A Party and a Panic Attack

I went out with my host family to a goodbye party for their friend’s daughter, and it was the worst time I have spent in Denmark so far…


 

I put off writing this post for a few days as to allow it to fall during invisible illness week. Our society is prone to ignore illnesses that you cannot see. If there is not visible,physical proof, your issues are not real. Most chronic invisible conditions “are not always obvious to an observer, but can sometimes or often limit daily activities. These disabling symptoms can range from mild challenges to severe limitations and vary from person to person.  Having an invisible illness can prohibit the sufferer from enjoying life in the way they once knew.” In light of Invisible Illness Awareness Week, I want to share a story with you all. A window into my world.

I am living with severe depression and anxiety. I think that the last time I can truly remember not suffering from these illnesses was in kindergarten. 15 years ago. The person most of you have gotten to know is a reflection of the false self I put forward all those years ago. Even at this moment when I am trying to type out these thoughts, my mind is fighting me. Thoughts are racing: telling myself not to write the words that will expose me, telling myself that people will look at me differently when they know the truth, telling myself that I am going to hurt the ones I love if they know that I was suffering for 15 years and they didn’t know to help me. My body feels like it is shutting down, locking in place. Maybe this is a cause of my back pain… It feels as if someone is holding my spine in their tight meaty hands squeezing tighter and tighter until it feels that I could snap.

Some of this tale is not my story to share, so for a lack of available words, my home was a danger zone growing up. I managed to feel safe and unsafe at the same time. Like I was in a building where the ceiling was caving in, but I had on a hard hat so I had to be fine. But one of the hardest parts of invisible illnesses is that your hard hat can only protect what others see. I was being attacked internally.

I grew up faster than you could ever imagine. I don’t remember being a child. I don’t remember being care-free. I don’t remember a time when I didn’t overthink every single interaction I considered making, thinking of every possible way it could go wrong before deciding it wasn’t worth the trouble. I don’t remember a time when I have felt comfortable sharing how I was feeling. I don’t remember the last time I willingly hugged my sister. I remember internalizing everything so no one would have to worry about me. I remember the fear of speaking; it was as if one wrong word would tear apart my duct-taped life. It was as if one wrong word would result in me losing my family. Of child protective services splitting us up. At least that is what 6-year-old Emily thought and while this may seem like an over-exaggeration caused by a young mind, but it was a real issue. I could feel it looming over me. Haunting me.

By second grade, I had already promised myself that I would internalize every single thing that was wrong with me until the day I turned 18. You learn the rules pretty quickly when you’re used to walking on eggshells. As a minor, my thoughts were too dangerous to be uttered aloud. I was protecting my mom, I was protecting my sister, I was not going to be the reason we were split apart. I knew if I held off until I was legally an adult. Nothing could come back on my family. I threw myself into my studies. Nothing else mattered to me but walking the line of perfection. Perfection to a struggling 6-year-old came in the form of complete dedication to school. I would never get below an A. A lifestyle that pushed me to graduate as valedictorian. That pushed me to never take an art class as it was a risk to my GPA. A lifestyle that pushed me to hack into my graduating classes grades to verify that I was the one with the highest GPA. The lifestyle that had me take the ACT four times. The lifestyle that had me crying as each college rejection leter rolled in. I would never get in trouble, not even for forgetting one assignment. My family has a history of migraines and I would pretend to throw up in the bathroom in elementary school if I ever forgot a book or an assignment so that I could go home. I would not make too many friends because friends were a dangerous distraction. Isolated. I was to be an independent person. Lonely. I was to be mature. I was to be perfect.

