Internal Explosives.

Life is full of so many demons. Some we encounter, and others live inside of us which sounds like an episode of American Horror Story. Its been really hard to stay focused lately, to slow down, or to do anything productive other than my full time job. Why? Because I am the literal demon in this situation.

Anxiety was never a thing I took seriously, in fact, I didn’t even know it was a diagnosis. But as I sat across from a Doctor, and described my daily routine and thoughts attached, he diagnosed me with severe long-term anxiety. What? But as a flip back through family memories and pictures, certain moments come to mind. The thought of even rain sent me into a crying fit, throwing up before performances, feeling sick whenever I had to leave my dad, and having to have someone at the house with me all the time. As we get older, its not just storms but people, certain songs, walking around the house a certain amount of times before I know I can leave it, and all of this just adds up to be little emotional triggers; triggers that launch a explosive anxiety bomb in my brain.

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Whats it like to have anxiety? Its like seeing something that bothers you, and replaying that situation over and over again in your mind, thinking about all the horrible outcomes and what could happen, and either acting on that stress and venting to someone only to annoy them, or choosing to live with that sickening feeling. Its like laying in bed awake at night because you know the rare disease you have causes blood clots, and your worst fear is to die in your sleep, and you just know that even right now one could pass through your heart or brain and kill you instantly. So, you decide to stay awake. Its like worrying about your family’s safety because they didn’t answer the phone, you think you left the coffee pot on, and you cant focus at work because you just know you will come home to a house that was burnt to the ground. Anxiety takes away my peace of mind, my will to do things, it wants to me stay at home where I’m comfortable and not have to deal with anything that could trigger anything else. Yes, thats how bad its escalated. Dealing with people that have anxiety, I could only imagine is not fun. But your actions unfortuntely play into theirs. We need you as support, and a calming ressurance, not someone who makes us feel crazy. You doing that could actually make us crazy. What exactly do we need from you?

Understanding. You may not get how our brain works, but its locked up in our body. We don’t appreciate how it works, and you definitely don’t, but we need you to be that relaxed force for just that moment.

Genuine Concern. When you tell me to calm down, you’ve just evoked the powers of an anxiety hurricane. You made me feel stupid, out of control, over-exaggerated, and you’ve just triggered every other emotion along with that too. I know you do want us to calm down, and we do too. Think that all you want, but talk to us. Why are you feeling this way? What can I do to help? Lets take a couple breaths, and talk about this. Now that makes all the difference.

Don’t make fun of it. Its a serious problem, and I wish my brain didn’t function this way, but it does. It has since day one, and making me feel stupid and crazy doesn’t help. In fact, it makes me distance myself from you, and it makes me hate me. I’d rather overdose on anxiety pills than deal with this feeling. You merely get to hear about how my brain works, you don’t actually feel the internal thoughts. Its exhausting.

So this loves, has been a huge hindering factor on my life right now. One that I’m trying to control, but as stated before, its exhausting. Its no surprise that anyone who might’ve been diagnosed with something would have anxiety. If you feel like you do, then please talk to your primary, and a therapist. We already live with a chronic fatigue, so why add to that? Free yourself.

-haley.

A Sad Little Fantasy.

A couple of years ago I saw a picture on Pinterest (are we shocked) that said, “What messes us most up in life is the picture in our head of how we think it is supposed to be.” That quote in itself about summed up about the age of fourteen through twenty for me. Despite the happiness, and hardworking front I can put on, there will always be an impending sadness that I am continuously attempting to work through.

I think a couple of years ago when I realized I could let go of some very damaging things, mentally I was free; for a little while, that is. You see, despite how they act, or what they say I know people think I’m crazy because of how ridiculous I can be. I choose to be the person that laughs the loudest, has the outrageous stories, the most ridiculous twist and turns, and I also choose to be stupidly positive sometimes. For a very long time those “stories” and “twist and turns” were nightmares, and very long nights of convincing myself not to just end things. I choose to laugh because at this point, it’s all I have left, and why not be the butt of everyone’s jokes? Why not just love people instead of yell, or get enraged? I don’t see the point anymore. I chose to toss that expected picture of life out a long time ago, and create my own.

