Journey to the Good Place.

Know yourself. Love yourself.


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Triumphant Return (and what you missed)

It has been over two years since I last wrote on this blog, which is not new. This blog has gone on temporary hiatus several times over the years for various reasons. Sometimes I get too busy, sometimes I forget this blog even exists. Every time I am a little ashamed of myself for so easily abandoning what I see as an important documentation of how, no matter how dark and sad and disappointing your life gets, it is still possible to claw your way out and find a happy and rewarding life.

This time, however, I actually had a good reason to take a break.

The last time I wrote on this blog was December of 2014. I was neck deep in the joy of the college experience. I was writing some amazing papers, getting involved in some very rewarding research opportunities, and making friends I could have deep intellectual conversations with. I had recently moved in with a boyfriend who I didn’t have the best connection with, but who treated me like a goddess, which was a nice change after years of hot guys who treated me like something disposable. I sometimes worried that I was taking advantage of that particular boyfriend because I couldn’t afford to move out of my father’s house on my own. However, I was pretty sure that staying in my father’s house for another month would end in a dramatic suicide, so I compromised by being the most thoughtful girlfriend ever for as long as I could manage it. Also, trying to fly through a Bachelor’s in psychology very quickly and build as many professional contacts as possible along the way, kept me busy enough to ignore my conscience.

June of 2016 things took a dramatic turn. I finally got sick of pretending and told my boyfriend that we needed to break up. There was a lot of yelling and tears at first but, after a small adjustment period, said boyfriend realized he’d never really loved me as much as he had loved the idea of a girlfriend, and we transitioned from “couple” to “roommates” without much hassle.

July of 2015 I was dating a female chef with dreadlocks and skin the color of a mocha latte, which means I was living out several long dormant dreams at once. On our third date, we were drinking wine and having a great time making fun of B-level 80’s comedies, when I received a phone call that probably changed my entire life, and definitely killed a young relationship. My stepsister called me to tell me that my father had been arrested for attempted murder. Now, my father was a very good person, but his overall personality was a bit hard to digest and he was married to a woman who would make Ghandi go on a murder spree, so the concept that he might have finally snapped and gone violent was not a huge shock. However, my stepsister then went on to tell me how he had supposedly attempted murder, and I laughed so hard I peed a little. The dumbest kindergartner I ever met could have written a more believable story, and I was convinced the case would be thrown out of court immediately.

August of 2015 I was picking classes for the Fall semester and my father was still in jail, although he had yet to be formally convicted of anything or even have any evidence laid against him.

January of 2016 I started picking classes for the Spring semester and my father was still in jail. There was still no conviction and no evidence. In addition, I had called my stepmother to ask about retrieving my belongings and family heirlooms that had been left in my father’s home. She responded by getting a restraining order against me, which was delivered to me at my college in front of my classmates and professors. Spring semester of 2016 was supposed to be my second to last semester, but after watching my family explode and experiencing so much awful drama in such a short period of time, in addition to generally being treated like a criminal for no reason, I was ready to get out of Colorado as quickly as possible. Therefore, I decided to graduate one semester early. This meant that I spent 5 months drowning in 21 credit hours, two research projects, a part time job as an administrative assistant, a VP position in my local Psi Chi honor society, and entirely too many interactions with the legal system.

May of 2016, I graduated with a Bachelors of Science in Psychology and came straight home to start packing. Two days and one full pickup bed later, I was on my way to Oregon. I only managed to bring the most important 1/4 of my possessions with me, leaving the rest behind in Colorado.

Arriving in Oregon was a huge ending and beginning in my life which marked a huge positive upswing in my life, so I will discuss what has happened to me since arriving in Oregon in another post later on.

Thanks for reading, and keep working on that journey to the good life!