As I mentioned this is 15 years of depression and anxiety, so my life’s story will not fully be in this post–you’re welcome. Basically, I didn’t make it to my goal of 18 years before breaking. I was about 17 and in a high school psychology class. We were in the mental health unit. We had finished quizzes on various mental illnesses including, you guessed it: DEPRESSION AND ANXIETY. We were receiving our results one particular day, but before we did we had a circle to talk about personal issues. We told enough stories that most of us were in tears and I couldn’t keep myself together… I told them the story that I mentioned way earlier that wasn’t fully mine to tell. I told them how I grew up in fear of going home and being the one to find my sister dead. That when I returned home first, I would check the house so no one else had to be the one to find her. I never had this nightmare come true. Wow more reflection this probably why I never invite people to my house. One of my closest friends has been to my house twice in eight years–the first time being when I left for college. Basically my psych teacher said I should/needed to go talk to the school’s social worker, which AS MENTIONED I have a slight fear of. I gave her the shortest recap of what happened in my life. The social worker said I had to tell my mom, or she would. In the end it was her. I still remember that night when my mom drove me to a work meeting. I couldn’t speak. I didn’t want her to know that I wasn’t okay. That I couldn’t handle it myself. That I was fucked up. I went to hop out of the car and she said “I can’t believe you wouldn’t tell me, Em. I thought we had a relationship where you could talk to me…” It broke my heart.

I ended up trying therapy, but it wasn’t the time. I was still under 18 and I refused to be as open as I needed to for it to make any difference. I went to two or three different therapist in less than a year. I had my mom keep these a secret from my family. I didn’t want any of them to know. I felt shame. My sister was so angry that we wouldn’t tell her. I guess you know now. As much as my mom wanted me to explain to her, I couldn’t. I didn’t even want my mom to know. No one else could get a glimpse into the broken person I was. I still needed to be perfect. I knew that therapy wasn’t working and I couldn’t let my mom waste money on something that so stupid as my mental health Thanks society, for making me feel that I am less than. Your stigma surrounding mental health is shit. You had even me believing that if it wasn’t visible it wasn’t there, it wasn’t real. I suddenly just stopped making appointments.

I allowed myself to continue suffering until a little over a year ago. I finally broke down and told my mom I was struggling and needed medication. A little after that I was talked into going to therapy again (this time at my school for free, aka paying my whole tuition anyways might as well take advantage of the health center, thanks Whitman). I have switched medication 3 times, tried mindfullness, done weekly therapy sessions, carry around a stone, write out my feelings, talk to the people around me, embrace my struggles. Embrace my fears and anxieties. Embrace those around me. Embrace help. And I’m not okay, but I’m okay. I’m a contradiction that lives and breathes and feels pain and occasionally still struggles to put herself first and has days when she cannot leave her bed and weeks where the thought of picking up her room is the hardest thing and has moments when she doesn’t want to live in this world and times when everything feels right. And I am better even with these struggles. It’s the hyggeligt moments that keep me going. But a chronic illness doesn’t disappear just because you will it so or are trying your hardest to fight it off.


 

I went out with my host family to a goodbye party for their friend’s daughter, and it was the worst time I have spent in Denmark so far… I didn’t take care of myself as to not cause a scene. I wanted to be polite and happy for this giant group of Danes. I have been in a downswing this week and I pushed myself anyways. I am used to having three or four Danes speaking Danish around me while I sit in silence. It’s a part of the home-stay life and I wouldn’t change it; it pushes me to work harder on the language. But imagine having social anxiety and being in a place that you were only invited to because you live with the people that were actually invited. Now imagine that there are 30 people around you talking in another language as you try to blend in and ignore the feeling of loneliness and isolation. You crave for someone, anyone to speak to you in English, but are too anxious to keep the conversation going because you assume no one wants you there and they all hate you. Now imagine all of this on top of not being a tall, blonde, thin girl in a sea of Danes. Isolated for your language and now your bright blue-green hair, and sweat pants, and less than athletic build. I. Could. Not. Breathe. I was told to go play trivia pursuit with the other people my age aka gorgeous Danes. But they are all SPEAKING IN DANISH. And I saw as much and the mom is like they can speak in English for it. Like NO THANK YOU I would rather suffer in silence than interrupt their game AND ask them to speak in English. She kept pushing and pushing me. I just couldn’t. I was stuck there on the verge of a panic attack for 6 hours. This is invisible illness. This is me suffering for hours as to not be an inconvenience to others. This is what we are hiding. Just because you cannot see our struggles as easily does not mean that they are not there.

