Let me paint you a picture

What does anxiety look like? Well, it looks a lot like this

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Yep, that’s me yesterday hiking in Horsetooth park. Now that the weather has started to perk up for the summer time, I decided it’s time to get back outside to remind myself why I came out to Colorado in the first place. So, I did the same loop I did about 4 months ago on Christmas Eve, which takes me through the falls, and then up to the top of Horsetooth Rock. Well, actually I didn’t. This photo was taken about halfway through the planned route before I started having a panic attack and made it to about 15 minutes away from the top and decided that I couldn’t do it.

Moral of that story? Don’t believe that everyone who posts these nice selfies on Instagram and Facebook are “happy.”

So here’s what anxiety really looks like. It started with yesterday, going for a nice hike and overall okay despite the fact that it was my first day without a single dose of my anxiety medications. I was about 15 minutes away from getting to the top of the rock when I decided that I wanted to go climb up another rock to sit and eat my snack and drink my “summit beer” (usually these things happen at the actual top, or the “summit,” and it’s always definitely a good idea to bring something that’s low ABV, which in this case was 4.5%). That’s when the anxiety set in. Suddenly, everything felt different. A sense of dread and everything seemed foreign, despite the fact that I’ve done this hike probably half a dozen times in the past year. I felt shaky and out of my body. Despite all this, I wanted to make it to the top of the mountain since it was easy. I climbed down from my rock and proceeded to hike, and then decided, nope, I wanted to go home. I wanted to crawl into bed in my sweatpants and watch Netflix by myself. And that’s what I did. A really exciting end to that part of the story.

I sat in bed trying to drown out my sense of dread and anxiety with Netflix and another beer, really not looking forward to waking up early for work the next day, which I really didn’t want to go to. I just started this job and was super excited about it because it meant that I was able to leave the job I hated and be involved in something I liked: locally sourced food. As a vegan and an advocate for natural, locally sourced food, I took a job in a new market opening up in town that sounded like it could be my new home, where I could thrive a bit being around something that I’m legitimately passionate about. But it’s ended up being a sense of dread because I hate being bored and being around new people and in particular, new bosses whom I’m convinced dislike me. There’s no real reason for that, just a feeling. The anxiety talking to me. Either way, I tried to drown out my anxiety with a Netflix binge, some yoga, seeing D, and trying to get some sleep.

But I couldn’t sleep.

I kept trying to think of a million reasons to not go to work. Tired. Sick. Klonopin withdrawal. I could find another job. I could pick up more shifts at my other job to get by.  Eventually, the tiny dose I take of klonopin at night kicked in and fell asleep to wake up to the day I dreaded. I tried not to think about it as I got ready for the day, but I still found myself sitting in silence for minutes at a time (good thing I get up early) just thinking and thinking and thinking and wondering how I could possibly get out of going to work, how I could get on with my life, what I should even do with my life in general. Why am I here? Why am I doing this to myself? Why am I out here doing jobs I don’t like to go on adventures that I don’t want to go on anymore and in the end, being semi-broke, hating myself and my life.

Biking to work helps. Except for when I get super anxious when I’m in the middle of traffic and I’m scared that everyone on the road hates “that stupid biker that I almost hit.” I try to drown it out and know that everyone who drives in Fort Collins knows that there are cyclists everywhere. Most of the main roads are bike friendly, but I road through the backroads and neighborhoods to avoid traffic. I got to work and had to take a moment to collect myself while locking up my bike, telling myself that I was gonna make it to 2pm. Only 6 hours, that’s not a long work day. I’ve done worse.

But I got to work and immediately zoned out and couldn’t focus on anything. One of my bosses finally came up and asked me to go to the walk-in fridge/freezer to seal up popsicle wrappers. This basically involved me standing in the walk-in fridge for about 30 minutes using a heat press to seal the ends of popsicle wrappers (my bosses also run a pop shop a couple streets over). About 10 minutes into this, I got really cold. Like REALLY cold. And then I realized I was stuck in there for I don’t even know how long because I’m a wimp and hate cold, and I started to panic. I could feel myself getting sick but didn’t want to say anything to my boss because I didn’t want him to think that I actually was a wimp and couldn’t stand being in a 40ish degree fridge for short periods of time. But I stuck with it, despite telling one of my co-workers that I felt sick and I have a hypersensitivity to cold. She responded with “Do you have bad circulation or something?” To which, because it totally made the best sense and would give me a reason to not be in the fridge, I responded “yeah, I have low blood pressure,” which is actually true.

