Posted on April 22, 2019
Hi everyone! Hope you’re having a lovely beginning of spring! I thought posting the occasional “What’s New” would be a good way to update y’all on what projects I’m working on, and when they’re coming out! So, drum roll please…
Posted on February 21, 2019
Greetings, friends! Exciting news!
One of my short stories will be published in an upcoming anthology, called Five Minutes at Hotel Stormcove. You can pre-order it right here. The book comes out in May.
It’s such a cool concept for a short story collection- all the stories happen at the fictional Hotel Stormcove, and must take place within the span of 5 minutes. There’s a lot of great writers featured in the collection. I’m incredibly grateful to the publisher, Atthis Arts, for publishing my first short story.
Writing fiction is such a passion of mine, and I hope to publish more pieces in the future. I’ll keep y’all updated on where you can find my writing!
Posted on October 17, 2018
In Spring 2018, the American Tinnitus Association published my article about my experience with tinnitus. They gave me the okay to publish the full article on my blog so more people can see it.
I wanted to republish this because so many people have reached out to me since reading my article. I hope that spreading it further will help more people with tinnitus.
Here’s the full, unedited article, originally published in the Spring 2018 issue of Tinnitus Today.
I can’t believe I’m writing this.
Even now, the idea of me doing this is shocking. Up until about a year ago, I couldn’t even see the word “tinnitus” without an icy spike of fear going up my spine.
Every time I saw that word, I was thrown back to Clemson, South Carolina, standing in the hallway leading to my bedroom. I remember the smell of a lived-in college apartment, the springy carpet under my ratty sneakers. It was February 2014. I’d just finished a solid workout, and I was about to hop in the shower and get on with my day when…
It happened. You all know what I’m talking about. Both ears. Medium pitch. Relatively quiet.
The rest is a rush and painful to think about. It comes in flashes of memory that still make me feel sick, even years later. I remember the animal panic that short-circuited my mind as the hissing ring in my ears picked up and continued, lingering like an unseen alarm. What was happening to me? It was so bizarre and unexpected. I couldn’t process it. Something very delicate and very sharp had snapped inside of me.
My friends were in class. My family was hundreds of miles away.
It was the most alone I’ve ever felt in my life.
I always feel odd saying that – guilty, even, because I think of all the worse things that can happen to a person. But I know tinnitus isn’t as simple as that – it robs someone of silence and attacks their quiet time, their sleep, their conversations. For some, it’s like a train roaring in their head without end. For me, although my tinnitus is relatively quiet, it preyed upon something that I was already dealing with in my life: anxiety.
I’ve always tried to control the parts of life I can – to make the world a little less uncertain and scary. But tinnitus was like the personification of my anxiety, the ultimate test – I couldn’t control it. I’d done nothing to trigger it. It could get worse over time. And there was no cure.
After the initial shock, came doctor’s visits filled with waiting rooms smelling vaguely of disinfectant. Each appointment featured cool, plastic instruments inserted into my ear. My shoulders would shoot up to my neck when I felt the scratch against the shell of my inner ear, fearing the slight tampering would make my tinnitus worse.
At first, I wanted a solution. I prayed the doctor would step back and say I had an ear infection or some bizarre allergy that prompted the tinnitus. Either way, the doc would present a cure.
After several different doctors, a perfect hearing test and some well-meaning suggestions for vitamins that didn’t help, it became clear I wouldn’t get that cure I was looking for.
Each visit ended the same way. The doctor sitting back on his wheeling stool, slightly crushed by years of use. His expression was flat, but his tone was always reserved and light, like he was an ice cream parlor employee about to tell me they were out of chocolate.
He didn’t know what caused it. It could’ve been a jaw issue or a low-grade ear infection. He wasn’t sure.
It might go away. It might not. It might get worse.
I’m not sure.
Even after I realized a cure wasn’t going to happen, I still searched for a doctor who would understand my emotional struggle and lend an understanding ear regarding my own ears. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen – whether it was because I chose the wrong doctors, or because I’m a young woman, or something else entirely, I’m not sure.
At the time, I was the only person I knew who had chronic tinnitus. I could only get so much support from my friends and family at the start, so, after I failed to find professional support in my “real” life, I went online. Unfortunately, my first foray into the online tinnitus community wasn’t the American Tinnitus Association website, which is filled with accurate information and resources to get help.