 

A Swedish Meatball (aka me)

Core Course Week

A unique experience that DIS provides to its students.

A chance to spend a week with your home-skillet classmates expanding upon your learning.

Prostitution and Sex Trade


Hi Team, so brief note if you are actually reading this to choose/get pumped for your off-campus studies: DIS has two weeks set aside for travel with your core course to gain an international viewpoint of your focus. You also get a week off for personal travel. The first week included a few days of all day learning (but you probs get good food so get over it) followed by a short trip to a far part of Denmark or Sweden. I spent my travels in Malmö and Göteborg, Sweden. This is my story… (cue the end of Law and Order: SVU’s theme song)


OKAY LET”S GO!!!!!! Honestly I think I may have had one of the easiest weeks. It is in part because my teacher is so amazing. Like seriously amazing. I may be in love with her. She also saved me and three others from a burning elevator. We call her mom, because of how much she cares. The other part is because I am doing what I love here. It doesn’t feel like work. Anyways we had a chill week. A few movies were watched, a few lectures were given, and we went to a sex workers’ film festival (I am for real. This is a thing here in Copenhagen. I believe it was at Huset (The House) but it was incredible. Also they are have a punk feminist porn festival in October and I am FREAKING OUT. YESSSS). We were given a day off to pack our bags, and then we were off on our bus to Sweden.

Pro Packing Tips

  • You are going for three days, calm down, one suitcase and one backpack ONLY
  • Bring a blanket on the bus. You have NO IDEA how many people were freeeeeezing because the air doesn’t go off (hint there were 49 people, while I snuggled in a blanket and slept).
  • iPod so you don’t have to use your phone (less data in Sweden+kills battery+no wifi on the bus)
  • EARPLUGS: if you have my luck your randomly assigned roommate will snore loudly. You also be paired with her again the next night.

NOT SO FUN FACT: Sweden’s policy on prostitution is shit (#sorrywhitman). There is no other word for what I faced. I was 1. incredibly shocked, 2. horribly angry, and 3. baffled. There are so many issues I want to tackle right now but that would take this post in a way different direction than I had planned so let’s just briefly mention that Sweden doesn’t know the difference between sex work and sex trafficking. (also I had a lecture yesterday from the person we didn’t get to see on the trip because she fell of a bike or something and i wanted to puke and also die.)

Rambles of the trip: Buy milk and en kanalsnegl at 7-11 only to leave your milk there and remember too late to go back, find the missing bus, travel to Malmö ft. nap, lecture, lunch,

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Honest to god Swedish Meatballs!

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explore, sex shop (I bought a boob mug), thrift shopping, mall ft. froyo, lecture, hostel, exploration, expensive af dinner (note everything closed at like 20.00 go get dinner early), complained with crew about food, took a hilarious photo,

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PURE GOLD

went to the grocery store hostel, by a loaf of bread and chuck of brie because why not, go upstairs, have a picnic with friends, take part in a bread fight, sleep it off. Wake up at an unreasonable time, breakfast (more bread and cheese tgod), hop the bus, join the entire class on a group 3 hour nap on the drive to Göteborg, lecture with the cops (my fav obvi), lunch!!!!!!! at the VIP table with mom because we are her favs (getting trapped in an elevator has its perks), wait was this the day we got froyo??, OHNO! wait we got cute food at the cutest place it was idyllic and gave me hot chocolate and this really yummy chocolate coconut thing bar of goodness with a baby marshmallow and a strawberry, back on the good ol bus for another lecture??, hostel, OMG Liseberg was SO COOL I HAVEN’T BEEN ON A ROLLER COASTER IN 700 YEARS AND IT WAS SUCH A COOL AMUSEMENT PARK

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Proof of Happiness. Thanks, Olivia.

