Friday, January 8, 2016

The Arrival

I wasn't nervous about moving to Korea until I was on the final plane of my trip. I had made it to the Boston airport fine. I had said goodbye to my then-boyfriend, friends, family. I was completely fine until I sat down on that Asiana Air flight from LA to Seoul. That is when I had my moment.

My "what the fuck am I fucking doing" moment.

What business did I have uprooting myself? I took a NyQuil, drank a glass of red wine, and tried to sleep it off.

My flight was the first international arrival of the day. My recruiter who had set me up with this job wouldn't be there until three hours later. I had been told to wait at the far end of the arrivals terminal and "trust us, you'll know who you're looking for."

Apparently who I was looking for was a guy I'd seen on the flight from Boston. A short, handsome Massachusetts native who had also decided to completely uproot his life. He joked about how he had seen me at our gate in Logan Airport. He said he had taken one look at me and thought, "huh, she's doing the same thing I am." I guess he was probably tipped off by the large amount of carry on baggage I had.

Slowly we were joined by others whom would be attending the same orientation we were. My biggest shock of the day was my first conversation with an Australian guy. He looked laid back enough, seemed highly personable and magnetic. I had decided he might be a good person to get to know.

"Where are you from?" he asked.

"Maine," I responded innocently enough.

He rolled his eyes and groaned, "You FUCKING Americans! Always assuming that EVERYONE knows ALL of your damn states!"

Oh shit...

We would see a young person looking around confused and instantly welcome them to our rapidly growing family. This is where we got our first taste of the conversations which would be repeated hundreds if not thousands of times over the next year or, if we chose, years of our lives:

"Hey, what's up, I'm ________. Where are you from? Oh, cool, I'm from ________."

The expat version of butt-sniffing is the "where are you from" question. It would, in broader circles, be expanded to include "What do you do? Oh, nice, me too/ I'm a teacher." This is how you find your tribe.

My recruiter came and went in a haze on inconsequentiality. Our small herd was loaded onto a bus and driven through the fog of late-August Korea to a college campus in a suburb of Seoul. We would be given name tags, dorm assignments, and then given the simplest language comprehension test of all time. Most of us didn't make it past the first question: Read the following to your test administrator "안녕하세요". The few who could actually read the simple Korean word for "hello" were moved into the level 2 Korean class, those who could then go on to answer simple questions were in level 3, those who could identify the nouns to match flashcards got level 4, but the vast majority of us "uhhhh"-ed our way into level 1.

Those first two weeks were a dizzying whirlwind of classes on classroom management, Korean culture, and lesson planning followed by nights of binge drinking and placing best on who would hook up with who first.

My roommate was an extremely bubbly Korean-American girl named Gina who talked in her sleep and allowed me to join her group of fellow Korean-Americans. I was able to bathe in the light of them actually knowing what the crap was going on when we would leave campus. I spent most of my class time with a Scottish girl I nicknamed "Veins" (she called me "Muscles"). She was very pretty and helped me fool the other pretty people into thinking I was funny.

At the end of the orientation we were presented with a certificate of completion, a DVD of our awkward "getting to know you" first weeks (which I now, looking back, wish I hadn't thrown out), a free t-shirt, and a slap on the back. With that, we were sent out into Seoul. The goodbyes were hurried, everyone was nervous and anxious and didn't know where the crap their bus was. Your bus would take you to your school's district. You were lucky if you knew even one person on that bus.

I forgot most of the bus trip because: 1) I had no idea where the bus was going 2) I didn't know how far my district was from the university 3) I *really* had to pee.

When our bus stopped I raced off. I saw some people holding up a sign for me, but blew right past them with a hurried "SORRY!" as I took off into the nearest building in desperate search for a toilet. Once I stepped back outside I blushed brightly and gathered my things.

The two women who picked me up were both from my school. One was a stylish Korean woman in her 40s who was VERY chipper, but who I would barely see after that, and the other was a young  blond American girl named MaryBeth whose job I would be taking. They took me to the apartment which MaryBeth was just finishing moving out of. It was small and down a dark alley, but she assured me I'd be moving to a better building where her best friend, Kelly, currently lived.

