Suicide Prevention Awareness Month – Alyssa

I am very excited to share a piece today written by my friend, Alyssa. Alyssa is someone I have known for years, yet have never been all that close with. We were in the same sorority in college, but a couple pledge classes apart. 

The reason I mention this though, is twofold. For one, it helps to prove my point that you really never know what someone is struggling with at any given time. And two, I just want to say that I was taken aback by Alyssa’s genuine willingness to share. Talking about suicide and suicidal thoughts is terrifying. Sharing something so intimate can make you feel completely exposed and beyond vulnerable. Somehow, Alyssa was able to put that fear aside and contribute to this project anyway. She shared some of her most intimate feelings and experiences for me, someone she has never been extremely close with, and even more so than that, for all of you reading.

As you will soon see, Alyssa is still in the midst of her recovery process. Having said that, she has still found a way to explain her mental health journey, and how it ties into this month’s theme of Suicide Prevention Awareness, in hopes that her words will positively impact someone else.

I may have said this in the past, but I cannot stress enough how meaningful that is. Being able to put words to some of your demons is hard enough. Sharing those words with the world is even more difficult. Like those who have shared before her, Alyssa is one of the few people that has found a way to break her silence in hopes of breaking the stigma.  

Without further ado, check out her piece here:

Suicide and depression are complex and are so unspoken that it becomes difficult to find the words to express the darkness. It is hard for me to understand the effects these diagnoses have on my brain, let alone on my life.

For many years, I was able to keep these things hidden. I struggled constantly and knew I wasn’t like everyone else. Something was wrong with me. I grew up thinking I was a defective version of a human, flawed beyond fixing. I lived my whole life constantly criticizing myself and convincing myself I was not enough. If you can’t imagine, this becomes extremely exhausting. A daily battle with yourself, filled with negative thoughts and feelings of shame and guilt. Feeling guilty for just being alive. I lived basically my entire life inside of my head, never taking a breath of fresh air or stopping to enjoy what was around.

Having depression and suicidal thoughts is like walking through darkness with your eyes closed. Everything just seems pointless and confusing.

For years, I convinced myself that I could beat the flood of negative thoughts by myself. By the time I turned 21 though, I knew it was a serious problem that I could not solve alone. Around this same time, I was also still battling my eating disorder – a very physically harmful component of my anxiety. I was sick, but I was able to realize how unhealthy these habits were really becoming.

I panic every time I think about the effects that 8 years of an eating disorder had on me. It ripped my life right out of my hands and forced me to think I did not deserve anything. I was not worth love or life. Suicidal thoughts were not foreign to me. They had been very present in my head ever since high school. 

One day, as I sat on my couch wanting to die, I was scrolling through my phone when I came across #projectsemicolon. I immediately thought to myself that I needed this tattoo. As an impulsive person (probably not much help from my anxiety/depression), I was on the way to the tattoo parlor in under 10 minutes. For those of you that have not heard of Project Semicolon, I highly recommend looking it up, it is beautiful.

This tattoo gave my life a little bit of purpose. It was exactly what I needed. I promised myself that after I got the tattoo, I would confess to my mom that I needed help. She had been in the dark just like everyone else in my life. Keeping all of these things hidden became too easy, and that is a scary thought. I was struggling more than ever and I was not okay. I wrote my mom a note explaining everything, put it in my nightstand at home, and left it there for “the right time.” (Now my only wish is that I would have asked for help sooner).

Finding mental health services alone seemed impossible, but telling my family about my anxiety and depression was the last thing I wanted to do. I did not want anyone else to feel the way I felt, and for some reason, I thought it was something they would take personally.

Since then, it has been two years and a rough road to recovery. There have been days where I wanted to give up, but my support system has kept me going. I would be lying if I said that recovery is smooth, because there have been times of relapse and obstacles. I have spent months crying and not feeling like myself. I surrounded myself with people who bring love into my life and helped me see positivity. My friends and my family are the reason I am alive today to share my story. I am forever thankful for all that they have done.

