Why You Should Consider Being an Organ Donor

Why You Should Consider Being an Organ Donor

What does your health mean to you? Maybe it’s your body allowing you to be active so you can travel the world. It might be looking thin in your trendy clothes or having toned legs and a flat stomach. Perhaps it’s waking up without a sniffle or body aches, getting enough sleep for work, or having the energy to go bar hopping with friends.

For my brother, it means getting the chance to propose to his girlfriend of over eight years, despite his medical bills and recovery time. The ability to eat a sustainable diet without weighing protein and avoiding potassium like it’s poison, trying not to lose over 35 pounds in the process. The opportunity to walk the beach without getting winded on family vacations, to drink more than one beer without nearly collapsing.

All of these things were normal for him just months ago, before he found out he was in kidney failure from IgA nephropathy, an autoimmune disease that attacks the kidneys. Now, they’re privileges that he can barely recall.

My family, given our circumstances, is blessed. My mom, selfless and loving, was the perfect match for my brother, so he didn’t have to wait on a kidney transplant list for years before getting to live a somewhat “normal” life again. She saved him from dialysis, from years of fear and exhaustion, from his own body’s faults.

However, not everyone is that lucky. According to the United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), an average of 20 people die every day while waiting for a transplant.

Reading that statistic, you might feel a pang of sympathy before moving on with your day. But the people behind those numbers can’t just brush it off. They are forced to live the consequences: Dry heaving over the toilet all night. Waking up on the floor of a subway station in New York City while commuting home from work. Swallowing several pills morning and night just to stay alive, and dealing with their torturous side effects because they have no other choice.

These people are parents, siblings, friends, lovers, children, cousins. They are just like you, and just like those you love.

You won’t understand until it gets personal, and I don’t expect you to. Hell, I didn’t get it until I was watching my older brother, my hero, put his entire life on hold, everything he worked so hard for, to fight a relentless disease.

My brother was always the happiest person I’ve known. Even now, while gripping the bed railing in a hospital room, shivering in pain, he manages to reassure us: “Other people have it worse.”

He doesn’t deserve it – of all people, why him?

I was angry for awhile, after the numbness faded into devastation, fear, and sorrow.

Why him?

I never expected this. The snow days we built igloos and went sleigh riding at the park. The summers we played manhunt with our neighbors. The family trips to Wildwood and Lavalette where I’d follow him around in awe of how cool he was. The high school breakups I mourned in his car while he listened, then treated me to dinner. The long hours he’d work overtime without a single complaint, and buy his friends a round of shots just for the hell of it. Nearly a year ago, when we moved him into the condo he purchased with his high school sweetheart. The movie nights, the Sunday drives, the hungover trips to Kettleman’s for bagels.

Why him?

I never expected this. And so, I never took the time to understand the complications of organ failure – and what it can do to an entire family.

I assumed that checking myself off as a donor would put my own life at risk, that health professionals wouldn’t make as much of an effort to save me if they could use my organs to save others. I never even thought about being a living donor, for selfish reasons – wanting to have children without an issue someday, not wanting to be paralyzed with fear, not wanting to deal with the pain and side effects of a major surgery.

While these are all rational thoughts, I don’t want to let them dissuade me from donating. I’ll admit that I am terrified at the idea of ever giving as a living donor. And I’m not saying that I’m gonna commit to doing so for someone in need right now (especially because I’d like to save my kidney God forbid my brother needs it someday.) But I do know that I will, at the very least, register as an organ donor.

I understand that committing to being a donor takes a lot of emotional and physical strength, research, and preparation. But saving someone’s life, someone who doesn’t have a choice but to thrive off another person’s organ, if they’re lucky, is well worth the second thought.

I’m not implying that organ donation is for everyone. I agree that people should have a choice regarding their body and should not feel guilty for what they choose to do with it. But I do believe that the topic should be discussed more than it is.