MaryBeth showed me around the school and left me tons of teaching materials and some sage advice. I have to say this was an excellent situation to be walking into.

That night I attended the last-night outing for MaryBeth and met JiHyun, who would be in charge of me for the next year. I also met Samuel, who would be an endless source of entertainment for the next few months (he also taught me my favorite pun "Why do you take a ho to a hotel? Because a ho-don't-tell"). I was tired and left the evening early with MaryBeth's assurance that she would pick me up the next morning at 7:30 since I had no idea how to get from the apartment to the school.

The next morning 7:30 came... and went.... then 8.... then 8:30.... then 9

I had MaryBeth's old phone, but only recognized three names in it. She had all of the names of her coworkers listed in Korean, and I still couldn't read "안녕하세요" let alone names I barely knew. I eventually got a hold of one of my co-teachers who, while being at first highly annoyed that I was calling her after the first class had finished when I was supposed to be there 30 minutes *before* the first class, instructed me to get into a cab and just hand the phone over.

This was the first of the many "let a Korean fix it" problems I would face over my time in Korea.

The first, but certainly not the last.

Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Korea University International Health Care Center (Crash Course)

It's really sad that this place hasn't received more a write-up in expat resources, so let's fix that!

The Korea University International Health Care Center is AWESOME. It's a really great option for all of your "I don't feel so good" needs. They offers services in English and Russian (or at least those are the two most advertised) and are friendly and knowledgeable.

I've written about the Seoul National University International Clinic before, ad I do still recommend them, but the one thing the KU clinic has over the SNU one is the fact that they are NO WHERE near as busy as SNU. This might be because SNU offers services to more languages, or because it's a more advertised facility. Whatever the reason, it's sometimes difficult to get an appointment at SNU, whereas I've always gotten an appointment on the exact date and close to the exact time I'd like at the KU clinic.

One of the best things here is the staff. The receptionists are nice, but the English speaking doctor is an awesome guy. He's very laid back; it's like talking to your cool old uncle. He'll often make jokes to help you relax. I went in a few months back because I kept having blood vessels bursting in my eye once every two weeks. I told him my symptoms, and he said "It sounds like glaucoma, you probably have glaucoma." And when I was all like "oh no... really?" he replied "You're too young to have glaucoma, it can't be glaucoma, it's not glaucoma, let's figure it out!" I know some people might not appreciate this awesomeness, but I sure as crap do! It really calms you down. (side note: it was because I ad switched to liquid eyeliner and I'm apparently allergic to it)

I know that visiting a hospital sounds like an anxiety-inducing nightmare, but have no fear! Here's a basic guide to the KU Hospital!

How-To: Korea University Hospital and the International Health Care Center~

First, you need to make an appointment. This should be done during business hours (9-5) so you can speak to an English speaking operator. Give them a call at 02-920-5677. Ask to make an appointment with the "family doctor," the term Koreans typically use for a general practice doctor who can provide referrals for specialists, run basic tests, and prescribe medicines.

Then, you gotta get there. the hospital is easy accessible from the Anam subway station, exit 1. Come out of the exit and walk straight up the hill, the hospital will be on your right, and it's kinda huge:

You can also get there using the Seoul city bus 273, or the Seongbuk-gu district bus 1111, get off when they announce 고려대병원 (Kor-yeo Dae Byoung-won). If you take a taxi, you'll have to clarify that it's the Anam KU hospital you want to go to, because there are two branches (I'm unsure if the other has an international clinic). Tell the taxi driver to take you to 고려대병원 안암동 (Kor-yeo Dae Byoung-won An-am-dong).

Next, you need to find the clinic. It used to be extra-accessible from the main entrance, but recently moved to the second floor (the main entrance is considered to be on the third floor). When you come in the main doors, go left and you'll see some stairs/ escalators down.

This sign may or may not still be there when you visit.
Head downstairs, turn right, and then right again and you'll see this wonderful sight:

Note: The English speaking receptionist is typically the one sitting closest to the doors.

