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“How do you measure a year?”

As of 31st October, I have been with Jamie for a year.  This is the longest relationship I have ever had, and certainly the most important and the last I’ll ever have.  He’s it.  He’s the one for me and I’ve never been more sure of that.  I fall more and more and more in love with him as the days go past.

Distance is impossibly hard, we miss each other every minute, every second of every day but we know that these months apart only make us stronger as a couple and more grateful of the time we will get together.  We’ve become very good at skype conversations and counting down the days together is making the prospect of the Christmas holidays oh so exciting.

I love him so much, and I’m so happy to have found someone who I am so comfortable with.  Our relationship is so natural, and anyone who knows me can see how happy we are together.  This relationship is everything to me.

Here’s to our future, and many more years to come!

-Vicky

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Collapsing

I apologise for the delay in writing!  And unfortunately this is not going to be more than a few lines long.  I am collapsing under the weight of work here, we’re well underway in the term and I have assignments and exams being thrown at me left, right and centre.  Trying to keep my head up and get alright grades is challenging!

Will keep you guys updated more once I get out of this pit of work.

-Vicky

‘A reader lives a thousand lives before he dies. The man who never reads lives only one.’

I want to challenge myself this year.  I want to read more books, to expand my horizons.  I’m already broadening my experiences by taking a year abroad, why not do more, read more, see more all at the same time?

I typically have a comfort zone when it comes to reading.  I love to read sci-fi and fantasy novels; mostly epic fantasy with witches and wizards and magic and swordfights, immersing myself in a world that doesn’t exist.  And that’s wonderful, I love it and I’ve read many many books like that – I’m not going to stop that.  But I want to try some new books, some new genres and hopefully push myself a little.

Whilst not quite out of that genre, this year I began the journey of reading ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’.  I’d tried previously without success and I’m not halfway into the second book with no intentions of stopping, just pausing for homework and a chance to read a couple of other books that I have had my eye on.

My exchange ambassador, Erin (who is the loveliest person I am to meet here in the US), allowed me to borrow ‘The Help’ from her and wow, I loved it.  Quick to get into, hard to put down, I found myself immersed in the world of Mississippi in a time when racism was still a major part of society (that’s not to say that it’s not entirely gone).  It was incredible, poignant and I am so so so glad I read it.  Reading ‘The Help’ has encouraged me to pursue reading ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ and a few chapters into it I’m already hooked and wishing I’d read it earlier.

Also on my list are; ‘The Virgin Suicides’, ‘The Shock of the Fall’, ‘Gone Girl’, ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’, ‘The Hundred Year Old Man who Climbed out of the Window and Disappeared’ as well as the rest of ‘A Song of Ice and Fire’.  Who said anything about doing homework?!

-Vicky

Go Eagles Go!

Football and tailgating; these two were American traditions that I knew I wanted to try before I headed over here.  And yep, they lived up to the expectation and were awesome – but wow were they bizarre.

Over 36,000 fans attended the game.  This is a game between two college football games – players that are my age and younger.  Plus the game was on national tv – airing on ESPN 2.  It’s unreal the amount of pride American colleges take in their sports teams – you wouldn’t see anything like it at home!

This was a particularly big game, an instate rivalry and apparently the first time a home match between them has been played in twenty years.  So usually there’s not as many fans around but the atmosphere was honestly incredible.

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Tailgating was fun.  We met at 5pm (a whole four hours before kick off!) and drank and ate with the international club – complete with flags from our own countries!  We had some EXCELLENT fried chicken and some kind old lady brought by some apple slices which I jumped straight into – I am so so so so desperate for a piece of fresh fruit after three weeks eating in the cafeteria.  Free food and drink is not something I pass up and so that was a ton of fun.

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After a few hours we headed down to watch the marching band and players head to the stadium, and at half seven after a lot of pushing and queueing we finally were let in.  The stadium is nicknamed the rock – and wow it’s huge.  We sat in the student eagle club section and few rows back and the view was amazing.  When the game actually started I understood nothing.  American football is something I’ve never watched and nope I am still none the wiser as to how it’s played.  Being a part of the student atmosphere, chanting and singing was amazing and I finally felt a part of the student body here at Southern Miss.  Of course we lost (apparently we’re awful) and I left prior to the game finishing – games go on FOREVER, but the experience was still one I wouldn’t have missed.  My absolute favourite part was the marching band at half time, the Pride of Mississippi, playing well known songs from memory whilst moving around the pitch.  What I’d give to have half that co-ordination.

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Escaping the Darkness

For the last few days it’s felt like I’ve had this huge weight on my chest, pulling and dragging me lower.  This is the lowest I’ve been in a while, and whilst there was some relief in seeing a doctor earlier this week, the change in medication is proving terrifying and scaring me to no end.  I like controlling my meds, controlling and keeping some sort of order of them so my brain feels ‘right’ – not moodwise but just in a logical order.  (I feel I may have some OCD like tendencies in the way I do things but I’m unsure how far that goes.)  And so I feel out of control and that chaos makes me unsteady and unstable and I hate it.  I had to give the trazodone pills I was using as sleeping pills to the girls next door just to prevent myself from being a risk to myself.  I hate that.  It reminds me of the painful suffering from earlier this year when I couldn’t be trusted not to be a danger to myself.

