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Kumail Nanjiani Shares Story Of Learning Of Wife Emily V. Gordon’s Illness

Posted: 11 Jan 2018 06:59 AM PST

Gordon and Nanjiani co-wrote The Big Sick, a movie about her chronic illness


If you’re familiar with the critically-acclaimed movie The Big Sick, then you probably know it’s based on the real-life relationship between actor and comedian Kumail Nanjiani and writer Emily V. Gordon — and Gordon’s struggle with a rare, life-threatening illness.

Nanjiani recently shared some emotional tweets about the experience, prompted by finding a memento of Gordon’s initial hospital stay. Go ahead and grab yourself a tissue, we’ll wait.

Nanjiani played the role of himself in The Big Sick, which documents the early days of his relationship with Gordon as she’s diagnosed with adult-onset Still's disease, an extremely rare form of arthritis that can shut down the body's vital organs and lead to death.

Anyone who’s experienced personal trauma can relate to this incredibly earnest, spot-on tweet. You’re trapped in your own bubble of god-awful grief and feel outraged by everyone who is seemingly very happily going about their life.

Ugh. So heartbreaking.

Just eight months into dating, Gordon became incredibly sick and was placed in a medically-induced coma. The Big Sick shows Nanjiani and Gordon’s parents as they struggle to cope with doctors, an unknown diagnosis, and cultural challenges between Nanjiani, who is Pakistani, and Gordon’s American family. At one point, Gordon’s organs began shutting down.

No one should feel shame about circumstances beyond their control, especially surrounding their health. The fact that Gordon shared her story in The Big Sick is so valuable to anyone struggling with illness themselves, or those struggling to understand and cope with a sick loved one.

Nanjiani’s Twitter thread seemed to resonate with many.

Nanjiani ended his thread with an important lesson, no doubt one we could all benefit from being reminded of in terms of chronic illness and the lives and families it touches.



Church Gives Pastor A Standing Ovation For Admitting He Assaulted A Minor

Posted: 11 Jan 2018 06:34 AM PST

Savage asked for forgiveness over what he called a ‘sexual incident’ involving then-minor Jules Woodson in 1998

This past Sunday, mega church Pastor Andy Savage stood in front of the congregation at Memphis’ Highpoint Church in Texas and admitted that when he was a 22-year-old adult in a position of power within the church, there was what he called a ‘sexual incident’ with Jules Woodson, who was 17 at the time. He asked the congregation, and Woodson, for forgiveness.

“As a college student on staff at a church in Texas more than 20 years ago, I regretfully had a sexual incident with a female high school senior in the church,” he said during the service. “I apologized and sought forgiveness from her, her parents, her discipleship group, the church staff, and the church leadership, who informed the congregation. … I took every step to respond in a biblical way.”

What did the audience do, upon hearing someone admit to being a sexual abuser? Rush the stage in an angry mob all Beauty and the Beast style and march Savage to the nearest police station? Nope.

Instead they applauded him. Like he just performed a fucking piano solo rather than confessed to a crime.

What Savage calls a ‘sexual incident’, Woodson calls an assault. She shared the details of what happened to her on the Watch Keep blog, along with a screen shot of an email she sent to Savage last month reminding him she hadn’t forgotten about that night. “#metoo” she signed off.

In her post, Woodson explains what happened that night. Savage was her church youth pastor, and had offered to give her a ride home from church. “As he was driving me towards my home, he passed the turn he should have made to go to my house. I asked him where he was going. I don’t remember his exact response, but it was something along the lines of 'you’ll see' or 'it’s a surprise.'” Woodson alleges Savage exposed himself and asked her for oral sex before fondling her bare breasts.

After a few minutes Savage got out of the truck and ran to her side. He got on his knees and said, “I’m so sorry. You can’t tell anyone Jules, please. You have to take this to the grave with you.”

In case you’re wondering just how repentant Savage is for his sexually predatorial ways, he never responded to Woodson’s email. Instead he chose to issue this public message in what seems to be a bid to save his reputation. (He can kiss his latest book goodbye though.)

“In hindsight, I see that more could have been done for Jules,” Savage said in his address. “I am truly sorry more was not done. Until now, I did not know there was unfinished business with Jules. So today, I say, ‘Jules, I am deeply sorry for my actions 20 years ago. I remain committed to cooperate with you toward forgiveness and healing. And I mean that.'”

