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Archive for January, 2014

Let’s Talk about Sexual Abuse and “Mental Illness”

There are two words that bother me greatly when I see, hear, or read them. They are: “Mental Illness”. Why does this wildly popular and acceptable term bother me so much? I’ll elaborate.

Quite a few of my friends are “mentally ill” at their own admittance, and those that aren’t, continue to use the phrase easily and without conviction. It’s just what people are known to be that have “mental problems”, right?

But who doesn’t have “mental problems”? Who hasn’t at some point broken down and cried? Who hasn’t felt afflicted spiritually, emotionally, psychologically, financially, health-wise or otherwise?  How did it affect you as person? Did you feel defeated? Did you feel like giving up? Did you fret? Worry? Call people? Overeat? Not leave your house for the day? The week?  Pace your floors? Cuss? Scream? Throw something? Drink? Drink more? (See where this is going?)

How do we differentiate between a person who is exhibiting (fatigue, duress, insomnia, depression and other) physiological manifestations; very natural responses to his or her sexual abuse or other traumas- combined with their chaotic environments, and a person who is exhibiting these signs when everything is hunky-dory?

One would be classified as appropriate behaviors given the circumstances, and the other would be classified as exhibiting psychological disorders. Both examples describe the same behaviors! But the environmental norms surrounding them separate the two.

If a person has been sexually abused and placed in a normal environment with siblings and other happy folks who have a swell life, there is no way the sexually abused person is going to behave in an expected manner. Who would behave at optimal performance in school, church, family gatherings, etc. after being sexually abused and having to “guard it” like Fort Knox gold? A person who tries to keep it together year after year will eventually break down while trying to process massive amounts of: guilt, anxiety, shame, anger, rage, confusion, blame, self-loathing, envy- the list is very long.

Given the circumstances, it’s actually very normal behavior to exhibit signs of distress, anxiety, anger, OCD-like tendencies, insomnia, night terrors, and other maladaptive behaviors that are associated with trauma. People who have not suffered these traumas do not understand and it is extremely unsettling for them that they do not have answers that they can file away, shelve, and dress things up with a tidy bow so that it’s sorted out in their heads.

But there needs to be an understanding in this area that these odd behaviors are very normal for sexual abuse survivors. What wouldn’t be normal is having suffered sexual abuse (especially as a child) and then sailing through life with little or no behavioral quirks. I dislike the word disorder because I challenge anybody to say that surviving sexual abuse is a disorder.

It is a triumph. Sexual abuse is a violation like no other and people give medals to those in wars who have been violated less and call them heroes. Sexual abuse survivors fight in the battlefields of life, and there’s no hero’s welcome. There’s no parade. No medals. We have to be our own heroes and rescue ourselves from the collective trenches of societal stigma and hate bombs that others throw at us and that we throw at ourselves.

Being a sexual abuse survivor is like being locked in a dark, dirty cell and given 5,000 keys: only one will unlock the door, and you have one hour to find the right one, or you could die! Doom. Doom doom doom! And lots of crying, worry, and fears that you will never find the right key in time.

But again, I reiterate that these horrible feelings are absolutely normal “given the circumstances”. We need to carefully select the words and labels we assign to people who have suffered such traumas. What if they believe you?!

God forbid I ever believe any labels that have been placed upon me in life. I would be the biggest mess in the world. But I have assigned healthier labels for myself: loving, compassionate, real, honest, valuable, happy. After all, I am the one who has to live with myself and why would I want to live with a pessimist?

The term “mental illness” came about in the 1800’s after various psychological perspectives disagreed on what actually defined a person to be mentally ill. Some believed that it was evil spirits. Some believed it was “psychogenic”, or psychologically induced, and others believed that it was somatogenic, or “of a biophysiological nature” (that’s a fancy way of saying “relating to your body” rather than your mental processes).

They locked “mentally ill” people up on psych wards and in chains where they were beaten and starved, or placed in a metal contraption that rendered them motionless for hours and days at a time. When the patients in these asylums exhibited paranoia, fear, depression, sleeplessness, excessive anxiety and other abuse-related behaviors (as a direct result of the abuse), their friends and families sadly accepted what the doctor had prescribed them all: mental illness.

Many of these patients were exhibiting very normal responses to being held against their wills and physically and psychologically abused. People were quick to swallow the ideology of “mental illness” because it satisfied their need to classify and understand what was happening to their family member.

