These Lights Appeared Over Phoenix In 1997, And No One Has A Logical Explanation

On March 13, 1997, the people of Phoenix, Arizona, experienced something that changed many people’s perceptions of the world around them forever. The Phoenix Lights hovered over the city almost 20 years ago, and the phenomenon has yet to be fully explained.

Starting around 7:30 p.m., reports began flooding into police stations and news agencies of mysterious lights appearing in the sky about 300 miles from the Nevada state line through Phoenix, and all the way to the edge of Tucson.

The most famous of these lights were the ones over Phoenix, which you can see in the image below. Thousands of witnesses claimed to have seen these lights hovering over the city. They lingered for a few hours before disappearing.

Witnesses who were close enough to the lights claimed to see a V-shaped UFO nearby. Below is a newspaper clipping containing a drawing by one witness who had been at a higher elevation when the formation passed over the city.

Needless to say, the sudden appearance and disappearance of lights in the sky stirred up some controversy. The government was quick to step in with an explanation.

iStock

Air Force officials claimed that the lights spotted over Phoenix were actually slow-falling, long-burning LUU-2B/B flares dropped by crafts on a training exercise at the Barry Goldwater Range at Luke Air Force Base.

While this is the widely held explanation for the Phoenix Lights, there are many in the paranormal and UFO communities who don’t buy it.

Many still cling to the explanation that the lights seen over Phoenix belonged to a massive UFO carrying out surveillance.

iStock

(via Skeptic)

What actually happened over Phoenix back in 1997? While the flare explanation does make sense, I still find it weird that the Air Force wouldn’t warn the city ahead of time about the exercise. I think there’s more to this story than the government lets on.

Read more: http://www.viralnova.com/phoenix-lights/

Newly Approved HIV Therapy Will Genetically Modify Patients’ Stem Cells

In a treatment now set to undergo clinical trials, scientists will focus on a protein believed to open the body to the AIDS-causing virus.

A 39-year-old Burmese migrant living with HIV shows her antiretroviral drugs to a journalist during an interview at the migrant health office of the NGO Raks Thai Foundation in the seafood industry town of Mahachai, Samut Sakhon province, Feb. 6. Athit Perawongmetha / Reuters

A promising HIV therapy that involves a patient’s own stem cells has won approval to be tested in people. It’s one of several experimental treatments that are trying to quash the virus.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has given the green light to a very small, early-stage clinical trial for a treatment that focuses on a protein found on cells in the immune system, researchers involved with the trial said Tuesday. That protein’s role in the spread of the AIDS-causing virus became apparent in the case of the first person believed to be cured of HIV, famously known as “the Berlin patient.”

Timothy Brown, a Seattle native living in Berlin, had both HIV and a rare blood cancer and underwent two transplants of donated stem cells starting in 2007. The treatment was standard, but doctors purposefully picked a donor who was immune to HIV. The donor’s cells didn’t have CCR5, a protein that allows HIV to enter blood cells — and Brown was cured of both lethal diseases.

In the latest of many attempts to reverse-engineer that effect, researchers plan to take blood stem cells from HIV-infected people and use gene-editing techniques to disrupt the CCR5 gene in those cells. The modified cells will then be put back into patients in the hope that the cells will be resistant to HIV and create a new, AIDS-resistant immune system.

The idea is “it’s erasing the gene, and once it’s erased, it never can reappear,” Dr. John Zaia, principle investigator of the trial and chairman of virology at the Beckman Research Institute of City of Hope, told BuzzFeed News.

The therapy was developed by Sangamo BioSciences, a biotechnology company in Richmond, California, with $14.5 million from California’s stem cell agency. It is being tested by researchers at Sangamo, the City of Hope National Medical Center in Southern California, and the University of Southern California.

The treatment was promising when tested in mice, but since this is the first time it’s being tested in humans, it has years to go before it makes it to market. This initial trial, which will determine whether the therapy is safe, will be small — about 12 patients — and will involve HIV/AIDS patients who have responded poorly to standard therapies, Zaia said. He added that it would only apply to about 20% of HIV patients who have a certain kind of disease history.

But one potential advantage of Sangamo’s approach, Zaia said, is that the stem cells would need to be reintroduced into the patient just once, and the cells would propagate on their own.

Sangamo has another experimental HIV therapy that targets the CCR5 receptor, but that involves reprogramming a type of immune cell that is the primary target of HIV.

The therapy now entering clinical trials isn’t the only one out there that involves stem cells. Another biotech company, Calimmune, is undergoing its second group of tests in humans with therapy that also disables the CCR5 receptor, but in a slightly different way. And there are many other researchers who are searching for an HIV cure.

