Letting Go – Knowing When Relationships Have to End

Howdy, dear readers, and welcome to today’s discussion on a topic I know all too well – letting go of relationships. It’s hard. It’s painful. It’s sad. But at certain points, it’s necessary. Learning to let go of the past and move on is difficult, especially in high school when it can seem so hard emotionally. With relationships in particular, the guilt can be enormous. Today, we’ll be looking at the emotional pain of ending relationships, and how you can work to move on over time. 

At one point during freshman year, I had a good friend who was struggling. We both shared intimate details of our lives and relied on each other for emotional support. Until she began to send me texts that made me concerned. Cryptic messages and statements that made me worry for her safety. I knew at that point that I couldn’t help her on my own, so I elected to show them to a trusted teacher who referred her to the school counselor. Though she got the immediate help that she needed, she struggled to trust me again. Our friendship ended shortly after. 

In another, more recent situation, a friendship developed between me and a guy that was remarkably toxic. He would initiate arguments and then cut me off before I’d have a chance to respond. He’d say something concerning and would retract it before I could ask if he was okay. He’d tell me to excommunicate myself from his life and would initiate conversations with me days later. It became apparent that our friendship was no longer sustainable for me. I found myself having to be his therapist, his peer, and his rival simultaneously, and in the end, I couldn’t do it anymore. 

Both situations, though very different, ended the same way. With me losing a friend I cared deeply about, and having to let go. And let me tell you, I’m awful at letting go. Of anything. I still have worksheets from fifth grade littering my desk. How can anyone expect me to successfully cope with ending longterm friendships when I struggle to throw away my old coloring books? 

“You will find that it is necessary to let things go; simply for the reason that they are heavy” – C. Joybell C. 

When I heard this quote, I immediately grabbed a pen and scribbled it onto my arm. I knew I’d need to remember this one. As a weightlifter and a high school student with an extremely heavy backpack, I know from experience that you can only carry so much before your shoulders give out. No one expects you to carry more than you can hold physically. Why should it be any different mentally? If you find yourself carrying another’s burden in a way that’s wearing you down, let it go. Know that it isn’t your job to carry it for them. You have your own burden anyway. 

Part of practicing mindfulness is being aware. Recognizing when things get to be too much is key. And know that you do not have to be everything for everybody. You can be a friend and emotionally support someone without taking on their troubles. 

When I recognize that a relationship has become hard for me to sustain, I weigh the pain of cutting ties with the pain the relationship is causing. And if I get to the point where that comparison is made, I already know the answer. 

If a relationship is more painful to continue, it’s okay to let go. Even needed. Tell them that you need some space, that you can no longer support them in the way you once did. Let them know that it’s not their fault, but the friendship has become too much for you to handle. Try to end it on good terms. Be truthful; to the person, and to yourself.  

You have to be okay before you can help others get there. You have to love yourself before you can love other people. And if constantly having to support others is preventing you from being able to focus on yourself, that reason is valid enough. Because at the end of the day, when the rest of your world is winding down and your mind is the only thing remaining, you need to have enough strength left over for you. 

I hope you are all safe and well during this difficult time.

Signing off, 

Your fellow crusader

Photo by Mazhar Zandsalimi on Unsplash

Breaking – Coping with Covid Losses

It’s not even noon yet and I’ve already cried six times today. Which must be some kind of record for me, because I rarely cry. I cried myself to sleep at midnight, woke up crying at three, and bawled for a solid half hour this morning before managing to calm myself down briefly, and crying a few more times. 

According to all the crazy statistics and data scientists are coming out with, I’m not at high risk for dying of Covid-19. I’m a teenager with a (hopefully) healthy immune system. Many people who’ve contracted the disease at my age don’t even exhibit symptoms. A number of my peers have asked me why I’m so scared, why this is such a big deal for me if I can get it and be fine. And my answer has always been that it’s not about me. It’s about my grandparents, my kids, the dozens of people I know who’re immunocompromised. It’s about the losses we face as people are scrambling for a solution. With pandemics, death isn’t the only loss we see. 

In the past week, my dream trip to France has been canceled. My school shut down for the rest of the year. I’ve had to temporarily stop working. My therapist postponed sessions until the situation improves. My parents, both healthcare workers, are on the front lines of this epidemic. The people I love, my friends, my kids, are no longer accessible to me. Treatment is no longer accessible to me. My world has essentially stopped turning in the blink of an eye, and I’m at a loss of what to do next. No one seems to have the answer. 

Hundreds of thousands of others are in the same predicament. We’re sitting ducks in a seemingly endless storm. We’re fearful — for our lives, and the lives of our loved ones. It feels impossible to unite against this, because how can we be united when we can’t come within six feet of each other? 

