MOVING!

Lovely readers–

I hope you’re finding yourselves and your loved ones safe in this time of crisis. I know it’s a weird time to do this, but it was important for me to try to make my work as uniform as possible. From this point forward, my blog will be at yikeshadley.com, making it easier for me (and you!) to access updates about my writing.

If you haven’t already, go check out my website and add yourself to my mailing list.

Stay safe and spread kindness,
Hadley

One year ago, today

I stood in a dimly-lit room, walls of brick and soft speech echoed over hardwood floors. I paced, holding a copy of KILLER no one had seen. It hadn’t been released yet. It wouldn’t be for another four weeks. It was my first time reading from it to an audience.

I’d invited him, but I hadn’t expected him to show up. I didn’t expect much of anything from men back in those days. I say “those days,” like it was so long ago. It doesn’t feel like it was only a year.

My shoes were uncomfortable. My hands were shaking. I held a conversation fine, I always do, but I felt like I couldn’t breathe. The portrait at the top of the stairs watched me. Was it Shakespeare or Frost? I don’t remember.

And then he walked in.

For about a year, my social media memories brought me nothing but pain. Reader, I’m sure you know the feeling. A Facebook memory of a past relationship, a Snapchat memory of a moment that hurts to think of now. I dreaded looking on some days.

My memories have brought tears these past few weeks, but these are different. They’re happy. Today was the day he showed up when no one else had. How he found me in that crowded room and walked straight to me, how he kissed me in front of everyone there. He wasn’t embarrassed by me, not afraid for other people to see us. He held my hands while I waited. His voice was a frequency that made my heartbeat slow.

And then we walked for hours around the same square. We talked about everything and nothing, we laughed harder than I had in months. I smiled with him. He listened. He made me feel like I was worth something. It wasn’t a feeling I was used to.

It’s been a year since that night that turned into morning. It’s been six months of “I love you’s,” and eight of “I miss you’s.” A year of feeling more loved than I have ever known.

A year of forgiveness, a year of new beginnings.

We need to talk about concert-calling

I love concerts. The feeling of the bass and drums in your chest, physically seeing the songs you love, sharing the moment with hundreds of strangers that, just for a few hours, feel like family… the whole experience is amazing. I live for a good show, and I saw one of the best shows I’ve seen in a long time a few days ago. But something was seriously wrong.

We’ve all seen it or heard it: some fan at a show yells something straight-up creepy when the music gets low. The whole “I love you!” thing is more or less something we all have to hear, and it’s classic and probably fine. But that’s not what I’m talking about. I’m talking about the girls screaming “daddy” at band members during shows, people inappropriately touching artists when they get close to their fans, you get the picture. In my experience, and in the case of what was being yelled behind me at the Young the Giant concert I saw a little over a week ago, it’s almost always girls.

You’d think that being a woman, you would know what it’s like to have strangers yell about your body. You would know how awful it feels to be grabbed when you’re out dancing. You understand how being objectified feels. You get it. So why, why, why is it okay for you to do it to the artists you claim to love?

It isn’t flirting, (and hey, both of the singers I’ve referenced here are married) it’s harassment. It’s not cute, it’s not funny, and the rest of us are cringing. I wish I had caught you after the show so I could talk to you in person, but maybe it’s for the best that I didn’t; otherwise, I might not have written a post about it. This needs to be talked about.

Is it some form of toxic masculinity that has integrated itself into our culture? The US Department of Justice estimates that 60,000 men are sexually assaulted each year in the United States, but only about 12,000 speak up. The University of Michigan says that “Because men in our society are expected to always be ready for sex and to be the aggressors in sexual relationships, it may be difficult for a man to tell people that he has been sexually assaulted, especially if the perpetrator was a woman.”

Our society tells men they cannot deny or be made uncomfortable by sexual advances, and from what I’ve experienced at the many shows and conventions I’ve been to, women are just as responsible for pushing this narrative as men. By turning a blind eye to the very real feelings of very real humans, fans are able to project their own fantasies onto celebrities and face no consequences. When this mental narrative goes too far, we’re left with creators, actors, and other individuals experiencing sexual harassment and assault at the hands of fans who haven’t removed themselves from a fantasy.

Just stop. Stop making unwanted and unwarranted advances on people. Celebrities aren’t objects, the fanfiction you read didn’t actually happen. Back off.

Reframing

2018 was a difficult year. So many things changed, people I love came into my life, people I loved left my life, promises fell through, plans fell apart, and nothing came out exactly how I wanted it to. As someone with anxiety, depression, and a permanent pessimist lense, it would be easy to look at this year for what it was: hot garbage. But I’m trying to reframe everything that happened so I can look back on this year and not think about the pain I endured, but instead, what I learned.

