“Your Mental Illness Does Not Define You”

I may have mentioned it before, but I have depression and anxiety. Luckily, I am largely high-functioning and my symptoms are usually not severe thanks to medication. However, that does not mean I’m “cured.” In fact, I believe I’m “high-functioning” because of my anxiety: I have to keep busy to keep my mind off looming thoughts. The way I explain it to people it that although I may not be struggling my mental illnesses it at a certain point in time, it’s still there.

Recently, someone I know started a mental health blog and said a few things that rubbed me the wrong way. I’m sure they mean well and a lot of their content is relatable, so I will not point fingers. This is a reaction to start a conversation rather than strong criticism.

Several phrases along the lines of “your mental illness does not define you” in particular upset me. Even on my “good days,” my depression and anxiety are still there. While feelings of anxiety are perfectly common in most everyone, the medical anxiety disorder is so much more than just worrying. Anxiety disorder is more or less a persistent physiological, psychological, physical and emotional state of stress. That is pretty much the bones of what I experience, but my personal anxiety ticks come in many different shapes and sizes depending on the situation. I tried my best to describe my particular symptoms in this post I made about a year ago.

Anxiety rules most of my chains of thought and motives my actions, whether I like it or not, so yes, it actually does define me. It may not be a part of me I particular enjoy, but I’m not ashamed of it. Removing yourself from your mental illness can be dangerous and unhealthy. There is a huge stigma around mental health, particularly in men, and not acknowledging your symptoms or being in denial might only make them worse. Rather, we should encourage people to know the signs of anxiety and depression and give tools to coexist with them.

At the moment, there is no hard and fast cure for depression or anxiety, just ways to treat it. That means these mental illnesses will likely be with you for the rest of your life in one way or another. For people with anxiety and depression, even on good days, symptoms can still be largely present. People should not be shamed into silence because it’s convenient to people who don’t understand, rather, should be encouraged to be open about how their mental illness may affect their work, academic and personal lives. I know I gained a lot from being more open about my depression with my professors, supervisors and friends and I encourage everyone with mental illnesses to make yourself visible because you deserve to be supported.

Note: this is queued post.

T-Minus One Month

Only one month until I start a new chapter of my life doing my Master’s degree in Brighton! Where has the summer gone?

To prepare for my trip, in the next month, I have to…

  • Finish work: trying to finish strong at my internship to get good recommendations
  • Shop for things I can’t get in the United Kingdom: thigh chafing relief gel, my make-up brands, etc.
  • Make doctor appointments: to stock up on my prescription pills
  • Take passport photos: for my train pass and university card
  • Set up a bank account abroad: to make paying for my house and phone less of a pain in the arse
  • Pay any final housing fees
  • Set up my English phone number: thankfully, I still have my SIM card from two years ago, I just have to top up my account
  • Plan and queue blog posts for the next two months (particularly when I’m on holiday)
  • Several “dry runs” of packing: pack like I’m about to leave, but make sure my bag isn’t overweight and I’m not taking things I don’t need
  • Change out jewelry: for work, I had to keep my smiley and nose jewelry subtle but now that I’m free, I’m getting a horseshoe for my smiley and a nose ring
  • Tattoo appointment: regrettably, I picked at my tattoo while it was healing and it led to some discoloration, so I’m going to get it touched up as well as a new tattoo with my best friend Sydney
  • Finalize my New York trip plans: I can’t believe I leave in a bit over two weeks!
  • Finalize my trip plans and train for the Camino de Santiago
  • Clean out room by donating things I don’t wear or use
  • Order things I need for my house to pick up once I arrive in Brighton
  • Stay on top of my visa application: I just have to gather my supporting documents and send it out as soon as possible
  • Change the address of tickets I’ve ordered to my new address: I’d hate to have concert tickets arrive at my parents’ house the week before a gig
  • Familiarize myself with my course textbook
  • Create a monthly budget
  • Apply for jobs in Brighton
  • Get in touch with my buddies: I will soon be paired with several incoming international or exchange students coming to Sussex to mentor
  • Bid friends and family adieu

Phew! I’m tired just writing this. Wish me luck as I’m in the final stretch of preparing for my journey!

Also, I changed my blog title to match my URL, just for consistency sake. No big deal.

Note: this is a queued post.

20 Facts About Me

Oh, hey. I’ve gotten quite a bit of followers in the last few months, so I thought I’d share a bit about more me!

