psychology

The “epidemic” affecting the women of western society: A Rant

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Women of the west have been taught
to love themselves,
to respect themselves,
to stand up for themselves,
to be independent,
to think freely,
to stand firmly with what they believe in,
and to hold their own.

Independence and free will have been ingrained in their beings.

They are told that they could be anything that they want when they grew up and they believe it.

The role models:
Harriet Tubman
Marie Curie
Eleanor Roosevelt
Mother Theresa
Frida Kahlo
Rosa Parks
Margaret Thatcher
Toni Morrison
Ayaan Hirsi Ali
Hilary Clinton
Olympia Snowe

They prove that “girl power” does exist
and they tell women that they are
invincible,
unstoppable,
and uninhibited.

As a woman of the west, I believed this

…and then I went to university.

Seriously, what the hell happened?
A strange phenomenon occurs at the bars, the clubs and the parties:
Insecure girls can simply check their inhibitions at the door,
drop their responsibility off at the coat check,
and leave their self-awareness at the bar.
Yes, girls, you can drink to your heart’s content,
you can be stupid, ignorant, and dumb,
and you can dance up on bars;
you can make-out with strangers,
you can go home with different strangers,
and you can even wake up the next day and not have to take ownership for any of it!

Ladies, this is a huge problem.
I have observed this type of conduct in the contexts of western female students (especially those being of American and British cultures).

Today, U.S. president Barrack Obama made a speech calling sexual assault a “college campus epidemic” where 50 percent of sexual assaults in America occur in universities and where 90 percent of all sexual assaults occur when alcohol is involved.

In these same American institutions where there is an “epidemic,” there are flyers advertising the following sentiment:
“My rapist doesn’t know he’s a rapist.”

Here’s where I am throwing up a flag and calling out obstruction–
If you go to the bars, the clubs, and the parties,
if you drink to your heart’s content,
if you’re stupid and make bad decisions,
if you go home with strangers,
you will wake up the next day feeling full of
disgust,
shame,
and regret.

It’s called cause and effect.

Face it:
Did you like the fact you had willingly taken 10+ shots with “your girls”?
Did you like that you purchased your own double shots at the bar?
Did you like that you accepted multiple shots from your best friend, your study buddy, or that random guy from                       down the hall?
Did you like that you had embarrassingly danced on the counter and showed complete strangers your panties?
What about blacking out, did you like that too?
And what about stumbling over to the other side of town after the club closed for the after party?
How about falling down the stairs at a party at an unknown flat?
How did you like being pressured into drinking hard liquor instead of beer?
How’d you like wandering into bed with a stranger that was more intoxicated than yourself?
And how did you like feeling dirty in your worn, soiled clothes from the night before?

Did you like it?
NO!
So, you freaked out.

What could you possibly say to attempt to justify your behavior?
You didn’t want to say anything, so you have no excuse but to take it all back.

Do you remember that you were drunk?
Yes.
Do you remember that you flirted with him?
Yes.
Do you remember that you were the one that initiated the make-out sessions with him?
Yes.
Do you remember that you whispered to in his ear, “hey, let’s get out of here.”
Yes.

Yes, you remember, but you feel
low,
guilty,
and ashamed
after it’s all said and done.

You feel so badly about yourself that you deny it and take it all back because you know that in “the girl that cried rape,” it’s your word against his and the media has shown that the girl always wins.

The mantra of the media echoes a challenge to your faded conscience:
“It’s not your fault.”

So, you lie and cry.

The law states that those who are incapacitated cannot consent to sex.
^What does “incapacitated” mean?
Stumbling?
Slurred speech?
A gibberish text?

If simply being “incapacitated” is the dividing line of consented sex and rape, why isn’t there intervention?
Why aren’t there police officers or security guards standing outside of bars, clubs, and parties?
Why don’t girls exit from one side and guys must exit on the other?

ATTENTION LADIES AND GENTLEMEN, PLEASE KEEP YOUR HANDS TO YOURSELF AND WHERE I CAN SEE THEM.

Phew! No more one-night-stands and no more walks of shame.

Reality check:
What is the real line that cannot be crossed?