You can use buzzwords like “sorry,” “forgiveness,” and “healing” all you want. But noting that he was in college, repeatedly pointing out how long ago the attack happened, and refusing to outright acknowledge it for the assault it was makes his words sounds like self-serving bullshit. Woodson agrees. She told CNN through a victim advocate that she found Savage’s ‘apology’ “disgusting.”

Woodson told Larry Cotton, who was the Associate Pastor of her church at the time, what happened. Rather than alert the authorities and have Savage held accountable for his actions, as he should have, Savage was quietly fired from his role in the church. Now he’s a successful man in a position of power at a massive church. Thanks to the statute of limitations in Texas, can’t be held legally accountable for his crimes. I feel sick just typing that sentence.

Even if it’s too late for Savage to face charges for what he did, Woodson told Action News 5 that she hopes telling her story will help spark change, particularly in church communities sexual assault victims may be pressured to stay silent.

“I want other victims of sexual abuse, especially within the church, to know that they’re not alone and to know that they have a voice,” Woodson said.

If anyone deserves applause, it’s her.

When Your Anxiety Makes You A Helicopter Parent

Posted: 10 Jan 2018 06:00 PM PST

I never wanted to be a helicopter parent.

In fact, if you were to ask Pregnant Me how I was gonna raise my children, I would’ve responded with some daydreamy, la-ti-da type anecdotes: my children would play barefoot outside and climb on trees. They’d wrestle in the grass with their siblings, and scrape their knees and drink from the water hose, just like I did growing up. They’d eat quick PB&J lunches and run back outside to hop on their bicycles for afternoon-long neighborhood adventures.

Pregnant Me didn’t know a whole lot about what kind of parent I was gonna be. But I knew for dang sure what I wasn’t going to be.

And that was a hoverer. A smother mother.

I always admired those parents who let their children run around like free range chickens. I still do. I pace around at the playground and watch as their children fearlessly swing across the monkey bars. While the Free Range Mamas are on the park bench laughing with their friends, I’m standing under my son as he makes his way across, bar by bar.

Those mamas never freak out at the sight of a little blood. They are comfortable in the fact that childhood carries with it an inevitable element of danger and risk. That danger doesn’t make them squirm. And maybe that’s the difference between us.

Those laid-back mamas are total badasses, in my book. I always believed I’d be one of them. I want to be one of them. But, I’m not.

The truth is I hover. All the time. If there was a level up from a helicopter mom, that’s probably what I would be.

If grandma wants to strap my children into their carseats, I’m there, chirping about chest clip placements, and following behind to test the tightness of the buckles. If my kids are on a playdate and the host serves up grapes, I’m the mom that swoops in to cut them down the middle. And heck, why not cut them twice. Just to be safe?

If my oldest son is playing with his baby sister, I’m there, barking over him in the playroom.

“Don’t be so rough! Don’t pull on her arm that way! Don’t climb on that toy — your sister could get hurt!”

I thought my children would be the kids swinging like monkeys from the playground equipment, but the truth is…I can’t handle the nerves. No, I’m not the free range mom. I’m “spotter mom,” always one lunge away to prevent any impending accidents.

It cracks my friends and family up, because they can’t believe me. How is it that the most laid back person in our family morphed into this neurotic monster mom whose four-year-old has to eat grapes in quarter (not just half) slices? Who is this woman following her kids around the playground like an ambulance-on-call?

“MK, calm down,” they laugh. “It’s a freaking jungle gym. Nobody’s gonna die.”

And I feel embarrassed. Ashamed, even. Believe me, I wish I could calm the heck down.

But I can’t.

When my firstborn entered the world, it felt like my brain woke up from a happy, little slumber. All of a sudden, a world that was once rainbows and butterflies became a scary, dangerous place that was out to get my children. Every car on the road, every over-plump grape was one more threat I needed to protect my baby from.

I realize how ridiculous that sounds, even as I type it. But I can’t change my brain chemistry. My parenting choices are rooted in very real, carnal fears. There is no turning off the biological triggers in my head.

And boy, have I tried.

But then I read a tragic article on Facebook about a toddler choking on a grape. Or I see news about how a child was forward facing in a car accident and died. Believe me, no amount of therapy or SSRIs will keep those headlines from reeling in the background of my mind. They replay themselves constantly, and validate my worst fears.

