions About Living In Las Vegas

Since I've come to New York for college and had to explain to everybody I've ever met here that I'm from Las Vegas, I've realized that most people have really strange ideas about what Vegas is like. Maybe it's because the east coast is the opposite side of the country, I'm not really sure, but these are the most common assumptions I hear.

1. I must gamble a lot

No. I don't. First of all, you have to be 21 to gamble in Nevada and even if I could gamble, I wouldn't. A lot of my family has worked as poker dealers in casinos so I do enjoy poker but never for real money.

2. I'm probably a show girl or a stripper

I know a couple girls who have been rumored to be strippers and I knew a couple girls who were actually showgirls but it's rare. Mostly everyone I knew in high school was a lifeguard or worked retail.

3. The strip is basically the whole city

It's not. Las Vegas is actually pretty big and the strip is just one section of Las Vegas Boulevard. There's North Las Vegas, Las Vegas, and Henderson mainly, and most people I knew actually lived in Henderson.

4. I spend all my time on the strip

I almost never go to the strip. I've visited most of the hotels and once in a while would go to concerts on the strip and I worked at the Luxor for a summer which is the big pyramid hotel with the light on top. But other than that, it's pretty rare. In high school, people went to the strip for homecoming and prom and rented hotel rooms for birthdays and stuff like that, but I never have.

5. I probably live in a hotel

I actually live in a house. Weird.

6. It must be sooooo cool

It's normal for me. I can't imagine it's really that different from living anywhere else. I lived in a normal neighborhood and went to a normal school and did normal things like anyone I know from anywhere else.

7. I must party and go to clubs ALL THE TIME

Not at all. I can't think of anyone I know who actually goes to clubs in Vegas that lives there. I barely know anyone who goes to bars. There were hardly even parties when I was in high school especially compared to the amount of parties in college.

Friday, October 24, 2014

The Problem With Halloween

My favorite thing about Halloween is getting to wear some ridiculous or cliched costume out in public while everyone else does the same thing. I've seen people come up with some ridiculously clever things and some ridiculously cute things. Now I obviously know that many girls tend to wear skimpy, revealing things but I also know that people tend to judge them for it. Saying that girls just use Halloween as an excuse to dress like a slut is not only incorrect, but rude and ignorant as hell.

The thing about saying a girl looks like a slut is that there's no point in it. Slut shaming does nothing except try to devalue girls and make the person slut shaming feel superior and look stupid. Every girl has the right to dress how they want, whenever they want, and they should not be sexualized and shamed for their bodies or how they choose to show them.

I'm not saying I've never called someone a slut, because I have done my fair share of slut shaming. The difference is that I've realized that it's ridiculous and wrong and that I should not be against other girls, I should be on their side. There are already enough people judging us for our bodies and choices and I should not contribute to the problem that is constantly affecting me.

The thing is, girls should be able to do whatever the hell they want with themselves and their clothes. Who cares if some girl dresses in a decorated bra and shorts as a costume? She has every right to and it's not like it affects anybody else anyway. If that's what she wants to do, she shouldn't have to explain herself to anybody. If someone doesn't like it, that's their own problem.

Whether you want to wear something that covers your body or one that shows your stomach and legs, it shouldn't matter. It doesn't matter. Do what you will and ignore anyone who says you're wrong either way.

Music I HIGHLY Recommend

Some of these artists I've known for a while and a lot of them are fairly new to me, but I listen to all of it. I'm constantly asking my friends if they listen to different musicians and I just feel the need to constantly share music, so here is some that I recommend from a couple different genres.
(PS. These can all be found on Spotify)

One of my personal favorites, this is two guys (Jordan Kelley and Jason Huber). They're alternative and upbeat and kind of funky and always put me in a good mood. One of my favorite songs of all time is theirs and it's called "Monogamy."

This is a brother and sister (Georgia and Caleb Nott) and I saw them live and they are just plain cool. Georgia is adorable and her voice is so pretty. They're kind of indie and kind of pop and awesome. "Bridges" is their most well known song at the moment.