-Meggo

 


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The Physiology of Love

So I wrote a paper for my Physiological Psychology class on the physiological changes that occur in your brain when you fall in love. A lot of people found this paper very interesting and helpful, and a couple people advised me to get it published for the good of all mankind, but that’s a lot of work. So I’ll just post it on here for you all instead ^.^

 

The Physiology of Love:

A Physiological Approach to Gaining a Better Understanding the Complex Phenomena of Love

 

Abstract

Love is a complicated phenomenon that few people fully understand. This paper examined several studies in order to gain a clearer understanding of what exactly love is. Through a large assortment of experiments on both humans and animals, including MRIs, PETs, manipulation of brain chemical concentrations, surveys, and analysis of public records, several discoveries were made. Through analyzing these studies, it can be concluded that A) when someone falls in love, many changes occur in their brain, B) these changes share many characteristics with phenomena we already have a greater understanding of, such as drug addiction and obsessive-compulsive disorder, and C) these changes serve a powerful purpose for reproduction and continuation of the species. Further research should focus on the similarities between addiction and love, withdrawal and heartbreak, and how these similarities could be exploited for the purpose of finding better methods of treatment.

 The Physiology of Love

It is as Mahatma Ghandi said, “Where there is love, there is life.” Most people will fall in love at some point in their life, and many would consider love to be a critical part of the human experience. Wrote Erich Fromm (1955), “The necessity to unite with other living beings, to be related to them, is an imperative need on the fulfillment of which man’s sanity depends.“  However, most of humanity has very little understanding of what exactly love is. The internet is overflowing with romantic quotes citing the “true” definition of love, and this excess of information only serves to further complicate and obscure an understanding of what it really means to fall in love with someone. Perhaps the best way to clear the air and develop a concrete understanding of love and its impact on the human experience is to study love from a purely physical, measurable, and scientific perspective. To truly understand love, we must study the physical and biological changes that create the sensation that we call “love”.

Many poets and songwriters have referred to love as an addiction or obsession. In reality, they weren’t too far off from the truth. Love and addiction have many similarities from chemical changes in the brain to changes in outward behavior. Says Burkett (2012), “The psychology of human love and drug addiction share powerful overlaps at virtually every level of the addictive process, from initial encounters to withdrawal. A preponderance of evidence from human studies and animal models now demonstrates that these overlaps extend to the level of neurobiology as well, where virtually every neurochemical system implicated in addiction also participates in social attachment processes.” And on an outward level, a person who has fallen in love will exhibit many addictive behaviors, such as ignoring possible consequences and going to great lengths to get another fix of their drug (or person) of choice. On a more detailed internal level, data has suggested that changes in Dopamine receptors that occur during drug addiction are very similar to changes that occur when a person or animal is forming a bond with a mate and developing an aggressive intolerance for anyone who is not their mate (Burkett, 2012). In fact, love and addiction are so similar, in their effects on the brain, that it has been proposed that breakups and heartbreaks should be given the same treatments as drug withdrawal symptoms (Burkett, 2012). And said Zeki (2007), “Studies have shown a depletion of serotonin in early stages of romantic love to levels that are common in patients with obsessive-compulsive disorders. Love, after all, is a kind of obsession and in its early stages commonly immobilizes thought and channels it in the direction of a single individual.”

Another adjective that is often used to describe love is “madness”. This is another surprisingly accurate description. Research has shown that when a person falls in love, certain parts of the brain involved in judgment and decision making become de-activated. There is also a deactivation of parts of the frontal cortex involved in assessing and criticizing other people. “[This inactivation] should not…be surprising because, when deeply in love, we suspend those critical judgments that we otherwise use to assess people” (Zeki, 2007). As it turns out, this temporary insanity actually serves an important biological function. Just like mutt dogs, on average, have fewer health problems than purebreds, the human species is stronger if its genetic makeup is varied. If humans were in complete control of their judgment when choosing a mate, they would pick someone who was very similar to themselves. They would choose someone who comes from the same culture, has the same values and religious beliefs, and other such details that would allow for a peaceful merging of families. However, this would result in a very simple genetic makeup, which would leave mankind vulnerable to defect and disease. Instead, when a woman catches sight of a man who is very different from herself, her logical conscious mind might say that he is a bad match for her since they have nothing in common, but her internal chemical makeup will take over and override logic and cause her to break all cultural and personal expectations to pursue this strange man because his genetic makeup will mix with her own to make a far stronger child, leading to a far stronger future generation.

