TV saved my life last fall

This post is going to be deeply personal for me, I just want to preface. I may cover topics such as implied sexual harassment, and mental health so I want to warn readers that I will try my best as to not be overtly detailed as to cause triggers. But I will let you know I do cover those topics. Also I have omitted names, as well as some other fine details because they’re too sensitive or not in my place to speak of.

So I started my first year of college last year. This drastically impacted me being across the country from home, being in a large city, and being alone from all my friends. It’s no surprise I felt depressed at times, or I struggled with opening myself up to making new friends. But something that really hindered this was my living situation at the time. I’ve opened up to close friends who know exactly what happened as I told them in real time because some of what I witnessed or lived through is quite honestly something so bizarre and unspoken about it could be a tv pilot.

But I do want to say that in that time Television was my solace. I had several moments inside my apartment where I did not feel safe. It was during this time that I sought out using the tv as a distraction. Thing is I would binge 30 Rock, and eventually completed the series last fall because it was all my distracted mind could focus on. That and Grey’s Anatomy. Which I had finished the year before and can basically recite like the back of my hand.

Now when I say I didn’t feel safe in my apartment you have to understand some things.

First, I shared a bedroom and a bunk bed with another girl. I was on the top bunk. She over the time spent in our room was a terrible roommate. And no it wasn’t that she was just loud. There’s really no excuse for doing laundry only twice from August 31st to October 28th. She would let her hamper overflow to the point where she began to leave laundry on her bed, she never put away clean clothes so they laid with the soiled ones, and then it became a large pile that stacked all the way up to our window sill. Once I climbed out of bed and found she had thrown a thong onto my chair. This was not all though of course it couldn’t be.

I told you I wasn’t safe.

See as the laundry accumulated, she had also moved out of our room. She began sleeping in our living room next to the couch on the floor, which she littered with instant noodles and chocolate pudding cups. She did not tell us why.  I, being a shy and timid person, had not really interacted with her much. Through all this she had boyfriend troubles so every few nights we all pitched in and did damage control for her emotionally. So as things progressed she just grew angry and agitated, coming back home from spending the night at her boyfriend’s dorm and slamming the bedroom door as she came in while I ‘slept’ (or pretended to be asleep so she wouldn’t talk to me). Throughout this time she had been coming in and out with her boyfriend through the days and there were a lot of moments where they had sex in the bathroom and we all could hear it. There wasn’t so much of a group text to let us know to leave. I was locked out of my bedroom without my phone once. But then she broke up with this boyfriend. There was a period of time where she would bring home random guys.

There is nothing wrong with a woman having a lot of sexual interaction, but when it puts other girls at risk that’s where it’s a problem. Not only was my roommate putting herself in danger with a stranger, she put us in danger as well. One such time when she was agitated if I remember correctly, I did what any logical person would have done. I went to the room next to mine, closed the door, sat on the floor with my other roommates and I made them watch the Grey’s Anatomy pilot.

Watching the pilot made me feel so at peace in a time where I did not know what was going to happen to me. I think what made such an impact on me was that I was watching characters who didn’t have a firm grasp on life as I did in that moment. They felt lost, they felt unsure of the world they had just stepped foot in and so did I. We felt safe for 43 minutes.

Then the random guys brought alcohol into the mix as well. So the girl I shared a bedroom with would bring men we both did not know home, while intoxicated and underage, and not tell any of us. I guess I slept through a few nights where my other roommate walked some of the men out of the apartment in the middle of the night because this girl was too drunk. So as this was happening I was sleeping.

I can not tell this story without mentioning that she sexually harassed my other roommate while drunk however that story is not mine to tell but I will say my story comes back into this because she and I discussed it a few days after.

I felt guilty over it because that was one night when this girl came home very drunk, crying and she eventually called her mom and she was very loud. It was 11 or 12 at night and I had an 8:30 the next morning so I closed our door, and tried to block out the noise. That was when the harassment occurred and I wish that I hadn’t shut down and knew what to do in the situation but I didn’t.