But this trial could be a significant first step in eliminating the virus — not just treating it on a day-to-day basis.

Read more: http://www.buzzfeed.com/stephaniemlee/newly-approved-hiv-therapy-will-genetically-modify-patients

21 Awesome Kitchen Tips That’ll Inspire You To Cook WAY More Often

Cooking meals at home has some barriers to entry that aren’t easy to get past.

Stocking your pantry, having the right tools, and being confident enough to follow recipes are just a few of the issues staring wannabe home chefs in the face. Thankfully, there are some clever ways to overcome common kitchen woes (and you’re going to love how simple they are)!

1. When storing warm leftovers, leave a corner of the container open to vent.

The temperature of the food will lower more quickly, reducing the likelihood of bacteria forming in the warm, moist food.

2. A solution of white vinegar and water is awesome at cleaning up the kitchen.

3. Defrost items (that aren’t meat) by using a blow-dryer.

4. If you want to cut meat into thin slices, freeze it for 1-2 hours before you cut it.

5. You can remove the smell of garlic from your hands by rubbing them against stainless steel.

A spoon or sink should do the trick!

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6. Cook popcorn in the microwave with a bowl and a plate, no unhealthy chemicals needed!

Just microwave it for a couple of minutes (or until the popping stops). Flavor and salt as you please!

7. When cooking rice, add enough water so that the levels are a knuckle distance apart.

I.e., if the rice is at your first knuckle on your finger, the water level should be at the second knuckle.

8. You can use a George Foreman grill or panini press to make omelettes, hassle-free.

9. When reheating food, cover with a damp towel to prevent the microwave from drying the leftovers out.

10. Poke holes in potatoes and microwave them for about 4 minutes before baking or frying them.

It’ll reduce cooking time!

11. When you cut an onion, chill it for 30 minutes, cut vertically, peel, and leave the root intact. Voila, no tears!

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12. When using measuring cups for something sticky, coat them in oil first.

13. Froth milk in the microwave by adding it to a mason jar, shaking for 30 seconds, then microwaving for 30 seconds.

14. Coat fruit in flour before you add it to any batter.

15. Flatten meat before you freeze it to reduce defrosting time.

16. As you cook, toss your scraps and garbage in the same container to make the clean-up process easier.

17. Cutting vegetables and meat diagonally should make them cook faster.

18. You don’t need to cook pasta before baking it in the oven…see the dry pasta recipe here.

19. Make and blend batter in a blender to make your life easier.

20. CLEAN AS YOU GO…facing a monster pile of dishes at the end of the meal is worse than being tidy the entire time.

21. Cook pasta faster by using a bigger pot, adding salt to the water, and covering it with a lid.

There’s nothing to fear in the kitchen when you have these kinds of tricks up your sleeve!

Read more: http://www.viralnova.com/super-easy-cooking-tips/

62 Ridiculously Simple Ways You Can Start Saving Money Right Now

Looking to save a bit of money for a summer trip? Of course you are. We all are.

And the best way to do it is to start small. Although it’s easy to think, “Okay, if I buy fewer shoes this month, I’ll save X amount of money after four weeks,” saving money starts with changing everyday behaviors. Do you end up throwing out a few veggies here and there? Do you grab a latte from Starbucks on your way to work every morning? You’re not alone! Just by doing things like becoming one with your freezer or changing your morning routine, you can save hundreds in the long run.

Here are 62 tips to help get you started!