Next time you complain about work, next time you gloat about your designer shoes and all-inclusive vacations, next time you put far too much emphasis on appearance – remember that there are people out there who spend their nights staring at the clock in tears, wondering how much longer they can gut the pain and fear.

There are parents lying awake numb at the thought of losing their child. There are lovers forced to watch their soulmate lose the light in their eyes. There are siblings mourning a childhood that didn’t know of this verdict. There are grandparents wishing they were sick instead. There are friends in other states ditching work and buying plane tickets they can’t afford.

Remember that you can do something to help. You have the power to save someone’s life, even after you’re gone someday. And if you can’t physically donate yourself, or if you feel it’s too heavy of an obligation, you can spread awareness for the cause to those who can, and to those who may be willing.

John Bunyan once said: “You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.”

Today, instead of getting caught up in the superficiality of it all, think about what you can do for these powerless individuals. Think about what you can do for their grieving families, watching their loved one deteriorate right before their eyes.

Be the light that they need, the light that you may need yourself someday.

Give the gift of life.

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How To: Deal With Distressing yet Normal Doubts in a Relationship

How To: Deal With Distressing yet Normal Doubts in a Relationship

My OCD has a warped way of interpreting matters in my life. For instance, when I grow comfortable in relationships, it tries to persuade me that I’m just not happy – that I don’t belong with this person. Because God forbid my world doesn’t revolve around him each second.

In the past, it even made me break up with or pull away from guys out of fear of hurting them or leading them on. Thankfully, those mishaps led me to where I am today – with a man who understands these intrusive thoughts as much as I do now.

I’m glad I recognized this as a symptom of OCD (and simply being human) before I allowed it to destroy my current relationship. I must admit, it’s brought me close to a breaking point; and at times, I even think I’m better off alone because I can’t deal with the torment my mind endures.

The guilt. The shame. The terror for having one fleeting thought.

Everyone has questions and doubts in relationships. Everyone gets “bored” from time to time. Everyone wonders. It’s human nature for your mind to explore – but it’s what you do with these thoughts and emotions that defines you and your relationship.

If only I had known that people experience these fleeting notions every second of the day. Some thoughts just stick. They play on a loop, and the more attention you give them, the stronger they become, and the more real they feel.

For me, these “doubts” started as early as my first relationship. I didn’t realize it then, but I wasn’t losing feelings for the guy I was dating. Instead, I was developing stronger ones – just in a different sense. The butterflies had flown away, and I no longer wanted to spend every waking moment with the guy. I did, however, feel secure and content in his presence. But at the time, my OCD lied to me and tricked me into thinking that I no longer cared for this person, because why else would I not be over-the-moon while holding his hand?

Long story short, one simple fear of losing connection attracted a million others, my mind focusing only on flaws, until I was buried beneath my own shame.

I pulled away. He cut all ties. And it was then, in the midst of devastation, that I realized the doubts were meaningless.

Since then, I experienced these exact emotions in every relationship I’ve had. One night, I wasn’t in the mood to make out with my then-boyfriend. We were arguing a lot, and I didn’t feel the connection that night. But all of the sudden, I become overwhelmed with the idea that I was no longer attracted to him.

Another time, an image of me kissing another guy who wasn’t my boyfriend popped into my mind. It was a totally innocent thought – I have never cheated and I never will. But from that point on, I felt so much guilt, as if I had kissed someone else and not just subconsciously imagined it, that I couldn’t even look at my then-boyfriend. I felt like a monster for something I couldn’t control.

But what’s so important to realize is that you are still human, and your mind can still wander without it becoming an issue. You can’t decide what thoughts come into your mind, but you can help how you respond to them.

DO NOT feed these ideas. DO NOT give them more meaning than they hold, unless there is a legitimate reason to. And you will know if there is, because the thought would not be so distressing. You’d want to end things with the person so you can move on with your life. Sure, you’d likely feel disappointed in the situation or upset over hurting the person, but you wouldn’t spend all day worrying and obsessing over whether or not your feelings are valid.