I am constantly on edge, trying to keep my children alive. So, I make choices that are different from other moms. And I know people think that’s ridiculous. I know they mock me for it.

But for heaven’s sake, it’s not like my children will be 18, eating sliced grapes.

Pregnant Me wanted so badly to be that laid-back mama, lounging on the park bench with her friends. But reality is, my anxiety has made that damn near impossible.

Some of us are naturally nervous mamas, and you know what? Our kids will be just fine.

So, please. Don’t mock my helicopter parenting. It’s anxiety that makes me hover.

I’m doing the best I can.

Here’s Why You Should Get The Flu Shot Even If It Doesn’t Stop You From Getting The Flu

Posted: 10 Jan 2018 06:00 PM PST

As you've probably heard by now, this is shaping up to be a really shitty flu season. According to NPR, flu is rampant in 46 states and is sickening people harder and earlier than usual. The H3N2 influenza A subtype is most prevalent this year, which NPR describes as a "particularly nasty" strain of the flu.

Fan-freaking-tastic. Excuse me while I go out and buy a bucket of hand sanitizer and wrap myself in a bubble until June.

If all that wasn't bad enough, it turns out that the flu shot isn't supposed to be very effective this year, with some experts warning that it may only have a 10% effectiveness rate (flu shots are usually 40-60% effective, according to The New England Journal of Medicine).

Dear God, that kind of information legit gives me a panic attack. I will admit that I may have a slight touch of hypochondria, but I think anyone who hears grim statistics like this might start to feel a bit on edge, especially when you think about just how sick the flu can make you, and how vulnerable our little ones are to the effects of it.

Unfortunately, some people hear statistics like these and decide that it's the perfect opportunity to point out how useless and ineffective the flu shot is. "See, this is why I never even bother to get one," they say.

Or, if they're of a particular mind-set, they use this as an opportunity to bash vaccinations in general, and explain why they are somehow much worse than the diseases they are meant to protect us from. (I'm not even going to address these claims at this point. Vaccinations are effective and important. Science backs this up. Case closed).

But here's what any flu shot skeptics need to understand: Not only do flu shots minimize your chances of catching the flu (and even 10% is better than nothing), it also can reduce the severity of your symptoms if you end up getting the flu.

And this is a very big deal indeed. Let me explain.

It's true that the flu isn't always a death sentence for people who catch it. Most people just end up with an awful week or so of being laid up in bed and feeling like they have been run over by a car (I had it a few years ago, and that is exactly how it felt).

But for certain populations—particularly children, people with health conditions, and the elderly—the flu can lead to hospitalizations, and even death. Each year, it's estimated that 36,000 people die from the flu (or complications from it), and 200,000 are hospitalized because of it.

And that's where the extra protection of flu shot comes in. A 2017 study in Clinical Infectious Diseases (CID) found that among people who were vaccinated against the flu but caught it anyway, their chances of hospitalization and death were significantly reduced.

As the CDC explains in their synopsis of the study results: "[F]lu vaccination reduced deaths, intensive care unit (ICU) admissions, ICU length of stay, and overall duration of hospitalization among hospitalized flu patients. This study is an important first step in better understanding whether flu vaccines can reduce severe flu outcomes even if they fail to protect against infection."

The study found that adults who had been vaccinated were 52-79% less likely to die of the flu even if they caught it. Or, to put it another way, an unvaccinated adult was 2 to 5 times more likely to die of the flu than a vaccinated adult.

Clearly, the flu isn't something any of us should take a chance with, and it's great news that the flu shot can give us that extra protection should we catch the flu.

This particular study just looked at adults. But similar results were found in children. An April 2017 study published in Pediatrics found that the flu shot significantly reduced a child's likelihood of dying from the flu.

"Influenza vaccination was associated with reduced risk of laboratory-confirmed influenza-associated pediatric death," wrote the study’s authors. "Increasing influenza vaccination could prevent influenza-associated deaths among children and adolescents."

BAM. If that doesn't make you vaccinate your children every single year, I don't know what will.

Of course, besides getting vaccinated, we all just need to take proper precautions against the flu. Wash your freaking hands. Eat well and exercise to strengthen your body and immune system. And PLEASE, stay the home if you are sick. And most seriously: stay the hell away from babies and the elderly.