 

LESSON ONE: SAD BOYS

In 2019, sad boys (sadbois) are canceled. No matter what you have been told your whole life, it isn’t your job to get someone out of a situation. It is not your job to fix men. If they put being completely wrecked over prioritizing their health or yours, they don’t want to get better. If they aren’t making an effort to get out of their bad situation, they don’t want to get out of it. If they apologize every time for how they’ve hurt you and do the same thing over and over again, they aren’t going to stop.

Actions speak louder than words, no matter how pretty their words are. No matter how much they claim to respect women, love art, or care about your politics if their actions don’t prove it, they’re lying. Your sanity and energy should go towards someone who is who they say they are, not a liar or a manipulator.

LESSON TWO: SHOWING UP

If someone loves you, they’re going to show up for you. They’re going to come to your performances and your award receptions, they’ll make time to see you, they’ll show at the party. If you need them, they will come.

If they can’t physically be there, they will digitally be there. They’ll call, they’ll text, they’ll watch the live stream. And if they can’t do either, they will be so sad they can’t make it, and they will absolutely be at the next thing. Because if someone loves you, they’ll show up for you.

LESSON THREE: STANDING YOUR GROUND

Do not let anyone tell you your dreams are invalid, that your experiences aren’t relevant, or that your feelings aren’t real. Don’t let anyone tell you that where you’re from makes you less intelligent or less deserving. Never let anyone or anything get in between you and your goals.

If you believe in something, stand up for it. If you love something, love it fearlessly. Who you are, what you do, and what you believe are yours. Never let someone put you down for your career, your faith, your passions, your friends, your major, your plans… your life is uniquely yours and not for anyone else to judge.

LESSON FOUR: SPEAKING UP

Be the change you want to see. Staying quiet and going through the motions won’t get you noticed, doing the things you’re told even though you feel an injustice towards yourself or others gives no rewards. Say something. If no one listens, say it louder. Stand up. Protest. Write. Speak. Your actions and words are louder than you know.

LESSON FIVE: LOSS

Losing loved ones is one of the hardest parts of life. There is no way to dull the pain, there will always be an empty part of your heart. You will always have someone close to you with a piece of their soul missing because of a loss too great to bear. It will hurt every day. Some days it hurts less, some days it’s crippling, but the pain never goes away. We just learn to live with it.

We learn to see how much good they did for us and how much they left us with. We learn to hear their favorite songs with a sad smile, or we learn how to change the radio station at record speeds. We change our route home, so we don’t have to drive past their house. We move on, and we adapt. It never gets better. That’s okay.

LESSON SIX: GIFTS

We are often given gifts we don’t know how to receive: help from a friend, help from a stranger, a new chance at love. When the universe gives you something, accept it with a grateful heart and an open mind. We cannot plan for all things, and sometimes the thing you need most is the one thing you’re afraid to take.

LESSON SEVEN: THE GRINCH

Be angry, be frustrated, mourn and feel heartbroken if you need to this holiday season. You are no less of a joyful person for continuing to stay grounded during a time of silly songs and elbow-throwing shoppers. You are no less of a Christian, Jew, or Pagan for spending this Christmas/Hannukah/Yule mourning the losses of millions of people this year instead of celebrating miracles. You are allowed to be angered by “Christmas spirit” videos on Facebook depicting people using their money out of “goodwill.”

Your negative feelings during the holidays are more human than you know. Not buying into the commercialized Christmas doesn’t make you a Grinch or a Scrooge, and enjoying tacky Christmas sweaters and carols doesn’t make you stupid. This is a profoundly emotional season, and you are allowed to experience it in your own way.

 

Be kind to yourself, stay hydrated, and allow yourself a peaceful end to 2018.

Dear Mr. Kemp

Mr. Kemp,

I did not vote for you, I didn’t like your ads, I didn’t like your policies. But you ran an intelligent campaign, and you are the governor-elect for the state of Georiga. I respect your authority over my state, and I ask that you consider my request with the same respect. As you’ve said on your campaign trail, you want to put students first. I want that, too.

The public education system in Georgia is wonderful. We have come so far, and we have even further to go. I am proud of the education I received here. I had amazing teachers and all the resources I needed to succeed. However, on my last day of high school in 2017, I experienced my first code red.