So how am I coping? In truth, I’m really not. I told myself I’m allowed to have nine meltdowns during this whole thing, and I’ve exceeded that number in a couple days. I’ve been knitting obsessively (if anyone needs an extra pair of socks, let me know). I’ve been busying myself with whatever I can to distract myself from this reality. But I do have a few things that’ve been able to help — even for only a little. 

  • Research. Learn anything and everything you can to be prepared for when the virus hits your community. Instead of resisting the inevitable, make yourself aware enough to face it. 
  • Make plans with your loved ones for when things are safe again. Set a tentative date. Remind yourself that there is a light at the end of the tunnel, even if we don’t know when that tunnel will end. Worst case scenario, you have to push your plans back a few more weeks. 
  • Reach out to those you love and are concerned for. Let them know they are in your thoughts. If you cannot unite in person, unite in spirit. 
  • Set up online courses and means of educating yourself and your children. Do not try to replicate school for them, but show them that life can continue in spite of this mess. 
  • Take long baths. Paint your nails. Take naps. Do whatever you can to make yourself happy and taken care of, because you have the time for that now. Keep yourself busy, but allow yourself time to come to terms with everything that’s happened. 
  • Be kind. Help your neighbor. Don’t hoard supplies, and don’t think that it’s every man for himself. It’s not. No matter what your situation may be, there will always be one that is worse, and you can do your part in benefiting the world. 


And most importantly, cry. Allow yourself to feel the pain. Don’t try to suppress it, but let it be a means for gratitude. When it all returns to normal, never take for granted the amazingness of being able to live your life. 

We will get through this together. 

Signing off, 

Your fellow crusader. 

Photo by Saneej Kallingal on Unsplash

Being a Woman

Good afternoon, dear readers. Allow me to forewarn you; this post is not going to be lighthearted. My usual snark and cynicism will have decreased substantially, because for International Women’s Day, I’ve decided to discuss my experiences with being a woman. If you’re not wanting to hear about that kind of thing, this post may not be for you. 

Yesterday, I went on a run outside. Which is rare for me, mostly because I dislike running, but also because it’s easier to simply stay inside and run on a machine. But the weather was beautiful, and I felt like I needed some time outside. Everything was going well. I’d passed a few blocks and was beginning to feel the good-old-excruciating pain that comes with running. 

But then, I stopped. 

I quickly scanned my surroundings, removed my ponytail, and felt for my phone in my pocket. For the remainder of my run, I held my water bottle tightly, kept my hand on my phone, and jogged with my hair down. I couldn’t stop thinking, “What if I find myself in danger? What if I have to call the police? What if my water bottle is all I have to defend myself?” 

I probably sound paranoid, I know. Surely in this day and age, in my own neighborhood, with the nationwide crackdown on sexual violence, I’m not at risk for any serious occurrence. Right? 

Wrong. 

According to the NSVRC, 1 in 3 women will experience a form of sexual violence in their lifetime. These statistics are current, with females ages 16-19 at nearly 4 times the risk. I can attest to the accuracy. I see it every day. 

I see it in the girls at my school, on the news, on social media, the list goes on. Though sexual violence itself has decreased over the last few decades, it remains prevalent in everyday life. In the middle-aged man that wouldn’t stop staring at my chest at the gym. In the boy that asked me for nudes and then blocked me when I said no. In the man on the news who thought it was okay to spank a reporter on live TV. It’s not always the actions themselves; it’s the mindset of the perpetrators that allows this kind of thing to continue.

There have been numerous occasions in my sixteen years of life where I’ve been harassed, both physically and verbally. Mostly by males, occasionally by females. And it’s interceded every area of my world. I don’t walk outside alone anymore. I wear baggy sweatshirts to school every day to keep my body invisible. I wield my water bottle like it’s a weapon, because someday, it may need to be one. I’m not just paranoid. I see what happens constantly. 

The issue goes beyond women, of course. 1 in 6 men will experience a form of sexual violence in their lifetime. This epidemic does not discriminate. I speak strictly from my own experiences as a sixteen-year-old girl. And I know that, as a teenage girl, I would probably not be able to overpower the average middle-aged man. Or even many women. On a daily basis, I’m forced to acknowledge the shortcomings of my physical capabilities compared to others. I can lift and train as much as humanly possible, but it wouldn’t do me much good if faced with a person 6 inches taller and 100 pounds heavier. I know that. And it terrifies me. 