There is a difference between normal doubts and concerning ones. If you genuinely feel that you are unhappy, that you aren’t being treated right, or that the relationship just isn’t working, it’s time to have a conversation with your significant other. You don’t want to put on a front and have your emotions build up until you make a rash decision or start an unnecessary fight. Communication can make or break your relationship. Never be afraid to ask for what makes you happy; but also know that you need to meet your partner halfway.

However, don’t allow yourself to become someone who only wants what they can’t have and never realizes what they have until it’s gone. That person hides in all of us, tempting and nagging, making us believe we will never be satisfied, that perhaps we don’t deserve to be. Acknowledging those ideas is OK. Acting on them or letting them control you – that’s when issues arise.

This isn’t easy. I struggle with it every day because of my ROCD. But there’s a reason I push through and stay in my committed relationship: because I truly do love my boyfriend, even if my anxiety wants to convince me otherwise.

You don’t have to feel guilty for having doubts. In fact, it’s healthy to have them, because it means you are taking your relationship seriously. So take a deep breath and understand that you are normal – and what you’re feeling is normal, too.

My OCD and Me: Why am I so Weak?

My OCD and Me: Why am I so Weak?

These past few weeks have been tough. Scratch that. My entire life has been tough. But whose isn’t?

In July, I went to a concert to see Panic! At The Disco and Weezer, and after eating and drinking all night, I didn’t feel too well. My stomach was in so much pain that as soon as I got home, I collapsed onto the floor in the hallway upstairs, sprawled out on my laundry I was supposed to put away earlier. I couldn’t move without a dizzy spell and felt like I was somehow months pregnant from the bloating in my stomach. Suddenly, my heart dropped..

I hate throwing up more than most things in this world. It’s remained one of my phobias since the first grade, right before I was diagnosed with obsessive-compulsive disorder. Now, 15 years later, I still cringe at the thought.

So when I felt that intense nausea and pain while lying on my floor, I panicked. I really, truly panicked. I ran up and down the stairs, pacing and crying and pulling at my hair, yelling at my parents that I felt sick, gagging over the toilet, dry-heaving for fifteen minutes before finally throwing up my entire night in the bathroom sink downstairs.

That was all it took to send me into a downward spiral.

I was doing fine for years until that moment. I’d gone to cognitive behavioral therapy for a while in fifth grade, where my psychologist had me stare at pictures of people vomiting every night before bed. I wondered how the hell that was going to cure me of my fear, but eventually, it just clicked — I could function again.

But maybe part of the reason I recovered is because I went years without throwing up. I had nothing to trigger the phobia.

Fast forward to now — I’m back at school in my new apartment, cozied up in my double bed, Christmas lights and beach-cottage-themed decor surrounding me. Any normal girl would feel at peace. There’s nothing wrong. At least I don’t think so.

But for the past few months, I’ve been waking up with waves of nausea, squeezing my thumb to stop from choking, a reflex courtesy of my anxiety. Every time I open my eyes in the middle of the night, I immediately ask myself, “Do I feel sick?” before even taking a breath. And immediately, every time, I do.

Maybe something is wrong with me. I’ve been having severe cramps and weight loss issues. I’ve been eating and sleeping less. I’ve been bouncing from specialist to specialist.

But, you see, none of that matters. Sure, health issues are frustrating and sometimes a bit daunting, but these aren’t the issue here. The issue is my OCD.

I turn everything, nothing, into something — something so much worse. I googled my symptoms and self-diagnosed myself with countless digestive diseases/issues, only to worry myself and make the situation even rougher. My mind has been to dark places lately; I feel like I’ve lived with a chronic illness for the past month, all thanks to my mind and the power it seems to have over me.

I’ve been waking up in my new room every hour of the night feeling entirely alone. No one understands, and I’m sure everyone is tired of hearing me complain. I sit up and stare at my blinds, knowing it’s too early for the sun to be up, and take deep breaths — in for four seconds, hold for six, out for eight. But my stomach doesn’t settle. It never does.

