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Well. I made it. It seems kind of not real but also I feel like I’ve been a freshman in college for fifteen years. And it also feels great. When I bought my planner back in July, I looked at May and June and kind of didn’t think I would make it. When my family was making summer 2016 plans, I definitely could not imagine being there. It seemed impossible to get that far.

But, I made it. We all did. I fell up stairs, got soup thrown on me, got freezing water dumped on me, got published, fell down stairs, also sat on by a Great Pyrenees and so much more. And everything was worth it.

Of everything I did this year, trying was definitely the best. I regret nothing and I’m so glad I stayed. In October, my mom just got frustrated and said, “Well then just come home.” For some reason I said no. And now I know completely why I did.

The people I have met and the things I have done have changed me. The tiny and scared part of me in October somehow knew that before I did. I know that I am meant to be here and I am so grateful that I can be. My friends and family supported me through everything, and with out them, I definitely would have gone home. So thank you. Your support and letters and chocolate and Facebook messages made more difference than I can say. I am unbelievably thankful for all of you. Being 1/4 of the way done with college is possible because of you.

It’s so hard to not be afraid but I promise that trying is the best way to conquer it. You’ll even regret not trying because there is a small
part of you that knows you can do it. I’ll refrain from quoting Nike, but you get my point.

Noli timere.

~ Addie

 

 

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For Mom

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Squam Lake – Fall Pause 2015

Well, it’s your birthday! And I wanted to do something besides send you basset hound socks and a wine glass with a dog etched into it… don’t judge! I’m really not great at looking people in the eye and tell them that I appreciate them and why they mean the world to me, so I’m going to write it here.

I don’t want to get super cheesy, so I’ll just say a few things.

1.) I found this video of you dancing to that song “Peanut Butter Jelly Time” and whenever I think about it I laugh. When I’m sad, I watch it. Your energy is infectious and you make everyone happy when they see you. And life is approximately 70% more boring with out seeing you every day.

2.) I remember you saying that leaving me after fall pause when I was freaking out behind my dorm was the hardest thing you’ve ever had to do. But a few months ago you said it was because you realized that I didn’t need you anymore- not in a really morbid way but in the way that means I can take care of myself. While I still can’t see myself getting through panic attacks or an argument with a friend with out you, I would not be here with out you. I’ll always need you.

3.) I think you’re a wonderful person. You’re generous and kind and funny and you make everything better. I miss being able to see you every day.

So, happy birthday Mommy!! I love you to the moon and back. and I can’t wait to see you super soon. Hug the puppies (and my sister I guess) for me!

Love always,

~ Addie

Down the Toilet

I am proud to be from the South. It is beautiful and fun and the people are friendly and generous. We are hospitable and kind because not only are we Southern but we are human. We have compassion. Which is why what happened in North Carolina this past week is sickening.

For those of you who don’t know, NC passed HB2, called the Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act, also called the “bathroom law.”

As written in the Guardian:

“North Carolina’s Public Facilities Privacy and Security Act allows governments to discriminate against people based on sexual orientation and gender identity, and prevents municipal governments from creating local laws that would offer these groups protections. Under the law, all public institutions must post signs designating that bathrooms and locker rooms are to be used only based on biological sex.” Read the full article here.

I am fully aware that this post won’t make a few people that happy, but I kind of need to vent and I’m doing it here so more people know about it.

1.) This is 2016. We have come so far as a nation in terms of protecting the LGBTQIA community, especially in the last few years. This law being passed pushes us back by decades, and it’s only going to get worse from here.

2.) North Carolina is going to get exactly what they don’t want. A man with a full beard and complete male anatomy who has completed his transition will be required to walk into a women’s bathroom because he was born “differently.” But of course that wasn’t addressed in HB2. He will still have to have his birth certificate in his pocket. Control the guy who shot up a college campus, not where people go to the bathroom. Pick your battles.

3.) It’s hurtful. The southern states already have an awful reputation for being homophobic and unfair, and this sure as anything will not help. We also have a reputation of being hospitable and kind, so why can we not just stick with that?

Something else of note is that Bruce Springsteen canceled his show in the state and released a statement on his website. You can find the whole thing there, but here is part of it:

“To my mind, it’s an attempt by people who cannot stand the progress our country has made in recognizing the human rights of all of our citizens to overturn that progress. Right now, there are many groups, businesses, and individuals in North Carolina working to oppose and overcome these negative developments. Taking all of this into account, I feel that this is a time for me and the band to show solidarity for those freedom fighters. As a result, and with deepest apologies to our dedicated fans in Greensboro, we have canceled our show scheduled for Sunday, April 10th.” 