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For time to time I focus on just reality, and it spills out onto my blog in angry protests and I have to pop a Xanax. I can read through your Facebook posts about ISIS, how downhill kids are these days, and all these wonderful people dying of the disease that I just happen to have, and I find myself in a corner of fury. I don’t find that fascinating at all. So I’ve built my own world full of writing, Nat King Cole, That 70s Show, Augustus Waters, I Dream of Jeannie, Rocco Ricardo, wonderful art, and I am happy. I know it’s an illusion. My writing is not famous, Nat King Cole is dead, no one knows what I Dream of Jeannie is anymore, and there is no Augustus Waters, only men who are weak-minded, and cats are better anyways. There will always be an impending sadness that my little haven isn’t reality; but within this fantasy I feel safe. It’s the only way I can achieve happiness these days.

I’m tired of trying to control reality because it’s just not going to happen. Are you doing that? Are you spending more time focusing on what you can’t control versus what you could be doing right? Love other people, that is something that can be done. Being that one light in a person’s life; that can be done. Focusing on what makes you happy rather than posting on what is going wrong; try it.

Life is not supposed to go any particular way, sometimes it ends before you get to finish it. Stop letting the picture mess up your creation.

-haley.

P.S. Song of the Week is still Rain Song by Led Zeppelin. I just cant get over it yet.

Hollywood is Still Hollywood, and I Am Still Sick.

Being a sick young adult in this world is not straightforward path. It’s a winding road full of surgeries, painful treatment, people who might not believe you, and even companies demanding money for saving your life and threatening to not save it anymore. With that being said, anyone who isn’t sick will not understand the sick. How could they?

The first thing I say when someone is experiencing a situation that I have never personally dealt with is, “I really don’t understand what you are going through, but I am here.” Why? Because it’s the truth. I think it’s a high form of ignorance to try to relate understanding when we really do not understand. How can we be understanding when we’ve never stepped into that world, we’ve only had a slight view of it? It’s completely different to see something, then experience it. You can watch someone chug vodka yet remain sober, but its different when you are the one chugging it too.

Lately I’ve spent some time reading very well written articles about how this is the year that social media is portraying “sick kids” and how it’s in style. Often I catch myself thinking, “no this isn’t a movie prop” when I walk around in public with my cannula up my nose. I definitely feel the anger as movies like The Fault in Our Stars rise to fame, and people become obsessed yet fail to realize that these sick kids are real, not just lovely on-screen actors. I’ve felt that ridiculous anger, believe me. These articles go so far as to say, and quote:

“But teenagers with illnesses do exist. I am one of them, and it hurts to see movies and television glamorize our suffering.”  –Lillie Lainoff at Yale University

But amongst this rage, I had a lovely realization that is much easier to deal with than that annoying anger which I have every right to feel.

When I noticed the white and black clouds of a bright blue book at Hastings, it succeeded in triggering me to read the back. I didn’t have seventeen dollars at the time (I know, ridiculous) but I ran back into the store on payday, and immediately made it mine. The minute I read about Hazel’s cannula I laughed and screamed. I was hooked, which is an understatement, just like all of America. I wasn’t enthralled because Augustus is “so cute”, or Amsterdam is romantic, but I was enthralled to read that someone could describe my feelings on paper. It was refreshing to read of an illness which you think I would be sick of; pun intended.

