Car Accidents, Self-Compassion, and Other Summer Adventures

Imagine driving down the highway on a bright summer day. The wind flits across your skin, the sun filters every car around you in a lucid glow, and your vision shifts down for just a second. Then, the moment you look up, your life ends.

Exhibit A: wrecked car, with some supplies on top.

Exhibit A: wrecked car, with some supplies on top.

I acknowledge my melodramatic word choice. However, when the accident happened, I felt like my entire world – and not just my car – had crashed. After fidgeting my limbs to see if they still worked and checking to ensure that the other driver suffered no injury, I proceeded to have a little bit of a meltdown. Continue reading

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Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide by Kay Redfield Jamison

Cover via Goodreads.

Cover via Goodreads.

Rating: 5/5 stars.

*Note: I do not post all of my book reviews on this blog. For more, check out my Goodreads page.*

“Suicide is a particularly awful way to die: the mental suffering leading up to it is usually prolonged, intense, and unpalliated. There is no morphine equivalent to ease the acute pain, and death not uncommonly is violent and grisly. The suffering of the suicidal is private and inexpressible, leaving family members, friends, and colleagues to deal with an almost unfathomable kind of loss, as well as guilt. Suicide carries in its aftermath a level of confusion and devastation that is, for the most part, beyond description.”

A gripping, masterful book about a topic shrouded in horror and sadness. Continue reading

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Why I Write The Quiet Voice: Thomas’s Twentieth Birthday Edition

I turn twenty in an hour and a half, and the English major within me wants to explain why I write this blog. In addition to my thoughts on society, books, and pop, this site has always served as a space for me to reflect on my personal life, as you can see from how the traumatic events of this past semester show themselves within my recent writing. Though this thesis might change, I will make it clear, as of today: I write this blog so that it can serve as a place of compassion, for myself and for others. A quick definition of “self-compassion,” provided by professor and researcher Kristin Neff:

As I’ve defined it, self-compassion entails three core components. First, it requires self-kindness, that we be gentle and understanding with ourselves rather than harshly critical and judgmental. Second, it requires recognition of our common humanity, feeling connected with others in the experience of life rather than feeling isolated and alienated by our suffering. Third, it requires mindfulness – that we hold our experience in balanced awareness, rather than ignoring our pain or exaggerating it. We must achieve and combine these three essential elements in order to be truly self-compassionate. – Kristin Neff, Self-Compassion.

Two themes run throughout my life: the depth of my emotions and the struggles I have encountered. Continue reading

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You Are Not Your Trauma

When J hurt me a few months ago, he reawakened a lot of the trauma I experienced from my mother’s hands as a child. I had a brief phone conversation with him last weekend, which hurt me a lot, because in several implicit ways, he blamed me for what happened. As I gripped my new smartphone in my hand and heard his callous tone, a flood of questions and doubts raced through me: am I just a product of my mother’s abuse? Does my compassion for others only stem from a need to distance myself from her? What does this mean for me, for my personality, for all of my good deeds? After that conversation, I deleted a post I wrote on this blog – a decision I regret – so I want to re-share a quote I included in it, about how people misrepresent love as a bond free of conflict:

“Love is possible only if two persons communicate with each other from the center of their existence, hence if each one of them experiences himself from the center of his existence. Only in this “central experience” is human reality, only here is aliveness, only here is the basis of love. Love, experienced thus, is a constant challenge; it is not a resting place, but a moving, growing, working together; even whether there is harmony or conflict, joy or sadness, is secondary to the fundamental fact that two people experience themselves from the essence of their existence, that they are one with each other by being one with themselves, rather than by fleeing with themselves. There is only one proof for the presence of love: the depth of the relationship, and the aliveness and strength in each person concerned; this is the fruit by which love is recognized.” – The Art of Loving, Erich Fromm.

While J has been the only friend to do something horrid to me this semester, others have abandoned me, and I realize I cannot control that. Continue reading

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Dear Sixteen-Year-Old Thomas

Dear Sixteen-Year-Old Thomas,

Hi, this is your nineteen-year-old self. How are you? I want to start this letter by saying that, yes, you still write embarrassing super personal blog posts three years from now. You do not write as much on your blog, because college keeps you busy, but you still do. Congratulations: no admissions officers take the time to Google your blog and reject you because of it, so keep writing.

So I guess I will start on the whole college thing: you get in. You really, really do. You get into William and Mary, the University of Virginia, and the University of Pennsylvania. All your hard work pays off. Almost three years ago, you wrote this post about optimism, about how you would not let a B- in Physics Honors keep you down. Guess what: not only do you end up with an A- in the class, but you graduate high school and enter the university of your dreams: William & Mary. This might blow your mind, so feel free to take a moment and listen to Lady Gaga (you later get super into Ariana Grande and her song “Break Free,” but that can wait) or read a book.

Even bigger news: you escape your mother. No, not 100%. You still have to go home and see her, you still have to put up with her mood swings over the phone. But for the most part, you leave. You highlight your hair, you wear whatever you want, you study all the subjects you care about, and you have your freedom. At college, you feel the happiest you have ever been.

But I want to tell you some bad news. Continue reading

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Abuse Me, Refuse Me: A Recount of Control

I faced a lot of abuse as a child. To this day, I still feel an ounce of panic when someone raises their voice, and I still flinch when anyone raises their hand, even if just for a high-five. One of my most vivid adolescent memories centers on the first time I saw a friend’s parents interact without shouting. It proved to me that non-dysfunctional families did exist outside of fiction, that some people did get along without hurting one another, and that maybe one day, I would find someone who understood me, too.

I do not want pity for my past, but I do want to talk about how I coped with my abuse: I developed a huge internal locus of control. Continue reading

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How 17-Year-Old Thomas Saved My Life

A little less than three weeks ago, I had a rough day. Memories of J kept pulling me under, even though I knew he never spent a single second thinking about me. After hours of staring at walls and pretending to have my life together, I walked to a dorm in the middle of campus, where for some reason, I started reading my old blog posts. Then, I found this:

seventeen year old thomas omg

The cheesy and heartfelt words of seventeen-year-old me, from my blog post “Things Change.” Dang, time flies.

After reading those words, I ran to a bathroom stall, played the Teen Titans scene from my blog post on repeat, and sobbed for twenty minutes. I felt every tear like a shock of electricity running down my face; as I crouched down on the cold hard tile, my cheek pressing into the cool granite, every nerve in my body sung, as if all my emotions just then ripped through my body. Because reading my old blog post and watching that scene made me remember an important lesson, one that gave me hope: things change.

I loved the old J, the one who cared about me, the one with an honest calm, the friend who worked hard to improve himself. Continue reading

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