So the victim and I were talking about what happened and about reporting her when she tells me that the girl had been bragging to her the night before about having sex in her bunk with a random guy while I slept.

I couldn’t sleep for weeks. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t feel safe, my privacy had been violated. The worst part of all of that is that I do not know exactly what occurred and I do not know if I myself was touched by them at any point in time. My sense of self was so out of place from then because I truly do not know. I woke up clothed that is all knew.

We eventually reported her and that was when my other roommate and I began to binge Grey’s Anatomy together because it was something that took our mind off of what was happening. Suddenly we were afraid to come home at times we knew she was there.  The process of deciding to report her and to who was a messy blur. I remember hiding at our starbucks around the corner and then in our lobby until I knew she wasn’t there.

But once it came to the time where the sexual harassment offices got involved I did not report, although my roommate reported and then I went with her to follow up meetings with officials to verify her story with my own. It was because of this that the biggest incident happened.

I was sitting, doing homework on a Thursday afternoon where I didn’t have class. Everyone was having class. Or so I thought. She had been taken into the title ix offices and told of the accusations against her. I got a phone call from her that I stupidly picked up.

I heard “Why are you lying,” and I automatically responded by saying that it wasn’t me filing a claim against her that it was the other roommate and it was confidential so I could not discuss the case with her before hanging up.

I felt my heart racing to the point of I felt faint. My face was blushed, I could feel the heat rising in my cheeks. I had no choice, I didn’t know when she was coming home. I did NOT want to see her. I felt in danger. I closed my laptop. I sent an email to my RA, I told her I didn’t feel safe and I also let my other roommate know. She asked me to come to her room. At this point I felt very weak. My heart was pounding in my ears, I felt the need to pack everything up because every bad thing I could think of raced through my head. What if she came back and broke my camera? My laptop? What if she stole my clothes? What if she…what if she-?

I eventually grabbed my purse and made my way down the hall. I knocked on my RA’s door. While I waited the elevator dinged multiple times, and each time I jumped with panic that it was this girl coming back to our apartment. Once inside my RA’s room she led me to her couch while she went to make a phone call to her adviser to tell her the situation.

I found myself on her couch watching whatever she had turned the TV to.

It was Grey’s Anatomy.

I didn’t touch anything, I didn’t even realize until my heart had slowed down and I heard that voice that made my days so much better.

Grey’s Anatomy actually saved my life. Hearing just the familiar voice of Meredith Grey that I had developed a connection to over 13 seasons actually ended my panic attack. At that moment nothing mattered. I watched for those five minutes before my RA came back in and talked to me. Those five minutes took me away from the emotional hell I had been living in for weeks. It took me to a hospital where I knew everyone’s name, and I didn’t feel at fear for what could happen to me. That’s all that mattered. Grey’s Anatomy made me feel safe. I will always be in debt to Shonda Rhimes, and to the cast, to Ellen Pompeo- for making a show so full of heart that it became the light in my dark.

and to my RA for  having it on. She didn’t know. She was catching up on some studying with it on as background noise when I came to her. TV transcends itself by being such a staple we live on and for me it was such a sign. TV came to me when I needed it the most. I needed it for an escape and it provided that. I don’t know what would have happened had it not been playing when I came over because it was such a terrifying situation. This girl was also bipolar and off her medication and had been for weeks. Her behavior was erratic and extreme which made me fear for my safety a lot and knowing she was angry at me led me to a lot of anxious thoughts.

Now that she’s gone, Grey’s doesn’t leave our TV often. After having binged the entire show my roommate promptly started again. It’s on when we eat, it’s on while we study- it brings peace to us because we had to make our apartment our safe space again. We didn’t move out, she did. But the places where she hurt us were still there.

“When something bad happens there’s always a handful of beautiful things that come out of it “- Ellen Pompeo

I write this because I was just diagnosed with anxiety/depression and I made a promise to myself. If Greys can last this long, why can’t I? Obviously my livelihood does not depend on the show but understanding that I have over 300 options of episodes to calm me down during the worst of times is comforting. It is time that I stop blaming myself, or questioning why this happened to me but to put myself forward to not be prisoner to my anxiety anymore. So what, something bad happened to me but I found beauty in how I was saved.

