Category Archives: Life Decisions

Finding Purpose

Hi everyone!

So much has been on my mind lately (what else is new?), and I’ve made multiple attempts to write, only to save my posts as drafts for one reason or another. (Mainly because I think they are all dumb!)

Today I finished up a course called Coretography, which was designed by Tracy Otsuka to help people develop a roadmap for their lives. Of course I already know a lot of things about myself, but I’ve always had trouble figuring out what road I want to travel down, and where exactly I want to end up.  Her course helped me narrow things down a bit. I figured out:

My top 8 core values: Creativity, love, brilliance, humor, authenticity, health, environmentalism and mindfulness.

My passions: Being creative, being authentic and self-improvement.

Combined with my top talents: Empathy, humor and intelligence.

And my skills: Writing, grammar, and teaching.

Plus a few other things… resulting in my PURPOSE: to share my own life experiences in order to help people going through similar things.

At this point I think my best way of doing that is to continue with the blog, so I had better get writing!

The most prominent life experience I am currently experiencing is watching Mom go through chemo. At first it was so scary to know that she had cancer and that the prescribed course of treatment was to pump her full of hazardous chemicals.

Watching her lose her hair, lose weight, become fatigued and worn out has not been fun. I feel pretty helpless, and as a result I worry that I am not being supportive enough. I suppose one positive aspect of the whole thing is that we have been communicating a lot more than we used to.

Her treatment is progressing nicely though. Since February she was one one chemo cocktail, and today she just started a different cocktail. I probably shouldn’t use the word cocktail because that sounds like a fun drink garnished with fruit on a plastic sword. In reality, it’s about as opposite of that as you can get. One of the drugs they gave her today is nicknamed the Red Devil. She was warned to expect nausea, among other things. Fortunately she is only getting 4 doses of that, so I am crossing fingers and toes that she can bear it and get through it as quickly as possible.

It’s so mind boggling to me that in order for a person to fight cancer, they have to take in such toxic chemicals. I suppose there is a metaphor in there somewhere, but I’m not sure what it is. She has been doing what she can with diet and supplements to help her body stay strong, and I am sure that is helping her. I even started taking one of the supplements myself (tumeric cucurmin) and I am about 90% sure it is helping my eyes, but that is a topic for another post.

I hope you, whoever you are who is reading this, is well. Thanks for reading, and please check back soon.

What is my life?

As I sit down to write tonight, I’m already irritated because I can’t find the list of writing prompts I thought I’d saved somewhere on my laptop. I’m annoyed because the screen is too bright, even when I finally figure out where to go to turn it all the way down. I’m frustrated because I keep pushing my own creative pursuits to the back burner, because of my job.

My job. Why do I let it consume me so? I never planned for this. In fact, I used to scoff at people who worked at corporate jobs, those fools who were trapped between cubicle walls in the fluorescent hell of the rat-race. I would never be one of those people, I said.

Yet here I am, going on year 5 of being loyal to the same company. Granted, I’ve never actually had to sit in a cubicle this whole time, and never far from a window, so that may have helped. And of course I have gotten to travel more than I ever have before. So that’s definitely cool. I also get paid more than I ever have before – but that’s not really saying much when you consider what I got paid before.

I work really hard. I work my ass off. I work through lunches. I stay late. I hunch over my laptop in hotel rooms, desperately trying to connect through the VPN so I can catch up on work in the middle of the night. I worry I’m not doing enough, that I haven’t proven myself yet, that I am dispensable. I tell myself that soon I will have to ask for a raise, but I need to prove myself first.

Over the summer, one of my coworkers left to go to a better paying job. As she was leaving, we had a meeting to go over her projects and divvy up her responsibilities among the two of us who would remain. In the meeting, it became obvious that this girl was barely pulling her weight. She was only working on three projects, and even those were shittily done. I get it that she already had one foot out the door, but what the hell? At the time that this happened, I was so busy, I couldn’t take on anything else, so in a way, it worked out that there wasn’t much to actually take on.

As I sat in the meeting where she carefully outlined the three projects she was going to turn over to us, I felt sick to my stomach. It was like there was something wrong with my cognitive function because I just couldn’t believe what I was seeing and hearing. All along, I had just assumed that she was working as hard as I was. How silly of me!

Obviously, I had assumed wrong. Once I got in my car and started driving home, I actually cried and ranted as if I was going through a breakup. I felt so angry and betrayed.

Expressing my rage through Snapchat. Note my “personal kanban” system behind me.