I can’t say for other TV shows, or movies, but I’d like to think that The Fault in Our Stars was anything but glamorous. So many people, including myself, described it as emotional death. Yes, it needed a little glamor because it was in fact a movie, and it was nice to experience butterflies for just a bit before impending death. I think what I love about John Green is not only his intelligence, but how realistic he is. His writing is real, and TFiOS is raw. John Green was a chaplain in a children’s hospital which inspired TFiOS. As John Green has stated a long these lines in an interview, “What struck me about these kids was the fact that they weren’t always smiling, they had no amazing wisdom just because they have cancer like everyone thinks, but they were just kids who happened to be sick.” Exactly. As I saw Augustus’s missing leg, Hazel’s hospital visit, her rapid breathing, a shitty author with a twisted view of sick children, and the raw yet horrifying scene of Augustus throwing up and screaming that he “hates himself” days before his untimely death was not glamorous. A lot of people actually hate TFiOS because it wasn’t perfect. But those scenes, as many tears as they provoked, and as much my heart hurt, I smiled. Those feelings were so real; those scenes were amazing. I hate myself when I have to sit down because my body is failing me, and everyone else gets to do what they want yet I am once again reminded of my own fault.

The fault in people saying “Hollywood has it wrong, and is glamorizing my illness” is that they are looking to people for understanding where understanding is not due. Stop getting mad because you are searching for understanding which is beyond unrealistic, just like this show titled, “Red Band Society.” That show may be unrealistic, which from my research it does in fact sound like a shitty portray of disease, but I think its lovely John Green wrote this real book, inspired by real kids, and it ended very real. Dont attack TFiOS. He wasn’t looking for people to understand, or glamor, he just created a lovely work of art. I personally experienced a version of that story, but I know that a lot of people who saw that did not, and they probably never will. They wanted Augustus to live, and hated Hazel’s walls that she built around herself, but I have a version of those walls, and I accepted Augustus’s death. It still sucked though.

So yes, I am aware of the anger of feeling like my oxygen is a movie prop, and the possessive thoughts of feeling like TFiOS is “all mine” and that these teen girls are clueless. But I catch myself in remembrance that I am expecting understanding where it is not due. Those kids will not understand my story, they weren’t meant to, and they can’t help it. They can only see my story, and respect it. So appreciate this art, The Fault in Our Stars, rather than bashing it. Because when they buried Augustus Waters, and Isaac couldn’t even see that because he just had his one eye he had left removed, I felt anything but glamorous. I smiled though, because I knew that I was a rare person who has cried those tears, and had those exact thoughts. I understood, I felt it was meant for me, and it was beautiful.

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-haley.

Instagram @haleyann92

Ch-Ch-Ch- Ch-Changes.

I’ve pretty much diagnosed myself with the worst case of writers block ever. I’m not feeling inspiration, a drive, or anything else currently but to instead focus on my book. I really don’t want my blog to suffer (it’s what propelled me into writing) so I am attempting to keep my head above water with all of this. With that being said, some serious changes are coming to the blog.

It’s not just about PH anymore. This topic is what started the blog on issues that everyone overlooks with a disease, from fashion to tattoo’s, doctor appointments, and what not, but now its evolved. As I continue through my daily life, I realize how much more I would like to write about other things. Education, my heritage, other issues that need the spotlight of activism, and even little things like my room and pill bottle organization. YES! It will be synergy between my serious writing, and thoughts, to little daily things that help us progress. I think that, overall, is what I need and what people will enjoy more. I hope these changes are more enjoyable to my readers, and also help me find my inspiration a little better. 😉

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With that being said, now we can focus on the book. YES! A Haley Ann book is in the making. However, it’s a young adult fiction book. I will start releasing certain quotes on posts WITH a poll, and you can vote (anonymously) if you liked it! While talking with Colleen Brunetti a couple of weeks ago who is in the process of writing her own book, and it’s already successful, I told her whats stopping me is talking about the book itself. I really don’t want to hype up the book if it’s not worth hyping up, which is why I need your help. You get to be the editor, and audience. So please take time to read, and vote!

Now to wrap up everything, song of the week is The Rain Song by Led Zeppelin because I needed a little classic rock to remind me of song good times with family. What a beautiful piece. I hope you continue to have a lovely week! The next post? Haley’s Room. Prepare thyself.

-haley.