When I try to close my eyes again, I feel the little food I ate that day work its way back up. There’s no way I can rest, so I jump out of bed and walk to my window, my heart racing at the thought of vomiting. I try to relax in the cool, early morning air, watch cars zip by on the road below, but my mind won’t let me. I gag again, run to the bathroom without relief — then cry.

For the fifth time that day, I cry. Until I finally fall back to sleep for a few hours, I cry. This happens nearly every night.

Sometimes I wonder how I could ever handle being sick — actually sick. What would I do then? Sob about the possibility of throwing up from whatever treatment I need? Avoid necessary surgeries out of fear of anesthesia side effects? I can barely gut the idea of eating meat because of the possibility of salmonella.

I feel weak. I feel as though I’m not as strong as others, those who’ve dealt with serious diseases and came out fighting, the ones that have sat in fear, not knowing the outcome but doing everything in their power to push forward and stay positive. I want to be like that.

My patience waivers in these times. I need to be in control, to know that I am safe and healthy. A second of doubt is too long, and I break down in anxiety. How could I ever handle a true illness?

That’s when it clicked — I already am.

You know, it’s not always visible. The terror. The compulsions. The internal pain. I beat myself up every day for not being strong, when really, that’s all I ever am.

Mental illnesses are just as severe and debilitating as physical ones. In just one week, I made myself so sick with anxiety that I lost ten pounds. One week. The emotional stress that comes with anxiety disorders and other mental illnesses can lead to actual physical pain and complications.

So, while, yes, it is “in my mind,” it spreads everywhere else, too. It leaks into my heart, quickening it to a pace that concerned the nurses at the ER. It pounds on my head, sending tension down my neck and to my shoulders. It paralyzes my stomach muscles until I’m griping in pain. It steals my energy, my focus, my desire to get out of bed – yet, I still can’t seem to sleep more than an hour because it takes that ability from me, too.

And when I think about how I let this affect me, when I think about how other people would handle this, I don’t realize that they aren’t in the same situation as I am. No one is. Everyone has their own baggage, and this happens to be mine. It’s chronic and severe and constant — there is no relief at any point. Just like any other chronic illness, physical or mental.

So when I tell myself that I’m weak compared to others, those who could easily brush off minor nausea or stomach issues, I’m not crediting myself for dealing with my emotional symptoms — the ones I’ve fought my entire life. It’s like I forget that I wake up every morning and greet the same demons that abuse me every second of every day. I make peace with them long enough to focus on classes, work, clubs, life.

Being strong does not mean being fearless. It means acknowledging your own personal fears and not allowing them to overcome you, to push forward despite them.

We all have our own battles, each unique and unsettling. My journey belongs to no one but myself, so I can’t judge my steps in comparison to someone else’s. Only I live in these shoes and walk these strides, and only I know what that feels like. So I can either attack myself in my most vulnerable state for tripping along the road, or I could pull over, dust myself off, and keep moving forward.

I think I’ll do the latter.

How To: Create and Stick with a Personal Fitness Routine

How To: Create and Stick with a Personal Fitness Routine

So you want to work out. It seems simple enough. If all of those badass fitness models on Instagram can do it, then why can’t you? Buy new workout clothes, invest in a gym membership or at-home equipment, create a fitness board on Pinterest and you’re all set! Right?

Wrong. It’s all fun and games until you end up sitting on some random machine, wondering how to work it and what to do next–until you’re lacking motivation three weeks in and fall back to square one.

So how do you start? By creating your own workout regime.

Figure out what you want from your fitness journey–to lose weight, gain muscle, tone up, build strength, etc. Keep in mind that you can achieve all of these goals with the correct regime. Once you set your priorities straight, conduct some research online (sites like LIVESTRONG and MyFitnessPal are super helpful!) and collect exercises that are relevant to your objectives.

Next, be sure to divide your days into your targeted muscle groups. For example, I exercise my legs and glutes on Mondays and Wednesdays, my arms on Tuesdays, my abs on Tuesdays and Thursdays; I do cardio each of those days; and I dedicate an extra day to full body HIIT workouts. If I skip a session, I simply shift my routine to the following day.  While I am not a physical trainer, I have found that this routine works well for me.