Obsession and insanity are both changes that occur in the human brain to cause us to find a mate and create strong offspring, but what causes us to stay with that mate and continue to feel love even after we have already given birth to a healthy child? De Boer offers an explanation in his article Love is More Than Just a Kiss: “It has been suggested that romantic love developed from courtship neuronal mechanisms and thus can be seen as a human form of the courtship behavior. Both courtship attraction and romantic love are systems for mate choice, evolutionary mechanisms developed to choose a partner that offers the best chances to the offspring. Romantic love is also part of the adult attachment system, and it seems to be essential in the early stages of attachment. The adult attachment system evolved as a system to keep parents together for the time necessary to raise the offspring” (2012). Dopamine is another chemical in the brain related to drug addiction, but through experimentation with voles, it has is also been associated with monogamous dedication to a single mate and selective aggression towards anyone who is not their mate.

In conclusion, love is a very complicated part of the human experience, but it can be better understood through the physiological and chemical effects it has on the human brain. These effects show strong similarities between love and other phenomena which humans already have a much stronger understanding of, such as drug addiction and obsessive-compulsive disorder. Perhaps further efforts to understand the phenomena of love could be assisted and sped up by coordination with studies already done in these other areas.

References

Burkett, J. (2012). The behavioral, anatomical and pharmacological parallels between

social attachment, love and addiction. Psychopharmacology, 224(1), 1-26.

Doi: 10.1007/s00213-012-2794-x

de Boer, A. A., van Buel, E. M., & Ter Horst, G. J. (2012). Cognitive, Behavioral, and

Systems Neuroscience: Love is more than just a kiss: a neurobiological

perspective on love and affection. Neuroscience, 201, 114-124.

doi:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2011.11.017

Fromm, E. (1955). The sane society. New York: Rinehart.

Zeki, S. S. (2007). The neurobiology of love. FEBS Letters, 5812575-2579.

doi:10.1016/j.febslet.2007.03.094


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A Busy Winter Solstice

First of all I would like to tell you all about my turbulent relationship with the holidays. First of all, I grew up celebrating Christmas, and my family had a curiously fantastic talent for ruining the whole thing. All I remember is everyone was stressed and yelling and nothing I did was good enough. I didn’t put up the Christmas ornaments correctly, I didn’t offer to get the adults drinks quickly enough, I didn’t show enough excitement when I opened my gifts. So as I got older and started thinking about having kids some day (before I came to the decision that that would NEVER happen) I had to decide what I would tell my children about Christmas and Santa. Well, I follow the Pantheist religion, which is a very nature-centered religion that has a pleasant balance between science and a kind of general spiritual energy that connects us to nature and each other. Then on the other hand, I’ve always had a rather intense obsession with old fashioned fairy tails where grandma gets eaten by a wolf because a little girl didn’t do as her parents told her to. So what I came up with for a Holiday story that I could feel comfortable with was “Once upon a time an old monk named Saint Nikolas decided to celebrate the birthday of a very nice man named Jesus Christ by hand making a whole pile of toys and giving them to all the poor starving children of the nearby village. He snuck into their houses in the dead of night and hid the toys in the children’s socks, which were hanging by the fireplace to dry. Now, the Winter Solstice is a time when everything is cold and dead and survival is harder and sometimes it is easy to get sad. Therefore, in order to keep people’s hope alive and remind them that spring is coming and life will return again, we take up the example of Saint Nikolas and we give presents to those less fortunate than ourselves in order to give them life and hope.”