After you see the doctor, you'll then need to go pay before you can get your prescription scripts. Head back up to the second floor and you'll see a massive and terrifying looking set of counters:

All International Clinic patients need to go to desk 16. Don't worry about getting a number, you can just walk up to the desk. Hand them your ID (ARC card or passport) and the papers the clinic gave you. After you pay, they'll hand you a green and white paper, which looks like a receipt.

Take the "receipt" to one of the prescription printers. From desk 16, do a 180 and walk towards the Starbucks, before the Starbucks, to the left, you'll see an ATM and these machines:

Take your "receipt" and scan the barcode:

The machine will then ask you to select where you'd like to get your prescriptions from. I recommend either 미래약국 or 대학약국. They're the two easiest to get to pharmacies from the hospital if you're heading back to the subway. I've never been to 미래, but it's right next to exit 1. I like 대학 because I know the pharmacists who explain the medications speak decent English and there's one REALLY handsome technician.

After you retrieve your prescription papers, take them to the pharmacy, and you're done!

Another reason I like KU Hospital is because the people are really helpful. Even if they don't speak English, the staff will try very hard to help you get to where you're trying to go when you give them the "confused foreigner" look.

Feel better, my lovelies!!!

Saturday, February 8, 2014

Seoul in Winter: The Negative Side

My mantra during the late winter months clearly has to be "I love this city, I love this city, I love this city, I do not want to accept the very first job offer to move to Thailand, Central America, or anywhere that is not FREAKING FROZEN AND SUCKING THE LIFE OUT OF ME!!!"

Every winter, like clockwork, I start getting unreasonably angry and/or depressed in late January and it continues until the first warm days in March. I know I've told you about all the wonderful things you can do in Seoul in the winter, but here's the trick: you need to have time to enjoy those things!

Time is something I've had very little of the past few weeks. Don't get me wrong, I've been having a lot of fun with my friends. There was the four day marathon birthday party for my best friend:

Day 1: Our failed ski trip to Jisan (it was raining all day) where we just sat around a fire pit singing and then played drinking games in the condo we rented.
Day 2: Bonny & her awesome roommate Brooks, Thai for dinner and then taking over a club to dance to two of our favorite hip-hop DJs for the night
Day 3: The menu for our homemade Mexican Ultra Feast
Day 4: Unlimited champagne at the W Hotel brunch followed by excessive whispresso (shot of whiskey followed by a shot of espresso) at the Paradise Casino

But then this winter there have been FAR too many going away parties. I don't know why they're all hitting this year. Maybae it's because this is my third year, so a lot of the people I know are finishing up their one or two year stints in Korea (the typical length for an expat). 

The first one was my one of my good friends from my first year, and member of the Suyu Crew (the expats in my first neighborhood), Chris:
One guess as to which one is him

Then there was in incredible Inbal:

She's in the middle, and she's awesome and I'm gonna miss her a LOT

Next there was Cameron...

He's the blond in the foreground, another member of the Suyu Crew lost...

And soon I'll be saying goodbye to my coworker Ashley, who has been my officemate for almost two years and who has done a LOT to keep me sane and semi-grounded. My friend Melissa is also leaving, but she's just moving to Gyeonggi-do, but... come on... it's Gyeonggi-do! Then there's Seth, who has been an invaluable friend during these single-life months. It's going to be hard...

When people leave in August/September I think it's easier, because the city is still so alive and I can easily busy myself. People leaving in the winter just makes the winter that much more unbearable. 

I also think that the one part of culture shock I've never fully gotten over is how Koreans deal with winter weather. I've talked about this before, and it still baffles me. I mean, WHY is it so damn cold in the hallways of my school?!?!? Oh, it's because the cleaning ladies leave the hallway windows open to CIRCULATE THE AIR!

Urge to kill... RISING!!!

I also, like so many others, ALWAYS gain weight in the winter. It's because I'm not running around quite as much and the thought of having to bundle up in the mornings to go the the gym (for which I am outside a total of 3 minutes to get to) makes me ragefail. I also get way hungrier in the winter, because science SUCKS.

Amen, sister!!!