Whether you go to the gym or work out at home, set a few days aside for trial periods. Test some exercises out, try using weights, figure out which form of cardio is your favorite. Make sure to choose activities that excite you, ones that motivate you to get up and get going each morning. For instance, if you hate running like I do, don’t force yourself to do it. There are plenty of other ways to burn calories, like swimming, biking or playing soccer.

Inspiration is another key to staying on track. Follow fitness bloggers on social media and look up new and exciting ways to stay in shape regularly.

By adhering to a schedule, you hold yourself accountable. When you’re comfortable in your routine, make some changes. Increase reps or sets. Add some new workouts. Change your location. Record (and reward!) your progress.

Overall, just ensure that you are enjoying yourself in the healthiest way possible, physically and mentally.

 

6 Reasons to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

6 Reasons to Stop Comparing Yourself to Others

I woke up the other morning feeling extra self-conscious. I skipped the gym all week because I was so focused on my academics and felt sick. I slept too late and had plans to go out, so there was another gym session out of the window. Of course, I could’ve made time if I really wanted to; but I was so looking forward to adventuring and spending some time in the sun that I decided not to–again.

Now, I usually make certain I go to the gym at least four to five days a week. So naturally, I was feeling guilty and gross for skipping yet again. Not only that, but every time I opened my Instagram, I saw another skinny girl with a perfectly flat stomach and toned everything, a girl who I couldn’t help but be jealous of–which I hate admitting to.

I struggle in this area–comparing myself to others. Whether it’s about my physical appearance, like my hair, body, skin, whatever, or about my personality, intellect, interests, I always, always, always compare myself. It’s such a terrible habit to fall in to, but a common one at that.

Here are 6 reasons to stop comparing yourself to others:

  1. You become bitter.
    When you’re constantly competing with other people, you become so invested in outshining them that you often find reasons to dislike and envy them, causing a manifestation of negative thoughts. Sure, competition may encourage you work harder in some aspects of your life–but for all of the wrong reasons.
  2. You live your life for others.
    Your main goal is being better than others, rather than improving yourself. You care so much about other people’s opinions and perceptions of you that you often lose sight of yourself and your own goals.
  3. You miss out on the beauty of life.
    There are so many more important parts of life that you miss when you’re caught up in petty notions. It’s a blessing to wake up each morning, to hear the rain tap on your window, to indulge in your favorite dessert, to spend the day in bed with your lover.
  4. You take yourself for granted.
    You become so wrapped up in who has nicer hair, tanner skin, a better GPA, more internships, etc. that you forget how lucky you are just to have working organs, a healthy body, and the opportunity to learn and live. You fail to recognize your talents and strengths, or view them as insufficient in comparison to others’. You expend all of your energy on your failures and weaknesses until you’re entirely spent.
  5. You lose focus on what’s important.
    What is important? Your happiness. Your interests. Your education. Your future. Your family, friends, and loved ones. Your health. Your sense of adventure. The only aspects of life that are worth your time and attention are ones that will benefit you; comparing yourself to others will never do that.
  6. You’ll never be happy.
    You’ve heard it before; there will always be someone prettier, smarter, skinnier, more toned, funnier, kinder, etc. in someone’s eyes. But none of that matters. What matters is how you see yourself. If you love yourself, which you should, you’ll attract positivity and success.

Remember: you are good enough. It doesn’t matter how pretty your boyfriend’s ex is. It doesn’t matter how successful your best friend is. It doesn’t matter how kind and caring your cousin is. No one can strip you of your attributions except yourself.

Sammi Says: Two Years Too Young?

Sammi Says: Two Years Too Young?

Hi Sammi!