We’d drilled it before, we knew what to do if we ever went on lockdown, but it was something else entirely to live it. A student was stabbed in my school, and all I knew is that it was a freshman. I didn’t know who, and at the time, my little sister was a freshman. I was stuffed into a closet with around twenty other students; we were scared, we were distressed, and we wanted to know if our friends and family were safe. We were not in any immediate danger. Local police took care of the situation and kept us safe. My sister was fine, though she saw the injured student. We made it home together and took the time to be grateful for our lives amidst heavy traffic.

I think about this day a lot, and I think about how it doesn’t even compare the trauma, fear, and death the students at more than 280 American schools have experienced. I protested with March for Our Lives this year, I listened to the accounts of school shooting victims, and I’ve been a public school student myself in the past ten years. I know the fear, but my little sister knows it in a way I never did.

I never had to go back into that high school after that event. I didn’t hear about the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas from my classroom. My sister is scared for her safety every day in a place where her biggest fear should be how well she did on a test. Our student’s safety in the state of Georgia should be a concern to all of us.

Mr. Kemp, I ask that during your time as governor, you put students and their safety first. I’m not asking for guns to be taken away from responsible Georgians, I want guns kept out of the hands of people who want to do harm to children. I want to see security measures taken at public schools to keep the students inside safe, and better laws to keep guns out of the hands they shouldn’t be in.

I know you ran your campaign on having guns “no one is taking away,” and I know you are endorsed by the NRA, but I ask that you do what you can to keep my little sister safe at school. Live up to your word and put students first: keep them safe.

Thank you,
Hadley Cottingham

Yes, I look fine.

I’m an eighteen-year-old blonde who rocks black lipstick. I love learning, I love my college, I like to binge shows on Netflix and eat ramen. To anyone on the outside, I look like a perfectly normal and healthy college student. But I’m not.

At five years old I was diagnosed with Polyarticular Juvenile Idiopathic Arthritis (JIA), then known as Juvenile Rheumatoid Arthritis. For a good portion of my childhood, I couldn’t do most things children did. I never ran and played, I crawled up and down stairs, and I was never one to fight sleep. When I stopped being able to physically move from the neck down, my parents took me to Children’s Hospital for help.

I started medications for my illness at this age, and I could almost live a normal life. Everything seemed okay until puberty hit and my body was thrown off the scales. Medicines stopped working, my mental health declined, and the changes in the chemo I was taking made me incredibly weak. Life got rocky then, and it’s been rocky ever since. Unfortunately, that’s the reality of having a chronic illness.

JIA is an autoimmune disorder, it’s chronic, and it’s an illness that I can hide. People on my campus, at my job, and the staff at my favorite restaurants don’t know how I look on a day when I’m in so much pain I can’t walk. On the days I’m flaring and just doing my best to make it to class and do homework, they see a perfectly healthy girl that just can’t stop drifting off. So few people see what I’m going through, and I’ve had so many people tell me that they just don’t believe me.

I can’t do anything to make you believe me. I can show you my doctors’ notes, my medical bills, the discoloration of my skin where I get weekly chemotherapy and biologics, the fistfuls of hair I can pull out just by brushing it, the drawer of medication in my dorm room; I could show you all of my documentation at the disability support office on campus, I could show you my handicap placard. I have endless proof, but you will believe what you believe. If you believe that chronic illnesses are “all in your head”, you won’t listen.

I need my medications to keep me alive, natural remedies help a little, but my prescriptions keep me moving. Yes, I need more sleep, but the amount of sleep I need would have you calling me lazy. Thinking positive is barely getting me through this, it will not heal me. I am not lazy, I am not too weak to face reality. Reality has been staring me in the face since the little girl I used to be sobbed and wished she were at home with her mom and her cat as the doctor took more blood samples.

Imagine you’re strapped down to a metal slab. You are stiff, your mobility is limited, and you’re scared. This is your bed. Try to imagine how you feel after running a mile in gym class, how your eyelids are heavy and you’re covered in a thin layer of sweat, but you’re freezing, how all you feel like you can do is flop into the next chair you see and lay down. This is the state of your body. Imagine being in so much pain that it dulls out and you start to feel numb, not just in your body but in your mind, too. Your friends that text you don’t get a response; mindlessly scrolling through your Facebook feed is the only thing you can do, even though you have a million things to do and you want to do them. This is how a flare feels, or at least how I can best describe it.

I wish there was a way for me to better communicate what I’m going through other than just hoping people will listen. I don’t know how to share the experience of a flare with someone who has never experienced it. I don’t know how to explain chronic fatigue. Like all illnesses, it’s something you won’t understand unless you have it or you’re close to someone with it.