In western society, it has become socially normal and culturally acceptable for young persons of the female persuasion to
one: get drunk,
two: make bad decisions,
and three: lie and take it all back.

There is no
ownership,
responsibility,
and acceptance of one’s own mistakes.

Why?
So they can feel better about their actions?
So they can feel better about their “numbers” (which don’t mean anything anyway)?
So they can feel better about
the poor choices,
the stupid decisions,
the mistakes,
the regrets,
the “I shouldn’t haves,”
the errors,
the misjudgments,
the “uh-ohs,”
the shots,
the kisses,
and the (dare I say) SEX?

Oiiiii, I just do not understand.

Isn’t it sad that the western culture of today tolerates and accepts both regret and unaccountability?
Don’t the “girls that cry wolf” realize that they are mocking the real victims of sexual assault and consequently taint society’s perception of women’s credibility as a whole?

No? Forget about yourselves and think of the real victims–
the women that didn’t willingly take a shot from a stranger;
the women that didn’t drink excessively to incapacitation;
the women that didn’t drunkenly climb into bed with a strange guy;
the women that were violently attacked.

When you regret the things that you did when you were under the influence of alcohol and try to erase it all by “crying rape,” you distort the credibility of the real victims in the eyes of the media, police officers and district attorneys and, consequently, you discourage them from speaking up for themselves and for justice.

In “crying rape,” the world’s perspective narrows and sees all females as victims and all men as attackers—
this is completely and utterly false and actually strengthens the argument of gender inequality.

The gray area:
Is there something that stands between rape and a consensual one-night-stand where not every drunken hookup is the result of a violent attack?

This, most certainly, does not imply that girls can go into a situation knowing what is going to happen, and then take it all back the next day.

No, it does not work this way.
Hey girls–
Remember when you were children that you were taught that you can be anything that you want to be when you            grow up?
Remember that you are strong, independent, and fierce?
Remember that you do not have to be ashamed of your sexuality just as much as you are not forced to hide it?
Remember that you can play with the boys and act like them too?

If you remember this, then why are you running from equality?

If you make a stupid decision, you, and only you, are responsible for your own composure, choices, and conduct–
That’s how it is, period.

You don’t get to arbitrarily take the things that you regret back.
You don’t get to be stupid and then be blameless.
You don’t get to be held unaccountable for your actions.
Doing any of the above only sets you back, as an individual and as a society.

It’s time to stop “crying rape” and playing the “blame game.”

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Saygı · Respect

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I grew up with respect– undeniable, unconditional respect. Our humble house was rich in morality, integrity and respect. It was an equal opportunity household and, if I asked a question, I would always receive the truth; even as a child and if the answer was too complex for my understanding, my father would always respond with the answer. There was no fake, sweet-talking, superficial bullshit (with the minor exceptions of both Papa Nöel and the Easter bunny), it was authentic, genuine and real. My parents (and the notable mention of select mentors in high school: Madame Marsden, Donna and Dave Inglehart, Anna Skeele, and Jane Gagnier) surrounded my siblings and I with this concept of raw, no-nonsense truth during my entire upbringing and helped to develop me into the strong, compassionate, respectful person that I am today.

This mentality and dynamic had many positive, humanistic correlating attributes that are ideal traits, yet they have also proposed ironic ignorance in comparison to other worldviews and cultural norms. It may seem quite odd to some, but there have few instances in my life where I have actually felt “gender.”

The first time I felt my gender was when Lonnie Taylor’s dad kicked me off the baseball team for being a girl. Oh yes, how could I forget the day where my aspirations of playing in the MLB as the starting shortstop for the Boston Red Sox were extinguished? I remember that he got my hopes up: he allowed for me to try-out with all of the other guys. I was a fast, energetic, up-stoppable shortstop with such passion and dedication that I would fearlessly dive and hurl myself to stop every ball from ever getting past me. I was a lunatic on the baseball diamond and wasn’t afraid to get down and dirty or muddy and bloody. I was fast as hell (not proven but if our team had raced, I believe that I would have come out on top because I was wicked fast and I know that I wanted it more). At the try-outs for the Raymond majors, I knew that my performance was better than half the guys there. I was one of the boys, confident in my talent and I was nearly certain that my abilities had gotten me a spot on the team. Almost. My heart stopped beating for a moment when I was informed that, “baseball was too competitive for girls” and after 10 years of growing up and rough housing with the boys, I was forced to quit baseball and “try softball.”