Everything has made optimism and personal drive pretty difficult. The 100 Days project kinda fell to hell the last two weeks, though I'm hoping to pick things back up in order to make myself feel less worthless. I need to start taking time out for me... but that's pretty hard when your schedule is jam packed and offers not a moments rest... ugh... spring... spring I need you...

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Things You Gotta Do: Seoul City Hall Ice Rink

Side Note: The majority of the pictures of this ice rink on Google Images are NOT what the actual ice rink looks like... no idea why... this was the closest one I found.
The weather in Seoul is... not fun in the winter. It's super cold with random day of excessive wind. Not the best. However, as I've explained to you twice before, there's still plenty to do in this city that will make you feel a lot less miserable about the cold.

The ladies and I decided that we'd spend a wonderful estrogen-filled night ice skating at the Seoul City Hall Ice Rink. This was a GREAT IDEA! I mean... I'm terrible at skating... just absolutely God awful. I never ice skated as a child and have never been able to shake the feeling that sliding while wearing razors on your feet was NOT something humans were designed to do. Regardless, I still had a blast "Ice Standing" (like that? It's the new hotness) and having the gals drag my panicky ass around the rink.
Pictured: so much fun as I laugh nervously
Ok, enough anecdote, on to the stuff you actually care about...

How to Get the Most Out of Your Visit:

Tip 1: Book ahead
The City Hall Ice Rink is one of the most popular winter destinations for Seoulites, expats, and toursists (Korean and non-Korean) alike. A lot of people have this placed on their "Things to Do in Seoul" bucket lists, so it gets pretty busy, especially on date nights (... stupid dumb happy couples and their irritating adorable happiness...). I suggest you head to the ice rink in the afternoon and reserve your time slot for the evening. Time slots are 1 hour long and price of admission ($1?!) includes skate rental. The blocks get booked up, so really it's best to plan ahead.

Tip 2: Get there early for your time slot
Even though they are perfectly aware of how many people they allow onto the ice within time slots the ice rink, in their infinite non-wisdom, does not have enough lockers for everyone. It's best to get there early so you can snag a locker to shove your shoes and bags into, as people tend to strap on their crazy pants when it comes to limited supplies of desired objects.

Tip 3: Come prepared
Ok, this is more of a mini-tip, but it's good to know nonetheless. Korean ice rinks typically require that you be wearing gloves or mittens, for safety precautions. They probably won't let you onto the ice if you're not dressed appropriately (no skirts, gals, no shorts, dudes, jackets and mittens are yes)

Kitton Mittons are also required (this also happens to be exactly how graceful I am when on ice)
This tip might not be true every day, but it sure as shit was true when we were there. You see... Koreans like to protest... a lot. And when they're protesting the Seoul government, guess where they like to protest? If you said anything other than "City Hall," well, that was silly of you. When we arrived we were about 10 minutes early for our 7:00 slot. There were two massive protests occurring simultaneously on both sides of the ice rink. They were blasting chants as well as music at obnoxiously high volumes. If you're wanting a nice experience and something not so... protestacular... I'm pretty sure that the cops clear out city hall protestors at about 7 in order to comply with sound ordinances.

Pictured: Totes not there for icy fun

Follow these simple tips and you're sure to have a really pleasant time pretending to be Kim YuNa or, like me, just trying to convince yourself that you're not about to die.

Progress Report:
It's day 7 of my challenge of "not fucking around." Though I did miss the gym this morning (due to... stuff... shut up) my apartment is consistently tidy and I'm feeling optimistic about my chances to end my ridiculous chronic laziness.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

100 Days Project and Promise

Hey guys!

So, I know I've kinda been sucking lately. I've been dealing with a LOT of emotional and mental stuff over the past few months which I won't go into detail about on here.

Long story short: I lost all my motivation. My motivation to be good to myself, to my my work, to my body, and to this blog. Pretty much the only thing I haven't neglected is my friends, who have been the saviors of my sanity. Seriously, my friends freaking OWN.

I've decided to make a change to that. How I'm going about it is using a website called Give It 100. It's a simple premise: choose a task and do it for 100 days. You make a 10 second clip of yourself each day to document your progress/ inspire others. The title of my project is "Not Fucking Around." You can follow my videos and progress here.