In other words, people created the term “mental illness” to be able to better control individuals, societies, groups, and religious wars were often the fuel that kept this controversial fire burning. With the classification of mental illness: the acts of physical and emotional abuse on those who “broke society’s norms” were not only unpunishable, but sanctioned, approved, and rewarded!

Just as toxic as any sexual abuse is the belief by the victim that he or she is mentally ill, because somebody said so. This is such a powerful weapon of self-destruction, and only the act of sexual abuse itself is stronger.

We need to start tossing out terms like “mental illness”: those two words alone are TOXIC.
I will never accept terms like “mental illness” and “disorder”. Those are conceptual words made up by people who do not understand what it is like to live in a world with wild, technicolor vision. How about that?

How about, “I have a family member or friend who is mentally ill has really been through it, but they have still been able to [insert accomplishments here] despite their obstacles.”

It’s all about perception and presentation, and I think we owe one another a sum of decency in how we present each other.

I wrote this post so that other sexual abuse survivors might gather strength and comfort; know that there are others who have suffered the same things in life, but refuse to be labeled! You are what you believe you are. 

You have to believe yourself into something positive, constructive, hopeful, and be fearless in your conquests! Be bold in who you are, and acknowledge that you are a survivor rather than a victim. And when you learn that, teach others that too. Choose positivity rather than negativity.

Those 5,000 keys?

They all open the door.

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Ambien: Breakfast of Champions

My day started off with me getting higher than a mug.

I’ll explain. Since beginning my antihistimine regimen (1/4 of a tablet every few days), my sinusitis has been minimal and I no longer am struck with debilitating two and three day migraines. I’m down to bare bones; my Phenergan (antihistimine) prescription has lasted me for almost a year: That’s pretty good. I needed to take my 1/4 of one this morning, as I could feel my throat beginning to scratch up- head swelling, like a sock-stuffed pressure cooker, and I could tell I had about a 30 minute window. I grabbed my bottle on my dresser and saw the pill niblet inside: I threw it down with a swig of black coffee and started my day.

Fast forward thirty minutes. I had already taken my cayenne/maple syrup/lemon “Master Cleanse shot”, and had tended to the animals- changing litter and feeding the kitties. I set out soon after to relax in my bedroom recliner with a few Biology assignments and my laptop. As I made my way down the hallway, I began to feel woozy; I actually had to stop and hold up the wall.

I noticed my thoughts were a little scattered which is very unusual for me. I was a daydreamer as a child and could stare off for minutes at a time, lost in my own little world, but that was 30 years ago! I have razor sharp focus and photographic memory to boot: I can retain 40+ pages of reading/study material with fairly accurate recall (which helps in my schoolwork a great deal).

That said, I was staring at my screen thinking of wild Parisian feather hats and blue ribbons with period pieces. It didn’t help that I was actually supposed to be studying the scientific method and variables and such! I snapped myself back to my work and tried to adjust my eyes as the environment grew thick and syrruppy, but not at all unpleasant. And then it dawned on me: I was higher than a kite! I retraced my steps and carefully went through my morning, trying to figure out how I had accidentally gotten myself good and high.

And I was sort of sleepy too. Things were actually funny (as in, haha funny) and I felt as if I had taken a Xanax, had a glass of wine, smoked a few puffs from a fatty and even took a small nibble of acid. It wasn’t just “weed high”, no…I was Alice in Wonderland high. Just as I caught myself snickering a bit, I reminded myself, “Hello! You have assignments due today! How are you going to do scientific research when you’re tripping balls?!”

“Ih…good point, me.”

I forced my eyes open and swigged more black coffee. It became increasingly clear that I would not be doing any schoolwork in the next few hours. How did I get high? What in the world?

And then I remembered putting my 1/2 an Ambien in my Phenergan bottle. The 1/2 of an Ambien was from last month’s prescription. (There was a night when I didn’t take a whole one and needed to put the remainder in a bottle.) The mystery had been solved: I had taken a freaking Ambien!

Oh dear God, this couldn’t be happening.

And this, Ladies and Gentlemen, is why it’s never a good idea to procrastinate with your schoolwork. I stared off at the wall- totally at peace with the fact that I was going down in a burning plane- because well…I was high. I looked at my laptop clock and timed out five hours, deducing that if a whole Ambien lasts eight hours, 1/2 would last four or five, reasonably. That’s right, I apparently even schedule “high time”. So I closed my laptop, crawled back into bed with my dog, and sunk into pure silky bliss for the next few hours.