This was the first time in my life I had been labelled as being a girl.

 

Since all those years ago when my dreams of going pro were burned, I still never quite learned how to be a girl (Side note: I immediately wrote an editorial  in our class newspaper, the Estey Times,  entitled “Battle of the Sexes” where my fury of gender inequality was first borne in type). The role of being a girl was forced upon me and it made me feel very uncomfortable. I never really had any girl friends (besides the occasional fellow tomboy) because I never had much in common with them. In my nature, I embrace the facts that I am aggressive, competitive, intense, fierce, and that I am an athlete at heart with a strong mind; a warrior. Girls were, and still are, a foreign concept to me. At the moment I was first called a “girl,” I was made to feel like I had to play a role for society that I virtually knew nothing about and I tried so hard to own it. For a kid hitting puberty, this turned out to be a massive identity crisis.

From this, I struggled with insane confusion and depression. I had known who I was, but I suddenly found myself tossed off the plank into the rough seas of identity and being forced to swim to a fabled shore to find my inner “girl” without drowning first. Bitter with a mouth full of salt, this journey was tainted by an idea implemented by a misunderstood conception of social norms. A wave of hostility attacked my psyche and, as I have always been my own hardest critic, I beat myself up and considered myself to be freakishly abnormal. I was not like other girls, but somehow I was supposed a “girl”? I was a tomboy (hell, I even looked like a boy until I was probably 13 or 14). When it was blatantly spelled out to me that I was a girl, my confidence that I had gained through sport and competition was lost and was instead replaced with sharp sentiments of inadequacy, insecurity and insanely negative sense of self-image.

Society and media drove my confusion and intensified my standards and consequently personal disgust and pain. Girls were supposed to be pretty. When I looked in the mirror, I saw a rugged frame with a muscular, boy-figure covered with scratches, bruises, and scars from over-enthusiasm for sport. The person I saw reflected was not a girl. Girls were supposed to be pretty. The mirror showed a kid with no sense of fashion (because Red Sox jerseys didn’t count) with no pink or purple palettes in sight who inhabited a world where dresses were unheard of. I kept hearing myself yell, “girls are supposed to be pretty!” When I realised that I was supposed to be a girl, I lost everything that made me independent, special, and unique, and I instead focused on everything that made me different from others, especially in comparison to other girls in how I looked. The person I saw in the mirror was the ugliest person on the planet.

I was taught that girls were supposed to be pretty, they were supposed to dress nicely and they were supposed to look good so guys would want them. Childish and silly, but I was made to believe that the greatest success for a girl was to get a boyfriend– not to get straight-A’s, not to learn how to pitch a knuckleball or throw a perfect spiral, not be proud of their musical talent on the clarinet, not to out smart their teacher by doing a science fair project on string theory. Priorities were all disoriented and I felt like I needed to change in order to be accepted and liked by others. It became so intense and overwhelming that I sunk into a deep, incomprehensible depression from the judgements of friends, peers, family and, worst of all, myself.

I was lost.

I was quiet and slithered by in the background, undetected. My depression and confusion of identity lingered through the years, but it only made its presence fully known on occasion. Middle school and high school were filled with sheer self-loathing and consequent self-disrespect that reflected upon all of my relationships, worst of all being the one with myself. I drifted onward like this and I only learned to confront the problem as I entered the “real world” when my experience led me to focus more internally towards rediscovering myself.

I learned to cope with things through experience. In focusing on my passions– sports, running, meditation, yoga, reading, writing, dancing, drawing, music– I regained my creativity and my drive for both life and discovery of insight and knowledge. In this way, I learned that loving oneself requires a courage unlike any other; it requires one to believe in and stay loyal to something that no one else can see that keeps us in the world: our own self-worth. I re-conjured the amazing energy that makes me the unique person that I am. I remembered the spirit of the fearless child I was and realized that the fire within me still burns and it is not dictated or seen by society, gender or any form of social construction– my fire is something that burns in my heart that I dictate, that only I can control, that can never burn out.