This situation has irked me all weekend. It hurts me to think that people will no longer feel comfortable in their own offices or grocery stores or schools. So- for any of you affected by this issue I am so sorry. Don’t be afraid to fight back, because we are right there with you. 

Noli timere.

~ Addie Downs

Big Choices

Okay, so I know that I write a lot about things that help me, like running and dogs and music. But I do have to write about one thing that played a huge role in getting better. Yay for medicine!

I started going to therapy the January of my 8th grade year, and for a couple of years I was okay. Then junior year started and the summer before was rough, and my mom suggested meds. That August I went on anti-anxiety medication called Buspirone, and a few months later I went on an anti-depressant, called Lexapro. In February of my senior year I went off Lexapro because my psychiatrist said it was better to try life with out it at home while I felt safe, and if I needed it I could just go back to her.

When I got to school, I started freaking out again, and so I went back on the anti-depressants. I don’t have depression, but Lexapro also treats OCD symptoms and GADs, and it’s just nice to know I have one more thing to help. When my mom came after parent’s weekend, she brought me Clonazepam, which treats anxiety and panic disorders, and it’s only as needed. I haven’t needed it since November.

What I’m trying to say is that medicine is okay. Everyone is different, and when your brain is messing with you it’s not always just that you’re having a bad day. There are chemical imbalances and hormones and plenty of other things all up in there and medicine can help with those. It was the last thing my parents wanted to do, but they understood that anxiety wasn’t something I could just grow out of. Going on medicine does not mean that you’re giving up, you’re just trying something new.

Happy spring 🙂

~ Addie

Moments

Being me and anxious and busy, there are very few times where everything feels good. It can be as insignificant as the thirty seconds I spent running to catch up to some corgis on High street or as big as striking a set after closing night of a show. Regardless of what you’re doing in that moment or how you feel three hours later, they matter.

Those thirty seconds or whatever make everything worth it. Seeing everyone happy and together and no longer stressing out over papers or reading 114 pages in a day make the unbearable periods totally worth it. Living through those means I get to see these again.

I get to hug my dogs and watch Maia try to eat crab but it flies out of her hands and right into a trash can.. I get to bring them cookies when they have a bad day and wear my favorite shoes. The little things ground you, and as cheesy as it sounds, the things that rip you up again do not take away those moments.

There are very few moments when I truly have no fear, and this is one of them.

~ Addie

For Eve

On March 5, 2008 I got off the school bus and saw both of my parents. That was weird. It was usually a babysitter or just one parent, or I just walked the half a block to my house. And then they told me she died. The first thing that popped into my mind was some sickness or an accident. But no, she had been taken from her home and killed. I was in fifth grade.

Today, March 5, 2016 is the 8 year mark.

Eve was kind, generous, beautiful, funny, caring, empathetic, and smart. I hate that I don’t remember all that much about her. But I remember her hair and this dress she wore with polka dots. I remember when she decided to go to UNC at Chapel Hill. And I remember when she brought me and my friends hats back from Cuba and we started a band called the Castros. I remember her babysitting me and my friends and watching movies. And I remember how Athens broke when we found out she was gone.

I remember neighborhood families taking turns sitting outside their house so no one would bother them. For days my dad would go at the crack of dawn when he woke up. I remember how everyone just seemed kind of lifeless, showing no real emotion except for tears, but their faces not really moving. I remember my mom couldn’t sleep. I remember visiting her grave and thinking about what kind of person would think to kill someone as important and loved as Eve.

My parents wouldn’t let me go to the funeral in Chapel Hill-  it was going to be extremely heavy. So I had my own. Every night for weeks I would talk to her. I would tell her how my friends are doing and if I had seen her parents or her brother, or even just the dumb things my dogs would do. I don’t really pray that much, but I think of her family every day. And especially this last week I think about Eve.

I hope that I get to see you some day, Evie. You still inspire all of us to this day, and I hope that we are making you proud. We miss you more and more every day. Athens loves you.

Love always,

Addie

“Learn from every single being, experience and moment. What joy it is to search for lessons and goodness and enthusiasm in others.” – Eve Marie Carson. This is the inscription written on her memorial garden at UNC Chapel Hill.

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What Helps

Even for “normal” people, it is really important to have tools and stuff to do that calms you down. Here are mine, and if you want to borrow any of them feel free.