So please, listen to us. Believe us. I am doing the best that I can–  we all are.

How a Cat Changed my Life

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It was during an Arthritic flare in November of 2017 when I started feeling less and less like myself, and it was only foreshadowing of what was to come. This winter has been one of the hardest I’ve faced in a long time, both mentally and physically. The weather has been cold and rainy, and there’s not been much sun. It’s been like being in Seattle, but without the culture and coffee to make up for the gloom. I sat in my counselor’s office with his service dog’s head in my lap, and we talked about why I was feeling so helpless.

My support system had changed dramatically since my move to college. I had no family nearby, all of my doctors were different, and when all I could do was sit under my heat blanket, I was actually alone. No one came in and out of my dorm or sat next to me like my family did. Talking about this helped me line everything up logically, but calmness that I’d craved was coming from something else: a golden retriever who was just doing his job.

My counselor and I discussed how my Arthritis cat hadn’t come to college with me. How could he? The poor kitty had been my helper since I was five years old, and the senior cat can barely jump up and down from the couch. There was no way I could move him to a new home and leave him scared and confused. “Maybe you should look into getting an Emotional Support Animal on campus.” He told me. I thought it was unnecessary. He made me promise to give it some thought and told me I should visit some of the animals at the animal shelter by campus to see if they made me feel better.

“Time spent with a cat is never wasted.” ― Colette

I held up my end of the bargain. On that cold, wet, gloomy afternoon I drove to the animal shelter and sat down on the floor with the cats they had loose. A huge, grumpy tuxedo cat with a few battle scars plopped down on my lap. I held him and his giant head snuggled up under my chin; he purred and fell asleep in my arms. I sat on the floor with that cat until the shelter closed. And then I went back. And I went back again. And finally, I realized this cat might bring me the joy I so desperately needed.

The process of documenting an ESA, as well as documenting one for a campus, is a grueling process. The whole thing took over three months to process, but it was so worth it. Bringing that huge cat home made my life so much better. Having a friend to sit with me through the flares helped me so much. When I went through a very bad bout of depression in February, the cat helped me through it. He nudged me awake every morning and would cry if I wasn’t nearby him. Knowing that I was wanted and needed, even if from a cat, gave me a reason to keep trying. I feel like he’s the biggest part of the reason I made it back to school.

Since my journey with Patches (my ESA) started, I’ve been sharing our journey. From an article I wrote on animals on campus for The Roar to his leash and command training, I’m finding purpose and joy through this furry critter who has a hard time meowing. I can honestly say that this cat is, and will continue to be, a huge part of my treatment. Not only for my mental illnesses but my physical illnesses as well.

XO,
Hadley and Patches

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On coping with change, and growing up.

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As someone with an anxiety disorder and depression, finding joy in life can become harder than it should be when situations get tough. I’m living on my own for the first time and I’m far from home, so dealing with problems completely on my own is an adjustment. I didn’t expect there to be so much fluctuation with my mental health, but I guess I should have. My whole world changed, and I’ve had to be an advocate much sooner than I anticipated I’d have to be.

I thought I’d put together a list of the things I’ve been doing that help me feel better when I’m dealing with a lot, both mentally and physically. I’d also like to remind you that no matter how hopeless a situation seems, you can make it through it. You are strong enough, you are loved, and your feelings are valid.

A warm bath: Submerging myself in hot water with some good scents always helps. It’s great for my skin, muscles, and joints which all get affected when I’m stressed. Sometimes turning off the lights and turning up music helps me drown out my thoughts.

Hanging upside-down: Hanging from monkey bars, a bed, the couch… it always seems to clear my head.

Driving with no destination: It’s therapeutic to be in the car alone. There’s something about knowing that no one can hear you that makes it so much easier to talk to yourself, or just let out whatever you’re feeling.

Walking in the cold: Walking in the cold or the rain always puts things in perspective for me. I think it’s the surprise of that first blast of cool air, even though you know it’s coming it always makes you hold your breath.

Journaling: This is the best thing I can do. No matter how much I talk things out to myself, no matter how much I let myself cry and feel, nothing helps me get my thoughts straight and feel better than journaling.

Talking to a therapist: No matter how great our friends and families are, there is always some detail of something that we can’t tell them about. Whether it’s fear of what they’ll think, you worry the truth will hurt them, or whatever your reasoning may be, it’s okay to not share everything with them. But you do need to talk to someone. Having a therapist has helped me so much. Having a person to listen to the unfiltered version of everything and knowing that can’t share any of it, and knowing they don’t know anyone involved, is the most relieving thing in the world. There is no shame in getting help.