Fast forward three hours.

Nope. Still not happening!
Back to bed. I’ve never in my life done schoolwork “high” and I wasn’t going to start now.

Fast forward two more hours.
After chugging more black coffee and eating a few bites, I was refreshed and unhigh enough to be able to knock out a five page Biology assignment, along with a Podcast report and a good bit of reading.

Now that’s what I call higher education.  
Pah tah bomp.

Image


Bimonthly Selfie

ImageSelfie-Shot in kitchen window lighting/1.17.14- Helios 44-2 film lens/Digital Rebel/manual

Lighting is your friend, ladies!
Seeing how I’ve been getting all this extra attention lately, I thought it a good time to make a post about how to take a good selfie (technically speaking). Anybody that knows me truly knows that:

a.) I don’t take myself too seriously. Ever.
b.) I look 20 years younger than I actually am, thanks to Photoshop. (I’m 44.)
c.) I don’t shave my legs and I really don’t care. (But that’s beside the point.)

Normally, I stay oblivious to my “audience” and rarely write for others. Not that I have anything against that, I’m particularly too lazy to keep up with all of the hooplah and riffraff. But tonight, I decided to address selfies and lighting and that sort of thing, because, who doesn’t have a few bad selfies lying around? (I have hundreds.) Not that I’m a narcissist, I’m a photographer: there’s a difference. (Not really.) But if you have a guy-friend that pilfers through your hard drive like I used to do with my ex’s, then you can just tell him “you’re a photographer” and he won’t think twice about it.

I have a bit of a cheap wine hangunder at the moment, so I’ll keep this list short and sweet. I know there are all sorts of one-click filters out there to make you look all selfielicious and everything, but if you stick to these pointers, I promise you, you’ll cut a few corners, save time, and look a heck of a lot better.

  • Go into the light!
    Find a “window light” source. It doesn’t have to be fancy; everything I do is cheap and at a fraction of the cost that others spend. Natural window lighting is the best light in the world for selfies- I promise! Don’t use midday lighting: it’s harsh and will either blast your pupils, simulating an unflattering meth-addiction, or it’ll highlight your shadows and age you instead. (You don’t want that.) The best time for good-selfie lighting is early morning to midday (just before noon), and late afternoon to early evening. Also, apart from professional and expensive lighting, nothing puts beautiful catchlights in your eyes like a window. (See pic above.)
  • Embrace your flaws
    As you can see in my selfie, I’m make-up free and alright with showing a few lines and pores. It’s naturalGuys want to sleep with Barbie but they really don’t want to take her to lunch. Don’t be a Barbie.
  • Look like you’re going to kick somebody’s ass
    This is my go-to look that works for most pictures. It’s alright to smile! But this is always good to fall back on and believe me, you’re going to need to fall back on this at some point.
  • Stretch your face muscles before a shoot. Mimic the word “WOW” in excess, raising your eyebrows simultaneously; it’s a little weird at first, but it loosens up the expression and circulates the blood. Do this about 50 times, and really, it’s good do get in the habit of doing this daily because it tightens up the facial muscles. (I’ve done it for years.) After you’re finished, your face will relax into a “default” comfortable expression. If that doesn’t work, look like you’re going to kick somebody’s ass.
  • Keep the camera slightly above your head, point your chin down a hair, and lock your eyes into place.
    There’s nothing worse that enlarged nostrils, double chins, and bad angles. Keeping the camera above your head slightly (preferably at 3/4ths of an angle) will flatter your angles.

There you have it.
You’re welcome!


Just In: So I’m not a Control Freak After All!

Wow, am I relieved. 

So I just took the Myers-Brigg’s Personality Type test. I’ve discovered that I’m an LTPB:

Long-Term Persistent B**ch.

That’s a joke.
I did discover, however, that I am in the category of the rarest type: INFJ. Only 1-3% of people are in this category. Others who share this classification are:

Ghandi
Marilyn Manson
Adolf Hitler
Osama Bin Laden

And then there’s me!

I answered the 72 questions in under five minutes and went with my first reaction to each, and quickly so. I was irked that there wasn’t a timer though. Did I mention that I’m also Type A?
Just a little bit?