This is part of being a woman. Not the only part, certainly. But the part that causes me to feel unsafe in what are supposed to be safe environments. The part that clings to my sisters in public so I can protect them from forces beyond me. The part that checks the statistics frequently so I can know how to lower the risks. This is something so many people face, it sickens me. And the worst part is knowing I can’t stop it. I can’t fix it. I can only hold tightly to my loved ones and trust in my faith. 

So for those of you who hear the phrase “International Women’s Day” and think we’re already where we need to be as a society, think again. Or at least reconsider. Because this world isn’t all dark and hopeless. For every case of fear and pain I’ve seen, there are thousands more of human kindness and joy. Work to be one of those cases. Seek to help those who’ve gone through such instances, and try to instill respect in the younger generation. We can certainly make further efforts as a society to make the world a better place for everyone. 

And we can only do it together. 

Signing off,

Your fellow crusader. 

All statistics have come from the National Sexual Violence Resource Center, at https://www.nsvrc.org. They provide valuable resources for survivors of sexual violence. You can visit their website to seek out help if necessary.

Photo by Karl Magnuson on Unsplash

That Time I Was Bested By Six Toddlers

Bonjour, dear humans, and welcome to the most ridiculous day of my life. 

For those of you who’ve parented or cared for toddlers, this story will not come as a surprise. It may even seem like your average Tuesday. But for the rest who don’t know the insanity that is frequently interacting with two-year-olds, buckle up. Cause this story is a doozy. 

As many of you may know, I work afternoons at a preschool. On a normal day, there’s anywhere from 12-30 kids between the ages of three and six. Apart from the occasional escaped chicken and exploded trash bag, the preschoolers are relatively easy. I guess I should’ve known a curveball would be thrown eventually. 

The preschool recently added a toddler age group for kids that are eighteen months to three years. Since there are only 6-8 toddlers there on a given day, only one teacher is needed at a time. At the time, I didn’t think I would ever have to be that teacher. Oh, how naive was I. 

Last week, the afternoon toddler teacher was sick and didn’t have time to call a substitute. Of course, I was the chosen one to fill in. And just like that, I was alone in a classroom with six sleeping two-year-olds, and no idea what to do with myself. Fortunately for my uncertainty, one of the girls woke up immediately, so I was no longer at a loss. I knew that she would probably need a bathroom break, so I walked her over to the “potty chair,” removed her pull-up, and sat her down. 

“Alrighty, sweetheart!” I’d exclaimed enthusiastically, “Time to go potty!” 

As she sat there incredulously, staring at me like I’d just yelled at her in ancient Greek, I discovered the first difference between the preschoolers and the toddlers. The toddlers are not potty trained. 

Upon this realization, I may’ve momentarily forgotten my own potty training and almost had my first accident in over a decade. 

Mustering as much courage and control over my bladder as I could, I lifted her off the chair and strapped her in a new pull-up. I reminded her to let me know if she needed to go so I could help her, and I sent her to the table to get ready for snack. I began to wake the remaining five toddlers, and came to the shockingly-unsurprising realization that all of them had used their pull-ups. 

As I was changing the first, I was yet-again reminded of the unique traits of toddlers: they DO NOT listen when told to keep their bodily fluids to themselves (In fairness, high schoolers don’t either, but that’s another story).

So, I hurriedly re-pull-upped the first and separated the next two. Though it was extremely difficult and may or may not’ve taken me half an hour, I eventually changed all of them and got them ready for snack. 

Snack, of course, was a whole new experience. While the preschoolers are usually capable of serving themselves without making a huge mess, the toddlers are decidedly not. The snack of the day was peaches and cottage cheese; a deadly combination when handed to what are essentially pint-sized-leaf-blowers. Sure, toddlers are cute and all, but when given the perfect fuel for a sticky miniature food fight, things can get ugly. 

By the time I’d passed out snack, one of the kids had accidentally dropped their cup of cottage cheese on the floor. As I stood up and moved a good two feet away to grab a napkin, another child pushed their cup over. This time, however, the mess wasn’t confined to the tile floor. When the boy dumped out the cottage cheese, the cup fell onto the girl sitting next to him, who promptly burst into a fit of angry tears. 

Leading me to my next revelation – no matter how close you may think you are, NEVER EVER MOVE AWAY FROM THE TODDLERS. They will almost certainly take advantage of your distance. 

Fortunately, I had not yet reached my breaking point. Months of engaging with preschoolers will give you nerves of steel. I decided to put on my big-girl-pants and show the toddlers that though they were good, I was better. By that point, I’d convinced myself that I could handle anything. So, I told them to finish up so we could go outside to play. 

I cleaned up their messes, helped the cottage-cheese-covered girl change into new clothes, and told them to get their shoes and jackets on. 