I think we can all agree that it would be much better if the flu shot were more effective. The good news is that scientists and doctors agree with you, and are working their tails off to improve the shot and ward off a flu epidemic. Let's keep our fingers and toes crossed that this happens sooner rather than later.

But meanwhile, we need to take what we can get. And even during years that flu shots don't afford 100% protection against getting the flu, they do greatly reduce the likelihood of anything awful happening to you or our loved ones should you catch the dreaded flu.

So, get the damn shot. And make sure your kids and their grandparents get it too.

If You Want To Raise Kids Who Can Manage Their Emotions Well, Start With Your Own

Posted: 10 Jan 2018 06:00 PM PST

A few years ago, our family went through a very rough patch. My husband was experiencing sky-high stress from work; I was dealing with some prickly boundary issues with my parents, as well as work stresses of my own; and one of my sons was having trouble falling asleep, experiencing frequent nightmares, and expressing some troubled thoughts to me.

As I type these words out now, I see how this was all probably related—our home was filled with our collective stresses, which probably made everyone all the more tense and unhappy. But at the time, I saw them all as isolated problems, especially my son's stress and anxiety.

Eventually, my husband and I each individually entered therapy, and my husband started taking medication for his anxiety. We each began to feel better and were better able to manage our stress and anxiety. And miraculously, it seemed, our son started sleeping better, and seemed generally more even-keeled and happy.

The funny thing is, it took me over a year to make the connection between my husband and my own stress and anxiety and how they must have rubbed off on my son. At the time that my son's anxiety was sky high, I was trying all kinds of methods to help him feel better, including a kids' meditation app, extra one-on-one time, positive reinforcement, and lots of extra cuddles.

And while those were useful things to try—and definitely helped—the thing that needed to change the most was us, his parents.

You know that saying about how you can't pour from an empty cup? It's basically "Self-Care 101" and probably applies to the parenting arena more than anywhere else. When your children are young (and even when they are older) you are their whole world. You set the precedent, the mood, the energy. And they pick up on every. little. thing. They truly do: the emotions you bring into your home become their emotions too.

You can read every parenting book out there, and try every method available, but none of it will work if the person who is carrying it out (that would be you!) is coming from a place of anger, stress, or hopelessness. You can say the best words, and do the "right" things for your kids, but if you are a hot mess, your kids will pick up on that, and even the best methods will be less effective.

Now, I say none of this to blame parents who are struggling. Life is hard; parenting is hard, and really, we are all just trying our best. So much of life is out of our control, and sometimes bad shit happens to even the most well-intentioned people. Stress is going to be there sometimes, but it's when things spiral out of control—when you no longer are able to manage your stress and anxiety—that it can become a problem.

And when those feelings of raw, unmanageable anxiety, depression, or desperation take over our lives, it can have a strong impact on our kids, whether we like it or not.

Your children may not be able to voice what they are picking up from you, but it will affect them, and you will see it exhibited in their behavior, lack of compliance, or inability to get out of their own "funks" (yes, even the youngest kids can sink into periods of anxiety and depression, and we need to be aware of that).

Of course, kids sometimes have rough patches unrelated to what is happening with you or your partner. Certainly tough things can happen in their school environments, among friends, or elsewhere. And definitely developmental changes that happen within them that can wreak havoc on their moods and behaviors at times (i.e., those glorious god-awful toddler and teens years).

But I think it's really easy for us parents to forget that if we want happy, balanced kids who can manage their big feelings, we need to be able to do the same for ourselves. We need to model that for them: there's really no way to avoid this fact. We need to take our mental health as seriously as we take our physical health, our financial well-being, and everything else. We need to do this for us—and for our kids.

Sometimes, we need to seek mental health services for our children too (a good child psychologist is worth their weight in gold) because parenting isn't as simple as "change this one thing and all will magically be fixed for your kid." Helping our kids feel well and thrive is definitely a multi-faced task. But I think we also tend to forget how much of an impact our own emotional state can have on our children.

The good news is that while children are more vulnerable than we realize, they are also more resilient too. Even if you have been through a rough few months or years with your children (again, sometimes these things are out of our control, and we need to give each other as much grace in these matters as possible), there is always a way to remedy it.

Children don't need perfect parents. They need parents who care. Parents who will stand beside them whatever storms come their way. Parents who make an effort to make things better. Parents who apologize and take responsibility for their actions. Parents who work on themselves so that they can be better parents to their kids.