Apparently, we INFJ’s are outspoken, creative, caring, analytical “feelers” with our fingers on the pulses of humanity, but you don’t want to piss us off because we’re “formidable in battle”. Our thoughtfulness and reflective thought processes can be mistaken for being aloof oftentimes, which would explain why that psychotherapist called me that that one time (as I dissected, categorized and hyper-analyzed her).

For other INFJ’s, here’s an interesting write-up (that sums me up in a nutshell, and no doubt, you too):

Website can be found here: INFJ Personality Type

INFJs make up only 1% to 3% of the population, the rarest of the personality types. They tend to be perfectionists who fear they aren’t living up to their potential. INFJs can always list the things they’ve left undone but have a hard time counting their accomplishments.

INFJs hold strong convictions and are deeply affected by the suffering of others. However, because they are introverted, they prefer thinking about weighty issues to talking about them. Those who are activists—a role toward which they gravitate—take up causes for moral reasons, not for personal glory or political power.

The INFJ is often found at disaster scenes as a rescue worker. When a person of this type sees people or animals being treated cruelly, he or she may fantasize about getting revenge on the perpetrators. Although INFJs are gentle by nature, they are formidable in battle.

ImageThis photo I took last month depicts the mood of an INFJ much of the time, for those that need a visual. 🙂 [Notice the smiley face] Helios 44-2 film/Digital rebel/manual- evening shadows

For those who want to take the official Brigg’s-Meyers Personality Test, go here: TEST

I’d love to know the results, so hit me!


Day 1: Back at School

I tell you, school couldn’t come fast enough. For some people, beginning their next semester entails stress, anxiety, uncertainty, procrastination-anxiety, feelings of being overwhelmed, and feelings of general excitement mixed with doom. For me, it’s just the opposite. When I’m in school, I’m completely in my element: I know what to expect and I work best when I’m in the pressure cooker! It’s just how life has molded me to be.

I’ve added my 14 exam dates for Abnormal Psychology onto my wall planner, as well as my deadlines for my case studies and oral case study presentations. (Isn’t that a bucket of fun waiting to happen?) I’ve watched my video for Anorexia and other eating disorders for my Social Work Practice class and have submitted the accompanying assignment work sheet. My homework for the evening is to read 25 pages in each of the first chapters and take 10+ pages of notes that I’ll be tested on this week.

And then there’s my Biology lab course and Intro to Social Work! I’m still sorting out those assignments, dates, deadlines, video presentations, and other important assignments/folders. Apart from my oral presentations (and 30 + hours of volunteer work), I’ll also have two separate 15 page research paper projects in two different classes.

I’ve been hammering away at getting things sorted for the past 5 days solid: it’s a lot of work, but the preparation beforehand saves me stress later. You can hardly be too prepared for college classes.

I’m really hoping that I’ll be able to squeeze a vacation in soon as I won’t be taking a summer break this year. Four months this spring at VU and then it’s straight over to SNHU to begin work on my BA in Sociology where I’ll work without a break for the next year. I can now say that my life is planned out for the next several years!

I haven’t had a horrific migraine in more than two months; that in itself is borderline miraculous. I believe I’ve made a profound discovery. There are triggers that set off migraines when you’re a chronic migraine sufferer, as I have been for several years now. I have specific triggers that I avoid at all costs:

  • too much sugar and salt
  • too much audial, radial, and visual stimulation
  • weather/change in barometric pressure
  • grinding teeth [bruxism/night grinding]
  • stress
  • stress
  • stress
  • lack of sleep
  • alcohol [never more than two glasses of red wine- ever]
  • no yelling or heightened displays of anger
  • insufficient exercise
  • too much heat
  • being too cold

In other words, I have to walk very softly or I can get a vicious migraine that lasts for 3 days. (My blog is filled with days like that.) I’ve been my own guinea pig for more than a year in experimental home trials where I’ve undergone numerous self-testings: I’ve made some very important discoveries.

The most important discovery of all is that it could be allergens which are triggering the histamines to go to war against my own body. The result? Migraines! Through my own researches, I’ve come to learn that the sinus cavities swell when the body is under attack from various allergens. The most common ones come from cats and pet dander. Several of my family members are allergic to cats and need to take antihistamines when they’re around cats. Armed with this knowledge, I decided to start taking 1/4th of a Phenergan (prescription: it’s a powerful antihistimine that fights nausea) daily, without fail, to dry up the almost constant sinus drainage I have and have had all my life. It works like a charm! Benadryl is too strong for me, so the quarter strength Phenergan is ideal.