After finishing up in the fridge, I sat out behind the counter with some hot coffee for a while, feeling light headed, weak, and a bit panicky. I kept wondering how the hell I was going to make it to 2 o’clock when it was barely 10am and I already needed to leave. After a while, I finally mentioned to another coworker that I felt a bit sick from being in the fridge and told her I was probably going to ask to go home. She told me to just go home. So I did. I felt bad. I felt everything and nothing. I hated my job, but I hated myself more. Still feeling legitimately a bit sick, I started to bike home, which really sucks when you feel lightheaded. I was panicky the whole way home. Shaky and barely able to stay in the bike lane. When I got home I crawled into bed and hid. Hid from everything. Myself, my job, my roommates, my entire world. I could feel my heart beating in my chest. I stared at Craigslist Jobs and Indeed for about an hour before I stressed myself out even more by wondering what the fuck I was doing with my entire life.

And so ends my 24 hour long panic attack. I’m still trying to figure out how I can get out of work tomorrow, and if I do go, can I make it? I can’t leave work early 2 days in a row. I don’t want people to think I’m weak, because in the hindsight of it all, I’m not. I just feel things more strongly than others. I feel life and its stresses clearer, not always in the best way, but sometimes logical when need be. I know the things I can do, the things I can’t, and the things that I’m still not sure of.

But I know I can take a selfie and look like I’m doing more than alright.

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the end of a 9.5 year era (my life as a psychiatric medication addict)

To be honest, I thought that I was going to officially unofficially end this blog. I only have so many stories to tell, and rants to go on before people get fed up with my uncreative story telling and word usage, and to be perfectly honest, there’s some stuff about my mental health that I’m actually not okay with writing about on the internet. I know this is supposed to be completely uncensored, no bs, etc. etc., but some things are just best left to my own devices (one of them not being a computer). That’s why people have friends.

But there are still things, okay a lot of things. For example, why haven’t I posted jack squat in the past month or so? There are many answers to that question, but the main one being this: I’m officially on the klonopin wagon (I had to google “on the wagon” vs. “off the wagon” because I could have sworn that being “off the wagon” meant that you weren’t doing the addictive thing, but it’s the opposite and now I’m really confused about this phrase. Cause being “on the wagon” sounds like you’re back on the drug of choice, which totally makes more sense and not “yeah I’m on the wagon, I decided to stop drinking.” When you’re off a drug, you should be “off the wagon,” right?)

About a month and a half ago, after being fed up with psychiatrists telling me that I shouldn’t be taking Klonopin long term, that it leads to dementia and Alzheimers and it’s addicting and terrible for you, I finally went to my primary care doc and had him taper me off of it. I noticed my short-term memory going a bit. My anxiety wasn’t really under control anymore and unless I got a stronger dosage or switched to another medication that probably wouldn’t help, it was looking like I was going to be taking psychiatric medication for the rest of my life and eventually develop more brain damage than I’ve already inflicted upon myself and has been inflicted on me by medication.

I still remember when I first started taking Klonopin. It worked almost instantly and suddenly the things that normally scared me were just whatever everyday things. I lost a lot of weight because I was constantly nauseous and didn’t eat more than 500 calories a day and was still exercising daily. And for a while, I felt really great. My self-esteem soared because I finally had the mind and body I had been wanting for years. The nausea went away, but I still kept losing weight, which was okay with me. And I still felt better in general. I wasn’t scared to be around people or go out in public. After a while, I adjusted to it, but I just kept taking it because it was just a part of my daily routine and I didn’t think twice about it besides that it was still helping. And then I decided it was time to take away the safety blanket. No doctor could convince me to stop taking it, I made this decision myself.

After a month and a half of misery, days where I couldn’t walk straight, days I sat in my car before work having a panic attack, days where I couldn’t be around more than 1 person at a time, days where I’d stay in bed all day because my blood pressure dropped down to a borderline hypotension level of 90/58 and I thought I was dying..

