You Can’t Buy A Learning Disability

This picture is from an article I wrote for my high school newspaper about how incredibly hard the college admissions process was for me. So knowing now that people were out there totally cheating the system really angers me.

By now you’ve probably heard about the high-profile college admissions scandal that came out recently, in which parents paid to get their children into universities through bribing faculty, hefty donations or arranging for their children to cheat on the SATs. Paying off a college to get your kid in is obviously terrible. But the fact that some of the parents “bought” their kids a learning disability to get SAT accommodations makes me absolutely furious.

My learning disabilities have affected me in almost every class I’ve ever taken. They often force me to work much harder than my peers to get the same results. They have been a constant source of anger and frustration for years because I can’t do things that come easily to other students. My accommodations are what helps bridge this gap and without them, I would have completely floundered in school. To think of someone taking advantage of the resources I need to overcome a genuine significant struggle is incredibly upsetting.

Thankfully, I have become very good at advocating for myself and my needs in the classroom. But before I developed the confidence to stand up for myself, there were teachers who completely blew me off. Some called me a distraction to the rest of the class and some said it wasn’t fair to give me “special treatment.” Freshman year, one teacher even blatantly denied me my university mandated accommodations and I was felt too embarrassed and ashamed to fight back.

So what makes me so angry about this whole college admissions scheme is that the kind of people involved in it are the reason that teachers don’t always take me seriously. They are why a teacher once told me that I was “obviously trying to take advantage of the system” so his goal would be “to accommodate me as little as possible.”

It is important for the world to understand that learning disabilities are a huge burden for those who really suffer from them. They are not a sneaky way to get extra time on tests or use of a laptop in class. They are the only way to level the playing field so that I can thrive alongside my peers.

This scandal is unfortunate, frustrating and disappointing. But I hope it creates an opportunity for dialogue on these issues so that people can better understand how hard a learning disability really is.

Has anyone ever questioned your learning disability? Let me know in the comments or send me an email.

How CBD Oil Is Helping My Mental Health

At first, I was skeptical of all the CBD hype. I kept reading about how it had healed a variety of physical and mental ailments but I figured it was too good to be true.  Then I tried American Shaman’s Water Soluble Oil and the results honestly blew me away.

A few weeks ago, I woke up feeling distracted, unproductive and didn’t even want to get out of bed. I took a walk hoping that would help me reset but I still felt just as out of it when I got home. With nothing left to try, I decided to drink a little bit of the American Shaman Water-Soluble Oil sample I had bought on a whim a while ago.

I can honestly say that the CBD oil turned my entire day turned around. I suddenly felt motivated and focused. I cleaned my whole room, wrote a blog post and finished my homework. My mood was elevated. My anxiety improved. I felt infinitely better than I had just hours before. I was so blown away that I actually called both of my parents to tell them how excited I was about this new product. Over the last few weeks, I’ve continued to drink the Water Soluble Oil each morning and it’s been obvious that it still makes a huge difference in my day whenever I use it. While I definitely cannot recommend CBD on a medical level, I can certainly say it has begun to make a huge positive difference in my mood, my anxiety and my ADHD.

This is why I am so tremendously excited to announce that I am partnering with American Shaman to help you all get the CBD I have found so valuable! And the Water Soluble Oil isn’t their only product I love. I’ve started using their Hydrating Body Lotion and Lip Revitalizer too. I particularly love the lotion because it makes my skin feel unbelievably soft but also helps relieve some of the aches and pains in my muscles. The texture isn’t greasy like many other CBD lotions and it has a lovely, calming lavender smell. The Lip Revitalizer has also been a lifesaver for my chapped lips because I’ve found that the CBD makes it extra hydrating and it’s not full of fake chemicals and fragrances like many other chapsticks. Everything American Shaman makes is organic, non-GMO and lab-tested to ensure everything is safe and high-quality.

I am partnering with American Shaman because their products — especially the Water Soluble Oil — have genuinely made a huge positive impact on my mental health and I hope they can help you all too.