I’ve been doing this for a while now, and have noticed that since my histamines are regularly controlled, my triggers have become subdued as well. I haven’t taken a whole Phenergan in more than 5 years- that stuff’ll knock you out cold, but at 1/4th the strength; it allows the antihistamine to do its job (dry up the sinus cavities) while mitigating the histamine and body’s histamine reaction, resulting in a dramatic decrease in migraines, so much so that I seldom get them at all any more.

I used to think that the arachnoid cyst in my head caused these severe migraines; not any more. Perhaps the neurologist was correct: he suggested the migraines weren’t caused by the cyst and shared with me that arachnoid cysts are often congenital. Many people have them (from birth) and never know it. Some people have problematic cysts though, and the sinuses and arachnoid membranes flare up, which exacerbate the onset of migraines greatly. I believe my own body’s histamines have been the culprit the entire time. My daughter loves the kittowies too much to let them go, so I have to adhere to a strict code of health  and watch my “triggers”, but hey, I’m practically migraine free now, and as a result of my super-tight-lifestyle, I’m healthier than I’ve ever been. No complaints here.

🙂

(You know you’re getting old when you actually want to be healthy…)

ImageHelios 44-2 film lens/digital Rebel- private retreat at friend’s house- January 2014


Mystery Drunk Caller

Of course, this isn’t such a mystery as I know who the caller was, but in my great compassion, I won’t name names.

Brring. Brring.

“Hello?”

[Intoxicated caller]

“Hey. You know the other day when I was telling you about that store?”

“Huh?”

“That store…they sell Wonder Woman costumes and-”

“Ok. Look. I told you, do not drunk call me. If you drunk call me, I’m going to hang up on you. Don’t frikking drunk call me!”

“Well, well, see…”

“Are you drunk?!”

[Innebreated pause]

“You’re drunk, aren’t you?”

“They have these Wonder Woman costumes there. I’ll buy it.”

“Dude, I don’t care about your Darth Vader crap, and I don’t care about Wonder Woman. If you call me one more time with your ^%$# in your hand, I’m going to-”

“You’re beautiful, Birg! I’ll buy the costume!”

“Ok, You know what? I’m hanging up. Do not drunk call me again.”

[click]

Yeah. This really happened today.
Somebody stop this ride…


Dean’s List

Apparently, I made the Dean’s List and didn’t even know it.

I received this peculiar letter yesterday from my university. I’m a Phi Theta Kappa (Honor’s Society) member (1992 & 2010/Ivy Tech) already, but the Dean’s List at my current University had always eluded me, barely. I made the mistake of choosing a guy I was dating (three years ago) over my education and dropped several courses during our short time together. My GPA took a nose dive and I’ve spent the past three years working feverishly to rebuild it. Lesson learned!

My ultimate academic goal is not to make the Dean’s List: My goal is to apply and integrate what I learn in school into my every day life, for myself and others. Making the Dean’s List is a necessary affirmation that I made the right choices along the way and as a devoted goal-setter, I’ve reached my personal goal. Finally. 

My accumulative GPA for this past semester is 3.75. (Not good enough by my own standards, but I’ll take it!)

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Tonight, I’m a happy camper. 🙂

I’ve also started the Master Cleanse cleanse. It’s not a “diet”, but rather a lifestyle. I made a delicious supper of mesquite chicken, broccoli and cheddar (real cheese only!), stuffing and polenta squares, but since it’s after 9, I settled for a glass of “master cleanse goodness” instead: water, cayenne pepper, maple syrup and lemon juice.

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I don’t know when I became such a health nut, but it’s not entirely a bad thing.

The Dean’s List!!!

🙂


Miracles Abound!

School starts Monday, so this may be my last post for a bit. I’ve made some minor adjustments to my schedule, and my new classes are:

Intro to Social Work
Social Work Practices [including 30 hours of mand. volunteer work-location of my choosing]
Abnormal Psychology [schizophrenia, eating, sexual, emotional, and psychological disorders]
Biology: Connections and Impacts [focusing on stem cell research, DNA,and Heredity]

I’m so excited! I’m taking on a major course load, but am super excited (especially) to be taking Abnormal PsychologyMore good news: I’ve been accepted to Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) to begin work on my BA in Sociology (minoring in Psychology), starting in June. My dreams are literally coming true. 🙂 (Yes, that’s a smiley face!)