Too Much Pressure.

Hello August! I feel like I’ve made it over a crazy couple months of non-stop on-the-go Haley, and now things are slowing down. More writing, more calm, and more happiness. 🙂

I finally had a two month PH checkup, in which everything is ok except for a high heart rate out of no where, and I’m being referred to a new specialist that is closer rather than going to Houston. Also, I met a new primary doctor to handle all other issues who blew me away with not only his looks (hehe), but him thanking me for choosing him, and taking almost an hour examining me from head to toe to establish me as a new patient. He was very precise, and already knew Pulmonary Hypertension inside-out, and was quite interested that I had it. A PH patient’s whole world is full of pressure. The word hypertension literally means high pressure, high pressure in the lungs, high pressure in the heart, and I also found out that the pressure in my eyes is even high. When my new primary said, “I think we need to check your kidney’s for high pressure” I through my hands in the air with the response, “if there is anything that could ever have a pressure in my body it is high.” He laughed, but I was not as amused.

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You see, with all this “pressure” existing within my body, it makes it extremely hard to deal with outside pressure from other unnecessary things and people. Someone said to me to other day, or more yelled, “I know you’re done” and that struck an angry chord. I walk around everyday breathing twice as much as you, with twice the pain, and other everyday issues (like almost passing out from just bending over) and I’m just tired. Why? Because I have a disease that just so happens to have a side effect of chronic fatigue. When everything in my body is built up to functioning on a high level with outside demands, my body sure does reflect “done.” Emotionally, and really, I’m trying not to be done, but my lungs really want to fold themselves in half. Sometimes people really do not comprehend the realities of this disease…but your lungs and heart are a big part of why you are able to read this. When they don’t work right, despite how fine you may look, you really aren’t. People think I’m lazy, people think I exaggerate, but one of my PH friends who is my age (and shares my name) just received a double lung and heart transplant. While being prepped in the hospital she looked damn fine, because it’s an invisible disease. Appearances are deceiving.

Overall, you as a patient, or even just a caregiver, or person will have a lot of pressure throughout life. When its unnecessary, get rid of it, and embrace what truly matters. I’d rather my heart be overjoyed than overworked.

Song of this week! Houdini by Foster the People. Its fun, and perfect right now. Enjoy this week which is the start of a new month!

-haley.

Four Years.

I was only fifteen years old while watching my freshman English teacher scribble inside of a John Lennon book that she decided to give to me while repeating, “Life is what happens while you are busy making other plans.” She said this often, and as fascinated as I was with the quote, I had no grasp of the concept. I mean, doesn’t every fifteen year old know exactly what they are doing with their life? I did. Mrs. Hepler had spent that year critiquing short stories I wrote in private, and we continually bonded over the Beatles, writing, and feminism. She saw something I guess, and felt the need to repeatedly say that quote to me. Its been seven years since I put that book on my shelf, and since I’ve sat in a desk in Mrs. Hepler’s class.

seventeen2Two weeks pre-diagnosis.

You see, my life was all planned out at one point. I was graduated, eighteen, had a fabulous relationship, and even though I was walking into a hospital at five in the morning well aware of what was about to happen…I still thought I was in full control. I remember the nurse having me sign “death papers” in case anything happened. That sting of reality hit hard because I had been eighteen maybe two weeks. I mean, werent my parents supposed to be signing these? I recall the same nurse taking literally eight tries to start my IV, and feeling the frustration of my family standing around telling me their goodbyes before I was wheeled off. But I had to remind myself that this was surgery, I would be asleep soon, and it was all no big deal. The masked female telling me that I had to be awake took another hack into my control theory, and soon I watched it crumble when they injected me, and slowed my breathing. I felt a giant tube squeeze its way through my throat, and watched a cord weave its way into my beating heart on a glowing screen. Doctors chatted around me in professional gibberish that I was too tired to comprehend, and soon I was being yelled at because I was losing consciousness, and bleeding out. Then with blinding lights flipped on, and nothing but silence filling this tiled blue room, I heard my doctor say, “Its your lungs.” My control was shattered.