Along the way to recovery (where I still am today), I have endured a lot of self-discovery, both good and bad, but all of it makes me a stronger person in the end. I am thankful for yoga, coping skills and ALL of the mental health services. Two years later, and I have no shame seeing my therapist weekly or taking medications to help my brain reach a healthy place – both things that seem to have a negative connotation. There are still days that seem never-ending and way too difficult, but the main thing recovery has taught me is to enjoy the little things. I have learned to celebrate all of my minor accomplishments (and some days they may be smaller than others.)

On my journey to recovery, I have found my passion, which gives me purpose. Something I lacked my entire life, until now. My preschoolers bring a special kind of light into my life and filled a hole I did not even know I had. They make me feel happiness – a feeling I had long forgotten.

Some days, my accomplishment is just making it through the day with minimal tears. It’s the little things that make life worth it. To this day, I still struggle wrapping my head around all of this, because it’s something I’m still battling. But for now, I have started to see the beauty in the world. Throughout this process, I have learned that I am worth love from myself and from others. I will continue to take life day by day, minute by minute, because at the end of the day- All we have is now.

I honor the place in you where the entire universe resides. You are enough. You matter. The world is a better place because YOU are in it.

Learn more about Project Semicolon here: https://projectsemicolon.com/

 

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month – Chris Gethard

I want to share something a bit different for today’s post.

Earlier this year, a couple of friends and I went to see an off-broadway show called Chris Gethard: Career Suicide. A monologue-style comedy show hosted by Chris Gethard at a small venue on Bleeker Street downtown.

In the past, I knew a bit about Chris Gethard from his podcast, Beautiful/Anonymous and his appearances in the Comedy Central show, Broad City. From these small insights into his work and personality, I quickly realized how much I appreciated the way in which he combined humor with depression. His willingness to be open and vulnerable, yet simultaneously hilarious, captivated me.

Having said that, I didn’t have the slightest idea what to expect when it came to Career Suicide, but the minute I heard about it, I knew I had to go.

As you may have guessed by the title, the show basically outlines Gethard’s battles with depression and suicide attempts, coupled with the different types of help he’s sought along the way, all while making the audience laugh hysterically. From insights into his lowest points (i.e. the time a truck drifted into his lane and he considered letting it hit him), to the unconventional relationship he has with his therapist, Barb, to the ways music (and by that I mean Morrissey) plays into his emotions, he finds a way to make you feel like you lived it all with him.

In many respects, this kind of concept is nothing new, right? Many of the best comedians derive portions of their material from painful experiences throughout their lives. But to me, this show was something different – it was more than just a comedy act. While still funny, it was vulnerable and heartfelt and meaningful in ways other shows (at least that I have seen) have never been.

For me, as someone that has struggled with many of the same feelings and experiences as Gethard, this show was beyond cathartic for me. It allowed me to laugh at his experiences, and in turn, laugh at (and cope with) my own.

Having said that, I also believe you can really appreciate Career Suicide, even if you cannot directly relate to the content at hand. That’s why I felt so inclined to share it today.

On the surface, it is a hilarious, emotion-filled monologue about a talented actor/comedian/writer (side note: it’s produced by Judd Apatow so liiiiike you know it’s good). At its core, it’s even more than that. It is one of the many stories that needs to be shared. It is a voice to feelings that are all too real and all too valid. By creating, consuming, and promoting content like this, we are slowly reducing the stigma surrounding mental health in general.

Chris Gethard: Career Suicide, although originally a live show, has been filmed and is available in its entirety on HBO. I highly suggest watching. If you don’t have a login, I literally would contemplate sharing my own with you,  just so you can see it.

Check out the trailer below to get a glimpse into what I’m talking about:

Are You All Really Happy and Successful, Tho? IDGI

I’ve been seeing a lot of blog posts recently written by young people in the corporate world. I don’t know if I’m somehow subconsciously attracting articles like this or what, but posts by ~20-somethings in big cities looking for jobs~ are basically consistently begging me to view them these days.

A reoccurring theme I’ve noticed in all of these posts is that all of these people seem so hopeful??? The all seem fairly confident that they will find careers they want? They also all seem financially stable? Even though a lot of the people behind these posts are either currently unemployed or currently interning.

I finish reading these posts with the same frustrated feeling every time. First of all, I really thought I had the mindset of the majority on this? I thought that that’s why we all share those memes about how miserable it is to be a millennial? Did I miss the memo? I don’t know if it’s just me and my complete inability to “fake it”, or if it’s a little bit of that grass-is-always-greener effect happening, but you aren’t all actually happy, are you?