Mistake #5268 – assuming they’d be able to do it with minimal help. 

In that moment, all the zippers and shoelaces in the world seemed to mobilize right there. It was like playing a game of Wack-A-Mole; no matter how many shoes I thought I’d tied, or coats I could’ve sworn I’d zipped 0.3 seconds ago, there was at least five others that I hadn’t. And each time I moved on to a new child’s shoes, one of the others would burst into tears at how long they’d been waiting. My newest lesson: toddlers have absolutely no patience. 

But somehow, despite the infinite zippers I’d been faced with defeating, we managed to make it out the door and to the playground in one piece. And that led to the final and most treacherous task of the day; having to explain to a parent why their child’s shoes were on backwards. 

Whoops. 

Though we had our ups and downs in the toddler class that day, I was ultimately reminded why I chose to do my job. The kids are funny. The kids are kind. And the kids are completely, 100% capable of erasing the plight of high school with their adorable smiles and hilarious behaviors. After that shift, I don’t think I could’ve remembered what classes I’d had that day, let alone all the crazy situations I was surely faced with. Seriously, people, I couldn’t make this stuff up. Children are crazy. Children are goofy. 

And those children are worth it every day. 

Signing off, 

Your fellow crusader

Wellness: Expectations vs. Reality

Hello dear readers, and welcome to another day of our crusade for improved mental health! But what exactly does that look like? What does it mean to improve your mental health, and how do you go about doing it? 

We’ve all seen the endless Instagram posts glorifying yoga, good food, meditation, and a myriad of other tools that will supposedly benefit your mental health. And in many ways, they do work. As a person who occasionally participates in these activities, they can certainly have therapeutic benefits, but they’re not the sole means for improving mental wellness. However, social media doesn’t make it look that way. 

When you see dozens of posts a day that preach all sorts of healthy activities for your mind, you wind up thinking that wellness looks something like this: 

  • Finding time for daily yoga classes at the local studio
  • Keeping a mental-health journal and updating it every night
  • Waking up an hour earlier to prepare an organic breakfast free of GMOs and processed chemicals
  • Exercising at least four times a week with a variety of machines and weights involved
  • Getting a solid ten hours of sleep
  • Only using technology for two hours a day
  • Gardening and growing your own vegetables
  • Meditating before and after bed

You vow to accomplish each one of these goals, setting a tight schedule for yourself with the absolute certainty you’ll adhere to it. You go into it with the mindset that you’ll come out free of depression, anxiety, and all of life’s ailments because you completed these tasks, and they totally work, right? 

And then reality sets in, and your week ends up looking more like this: 

  • Going to two yoga classes and giving up after falling over several times
  • Starting a mental-health journal and abandoning it after a few days
  • Setting your alarm for an hour earlier, sleeping through it, and winding up eating cereal for breakfast
  • Exercising once and being too sore the next day to do it again
  • Getting an average of six hours of sleep because you were so busy trying to do all the other things
  • Ending the week feeling more stressed than you were when you started. 

At any rate, this was how my week looked when I tried these things. 

We believe wellness is linear because it’s what we’re shown. We see all sorts of beautiful people on the internet who portray this idea of perfect mental and physical health, all because they’ve supposedly spent their entire lives doing yoga and eating well. They emerged from the womb in a perfect downward dog, reaching warrior one in a matter of days, and by the time they’re a year old, they’ve attended at least seventy ashtanga classes. Because that’s what wellness looks like. 

The fact is, there is no cure for mental illness. In the same way that most chronic physical conditions can’t be fully remedied, chronic mental illnesses can’t either. And all the yoga, healthy foods, and sleep in the world won’t solve them. But they can always be treated. And the best part is that happiness is usually an effective treatment. 

This is not to say that you can just “be happy.” No one can. It’s like telling a person with chronic pain to “stop hurting.” That’s not how it works. But for me, practicing wellness is doing things that make me happy. Improving my mental health looks like: 

  • Free-reading. Anywhere, anytime. 
  • Completing difficult tasks ahead of time and celebrating my accomplishment with some rest
  • Eating a donut every once in a while
  • Netflix on my couch with my dog
  • Hugging my kids, and hearing their sweet voices after a long day
  • A hot shower after exercising
  • Engaging with the people that matter to me
  • Going to sleep knowing I’ve done all I can to be the best I can be

This is what happiness is built on for me. Not yoga. Not exercise. Not adding more things onto my schedule, but enjoying the moments in between. It’s different for everyone, and you’ll get different results with different techniques. So when you work to improve your mental wellness, know that your choices should revolve around what’s best for YOUR mind. Not what worked for an internet influencer. 