(also good ice cream), hostel, convince everyone to go to the gay bdsm club/ dance club/ strip club that you looked up only to walk there and realize it was sketch with straight bouncers who told it was basically only men (COULD WE PLEASE HAVE LESBIAN PLACES OR AT LEAST MIXED VENUES) and then a drug deal happened so we busted that popsicle stand, I mind you have not eaten and it is now 3.00, hostel, bed. Wake up at another ungodly hour, sleep, take a ferry across to the land of the Danes, go to Louisiana the art museum not the state, where we toured the art

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LOOK ART

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Is this the same rock on a shiny mirror thing that Whitman has??

and had a delicious lunch–I ate raw fish among other things, but then I broke a dish on my way inside and I will never return out of shame. The End.

 

 

Safe in Christiania.

I visited Christiania on August 28 with a few of my friends. (For those of you who do not, Christiania is a self-proclaimed autonomous neighborhood in the borough of Christianshavn within Copenhagen. Since its opening, it has been famous for its open cannabis trade, taking place on what is known as Pusher Street.) Since my visit there, a shooting has taken place.

“On 31 August 2016, a person believed to be carrying the days earnings from cannabis sales suddenly pulled a gun during a routine arrest and shot two police officers and a civilian. The injuries of one of the officers who was shot in the head were life-threatening, while the injuries of the other victims were less serious. Police sealed off the entire neighborhood and located the perpetrator in Kastrup a few hours later. During a brief shootout with Politiets Aktionsstyrke (a special intervention police unit) he was seriously wounded and later died from his injuries in the hospital.The perpetrator, a 25-year-old Danish citizen, was well-known to the police for violence and involvement in cannabis sale. Police officers very rarely receive life-threatening injuries during encounters with criminals (the last police officer to be killed by a criminal in Denmark was in 1995) and the incident was widely condemned. In a communal meeting consisting of Christiania residents it was decided that the stalls in Pusher Street (by far the site of the largest cannabis sale in Denmark) should be removed, which happened the following day, September 2. Local residents also urged people who were friends of the neighborhood to help by not buying cannabis in Christiania.”

Though this is unfortunately a common instance in America, the same cannot be said in Denmark. Because of this I wanted to explicitly state that I am okay and safe. I also don’t want this post to be a message to anyone thinking about visiting or studying abroad here that I think you should avoid Christiania… and maybe I should say this, and maybe that is what Whitman would say to do, but I won’t be doing that. Regardless of what has happened, I feel safe here in Denmark. I feel more safe here than I have ever felt at home. Hell, just the other day I was mentioning to my housemates that I may just live in the library when I return because I hate that the walk back to our house doesn’t have street lights, and I panic every time I try coming home. I have never felt that here. And though Pusher Street has been dismantled and I am unsure of its reappearance, I will gladly return. I don’t want you to give up on visiting because of this incident. I mean, come on folks, we are all somehow still managing in America and that is approximately 8554875156876513576871768737367676165787652158778554.2% more dangerous than Christiania as a whole. The rest of this post will be photos of how beautiful my friends and I found our visit to be.

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My finger is only in the picture to make the lighting adjust so you could read the sign. I do know how to take a photo, I chose not to do it well.

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The view from above over the main area thing with music and food and merch.

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I have been told that I am a better door than a window. This house is entirely made of windows. I think we would complete each other.

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I may have written my name on this bridge as to solidify my existence in the world, but I will deny that if questioned.

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Art.

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Much Artistic Art

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Aww, I think the fishy licks you!

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Much art, Such WOw.

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i HAD TO POST BOTH VERSIONS LOOK AT HER FACE WHEN SHE REALIZED SHE WAS JUMPING INTO MY PHOTO

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might tattoo this on my body, nbd

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This may be my favorite pieces I found. Look how beautifully done it is. Just think you would probably have a harsher punishment for creating this stunning piece than Brock Turner did for raping an unconscious woman. THANKS SOCIETY.

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WELL IF THIS DOESNT ENTICE MY GENDER STUDIES MIND I DONT KNOW WHAT WILL