I’m not writing to pick people apart or to call some bloggers out on their shit. Quite the opposite actually. To me, blogging has always been about honesty. That was the entire intent of this blog from the start. I wanted to share my genuine experiences and opinions with the world to remind myself and others that no one is ever alone.

So like…..can we all agree that the working world in your 20’s (and even after) is scary AF? Yes, granted, I work in the Media Industry. And yes, ideally I would like to pursue a creative position in my future (ha ha haaaaaaaaaaaa). So that does play a part in my opinions on all of this. My college professors used to tell us weekly that the Media Industry was a “‘no’ business”. They would remind us daily that we will hear a hundred “no”s before a single “yes”. So yeah, maybe I hit the ground with some preconceived notions and a negative attitude, but I sure as hell am not alone.

I don’t think the struggles of finding a job in your 20s change that drastically from industry to industry either. Like, if we’re being honest with ourselves, can we admit that a good amount of a college graduate’s initial success on the job hunt is directly correlated to the connections they have off the bat?

Every. Single. Position. I had prior to my current job was because of a connection I had. When I was moving from DC to NYC, I applied to hundreds and hundreds of jobs over the course of 4-6 months until I landed an interview with the company I am at now.

My point in this is, it’s not unusual to feel discouraged and unwanted while trying to find your corporate niche. I don’t know if some people are just better at grinning and bearing it, but I personally think it’s extremely easy to feel lost and hopeless as a 20-something working professional, even with a job.

I literally wonder DAILY if I made the right decision by graduating college with a Media Arts degree. I have an internal battle with myself constantly over whether I should continue to choose a career path for the money, or attempt to look for something that I can put my passions into. I’m constantly terrified that I’m not making enough money to sustain my lifestyle, and I’m even more scared that a passion-driven position would make that problem worse.

When people tell you that you should follow your dreams and do what you love, they’re completely right, but they often forget to remind you that it going to be hard AF too. I love that our parent’s generation, for the most part, seems to have instilled the idea in all of us that happiness should come before money. What I don’t think anyone talks about though, is the fact that it’s almost impossible to measure and quantify “happiness”. In my opinion, this leaves our generation constantly wondering if we’re doing the right things, making the right decisions, and finding the “happiness” we’ve been working towards all this time.

This is basically the biggest ~first world problems~ post on the planet right now, and I get that. Especially given the recent horrific events in our country (and the world, i.e. Barcelona today), but it’s been on my mind for so long now. Plus, I just cannot even begin to articulate my feelings on all of those recent events – that’s for an entirely separate post.

It’s just so easy to feel lost in a world filled with so many talented people. I think we all deserve a little reminder that we’re still of worth, even though things aren’t always going to come easy.

New Camera Vibes

Back in April I finally splurged (cough cough thanks mom) and got myself a new camera. I spent literally months researching and obsessing over a few different options before I figured out exactly which one I wanted to buy. I’ve always been accustom to Canon cameras. They’re what I grew up using, and I trust them, so my first instinct was to stick with that brand.

I was actually in the process of purchasing a Canon when I came across my new baby, the Sony A6500. I was hooked from the minute I saw it. It’s tiny but powerful beyond words. Not to mention the fact that its a mirrorless.

For the past few months I’ve been learning on it, vlogging with it, and treating it like my new bebe child.

In college I used to make these little, very amateur but fun, collage highlight reels of each semester. When I got this camera, I figured, what better way to learn on it than to create similar videos of my time in NYC? That’s how this project was born.

Basically for the entire weekend, this has been my view:

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*plz note the stray bobby pin in the bottom right*

Aside for the random white betch moments… cue picture here:

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…I’ve been editing nonstop. Which meeeeeans, I’m very close to being able to introduce my month by month New York City vlogs! (side note: plz take the word “vlog” very loosely)

I’ll be sharing the videos here, as well as on Youtube, Vimeo and all of my other social media. Keep an eye out!

x

Pride Month: Bia

Today’s post is about a very talented friend of mine, Bia Jurema.