Change is hard. We don’t like it, humans like constants. They’re comfortable, they’re easy. We know how to deal with what we’re used to. But change is so good. It’s hard when it happens. Your whole world flips and it feels like there’s no coming back from it. It makes us stronger people, it helps us see the world in new ways, and it sometimes makes our lives better- even though it sucks in the first stages.

I am telling you from my own experience to hang in there. Just keep holding out, and I promise you that everything will turn out so much better than you thought it would. The wait is worth it. It’s okay to cry and want to yell and break things. It’s okay to call your mom and one in the morning crying. It’s okay to need to go home for a weekend. It’s okay to feel like a little kid in a big, scary, grown-up world. Because you aren’t made to go through it alone.

You don’t always have to be the adult. You won’t always be in control of the situation. And that’s okay.

I need to get out of the house.

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I like to be alone. I do not like to be lonely.

In the past few weeks, I’ve been reflecting on how I feel. I spent time with a friend I hadn’t spoken to in years, and it really got me thinking about how my life is about to change drastically. This thought terrified me only a few months ago, but a lot can change in a few months. I am beyond thrilled.

I’ve realized that I’m not entirely happy with the people I’ve surrounded myself with. Obviously, not all of them, but many of them. I have a few great friends. I can always count on them to be understanding and be there for me. I feel like as long as I’m in high school, however, I have to hold onto those people that I don’t really want to hold onto.

I’m ready to spend time with people who have the same interests as me. I want to spend time with people who value what I have to say instead of tolerate it. I don’t want to brush off that I wasn’t invited to a party because the host forgot me.

I used to think I was just easily replaceable, people forgot about me because I wasn’t important enough to be remembered. But with all the people that I’ve spoken to who are far older than me, I’ve realized they never forget about me. They always want to hear what I have to say, and they value my thoughts and opinions.

I’m just spending time with the wrong people.

This is why I’m thrilled about college. I’ll be surrounded by people who want to learn about what I’m passionate about. I’ll be around people who appreciate the things I talk about. And most importantly, I get to leave the BS that is high school drama for good.

I know that college is further away than I would like it to be, though. I need to be around people that don’t make me want to pull my hair out. I need to find places where I can meet other artsy dorks, or at least attend more events with that sort of vibe. I need to go places by myself, too. Wandering museums and cities by yourself is honestly one of the most refreshing things. You do what you want, you don’t have to go to the bathroom unless you have to go. You want Chinese? You can have Chinese.

So, yes, I do need to get out of the house. And I’m going to let myself be excited to drop contact with a lot of people. I owe it to myself.

– Hadley

New year, new goals for me to make and then not follow through with.

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Yes, I am talking about new year’s resolutions. Let me say this beforehand, though! I’m a very goal-oriented person. I make lists. I write plans on how I will clean my room in a new journal, color-code it, add stickers, frame it, and never do it. I love to plan and create goals for myself. I also love to procrastinate, apparently.

I’ve given in to the pressure of 2017. I got a gym membership.

I have no idea how this is going to go, to be completely honest with you. One of my resolutions is to lose nineteen pounds. Another is to try more food. I’m a mess.

I went to the mall and bought workout clothes. I went to the gym. I burnt some calories. I made a lunch for tomorrow consisting of solely fruit and mac n’ cheese from the organic department at Kroger. I went into the organic department at Kroger. I got up on time this morning, I dressed like I had my life together. I got everything written in my planner. I’m composing a blog post.

Let’s see how long the productivity lasts!

I read somewhere that you can break a habit in thirty days and create one in twenty-one. If I can keep this up for twenty-one days, I’ll be going to the gym out of habit instead of shoving an entire baguette down my throat. Maybe I’ll burn so many calories at the gym that when I get home I can eat two baguettes. That’s the life for me.

I’m going to list my resolutions so you can have a laugh. We all know I won’t go through with them. But what’s really funny is I’ll actually convince myself that I’ll do them, and then look back later and think “Where did I go wrong?”. Girl, I know where you went wrong already. You put on your sweatpants and a big warm blanket, ate a pint of ice cream, and watched four seasons of Friends. That’s where you went wrong.

2017 RESOLUTIONS:

  1. Log the highlights of your day daily.
  2. Blog more.
  3. Try more foods, even if they sound gross.
  4. Take no shit.
  5. Stay organized.
  6. Improve your routine.
  7. Lose nineteen pounds and tone up.
  8. Better your eating habits.
  9. Drink more water and less soda.
  10. Stop spending all your money at Sephora.

May you conquer your resolutions this year,

Hadley