Instead, thanks to a mixture of morbid curiosity and misguided intent, I found myself on random internet chatrooms for people affected by tinnitus. They were filled with concerned friends and family members, and sufferers themselves, fraught with terror. Every message was helpless and scared, often mentioning suicide. The worst-case scenario, it seemed, was the only scenario in the world I’d stumbled into.
It was like peering into the future, discovering my inevitable fate. My anxiety fed into this rhetoric like a flood. Would that happen to me? Surely, it would. I’d already developed chronic tinnitus at age 20, what chance did I have?
I finally quit my “research” after my mom talked some sense into me, but the damage was done. Every time I happened to see the word “tinnitus,” a cold rush of terror would come over me, and I was back in that hallway. Every loud noise – the bang of pots and pans, a car horn – was a golden opportunity for my tinnitus to get worse. To put it bluntly, I was a mess.
And then, slowly, I became less of a mess.
I wish I could pinpoint the exact moment I started sleeping soundly through the night, or the first time a motorcycle roared past me and didn’t leave me worried the rest of the day. Small victories like those came and went, but they all came from the same place. I started habituating to my tinnitus, and I realized something.
I wanted to feel like myself again.
This wasn’t a passive recovery. After several months of sleepwalking through life, I knew I had to wake up. I had too much to do at the time and too much I wanted to do in the future. I had to finish college, follow my dreams into the world of broadcast journalism, find a cute apartment in some faraway city and some equally cute guy. I couldn’t control my tinnitus, but I could control how I responded to it.
I started seeing a therapist who specialized in tinnitus, a commitment with a 45-minute weekly commute in rural South Carolina. We talked about coping mechanisms, treatment options, and how my anxiety magnified my tinnitus. How when I drank alcohol, my tinnitus got worse – and when he imbibed, his tinnitus went away. I saw that therapist for a relatively short time, but I walked away in a much better mental and emotional state.
I opened up to my family and friends more. My mom was there for every late-night call, every weepy worry, and dash of uncertainty. When I went to a concert with my friends, earplugs in hand, they made sure I was comfortable as we got closer to the front of the stage.
After I finished therapy, I bought a book on anxiety, and I knew I had to commit to managing my anxiety, as well as understand how tinnitus affected it. I chose to manage my anxiety through my lifestyle. I started exercising again and caring about what I ate. Slowly, I felt in control again, like the world wasn’t going to crumble around me at any possible moment.
But, the last thing to go, the last bastion of my terror, was my fear of the word “tinnitus.”
About a year ago, now on the other side of the country and working for a local television station, I went to the gym for a quick workout. On my way to the treadmill, I passed a rack of magazines. Like a bizarre superpower, I sensed the word immediately, front and center on a glossy magazine cover.
The familiar fear made me feel like I was sinking under water. Even in the gym, of all bizarre places, I couldn’t escape it. It was almost funny.
I was almost tempted to pick it up, but I wasn’t ready yet.
Now, I am.
And that’s why I can’t believe I’m writing this article – because four years ago, even one year ago, it would’ve been impossible to relive my trauma so many times or become so intimate with the word tinnitus. I would’ve broken down on the first sentence.
Now, I truly feel like a stronger person having gone through and survived such a traumatic personal event. Even though my tinnitus still makes me anxious sometimes, I’ve built up the self-care skills to manage my anxiety.
My friends, family, and boyfriend are still the main people I go to when my tinnitus gets tough. I exercise regularly and try to stick to a healthy diet, despite my love for Mexican food and doughnuts. I keep myself busy with creative projects, work, friends, and family. When quiet time is no longer literally “quiet” time, I find it better to keep active and engaged.
In the past, I’ve considered the word “habituation” as something negative –
living with something, resigning oneself to it. But now, I realize that’s not the case. Habituation means going through something you thought would ruin your life and emerging from it with the realization that you can survive and flourish, despite the challenges. For me, it’s returning to my hopes and dreams for the future and making them a reality, despite the added struggle of tinnitus.
I’m not going to lie – bringing back these memories is still challenging for me. The pain has softened over time, but it’s still there. Even so, writing this article shows me how far I’ve come and how hard I’ve worked to come out of my diagnosis mentally and emotionally stronger.