1.) DOGS. I’ve grown up with them and honestly I miss my dogs more than I miss a lot of people sometimes. Up here I got involved in the Dog House, which raises guide dogs for Susquehanna Service Dogs. I was a puppy hugger, so for three weeks, twice a week, I just got to sit and hold four week old puppies. It was right after the play had ended, so I was bored and stressed and honestly just wanted Thanksgiving break to happen already. The dogs were comforting and they reminded me of home.

2.) My friends, both here (see To My Fellow Dickinsonians) and from home. No matter where y’all are or how weird our conversations are, know that I miss you like crazy and I’m so happy to know you.

3.) Exercise. Endorphins are good things. They have even done studies that prove exercising reduces stress and helps relieve symptoms of depression. Also it’s a good break to get outside or listen to music and just mindlessly do something besides work for a while.

4.) Music. It’s a great distraction. Since I was 8 it always helped me calm down, whether it be listening, playing, or even just singing to myself or serenading my friends. I also sometimes sing to myself without knowing it which my friends often call me out on. I often just walk and listen, and thing about good things.

5.) Think of a happy place. More on mine later, but think of some place you feel 100% safe and happy and imagine you are there and try to remember how it feels. Focus on it for a little. Make a picture of it your background.

6.) Breathe.

7.) Remind yourself that you are safe and that people love you.

8.) Find a mantra. It’s only a few words that you repeat to yourself when you feel not great. Some of mine are, “just for today,” “I am safe,” and “I got through it before and I can do it again.”

9.) Reach out. Talk to someone. People want to help you and no one should have to go through this alone.

10.) Treat yourself. I’m really into coloring. Like the adult mindfulness coloring books? I have a box up here with markers and pencils and books, and when I’m stressed my friends and I will just watch movies and talk and color and eat chocolate and lime tortilla chips (not together). We’ve spent many Saturdays like this. If you need recommendations on coloring books, I’m an expert.

Noli timere, friends. Stay great.

~ Addie

 

To my fellow Dickinsonians

This might get insanely sappy and emotional but I absolutely have to write this post, so I apologize in advance.

As I was packing to leave for school, I brought all of my favorite books and a ton of nail polish and a ridiculous amount of movies. One of my friends called me out on it, and I said it was because I was going to be alone and not make friends and I would have to sit in my room all day. Naturally, she told me I was dumb and a total catch, one of which is true.

I came to school three days before actual orientation for an event called pre-orientation, which is where you sign up for an interest group in something that you like, and you spend the whole three days with your group. I picked theater, and spent that entire week with the performing arts groups. A month later we were talking about living together sophomore year, and we spent every waking minute together. After only a few weeks, it felt like I had known them my whole life. I felt more close to them than most of the people I had known since kindergarten.

The first semester is hard. No one can really tell you what it is going to be like, because everyone is different. I know people who were fine after a week, and then people who still weren’t sure after winter break if they wanted to come back at all.

But know this. You are never the last one to miss home, and everyone gets sad and lonely and scared. Everyone adjusts at different paces, and just because yours is longer does not mean that you are crazy or less worthy of being there. The first time I visited Dickinson I had the feeling that I was meant to be here. And I got involved. I know being alone and doing nothing makes me anxious, so I joined choir and the student-run theater group and made amazing friends. The people I met made it bearable because I wasn’t alone, no matter how much of a burden I thought I was going to be.

So to my squad, thank you. You helped me out of my slumps, held my hand through the “periods,” and sat with me while I cried. You told me it was okay, and that no one was going to leave my side. And you didn’t. And it worked because I will always do the same for you. You all made it worth staying, and it terrifies me to think where I would be without you.

Love always,

~ Addie

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The Theater (must be said in a British accent)

For those of you that don’t know, my sister and I are both adopted. My adoption has never been kept a secret from me, but it is not a topic that my family dwells on. “She gave you to us because she loved you” and “we are so lucky to have you” are phrases I have heard my entire life. I am not ashamed of my adoption. It makes me proud, but, at the same time, it has held me back. I never felt unloved or unwanted, but it is definitely the cause of abandonment issues and extreme anxiety.