Here are my 100 Day Goals:

1) Going to the gym three times per week.

One of the more depressing things that I have to make myself do. My damn gym is NEXT TO MY BUILDING!!! It's just pure laziness that I don't go. I gained 5 pounds while visiting home for Christmas after having gained 10 from having not been on my workout routine and it has left me feeling stupidly gross about myself. Time to do something about it!

2) Doing one blog post a week

That's for you, babies! I feel terrible how I've neglected this. Just as things were starting to heat up I began posting less and less. I want to have some more content and I know that researching (aka running around Seoul and having fun new experiences) will help me feel more accomplished and less useless.

3) Breakfast= Fruit & Protein

This will probably be the easiest one to do because I pretty much do this already.

4) Lunch= Vegetables & Protein

This might be slightly harder, as I had a big carrot and cucumber for lunch today with two baked eggs and was still really damn hungry, so I ate some crackers. Oh, and Kimbop Friday is the exception and is SACRED!!!

5) Keep my damn apartment clean

I spend so little time in my apartment that I rarely have time to actually clean it so it's typically a damn MESS. Hopefully with my new ability to lord over my time like some kind of... time lord (yeah, I know that's a Doctor Who reference, no, I've never seen a single episode) I sould be able to keep my shit in order.

6) Go to bed before midnight on weekdays

This should be the easiest one, it's most likely going to morph into "no computer after 10."

7) Study Korean every Sunday

I'm comin', boys! ;)

It's just embarrassing how shitty my Korean is. I'm hoping to morph this one into "attend a Korean class regularly as well as hardcore studying on Sundays" once I get my schedule for next semester (starting in March).

So there you have it. I'm also going to do a number of mini-challenges each week to try and get the most out of this experience. What do you think?

Wednesday, December 25, 2013

Survival Tip: Reverse Culture Shock

Merry Christmas to you and yours from the Professional Waygookin!

I only had to spend one Christmas away from my family since moving to Korea. It was my first Christmas and it sucked, seeing as it was also my first Christmas EVER being away from my family. The second Christmas I surprised my family, but I'm totally never doing that again. I think that, as a result, my family expects me to spontaneously appear at all family gatherings.

One of the big things about returning to your home country is reverse culture shock. I've spoken about this before, but it merits revisiting. This is VERY REAL and can be slightly more jarring than your actual culture shock in your adopted country. The main reason why it's more jarring is that you feel like it totally shouldn't be happening! This is supposed to be "normal," but now it's completely abnormal! It leaves you questioning everything as you attempt to adjust to this "new new normal."

So here they are:

Top Ten Symptoms of Reverse Culture Shock

1) Being shocked that people in retail and food service all speak English FLUENTLY!

The entire time I've been home I've found myself full of my regular "service industry" anxiety and prepping my Korean vocabulary before interaction occurs. It typically goes something like this:

Me: (thinking) Ok, I want to order a bacon cheeseburger... how do I say that in Konglish? Okokok, 베이컨 치즈 버거, ok, now, how am I going to add fries and a drink onto that...
Employee: Hey, what can I get for you?
Me: 안녕하... I mean... uhhh could I... 한... one bacon cheese burger 주새요... I mean... please
Employee: (looking at me like  have "special needs") Uhh... ok...

After this I walk away like...

2) Remembering why downloading TV shows and movies is far superior

I mean, seriously, why is there nothing on TV? And how am I expected to jump into the middle of a season of ANYTHING and understand what the crap is happening? And why do I now HAVE TO understand what's happening in the commercials? Really, it's so much more fun when I have to guess what it's for until they show the logo. 

Wait, what does all that slow-mo of kangaroos jumping have to do with laundry soap?!
3) Your digestive system can no longer handle 3-square meals of you native cuisine

I haven't had this bad of gas since... the last time I had to experience 3-square of a new cuisine... oh wow, is this going to happen every time?!

4) Converting the prices of everything into the currency of your adopted country

Ok, so Korean Won is kind of cheating, since typically 10,000won is approximately $10, but it's obnoxious when you're dealing in higher amounts.