Because your mind is uniquely wonderful, and deserves to be treated as such. 

Signing off, 

Your fellow crusader

Photo by Fabian Møller on Unsplash

Overworked – The Legend of Teenage Burnouts

Yes indeed, everyone. It’s that time again. 

That time where all mental peace and motivational quotes are thrown out the window and replaced by gallons of caffeine and anti-depressants mashed together in a delicious I’m-dying-but-forcing-myself-to-be-alive sundae.

That time where yours truly wakes up in the morning and promptly has a mental screaming fit about how freaking much she does not want to move. 

How she begs herself to PLEASE get just ONE more minute of sleep…

JUST

ONE

MORE 

MINUTE

PLEEEEEEEEASE

And promptly rolls out of bed five seconds later. 

Because, darn it, she’s got tests to ace, times to break, kids to hug, money to make, and SHE WILL DO IT IF IT KILLS HER. 

This is my internal monologue on a daily basis. 

I wake up at 5 AM for swim team, go to school for seven hours, work for three, and spend the rest of my awake time eating, exercising, helping my sister with homework, and fighting through my own, in whatever order the day chooses. And however much time is left in the day is what I have to sleep and take care of myself. 

This struggle is obviously not unique to me. I can name countless other high-schoolers who are enrolled in AP classes and participate in seemingly endless extracurriculars. We barely have enough time to stop and breathe, let alone get enough sleep to succeed the next day. Let alone take a minute to meditate, eat healthy, sing in the shower, or whatever other self-help techniques people prescribe to destress. When the world seems intent on forcing us to do absolutely everything we can possibly shove into a 24-hour day, how can we be expected to take care of ourselves when self-care is pushed to the back-burner of everyone else’s expectations for us? 

It is so easy to underestimate how hard it is to be a teenager. So much is expected of us; from college resumés to jobs to good grades to generally fitting in with society, one can hardly wonder why depression and anxiety rates are going up. The answer is impossibly easy: we’re burning out our teenagers before they truly enter the real world. We’re taught that without impeccable grades, we can’t get into good colleges, and if we don’t get into good colleges, we won’t get good jobs, and if we don’t get good jobs, we won’t have good lives. Success, one of the single most immeasurable concepts, has been quantified to a dangerously simplistic level. Either you were born good enough to handle the weight of the world, or you weren’t, and you’ll never succeed. Our society today has taken survival of the fittest to a whole new level, and the price is the sanctity of the next generation. 

So what’s the solution? For the life of me, I haven’t been able to figure that out. Simply lowering the whole world’s expectations isn’t feasible. But allowing the current situation to fester isn’t functional either. We as a society aren’t equipped to make the drastic kind of change necessary, but we also aren’t equipped to deal with the degree of mental hurting in our kids. I honestly can’t give you the answer, because there is no panacea here.

But the one thing I’ve found to be critical is leading by example. If you’re a parent, an older sibling, a peer leader, or even a classmate that others look up to, take that time for yourself. Leave work a couple minutes early, take a day off from practice, take breaks during homework, etc. Show that it’s okay to prioritize yourself. That you don’t always have to do everything. Because at the end of the day, the consequences of missing one day of practice are infinitesimal compared to the consequences of not taking care of yourself. 

There are times when the world needs you to be at your best. And there are times when slowing down is okay too, even necessary. So when you wake up in the morning and promptly have a mental screaming fit about how freaking much you don’t want to move, allow yourself to take that one more minute of sleep. Do it happily, freely, and don’t worry if you’re a little late. You can only do it all when you’re well-rested. 

Signing off, 

Your fellow crusader. 

All About Me!

Hello, dear readers! My name is Sarah, and I am a sixteen-year-old high school sophomore, swimmer, writer, and nap enthusiast. When I’m not sleeping, swimming, or schooling, I’m working at a preschool as a teacher’s assistant. I started this blog in an effort to help other teenagers cope with the difficulties of…well…life, to help parents understand their children better, and to offer a good laugh to those who need it. 

Life isn’t easy, and it’s impossible to get through alone. I was diagnosed with depression and anxiety about two years ago, and have been in treatment ever since. In this day and age, it can be so difficult to find a moment to simply take a deep breath, but through my experiences, I’ve learned how necessary it is. So take this time to sit back, inhale, and have fun scrolling through my obscurity! Feel free to laugh, cry, and grow with me as we work to understand life together. The journey will be messy, certainly, but messy doesn’t have to be a bad thing. 

Have a wonderful day, and remember to take a minute to stop and inhale. You are a surviver, a crusader, and a powerful human being, and you will make it through this day. 

Signing off, 

Your fellow crusader

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