Zella Day
She's not very well known, but she reminds me of a more upbeat Lana Del Rey, and although I'm not the biggest Lana fan, I do love Zella. She just came out with a new song called "Hypnotic" and it is just that.

This is a rap/hip hop group made of Slug, Ant, and Plain Ole bill, according to their Facebook page. This is some of my favorite music. It can be really upbeat with songs like "Sunshine" and still be serious. I find a lot of it to be really motivating and positive.

This is Lizzy Plapinger (MS) and Max Hershenow (MR) and they're kind of dark and kind of indie and difficult to describe. My favorite song is "Dark Doo Wop" and much like their other songs, is kind of foreboding and slow and the vocals are fantastic.

Nosaj Thing
Jason Chung is the guy who makes this awesome stuff. It's pretty electronic but so relaxing. My favorite song here is "Safe" and Kid Cudi used his song "Aquarium" for "Man On The Moon (The Anthem)."

This is Scott Hansen and he creates some of my favorite study music. It's kind of electronic but also really ambient and just chill, for lack of a better word. I find it much easier to focus listening to this than anything else, but I can also fall asleep to it.

Women, Movies, and Relationships

There are all these ideas floating around being spread through movies and books and shows on television that influence girls' thoughts about what a relationship is in a strange way. Nearly every love story describes a "need" for another human being and displays huge dependence on that person for their happiness and well being and people perceive it as "romantic." 
These stories portray female characters as hopeless and fragile while showing men as strong and heroic and honorable for the things they do. In so many movies, the man makes a mistake by cheating on the woman or leaving her and the woman always accepts him back after a big romantic gesture, whether it's him running through the airport to find her or bringing flowers to her door step and then they ride off into the sunset on his motorcycle and everything is perfect once again. If the woman doesn't accept him back, she's a bitch or too stubborn when in reality, she's just standing her ground and is more than capable of making her own decisions.  
Girls are taught that they need a boy to take care of them and that if they have a boy in their life then everything else will fall into place magically because a boy will fix everything. Boys, however, are taught that girls can be a nuisance. My problem is that even as adults, there are smart and successful women who still think that they need to be in a relationship in order to have significance. Having a boyfriend or a husband is not what makes a woman important and should not be what women base their value on. Women are valuable on their own and a man should never define a woman.  
Having a man in your life will not fix everything. This idea that a knight in shining armor is going to come along and "save" you if you just wait long enough implies that women can't save themselves. We are not incapable of taking care of ourselves and the implication that every woman needs a man to do it portrays us as weak and inadequate and it's just not accurate in the slightest bit. 
The idea that we need another human being in order to survive just doesn't make sense to me. When one person in a relationship describes their significant other as their "other half" I'm just baffled because that implies that you were only half a person before they came along. What I don't understand is why anyone would want to be completely dependent on another human being for their self worth and happiness instead of just depending on themselves. 