Everyone’s story is different, but this is mine. And if I can convince one person that they can survive, work towards feeling better, and end up okay four years down the road?
Writing this article was worth it.
Have questions about tinnitus? Head to the American Tinnitus Association’s website. They have accurate information, access to support groups, and cultivate a positive environment.
Posted on May 1, 2018
Above is the photo of a very proud, very excited woman, holding the most challenging and rewarding article she’s ever written (so far).
I’m going to talk about that article soon. But first, I think you all need some background.
In February 2014, I lost the ability to experience silence.
To put it less dramatically, I developed tinnitus. It’s a medical condition that produces a sound in your ears only you can hear- a ringing, a hissing, a buzzing, a murmuring.
For some people, it’s temporary. It’s the ringing in your ears after a night at a loud concert. For others, it’s permanent. It can occur after you catch a cold, or develop an ear infection. There are dozens of reasons why someone develops permanent, or chronic, tinnitus. I’m one of those people.
According to the American Tinnitus Association, about 50 million people in the United States experience tinnitus. 2 million suffer through “extreme and debilitating” cases. That’s akin to a roaring train, or a blaring fire alarm, trapped in your head.
Tinnitus can lead to depression and anxiety, or make mental health conditions worse if you already have them. Severe cases can lead to suicide.
When I first developed tinnitus, it was a struggle to adapt to my new normal. My life was a chaotic mess of anxiety, a common feeling for many people immediately after they develop the condition. The loss of silence is something so nebulous and strange, it was hard to process. Lots of sleepless nights, and worry, and wondering if it could get better.
My tinnitus didn’t get better, but I did. Four years later, I still have the condition, but I’ve learned to manage it and live a very happy, healthy life. My tinnitus is close to background noise now, but it’s never quite left my mind.
I’ve never been able to forget how alone I felt when I first developed it. I know there are other people who were in the same place I was four years ago.
That’s why, in September, I reached out to the American Tinnitus Association, a national non-profit that publishes a quarterly magazine, Tinnitus Today.
Eight months later, I’m incredibly happy and proud to present my article in their Spring 2018 edition, “Pursuing Dreams, Life, and Joy…Despite Tinnitus”. It’s on page 26. In case you want to read it. Hint, hint.
I wanted to tell my candid story, how tinnitus has affected my life, and how I’ve coped with it after four years. Writing this article brought back tough memories I had long buried, but it was absolutely worth it. I can’t thank the American Tinnitus Association enough for giving me a chance to tell my story.
And…that’s that. I’ve bared (part of) my soul, and I’m feeling happy and proud and nineteen different other things. It would mean the world to me if you read my article. Pass it on if you know someone with tinnitus.
As I’ve said before, if I make one person feel less alone, it was worth it.
Posted on August 30, 2017
Last summer, I stood in front of the biggest fire I’ve ever seen in my life and talked about it on live television. And then I ate a handful of mixed nuts meant for farm animals.
It was a hot July evening in Oregon, but a late summer wind stirred the thick heat. I was at KVAL News, the television station I work for. It’s a little building perched up on a steep hill in the south of Eugene. The evening news shows were underway, and I was planning to slip away from the newsroom soon to enjoy the summer night- which in Oregon means sitting on a patio for 3 hours and drinking beer.
Summer is not only beer season in Oregon- it’s also fire season. The hot, dry snap of a Pacific Northwest summer mixed with blustery wind is the perfect cocktail for a stray, fiery spark from machinery; or for a forgotten cigarette butt left in the woods, to erupt into something catastrophic.
So it wasn’t a shock when we heard some chatter on our police and fire radio scanner that there was a fire out in Junction City, about 20 miles away.
Our newsroom has the luxury of an amazing view- one of the positives to being up on one of the highest hills in South Eugene. As I walked into the newsroom, I noticed people craning their necks, looking out windows. A few opened the front door, peering up at the sky. Someone aimed our station tower camera in the direction of Junction City.
A massive plume of smoke pooled into the sky, miles away, curling and billowing in the late day sun. It looked like a huge, fluffy cloud rising up from the earth.
Bounds Hay Company, a huge hay exporting company in Junction City, was on fire– and I was tapped to go.
I zipped up an oversized caution vest that made me look like I was wearing an orange plastic bag, and then tore out of the parking lot. It was a 30 minute drive, but I followed the smoke to my destination- a yawning field of fire, lighting up the charcoal remains of a building in smoldering flames. Up close, it was vomiting thick, black smoke into the sky.