  1. My first time out of the country was to Canada when I was eighteen in May 2013. I visited my friend Nina in Montreal, Quebec and my (now ex-) boyfriend Colin in London, Ontario. Since then, I made about half a dozen trips to Ontario over the next few years, most recently in July 2015, until Colin and I split and visited Nina in August 2015. My first time abroad was when I studied abroad in England from September 2015 to June 2016.
  2. I have two piercings and three tattoos. I have my right nostril and my smiley pierced. My tattoos are a small paper airplane on the back of my neck, “We are not meaningless” on my left side of my torso and a traditional-style dagger through a rose on my left calf with the script “Follow your bliss.” 
  3. I W.W.O.O.F.’ed in June 2015 in Ontario. W.W.O.O.F. is Willing Workers on Organic Farms, where you volunteer to live and work on an organic farm and your pay is room and board. It’s a big reason why I started this blog, in addition to my study abroad program that closely followed.
  4. I can ride my bike with no handlebars (no handlebars, no handlebars…).
  5. I have never broken a bone. My worst injury would have to be when I sprained a joint in my collar bone at an Enter Shikari concert. It hurt to do most anything (I would end up in tears just trying to get dressed), and it didn’t help that my dominant hand was the one that was hurt. Fortunately, after a week or so, it was about 80% healed, the other 20% came over the next month and a half.
  6. I’m not a big museum person. I have the attention span of a goldfish, so reading plaques with paragraphs of texts or looking in miles worth of art isn’t in my forte. If I’m alone, I will usually peruse at a comfortable speed (usually always moving) but I’m too self-conscious to do that alone.
  7. I bought an 80GB iPod classic with pet-sitting money in 2007 and it is still my best purchase to date. It’s not fully functional anymore, but it was a good little machine in its prime.
  8. I’ve been a vegetarian since 2011. However, since my time abroad, I’ve become more of a “flexitarian,” fluctuating between vegan, vegetarian and the very occasional meaty meal. 
  9. I worked part-time at a professional theater on my university’s campus as a glorified usher for my entire undergraduate career. Our theater, Gammage, got touring casts of professional musicals such as Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, Hamilton, and more. My job duties were to scan tickets, direct people to their seats, be the first line of defense against any issues with patrons and answer questions about the show and venue. Most of the other workers were students as well, so we got to do coursework on the job during the show. It was an amazing, easy job to have as a student and I couldn’t have asked for a better experience. I wrote a bit about my tenure at Gammage here.
  10. Right now, if I had to choose, my favorite musical artist is Rise Against, my favorite television show is It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, my favorite film is Across the Universe, my favorite book is The Green Mile by Stephen King and my favorite musical is Kinky Boots. Although I have a lot of other honorable mentions that I could talk about all day…
  11. A bit about my family: I have two younger brothers, Kyle and Ryan. My parents met in high school when they were living in southern California. Both my parents are educated to a Master’s level and my dad works as an engineer. My mom’s aunts live relatively local and most of the rest of my extended family lives in southern California. Last but most certainly not least, I have a nine-year-old Border collie mix called Bailey and he is my world.
  12. I don’t think I could travel for months on end, but big up to those who do. I get fatigued after about two weeks and love having somewhere to return to that I can call home, a bed of my own to sleep in and some consistency until my next adventure.
  13. This is the whitest story ever told, but in terms of Friends, I’m 50% Monica, 5% Rachel, 20% Phoebe, 20% Chandler and 5% Ross.
  14. I am a really picky drinker. I don’t do beer or wine whatsoever, I’ll have the very occasional coffee or tea and I’m trying to cut back on soda. I mainly drink water and juice.
  15. I’ve recently grown really fond of snakes, I’d love to have one as a pet!
  16. I happened upon Wonder Woman being filmed in Trafalgar Square, London in February 2016. The scene they were filming was a war victory scene, shown at the end of the film. It was pretty neat!
  17. My two absolute pet peeves are chronically late people and people cracking their knuckles. I say “chronically” because I understand that shit happens, but it ticks me off when people are consistently late, it shows extreme disrespect. And the sound of cracking knuckles is like nails on chalkboard to me, it literally makes me grimace.
  18. I love going to gigs. Here’s a more or less exhaustive list of all the gigs I’ve been to, the setlist played, my personal account and future concerts. The only artist that I love and have yet to see live is Billy Talent… maybe one day. 
  19. My go-to karaoke song is Sk8r Boi by Avril Lavigne and if I had to lip sync for my life, I would do it to Lay All Your Love On Me by ABBA.
  20. I don’t know exactly what I want to do when I grow up, but I don’t think it would be just one thing. I can definitely see myself changing careers several times. Right now, I’m really enjoying the education and outreach parts of my job, so I might start there!

Note: this is a queued post.

My View: Trophy Hunting

A few weeks ago, I talked about my view on recreational hunting, where I expressed my personal distaste for the practice, but emphasized how important it is for conservation.

This time, I will be talking about a different kind of recreational hunting: trophy hunting. In trophy hunting, part of the animal is kept and usually displayed. Trophy hunting is legal (not to be confused with poaching, the illegal practice of hunting or fishing) but may be restrictions as in recreational hunting. However, its legality doesn’t protect it from criticism. Like other forms of recreational hunting, trophy hunting can drive in massive funds for conservation, with hunters paying tens of thousands of dollars for a single kill, but a lot of animal rights activists are skeptical about where the funds go and criticize the ethics of the practice.