All of these things matter—they matter more than you know. So show up. Do your best. And recognize that your mental health as a parent really needs to be a priority, and that working toward more balance and emotional regulation in your own life will have a positive—and often enormous—impact on the well-being of your own children.

The 5 Types Of Friends I Need As A Parent Of Kids With Special Needs

Posted: 10 Jan 2018 06:00 PM PST

As a family with complex needs, we are frequently asked, "How can I help?"

This is a great question, but when I'm asked, it's rare that my needs are met. It's not because the asker has empty intentions, and it's not because the needs are unattainable. It's because some needs are time-sensitive, or because I don't really know how you can help, you do.

What I can do is share the five types of friends I need as I parent to kids with special needs:

1. The "Person"

Perhaps some of you have watched Grey's Anatomy, so you know about the close, transparent and unique friendship between Meredith and Christina. We all need a person who will come when we call,  no questions asked. Maybe we need help getting to urgent care, or who knows what else we need our "person" for. Volunteer at your own risk.

2. The Runner

Nope, I don't mean a jogging partner (unless it's horizontal running). We need help with errands. Walmart grocery pick-up is a life saver! Having a runner is also a life saver when our doctor calls in a prescription but we are sleep-deprived zombies and cannot get there on our own.

Runners are the real MVP, if I'm being honest. You mean, I don't have to put on pants and get my three small children out of the house? You're my new best friend.

3. The Enabler

I know what I'm doing when I ask for a frozen pizza. We both know I need to be eating clean to improve my health, but when I call you and tell you I have a pint of ice cream to share with you, don't ask questions, unless you need to know what movie to bring.

4. The Babysitter

Two of my three children have unique needs, so caring for them while I'm away is a hit and miss experience. One child has sensory issues which lead to listening issues, which lead to discipline issues. My other child has an expressive language disorder — apraxia. Sometimes, she doesn't open her mouth while she's busy talking. Our primary form of communication is ASL, or guessing. What does this mean? This means you may need to learn a little about autism spectrum disorder and how that looks in my oldest, talkative, brilliant kiddo. It means you may need to learn ASL. It means my kids will build trust with you, and you may see our ugly side… but man, do we need someone like you.

5. The Constant

For me, it's my husband. For others it's a wife, a significant other, a parent, a friend. We need you, and we need to give and receive love with you. Notice, I did not just say we need to be loved? We sometimes find ourselves incredibly weighed down by our circumstances which can lead to loneliness or depression. You are a light in the darkness. A constant.

Before I paint you as a martyr or saint, please know this role does not include a pedestal. We just want to feel alive. So let's do life together. Let's do mundane things together. Tell me what you need and let's talk about how to achieve it. Let's both create goals and do the nitty gritty of plotting out action steps, together. My chronic health issues, due to dysautonomia, may always be a factor, but where there's a will (and a good support system) there's a way.

Friends, you are needed. If you don't see yourself as one of these friends, maybe we can brainstorm a little and I can update my list later on. The world isn't what it used to be, where we easily intersected with our village, organically. With inventions like social media, I can (and do) have a close friend on the other side of the world. With a little creativity, anyone can get involved.

My potential village is vast. I may not share every single detail of my journey, but I know you are listening. Do you want to help? Pick a job, this is going to be fun!

Please Mind Your Own Business About My Child’s Pacifier

Posted: 10 Jan 2018 06:00 PM PST

Every time we go out somewhere with family and a cell phone gets pointed in my child’s direction, I know what’s coming next. Sometimes I try to decide beforehand if I’m going to make a big deal about it or not, but most of the time, I end up making the decision in the moment. Someone reaches for my child’s pacifier and yanks it out of his mouth as if he’s sucking on poison — all so they can capture the perfect picture.

“You don’t need that silly thing!”

“You’re told old for that!”

“Give me that!”

No matter how they choose to say it, it all sounds the same to me: “Why does your mother still let you suck on a pacifier if you’re not a baby anymore?”

But at what point does a child stop needing a pacifier? If we are going to say it’s only okay for babies, then let’s start stealing them and hiding them right before they start walking. Or is a child only a baby for as along as he or she is breastfeeding? Because in that case, there are a few kindergarteners who still breastfeed that might get to keep their pacifier license.