In case you missed it, earlier this week LA-based artist, Somme‘s debut music video made the front page of NYLON. Why is this cool? Well for starters, Bia was the cinematographer and editor on the project. What makes this doubly important (read powerful, significant, relevant AF) though, is that Bia was part of an all queer and female-driven crew. With the help of the team including Lindsey Byrnes, Sam Atkins, and Sam Byrnes-Mandelbaum, this project came to life (and made headlines in the process).

NYLON describes the video as “not your typical LGBTQ love story”, but to be quite honest, I don’t even think that does the video justice. It is so much more than that. The first time I watched it I literally had chills. To say Bia’s work is professional is an understatement – it’s captivating. Her artistry, coupled with Somme’s talent and the efforts of the skilled team make this piece, without a doubt, one worth watching. Check it out below:

Even before this video was released, I knew I wanted Bia to be a part of my blog this month. Bia and I grew up in the same hometown. With our constantly overlapping social circles and her beyond-outgoing personality, it’s no surprise that we were friends as teenagers. Having said that though, I think the coolest (how many times will I use the word “cool” in this post?) part about knowing Bia is seeing the person she has grown into these past few years. Although we literally live on opposite sides of the country, and talk rarely, it is hard not to notice the person Bia has become. From the bad-ass, brilliant people she surrounds herself with, to the influential projects she is a part of, it seems like Bia is doing it all. Not to mention the fact that uh, she’s gay and owning it.

As I told her, there is a reason why I saved Bia’s post for last. For starters, this video an amazing example of LGBTQ-driven content (and why we need so much more of it!!!!). But also, I knew Bia would have some meaningful words to share that I think will help to bring these posts this month full circle.

Without further ado, check out Bia’s interview about her life, her work, and some advice she has for anyone reading:

1. First of all, tell us a little bit about yourself. Who are you?
Sure! My name is Bia Jurema – I was born in Brazil, South America where I spent the early part of my childhood. I moved to America when I was eight years old. I now reside in Los Angeles, California working as a filmmaker/photographer – I direct, shoot, and edit narrative, documentary, commercial, and branded videos.

2. I think I know you well enough to answer this question, but for those of you who don’t, what made you interested in film and photography? Why is that the career path you chose to pursue?
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been terrified of having a “normal” job. In my opinion, art is the greatest vessel for us to demonstrate our potential as conscious, emotional, flawed beings. That consciousness inside of each of us is a very precious thing to me – I’m weary of wasting it. So, film/photo always felt like the best way of, quite literally, capturing that.

3. Speaking of, can you tell me a little about the video attached?
Certainly! My friend Somme is an incredible artist. One night we were cruising in the car and she played me her single off of her new EP – I immediately vibed to it. She asked if I wanted to shoot and edit her music video and I jumped at the opportunity.

As two gay women, we knew we wanted it to be queer. Her cousin, Lindsey Byrnes, is an incredible, accomplished photographer who wanted to direct the music video. She also happened to know a professional ballet dancer, Sam Akins, who would make for a perfect cameo. Suddenly we had ourselves a queer ensemble and got right to work.

You can read a little more about Lindsey’s intentions as the director in this cool write-up NYLON did for the premiere.

4. What does working on a project made by all queer people mean to you?
It means so much to me. I grew up knowing like two gay people, so my coming out process was definitely slow and awkward. I had little to no examples of what it meant to be gay and thriving. This was
pre-Netflix era, so there wasn’t much queer television representation either. Fast forward to 2017: I’m fully out, living in Los Angeles, my inner circles are mostly comprised of queer people, and I get to make art with them? To me, this is the definition of a dream come true.

5. Can you tell us a little bit about what it means, in your opinion, to be a part of the LGBTQ+ community?
It’s like when you’re young and start figuring out that your eyesight may not work like everyone else’s. Things are a bit blurry, but you wouldn’t know better since this is how you’re used to seeing the world. But, then your mom takes you to get your first pair of glasses, and she slowly slides them over your face and suddenly the whole world is new. Everything is clear. And then you wonder how you ever got by before this. That’s what it means to me.

6. Do you want to share a little insight into your coming out experience?
Like I mentioned, it was slow and awkward. I was your quintessential tomboy growing up, until I got to the age where I realized, ‘Oh, I’m a girl. I’m not supposed to look and behave like this.’ I feel sad that our world so strictly assigns colors, interests, fashion, and god damn personality traits (!!!!) to a gender. It’s heartbreaking that I felt like I had to “fix” myself to appease a set of standards I did not sign up for.

