Medication Is An Educational Present from your Well-Meaning but Clueless Great Aunt Mable

Six months ago in April, I was finding it difficult to breathe.

I am not going to talk about the giant scope of mental illness. Though I am a sufferer, I am not a mental health professional. What I will say is that as someone who lets the Anxiety and Depression Sister Duo tap dance their way to terrible stardom in her brain, there are times when their dance routines are unspeakably unbearable.

In April, in the midst of my joblessness and lack of direction, the unbearableness happened again. Every single day I was crying. I started crying when someone looked at me, I cried when I received a rejection email from a job I applied to, I cried when I had to go to the grocery store. When they say you are 70% water, they aren’t lying. There are just buckets of water inside of you.

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I also don’t think it is wise to talk about the word “suicide”. How do I bring up this word without sending a hailstorm of concerned, well-meaning individuals crashing down at my door? In April, I was not suicidal, but I was driving down Suicidal Avenue. I think a few more left turns and I would have perhaps hypothetically been leaning in that direction.

If you have had depression, you know what hopelessness feels like. You know what the world looks like through your darker-than-a-blackhole-sunglasses. It is a terrible picture that seemingly has only one end. I had no meaning and no direction, and it was scary. I was legit scared. Think of a scary movie and multiply it by approximately 13512462464.

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In April, I decided to take medication for my near and dear chemical imbalance. After ten years of trudging through it with natural and homeopathic techniques, this FINAL STRAW of brain explosions in April caused the flood gates to open and I realized my bi-weekly acupuncture appointments and nature walks weren’t going to cut it anymore. Though I have an uncomfortable relationship with medication due to years and years of always getting more side effects than treatment… it felt extremely urgent to try it one last time.

And so! For the past six months, I have been on anxiety/depression medication. These meds not only stopped the waterworks, it effectively got me to Germany. It helped me pack up my micro-apartment in Seattle, fly to a foreign country, and start a new life in a place I have never been to before.

For that I am grateful.

I am now in Germany. A place even a year ago I would never have imagined being. What! Why! How!?

HOWEVER

Some miracles have a tiny man behind the curtain. Every yin has a yang. Here is a carefully orchestrated list of how one small pill has changed my life for the better and the worse.

  • The Good: I can now stand up in front of a group of adults and eloquently express myself without shuddering like a chihuahua in winter. 
  • The Bad: I have become forgetful and chronically tired to the point of losing my jacket, my keys, my train of thought, and what I purchased from the store five minutes ago.
  • The Good: I have successfully gone on dates with exotic German men without feeling intimidated or weirded out that there are cultural differences or that I am an odd human being.
  • The Bad: I often feel neutral about everything now, including affection and romantic gestures. Another day, another make out session. Who cares.
  • The Good: The pills have given me confidence to take more fashion risks, and feel better about my poochy pear shaped body.
  • The Bad: My lack of discipline has now caused me to purchase an exorbitant amount of clothing, pastries, and junk! A  brand new character flaw I have never had before. I used to be thrifty!
  • The Good: I have been able to successfully navigate a new city, create a Facebook group, be extremely social, and nurture new friendships with minimal emotional breakdowns.
  • The Bad: For some unknown reason, these pills have caused me to have ZERO tolerance for creativity, meaning my creative (AND REASON FOR EXISTING) well has all but dried up. My long nights of painting, writing and self reflection have effectively gone out the window.

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THE (current) VERDICT

After a hard look at myself in the mirror, I decided where my priorities are and what I want my future to be like. I am not the Sarah I was in April. I am German Sarah now. And German Sarah, although mostly still unknown, is a different beast entirely. After heavy consideration, I am weening myself off of the medication and going back to perhaps a more potent, Dr. Jekyll-Mr. Hyde situation…Something I am familiar with, but in a new and improved environment.

So far, in day four, I have gotten my first German hair cut, had a mild depression episode about loneliness, and have finally written this blog entry after over a month of silence.

I want to try my best to become friends with the monster, the aspect of myself that is terribly imperfect. Perhaps if navigated correctly, I can produce interesting results.