I’m now happy to say I’m on my last week of tapering. For this last week of being a pill popper, I’m down to 1/4mg of Klonopin once a day, and then next week, I’ll be pill free. For 4.5 years, I’ve taken 1mg twice a day of Klonopin, always relying on it to keep me calm, cure my hangovers, blame anything that happened that day on the fact that I “forgot to take my meds.” For 9.5 years, I’ve exhausted the list of anti-anxiety, anti-depression, mood stabilizers, anti-psychotics, ADHD medications, benzos, and some others that I’m not entirely sure what category they fall into besides the “I feel like a sociopath” category. 9.5 years of side effects and reliance. 1 seizure, 1 overdose, several medication-induced manic episodes, days of withdrawal if I really did forget to take my morning Klonopin, weeks of not eating anything, my weight fluctuating between 100 and 135 lbs, nights fighting with my Dad because I legitimately forgot to take my meds, nights fighting with my mom because medications would make me a mess, days I had to be pulled out of school because I would start crying for no reason, 9.5 years of constant fluctuation of who I thought I was, what was wrong with me, going from on top of the world to begging the universe to let me die while I sleep.

I’ve haven’t been just me in 9.5 years.

And now it’s almost done. I’ve spent years jumping from medication to medication trying to find my cure, but really, I was just trying to find a band-aid. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that medications will not cure you, they will not fix you, and ultimately, they will not help unless you are actively trying to help yourself.

It’s liberating, really. While medications are convenient, they also get in the way of everything. Way too many trips to the pharmacy, too many phone calls to get refills, time wasted in doctor’s offices every month, needles stuck in my arm to get monthly blood testing. And now I can say I never have to do this again.

So that is basically why I haven’t written in a month. I’ve been re-learning how to be human, how to feel emotions somewhat appropriately, and looking all my fears and suppressed memories in the face and saying to them,

“I’m over you. Congratulations.”

*Special thanks to D for sticking with me through this hurricane. And to my few Foco friends who I have put off seeing because I’ve been a mess and I really will try harder to hang.

 

 

find zen in a punching bag

It’s funny to think about where I was a year ago. Actually a year ago I was in a hospital bed trying to convince the doctors I rarely saw to let me go home. But on the other hand, I was also dead set on getting out of Maryland and moving to Colorado. And now, I’m here and I’m not sure why. Funny how something you thought you were so sure about ends up being the one thing you’re completely unsure about.

I was so sure that I just wanted to be here to figure my life out and just work. Well, I am doing that but it’s not nearly as glorious as I thought it would be. I did figure out where I want to be and want to do, but in the midst of that, I realized I needed to make an even bigger decision. Should I stay, or should I go?

Truth is, times are pretty tough. This whole “starting a new life” thing kind of has ended up being financial suicide, which is pretty untimely now that I’ve decided to go back to school. I keep wondering to myself, why didn’t I figure this all out BEFORE I decided to move here? Well, I guess I was just a bit naive. And that’s okay. Sometimes learning things the hard way is the only way. I followed my heart instead of my mind. In doing so, while this whole concept is incredibly freeing, it is incredibly terrifying as well. Staying out here is what my heart is telling me because I am free and I am afraid. My mind tells me to go back to Maryland because I might find myself out on the streets trying to teach my pet rats to do tricks to earn money if I stay here. But the fear and freedom I’ve found in being here in Colorado and finally figuring out what I want to do with my life has made me realize I’ve finally begun to think with my heart instead of my head. As irrational as the heart can be, I now feel free. Decisions are hard. I decided to follow my heart.

And I did make a few decisions. First, I made the decision that it really is time to get off of my meds and handle my anxiety in more holistic ways through meditation, tai chi, yoga, acupuncture, and of course the biggie: limiting alcohol. After dealing with this bitchy psychiatrist that I decided I never wanted to deal with again, I went to my primary care doctor who ACTUALLY LISTENED TO ME. He was completely on board with my decision and after telling him that I’m applying to acupuncture school, he was in complete support of me using acupuncture as an alternative treatment to my anxiety. Coolest doc ever, right? Doctors who actually support the lifestyle that you think is best for you is what every doctor should be, unless your lifestyle is hurting you, of course. He’s also the first doctor who hasn’t tried to scrutinize me for eating a mostly vegan diet by pushing me to take supplements and get my blood tested to make sure I’m healthy etc. etc.