So anyway, that whole situation was the impetus for my most recent feelings of frustration at work. Of course I would like to earn more money, but as I mentioned above, I always thought I had to prove my worth before I could ask for more.

The other day my boss told me that she realized I’m not getting paid enough. I guess in light of the aforementioned spoiled millennial coworker leaving, it really became obvious how unbalanced the workload in our department was. She did point out that when people are good at their jobs, and they get things done, they tend to be asked to do more and more –  because it actually gets done and done properly. So that’s kind of a backhanded compliment because it basically means that I will just keep doing more and more because I am a nice, conscientious person.

On the plus side, I will hopefully be getting a hearty raise before long. It is interesting because the amount she told me she wants to give me is the same amount I was planning to ask for, but I was hesitant because it would be a big jump. So I’m keeping my fingers crossed that it will happen. Otherwise, perhaps I really do need to put on my big girl panties and go out and find somewhere that will compensate me for my work.

Of course none of what I just wrote really addresses my true problem, which is finding time to dedicate to my own, personal creativity. The truth is, I am usually so worn out by work that when I come home, I just want to eat dinner and then veg out. I basically have no friends right now because I never make the effort to reach out to anyone outside of work. I don’t feel like I have the strength.

It’s really bad, and I know I can’t let things keep going like this or I am going to end up being one of those people who has a midlife crisis. Since I spent most of my 20’s in an existential crisis, I really can’t afford another one.

So yeah. That’s where I’m at right now. It’s why I suck at blogging lately, and you never see me posting pictures of my art anymore. It stinks. I don’t like it. I’ve got to get it figured out.

The F Word

I’m talking about fear, of course. In going through a stack of paper shoved on a shelf, I found what’s written below. I wrote it a little over 4 years ago, when I was underemployed, drowning in student loans and generally feeling like a loser. You don’t always realize how far you’ve come until you look back at where you once were. Of course I have made mistakes and stumbled in the 4 years since I wrote this, and I am constantly thinking about what I can do to grow and become a better person. In some aspects, I have come a very long way. I now have a job that requires me to keep a grip on my fear and plunge forward, whether I am ready or not.

Feb 13, 2012

It’s weird how fear can hold you back so much. Frustrating, too. When logic and reason tell you that you can do whatever you put your mind to – that you could be a great success with lots of effort and perseverance. Yet those beasts within – fear and self doubt and the inner critic – all come thrashing out to put a stop to any ideas of self improvement or attempts to get somewhere in life.

I have spent the last 4 years of my life battling this trinity of self-destruction. Battling is probably an overstatement. More like, being battered by. It’s not like I’ve never felt these feelings before. In fact, much of my life I have struggled to feel “good enough” for society. But most of my life I’ve had structures in place that kept me moving along the stream of progression.

School: growing up and progressing from grade to grade, completing milestones like “get driver’s license”, “take SAT’s” and “graduate high school” kept me occupied during my formative years.

College: I blindly rolled right on to college right after high school. This is where the beginnings of my “grown up” issues really began. Suddenly it hit me that I was an adult and things from here on out were pretty much up to me. I felt seriously unprepared for this.

Religion: Having grown up with religious guidelines and expectations (Be good. Pray. Find a good man to marry. Have babies. Keep the faith). I was able to keep the self-doubt monster at bay for most of my early life.

Job: During my early 20’s I had a “real” job where I was expected to show up on time every day, dress professionally and perform my duties. In turn, I was rewarded with steady pay, good health insurance and a schedule for my days.

The two pillars of Job + Religion kept me safely enclosed in a box for a few years. Many people (I assume) must feel content in such a box because it seems they spend their entire lives inside the parameters set by religion and their careers. This concept didn’t appeal to me though. I knew there must be more to life and I wanted to experience it.

First, I had to get out of the religion. It wasn’t as simple as ceasing to attend church. My whole social life was that church. My family had been part of it for generations. I’d never even chosen to be part of it. I’d been born into it. Until my 20’s it never even occurred to me that I could leave. Even when I left, I had no intention of finding another church. I wanted out of religion, period. In doing this, I essentially said goodbye to a whole community of friends and ‘aunts’ and ‘uncles’. I don’t think I knew just then how brutal that would actually be. Perhaps naively, I had not entirely thought it through. I think I envisioned myself being “not religious” yet somehow continuing to socialize and be welcomed into these people’s homes.