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I’m quickly realizing that progress can look less like a straight line and more like a giant circle. The ol’ two step forwards, one step back waltz. But that infuriating circle is rolling somewhere, damn it, and I need to know where it is taking me instead of buying my 47th scarf at the mall while eating a mediocre doughnut.

Crying One Second And Laughing The Next,

Sarah

Medication Is An Educational Present from your Well-Meaning but Clueless Great Aunt Mable

A Day in the Life of an English Teacher in Hamburg

The weather in Hamburg is seemingly unpredictable. Each morning I wake up, stare out of the window, check my phone, as if there is any comprehension in understanding what 80 degrees with thunderstorms mean. My friend sends me a link to an English news site; a tornado warning. How do you dress for tornado weather?

I check the time. I give myself ample amounts of time for the Hochbahn, a subway system that is meticulously on time throughout Hamburg. During rush hour, every train comes at exactly four minutes apart from each other, with only a few seconds of leniency. If you’re not there right when the Hochbahn arrives, you miss it. Some how people know when it’s coming, an every-4-minute schedule memorized, but I give myself plenty of wiggle room. My morning routine is not down to the minute (yet.)

I step on the train. If I get on at 7:52, there is a huge crowd of people. Standing room only. You are forced against someone else (And oh, deodorant is often only a suggestion here), or huddling in the corner away from making eye contact. At 7:56 there is no one. A deserted landscape of dark red or dark blue fabric patterns.

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Alas, I made it to the earlier train. People everywhere. Some are tired, they are closing their eyes while placing their heads on the window. Some are alert. They are staring intensely at each person for 3-5 seconds. Sizing them up, taking them in. Oh, the staring. When first arriving here, the staring was a slap to the face. What is wrong with me? Why won’t they smile when I smile? My American habits of smiling while staring gets immediately put to bed. After two months, I have started staring back. People watching has become an Olympic sport!

I make it to the English school I’m teaching at 30 minutes early. This is common. Lesson planning is a never ending process. If you planned your lessons the night before, you must make copies. If you didn’t plan anything, you better hurry up. A grammar lesson is first thing.

In Hamburg, if you’re aiming to be an English teacher, unless you’re fluent in German, you’re teaching adults. Adults want full integration. I am put in a room with 3-7 adults. Most are older than me, and come from all over Europe and beyond. 2/3rds are of German descent, and 1/3rd encompasses people usually from other countries near by. Turkey. Russia. Bolvaria. A beautiful kaleidoscope of accents and pronunciations.

A Russian woman with puffed up lips and a bedazzled dress robustly says, “YOU GO TO THE MOVIES?”, interviewing her partner. A 50-something German man with a round pot belly and half moon glasses at the end of his nose replies, “Yes, I’m going to see an action film starring Arnold Shwarzenneger.”

It’s nearing afternoon. I have a company class outside of Hamburg city proper, maybe 30 minutes if I’m lucky, 50 minutes if I’m not. Again, I need to give myself ample time to not get lost. I also need to eat something, desperately. The sliced lunch meats I grew accustomed to in the states taste different here and I can’t stomach them. I’m often at Dat Backhus, a chain bakery with assorted sandwiches and unknown desserts, which I partake in more often than not.

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“Spreken zie English?”

Over and over I ask. Do you speak English? 82% of the time it’s a yes, particularly with the younger crowd, but less common with the older crowd. This time it’s a no. I enthusiastically point at a fresh looking mozzarella sandwich with sliced tomatoes. I then smile and nod at a white chocolate chip cookie. They love white chocolate here. Coffee (or Kaffee) is the same word, and is much needed. Standing in front of a crowd of students, presenting yourself and your persona over and over again is exhausting.

The company class has 2 out of 5 people absent. One is at a meeting, another is on holiday. British English is more common here, and I find myself saying “holiday” instead of vacation and “colleague” instead of co-worker more and more often. I give them a spiel about Donald Trump.

“The number one question people ask me is: why do Americans like Donald Trump?”

Which is true. Germans are seemingly fascinated with a character such as Trump. Because they are B2 level (not beginners, not fluent, yet) I hand them a fairly engaging article about the reasoning behind why certain groups of people support the Republican candidate. They seem interested, and a discussion ensues.