Your face, when drunk and looking into your wallet and seeing your adopted and native currencies, but unable to precisely recall which country you are in.

5) Trying desperately to not sound stuck-up or condescending when speaking about life in your adopted country or your travels

Back in your adopted country, the phrase "Oh, I had a long weekend, so I just popped over to Hong Kong" will typically elicit nods of understanding or recounts of their own four days in Thailand/Japan/China/Singapore. In your home country, your third story taking place in any other country will be met with...

Be kind to your homies, they may not have the wanderlust you do, or they do and do not have the meas with which to scratch their itch. It's best to tread lightly... but come on, they totally need to hear that story about the Chinese woman being chased by a monkey in Vietnam.

6) Access to once impossible-to-find foods is now shockingly possible, and you either gorge yourself on them or wonder why you ever missed them in the first place

After one week, this becomes "where's the kimbop?!?!"
In Korea... If I don't have a decent cup of drip coffee soon I'm going to STAB SOMEONE IN THE GALLBLADDER  WITH A CHOPSTICK!!!
In America... I miss iced Americanos...

7) Your family/friends will definitely get irritated at how often you slip into the language of your adopted country when responding to simple questions/ talking to yourself

I'm not lying to you, this conversation legit occurred the other night:

Father: Maggie, are you going to come with me to choir rehearsal?
Me: 네 아빠
Father: See, I told you she wasn't going to want to!
Me: Dad... 네 means "yes"
Father: Oh... well... we're leaving in 15 minutes... speak English!

Those of us in the expat community will typically respond to each other's questions using the language of our adapted country, as a means of practice. With me, at least, it's the same when I'm talking to myself. This becomes slightly stranger when no one around you understands a single word of what you're saying.

And, worst of all, your Korean knowledge most of the time is like...
Uhhhh... add 이요 at the end... that makes it Korean, right?

But when you have no use for it, it's all...
8) You'll be desperate to try and share the food/culture of your adopted country to bored friends/relatives all the time screaming in your head "PLEASE SOMEHOW MAGICALLY UNDERSTAND HOW AMAZING THIS IS!!!"

Our new Boxing Day tradition is a Korean feast. They also receive all Korean themed Christmas presents. I will typically also blast Korean music and forward people Korea-related articles. This is all in attempt to make them see why I've chosen to live there. The thing you'll need to eventually accept is that this attempt is futile unless you can convince any of these people to visit or move there. No one outside of your adopted country or culture will ever appreciate it or understand it the way you do.

9) You have lost all ability to have conversations with people you have literally NOTHING in common with.

There was a man sitting next to me on my flight from Tokyo to Detroit with who I had ABSOLUTELY NOTHING in common with. He had been visiting Japan for the first time on business, lived in Kentucky, and wanted to tell me about his plans to build an extremely handicapped-accessible house "just in case (he) ever winds up in a wheelchair." I've never been to Kentucky except to drive through it; have no interest in building a house, let alone a handicap-accessible one; and the city he had been visiting in Japan wasn't even one I'd been to! However, he was determined to talk to me, while I attempted to not roll my eyes in boredom.

In your adopted country, you instantly have something in common with anyone you meet who can speak your language, whether native or fellow foreigner. With natives, you can exchange ideas about your cultures or ask each other questions about your homelands. With other foreigners... well... you're both foreigners... so you have SOMETHING to talk about. You've become used to this, so it's going to be hard to re-adjust to pleasantries with strangers.

10) It will be really strange how quickly you default to past habits and roles

You'll be shocked how, in your childhood home, you revert to childhood roles. When I was visiting family in Boston, I was fairly similar to who I am in Seoul, but once back in Maine it was time for pjs... pjs all the freaking time, overeating, TV binging while not actually paying attention but actually surfing the or reading, and being mentally off-balance due to spending entirely too much time inside my own brain. I love my family to death, but man do I miss being busy with my life in Seoul.

Friday, December 6, 2013

My Life as a Ticking Time Bomb

The Face on Make A Gif
make animated gifs like this at MakeAGif

I had my first pseudo-seizure in my junior year of high school.