“What’s broken can be mended, what’s hurt can be healed. No matter how dark it gets, the sun’s gonna rise again”- Meredith Grey.

TV will always be there next year too.

It’ll be there and it’ll be safe.

tea: wildberry zinger 

I don’t have enough spoons

Since my last post discussed how I had come to understand myself under and through the labeling of Spoon theory I decided that because of circumstances that happened to me today I would just kind of elaborate on that through experience.

I sent a text today to one of my friends whom is also a Spoonie, and I told her at the end of the message “I don’t have enough spoons for that!” and she got it right away. Where as if I told anyone else they’d probably just shrug and say oh pack yourself snacks.

What I had sent to her was me complaining about my counselor and how I didn’t realize one of my three hour classes is only one credit! A brief glimpse into college courses here is that 16 credits is like 5 classes which are generally 3 hours each give or take, and 12 credits is the least you can have and be considered a full time student still and I need that to live in the dorms still. Each semester I’ve ended up dropping classes. If you drop before a certain time period they refund you and it doesn’t count on my transcipt. I sat through the first two weeks of class and I knew right away, I couldn’t do this. And in college, its not like highschool. You can’t just suffer through.

Growing with poor math skills really taught me how to be an advocate for myself in education. I have extreme anxiety every time I do a math test. Doing timed multiplication tests in elementary school led to crying almost every week. It was horrible, it was awful, and no amount of one on one tutoring could help me. Because I felt like there was something wrong with me. I felt like I wasn’t as good as the rest of the students who were all around strong in everything, and my class had a very high average in terms of grades. We started doing timed tests in third grade. I was about eight. And I was already at war with my mind. If you know my other posts, you know eight is about the same time I was getting sick as well. So throughout school I would have to personally contact teachers, I would ask for extra time on things, I refused to let myself be diagnosed with a learning disability for fear of being stuck in classes that were too easy for me (that is a whole other issue and understanding if math anxiety is a learning disability, or if I really had math dyslexia). Ok now add that on top of the general amount of bullying we all suffer, and the illnesses shaping up around my body- it was pretty rough but I didn’t understand at the time how bad it was.

College really doesn’t afford you to do that. I can. I have. But it’s not the same amount of hospitality. So when I’m in a class and I feel stressed out and overwhelmed in the second week of class, I know I have to drop. There’s no questions. I’m done with sacrificing my mental health for a grade. If that means taking classes over the summer, I’ll do it.  I am not the typical student. And that isn’t to excuse me when I’m being lazy.

I know when I’m being lazy as a student, and I generally admit to it. I breezed through things often, except of course as discussed math. I finished reading assignments that should take two hours in like thirty. English isn’t hard for me. But when you give it your all for six years of elementary and then two of middle school, things pile up. You get exhausted.

So I had ten credits this morning and I told my counselor to add me to classes she knew were open.

I had class on monday from 3:30-6:20, tuesday from 3:30-6:20, wednesday from 9am-12:30 and 1pm-3pm or so. My schedule was nice. I always have a four day weekend as a tv student. It just happens. That’s when I have TIME to do my homework. My counselor says no worries and adds me to two classes and drops a preq for me (this preq I took and dropped and I’m taking at a junior college over summer).

Yay right?

She signs me up for a class from 12:30-3:20 on BOTH monday and tuesday.

I don’t have enough spoons.

This isn’t me being lazy or me looking for an easy way out. I do back to back on wednesday for TV all the time. I am TIRED on thursdays. I relax with some TGIT and I NEED it.

My first semester had me editing for three hours at 8:30 AM and creating live news style round table shows until 4PM. I was so tired but it was so worth it. I got a tiny lunch break. And now I’m script writing and editing from 9am until 3:20. Small lunch break again.

I don’t have it in me to repeat that EVERY day of the week. I can’t. On top of extra things like going out and filming for class which can be up to six hours of shooting without lunch breaks? A huge part of me is eating snacks or anything to keep up my energy. And it’s still hard to me to feel okay eating in public spaces because I for some reason feel odd doing it.