As a child, I used to twirl my hair when I was nervous. I didn’t pick fights with kids in my class or throw tantrums or distract others with silliness. I kept to myself and no one was harmed by the hair being wrapped compuslively around my small fingers. But many times, teachers, friends of the family, and even other students would slap my hand and tell me to stop. They said it drove them “crazy.” Well, that’s not my problem.

But I stopped anyway, and as I grew older, I eventually told people to leave me alone. Their nail biting or habitual tapping might bother me, but that didn’t give me a right to attack them. My little boy is not old enough to tell others to leave him alone though. All I see is a scared and intimidated child looking back at the adult that stole his sense of security during family events or at barber shop and stores. Then, occasionally, he looks over to me with a glance that’s begging me to help. Torn between being a mother who’s judged versus a mother who’s defending her child, I sometimes do nothing and silently wait for the moment to be over.

What bothers me the most though is not how people can so nonchalantly try to impose their opinions on the way I raise my child, but rather how easily someone can approach him and forcefully take away something that calms him. I’m not coming over to relatives’ homes every weekend to empty the alcohol in their liquor cabinet, snatch their spoons away in restaurants as they eat their sugar-filled dessert, or flick cigarettes out of their hand when they step outside for a smoke. I know my place, and it’s not right to dictate what someone chooses to do with their life.

People try to convince me to get rid of my son’s pacifier by rattling off stories of kids that had speech problems or messed up gums, but I certainly don’t talk about how my grandmother died of lung cancer everytime someone lights up or highlight the rising rate of obesity when someone opts for their second slice of double chocolate cake. When someone brags about their late night out, I don’t scold them for depriving themselves of essential sleep or yell at them for their daily caffeine intake. I cannot listen to people chastise me for not taking away my son’s pacifier if they consistently make bad decisions for their own life… but I will respect their right to make those decisions, because it’s their business and not mine.

As for my child, maybe he will have to go to the dentist a few extra times to get his teeth and gums checked if he keeps his pacifier for another year, but that’s preferable over having to schedule the regular therapy appointments he will need if I take away the only thing that settles his nerves when he has a new babysitter, has to travel on a plane, or is scared of something.

Kids don’t have the luxury of a million words at their disposal to tell us when someone’s look makes them uncomfortable, when an unknown environment terrifies them, or when they’re embarrassed by something (small or big), so I have to trust that my child is alleviating his own stress by sucking on plastic for a few minutes a day. I constantly hug my child and talk to him and listen to him when he does have the ability to share something, even if it’s only with a look or his body language. Everyone else’s war on my child and his pacifier revolves around their own personal take on the situation, without taking my son’s needs into account. Whereas for me it’s about the notion that his emotional health is more valuable to me than his dental health.

The people who think I’m awful and should hide it or let him cry it out for days for the sake of his dental health can pipe down and look at their own lives. How many things do they rely on to calm them that do more harm than good? Even if I mess up my kid’s teeth, he can get them repaired. I don’t think you can buy yourself a new heart, liver, eyeballs, set of lungs when you indulge in all the things adults these days turn to for comfort (fast food, drugs, caffeine, alcohol, TV, cigarettes, etc.).

But that’s just me and my opinion. I don’t expect to change anyone’s mind, and I’m not trying to justify my choices as a parent because I don’t owe anyone an explanation. All I’m asking is for a little less hypocrisy, or at the very least some respect for the fact that I’ve made a decision and it’s no one else’s place to try to override it.

I Hated High School, But This Is Why I Feel Compelled To Go To My Reunion

Posted: 10 Jan 2018 06:00 PM PST

Ever heard of F.O.C.K.?

No? That's because I coined the term. At least I think I did because it didn't pop up when I Googled it.

F.O.C.K., or Fear of Cool Kids: A condition one may acquire during childhood when he/she feels inferior to the cool kids at school. Symptoms of F.O.C.K. generally manifest when insecure kids are in the presence of cool kids. Behavior may include: stumbling over one's words, inability to communicate coherently, and behaving ridiculously to compensate for one's own coolness deficiency. Though F.O.C.K. typically emerges during the late-elementary or middle school years, it generally peaks in high school and slowly dissipates as one enters adulthood.