Head to AMERICAN SHAMAN’S WEBSITE and use my discount code SS10 for 10% off your order!

Taking A Break

March has been a stressful month of midterms, rain and beginning to confront my future. So honestly, I needed a vacation.

It’s been a bit longer than usual since I posted my last blog. But while I was gone, I was home in California resting, recharging and spending time with my family. And as much as I love to write, I needed to take some time away from blogging to stay present in my time off.

I’ve been known to fall into workaholic tendencies and put a tremendous amount of pressure on myself to do everything at once. But time and time again, I’ve found the value of unapologetically taking a small break from the work in my life to reset.

A big part of this that I’ve struggled with is setting the boundaries needed to take some real time away. When an email popped up in my inbox while I was on vacation, I couldn’t help but feel compelled to respond. But if it’s work-related, it can wait until I’m ready to regroup because sticking to these boundaries will help jump back into all my responsibilities stronger. I needed that time to focus on myself.

I know that hard work is crucial to success. But it’s equally important to stay sane amid the work by giving yourself some time to recharge. That’s how I spent my last week at home in California and I hope that sometime this week you take even one day to reset too.

Seasonal Mood Swings Or Something More?

Sudden warm weather tends to make me absolutely ecstatic.

But the last few weeks in Nashville have brought some wild weather, from terrible thunderstorms to beautiful 70 degree days, to a dramatic drop to an icy 20 degrees, all within two weeks.

I tend to forget the serious impact that weather changes can have on mood. But this bout of insane weather gave me a big reminder of the reality of seasonal impacts on both depression and hypomania.

When the sun appeared out of nowhere last week I found myself suddenly in an almost manic state — cleaning my house, getting all my projects done, starting new ones and feeling almost euphorically confident. Then as the rain and cold set in days later, I became withdrawn, unmotivated and struggled to finish my work or post the blogs I wanted to. I went to my psychiatrist wondering if I was having bizarre several-day-long bipolar episodes. Thankfully, she told me the answer was more likely my mental health responding to the changing weather.

I was so glad to have this clarity about my last few weeks. But with another couple months of potentially temperamental weather before summer, I need to make sure I am prepared to deal with the mental impact on the seasons.

So here’s what I’m doing to stay sane. To start, I’m looking into buying a special seasonal depression light, which helps mimic the effects of the sun on your brain while you’re at your desk. I’ve also found that I need to make sure I get out of bed early and kickstart my day with caffeine on the colder and drearier days. Honestly, if I don’t force myself to get working, I may end up lying in bed for hours doing nothing while it rains. On the sunnier days when I suddenly feel like superwoman, I’m making sure to take time for mindfulness and meditation, to help balance out my suddenly hyperactive brain.

Most importantly, we all need to have a little grace with ourselves during this time when our mental health may be a bit less reliable.

What do you do for seasonal mental health? Let me know in the comments!

5 Ways To Practice Self-Care In A Stressful Time

Today I realized something terrifying. In eight weeks, I will graduate from college.

So from the minute I woke up, I was filled with sudden panic about the huge unknown that’s in front of me. Unfortunately, there’s no way for me to ease the stress by getting the perfect job overnight. Instead, I am going to have to make my final days in school about self-care to combat the anxiety.

I’ll admit that I’ve never been great about self-care. Sometimes it makes me feel selfish, or like I’m wasting valuable time that I could be spending getting work done. But I have also seen its value time and time again when I need to reset and collect myself.

So here’s what I’ll be doing to take care of myself during this stressful season.

  1. Taking walks and spending time outside.

Even thought it’s cold, I always find that just half an hour walking outside can help me settle back into a place of calm. If I start to lose focus, getting some fresh air and moving around is always a good way to recharge.

  1. Do something creative.

When I have restless energy, it helps me to feel like I’ve at least created something with my time spend decompressing. So try journaling, painting or writing a song.