Now, that being said, I have been working double time to keep my own hope alive and focus on the good things in my future to help me stay positive. I would like to write those positive things down here so I will be able to come back and read them later if I need a reminder.

1) I have some awesome classes scheduled next semester. LGBT studies (aka what Meggo does in her free time anyway), Memory and Cognition, Writing in the Professions, and Painting (because I’ve always wanted to and I actually had room for it this semester). I’m taking 19 credit hours though! It’s gonna be SOOO busy. I might have to drop something later, but I’m gonna give it a shot ^.^

2) I’m starting a HUUUUUGE research project with a couple of my favorite Psychology teachers and my favorite classmate. I don’t want to give you too much information about it, in case anyone tries to steal it. All I’ll say is that it is going to do WONDERFUL things for transgender children and teenagers. Since I have transsexual and transgender friends and was there for some of them during high school and saw a lot of the shit they went through, I am very motivated to do this project in the hopes that no child will ever have to go through that again.

3) I got a job working as the secretary in the Psychology building. It only pays 8.00 an hour but it works around my schedule and it’ll make me even more noticeable to the Psychology professors, which will come in handy when I need letters of recommendation for grad school. I might have a second job as an assistant bee keeper, but the boss for that job has had a lot of her own stressful traumatic shit going on lately, so I haven’t heard back from her. I hope I hear back from her soon, that would be such an exciting job!!!!

4) Korey and I are moving out together! We’ve been planning on it for awhile, but the time has officially come. First of all, my father is REALLY getting on my last nerve. If he threatens to shoot my cats one more time I might just punch him in the face before I can stop myself. Second of all, this house is a cluster fuck. I’m sick of living in a basement with no windows and a leaky wall so it’s always damp and freezing. Then the leaky wall gets the carpet wet and causes old pet stains to resurface and stink. Then my dad refuses to catproof his house, so my cats keep causing messes and breaking things, which causes their lives to be threatened. And then my dad finally managed to piss off one of his neighbors to the point that they’ve started opening our gate to let our dogs out and finally the other day one of my dads dogs attacked one of our neighbors dogs, so she started chasing ALL the dogs through the neighborhood with a shotgun, so I had to get rid of MY dog so he wouldn’t be considered guilty by association and get himself killed. So I’m just SOOOO done with this place. Good news at least is that my dog is probably in a better home now. I was never active enough for him, now he’s in a house full of kids and smaller dogs to play with and he’s been named official babysitter of the baby girl of the family, so he seems all proud of himself and self-important. Third of all, Korey and I would like some more privacy, it’s kind of suffocating living with my Dad. Not only do we NEVER get to have sex, but also I miss being a grownup, and Korey is finally learning to be a grownup and would like to get some real practice. And the final reason I’m ready to move out is that I’m going to be SOOO busy with school and work next semester, that the hour drive to campus is going to become increasingly more annoying. Especialy because I’ve made some good friends at school that are just as focused as I am and I really enjoy just sitting and studying with them, but I never get to because I’m either carpooling with my sister and have to get her home, or I am by myself and am just worried about getting tired and then falling asleep on the long boring drive home.

5) This’ll be the first time I’ve ever moved and been able to take my time. So I finally have an opportunity to go through my stuff and get rid of the shit I don’t need. I’m starting the process today by going through my beanie baby collection to see if I have anything that’s worth any money. So if any of y’all are interested, let me know ^.^ Next I’ll start going through books and clothes probably…

6) When the semester ended and I had to face the sudden lack of things on my to-do list. I suddenly had an urge to write. Not only am I finally catching up on this blog, I’ve also gotten back to work on a book I started 6 years ago. It should be pretty good if I can ever finish it, I’ve had a few people read what I have so far and they were very eager to read the rest so…we’ll see what happens. Wish me luck all!

So here’s to staying motivated and positive during the chilly and depressing winter months! Hang in there y’all!