You're probably thinking I'm about to describe how my teenage son or tween daughter came down with F.O.C.K. and I, in a brilliant display of superior parenting, helped them overcome it. Nope, 'tis I who suffers from a lingering case of F.O.C.K.

If memory serves me correctly, junior high was when I developed an intense case of F.O.C.K., but high school is when my F.O.C.K. fully flourished. I won't rehash all the details, but it's safe to say, my F.O.C.K. was the only part of me that peaked in high school.

Back then, I was baffled by the cool kids. How did they walk down the hall, seemingly occupying more space than the rest of us, with such confidence? How could they be having so much fun every single second of every single day? How did they effortlessly hang out on the weekends doing very cool things that I would never be able to pull off? The cool kids intimidated the crap out of me and my F.O.C.K. would flare up within 10 feet of them.

As high school drew to a close, so did my acute case of F.O.C.K. I went on to college and became friends with people who would have been F.O.C.K.-worthy in high school. Although my F.O.C.K. would resurface occasionally, I was mostly able to shed the condition post-college.

Ten years after high school graduation, with my F.O.C.K. firmly behind me, I decided to go to my reunion. I was a happily married woman with a career and my first baby on the way. Since consuming large quantities of alcohol is frowned upon during pregnancy, I found myself stone-cold sober among a sea of wasted classmates. Perhaps it was the lack of booze that resurrected my full-blown case of F.O.C.K.
I don't know if it was the absence of a Fuzzy Navel, or just seeing so many mean girls in one place, but the instant I walked into the private party room of that bar, I was catapulted back in time. As the music throbbed, so did my heart. In one corner, all the cool kids were gathered, in another was the guy who relentlessly bullied me in high school. I headed straight for the bathroom.

Behind the swinging bathroom door stood a few women who looked vaguely familiar. I smiled, said hello, and then listened to their conversation behind the safety of the stall door. One of the woman was recounting a recent drug and sex-filled wild night. I recognized the speaker's voice. It belonged to the girl in high school who made fun of me in social studies during freshman year. She was notorious for cutting class and getting kicked out of school for who-knows-what. For someone with F.O.C.K, this was a double whammy — she was both cool and legit scary!

I emerged from the stall and headed toward the bank of sinks the cool/scary posse had congregated around. They all looked at me, knew I was clearly trying to get by to wash my hands, and continued to obstruct all the sinks. I swear I'm not making this up. They intentionally blocked a pregnant lady from washing her hands. I stood there paralyzed by my F.O.C.K., unable to utter the words, excuse me. Eventually, I squeezed my way to a sink and then bolted out the door.

I recovered from the terrifying gang of sink-blockers in time to hear one of the cool kids giving the welcome speech. "Great to see everyone! The last time we were all together on a Saturday night, we were probably being chased by the cops!"

The room erupted with laughter. Hmm… I must have been babysitting or going out for a wild night of spicy Chinese food while the cool kids evaded the police.

Due to my unexpected F.O.C.K. flare at my 10-year reunion, I took a pass on my 20th reunion.

The invite to my 25th high school reunion recently popped up on my Facebook feed.

So here I am, a F.O.C.K. survivor in remission, contemplating attending my 25-year high school reunion.

The baby I was pregnant with 15 years ago is now a freshman himself in high school. How can I tell him and his sister that popularity doesn't matter? How can I tell my own kids not to let fear hold them back, or worry what other people think? How can I guide them through their adolescent angst when I still can't face my own?

As a mother, am I not obligated to model positive social behavior and go to my reunion? Who am I kidding? My kids couldn't care less if I go. This is about me, not them. The truth is, I had friends in high school who I would genuinely like to see, and I'm not going to allow fear to stand in my way. Twenty-five years later, does it really matter who was cool in high school? It's such an arbitrary and abstract term anyway.

In my high school, the athletes and cheerleaders generally were the definition of cool. What constitutes cool adults a few decades later? Some might say the car we drive, the vacations we take, or the balance in our bank account. Others would argue it's who has the fewest gray hairs, wrinkles, or cellulite. I beg to differ. I think if you've overcome hardships, conquered fears, and feel content, or even happy most of the time, that should place you firmly in the cool crowd. By my own definition, I'll be considered a pretty cool chick at my upcoming reunion.

So, 25 years later, I'm finally going to tell my F.O.C.K. to fuck off! Look at me — I'm so cool now I casually drop an F-Bomb.