But here’s where the miracle comes in: I have running water again- already. This morning, I called three local plumbers and compared prices and time frames. The earliest I could get a plumber here would be Friday (and then Wednesday- five days away), and the prices would start at $90 per hour, and that’s just so the plumber could stand in the yard; pipes, other equipment, etc. would end up in the hundreds. I had $50 on my Paypal card from selling a print. Bare bones.

Eventually, I want to go to poverty-stricken countries and work with street kids, teens, battered women and the elderly, so I’m not allowed to complain and gripe from having no water for four days. But I still need to take a shower and do my dishes before school starts! But how?

I noticed a work van across the field from my place. I couldn’t make out his service number, so I took a telephoto shot of his truck, zoomed in and read it. Voila! I called him immediately, as he was finishing up his work for the day. I asked him if he fixed busted pipes; he said he’d stop over and have a look. (I tried to control my excitement.)

Being the wheeler and dealer that I am, I met him in the yard 20 minutes later and we struck up a fast deal. $150. I asked him if he would accept a post dated check (for $160, for 3 weeks away) and almost fainted when he accepted. I gave him $40 cash from my print sale and a new book from my shelf (as a tip) and he went to work immediately, and I do mean immediately. (All told, I ended up tipping him $50, which was the least I could do.) He wasn’t even wearing a coat! A fresh, new snow had just begun to fall and I felt a bit guilty that he was out there sawing and connecting PVC pipes in the cold. The man was nothing short of amazing.

He left twice to go and purchase new parts and other things; he came in and checked my water heater and faucets and in less than 5 hours- he’s gone and I have running water again and can take a hot shower! I feel like the least I can do is promote his business so that if anybody Googles him, they’ll be able to read this. I really wish I could do more, but I’m limited.

J. B. Gohl
Remodeling
Alterations Repairs
(502) 379-1094

Absolutely awesome service, super friendly repairman- goes the extra mile- BEST DEAL IN TOWN.

There you go. For what it’s worth. ;0)

Even some people in the nicest houses with loads of cash still have busted pipes tonight. I’m counting my blessings daily.

Miracles abound. 

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Water Water Everywhere

…and only two gallons to drink.

My pipes froze during “The Big Freeze” last week; I had left the water dripping from all faucets and the water froze up regardless. Last night, a neighbor was kind enough to knock on my door and inform me that the yard was flooded and a small river was flowing down into the neighboring properties: one of my pipes had burst.

He was able to shut off the main valve, despite the full-on geyser he blasted through in order to do so. (I owe that man a roasted chicken.) Today makes day four without running water and I feel like I’m in a 3rd world country in a hut somewhere, cut off from civilization. My head is throbbing and I’m fresh out of Ibuprofin. Luckily, my childhood was spent much in the same way so frozen pipes and a lack of water are not foreign territories for me: I’m quite the expert by now.

One of my brothers dropped off a few gallons of water (bless his heart) and I have a plumber scheduled to meet me tomorrow for an estimate. All of this and my new classes start Monday!

But, all things considered, things are still pretty good.
Apart from the “not having water” thing.
And the overheating car.

I’ve lived through worse.
That’s always nice to fall back on…

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Frozen fountain/Helios 44-2 film + digital rebel

 


Distance Ed 101

Twenty years ago I went to an actual brick and mortar college when I was studying Nursing. After my first semester I was inducted into Phi Theta Kappa after receiving:

Anatomy & Physiology I – A
Medical Office Procedures Administrative- A
Medical Terminology- A
English Comp- A
Medical Law and Ethics- B

My first college semester! It was pretty awesome, and that was before Google, Wikipedia, and the internet. Then some really bad crap happened in my life and I had to drop out the following semester; I had a few more kids and took a 20 year detour to stay at home and raise them. No regrets! But four years ago, when I decided to return to school, I still wanted the liberty to get an education while remaining at home with my teens. I didn’t want to be a career mom while they were toddlers, and so I carefully planned exactly when I did want to return to school. My children were all 13 and older so I felt that was just about the right time to head back to college.