Leaving Christadelphia was like stepping off the edge of a cliff. It was the craziest thing I have ever done, but also the most important decision I made in my life. It took a ton of courage and swallowing my fear to take that step. It took me years to find my footing, and in some ways I am still reeling from the repercussions of that decision, but I do not regret it for one second.

You would think that after making such a bold decision, the rest of my life decisions would have come easy. I would have overcome my fear of failure or rejection or disappointment. Nope. It seems to be one of those things you have to keep pushing.

Just the other day I wrote a list of the things I am afraid of when it comes to writing and sharing my writing publicly. Here goes:

Fear of:

  • failure
  • judgement
  • success
  • looking silly
  • looking dumb
  • being wrong
  • getting ridiculed
  • getting criticized
  • being mocked
  • not being liked
  • being liked too much
  • being seen as arrogant
  • oversharing

Hah – I just threw that last one in there. I don’t want to overshare, but I also am trying to take Brene Brown’s advice of letting oneself be vulnerable. I am going to show up and let myself be seen, as she says.

I am not going to let my fear cockblock my dreams.

Will you come along for the ride?




Kicking the Habit

Hi, my name is Heather and I’m a Facebook addict.

What’s that saying?  The first step to recovery is admitting you have a problem?

Telling people you have a Facebook addiction doesn’t quite get the same reaction as saying you’re battling an alcohol or drug addiction. It’s not like anyone’s ever died from Facebooking too much.

I am willing to bet that relationships have been ruined, jobs lost, and negative health consequences have been incurred all thanks overdosing on Facebook. I’m not gonna lie, there have been occasions when I’ve chosen to stay inside looking at Facebook instead of putting on my sneakers and heading out for a quick jaunt around my neighborhood.

How did I get so hooked on Facebook? Let’s take a walk down memory lane.

The Early Years

I got my first taste of the strange and exhilarating world of the Internet sometime back in 1997. We lived in rural Vermont and had to use dial-up to connect. I can still recall the rhythmic tones and static that meant our computer was reaching out and grabbing on to the World Wide Web.

Back then the Internet and my comprehension of it was comically lacking. I thought that you got charged for visiting Internet sites that were far away, like a long distance phone call. At first we really only used the Internet for sending emails to each other. We would connect just long enough to download new emails and then disconnect while we read and composed responses. We did this because using dial up actually did rack up charges on the phone bill.

Even then, when all I was doing was emailing, the addiction had started. I would suffer the 10-minute procedure of getting online to check for mail several times a day. It would have made sense to just check every evening at say, 8 pm and then wait the 24 hours for a reply. But no. I couldn’t wait.

Just so you understand how bad my thirst for fresh email was, check out this story. For about a week, we were without a monitor. I got this crazy idea that I could log into Outlook, connect to the internet and then PRINT any new email that came in. I’m not making this up. I turned on the computer and sat at the desk. I stared into the space where the monitor had been and I visualized where the Outlook icon was located on the desktop. Believe it or not, I was able to open up Outlook and connect to the internet. I heard the familiar ding indicating new mail coming in. If I had paid attention in computer class I might have remembered the correct keyboard shortcuts to open new messages, but this is where my plan failed. I couldn’t figure out how to open the email and print it. Instead I had to wait in horrendous agony until we got a new monitor.

Talking to Friends and Random Guys on the Internet

This was my portal to the world in 1997…

In my senior year of high school,  a friend told me about a chat program called ICQ. It was amazing. Logging on and seeing a friend’s name with the bright green flower next to it, meaning that they were online and available, was such a rush. You know what else was a rush? Being available for random chats. My mom reads this blog so I will keep it clean, but let’s just say I had some interesting conversations with people all over the world thanks to that feature.

I soon learned about AIM, and set up an account (lilywhite8) on there as well. Most evenings I would set up camp at the computer (which was in my mom’s bedroom!) and talk to my friends into the wee hours of the morning. (I think I could be online for a long time after 9 pm because the phone rates were cheaper?) My mom somehow managed to sleep despite the glowing screen and my endless tapping on the keyboard. Crazy, right?

The Middle Years

AIM was a part of my life for many years to come. Being on the computer without AIM on and connected made me feel like I was missing an arm. Even if I wasn’t talking to anyone it just made me feel a little less lonely picturing my friends hunched over their computers in their homes at the same time. Plus we all got creative with away messages. I was that girl who posted tragic song lyrics in the hopes that someone would think I was really deep and emotional.