1. Cut down on Starbucks runs to save anywhere from $15 to $100 per month.

2. Make your own coffee house drinks instead.

3. Making dinner at home instead of eating out saves between $150 and $200 per month.

4. And packing a lunch every day can help you save between $40 and $200.

5. Buy produce in season and then freeze fruit for smoothies or dehydrate it.

6. Set a grocery budget, make a grocery list, and stick to them!

7. Make your own bread to save $15 a month.

8. Make breakfast for dinner.

9. Grow your own vegetable garden.

10. Only shop organic for the dirty dozen.

11. Freeze leftovers.

12. Get into canning.

13. Stock up when you find a deal.

14. Buy a quarter or side of beef.

15. Get produce from local farms.

16. Make your own taco seasoning.

17. Make your own almond, cashew, hemp, rice, or coconut milk.

18. Make your own yogurt.

19. Buy whole chickens instead of parts.

20. Use Pinterest to find new recipes.

21. Take advantage of price match guarantees.

22. Shop organic at Costco.

23. Stop buying lottery tickets.

24. Buy discounted movie tickets, theme park tickets, and restaurant gift cards at Costco.

25. Be content with the money you’re bringing in right now.

26. Learn about money management.

27. Don’t carry a credit card balance so you can save about $30 a month.

28. If you have trouble dealing with credit, opt for cash or debit.

29. Pay off debt as quickly as possible.

30. Use your tax refund to give you a boost

31. Make a budget that covers just about everything from entertainment to food.

32. Shop for gift wrap at the dollar store.

33. Keep it simple when you have company over.

34. Decorate for parties with what you already have.

35. Pack food for breakfast and snacks on vacation.

36. Take the bus, ride your bike, or walk instead of driving. This can save between $30 and $400 per month.

37. Carpool.

38. Commit to being a one-car family to save an average of $400 every month.

39. Save money on gas by getting all your errands done at once.

40. Make sure tires are properly inflated to save $30 a month.

41. Drive the speed limit to save a few bucks.

42. Do your own car maintenance.

43. Keep your eyes peeled for better car insurance rates.

44. Quit smoking to save hundreds of dollars a month.

45. Cancel that gym membership in the summer and exercise outside.

46. Quit coloring your hair.

47. Save manicures and pedicures for special occasions.

48. Use in-network providers for healthcare to save between $30 and $120 a month.

49. Use cloth diapers instead of disposable ones.

50. Try out cloth baby wipes instead of throwing a bunch out.

51. Buy gender neutral baby clothes and gear. That way, you can use them for any other bundles of joy who come along!

52. Switch to cloth napkins so you can save money and look extra fancy.

53. In fact, you can make your own cloth napkins.

54. Do your own home maintenance.

55. Shop for better deals on health and life insurance, and always bundle when you can!

56. Move to a cheaper, more efficient home.

57. Downsize when the time is right.

58. Do your own yard work.

59. Replace plastic bags with reusable food containers.

60. Make your own laundry detergent.

61. Sign up for free samples.

62. Make your own cleaning supplies.

See? That’s not so hard, is it? Most of these changes are so small, they won’t even feel like sacrifices.

(via Growing Slower)

Read more: http://www.viralnova.com/saving-tips/

What Are Your Best Tips For Getting In Shape?

Awesome workout ideas? Best-ever healthy recipes? Unbeatable motivational mantras? Tell us all about how you do fitness.

1. Miracle workout plans and weight loss secrets are everywhere.

 

2. And they always seem to promise major results after a really short amount of time.

3. Yet when was the last time any of us magically got rock-hard abs in six weeks?

4. Or got into a habit of regular exercise we actually enjoyed thanks to some get-fit-quick plan?

5. So, maybe the best health and fitness tips actually come from people who have fun doing healthy stuff.

You know, like that friend whose Instagram feed is full of elated #seenonmyrun posts, or the co-worker who can’t stop talking about hot yoga.

6. People who’ve been there, and who have discovered a few habits and tricks that work for them.

Like visualizing how you’re going to treat yourself after you complete that 18-mile run.

7. Are you one of those people who has legit fallen in love with fitness (maybe in spite of your better judgment)?

8. Are you tired of seeing get-fit-quick schemes, and ready to share your own truth?

Six-packs are OK, but feeling strong and capable and healthy is so much better.

9. Are you the type of person who has like, a million favorite smoothie recipes?

Great pre-workout fuel!

10. Please, share your secrets with us! What is your best piece of advice for people who want to start living fitter, healthier lives?

Tori Strong / Via someecards.com

What have you learned on your own journey? What are your favorite tips, habits, mantras, and/or recipes (smoothie or otherwise) that have helped you along the way?

Tell us in the comments below for a chance for your pointers to be featured in a future BuzzFeed post.

Thumbnail from here.

Read more: http://www.buzzfeed.com/sallytamarkin/what-are-your-best-tips-for-getting-in-shape

This Talented Mom Goes To Epic Lengths When She Wants Her Son To Eat His Veggies

Like most parents, Laleh Mohmedi has trouble getting her child to eat his veggies.

After all, what’s so fun about munching on carrots when cookies exist? It’s that fun factor that her little guy, Jacob, felt was lacking whenever she laid out plates full of whole grains, fruits, and veggies.

For that reason, Mohmedi now taps into her creative side to give her son the healthy foods he needs. By turning avocados, whole-grain waffles, bell peppers, and so many more healthy staples into works of art, this crafty mom is able to introduce Jacob to the wonderful world of nutrition while blowing his mind (and everyone else’s) in the process. That’s how her Jacob’s Food Diaries Instagram account was born. Check out some of her cutest creations below!

To keep up with Laleh Mohmedi’s culinary adventures, be sure to follow her on Instagram!