Pseudo-seizures manifest in all kinds of different ways and are often misrepresented as psychosomatic. Mine are atempo convulsions and loss of motor control while still maintaining consciousness. They are caused by two defects in my nervous system which I was born with: familial tremors (caused by the nerve synapses at the base of my skull being spaced too far apart) and a strip of fatty tissue running down the center of my brain. Both of these are, on their own, pretty harmless, but combined result in messages between nervous systems becoming interrupted.

This is most complicated by my stress levels and made worse by the fact that I suffer from high anxiety (which is also made worse by the fact that I'm constantly worried about whether or not I might have a seizure). Essentially, when I become too stressed too quickly, I run the risk of having a seizure. Conversely, if I become too relaxed too quickly I also run the risk of having a seizure.

My first PS episode happened during the first time I tried to meditate in a high school drama class. Our teacher was guiding us through meditation when suddenly my entire body started to shake and I began to panic massively, only making the seizure worse. I managed to run into the next room and began convulsing on the floor. My father was called and I was rushed to the hospital.

Over the course of my junior and senior year I became so panicked about my constant risk of having a seizure that I, unknowingly, triggered many, since I didn't know what was triggering them.

My parents were extremely worried. No doctors could figure out what was wrong. I went through multiple CAT scans, MRIs, and, worst of all, EEGs with seizure-inducing techniques as they tried to find what was wrong. They quickly found the familial tremors and ruled out epilepsy, but tested me multiple times for epilepsy because it seemed like the most likely cause. Finally, they did an advanced MRI on my brain, discovering the fatty tissue at the center, and were able to determine the cause and that stress was my major trigger.

Most of my life I am fine. I mean, my hands constantly shake, sometimes far worse than others depending on things like diet, exercise, stress, and anxiety, but rarely does it interfere with my life. The worst art about the seizures, however, is the waiting...

My body stock-piles all the anxiety and the misfired messages in my brain. It's like a dam being filled to the brim: every now and then, the flood gates need to be opened. I can have seizures for absolutely no reason other than the fact that I haven't had one in a long time and my body has all this excess energy saved up. The worst part, is that I can feel the lake filling.

As I get closer and closer to a seizure everything begins to feel terrible. My spinal cord feels as though It's been shoved into a tube two sizes too small. All of my muscles begin to feel alien and like I do not truly control them, they are just attached, but not under my power. I begin to feel anxious about everything and am in a state of constant dread. Life is led constantly on the edge of a knife, waiting to be pushed one way or the other. I can't relax, I'll have a seizure. I must protect my stress levels at all times, or I'll have a seizure. I begin to constantly panic but know that panicking is the worst thing, because I'll have a seizure.

When it hits my muscles tense and release over and over again. My back in particular will flex and arch hard, bending me into horrific shapes. My fingers claw and grab whatever is closest to me because holding something solid is often the only way I can calm myself. If the seizure is bad enough, I will go through minutes where the pain is so unbearable that it takes my breath away and I begin to choke. I cannot speak in more than two or three word answers.

I have pills that I can take, hardcore muscle relaxants that turn me into a zombie, or I wait it out, hoping it passes. After the worst seizures, I can lose control of my legs for up to half an hour after, completely unable to move.

This is what I live with. Those who know me well know that whenever I laugh hard or am excited I will pull my hands to my face and clasp them together tightly while closing my eyes. I've been told that this is one of my cutest features. What people don't know is that, when I do this, all of the muscles in my face, jaw, back, and chest also tense up suddenly, causing them to feel as though they are about to explode from whatever joy or excitement I am feeling. They don't know that my mouth clenches so tightly when I do it that my upper jaw permanently sore. It's a permanent tick that I have no control over and is a side-effect of my larger disorder.

People may say that pseudoseizures aren't real, that they are merely psychosomatic, but I can tell you that I have them when I'm completely alone. That I've had them without crying out for help, that I don't want these, never wanted these, and wouldn't wish them on anyone. They are part of my life, they are the worst part of my life, but they are me, and I must accept all of me.