Finding the source to my own misery was fairly difficult, but resolving it and learning to master the following mantra has been an developing project that requires active attention and much effort:
I do not need to validate my self-worth through others.

Society both directly and indirectly conditions us to focus our attention on the means that make us perceive ourselves as being “inadequate” or “not good enough.” From this, we consequently find ourselves in the position where we believe that we are only worth something if people like us. We fail to remember that it is not about being good enough, or pretty enough, or skinny enough, or popular enough or liked enough– it’s about liking yourself enough to respect your own existence and to value your own life. It’s about experiencing life, learning, growing, expanding your mind and conscious awareness of yourself and of others, maturing and striving to become the best, healthiest, and happiest version of yourself. No one can choose that for you and no one can dictate who you are or who you will become except for yourself.

This realization has been a mountainous trek within itself. Applying this mentality has helped me overcome my personal battles as well as cope with different social contexts. Dealing with western sentiments regarding gender was difficult enough, but the challenge I face at current is dictated by different trends of social norms.

The second time in my life where I felt gender was in Turkey.

After accepting my image and not considering myself as being limited to a gender and to implied traditional roles, my patience was put to the ultimate test when I entered a non-western context. Patriarchial and male-dominated to it’s his-storical core, what a blast (I swear if only the Turkish and Arabic men knew my defiance and unorthodox nature that they would, for sure, stay far away from me). In this culture, differences between men and women are made clear in extroverted society and affect conduct. Women are seen as inferior for their equality would threaten the traditional means of power structure, social etiquette and conduct, as well as all known ways of behavior and life.

In Turkish society, women are paralyzed by sentiments of domestication ordered by the untrustworthy men in power. Yes, in the past 90 years, Turkey has developed greatly, but there are certain progressive ideas that were never functionally adopted. Turkey is a great advocate for the family and traditional blood ties, but the fear of disrupting or modifying this ancient, primordial tradition keeps the call for gender equality dormant.

I am not a Turkish woman, but I can their implied gender role objectively. I know that the concept of family, in terms of traditional heirarchy and social structure, are intensified here: one does not merely have just the influence from one’s parents, but one is in constant connection and contact with them as well as one’s entire extended family (aunts, uncles, cousins, grandparents, the works). More influence equals more pressure. Individualism and personal identity is not accepted nor encouraged in the same way it is in the west and one’s perspective and personal goals in life are not truly one’s one for the pressure for pleasing others is great. Due to this, girls are drawn back by invisible chains of past traditional roles where they are preoccupied with filling the future roles of becoming wives and mothers.

Yes, in this age girls can go to university and get degrees but “what for?” I had an extensive conversation with a working professional Turkish woman. Single, at thirty years of age, with multiple degrees and extensive experience, she is perceived as “strange” by Turkish society. Women who choose careers as taking priority over family in Turkey are not seen as pioneers but as disruptive troublemakers.
Oh, she isn’t married? Something must be wrong with her.
She isn’t a mother? She must work extra hours without extra pay so the women in the office that are mothers can spend more time with their families.
She was only thirty and she felt as if her life was over for she had failed to due her domestic duties as a woman.

No, I am not a Turkish woman and I have seen the effects of such through different treatment. Foreign women are prized, not because they are seen as “liberated” or more “free” by Turkish men, but because they are seen as being less conservative and easier sexual conquests (as well as a potential ticket out of Turkey). Traditional Turkish men expect all women, disregarding origin, to follow their cultural norms by accepting that their status is lower to theirs and that they must conduct themselves accordingly.