It’s hard.  And all I want is to sleep.

I started the sertraline three or four days ago and thus far I’ve found I’m suffering some side effects.  Nowhere near as bad as I suspected it could be though.  There’s nausea, lack of focus (I get that anyway with my depression), dizziness, heavy limbs, tiredness and a general feeling of being high.  The latter I suspect is from the number of meds I’m taking more than anything.  Weaning myself off the citalopram is going okay so far, but I feel a little weird this evening as a consequence of halving the pill this morning.  The sleeping pills are not working at all and the tiredness is just bringing me lower.  I feel like I’m losing the ability to function and that’s a stage I don’t want to go back to ever.

I’ve found that people don’t really understand mental illness and honestly I can’t blame them, until you’ve had something like this effecting your every moment living you can’t properly understand just how awful it can be.  I feel exhausted all the time.  I try to be happy and spend time with friends and keep busy but all I want to do is sit and cry and hurt myself, the voices in my head repeating over and over to me how worthless I am and how I’d be better off dead.  Of course I know this is not true, but when I get to that state it’s impossible to reason with myself.

I just don’t know what to do.  I don’t know how to make myself feel better.  I’d been so good – I’d been getting there completely, I thought I’d conquered my depression but I’ve fallen prey to it once more and I don’t know how to get out of this darkness.  I want my life back.

-Vicky

Am I sinking or am I swimming? Or am I drowning?

More like a bit of all three.  Mostly the latter though.

My brain has been a jumbled mess of negative thoughts.  Painful depressing anxiety ridden thoughts that are driving me mad.  I can’t get rid of them, I can’t focus, I can’t sleep.  Uncontrollable crying is also proving to be a massive problem for me, and none of this helps my already terrible sleep.

I saw the doctor today.  Apparently the citalopram I’ve been taking for six months is now beginning to have no effect on my depression and this is why I’ve been filling so low and so anxious all of a sudden.  I’ve now been prescribed sertraline with the intention of weaning myself off citalopram whilst getting used to sertraline.  I’m also supposed to keep taking the trazodone to help sleep.  It feels like too much medication and I’m scared to change what I’ve been taking but I just want to feel better.  Sertraline holds lots of fears as friends who’ve taken it have experienced worrying side effects.

Day one of new medication starts now.  Fingers crossed.

-Vicky

Culture Differences: Alcohol

So everyone knows a major part of going to university is the drinking culture, or at the very least it’s that way in England.  Pretty much all major universities have a ‘fresher’s week’ practically encouraging drinking in a huge way.  I loved my first fresher’s a lot and completely immersed myself in the experience going out every night of the first week.  The second time around I was a lot calmer, being 21 made me feel way too old to be hanging out with 18 years olds in that sort of situation.  But still it’s common for drinking to be a part of university life, to use your kitchen in halls for drinking games, create messes your parents would be amazed by, and use alcohol to loosen the tension when you first meet your flatmates.  This only continues into second year.

This is not the case here in Southern Mississippi.  Part of this, I think, is due to the drinking age.  With it being 18 in England most people are over the drinking age when they first arrive at university, but here as it’s 21 often people have to wait until the end of their 3rd year before they can yet drink legally.  That’s no problem for me at 23, but there’s still many barriers to comfortably having a drink here in the States.

Southern Miss is a dry campus.  This means no drinking on campus at all, and you are not allowed to keep alcohol in the residence dorms.  Hattiesburg itself lies on a border between Lamar and Forrest counties in Mississippi.  Lamar is a dry county which means theres all sorts of rules regulating the sale of alcohol, mostly that you cannot buy it.  That’s not been a problem for me just yet.  My residence hall lies just across from a Mexican bar and restaurant named La Fiesta Brava.  This has a happy hour every night between 7-9 where cocktails are 2 for around $7.  Super cheap and really yummy!  Plus they do really good tortillas and dip (you get salsa for free!) and the atmosphere is lovely.

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But the major problem is that if you’re caught drunk in halls, your residence advisor will call the university police.  I know this first hand.  One of the first nights we were here in Hattiesburg, the entire exchange group went out to a ‘pub’ called the Keg and Barrel, and had a ….few drinks to put it lightly.  I ran out of money and ended up begging more than a couple of people to buy me drinks (mostly tequila – they do not use the same measures as we do, a shot is HUGE).  This ended badly and I’ll spare you the details, but my RA phoned UPD.  Mostly this is fine, they just want to check you’re okay and see if you need an ambulance.  But then you get reported to the co-ordinator in charge of the building and long story short I now have to attend a alcohol screening and intervention course when in all honesty I rarely drink much at all.  The rules seem a little over the top and ridiculous given that it’s completely legal for me to drink here, but that’s just the procedure they have to follow.

I’m a long way from home.

-Vicky