I finally came to terms with my sexuality a couple of years ago. I fell in love with a girl in college who I’m still dating now – it’s been 3 years. Her name is Kate and she’s pretty great. OK, weird that rhymes. Anyways, I slowly told a couple of people about Kate and I, but our relationship was definitely still a secret. I was interning in New York City a couple summers ago when I called my mom and told her via a drunken phone call. After that hurdle, we sat down and told all of our good friends, who then helped us spread the news organically. Most people we’re pretty much like, “Yeah, we knew” but it was definitely a shock for my mom. She got all of the offensive questions out of her system, but now she’s pretty great about it.

7. On the topic, how would you explain what the word “Pride” means to you?
It means living an unregimented life, free from the heteronormative pressures of society. It means pursuing the virtues of love and happiness. It means fulfillment.

8. If you had one piece of advice for those people still figuring out their sexuality, what would it be?
You’re not late. You’re not early. Figuring out your sexuality is an unorthodox and intimate process, that is unique to each individual. Don’t pressure yourself to fit any labels, but know there is power in their embodiment.

9. There is also a lot of the people who read this blog that do not identify as part of the LGBTQ+ community. Is there anything you want to say to that demographic of readers?
Thanks for your support! It’s cool to see people existing outside of their echo chambers and looking to the internet to expand their horizons.

9. What are your hopes for the future? (For yourself, for the country/world, etc)
I really need another Rihanna album, STAT.

You can check out more about Bia here:
Instagram: @biuh
Website: biajurema.com

Pride Month: Kevin

Like I said before, this Pride Month project has given me such an amazing opportunity to get to know some really unique, talented, and beyond-awesome people. Going into this, I was hoping for some sort of outcoming like that, but I can assure you that this collaborative experience has become way more than anything that I could have imagined. 

Each person that has been willing to bear a bit of their soul for the purpose of this month has blown me away, and it makes me so excited to share their words each day. 

Today’s piece is written by Kevin, whom I was introduced to by my very great friend Louise. Before I even talked to him, I knew he would be cool. Louise just has this way of gravitating towards people that are worth knowing. Here is how she describes Kevin: 

“From meeting Kevin Freshmen year, covered in highlighter in the basement of Llamda Chi, to watching the soulful, creamii rapper perform live – I could tell that he has always had a gift for lighting up a room. I’ve always admired and loved how Kevin could make everyone instantly feel at ease, no matter the situation, like a friend you have known for years. I’m excited for you all to read on about how he finds solace in being part of the LGBTQ community in the same way in which I, and many of the people that know Kevin, have found comfort in him.

He has more talent than Pablo Picasso, the dance moves of Brittany Spears, and an absolute soul of gold. I hope his story inspires you as much as it continues to inspire me. (p.s. Kevin, ILY and miss you more than DHAWL DASH)”

Check out his words here:

I remember laying in bed at night as a kid, in the late 90’s through the 00’s, worrying about my own future. I vividly remember wishing my gay away as I would try to fall asleep. I had instincts of how difficult coming out would be when I got older. I would lay there worrying about how my older brother would view me — worrying about how my straight friends react. Coming out is very mentally taxing. The process is truly the most exhausting thing I’ve endured, just because of how patient you have to be when you receive insensitive or rude responses after you open up with somebody who may not have ever even met a gay person before. BUT it’s worth it. It feels good.

Today, I recognize that being gay is both electrifying and frustrating. I love the camaraderie I share with my “sisters” and I feel like my truest self when I can say whatever is on my mind, without non-identifying people making remarks or raising an eyebrow. This feeling is something my immediate family probably won’t ever understand. The relationship I have with people who are gay or sexually fluid or trans or queer is something I’ve become quite protective of — it is something that I honestly don’t want to share with straight people. Too often, they just don’t want to hear about what is really happening in our world… they may think they do sometimes, but I’ve noticed that even if it’s through their stiff body language — queer-talk can easily make straight people uncomfortable.