Basically, I decided to take control of my life for the first time. Getting off of benzodiazepines is really tough, I won’t lie. There’s the physical withdrawal in which sleeping seems impossible because you feel like you’re heart is going to thump thump thump its way out of your chest because it’s beating so hard, and then waking up feeling hungover every morning even if you didn’t even have a sip of alcohol the night before. And there’s the mental withdrawal. Always on edge. Always afraid. Finding your anxiety worse than you can ever remember it being. It sucks, but I know that this too shall pass because I now know how to control it. I will be free.

Earlier this week, I had made plans to go hiking with a couple friends. Today, I woke up to get ready for the hike and I felt awful. Racing heartbeat, suddenly not wanting to go out, and still feeling hungover even though I didn’t drink last night (unless I’m getting Buffy hangovers, maybe I’m binging too much, possible?) Still, I wasn’t going to back out on plans because I wasn’t going to give into my anxiety. Once I got outside and we were on the trail and I’m 15 minutes into the hike and dying and hating myself (see JP Sears’ video about Boulder: The Consciousness Capital of the World, which also sums up what Boulder, CO really is like. Goddamn trustifarians, aka rich hippies), I looked out at the mountains and breathed in the fresh air and felt an immediate sense of peace. Sometimes it really is that simple, sometimes not. For me, getting outside and feeling the sun hit my face and breathing the fresh, clean air of the mountains reminds me to just be here, now. Sometimes it isn’t that simple. Sometimes you have to go Buffy on a punching bag until your knuckles are bruised and blistered and your mom yells at you that you’re going to get arthritis to get out that nervous energy. Because that’s all anxiety is for me: pent of energy. I guess also slowly dying on a beautiful hike uses up a lot of the anxious energy too. But hey, the mountains are still beautiful even if you’re surrounded by an entire forest that was completely burned away in a fire about 5 years ago. Deciding to live with my anxiety is freeing, while also being ultimately terrifying.

The other decision I made is that I still want to be here. For a few months, I had convinced myself that nothing was ever going to work out here. The job market out here is horrific and I’ve found myself losing money instead of making money. Finding friends that I actually like in a town full of college kids is pretty hard too, especially when you don’t like people your age. But when I see the red light shining through my window in the morning as the sun rises, and seeing the sun set over Horsetooth Rock after a snow storm, I feel peace and I remember why I wanted to be here so badly in the first place. Maybe not being here in Fort Collins, necessarily, but being in a different place where I’m surrounded by mountains and being away from the place that I had grown too comfortable with is enough. I’m trying so hard to give myself reasons to stay because it is freeing and terrifying and I don’t want my head to make me go crying back to my mom in Maryland because everything out here isn’t working out.

How did I decide that applying for a graduate program in acupuncture here in Colorado was the right decision? Well, I felt freedom and fear. Freedom in the sense that I finally figured out who I really want to be and what I want to do, and the fear of everything that goes along with applying to grad school when you’re pretty low on funds and looking at a $60,000 program.

Here I am now, a year later. This time last year, the only future I saw ahead of me was my delusional relationship with Blob, feeling sorry for myself, not knowing who I was or what I was doing, but only knowing that I wanted to run away, and so I decided to do that. Now, I’m away from everything. Free from my past life, mostly, ambitious to follow my heart and take the next big step in my life and willing to take control of my anxiety instead of hiding it under medications.

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One year ago

I found peace on a mountain top. I found it letting loose on a punching bag. It can be found even when everything seems dark and scary. 23 years later, I am free.

*Most people know JP Sears as that guy who appears on your newsfeed once in a while sarcastically talking about veganism or how to be gluten intolerant. I found out the other day that he’s actually a certified holistic health coach who specializes in self-empowerment. See his video How to Follow Your Head (not your heart).

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Today. Grateful. Free. At peace.

 

all that and a pint of ice cream and bottle of wine

The blog hiatus is still pretty real. To be honest, I thought this was the end of my Wallflower Waterfall blog journey. After scrolling through all my social media accounts after the inauguration, I realized (as much as I really do care about it) that I don’t want to see all this stuff clogging up my newsfeed. And besides that, since it seemed that that was all that people wanted to read and write about, who would want to read my blog in which I completely avoid talking about politics?