So I dropped one of the classes, and I kept another so I would have 13 credits and be a full time student. I get an email back pressuring me to add another class to do 16 credits. And it makes me feel awful.

I used to be the perfect student. I still get good grades, I made National Society of College Scholars, I got a 23 overall on the ACT but a 29 in reading alone, I took the SAT with essay twice, I get praised a lot for my work but understanding and letting that part of me go is so strange. I do the best I can now which is enough. But there’s that moment of panic, of anger, of regret for not being better in highschool- and I hate it. I hate that I went through a full blown melt down over my education. I wish I didn’t. I wish I hadn’t been on the verge of failing so much in highschool after spending nights studying and worrying. I wish I had enough spoons. I get exhausted doing pretty much anything anymore and my focus is so poor that if I’m struggling I just tune it out now. I don’t want my dropped classes to be used against me to guilt me into taking more. I want to succeed and strive and sometimes that doesn’t fit what your counselor may want for you.

Always advocate for your education. There are people who will help you if you raise your voice. You think differently than others and that’s perfectly okay.

if you don’t have enough spoons, or energy, it’s okay to back away and step down. You come before anything else.

Did you hit record?

Did you hit record?

Those four words were all I heard in highschool. They’re all I ever paid attention to. For good reason I suppose. See that was the question we asked as soon as we hit ‘transition’ in the broadcast studio. It was a routine, one that I will never get tired of. If we didn’t hit record then we had no record of what we were showing to the school at the time…it just became nothing. All the hard work, the hours we spent filming events instead of doing homework or sleeping was just gone.

I’ve written a lot about this topic before. I originally was planning on submitting it to Shonda Rhimes’s G2 Pilot Pen contest but I felt too self conscious about it and had struggles with handwriting it and copying the paper. Every time I did it the scanner would ruin my image and I had missed the time to mail in submissions. I also wanted it digitized because I have very sloppy handwriting. So this story never made its way to Shonda.

and I certainly also want to mention that I myself am not the first female director of my highschool’s broadcast program. There were about three I think before me? One was my mentor herself. But I had a lot of circumstances in my three years that I kind of really reflected on.

Everyone focuses on how great it is that I’m a woman and I had this power, and I’m very proud of that. But no one actually understands how hard it was. I enjoyed every second of it and I kept going back each morning because I was in love with the thrill of it. There’s a sense of feeling you get when you do a show and get to use a switcher, and press all these buttons. But life wasn’t just all button pressing.

The lay out of the class is a student run for credit class with a teacher to supervise us. He teaches all the video classes which prepare you for the broadcast class. You take video 1 to get in, although there’s exceptions who never take the class or simultaneously take broadcasting and video 1 together. See you don’t exactly sign up for the class.

I’ll walk you through my interview.

I had video one even though I was qualified to not take it, I was enrolled for elective credit. I went in during a study hour to the first classroom which was a make shift art room with computers and video equipment stored in a shared closet with Art next door. The closet is where I had my interview. Student directors sat on stools with only one set of lights on, for dramatic purposes. They ask about my experience, my leadership skills, my skills working in groups, what I wanted from the class…all to how I would solve technical issues. It wasn’t as scary as they tried to make it be. I got in like the next week. But that process is handed down through all the directors.

So I took my first year as a sophomore and in the spring they called for interviews for director. There’s some sort of rule about how it should go. Sort of like one senior, one junior, one sophomore for each position. Yes there’s multiple positions. I may be a director but there were three of us in total who all had the same power and ability. Our formal titles were different, I actually was executive producer? They actually messed up my year because they picked two incoming juniors and an incoming senior. Which made things unbalanced when we had events to cover that we would be at or when it came time to pick people for our junior year. Anyway I was treated just like any other director, I think.

Only let’s discuss that whole concept of being treated the same as a director. I was formally again, considered by staff and by other students but here is where it becomes a bit…messy? yeah. I’ll say messy.