Read more: http://www.viralnova.com/jacobs-food-diaries/

10 Ways Exercise Makes Your Sex Life Better (According To Science)

Here’s what getting fit has to do with getting busy.

1. Exercise gets your blood flowing. (Everywhere.)

Sebas and Clim / Via vimeo.com

“Your whole sexual response has so much to do with blood flow,” Dr. Madeleine Castellanos, NYC-based sex therapist and author of Wanting to Want, tells BuzzFeed Life. When you’re turned on, your erectile tissue fills with blood (whether your erectile tissue is external, as with the penis, or internal, as with the vagina), so in order to be able to fully experience genital arousal, good circulation is essential. Regular exercise improves circulation and helps keep people healthy and off of medications for conditions like high blood pressure and Type 2 diabetes, which, Castellanos says, can all mess with blood flow.

2. It can also help with ~genital arousal~ in other ways.

Matt Bellassai / Via buzzfeed.com

Exercise activates the sympathetic nervous system (SNS). That might not sound too sexy, but research has shown that genital arousal — getting turned on down there — is linked to SNS stimulation. And one study found that women who cycled for just 20 minutes were more aroused as they watched an erotic film than those who watched the movie without exercising beforehand.

In fact, exercise is so effective at getting the ol’ SNS going, it’s thought to even be a “useful prescription” for people taking anti-depressants that lower sex drive.

3. It helps you relax.

“Stress short-circuits sexual arousal,” Castellanos says. And she says that exercise essentially trains your body to deal with daily stressors in a more effective way by allowing it to practice dealing with the physiological effects of the rise in cortisol brought on by exercise — rapid heartbeat, fast and heavy breathing — without the presence of the anxiety or worry, or other psychological components of a stress response.

Chronic stress sets you up for anxiety, depression, and sleep problems, all of which make it tough to feel frisky. But training your body to better deal with life stress can mean more relaxation more often. “So, something that would worry you for hours can worry you for a couple minutes,” she says. That leaves more time and energy and a better mood for getting busy.

4. It can enhance sexual satisfaction by helping improve body image.

XL Recordings / Via youtube.com

Anyone who’s wanted to cut the lights before getting familiar can attest to the fact that there is indeed a link between body image and a satisfying sex life. But in case you want evidence that’s a little more science-y, a 2008 study of about 400 college students concluded that body image issues influenced sexual satisfaction, with higher levels of body-related self-consciousness being linked to “problematic” sexual interactions. In other words, the worse you feel about your body, the less satisfying your sexual experiences. It stands to reason that working out will help you feel more satisfaction down the line, through improving your self-esteem.

“Sexual activity is as much mental as it is physical,” study author Tina M. Penhollow, Ph.D, associate professor of exercise science and health promotion at Florida Atlantic University says. After all, your biggest sex organ is your brain. “A positive perception of self can raise self-esteem and make people feel sexy, confident, and attractive,” she says.

5. In fact, it can make you think you’re hot AF and especially skilled in the bedroom.

A 2004 study (also by Penhollow) found that college students who self-reported above-average fitness levels also self-reported being above average when it came to sexual desirability and sexual performance. In an email to BuzzFeed Life, Penhollow said that being active is a potent aphrodisiac in a number of ways — in part because it can enhance your overall self-esteem and body image.

BTW, the study didn’t measure anyone’s actual fitness levels, it just asked for self reports. This tells us that it’s not necessarily being fit that leads you to think you’re a hot ticket, but rather thinking you are because you’re exercising regularly. Score.

6. Post-workout euphoria can really get you going.

“Physical activity triggers the release of endorphins, the body’s natural pain killers and feel-good hormones, which are connected to the production of sex hormones,” Penhollow says.

To get that sweet, sweet rush of sexy endorphins, it’s thought that a “comfortably challenging” workout is best.

7. It balances the hormones that power your sex drive.

Crash Course / Via youtube.com

Though the relationship between testosterone and sex drive isn’t fully understood, it seems that the combination of testosterone and estrogen work to create sexual desire, says Castellanos. Happily, exercise is known to boost testosterone…which can help power your sex drive.

8. Certain workouts can strengthen the muscles that make orgasms robust.

Sebas and Clim / Via vimeo.com

Your pelvic floor muscles contract when you have an orgasm. Keeping those muscles strong will ensure that you continue to have terrific orgasms. Doing kegels (exercises that target your pelvic floor specifically) pull the sacrum (the structure that supports both the spine and the pelvis) inward. And doing other workout moves, like squats and glute bridges, for instance, will balance that out by strengthening the glutes, which pull the sacrum outward, Castellanos says. Stronger orgasms for everyone!