At my first office job I installed AIM on my work computer and kept company with online friends throughout the tedious work day. Of course this was before any of us had smart phones or even cell phones with a texting feature, so having AIM was how you kept up with your plans for the evening or shot quick notes to friends.

A friend then told me about something called LiveJournal, and I started my first blog! Of course I didn’t call it a blog, I called it LJ. It’s actually still out there for all to see, and if you ask me nicely I might tell you what my username was so you can look it up. It was not lilywhite8, but good guess.

I also tried a blogging site called Xanga, but that didn’t last very long. Then came Friendster, which was nothing but a flash in the pan.  Around the same time was when MySpace appeared so of course I had to try that too. It’s funny, in hindsight, every time I tried out a new social media site, I’d end up adding all the same people as friends. It’s like it was more about the program than actually keeping in touch and building meaningful relationships.

The Facebook Era


After a 5 year hiatus from college, I returned to academic life at the age of 25. I opened my Facebook account that first semester, which  was the fall of 2005. It was pretty boring at first because it was only open to college students and since I had just started college again, I only knew about 5 people. But soon I started accumulating friends through my classes and then people I knew at other schools would connect. It must have only been a year or two later that Facebook opened up to everyone because that was when it got out of control for me.

Suddenly everyone had Facebook. I connected with nearly everybody I’d ever known in my entire damn life. Focusing on my coursework became super challenging, what with juggling AIM conversations, scrolling through Facebook posts and bedazzling my MySpace page.

I knew it wasn’t healthy or positive to be this distracted, but at the same time I wanted to be able to keep up with everyone and be available at all times in case anyone was looking for me or had the urge to tell me something.

I told myself that after I graduated and got a real job, I would stop using Facebook so much. Graduation came and went and I struggled to find work in the tough economy. Being on Facebook was a way of avoiding a difficult reality. Should I have bucked up, quit Facebook and stepped up my job searching efforts? Yes. That probably would have helped. But I argued to myself that Facebook was a networking tool that I needed to get ahead in life.

The first job I managed to land after graduation was not at all what I wanted. I drowned my sorrows in Facebook, which I was on for much of the workday. (I was a receptionist – there wasn’t much work to be done.)

It was that winter that my Facebook addiction really reached it’s raging peak. I had over 500 friends. I played FarmTown. I posted status updates every couple of hours and responded to everyone who commented (and felt like a loser if no one commented). I had political and religious arguments. I got angry and cried over conversations had on there. It was craziness. To this day I don’t know how my relationship with Dave survived. Probably because he didn’t even know how bad it was. It was my little secret.

The Winds of Change

A moment that really struck me and made me realize what an idiot I was being was on a gorgeous spring day in Vermont. I had gone up to visit my family for the weekend. John and Nick were still in high school at the time. We’d all gotten into this silly Facebook game called FarmTown. Mom and I, and I think Nick (John was probably still in bed), were sitting around the table eating breakfast and taking turns passing around a laptop so we could harvest each other’s crops in FarmTown. At some point I looked out the window and noticed that Dad was outside working in the real garden. Suddenly it struck me how dumb it all was. I should have been outside then, with my sleeves rolled up, enjoying the warm spring sunshine and a day where I didn’t have to be stuck in an office.

Soon after that, I deleted FarmTown and cleared my friend list of all the people I’d added after meeting only once, or who I’d accepted a friend request from just so I could add another friend to my list.

By the end of that year, I’d moved on to another job – one without a computer! That helped to cut back on Facebook time immensely, but to be honest I still spent a lot of time contemplating witty status updates that I could then post as soon as I got home (this was before I had a smartphone).

Over the last several years my obsession with Facebook has waxed and waned. Sometimes I am so sick of it that I deactivate it and try to pretend it doesn’t exist. Other times I revel in it, posting brilliant status updates, sharing gorgeous photography from my Instagram account and participating in lively conversations in the groups I’m part of. (I’m teasing… my posts aren’t always brilliant… I probably drive people nuts with the righteous vegan content I prefer to share lately).

No One Cares

Pardon me while I go Eeyore on you for a moment. Something that has been bothering me about Facebook for a while now is the realization that none of it matters. How many of my Facebook friends are true friends offline? How many of them would notice if I just disappeared from Facebook? It goes the other way too. On more than one occasion I have been speaking with someone in real life and discovered that they had deactivated their Facebook account and I hadn’t even noticed their absence. There have been times that I’ve seen someone’s name on Facebook and noticed that we weren’t actually friends, but I honestly couldn’t recall if I had un-friend-ed them or if they had un-friend-ed me.