This is kind of a mundane question compared to the others, but bear with me. There’s a girl in my life I think I’m interested in, but the problem is that she’s roughly 2 and a half years younger than me. I’m about to turn 22, so it’s not like it would be in high school, but I’m still not sure if that’s too much even now, and I can’t help but feel a little creepy. We’re good friends and get along great otherwise. How do you determine if someone’s too young for you or not? I’m sure the old “divide you age by 2, and add 7” rule is simplifying it a bit much. Thanks!

Possible Creeper

 

Dear Possible Creeper,

First of all, I do not think you are a “possible creeper” in any aspect. Two years honestly is not a huge difference, especially at your age. Odds are, she won’t think it’s a big deal either. I know of many couples, even in high school, who are two to three, sometimes four, years apart. I’ve dated a some guys who were two years older than me in the past; so have many of my friends!

Now, the important point to consider is whether or not she is on the same maturity level as you, or if you two are on the same page in life. I’m not saying you need to be ready to settle down, stop partying, move in together, or anything extreme. However, if she, for example, spends most weekends at frat houses while you, on the other hand, are preparing for graduation and applying to grad school, you may want to ask yourself if you’re comfortable being at opposing stages. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with either of you regardless; it all depends on your needs in a relationship. You two are obviously good friends, so there is already some similarities of interests there.

If you are interested in this girl and want to make a move, do it! Don’t hold back just because of an age gap.

Good luck!

Sammi

 

Need advice? Ask Sammi in the “contact” section!

Sammi Says: Dreading Relationships

Sammi Says: Dreading Relationships

Dear Sammi,

I’ve been happily single for the last 4 years, living my own life. I dated occasionally during that time, but they never lasted, I’ve always had feelings of dread and lingering sadness if I’ve dated anyone for more than a few weeks. Considering these were people I originally asked out on a whim, it made sense to me.

However, the same thing happened recently when I asked out a crush, and for once she said yes. I know I want to be with her, so why do I also dread dating her, and why can’t I feel happy and confident regarding how things are going? What would you do in this confusing situation?

Loveshy

 

Dear Loveshy,

I can totally relate to your situation, as I often experience doubts regarding relationships. It can be tough to work through, especially when you aren’t sure whether your feelings are valid or merely a reflection of fear and anxiety.

As you mentioned, you tend to make quick decisions and then regret or question them. This is normal. When you rush into relationships, you don’t necessarily give yourself enough time to consider all of its aspects, which can lead to intense overthinking. Do you really want to be with this person? What if they aren’t good for you? What if you mess up? What if they do? What if you want to see other people, too? The questions go on and on, feeding off each other until you probably have had enough.

It seems to me that you have a bit of commitment issues. Don’t worry, I think half of the world (if not more) does, too. Really though. I have been in a relationships for over two years now, and I still get freaked out by the thought of commitment sometimes. Now, I’m saying that I am disloyal or that I think my boyfriend disloyal; but it definitely freaks me out, feeling so much love and putting so much time into something that can easily be destroyed. There are so many mistakes both of us could make, so many external factors that could cause issues, etc. But you know what? There are also so many things that could go right.

The dreading, the stressing, the doubting–it’s all a normal part of dating, especially in the beginning. Once you accept your feelings as exactly what they are (merely emotions that everyone experiences), you will be able to move on from them. Try writing them down; they might not seem so terrifying or daunting.

Everyone questions, second-guesses, loses confidence. Do not feel guilty or wrong for doing so; I look at it as a defense-mechanism. We almost search for a problem because we are so used to finding one.

Be strong in those moments to prove yourself wrong; keep pushing forward in the relationship and be in that particular moment with your crush–really be there, taking it all in, listening, talking, and enjoying yourself.

If you feel that you no longer like the person you are dating, odds are you will know it without having to obsessively question yourself. You won’t worry about it or be too upset over it. You will want to end it and be free. The fact that you are stressing means you care, which is important in any relationship. So don’t be so hard on yourself, your thoughts, and your emotions. You are no different from anyone else, and you deserve to happy.

Sammi

 

Need advice? Ask Sammi in the “contact” section!