The answer, I found, was still a handful of people. So I’ll keep writing for you guys, but you’re gonna have to look hard for it amongst all the political rants and articles that are probably clogging up your Facebook/Twitter/Instagram pages as well. And for that, you all will get a lot of virtual hugs and maybe cookies if you live near me (I guess we’re back to the cookie bribery). Also, I realized that as of next week, I will have had this blog for a year.  Definitely baking cookies for myself. And because next week is Valentine’s Day and I’m sure you all know how much I LOVE Valentine’s Day … queue sarcasm. See last year’s post numero uno and the Valentine’s Day follow-up of post #2. For the record, my mind is still like the DC metro (see the second post). I also totally take back what I said about teddy bears and all the cheesy Valentine’s Day crap. I fucking love flowers and those stupid little heart shaped boxes of chocolate. But only good chocolate. None of that Russell Stover excuse for “chocolate.”

I guess this year probably won’t be much different besides the fact that I’m not dating a sociopath, but vegan Ben & Jerry’s, wine and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless mind will probably still be in the mix. I really don’t know why Valentine’s Day always gets me down. Every year, I watch Eternal Sunshine to remind myself that people come and go, and life can continue on regardless. Yesterday, the tattoo itch kicked in so badly that I sat through six hours of getting my entire left side of my torso tattooed with the quote from the movie. It’s been six months since my last tattoo. And since it’s close to Valentine’s Day, I only felt it was appropriate:

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How happy is the blameless vestal’s lot! The world forgetting by the world forgot. Eternal sunshine of the spotless mind! Each pray’r accepted, and each wish resign’d                      -Alexander Pope

If you’ve seen the movie, you’ll get it. If not, well I just planned your Valentine’s Day for you.

A spotless mind, one that is untainted, and innocent. Eternal light lives in the minds of the innocent. But are they happy not knowing?

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I guess we’ve all felt like this at some point. I thought this would be me this year. But second chances are always a thing. Sometimes even third and fourth chances if somehow it’ll seem worth it. But who am I to talk about relationship advice. I mean come on, I dated a sociopath for over half a year.

But disclaimer? I’ve actually been binge watching the Twilight series. 50 Shades of Grey will be on the queue for later. And then back to the beautiful tragedy that is the eternal sunshine.

 

2017 UPDATE: somewhat manic, mostly reasonable

Note to self: do not post manic ideas as a blog post.

That last post was pretty unnecessary. Manic induced ideas can be awesome. That’s how I came up with the idea to go to U of Edinburgh for school (to get out of taking the GRE) and the idea of painting skate decks for money (possibly still a good idea for side money). I actually did spend a large amount of time researching where to buy blank skate decks and what type of varnish to use, etc. etc. But as much as I would like to extend my artistic talents into the world of skating, I think I’m better off doing something more realistic now that my mania has subsided.

For the first time since moving to Colorado, I finally feel a bit settled. Why’s that? Well I’ll tell you why even if you don’t care.

I finally have a REAL JOB. I START TOMORROW. Like, big girl 9-5 job. Okay it’s actually 8:30 to 4 and I have to work at 7:30am on Saturdays but a set schedule? Damn I feel spoiled.

And then after spending a month and a half of unemployment, I had a lot of time to think about long term. Long term commitments are scary. I couldn’t even decide on what I wanted to major in in undergrad until I realized I might as well major in psych just because I had enough credits for it. Bad decision, but probably ideal for someone who wanted to graduate ASAP.

But anyway, I recently realized how much I hate modern Western medicine and practices. These drugs that doctors have been shoving down my throat since I was 14 have done nothing for my mental health besides permanently damage my brain and have only acted as a band-aid. Honestly, the happiest I’ve been is when I start with treating my body with respect. It’s cliche, but my body is a temple. Treating my body right is what will eventually lead to having a healthier brain. I decided a more holistic approach to my health would be a better long-term decision for myself. Through eating a plant-based diet and exercising regularly, I feel better. When I started getting outside more and more when I moved to Colorado, I felt even better. Waking up sober everyday (this is sobriety Day 9 for me!!) helps me feel more productive and overall better. Doing yoga and meditation before bed calms me down and helps control my anxiety. Drinking teas with natural and beneficial herbs in them have helped my body through this alcohol mental and physical withdrawal. And of course, I’ve been going to acupuncture every week for the last 3 months.