  1. Paint my nails (or even spring for a manicure!)

It’s the simplest luxury, but I always feel more confident when my nails look nice. And sometimes the little bit of pampering we get at a manicure is just the extra care we need.

  1. Spend less time on social media.

I’ve heard that comparison is the thief of joy and, especially in a time of so much change, it can be hard not to compare myself to those who seem to have it all figured out, according to social media. But I need to remember that I am exactly where I need to be and that nobody has all the answers, even if it looks like it on Instagram.

5. Try to stay present.

While it’s important for me to engage in the new phase my life is entering, I also need to remember not to get so caught up in planning that I lose sight of my two months as a student. I should most of all be enjoying the days I have left as a student, not panicking about what I will do when they end.

What do you do for self-care? Let me know in the comments!

Don’t Cry Over Spilled Milk

I posted last week about embarrassingly forgetting my laptop at home when I went to the Apple store to try and get it fixed, only to find out I had to buy a new one. Long story short, a week later I started getting horrible migraines and eye pain. I even went to see my doctor irrationally worrying I had developed a brain tumor (thanks anxiety). Turns out, the different display on my new laptop was so bad it was seriously straining my eyes. So I’m having to return that one and buy another one. 

With all these tech issues, doing my homework, working on my blog and doing everything else in my life has been much more difficult. So suffice to say, it has been a bit of a stressful week with a lot of reasons to be annoyed and angry. But my advisor noticed a change in me today when I went to talk to her about it.

She told me that I looked surprisingly calm considering that last year, I would have completely freaked out over this mess. And she was completely right. Early 2018 Sara would be having a total prolonged meltdown right now.

But I have grown a lot this year and learned to handle stress so much better than I used to. I don’t know if it was being thrown into a chaotic internship in New York last semester or just finally spending time trying to figure myself out. But a silly saying popping into my head last semester whenever I started to freak out: “Don’t cry over spilled milk, it’s already out of the glass.”

I turned this into a bit of a mantra during my stressful fall semester. When things would get crazy or I would feel like I’d lost control of a situation, I would try to remind myself:

  1. It’s not worth exhausting all your energy worrying about something that is really small in the grand scheme of things (like spilled milk).
  2. And even if something more substantial goes wrong, things are going to happen the way they happen and you can’t get hung up on what you can’t change (it’s already out of the glass).

This is not to say that I’ve overcome all my stress and worry because I certainly haven’t. But I’ve started to learn to try and have a little perspective when things go wrong and try not to freak out about the little things. 

Do you have a mantra that helps you when you’re stressed? Let me know in the comments!

Rediscovering Creativity

When I came to college as a songwriting major, I considered creativity to be one of my biggest and most valuable traits. During that period I wrote almost every day, constantly re-arranged my room and proudly wore bold (and at times cringe-worthy) clothing.

But over the next few years, school began to break that creativity down. My learning differences made classes harder, so I needed to follow the instructions closely to get A’s on my projects. I had to maintain conventional methods of organizing and discussing so that I didn’t stand out in the wrong ways. I needed to tuck away my creativity to read the textbook, regurgitate the information the next day, then forget it. My writing became formulaic; it had to be to fit all the requirements on my papers.

In retrospect, this weakening of my creativity was one of the reasons that I eventually switched out of my songwriting major, which I once loved. Creativity is one of the biggest gifts for those of us with ADD and is part of why I innitially loved writing music so much. But challenging, conventional schooling can damage those of us who think differently into forfeiting that gift.

After I changed majors, I didn’t pick up a guitar for a long time. I focused on journalism, which often let me go into writing with a universal blueprint. But after a year of freelancing, I started to get bored with the formulas.

Today I wrote a song for the first time in a while. I don’t feel any pressure to play my songs for anyone anymore, so it finally felt expressive and cathartic again. The song may be terrible, but I’m learning that with creativity, it’s more about the process than the end result.

At risk of sounding preachy, we were born to create something beautiful. So let go of the rules you’ve been taught and go get started.