Sometimes I wonder how my parents and brother would react if I talked to them about what I talk about with my LGBTQ friends. I’m sure they’d be super uncomfortable and want to crawl in a tiny hole and die — and that kind of makes me giggle. Just because everyone knows for sure that I’m gay, doesn’t mean they can handle the full experience, and honestly, I’m learning to feel content with that. My immediate family offers me strength through advice and love and concern and care. They are what keep me from not tattooing things onto my face that I’d probably regret and adopting 13 cats… they keep me grounded. Even though sometimes I want to be a lot more reckless with my behavior– my family as a unit is always on my mind during the trials and tribulations of life, which is something not everybody can say, so I do my best to not take that for granted.

Friends can shift. You get into fights, you have falling outs, you say words that ultimately break bonds you thought could never break. But there is always community in being gay. In just 5 years, I’ve gotten to meet some people I never thought I would connect with and the common denominator between us is —– gay. We share a bond that is felt without always having to say what you’ve been through in words. We already know first hand how difficult gay experiences can be, especially when you’re young and don’t have a single outlet to open up to, which is why the common threads in our community feel so special and deep. 

Speaking of special and deep…… Love. If you’re gay, you’ve never grown up knowing what a prototype of “love” is because it is so underrepresented in our culture. It leaves many of us jaded by the mere idea. I like to speculate that if and when LGBTQ-identifying folks DO experience love, that it may be even more special and even more deep than those prototypes that were always shoved down our throats. Speaking of love – ily Samuel.

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Like Louise mentioned, Kevin is an artist!!! 
Check out his work on his website: https://www.artbysabo.com/
(it seriously will mesmerize you) 

You can also follow his work and life on Instagram: @bb_kv 

Pride Month: Grant Kwiecinski (aka GRiZ)

My best friend from out of town is in Manhattan visiting me right now, so my post today is going to be short and sweet. Although it is short, I still feel that it is just as powerful and inspiring as all of my posts thus far.

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Today’s post is written by Grant Kwiecinski, better known as GRiZ. He’s an American DJ and electronic producer from Michigan.

When my friend (ironically, the same friend visiting me today) sent me this post the other day, it immediately resonated with me, and I just knew I had to share it.

GRiZ writes about many of the experiences we all can relate to during our formative years. But along with that, he shares his journey of coming to terms with his sexuality, and his search for clues, support, and understanding along the way.

I would post his words here, but you should read the original post and give him some love. Check it out on HuffPost: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/my-name-is-griz-and_us_5935d865e4b0c670a3ce6797

Hey, I live in New York now

It’s funny how different my productivity has become in just a couple short weeks. Let me explain. 

I moved to Manhattan on September 6…..that was a little over a week ago. Since then, I feel extremely unproductive and lazy. In a way, I think I deserve it. Commuting really took a toll on me. But on the other hand, I am in the city I always DREAMED of living in and I’ve spent the past week glued to the couch in my free time!!!!! This is a very typical cycle for me to fall into…so I’m trying to nip the problem in the bud before it really starts to take a hold on me. 

I always dreamed of living in New York as a kid because I imagined being surrounded by people that inspire my creativity. I imagined being literally mesmerized by the beauty and talent all around me. I definitely think that raw talent is everywhere here, but I think I am already choosing to overlook it and that terrifies me. I don’t want to ever become the stereotypical busy New Yorker rushing to and from work blinded by stress.

I think I need to make more of a conscious effort to spend time in public alone. And I need to spend that time taking in everyone around me and also WRITING. 

I’ve been really bored at my job recently and I think that has a lot to do with my laziness too. It is no surprise that I am not exactly “doing what I love” at my current job. Many people don’t though! So in a sense, I am okay with that for now. But I can’t let that boredom spill over into every other aspect of my life. 

I am going to try to spend at least one day a week, alone, writing. And I want to try to find a new place to visit every week. I think it will be a good challenge for me. 

I once bought a book called 642 Things to Write About. Maybe I will take those prompts and write them on here every week.

Sorry this post wasn’t as deep or as dark as some of my other ones. I’ve just felt very stark and bland recently and I think it is showing through in my writing too. I need a lil inspiration ~y’all~

PLZ SEND SUGGESTIONS IF YOU’D LIKE. OR ASK ME QUESTIONS IF YOU WANT. I don’t even think people read this but hey, is there anything that inspires you?