What do you tell a 15 year old girl when she gets the title of director for a highschool broadcasting class? How do you let her know what she’d face over the next years of her life?

There is no guide book. There’s no process. There’s no amount of training I could have had to make this easier or better for me. I wouldn’t have traded my experiences for the world but I don’t think people realize that my experiences include being disrespected, bullied, put down, invalidated, creatively ignored, and having to do the hard stuff like reporting after the death of a student.

Honestly I learned to care less about what people think if it doesn’t benefit me but let’s forget all that mushy feelings about me finding myself and being able to take charge. I’m a shy person, but I grew and developed with my class of students and I found a way to be loud.

But here it is. We need to dig into the problems I faced out of pure sexism. This isn’t to blame anyone, or point fingers in any way but more of an understanding of how students work in today’s society. It was very difficult my first week. I received the title and status in April I think of that year so I was still 15 nearing 16 and I sort of was coming to terms with having this power. We run the class. We address the class each morning, we content check everything before it airs, we even graded our classmates. I suddenly could speak out when I didn’t like something someone had presented to us to air. I could creatively tell them that they were wrong, and I could propose things for people to film and so I started to try to.

Can you picture a timid 15 year old me, trying to tell an 18 year old senior his package can’t be aired because of say a mic being cut off or audio being fuzzy?

or let’s throw this one in

no one is actually doing work in the studio and you get a sixth sense your teacher is about to come in and witness the lack of effort, and you have the job of telling everyone to start working- and you do, pretty loudly…but they still don’t listen?

Those are two examples of what I dealt with on the daily. No one listened to me. I had to command respect suddenly. These were my peers who I know I sometimes pissed off by putting my foot down over certain topics…which is when middle of my first year I started being called a bitch behind my back. I sort of brushed it off. It worried me at first but then I had come to an understanding that in order to be in a professional environment that I had to accept what was being thrown at me.

There was staff meetings towards the end of my final year where they requested my male co directors over me even though they were discussing a project that I had been following, and was close to the graphic creator for. There were students who gossiped about our program, who put us down constantly and they didn’t even know I was running it. We have credits but no one reads them, they’re just to be fancy I suppose. Or male students accused us of brainwashing when we tried to cover news stories without bias about current state of affairs in our society, which included things that affected our student body like gay marriage and health care. From then we started a small segment were students could send in messages and do an editorial on them, to explain our content choices. It didn’t fair well with students, but was praised by teachers.

It’s hard to pick out a really terrible moment from a vast sea of them.

I had bad times too. When a male student thought it was okay to disrespect a deceased student, whom I was close with which resulted in me screaming at him (and I had lost my patience with him as a poor broadcast student who was flaky and very poor at due dates as well). I did things I was not proud of like undermining someone else’s project and so forth.

I struggled with finding my voice and this program helped me to. So I guess this is time to explain why I get so interested and invested in people directing because I never thought that I couldn’t direct. I never was like oh that’s a man’s job I can’t. It was more that as I became one, and the only female one during my year (and then went to choose two, very deserving, female directors for the year after I left) that I realized I was alone. But I also felt like that gave me power, being the only woman. I took everything into my hands, I often overloaded myself with work. I watched three different news channels a day, I was a junkie- but I believed in helping my classmates receive real news. We didn’t cover just when the sports played but impact stories about our community or the world. I also empowered my female students and I let their voices be heard, and we did things like accepting people to be anchors who had no experience and people thought of as just a cheerleader- she’s in a journalism college now. These people have stories and talents, and I helped them grow.

I get so excited when I see women directing because I know they’ll struggle, even if they never admit if they do. I’ll have felt the same as them. The frustration of not being listen to. The sheer anger when you’re about to go live in five minutes, and a script isn’t done being fixed.

and that moment when you ask did you record?

I can say, yes I did.

Drink: Orange flavored immune boosting drink, in warm water. Also a cup of English Tea Shop super berry mix.

I think I have my letter to Shonda typed up still if anyone wanted to know the full story behind everything. I go into a lot of depth, including things that I don’t mention here like the school trying to remove our program.