At first I was told I was physically dying, and then I was just mad. Later, I felt like mentally I was dying, and wanted to actually physically die along with my broken heart, and my life was a collage of unidentifiable direction, misleading information, and trying to fight for control. I’ve been PHighting for a long time. I’ve taken pills, had more tubes shoved into arteries, scans of my organs, and oxygen crammed up my nose. Four years has gone by quick especially when you are told you only have two years left to live. At times I really thought I would rather take my own life, than to continue to fight this tiring disease.

The blue prints in which I thought I had planned my life out perfectly went through the shredder a long time ago. At one point, you just have to sit back and think, “what the hell happened?” But this weird, and unpredictable road has been painful, but as I’ve said before, there is an odd beauty in pain. I saw this John Lennon book collecting dust on my shelf the other day, opened it and read a little message from Mrs. Hepler. I smiled, and soon everything fell exactly into place. I’m still me…but my life really did happen despite my other plans.

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Four years strong.

This is dedicated to Tricia Hepler, who without, I probably would have a ridiculous amount of comma’s on this page. In fact, I bet I still do. What a fantastic person, writer, and general artist you are. Thank you.

-haley.

Adrift.

Coming back from Indianapolis has been rough to say the least. Not because I’m tired (I definitely am), not because my symptoms have become gradually worse, and not because we don’t have some of the same amazing places…but it kind of put me in perspective. In Indy, I felt like I had reached exactly a place I belonged. People knew who I was, knew my work, credited my work, and I felt like I was doing something right. Now I’m back here where I explain myself, and yet I’m still forced to find a college degree to find some sort of “work” that will pay the bills.

What am I doing? I mean really. I work almost thirty hours a week with maybe a couple of days off from the place that I’m just existing at. Its money, and that’s it. Is that going to be my life? Get up, drag myself to some regular job, where I work late hours doing “whatever” type stuff, then I come home exhausted to try to power through my real work? My real life’s passions? Does that not sound exhausting to you?

Everyone always asks me what I’m doing, what school I’m going to, and I really have no idea how to answer. I love to teach, I hate education. I want teaching to be organic, and in this world its the furthest thing from that. Screw working at a school, because its like picking at a scab. I cant do it. I would love to write, but where? How? Who would read it? How would I get paid? Dont forget, I need health insurance! I would love to own my own business, but its an infinitive circle of the same questions….

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I really have no idea which way I am going. I am just standing in a spot that has so many different, weird, and confusing paths that I just feel like sitting down for a while. The moment I do, I’ll realize that I should’ve done something a long time ago, and I’ll watch all these people I knew with their careers, kids, houses, marriages, and here I am…just hoping for direction and medical insurance. I’m really not throwing a pity party. I’m just really lost.

I  need help y’all. If you have any words of wisdom, feel free to comment. The end of my rope isn’t even existent anymore.

-haley.

Instagram @haleyann92

Facebook.com/phenomenalhaley

Song of the Week is the beautiful Without Words from the TFiOS soundtrack. Its beautiful, and lost is exactly how Augustus and Hazel felt when this song played. You can purchase Just Breathe shirts still!!!! Personally email me to check your size. There may be more items added to the shop section soon!

Shopping? YES!

Finally! After many many months of people asking, begging, and wondering…I can finally say that my Just Breathe Lung T-shirts are for sale! The catch? These are left over Tee’s from the Lantos grant. There is a very limited amount of sizes available. It will very much so be a first come-first serve system! Follow the directions below to finally purchase one! I will work through email only. 🙂 haley.ann.92@gmail.com    I hope everyone can finally have one! Thank y’all for being supportive, and patient!

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Thank Y’all.