It is rather difficult trying to balance being comfortable with one’s own image along with putting on a stable mask to play the cultural role in a relatively backwards context. I may not see myself as a gender, but I have to be aware of the fact that others most certainly do. Others expect me to be a woman, to be pretty, to be be proper, to act and behave in a certain way. I never learned the role of truly being a girl and I never wanted to (rebel, rebel). It can be absolutely draining pretending to be a confident woman when I am uncertain as to what that really means in this culture. It is exhausting not being seen as the intelligent, energetic, passionate person that I am and instead being objectified as a sex image in public and a potential wife/mother in private.

Some experiences of being a foreign girl abroad:
I have been attacked (1), nearly assaulted (3), followed (5+), harassed (lost count), been called out for walking alone (lost count), been yelled at for wearing a knee-length dress (2), had a middle-aged man yell at me (reason: uncertain), had a taxi driver slap my girl friend for being drunk (1), have had random guys hit on me (seriously, do not check the “other” inbox on Facebook. Current count: 99+), and countless of weirdos trying to get my number (again, the count is unknown).

My rebuttal:
In the act of self-defense, I have beaten the crap out of a Turkish guy that tried to disrespect my body, I have tear-gassed a few, kicked some nuts, got in some good jabs and cuts to to solar plexus, broke at least two noses, protected my self and other women in defense from unnecessary harm as a consequence of sexual harassment and gender discrimination.

I have learned to respect myself and I refuse to let someone else try to over power and degrade that kindled respect that I have in an attempt to lower me into an object of their perceived disrespected and lowered status. I know me and, unfortunately for them, they do not and they have no idea that they messed with the wrong woman for I am not afraid to stand up for myself and what I think is right.

Impartially, it is an amazing experience to tune into such awareness. I have been through hell in regards to my perception of self where I have seen the good, the bad, and the ugly and I would not trade the pain, growth, and adaptive experience for anything. I have been exposed to different contexts and have seen how one can manage different ideas in an attempt to promote the best for one and all’s existence. There is no set standard for the greatest conduct for accumulating the telos for humanity but, by observing the problems cast by all societies and accepting the desired commonalities of equality and respect, a driving force of acceptance and hope of establishing lasting social change to reorganize and prioritize the purpose for being on an individual/personal level to cultural context, and even higher so to an international level that transcends all borders is presented.

#Respect (in the Ali G voice)

The significant impact of psychological dispositions and personal traits on political ideologies

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Of course, the world is filled with 7 billion souls with different ideological orientations– where the western and progressing majorities fall mostly somewhere on the traditional measuring continuum of liberal and conservative orientations. By inhabiting one of the biggest cultural hubs of the world, I became very interested in understanding different approaches and methodologies of political life as well as of citizenship. In Istanbul, I have had the pleasure of  exploring a cultural experience as well as conducting independent studying and analyses of identities from both psychological and sociological perspectives. It may come as a surprise to some, but psychological dispositions and personality traits may have a much stronger influence on political ideology than any other means regarding factors of intelligence, religion, or even the interpretation of political facts.

The following are various characteristics and personal qualities that greatly affect one’s outlook upon worldview and ideology.

1. Openness to Experience

A person’s openness to new experiences (as well as to “foreignness”) is a personality trait that has been measured by several respected personality tests. People who are more open tend to be more adventurous, thrill-seeking, and novelty-seeking. They also tend to be more likely to change their minds when given new information. While there are certainly thrill-seeking conservatives, people who are open to new experiences are much more likely to be liberal. This may be because liberals tend to favour progression and lean towards changing traditions That which is thrilling and exciting to to some is absolutely irrational and terrifying to others. Conservatives, by contrast, favor predictability and order, which accounts for their desire to maintain traditional, pre-existing beliefs.

As a corollary, people who have had a wide variety of novel experiences are more likely to become liberals. Many conservatives lament the liberalising of university students, but this phenomenon may be due to the fact that university tends to open people up to novel experiences and perspectives. This phenomenon occurs frequently in the west, but has an interesting occurrence in Turkey. The majority of Turkey in old world conservative based on a vast historical background and a focus of preserving the traditions and values of such. The exponential development and growth of Turkey in the past decade (by the conservative AKP) has consequently creating a rising class of young Turks growing with liberal and western sentiments but are being pulled back by their conservative creators.