Initially, I went to an acupuncturist because my allergies since moving here had gotten so bad that I was getting sick every week and I felt like I was constantly miserable. Taking massive amounts of painkillers and Allegra and Mucinex would barely help and just felt like poison to my body. A month into acupuncture, I realized I hadn’t gotten sick in weeks. Either my body finally adjusted, or acupuncture really did help. Acupuncture can be used to treat an extensive amount of ailments so I decided I wanted to start working on my mental health since it seems that I’m finally no longer a prisoner of allergy induced sickness.

Leading this more holistic lifestyle based on Eastern medicine has began to fascinate me. Every time my acupuncturist puts a needle in my skin, I always wonder, “why there?” During treatment, I like to meditate. Yesterday, I told my acupuncturist that I wanted to work on my depression and energy levels, in which he then placed three needles in my head. My mind spiraled into a crazy, manic-esque state but at the same time, calm and reasonable. At the time I was still thinking about the skateboard thing but something in the back of my mind reasonably talked me out of it. Eastern medicine is my calling. Coming from a psychology background, this would be perfect. I want to treat mental illness with more holistic approaches instead of shoving drugs down everyone’s throat and telling them what they should and shouldn’t do to cope with their minds.

That’s the short version. Yesterday, I was a unstable and depressed mess. When I finally found passion in something, that finally subsided. I found a purpose. I found a goal. I ordered books off Amazon on traditional Chinese medicine and started my application essay for a couple of TCM schools. I’m suddenly inspired to learn again, and I’m excited. I can be the calm little center of our ever chaotic universe. Zen, focused, and passionate about something for the first time in my life.

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Also, no GRE scores required, did I mention that? Don’t worry though, I won’t ever abandon writing. My crazy mind will still be on the internet for all to see.

things I do when I get catatonically depressed

  1. Look up pictures of fluffy dog butts on Pinterest. Corgis have the fluffiest butts, hands down.
  2. Watch my rats attack each other in their little t-rex way. The winner is the one who manages to stay up on his hind legs and push the other one over. The winner gets to groom the opponents belly.
  3. Pretend that I’m Adele and horribly belt out songs with my guitar. This isn’t so good for my self esteem. Note to self: do not record.
  4. Free association writing. Pick up some paper. Write down some random shit. Tear it up and throw it away (well actually please recycle it, unless you want to burn it, then that’s okay too).
  5. Eat something healthy because I know I really want to eat all of the cheese in my fridge and drink all of the beer I have. Strawberries and health tea make me feel superhuman for a second.
  6. Wear the comfiest socks I own.
  7. Put on non waterproof mascara and cry for the satisfaction of the emo look. It mostly just ends up being random streaks of black on my face.
  8. Clean my room. OCD tendencies are instantly satisfied.
  9. Pick up a damn book.
  10. Do not look at Facebook. I repeat. Do not. Look. At. Facebook.
  11. Read The Oatmeal
  12. Look at these cuties again. It was so cute I cried and sent the picture to my boyfriend.
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2016: The Unnecessarily Heated Debate

I really don’t like posting statuses on Facebook that are controversial. Mostly because I avoid arguments like the plague, and some people just get way too angry about it and then post unnecessary comments under it like “MY FAMILY WAS MURDERED BY HARAMBE.” Or, you know, something like that, because everyone has that one friend on Facebook with completely uncalled for and unfactual opinions that they post just to prove a point. I get it. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion.

But yesterday I finally got so fed up with everyone posting about 2016 and how they can’t wait for it to be over. And it got me thinking. I’m pretty sure everyone said the same thing about 2015 too. And 2014. So I posted this status:

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I mean, for real guys, if everyone in 1348 had Facebook, imagine those statuses at the end of the year. “Well, everyone, the black death has doth taken my entire family and most of my friends, leaving me alone in poverty. I resign myself from 1348 and will spend this New Years Eve in prayer that 1349 will bring us abundance and joy.” Or however they talked in 1348. I’m not really sure. But that year had to really suck. Continue reading “2016: The Unnecessarily Heated Debate”