I turned onto the road that ran parallel to the farm and found myself facing a fire truck barricade yards down the road. I spotted a few other cars parked on a field nearby and veered onto a bumpy dirt farm road.
People gawked at the fire from the field I parked in. I stood next to them, gawking through my camera lens and almost knee-deep in dry, itchy grass. I was still relatively far away- aka, the correct, safe distance someone should be away from a massive factory on fire.
Obviously, I needed to get closer.
I noticed a firefighter sitting in his dusty car out on the road. He rolled down his window as I stepped up to the truck.
“How close can I get?” I asked. My camera was in one hand, tripod in the other- purse slung over one shoulder. I looked like a pack mule.
He looked at the fire, considering it. “We’re worried there could be some explosions, so…I’d recommend staying here.”
“Am I allowed to get closer?”
He gave me a look that suggested I wasn’t that bright. “I wouldn’t advise it.”
I did get closer, because his suggested assessment of me was potentially correct. A reporter from another station and I walked further into the field- the flames getting brighter; the shimmering air getting hotter- until we found a fire chief who assured us we weren’t going to be caught in an explosion anytime soon. Whew.
Miraculously, and thankfully, no one was hurt in the fire- but there was more than a million dollars in damage done to the property, with about one-thousand tons of hay burned up to a crisp.
Thankfully, the fire chief understood our reporterly desire to get closer to the fire. He was going to let us follow him…even closer to the fire.
A photographer I work with, Emily, met us before we left with the fire chief. We jumped into our news car and followed the chief down the long strip of road hugging the farm. I remember passing right by the massive wall of flames, feeling the car window get hot under my hand.
We turned a corner and suddenly we were off the road- wheels bumping on the hard dirt and tall grass. As we followed the chief’s big pickup truck, my eyes were wide.
We followed him into a field bordering the fire, jerking the wheel to avoid divots in the dirt that could mean bad news for our news car. The fire reared up on the horizon like a sunset, and the chief pulled his car to a stop about 200 feet away from the wall of flames.
We reached our destination.
I stepped out of the car, grass crunching under my feet. The sky was dark and a cool breeze picked up on the air, but the ambient heat of the fire kept us warm.
I thought I would be terrified standing next to a massive fire that could potentially light up the field I was standing on, but I was weirdly calm. The chief assured us it was safe, and I trusted him.
After hours of action and uncertainty, we were at a lull- this was our camp for now, the place we would go live from for the 11pm news. In the sudden stillness, the fire a dull roar behind me, I suddenly realized something…I was starving.
I hadn’t eaten anything in 12 hours, and for someone who is constantly eating, that is an impressive fasting period.
I asked Emily if she had any snacks. She frowned and thought for a moment, slowly shaking her head- and then, her face brightened.
“I think I have something!” She set down her camera gear and went to the car, rooting around in the backseat as my blood sugar continued to drop. I would’ve literally eaten the grass at that moment if I didn’t think it would’ve made me sick.
She ran back over, a big Ziploc bag of mixed nuts in her hand. At that moment, she looked like an angel sent from heaven.
I grabbed a handful and munched on them happily. Sweet, sweet sustenance. As we set up for our liveshot, chatting about nothing, I asked Emily if she kept the mixed nuts for emergencies.
“Oh,” she said, “I was actually on a story and I met a farmer. He gave them to me. He said he ordered the nuts for his pigs, but ended up not wanting to give the nuts to them. So I got them.”
I regarded the mixed nuts in my hand for a moment, unsure of how I should feel about eating mixed nuts originally meant for pigs. I wanted to be disgusted, but…they were so good, and I was so hungry.
“He said they’re fine for humans,” she added, probably noticing the sudden alarm plastered on my face.
While I appreciated the reassurance, at that point? I honestly didn’t care. Emily and I had tromped around in fields all day under the flickering eye of an ever-looming fire. I was dead tired, sunburned, and smelled like smoke. At that moment, those weird pig mixed nuts were a 5-course meal.
I grabbed another handful from the bag.
This is the first part of my new post series, “Things I Ate on Breaking News”. I’ll look back at some of the most impactful stories I’ve covered, and how I remember them through food.