2. Respect for Authority

People who respect authority tend to value rules, law, and order. Respect for authority is a powerful predictor of conservative political beliefs. Interestingly, an authoritarian personality (one which seeks respect and obedience) is also a predictor of conservative political beliefs. While conservatives are certainly capable of questioning authority, liberals are more likely to prioritise this behaviour as both a political and personal objective.

Religion is a huge source of authority. Turkey is a highly religious nation. Religiousness, piousness, and spirituality are popular tendencies in both  liberals and conservatives. However, the divide comes for conservatives are more likely to fully accept religious authority, whereas liberals may question religious authorities and challenge beliefs.

3. Compassion, Empathy, and Equality

A study published in the Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin (2010) found that liberals (as a group) are more likely to value qualities such as compassion, empathy, and equality and, therefore, tend to vote for candidates whose political platforms give these values primary importance. Contrasting this sentiment,  conservatives are more likely to value ideals such as justice and individualism. The liberal emphasis on equality may help to explain why liberals are generally more likely to see inequality. Liberals have a strong desire to uproot inequality, which gives them a motive to seek it out.  On the other hand, conservatives strongly value individual autonomy and are more likely to attribute success or failure to individual characteristics.

4. Sex

Views on sex greatly impact political ideology. In voting trends, some citizens primarily based on issues of sexual morality and sentiments regarding roles of gender.  In western contexts, a liberal might support a candidate solely because he is pro-choice, while a conservative might choose a candidate who opposes gay marriage. These correlations are more extreme in amplified in a progressing, Islamic state (such as Turkey). Like conservatives of the west, they tend to be critical of unusual sexual practices, but the modesty of the women in the public realm as well as their domestic roles in the private, family sector of society are one of the biggest elements of Islamic-influenced culture and social infrastructure. Turkish liberals share the western tendency to view sex as an important path of human expression as well as sentiments of gender equality. Views on gender significantly separate the two approached to critical thinking and of politics for liberals prioritise the abolition of gender traditionalism, while conservatives support traditional gender roles. This often affects voters’ support for political measures that affect women’s equality as well as sexual privacy.

5. Dominance

While both liberals and conservatives have supported and started many wars, conservatives are generally viewed as the more hawkish political group for they are keen on prioritising “hard power” (force, coercion). Contrasting this sentiment, liberals tend to put importance of “soft power” that being of diplomatic measures as well as persuasion and libertarians frequently wish to avoid intervening in international affairs entirely. Highly dominant personalities (those who tend to resolve interpersonal conflict by force) are much more likely to become conservatives. Similarly, other dominant personalities also tend to be less tolerant of conflict between groups and consequently are more likely to view another person’s behavior as threatening. This individual trait can affect a person’s perception of the threats posed by different ideologies and beliefs of other individuals, groups, and countries.

STRESS: A love(/hate) story

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STRESS.

I live a highly strenuous and stressful lifestyle.
Paradoxically, I feel both loving and hateful sentiments towards this.
A synopsis of my life:

I am a full-time student with three departments (three majors).

I work two jobs.

I am very passionate about my studies and my work to the point where I spend my “free” time learning, investigating, researching, studying, reading, writing, to gain more and add more to my comprehension and development.
Consequently, it is not work for me; it’s a hobby.

At heart, I will always be an athlete.
I’m a fierce competitor; I’m passionate; I am dedicated; I am aggressive.
I run; I box; I workout; I practice yoga.

I have so much energy but I contain it within (for my true, highly intensive self is a part of me that I keep for me- not as a secret, but for focus, self-control, and motivation).

I am an introvert living abroad in a crazy, fast-paced, extremely social and emotionally charged culture in which I am blatantly foreign to in both mind and speech. My mind works in double-time to process the new information and stimuli while attempting to do so in real time.

I am a full-time sister, daughter, friend.
I take any and all relationships I have very seriously and I do anything and everything (to the best of my ability) for the people I love and care about. If a phone call will make you smile on a bad day, you better fucking believe that I will drop my work or sacrifice sleep to talk to you. I strongly believe that the most important thing in life is to improve the human experience– even something as seemingly minuscule as a moment of happiness (a smile) betters a life; I treasure this and make this my goal.