9. It’s a mood-boosting anti-depressant.

Being super sad and being hot and bothered tend to be mutually exclusive. In fact, one of the hallmarks of depression is a reduced ability to experience pleasure, and this includes sexual pleasure. But exercise seems to offer some relief. A study that treated subjects’ depression with either exercise only, medication only, or a combination of exercise and medication found that participants who received any of these treatments were much less depressed, and that six months later it was subjects in the exercise-only group who were more like to be partially or fully recovered from their depression.

10. It improves stamina, endurance, and strength which means being able to have sex longer and in a variety of positions.

Kamasutra position 63: The Snail.

— BeardedGenius (@Nooruddean)

Sure, it’s great to get in shape so you don’t get winded climbing stairs or carrying groceries. But let’s not forget the health benefits of exercise that allow you to have have sex that’s more athletic, or that lasts longer. “Sex is a physical activity. Therefore, when you have good conditioning, it translates to more endurance in the bedroom,” Castellanos says.

Castellanos adds that resistance training is doubly awesome for sexual satisfaction. It protects against problems with back pain while increasing strength so that you can maintain different sexual positions and experiment with more variety in the bedroom. “It opens up your world,” she says.

“Sexual activity is an entire body experience and so it is important to keep muscles, blood vessels, and nerves performing at peak levels,” Penhollow says in an email. “Participating in any form of exercise that increases heart rate, breathing, and muscle activity can … enhance overall sexual satisfaction.”

What are you waiting for? Go and get swole!

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Thumbnail and social sharing images from Thinkstock.

Read more: http://www.buzzfeed.com/sallytamarkin/lets-get-physical

Exercise restraint, government tells TV channels

Fearing that repeated telecast of violent incidents and rioting over the Cauvery water dispute by a few television channels could escalate tensions, the Centre on Tuesday asked the channels to exerci

Read more: http://www.thehindu.com/news/national/exercise-restraint-government-tells-tv-channels/article9105275.ece?utm_source=RSS_Feed&utm_medium=RSS&utm_campaign=RSS_Syndication

When Taking Anxiety Medication Is A Revolutionary Act

I had to learn how to love myself enough to take care of myself. It wasn’t easy.

Illustration by Andres Guzman for BuzzFeed

If I had to describe what having anxiety feels like, I’d say that it’s kind of like walking through the world beneath tornadic skies without an umbrella, unsure if you’ll be able to find shelter if things get bad. When friends invite you out, you politely decline because while you’d like to enjoy their company, the sky could open up and wash you out to sea at any minute so it’s probably safer for you to stay at home. In the background of anything you do is the gentle hum of your nervous system as it tosses and turns, wondering when the deluge will hit, thinking about how unfortunate will be if you don’t survive it. And what kind of storm will it be? Something huge? Just enough raindrops to ruin your hair? Will the people you love be OK? Can you handle it? If you can’t, will people be able to witness you failing to handle it? How will you handle that?

Anxiety can be as exhausting physically as it is mentally — the tears that come from nowhere, the knotted stomach, the squeezing in the chest, the muscles that feel like they’ll snap if they get any tauter. As you move through the day, the only thing you can think of is getting to a safe space where all that doesn’t exist, where you can breathe and finally take your eyes off the sky and pay attention to something else.

This is why I spent so much of my time alone before I was diagnosed with generalized anxiety disorder; alone was the only safe place that I knew. My apartment and my designated classrooms (and later the office where I worked) were the only places I would go, directly from one to the other. I ordered my groceries even though there was a store steps from my apartment. I wanted to get in shape but I couldn’t bring myself to do so in a gym with people to judge me and complicated machines to make me look like an idiot.

One day in 2008, when I was a 26-year-old grad school dropout living in Philadelphia (having moved there from Louisville, Kentucky), I looked at my bank account and looked in the mirror and decided that I was too cute and had too much money to burn to continue living the way I was. I also thought that the reason I was spending so much time alone in my apartment, hiding from people, was simply because I couldn’t get over my ex-boyfriend. So I found a therapist named Gail, a delightfully round, tiny sixtysomething lady who said her most important things in passionate whispers so you knew that she was serious.

After I spent 30 minutes trying to explain the feeling in the center of my chest that felt like a stone when I swallowed, Gail changed my life with seven words:

It sounds like you’re having some anxiety.