Love from Meggo


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Another update done too late.

Continuing what appears to be my new trend of updating this blog once a semester.

My last update was at the end of spring semester last year. Over the summer I started working at a treatment center for at risk youth. I HATED it there, and was so glad it was over. But I’m very grateful for the experience, even if it’s not the experience I expected.

What I did expect:

1)The work experience is going to look AMAZING on my grad-school applications.

2) I got to try out being a confidant for some very troubled people, to see if I would be able to handle the psychological toll of listening to someone’s most traumatic memories. Turns out I can handle it just fine, and even come up with some good advice at the end. Woot!

What I didn’t expect:

1) I LOVED those kids. I’ve never been very comfortable around kids, and I received many severe warnings about how violent and crazy and manipulative these kids would be and that I would probably hate them, but I needed to be careful not to show them my hatred, that I needed to still treat them like normal people. Turned out those kids and their crazy antics were my FAVORITE part of the job. If it was just being with those kids and listening to their stories about hanging out in their underwear as decoration while their gang-boss boyfriend sold drugs, and trying to explain to them why that is a slightly less than amazing relationship model, or listening to their stories about being abused by their parents and letting them cry and trying to find the right thing to say to help them let that pain go and move on, if that was all the job was it would be THE BEST JOB EVER! What made the job a pile of shit was my coworkers, who DIDN’T care about the kids like I did and really DID  see them as disgusting vermin. I found that my job every day was trying to protect the kids and fight back against the bullshit system of that facility. There was only one other person who seemed to love the kids as much as I did which brings me to #2:

2) I met someone. His name is Korey, and he is the sweetest thing ever. I’ll do a separate post later to update you on how we ended up together. It’s a pretty hilarious story that involves a bitchy ex girlfriend who tried her damnedest to sabotage my job and a couple of kids from the facility playing mini cupids and trying their best to set us up. But the important part is that for once I chose someone based on friendship and comfort instead of just blind sexual attraction and I’m SO GLAD I did. After two months he ended up moving in with me. It was supposed to just be temporary, but I was SOOO not bothered at all by his presence here, that I just never kicked him out. After 5 months he continues to be the first person in my life that HASN’T annoyed the shit out of me AT LEAST once. It’s amazing, and is quite possibly my first remotely healthy relationship EVER.

3) I made some good friends. Most of the coworkers blew, but a few were cool and I now have people to hang out with in this shitty town full of meth heads. But I also made friends with a few of the kids and kept in touch with them once they left. Technically, that’s against the facilities policy, but I quit there anyway and while a lot of the kids were real assholes, a few of them were actually incredibly good kids who just had a shitty lot in life, and I knew I was gonna be worried sick about them if I didn’t at least get a quick message once a month to let me know they weren’t in jail or dead of a drug overdose in an alley. I am so grateful to have these kids in my life now. And it is such a huuuge ego boost to know that a message from me every once in a while helps them stay focused on whats important and helps them keep stay positive now that they’re back living in the shitty situation that drove them to a shitty illegal lifestyle in the first place. It helps me feel like I have a purpose in life and helps keep my own depression at bay, which makes me think that being a professional psychologist is not only NOT going to throw me into an alcoholic depression like I was afraid it would, but it might actually have the EXACT OPPOSITE effect. So that’s cool.

So then I quit and I missed my kids like crazy, but then school started and it was a WICKED INTENSE semester, so I was fully distracted. I had a pretty full schedule with a few too many hard classes scheduled all at once, including Anatomy, Statistics, and Physiological Psychology. However, not near as hard as next semester is going to be, but that’s going to be another entry as well. For now, I think that’s enough to get you roughly caught up on time.

Love from Meggo


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Dissociation

I am so ashamed that I’ve gone through an entire semester of school without making a single blog post. My only defense is that so much has been going on in my life, both externally and internally, that as soon as I started to formulate a thought worth writing down, my world turned upside down again and what I had written no longer seemed relevant.