 As I got older, my parents started noticing that I always found excuses not to go to slumber parties or on Girl Scout camping trips because I was afraid to spend the night away from home. I was constantly afraid that my family might leave while I was away or that something horrible would happen to them or me.  I could not bring myself to even sleep at my best friend’s house, which is less than a block from mine. My anxiety held me back from wondrous trips with my friends and even my family, all of whom I trusted. Even with a big personality and big dreams, the idea of leaving home or changing up my routines was crippling. I remember learning about the dangers of lead in my fifth grade science lab, and it made me so afraid that I would never walk over a part of my carpet in my own room because I was absolutely sure that lead had touched it. I lived in a perpetual state of terror; almost as if I was going to stop breathing. I was always on alert for anything that could possibly go wrong.

The only time I felt “normal” was when I was performing; playing piano, speaking or acting. Ironically, I never spent the night away from home until I was fourteen, but I could perform in front of three hundred people with hardly any anxiety. I love the feeling of letting somebody into my world of performance, where the only things that matter are under my control. For me, performing was, and still is, the only place where I can channel my nervousness and have something beautiful become of it. Performing was a way for me to become somebody else, which I desperately wanted to do. I always wondered what it felt like to be able to spend the night away from home, or even to smell oleander without worrying I would be poisoned. Through theater, all of the characters that I played, whether it was a ditsy British girlfriend or an angsty teenager, I was able to leave my world and enter a new one. My characters were a perfect escape for me.

Unfortunately, every day cannot be a performance. Since I was four, I have felt like an outsider, and I hate that my anxiety makes my parents worry about me. I knew I felt troubled a lot of the time, and a small part of me thought it was because my biological mother did not love me enough to keep me. As I grow older, I like to think that she loved me more than anything because she selflessly gave me to a loving family. I will always need the thought that someone else out there is rooting for me. 

At Dickinson, I’m doing way more theater than I thought I would. Through the department, I have made incredible friends and had wonderful experiences like the KCACTF in West Chester, PA or scavenger hunts that we can’t call scavenger hunts because they’re illegal in Pennsylvania.

So to my friends at school and at home, my director in high school, and my piano teacher since I was 8, thank you. You have helped me more than you will ever know, and you all mean the world to me.

Don’t get swallowed by snow!

~ Addie

 

What it Feels Like

Everyone experiences anxiety. We have to, or we would all get hit by a bus or eaten by a lion or something. But I do know that I am not the only one who thinks OK YOU MADE YOUR POINT GET OUT. Anxiety affects everything. It made me not able to focus on homework or eat or sleep, or even call my mom. And it sucked.

For me, it starts with restlessness. Whether it’s beginning a new assignment that stresses me out, or going to a new place alone, or even calling or ordering take-out. I always hated calling people or doing anything alone. At school during the “periods” I always felt like I was going to cry, and my heart would start beating too quickly and my hands would shake and I couldn’t shake the thoughts away. Breathing wouldn’t work, and then the panic attack would come. It felt like my heart was on fire and a hippopotamus was sitting on my rib cage and crushing me. It was in these moments that everything I had ever learned left me. I would call my dad weeping, so scared that it would never go away and that my friends would stop hanging out with me because I was a burden.

They said the same things every time.

“You are so loved, Addie, and you are never alone.”

“We are here for you no matter what, and you are going to get through this.”

“You got through this before and you can do it again, I promise you.”

Part of me knew these were true. I had spectacular friends at school and at home, and my parents are quite possibly two of my favorite people on the planet, even though they can definitely get annoying. They’ve been through their own periods, but I think at school they finally understood how bad mine actually was, and I hated that I made them and my little sister hurt. But when you’re in the throes of it, everything feels like a lie and it feels like you’re breaking. Even when I knew my friends were having a hard time adjusting too, it felt like they were just bending but I was falling to pieces and I had run out of glue.

I remember when my mom came back up after parent’s weekend, and we were sitting on the beautiful porch at the B&B where she stayed. She said, “adjusting is part of being an adult, Addie, and you’re doing great!” I looked at her and said, “being an adult sucks, and I’m not even paying taxes yet.” And it’s true. There’s a list about the most stressful things humans go through. Number one is death, and two is moving. Tell me about it. But I nested. I made my room comfortable and I took things from home that I loved.  I had pictures of all of the important people in my life hanging on my wall, and a picture of all of my dogs together on the dock in New Hampshire. And I had a team.

What I’m trying to say is that it gets better. And you always have at least one person in your corner, fighting for you, even if it’s a gesture as small as sending you a picture of your cat or wishing you luck on a test. During the periods, it feels like you’re ending, and you don’t remember that it goes away or that you are never alone. But it does and you too have a team. And when the period is over, you have proof you can do it, and that you did in fact do it again.

Noli timere, friends. Breathe deep.

~ Addie