It’s already late afternoon. My phone is running low on data (Monthly, pre-paid plans can do that to you, especially if you’re continuously lost.), and I have to try and find the bus that will take me back to the subway. Confusion sets in, and I just start walking towards the general direction of the Hochbahn station. It’s a mile in a half away. The app that tells you what bus to take but does not tell you how to get to said bus. Thank God for comfortable clogs I bought before leaving for Germany. Comfort of standing on your feet all day out trumps fashion.

I get home and the sun is thinking about calling it a night. She’s looking at me through hazy clouds, squinting and rubbing her eyes. I feel the same. She pulls the covers over her head and a sudden downpour showers the streets. I forgot my umbrella.

When I finally get to my apartment (or is it flat?), my roommate, a 50-something glamourous woman is home, chatting with someone in German on the phone. It’s only 6:30, but I’m slipping into my pajamas, and disappointed I didn’t pick up something for dinner too. The European championships are on (soccer, or is it football?), and she is squealing at the TV. Germany is known for their exceptional soccer team.

She is a friendly woman, though perturbed that a late-20s girl isn’t out drinking with her friends, discovering the night life, or doing something more proactive than watching another series on Netflix. She seemingly, at 25+years my senior, has infinite more energy than I do. Walking around in her underwear, animatedly chatting on the phone, curlers in her hair. She and I have had many conversations in her underwear now, and my American sensibilities have been constantly questioned.

Though I have lived alone for 7 years or so, it is seemingly impossible to get your own flat once you first move to Germany. The paperwork is neverending, and I found myself using an American Idiom more than once.

“What came first: the chicken or the egg?”

One cannot get a job without two letters of intent from prospective companies, that you have to meet in person. One cannot get a flat without a residence permit that can easily take 2-3 months to get. One cannot get a bank account without a place to live. Everything hinges on something else, and often I find myself asking, how did I get here? Where am I going? Will this ever end?

And then, gradually, it does.

The paperwork gets sorted. The clouds start to part. And the sun starts to set over Hamburg in an egg yolk yellow hue.

Tomorrow is a new day, and I have to plan on how to teach Present Perfect Continuous.

 

 

 

A Day in the Life of an English Teacher in Hamburg

Interlude of Bittersweetness

I have lived in Seattle for 9 years. Almost to the nose. Only now, a day away from my road trip down to CA to drop off my stuff before embarking to Hamburg, does it hit me like a lead balloon. My stomach is writhing. How can I experience such a profound sense of certainty that I’m making the right decision for my well-being and then simultaneously feel the walls crumbling around me?

The wall started crumbling when I gave away my pet turtle of 8 years, Mr. Fuji. The longest standing roommate I’ve ever had, Fuji showed no affection what so ever, enjoyed blueberries and dark corners, and was older than me by at least 6 years. He let me put him on my belly to watch him rise and fall. He survived a dog attack. He survived the unnecessary amount of affection and long ramblings late into the night.

Fuji, I will miss you. I love you, buddy.

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7 out of the 9 years I spent in Seattle, my affections were also shared with a human male. Our relationship wasn’t perfect. But when you spend that much time with a person, you’re bound to miss the little things. The sound and warmth of someone sleeping next to you, the nervous habits they have. Though the relationship was ultimately not a healthy situation for either party, and escaping this city means finally not associating places with old memories, there’s a profound sadness that giving up Seattle finally means giving up this giant part of my past. Today I threw away all of his old letters and gifts.

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(circa 2009)

This city gave me my first and second roommates, a chance to live alone and establish independence, a greeting card business, heartbreak, grief of losing a parent, reconnecting with my brother, horrible OKcupid dating anecdotes, my first real addiction to coffee, a chance to live in a 280 square foot living space and a chance to create a children’s book.

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This city gave me so many interesting, beautiful friendships. All ebbing and flowing, some growing and maturing with me, others fading away with each passing year. It gave me a chance to work in retail, a way to get my bachelors degree in an obscure subject. Hiking adventures, mastering peeing in the woods and building a fire, introductions to banana slugs and blackberry picking, “the Seattle Freeze”, and a series of many crappy short hair cuts.