On Facebook, if you’re not continually active, no one notices your absence. Unless of course you have stalkers.

Ma Ma Ma Ma Madness

So why am I obsessing over my Facebook obsession now? Well, I’m finding the problem is once again creeping up and taking over my life. I reach for the phone every time I have a moment to spare (and even when I don’t!). It’s especially troublesome at work, when I am faced with starting a task I don’t particularly enjoy. I’ll just scroll through Facebook for two minutes before I start the next project. Hit a roadblock? Let’s check Facebook. Feeling distracted? Check Facebook. Feeling like I need a little attention? Post a witty observation and check Facebook 14 times throughout the remainder of the day to see if anyone liked or commented.

The worst of it is that most of the time I check Facebook there’s nothing significant to discover. Sure, I have friends who are probably more addicted than I am, who post articles and memes and funny jokes all the live-long day, but I get tired of seeing that.

I crave real interaction. I want to talk to people about real things. Feelings. Observations. Thoughts on life. I want to get an email that starts out with a genuine greeting and contains meaningful content. I want to know if anyone’s actually read this far down on this crazy long blog post, and if you think I’m absolutely nuts for sharing this somewhat embarrassing confession about my searching the interwebs for meaning all these years.

Of course there are positive aspects of Facebook. I can keep in touch with my family, who are spread out all over the place, as well as my NFED friends, who are also spread out all over the place. But ultimately, if you’re really important to me, and I’m really important to you, we’re going to have the capability to communicate without Facebook.

Stopping the Madness

A week ago I deleted the Facebook app from my phone. I installed a habit tracker app and gave myself permission to check Facebook three times a day.

One week later, and I deactivated my account. I had managed to limit my Facebook checking to less than three times a day. That is until one day that I caught something in my news feed that set me off on an “I’m deleting everyone who has ever upset me!” rampage which lasted a solid hour and left me with about 50 less connections. Immediately I began worrying if they would notice and be hurt or upset.

What a flipping waste of time! Clearly I cannot handle even limited access to my account. That’s why I consider it so similar to an alcohol addiction. You don’t say to an addict that they can limit themselves to three drinks a day. They can’t. I can’t. It’s all or nothing.

That being said… before I deactivated my 10-year old account, I created a new one so that I could keep up my EEC Chick Facebook page. But that’s different. I couldn’t spend hours on there if I tried, because it doesn’t let me look at any of my follower’s profiles. Which is good, or I would have been stalking every one of you instead of focusing on writing this post.


I thought long and hard about sharing this weakness. It really does make me feel like a loser to admit just how much time and energy I have wasted on Facebook and on other social media throughout the course of my life.

I don’t mean to make light of anyone who struggles with drug or alcohol addiction. In no way do I consider my inability to select the “Shut Down” option on my computer to be on par with the struggle to quit drugs or alcohol. I do, however, think that the root of the problem probably comes from a similar place. And to be honest, I never let myself experiment with drugs because I think I probably would have become an addict if I had.

I think that is all…

What Made Me Me (So Far)

Yesterday I asked for topic requests and Dennis suggested writing a post about the 5 major events that have shaped my life and why.

This is my pensive face.

What a cool idea! I immediately began thinking about which events or moments I would tell you about. What I came up with aren’t exactly events in the sense that there was a clear beginning and end to each of them, so I will call them influences. How’s that?

Here’s the list I came up with, in chronological order.

1. Being raised Christadelphian

2. Moving to Vermont at 16

3. Losing my Religion

4. Going to UCONN

5. Finding my NFED Family

There are a few more things that have deeply impacted my life but since they involve other people, I am respecting their privacy by not mentioning them. Although I would like to share, they are not my stories to tell. At least not yet.

Anyway! So each of the five influences mentioned above will be expounded upon further in future blog posts.

Stay tuned!

Busy Bee or Drama Llama?

Ever feel like a star shape not fitting into a square hole?
Ever feel like a star shape not fitting into a square hole?

It seems I have been slacking with posts again. I am often thinking about this blog and what story to tell next, or what issue to discuss. Sometimes I think it would be cool to have a way to transmit thoughts directly from my mind into the computer, but then again, that could be pretty freaky. Plus I guess that’s what fingers and keyboards are for. Or microphones.

I am always hesitant to say I am busy or overwhelmed, because I feel like I don’t have the right to complain about stuff like that when I don’t have kids and I don’t have a high-stress or even a high-importance job. The truth is, a lot of the stress and anxiety I feel is in my own mind. I feel pretty overwhelmed most of the time, but if I step outside my mind and look at my life I am kind of embarrassed to see that from the outside it doesn’t look so bad.