Even within the paradigm of caring (a seemingly positive attribute), there is stress (and a lot of it). It may seem odd to some, but I feel for others (and so intensely at that). I am very passionate and caring that I actually take on the stress of others and carry their burdens (most of the time without them ever realising it)as if they were mine to bear. I do this, mostly subconsciously, because I invest so much care into people. I feel obligated, as if it were my duty, to take on the pains and stresses of others (whether it is individuals, families, societies –the human race even–) and it is extremely exhausting. As a vividly passionate and methodical human being that has the ability to problem solve abstractly and process information rapidly on multiple levels, this is my design.

So, let me reiterate: It’s a love-hate relationship.

I love being this way for I am passionate;
I am creative and vivid;
I have the ability to see things others cannot.
My mind is a gift and I can use it to help people.

There is a polarised sentiment to this for I also hate being this way.

Having so much energy is very draining.
A highly active mind sometimes feels as if you were your own hostage: you are the one that is tied up and blind-folded, but you are also the one holding the gun against your head.

I am a very complicated person in which I have this extreme sense of duality. My mind races with thoughts that I cannot quiet and this is excrutiatingly exhausting. When I am tired, my focus dims and the unwanted thoughts and pains take over and fog up my head. This results in a very deep, internal depression which spreads through my being like a virus. Once the idea of depression is apparent, it multiplies rapidly and takes ahold and, some strains, distort my thinking so much by clouding my clarity and are extremely to fight.

I use the world internal because I am a strange one for emotion. I am a quiet person, I keep the majority of my thoughts and emotions inside and only share them after I have carefully constructed them into their most concise, precise, condensed form for the higher probability of achieving my ideally intended interpretation and understanding to reduce confusion and unwanted judgements.

I also do not like to show outwardly how I feel, especially when the emotions are very negative.
I do not reveal my problems to people, for I believe that I am Atlas in the sense that if I can handle everyone’s problems, I can sure as hell handle my own.
I get this stubbornness and resilience from my mother;
I get the selflessness and drive from my father.

These past few years, my amount of stress has increased exponentially. The internal method in which I bottle emotion and suppress stress is not healthy (in fact it is one of the extremes that is the worst possible thing to do). Emotion needs to be released and this is why:

Since I was about ten years of age, I experienced weird phenomenons of “fainting.” In stressful situations (early on it was mostly social stimuli combined with hot temperatures), I would black out and collapse. As I grew older, the frequency of these events increased.

Last year, when I attended university in the United Kingdom, they increased dramatically. My plate of stressors mainly included: studying full-time, working full-time, and being involved in an abusive relationship. This became so severe that I was passing out multiple times a week. In turns out that I wasn’t merely “passing out;” I was having seizures.

After frequent hospitalisations, one thousand and a half tests for epilepsy, a bazillion EEG scans, and tests, tests, tests, galore, my bizarre health mystery was solved.

I suffer from PNES, also known as psychogenic non-epileptic seizures. Contrary to epileptic seizures are physiological which are caused by abnormal electrical discharges in the brain, PNES are psychogenic in which they are strictly psychological or emotional in nature. The origins of PNES may be caused by underlying psychological and emotional disturbances, but the symptoms are real. The stress signals are unconsciously converted into a neurological like condition that mirrors epilepsy.

Within this, my body produces too much adrenaline (stress response hormone used in fight-or-flight) and this consequently makes me deal with stress (and relating stimuli) interestingly- usually seizures and occasionally in the form of “panic attacks.”. Stressor stimuli, ranging from daily and seemingly mundane/typical contexts to more complex dilemmas abroad, become amplified for me. If I do not cope with the stress signals appropriately, my body converts the reaction to stress to an electrical charge that mimics the same firings as those in epileptic seizures. It is quite challenging to cope with.

How does one maintain a stressful lifestyle when they have an intense stress-related disorder?

Well, it’s a challenge.