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But most of all, Seattle gave me my first taste of completeness. This feeling of contentment in a sea of discomfort accumulated from years of feeling unworthy and grief and living in a body with chemicals and life circumstances that are against me. I spent my entire 20’s here growing and expanding outward. Seattle helped me understand that although I couldn’t follow the “norms” of what a person is supposed to do with their lives, the chapters have yet to unfold in any consecutive order, Seattle unveiled a little corner for me to adapt and flourish.

Seattle, I’m so grateful for you taking me in and showing me the ropes. Thank you for letting me explore as an artist and as a person. My time is up here, but how can I forget you? Your fresh air and green foresty hills are a part of me forever.

Love,

Sarah

Interlude of Bittersweetness

The Pressure Is Too Much

Starting a blog is always so easy for me. I have approximately 10 Tumblrs, a scary amount of LiveJournals and Myspace diary entries floating around the internet, three wordpresses, and how can any self-respecting millennial forget Xanga? I never did much with any of them though. I never watered or played with them, or put on Baby Mozart to help them grow smart.

It is as if the tide rolls in with all of these exciting new ideas, and then it rolls out again. I had such high hopes for every single one of those baby blogs. Thank God this didn’t translate to real children. I would have literally 23 children and they would all have to fend for themselves.

But like every new baby, being birthed from my brain ovaries (what?), I hope for the best. This one is fully, 100% dedicated to my trials and tribulations of getting over to Hamburg, Germany. Not just getting there, but once getting there figuring out how to STAY there.

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(Image from travel-to-Hamburg.com, DUDE I’m trying already)

Right now I’m a jobless, single, forever-chubby lady of Seattle, WA. After graduating school (late, I’m 29), I decided to be extremely proactive and apply for a bunch of stuff. Let’s look at the series of rejection letters of just this past week alone, shall we?

Ohhhhh, 4 in one week! I feel like the luckiest girl in the WORLD.

With me so far? Great. Get out a piece of paper, this next part requires some math.

So, let’s say I apply for a bunch of jobs per week for the past three months. And each week I get 2-4 rejection letters. Add one failed OKcupid date per week. Stir it in a simmering pot of depression, anxiety, and despair. Add 20 pounds of comfort pastries. This equals a cesspool of discontentment so overwhelming that crying became an Olympic sport for me. I should have added this skill set to my resume. Cry over a group of mothers chatting about babies? Check. Cry over an apple fritter? Check.  Cry over a blank wall? You bet! I’m your gal!

So, why Hamburg, Germany? The biggest and most honest reason is that a lady from my high school is paving her way through Hamburg as we speak, teaching English to adults.

After absolutely no consideration at all, I asked her, “GIRL. ON A SCALE OF 1-10 HOW MUCH WILL YOU HELP ME GET TO HAMBURG PLEASE HELP I THINK I’M DYING”, I waited with baited breath. If she said at least a 7, I’m jumping into this. She said 14. Hallelujah!

So, I bought an one way ticket, am actively getting rid of 95% of my things I’ve accumulated over my time in Seattle, writing heartfelt goodbye letters to the people who have come to put up with me over the years, and finally deactivated my OKcupid account with no intention of reactivating it 3-5 days later.

I also applied to a massive amount of English teaching schools in Hamburg, determined that I will not be phased by such rejections I’ve been experiencing in the past.

BUT DUDES, I didn’t have to. I have 8 interviews scheduled as soon as I get into Hamburg. WHY HOW WHO WHAT ME HOW WHAY WHA WAAAAA.

Dudes, I have never owned a blazer before. I better consult my personal styling assistant. Just kidding, I’m still jobless and poor. Good one, Sarah, thanks Sarah.

And sure, they may take one look at my pastry-filled husky frame and reject me (Those Europeans are really posh) but the fact that I get to attempt my charms in person, versus these bland rejection letters before meeting is enough to make me optimistic.

Hamburg, here I come already.

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Fondly,

Sarah

NEXT WEEK: Road Trip to My Mothers House To Drop Off My Junk

 

The Pressure Is Too Much