I felt a jolt in the pit of my stomach. I had no idea that there was a word that so perfectly encompassed the random, faceless worries I carried with me every day. I knew what the word meant, of course, but I never thought to ascribe it to my problems. I immediately became obsessed with it. As soon as I got home, I looked up the word’s exact definition and was in tears before I even got to the end of it:

An abnormal and overwhelming sense of apprehension and fear often marked by physiological signs (as sweating, tension, and increased pulse), by doubt concerning the reality and nature of the threat, and by self-doubt about one’s capacity to cope with it.

That was it. That was me. I read it over and over again, tears soaking the neck of my shirt.

Before I was formally introduced to my anxiety, I called it by a bunch of other names — nervousness, weakness, timidity. Employers called it laziness, distractedness, and “not being a team player.” My ex called it clinginess. My mother called it oversensitivity and immaturity. But we were all wrong, and learning that we were all wrong, that there was an actual medical thing going on, overwhelmed me because it meant that it wasn’t a tornado of character flaws that landed me where I was.

The problem was not that I simply chose not to be “normal,” that I allowed my fears, baseless as they may have been, to conquer and dictate so much of my life. The problem was my brain. It was a chemical imbalance, something physical, not imagined. My amygdala, the part of the brain that controls anxiety and fear, is essentially running in circles screaming “THE SKY IS FALLING!!” all the time. Knowing this, I stopped blaming myself for my shortcomings, because it felt to me like the equivalent of blaming yourself for having the flu. When you get sick, you don’t just will yourself to get better. You go see a doctor. You do what you need to do to feel better.

I buckled down and did every behavior-modifying exercise that Gail told me to do. I stopped ordering my groceries and actually went to the store. I actually went inside that gym I had my eye on (I didn’t work out, I just walked inside, which was actually a huge accomplishment). I pushed myself to go out with friends at least once a week. On top of that, I did everything the internet told me I needed to do to beat anxiety. I did yoga, tried to meditate, practiced Buddhism for a while (and by “practiced Buddhism” I mean I read three-quarters of Buddhism for Dummies). I took a multivitamin. I kept a journal. I eventually hit a good stride, and by the time I decided to move back home to Louisville, I felt very proud of the person I’d become. She was cockier, louder now that the boulder had been moved at least partly away.

And then I turned around and she was gone.

There is no bigger foe in my world than change. I obsess over making the wrong decision. I have an active phobia of being asked where I want to go have dinner. No matter how stable I am at any point in my life, big life changes cause an explosion of anxiety for me, and I end up right back where I started, on the phone tearily missing my mother. When I moved back to Louisville from Philadelphia, it seemed that I’d left everything I learned from Gail right there in the chair I always sat in in her office (the one pressed against the wall facing the door, because sitting with my back to an open room makes me tremendously nervous). I tried to remember and employ some of the things she’d taught me and had some modicum of success, but once again, I found myself spending much of my time alone at home, the only place I felt safe, leaving only to eat and go to work.

I had to do something, and the next logical step seemed to be medicine. I had successfully overcome the stigma of going to see a therapist, but somehow the idea of seeing a psychiatrist and taking a pill for a mood disorder felt different. I asked my best friend if he’d think it weak of me to look into seeing a psychiatrist and getting a medicine to treat my anxiety, if it somehow meant that I have failed at being “normal.” He told me that the opposite was true: that it takes great bravery to admit that you need help.

This realization kind of blew me away because it went against the ingrained idea I had that medicine was for crazy people. In movies and on television shows, psychiatrists treated babbling, unwashed, self-harming, occasionally murderous lunatics who had psychotic breaks if they missed even a single pill. Since I was itty-bitty, my friends would ask “did you take your crazy pills today?” when we said silly things or got lost in a fit of giggles. Church taught me that if my spirit was unsettled or I was unhappy or something in my life just wasn’t right, then I wasn’t praying hard enough or tithing often enough. And my ex told me in so many words that someone who sought help for emotional troubles was weak and just not trying hard enough. I had to rearrange everything I knew to allow myself to look up the number for a psychiatrist, and rearrange even more to actually make the call. It takes courage and strength to look the stigma of being medicated in the face and push through it, to persist because you care about feeling whole and happy and calm more than you care about what other people think. Loving yourself enough to take care of yourself when it is easier not to is a revolutionary act.

And so I became a revolutionary. I was given a prescription for Celexa, an antidepressant also used to treat anxiety, and took one before work the next day. It worked. It worked too well. I didn’t feel anxious, but that was because I didn’t feel anything at all. At lunch I told my boss that I was leaving because I didn’t feel well. I had plenty of tasks that needed to be done and I knew that my boss was disappointed in me, but I didn’t care. I went home, sat on my couch, and stared at nothing until my best friend came to pick me up for dinner. He’s a stand-up comic and the funniest person I know, but I couldn’t laugh at anything he said. He’d tell a joke and I could only mechanically recognize and acknowledge its existence as an entity that fulfilled my predetermined requirements for “humor.”