I am determined to maintain my way of life as much as possible. That which pains me the most brings me the most joy. Chaos is my life and maneuvering through it carefully is challenging- this thrills me. Yes, I often get severe depression (especially which the disassociating effects from the frequent seizures) but this comes in waves. I get high-highs and low-lows. I am an organised being and can prioritise my emotional reaction and often postpone them (by pushing them off as much as possible, sometimes to the point where I forget them entirely).

Battling stress has become of full-time job for me.

As an energetic lass and an athlete, exercise and physical activity is my greatest love and escape. When I am stressed, when I need to clear my head, when I want to focus, I put my sneakers on and my headphones in and I take off running. In listening to lectures, news, language studies, and music, I can focus on the one stimulus of the sound as I run the streets of Anatolian Istanbul. Like any student in the 21st century, I am a killer multitasker but I believe that changing the focus from quantity to quality is needed to look at the details and conduct a thorough job. Directing sole attention to one task changes the perspective and allows you to see the detailed and notice things that you would pass over and take for granted if you were not focused or looking carefully. This is the difference between going fast to get many jobs done and doing decent, mediocre work versus slowing things down, putting care and consideration in your work and adding yourself to you work and being creative. In a fast-paced world, it is challenging to slow down but it is necessary for clarity and is worth every sacrifice.

In a similar regard, everyone needs a restful escape too. My dad calls it “healthy mind down time” in which one cleanses the mind. Especially in times of high stress or anxiety, taking a quiet break is healthy. Taking a thirty minute time-out doing a quiet, independent activity is great. I find my escapes in books, I practice and maintain my languages, I release my thoughts through writing, I chill out and watch an episode of M*A*S*H*, I play sudoku (papa Hughes got me hooked), or I close my eyes and listen to music. This also slows down the mind and, by focusing on one task, allows you to re-focus and regain both attention and clarity. With this, one can once again retain the ability to think both logically and rationally. It is not selfish, one needs a break. It is more productive and helpful to take care of yourself in this regard, for when you are healthy and of sound mind, you are bettering yourself and others. It is influential to others and is crucial for sanity purposes. Stress is inevitable in life, but it does not need to control or dictate your outlook on life and consequent demeanor.

Another critical element is sleep. Stress has inflicted me with horrible insomnia, consequently making a perpetual cycle of seemingly never-ending stress that spirals down a deep and dark path only leading downward to negativity and depression. I have been teaching myself how to combat the symptoms of PNES, how to control stress to stop a seizure or get myself out of a panic attack, but the hardest challenge for me has been sleep. I have successfully learned how to focus my attention of a single element, but shutting my mind completely is difficult. I practice meditation and slow down my heart rate and pace of mind, but stress has a tight grip around my brain and I have yet to learn to release myself entirely- I can just loosen the grip now.

Sleep is important, it is the ultimate time of rest where your mind and body can recharge. In today’s mentality (more so in the western world), people are so focused on material life: success (perceived by many to be synonymous with happiness) = money; money = the main focus and goal in life. Due to this, the perception of the twenty-four hours in a day has changed. To some, it seems so short and thus people change their priorities to accommodate their visions for success by sacrificing natural necessities- like sleep. Yes, sleeping schedules, patterns, and rates have changed (dramatically so, especially within the past twenty years), but this damage is not irreversible. Ideally eight hours is prime but, if this is not obtained, never fear: the nap is an amazing thing. There is no shame in napping and the stigma of such is waning for there is truly power within the “power nap.” Taking a timeout to sleep during the day not only boosts energy but it confers both serious cognitive and health advantages as well. Allow me to blow your mind with some awesome benefits to naps: they boost capacity for creative problem solving, verbal memory, perceptual learning, object learning, and statistical learning, naps also help improve upon logical reasoning, increase reaction times, and boost symbol recognition, as well as improve our mood and feelings, and they are even great for our heart health, blood pressure, stress levels, and weight management.

 

Consider this as a public service announcement.

Stress is inevitable in nature. This fact does not dictate its course for stress does not have to define or control our actions. With the appropriate responses and counter actions, we can preserve our ideal lifestyle and promote the same well-being and stability for others.

For just ten simple seconds, pause and surrender—that is, soften all resistance— and let the water of life carry you.