I’ll try to give you a brief summary of the semester now that things have calmed down a bit for the moment, but apologies in advance if it comes out a bit long winded.

1) I feel old.

I’m surrounded by all these punk 18 year olds who are so inexperienced and naive. They come to me venting about their relationship issues and I can feel the energy leaking out of my body as I think to myself “Oh sweety, that’s nothing. If only you knew the kind of heartache and serious drama that awaits you in the adult world.” And then on the occasions that I meet someone my own age, they are always so far ahead of me, about to graduate with a career lined up or already in a career that fills them with purpose and inspiration. I feel like I don’t fit in with either group. Like I’m stuck in a weird limbo of dissociation in between the two.

2) I fail at relationships.

The dissociation theme continues to be a large part of my life as we look at my interaction with romance the last couple years. Just yesterday a friend of mine who is really into astrology walked me through my star chart. One of the planetary alignments of my chart showed that I crave independence in my relationships. This is very true, and is a part of myself I’ve been exploring and growing more comfortable with this semester. However, my first few experiences with relationships were very clingy co-dependent ones and there is a theory in psychology that says that people tend to recreate themes in their life that they are familiar with, even if these themes are painful or unhealthy, especially when it comes to relationships. So I am caught in a juxtaposition between my natural desire to be in a relationship characterized by mutual independence and my unconscious need to recreate the suffocating overly-dependent dynamic of my past.

3) 24 is too old to live with your parents.

In a direct contrast to my earlier point about feeling old, living with my parents is giving me the disconcerting sensation that I am 10 years old again. This is especially awful because last year was the first time I started feeling like a strong independent responsible woman. So having no responsibilities to worry about and living in a place where I have to let someone know any time I leave the house and where people are constantly checking up on me quickly eroded all the progress I had made and has been very detrimental to my carefully built sense of self worth. Because of this I spent the first couple months back in Colorado battling a pretty impressive case of depression, which is one of the reasons I didn’t write on this blog for so long.

4) Emotional Fallout.

I once read an article that listed 10 things no one in their 20s should ever apologize for. One of the things on the list was “Don’t feel bad for falling in love with everyone and everything.” It was very reassuring to hear that this is a trait that most 20-some things share and which is fully acceptable and expected as a form of self-discovery during this period of my life, but I wish this article would have included some advice on how to deal with the fallout of falling in love with a bunch of people who will never love you back and a bunch of things that are only temporary fixtures in your rapidly changing life.;


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Shedding the Past

Finally lost all the breakup weight! Woot woot! Took a little longer this time because it was joined by “Return to family cooking” weight, but I got it done anyway. So nice to have loose pants again.

P.S. I am properly ashamed of myself that “breakup weight” is a thing I have allowed to exist in my life.

Other small bits of progress in my life include no longer caring what happens in the lives of my exes no matter how drunk I am, getting my room unpacked and decorated JUST RIGHT with all the proper feng shui in place, and while I still haven’t gotten to a point where I can make new friends, I have been reconnecting with old ones.

The healing process is well underway, I expect it to be completely finished by the time school starts, and having a degree and career to focus on will be a nice little cap to seal away all my scars.


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Love Foundation

Just found an old diary entry by an 11 year old me:

“Love is a force of nature, like the wind. It is not something that can be controlled or relied on. No one should build their life on such an unreliable foundation. Eventually love will blow away like the wind, or at the very least it will shift to a new location or change its shape. It doesn’t really matter which because it only takes the slightest movement or vibration in your foundation and all the things you have built on top of it: your life, your home, your family, your sense of self and well-being; just a tiny movement and all those things will lose their balance and come crashing down. And when they hit the ground and shatter, that is sure to be very painful. No one should ever rely on love. It is better to build the house of your life out of more solid materials, and leave a guest room open for the stray cat that is love to wander in and out as it pleases.”

What a clever bitch. Wish I was that smart…