I mentally carry around all these projects and these tasks that I want to do, but the truth is, my time-management skills pretty much suck. Maybe it is the curse of being an INFJ that I get too wrapped up in my own head, and the way things feel to me, rather than seeing things as they really are.

Here’s something I wrote in my notebook during a particular angsty lunch break the other day:

Most of the time I feel like a star-shape not fitting into a square hole. Maybe in the grand scheme of things I am being too picky and too spoiled. I mean, I know there are people a million times worse off that I. Like the poor people in Bangladesh who are losing their land daily thanks to rising ocean levels. They literally have nothing but the clothes on their backs, and here I am feeling sorry for myself because I have to spend 8 hours a day in an office in front of a computer when I would rather spend 10 hour days in an art studio or writing stuff that I want to write, not some boring business mumbo-jumbo. I realize I make more money in one hour than those poor people make in a month. But it’s not all about money! I mean, of course living here in CT, a lot is about money and I did just buy a new car and am planning TWO trips outside of corporate-paid travel. Plus medical expenses.

I think that is my curse in life… I feel like the fear of unforeseen medical expenses is what keeps me tethered to a “real” job. It’s not like I think I will have cancer or an accident. It’s the stuff I KNOW will happen, thanks to EEC. I’m already dealing with trying to get my dental work updated. My eyes require constant care and will likely get worse the older I get. My ears, despite all the surgeries, will need life long maintenance. Even if nothing else goes wrong, just my normal medical maintenance schedule is quite pricey.

So is it just an excuse I use to keep up from trying something that scares me? There’s that expression I like about how outside your comfort zone is where the magic happens. What if I never try for fear of going broke or being let down somehow? All I know is that I can’t live life in complacency. I want to SOAR. I want to live! To be creative and express my passion… and to GET PAID to do that!  

So yeah. That’s where I’m at lately. This is a pattern I have seen multiple times in my life before, but I think it is time I do something different to resolve it. Despite being easily frustrated by petty things in my current position, I am in a place where I can plan ahead and figure out what I want to do next, rather than just leaping headfirst into the next opportunity that opens up. I think my past issues with job dissatisfaction resulted from my tendency to just take whatever job opened up next, rather than really saying “does this suit me?”. Ok, there was that one time I turned down a job where I’d be working for a certain helicopter company near here…

Well, that’s enough rambling for now. I actually do have a lot of “real” stuff to do today, and tomorrow I am off to the New England Vegfest.

Hopefully I can pull myself together next week and post some new and exciting blog posts!

I’m a sparkly star shape and I don’t fit in!

Allergies Be Gone!

One of my many attractive qualities is that I suffer from allergic rhinitis, which is more commonly referred to as just “allergies”. Itchy, watery eyes and an itchy, runny nose are pretty much guaranteed if I am not careful.

I wasn’t always this way. At least I don’t think so.

Say hello to my little friend.
Somewhere in my early 20’s, I started to notice that I sneezed an awful lot, even when I wasn’t sick. And my nose was runny almost all the time. These symptoms got worse in the springtime, when my sinuses would get stuffy and my eyes would be more red-rimmed than usual.

Back then I had allergy testing to find out what I was allergic to. Turns out it was a lot of things. Birch tree pollen, animal dander and dust, to name a few. At that time, there was an option to get allergy shots, but you had to go to the doctor every week to get the shot.

Um, no thanks.

Instead, I opted to try a prescription nasal spray, and over-the-counter allergy medicines. I tried a lot of things over the years, including herbal remedies (tablets of tree pollen, anyone?) and getting quite intimate with the neti pot before finally settled on Claritin.

Side note – the neti pot. That thing deserves a post of it’s own. Maybe I’ll even do a video! Just kidding – that’d be gross.

This is a ceramic neti pot. Mine is plastic. Otherwise I would have broken it by now.
Anyway, the Claritin worked pretty well, although if I were to pet a cat and then touch my eyes or nose, I would immediately be stricken with a relentless itch and redness for hours afterward.

A couple of years ago my allergies seemed to get even worse. The sinus congestion got so bad that it affected my hearing, if you can believe that. On the advice of my ENT, I switched to Claritin D (D = decongestant) and after a few days, my head began to clear out and I could hear once again.