Rather than return to a brick and mortar college, I researched distance education so I could work from home. Today, it’s standard for universities to offer hybrid classes (brick and mortar and distance ed, mixed) or brick and mortar and distance ed. courses separately. Four years ago it wasn’t as common as it is today even; it was still in its infancy, particularly here in Indiana. I had been a dedicated, top student in Nursing, and knew I had what it takes to have the same dedication as an online student. (I was’t wrong, having just graduated Sum Laude from Vincennes University: Behavioral Sciences + CPC in Substance Abuse.)

Distance education isn’t for everybody, however. If you lack focus, drive, dedication, commitment, and patience, you may want to consider going to a brick and mortar. Not that that will be much easier; you have to have all of these things anyway if you want to excel in college. Numerous people stumble upon my blog daily based on keyword searches alone, so this particular post is for inquisitive people who will be researching distance ed. Here are a few things you should know before getting started, and I hope to dispel any myths one has about distance ed.:

  • Distance Ed/Online college is not easier than brick and mortar schools
    I’ve done both, it can actually be much more challenging.
  • The books, syllabi, rubrics, course outlines, expectations, rules, regulations, policies, deadlines, and other course materials are identical to what you receive in brick and mortar colleges. (And if they’re not, don’t go to that college!) There’s no “special treatment” just because you get to take tests in your jammies. (Although I must say, that’s a nice perk.)
  • Did I mention you get to take your tests in your jammies?
    (Apart from the ones that are proctored, and there are actually quite a few.)
  • Google helps, but not really.
    Instructors devise clever methods to keep students from Googling during unproctored exams. One of the more frequent ones at my university is allowing 60 minutes for a 50 question exam. And that’s a Microeconomics test! Not an easy course. It makes for very difficult standards, but a smart tactic. Some professors will allow open book exams, but when you have only 60 minutes for 50 “paragraphed” multiple choice questions that are four and five lines long (and that’s just the question), there’s no room for error, or, “mind-stuttering” for that matter. Daydreamers beware, this is like academic NASCAR.
  • The stress can be incredible.
    Procrastinating is not a good idea. It’s an enticing thought when your assignment is approaching and there are still several days remaining, but you can really feel the hangman’s noose tightening around your greedy little throat as the deadline rushes upon you. Better to pay your academic dues early: the interest is far too expensive, and believe me, you pay in stress.

Here are a few of my personal tips on succeeding in Distance Ed:

  • If you want to be an A/B student- kiss the next four months of your life goodbye.
    (See above.)
  • Never settle for C’s! Never. Never ever ever. (“Settle” being the key word.)
  • Work hard and go the extra mile.
    Your professors know who’s lazy and who’s not by the paper you write. You can BS your way through only so much, and then they’re onto you! Take the time to show them that you give a damn. Write a stellar paper! If they say 3-5 pages, make it 5- don’t be lazy.
  • Follow the 20 formal writing rules (always) when writing an academic paper. If you’re unfamiliar with that, you can go here.
  • Never write an academic paper based on  “opinion”. Gather facts and write about facts only. Unless you’re writing a personal essay or other form of first person paper, you should never deviate from this.
  • Develop a routine and stick to it.
  • Don’t make excuses for academic failure! Learn from the negatives. Study, revise, regroup, move it around, strategize and get back in the ring. Failure is only failure if you give up.
  • Be communicable with your professors.
    An open line of communication is KEY for academic success.
  • Take criticism. Criticism usually hurts because it’s tinged with truth. Be thankful somebody took the time.
  • Take vitamins, get proper sleep (no all-night cramming sessions- be prepared instead), exercise regularly, step away from the machine- take a walk- look at trees, clouds, breathe deeply, etc.
  • Get off of Facebook! Facebook + good grades don’t coexist harmoniously. One will suffer, the other will benefit. (Make wise choices.)
  • Make a “school folder” and keep it on your desktop. Within that folder, create individual class folders, and in those folders, download each class syllabus, course outline, instructor’s email along with email instructions (not every instructor has the same preferences), assignments, deadlines, and special instructions for that particular course. Staying organized can be the difference between being an “A student” vs. a “C student”.
  • Submit work early. Words are cheap, and lip service and excuses have no place in the classroom. If you want to show your professor that you care, submit your work early. Nothing says “I care” more than staying on top of your game!

These pointers aren’t only applicable for school but in every area of life.

Oh, and never send your professor an email with a smiley face included! (Keep it brief, professional, and to the point. They’re incredibly busy.)

I hope this helps (whoever you are).

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