“I want to cry,” I said. “I hate the way this feels and I want to cry, but I can’t cry and it makes me want to cry more. I don’t want to never cry again. This isn’t what I wanted.”

Nothing makes you feel more deliberately alive than feeling. Crying with someone you love because you can’t stand to see them hurt; swimming in the unbearable nirvana of eating your favorite meal; drowning in the hot wave that rushes over you when someone special holds your gaze a little too long — with all your senses rioting, you’re hyperaware of everything around you. Your pupils widen to let in as much light as they can and you can count the pebbles beneath the soles of your shoes and feel every fiber in your shirt and the blood in your ears pulses and crashes and in those moments you are so alive. I did not want to trade that for “normalcy.” There at the dinner table, I decided to flush each of those pills as soon as I got home that night, but my best friend eventually convinced me to wait at least a week.

I seemed a new person, literally overnight. I was surprised at how instant this change was, and I later learned that this is not at all typical of antidepressants or antianxiety medicines. Most take anywhere from a week to several months before the patient sees a change, but the very next morning I bounded out of the tangle of sheets on my bed rather than lying there trying to convince myself that I wouldn’t die if I got out of it. I went to work at a job that I absolutely hated without feeling like I was dragging seven burlap sacks full of dread and regret. I made it through the day without having to leave my desk to go catch my breath or cry in the bathroom and I didn’t walk in the opposite direction or quickly jump on the phone to pretend I was taking a call when a co-worker approached.

The best thing was that medicine didn’t turn me into a brand-new person; it didn’t give me any confidence, wit, or charm that wasn’t already there. It just moved the anxiety and constant worry out of the way so that everyone else could see what I always knew was in there, so that I could interact with it unimpeded. It’s also really important to note that it did not make my anxious feelings go away. There is no magic pill that instantly erases them all. I still walked through that same landscape with storms ever teetering on the horizon, but now I had an umbrella. I still thought that something terrible could happen at any minute, but that thought didn’t paralyze me. The need to control every single thing around me was lessened. I felt light enough to accept invitations to go out, to peel myself from my bed to run errands, to actually answer my phone to chat with friends when they’d call. I was given the room I needed to be my full, fantastic self.

I’m often mistaken for an outgoing, type A personality. It gets a laugh out of me every time.

Illustration by Andres Guzman for BuzzFeed

After a stretch of time on mood-balancing medication, many people feel happy, stable, productive, and “normal.” But rather than think to ourselves, Wow, I’m glad I have found a medicine that helps me to be an active participant in the good of my life, we think, Oh my god, I’m cured! I don’t need this medicine anymore! And so, being “cured,” we stop taking our medicines — often cold turkey, which is not a smart or healthy thing to do — and arm ourselves to the teeth with our newfound normalcy, ready to punch life squarely in the face. It may work for a day or two or even a couple of weeks or months. I’ve been here often enough to know that two weeks is typically my limit; after that, my body turns into lead and I’m back on my couch in a paralyzed frenzy, dealing with all the old feelings of frustration now coupled with the shame of having failed, of acknowledging a life chained to a pill, of never having been “normal” after all.

This is a space that I have been in at least four times since being diagnosed, and though I know that “normal” is a mirage, it doesn’t deter me from wanting to try again and again. I know that there is absolutely no shame in taking a medicine for my anxiety. It makes just as much sense as getting an allergy shot during allergy season. I know this in my heart, but I’d be lying if I said I never hunger to feel “normal” and not need my medicine. The pang lessens, but it never, ever goes completely away for me.

I moved to New York City in May 2014, and a month before that I decided it was time to try a life without medicine for the fifth time. My best friend, who knows my strength and stubbornness more than anyone else, myself included, sweetly told me that it was a horrible idea, but he’d support me however he could as I did this thing I felt like I had to do. The timing was horrendous. Shuffling through my stressors felt like running through the ocean against the tide. I wasn’t just preparing to leave my friends and family. I wasn’t just dealing with figuring out how to continue paying off my student loans while living in such an insanely expensive city. I was in mourning. I had lost two uncles on the same day a month before, and my mother and I were preparing to put my grandmother in a nursing home. I felt a tremendous load of guilt for leaving my mother after she had lost so much so quickly. I was in the middle of a storm that was definitely survivable with my medicine. To cast away my umbrella in the middle of it seemed and felt insane, but I was nearly powerless to decide otherwise.