So anyway, what this long drawn-out backstory is getting to is that I finally got so irritated with the allergies wreaking havoc in my daily life that I decided to do something about it. I had heard about something called Sublingual Immunotherapy, or SLIT and I wanted to give it a try.

SLIT is an alternative to getting allergy shots. As the name suggests, it involves putting drops under your tongue. You can do this at home, so it eliminates the weekly visits to the doctor for shots. Less doctor visits and no shots? Count me in.

It is not necessarily the cheaper option. At this time, it’s not FDA approved, so it’s not covered by health insurance, whereas allergy shots are. Fortunately, I have an FSA (Flexible Spending Account) through work, so I can put aside money, tax-free, and use it to pay for stuff like this. Each batch costs about $240 and lasts for about 3 months. The process can take up to five years to complete. Still, if it works, it will be worth the price.

So how does one go about getting on this regimen, you ask?

First, I had to get another allergy test, because my previous one was a decade ago. This is important, since the whole point of the immunotherapy is to stimulate your immune system and build a tolerance to the antigens that cause your allergies.

Second, I got a lecture from the allergy nurse about things I should do around my house and in my lifestyle to manage my allergies. Some of this stuff I already knew, like, take a shower and wash your hair before bed if you’ve been in dusty or heavily pollinated situations (i.e. springtime…).

One of the suggestions we acted on right away was to make the bedroom a “clean zone”. We bought a HEPA filter. We also got mattress, box spring, and pillow covers. Since I am allergic to dust, this was key. It was also recommended that we shut the cats out of the bedroom since I am allergic to them too. (Honestly.) However, we do let Autumn sleep with us at night, because otherwise she would sit outside the door and howl, which will drive a person insane in about 10 seconds flat. But during the day she is not allowed to lounge and bathe on the bed like she could in the good old days. We also wash the bedding in super hot water to kill any dust mites that may have wandered into the room uninvited.

So anyway. After I had the allergy test (which was a skin injection test), I had to go back to the doctor to get the results. As he unfurled the scroll upon which all of my allergies were listed, he agreed that it would be wise for me to begin SLIT treatment.

Bottles from my escalation phase. They’re kind of pretty, aren’t they?
I had to wait a couple of days for the drops to be ready, because they make a special cocktail for each patient. The first batch was called the Escalation Phase. These were diluted versions of the prescription. Each bottle was marked with a colored dot to show the order in which the bottles should be used. By starting out with a little and slowly working up to the full-strength dose, the body would have time to get adjusted to the treatment.

Each bottle would be used for 3 weeks. The first week was just one drop under the tongue. Week two was two drops, and week three was… you guessed it. Then it was on to the next bottle. They gave me a chart to use to keep track of what day I was on and how many drops I should take. I was to make a note if anything weird happened during this time. They also gave me a prescription for an Epi-Pen, to use in the event I had a major reaction. I still carry the Epi-Pen around with me just in case but I have not had to use it.

The only side effects I noticed were on bottle #3. The skin on my neck started flaking and peeling off like I had a sunburn. But this was also the week after I had my hair dyed, so I wasn’t sure whether it was the drops, or a reaction to whatever was in my hair.

Later that same week, I woke up with one eye swollen shut and super puffy. It looked like I’d been punched in the eye! It so happened that this was a week I’d been staying at a hotel for a work event, so again, I wasn’t sure if it was the drops, or the fact that I was sleeping on a hotel mattress with feather pillows near my face. Or that I was having a stress reaction related to my crazy work schedule. The possibilities were endless. (Ok, not really.)

Less than a month after that, I had completed the escalation phase and it was on to the maintenance drops. My first batch of maintenance drops, it turns out, I was overdosing a bit. In my early morning haste, I forgot to look in the mirror and count the drops that were emerging from the little spigot on the bottle like they had instructed me.

Instead, I was just doing three hearty pumps of the liquid into my mouth. By the 7th week, my little bottle was looking pretty low and I was somehow supposed to squeeze another 5 weeks out of it. When I called to reorder, I was reprimanded and told to take it down a notch.

Now I am well into my second maintenance bottle. I can’t say I’ve noticed any miraculous improvement in my allergies, but as spring approaches I should be able to see some difference. I am still using a nasal spray to keep my sinuses cleared (and my ears open). I have tried skipping it for a few days, only to find my head slowly filing up with fog again. I’m keeping my hopes up that eventually I will be able to stop using the sinus spray and not be so easily brought down by a dust bunny or a cat hair or the grains of pollen floating on the wind.