Finally, I am home. I have nothing left but exhaustion, and happiness. This was such a perfect trip! I wanted to thank my readers, and the PH Association for making it possible. This was an absolute highlight of my life. Most of you followed on Facebook, and Instagram, and thank you for that! I am so glad you got to see the events unfold online. To those who I finally met in person, that was such an uplifting experience. As most of you know, I was nominated for the Young PHA’s Outstanding Citizen Award which still baffles me. I watched so many other PH’ers get on stage to accept their awards, only to hear about all the amazing things they’ve done. They are some PHenomenal people doing PHenomenal things! It was hardcore proof of the importance of connecting with other people who are affected by the same disease as you. Get involved! It will change things. Congrats to all of those who accepted an award, got to attend conference, had an amazing time, branched out, and learned. Everyone has done amazing job in the PH community.

As I’m coming up on my fourth year anniversary of being diagnosed, I’m reflecting heavily on my original feelings towards this disease. How absent I was, blank, unresponsive, and I possessed not an ounce of fight. When you are diagnosed with anything it’s really starting a challenge of overcoming yourself. That sounds easy; you know you better than anyone else. Except, most people leave out one huge detail about a diagnosis. You are no longer you anymore. From day one, you are wearing a completely new skin, adapting to what feels like a completely new body, treatments, a new circle of people (or survivors) and everything you thought you once knew about yourself is dust. Well, some of it. Now you will be tested on your mental, and emotional strength, how far will you go to physically overcome, and to one day make it to an infinitive finish line called “survivor.” Overcoming yourself is not easy; it’s the hardest thing you will go through. In the meantime remember, that mental dominates physical. If you can understand, comprehend, and get a handle on this mentally…your body will catch up. Mind over matter. I had to dominate my own self, swallow pride, not listen to certain thoughts, cut certain people out, let doctors in, and really figure out what it is I exactly needed. It really is possible to pull yourself out of that dark place. The only thing keeping you down is you. Look at yourself and heavily evaluate what is going on, and what needs to be changed. It took almost four years exactly to get somewhat on the right track. You will fall off every now and then, or take a wrong turn. I struggle mentally, emotionally, and physically. This is a lifetime disease, and until we can get that cure, it will be a lifetime battle. Find the will to live, and hold onto it. There is beauty in this struggle. Who knew I would get to wear glitzy shoes, and accept a ridiculously heavy glass award, meet fans, take pictures, stay in a four star hotel, have people ask me questions, and have my face and story all over the world because of PH? Quite frankly, I’m thankful.

Train your mind to see the good. Mind over matter. Thank you to everyone for showing me the good side of PH! Its been a trip. Pictures are below! Thank y’all again.

-haley.

Instagram! @haleyann92

Facebook.com/phenomenalhaley

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Onward!!

Holy cow! It’s finally here; Conference week. I’m heading off to Indianapolis in about seven hours (its almost midnight)….and I need to pack. I know, how shameful. Rocco is feeling anxious, and its making me sad to leave him, yet anxious as well. Most of you know I was nominated, and won The Pulmonary Hypertension Association’s Outstanding Young Adult award for 2014. I am extremely grateful, and proud. I know we are always talking about how much this disease sucks, but really, I want to thank my disease for what it has done to me. Its given me a privilege to dig way deeper into myself than I would have ever done before, to find out who I truly am, its taught me what it means to survive, how fragile life is, and to conquer. I am thankful for my shitty lungs.

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Sooo, since I will be on the road (and worrying about Rocco 24/7) I don’t want to leave everyone out of the experience! I will be vlogging the whole time. Vlogging? Yes, vlogging. I guess I will take a Claire Marshall whack at this, and see what y’all think! I can’t wait for everyone to see the experiences (including Funky Bones park from TFiOS), and until I can upload it all you can follow me on my social media sites!

Song of the week is Boom Clap from the TFiOS soundtrack because this is the song they played while Hazel and Gus arrived at their destination in Amsterdam. Such an exciting song! Find, and follow me to keep up with this week! Have a lovely day everyone!

-haley.

Instagram @haleyann92

Facebook.com/phenomenalhaley