My Insomnia

Sleep is a necessity that most people tend to take for granted. We need sleep as human beings in order to function, to reinforce our memories and learning, to maintain our body temperature and to survive. Sometimes, though, sleep can be a luxury that is too often taken for granted.  
I've learned just from this past year that not sleeping enough (or at all) can really mess 
with your body and your mind. Like most people have, I pulled the occasional all nighter, had restless nights here and there, and sometimes just stayed up too late to be wide awake the next morning, but I learned that having insomnia is a completely different story and a completely different world.  
I first started having problems with sleeping around a year ago, the beginning of my freshman year of college. I can't remember exactly how it started (probably because my memory was and is still not the greatest, which I attribute to my lack of sleep, for the most part) but I do remember very clearly some specific instances and the consequences.  
Over at least a few weeks, maybe a month or two, I started sleeping less and less every night until I was sleeping an hour or two a night, if I was lucky. Otherwise I was up for days at time, attempting to take naps during the day and failing, or falling asleep in the middle of class with no notice. It was completely involuntary. It's not like I was up all night watching movies or studying and just letting the time slip away and then realizing I had to be up early for class. It may have began somewhat like that but I had no control over it once it got worse.  
On one occasion, I had laid in bed with my eyes closed, tossing and turning, until the sun came up and as soon as I finally began to fall asleep, I realized I had a class at 8 AM but I refused to deprive myself of sleep I needed and emailed my professor informing her that I hadn't slept in days and I wouldn't be attending class because I needed to sleep if I finally could. Other times, I would wander around my dorm floor from the time everyone went to sleep until they woke up trying to tire myself out enough to fall asleep. 
It was like my body was working against my mind. Even in my bed with all the lights off, no noise, no phone, and no distractions, I should have been able to fall asleep easily. I had always been able to before, but it was hopeless. My mind wouldn't quiet, my body couldn't relax, and nothing in me would just turn off for even a little while. I spent hours and hours a night imitating sleep, just praying I could get even a few hours, begging my body to let me.  
During the day, I was a complete fog. I often misunderstood people, or just didn't hear them at all because my brain was so tired I just couldn't comprehend what was going on. The simplest tasks became the hardest thing in the world because exerting any sort of energy seemed impossible. Just changing my clothes and picking up my books took everything out of me. I was so physically weak, everything exhausted me. I felt so frail and fragile and I was. I could barely hold myself up most days. I was starting to forget things, too. If you had asked me what I ate for breakfast, my mind would have been blank. I lost track of time and I lost track of everything I needed to do or was doing. I probably wouldn't have even been able to tell you what day it was because they all were the same to me. It all just blended together because without sleep, nothing was separating my days from one another.  
Then there were hallucinations. One morning, I awoke on my side with a person next to me. There was an arm wrapped around me, holding my hand. As you can imagine, I freaked out. I turned over, sat up, looked around, but there was nobody. There was nothing there, yet I had felt it. Around the same time, I saw my curtains blowing around and contorting almost as if it was windy inside my room, but the window wasn't open and there was certainly no air conditioning or fans blowing.  
 Once in a while, lights would move on the ceilings or shadows and lights would flicker. At first, I would point it out to whoever was around me, but I soon realized that nobody saw it but me. After a while I started hearing things. Once, when I was watching a movie with friends, I started hearing the voices of a group of men talking and singing. If I remember correctly, we were watching The Blair Witch Project. There were many other instances, but the point is that it happened more and more frequently and the hallucinations became more and more prevalent the less I slept.  
Half of me was terrified and the other half of me was too tired to care or do anything about it. It was exhausting questioning whether the things I was seeing and hearing were actually real or not. The thing about it though, was that I wasn't even worried. Had I been in a normal state of mind, I would have been. At the same time, had I been in a normal state of mind, none of it would've been happening. I just figured that I would eventually either get used to them or that they would go away.   
My friends and my RA's and even my professor that I had emailed about missing class all expressed their concern for me. My lack of sleep was no secret to anyone. People asked me constantly how I slept so little and seemingly functioned so well. I didn't function though. I just learned to go through the motions of a day without collapsing. I learned how to pretend I understood or cared about the conversations I held. I learned to drink cups and cups of coffee in the mornings and carry a travel mug full of it everywhere I went in attempt to stay awake throughout the day, although it didn't seem to make much of a difference.  
Now, as I'm yawning at 4:30 AM I can say for a fact that it's because I stayed up because I had the idea to write this and not because I won't sleep for a day or two. That's not to say that magically all my problems were solved, but over time it did get better and I figured out how to fix it. I went from taking two or three Benadryl at night to knock me out to meditating with iPhone apps that would just lead me through it and found that such structure and simplified thought could sometimes put me to sleep. I also found that the more regular my daily routine got and the more regular my eating schedule became, the more I was able to sleep. I eventually was able to sleep a decent amount every night which, for me, means five or six hours and has, for the most part, become my norm. I still tend to stay up fairly late and sometimes have trouble sleeping and waking up early (probably because I'm just not a morning person at all) but I can also sleep 9 or 10 hours a night on the weekends. I'm more than happy with the amount I sleep compared to then and I can guarantee I'll never take sleep for granted again.