Confessions of a “Nice” Girl

This past week a couple of things happened at work which got me thinking about something I need to change. I’m a bit of a people-pleaser. Ever since I can remember, I would do things to ensure that people would like me. I mean beyond the normal, “let me do something nice for this person because I want to”. I basically just listened and paid attention to what other people wanted from me and I did my best to fulfill that. Things like being as obedient as possible at school, always handing in my homework on time and doing whatever was asked of me. When friends asked something of me, I would do it, even if it meant that I had to put aside something else I would rather be doing.

The same behavior progressed throughout my adult life. At work, I generally did whatever was asked of me. I guess subconsciously I just thought that one day it would pay off, and somehow I would end up in a better position, making more money and maybe even being someone else’s boss. But the reality is, I began developing resentful feelings when things didn’t pay off. At one particular job, which I downright hated, I was physically incapable of getting there on time. I didn’t know it at the time, but that was classic passive-aggressive behavior. I was too timid to speak up and tell my boss that I couldn’t stand her (not that it would have been appropriate to do that exactly…), I let myself be treated like the office slave, and the only power I had was to show up late as a kind of  F-You to the office. Needless to say, I quit that job before I turned into one of those grouchy middle-aged office drones that every workplace seems to have.

When I started at my current place of work, about 3 years ago now, it was a fresh start. I fell into my normal pattern of learning the job and becoming efficient at it, while putting on my happy face and making friends around the office. But suddenly I am aware that people know that I will do whatever it takes to get the job done, and instead of this being an asset, it is putting me at a disadvantage. This past week I realized that some people will use my friendliness and willingness to step in and help to take advantage of me. There were actually two unrelated situations this week in which I was asked by co-workers to do certain things. One of them being a high-level coworker, I simply did the things he asked, until my boss asked me why I didn’t push back. Well, I hadn’t even thought of telling him to do it himself. I’m embarrassed to say that I never even thought to tell him “no”, or suggest that he do it himself.  The other incident was really stupid and involved arguing over who was going to pay to send tablecloths to the dry cleaners. On that one, I put my foot down and told the other person to get the tablecloths cleaned herself before returning them to me. Now that the incident is over, I can see it was probably a waste of time and breath, but I will say I felt some empowerment in standing up to her. Yet at the same time I am still pissed that she treated me the way she did, especially as she was someone I previously felt a good connection with.

Sometimes things happen and it just broadsides me. I know I can be a passive person. It’s part of my nature that I don’t want to cause strife or stir things up. But I hadn’t really considered it to be a negative thing. That people I work with could look at me like I’m a doormat that they can walk all over. It bugs me, because I don’t really WANT to be more forceful or intense. But I also realize that all this time that I am doing things for other people, regardless of whether I really want to be doing them or not, I could be doing myself a favor by standing up and saying no once in a while.

I actually have a book called The Assertiveness Workbook, by Randy J. Paterson, Ph.D. I got it a couple of years ago at the recommendation of the therapist I was seeing at the time. I’ve read it but I haven’t really done any of the exercises in it. I’m so passive that I can’t even bring myself to perform the exercises. No, perhaps it is because I am still in denial about how bad my situation really is.

I’m too old to keep blaming my issues on my childhood. In therapy, I would talk about how people were mean to me, and people didn’t like me because of my differences so I didn’t want to do anything to give anyone anymore reason not to like me. So I always tried to be everything to everyone. And of course I liked the positive responses I’d get, especially from teachers telling me how smart I was or whatever. And then in adult life, I loved the praise I got from my early employers about how fast I picked up skills and how I got along with everyone so well. But here I am at age 34, basically not much farther along in the professional world than I was at age 24, and it’s dawning on me that it’s time I start standing up for myself.

Maybe I’m being too hard on myself. I mean I have come a long way. But I am tired of being seen as the nice girl who will just do whatever people ask of her. I’m trying to realize that aside from my immediate family and a few close friends, who cares if people like me or don’t? What difference does it make? And why do I expend so much energy trying to please everybody, when I should be focused on getting the job done, or fulfilling the goal. Why it it so hard to accept the old adage that you can’t please everyone?

All this ties back to the blog too, because there are some topics I want to write about and I think, oh, I can’t write what I really feel about this because some people won’t agree with me, and I don’t want them to stop reading. Or, I don’t want them to not like me. Yet if I keep posting these boring, vanilla-flavored posts, no one’s gonna like it after a while. Right?

Sigh. I actually feel kind of sick inside just thinking about it.