I needed to know that I could do this on my own. Something that always worried me is pregnancy. If I ever do have the occasion to have children, I wouldn’t want to take an SSRI (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor) while pregnant or breast-feeding. I needed this pill to not be a crutch; if there was going to be a day that I’d be without it, I needed to know that I would be OK. But I also felt like I needed to control something in this space of death and unstoppable change, where seemingly everything was out of my hands. I don’t recommend doing it this way for lots of reasons, mostly medical. Stopping an SSRI cold turkey and without talking to a doctor isn’t the safest thing in the world, and you run the risk of withdrawal syndrome, which can include flulike symptoms, headache, and stomach problems.

Luckily, I was spared the worst of it. Though I could and should have been smarter about stopping my medicine, I don’t regret it, in spite of how tough it got.

But making the move without the medicine was, of course, very, very difficult. Aside from the predictable stresses of uprooting your entire life and moving 700 miles away from everyone you love, I also felt waves of very baseless anxiety. I avoided doing big, necessary things (like packing) until the very last minute (literally the day before my move) because they stressed me out and I didn’t have the energy to do them, mentally or physically.

I resorted to some of my unproductive manners of coping when things got particularly hard. I’m a notorious stress napper, and when I get very overwhelmed the only thing I want to do is go to sleep to escape the anxiety of it all. I’m also an emotional eater, and with so many feelings to eat I’m sure I flirted with high blood pressure. I was also back to craving solitude, which I recognized as an immediate red flag, a sign that I was barrelling toward calling the whole thing off.

When I got to New York and was officially settled in my new apartment, my anxiety definitely swelled, but it didn’t shut me down the way it did when I moved to Philadelphia or when I moved back to Louisville. Knowing what a life with less anxiety looks like, knowing that it is even possible at all, gave me incentive to stay as positive as I could (which was not always very positive) and push through. Still, most of my energy was tied up in not drowning. I’d go out with friends but often would have preferred to stay home, alone, and rest. Negative self-talk increased and presented a huge hurdle to loving my new city, one that I wasn’t sure I could clear (I lamented to my best friend that this city just isn’t for me, that I should have listened to my gut and stayed at home. “I hear you,” he said, gently, “…but it’s only the first day”). My biggest worries surrounded my job performance, which I felt was absolutely abysmal, and I spent more time than I’d like to admit fantasizing about all the terrible poetry I’d write when I finally got fired.

But through all this, I noticed some amazing things too: I didn’t call the whole thing off. When I felt myself wanting to be alone, I made it a point to call friends or visit my mother. I cried when I needed to, but when I felt like breaking down I took a moment to tell myself that it was just the anxiety; it wasn’t weakness or fear, just the hiccuping alarm section of my brain. I reminded myself that in the course of trying not to feel anxious, being anxious is not a failure. I rewarded myself for things that “normal” people would find laughable, like getting out of bed and not napping when I have things to do and going to the grocery store, because I vividly remember a time when things like that were a struggle, if they were possible at all.

When I got to New York, I managed to stay on my feet. I went out with friends because I needed to, even when I didn’t want to. I didn’t call out of work and hide under my bed. I didn’t beat myself up for feeling scared or worried. It was exhausting, but I pushed, and I pushed because taking that pill showed me that a life without crippling anxiety is possible, something that I genuinely never knew or believed before, and something that I deserved to have. In my craziest moments, I know that there is an opposite because I lived that opposite, and what I have done once, I can do again. I can be OK.

After moving to New York, I decided to go back to my medicine because choosing “OK” when “fucking awesome” is an option just didn’t make a lot of sense. It is the difference between unavoidable stress and needless suffering (something I learned about during my month as a Buddhist). Sure, I could stay in that ocean and spend all my energy running through water to get to where I need to be. Or I could hop out, shake myself dry, and walk. Or run. Or skip or cartwheel or walk on my hands or twerk or whatever. I didn’t feel like a failure for popping that bottle open again. I felt like a woman with options who chose not to settle for a life limited by an overactive section of her brain and opted instead to be the bright and shining addition to this world that she has the potential to be when not locked inside of herself. I began to see the difference immediately. With the help of a tiny white pill, I wake up in a better mood. I am calmer, more focused. I actively crave the company of others, and when I notice it, I let it wash over me, rolling around in the way it feels to live after years and years of simply being alive.

Without the medicine, I live a life of “I can’t do this, but I’m somehow doing it anyway.” With it, it’s more “this is sometimes difficult, but I got it.”





Read more: http://www.buzzfeed.com/tracyclayton/when-taking-anxiety-medication-is-a-revolutionary-act