For simplicity sake, I will look into a few points about trophy hunting and case studies:

It’s not sporting: Some conservation-minded hunters criticize trophy hunting as “not sporting.” A lot of hunters take pride in tracking their quarry and the relationship with the outdoors and consider the chase more important than the kill. On the other hand, trophy hunters measure the success on the hunt exclusively by what they kill. I strongly agree with this idea. For example, while male lions are one of the most sought after trophies, they are surprisingly easy to kill. Male lions sleep for about twenty hours a day and are largely sedentary when they’re awake while the lionesses do all the work. That doesn’t sound very sporting to me.

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July In Review

Work has been fine this month, I’m quite enjoying it! I do a lot of different things and my plans often change at the drop of a hat, so that always keeps things exciting. Aside from administrative things and errands, I did a few days of field work this month with Game and Fish.

First, we were meant to do a fish salvage northeast of Tucson near Mount Graham. We were going to remove a few hundred Apache trout from two different creeks to supplement brood stocks in a few different hatcheries and prevent inbreeding within lineages. From Tucson, I rode up with a coworker about three hours to the bunkhouse, where we met up with a few dozen other Game and Fish employees from across the state (mostly interns like myself) for a briefing the night before the salvage. The morning of the salvage, we met with the Forest Service to be briefed on the condition of the active fire on the mountain. Obviously, it was largely contained, or else a salvage wouldn’t even be on our radar. However, after taking one look at us, the Forest Service said it wasn’t safe for us to go on out mountain because we didn’t have the proper protective gear. We needed hard hats, fire-retardant pants, all leather boots that come eight inches above the ankle and more. Of course, the department doesn’t have this kind of gear, especially for over twenty people, as we aren’t fighting fires. We were all frustrated, especially since a lot of people drove well over five hours for this salvage and this miscommunication could have been easily avoided.

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Product Review: Activity Tracker

While I train to walk the Camino de Santiago in September, I decided it would be useful to have a pedometer to track the distance.

First, I wasn’t too bothered for something fancy, so I settled for the cheapest one I saw at WalMart, which was this. After a few uses, I realized it wasn’t quite as functional as I wanted, so I returned it and ordered this better model from Amazon for the same price.

Similarities between the two watches include step tracker, distance tracker, calorie tracker, notifications, sleep tracker and reminders.

Differences in the two devices are mainly in the way the aforementioned features function. The step tracker on the first device was too sensitive: it would think I was walking when I was driving, which gets annoying when I have an hour round-trip commute everyday.  

Notifications work similarly on both devices: incoming and missed calls and text messages. The first device could also do e-mails, but the second device could do most forms of social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Whatsapp, Instagram and more. However, the one thing I like about the first device is that the text message preview on the watch was longer: about 50 characters, where the preview for the new device is only 20 or so characters.

Both devices have sleep trackers, but where the first device only tracked how long you sleep, the new device also tracks what type of sleep (awake sleep, light sleep and deep sleep).

Both devices allow you to set reminders, such as when to get up, when to go to sleep, when to take your medication and more. Additionally, the new device allows to set a sedentary alert, which notifies you every 15-80 minutes during set hours (the frequency and time frame of alerts is totally customizable) when you’ve been sitting too long, which is really helpful during those long days in the office.

Finally, a few features about the new device that I like are the interchangeable wrist bands, vertical display, no charging cable (the body of the device plugs right into a USB charger), high water resistance and active mode, where you set the watch to record your time, distance, steps and calories as you exercise.

I highly suggest this product to anyone trying to maintain a healthy lifestyle! It’s affordable, accurate and the app interface makes it really easy to use.

What’s In My Bag: Field Work Edition

For my job at the Arizona Game and Fish Department, I play a variety of different roles, one of which is going out into the field on various projects such as surveys and captures. In my undergraduate degree, even in my few one-off field work expeditions, I quickly noticed there’s an unspoken understanding of what to wear on days out and you can’t help but feel judged if you don’t dress down enough (not to mention, the following are quite practical): over-the ankle boots, cargo pants, a light long-sleeved shirt and all the sun-protective gear you can spare.

In addition to dressing the part, it’s important to have all the supplies you need:

Backpack: I fell in love with this backpack when I bought it back in March for hummingbird field work. It’s small, but fits all the essentials and is of extremely good quality. Not to mention, the raincover recently came in handy.

Water bladder: I read on a forum that this bladder fits my bag the best and does it ever! Per suggestion of Alex my field partner, I was looking for a bladder that zips shut as he’s really satisfied with his and I’m very satisfied with mine as well.

More water: Because even on a good day, my 1.5 liter bladder may not cut it. I bring an extra few liters of water in a jug and I have a 32-ounce Hydroflask for an extra cold treat later in the day.

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