Summer in New York City | July ’17

It’s been a few weeks since I last posted anything. I have A LOT of things I want to write about, I just haven’t had a ton of time to dedicate to it, SO more to come on that.

But …….today I wanted to share July’s collage vlog! Very delayed I know….but without further ado, here’s what my friends and I did in July:

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month – Sammy

Today’s piece is written by one of my best friends, Sammy. My friendship with Sammy is the kind where I  can genuinely say we know each other to our cores and I really mean that. I can’t say that about very many other people.

With Sammy (and my other best friend from home, Gina) I feel so lucky. They are two of the only people I have ever met that can truly empathize with my feelings and emotions in their entirety. There is just some sort of unspoken connection we have – I can’t explain it, but I know it’s there. There’s just no other way to describe how well we understand and relate to each other. Without them, I would be lost. Without them, I would literally think I was broken. 

Sammy is always the first person I reach out to when it comes to my blogging ideas. For one, she inspires my creativity unlike anyone else – she’s always pushing me to try harder. For two though, I know she has amazing words that are worth sharing. I always want her thoughts and experiences to be part of my projects.

When Sammy sent me this piece, she said, and I quote, “I feel like a fraud, it’s not really about suicide.”

I want to stress that statement because I feel like it brings up such a great point. I feel like there are so many instances where we allow ourselves to belittle our own feelings, convincing ourselves that they’re not worthy of being acknowledged because they may not be the “norm” or the “extreme”.

Part of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is acknowledging the fact that all experiences are different, but they are all equally as valid. Sammy’s experiences with suicidal thoughts are uniquely hers, as are everyone else’s. 

In my opinion, progress comes only after certain steps are taken. The first step is acknowledging that your feelings exist and are legitimate. The second step is voicing those feelings. Only after both of those steps, will you be able to accurately begin making positive change. 

It’s scary though! In most cases, it’s easier to brush off thoughts and emotions that we are struggling with. It’s easier to convince ourselves they’re not “bad enough” to be “real”. It’s easier to slide under the radar, silently grappling with our emotions, rather than acknowledging and vocalizing them. 

I can tell you from experience though, that the harder route brings so much more success and happiness. Your experiences and thoughts are so valid and they are so worth sharing. You are worth being cared for. You are worth progress and change. You deserve happiness.

Somehow, Sammy found the strength to share her words, regardless of the doubt and insecurity she initially expressed. I hope her words encourage some of you who may feel similarly to do the same. 

Check it out: 

I have this dream and it’s always the same. I’m in a mansion overlooking the ocean and the valleys of California. I walk through the french doors into the foyer, through the halls, until I’m standing where I can see the doors that lead to the back. The house is vacant and quiet but there is a woman outside in a long lace nightgown and long hair, both blowing in the wind. She’s standing on the balcony ready to leap into the unknown. I never see her face and I never try to save her, but I know who she is: she’s me. 

I need to emphasize something about this dream. It does not bring me satisfaction. It does not seem like an end to all my problems. It’s just one of many scenarios I craft up in my head when I want to end the thoughts and the sadness. 

I picture killing myself because it’s a way to picture killing the thoughts, but there is never a desire to kill me, the living human body form of me. I’ll keep the highs but I want to chuck the lows over a building, drown them in a tub, pour a bottle of pills down its throat until it is no more and I am left with only the positivity and the sanity that I know I am capable of. 

I was driving in the car the other day – the windows down, the music just right. It was one of those moments where I checked my surroundings and I felt the beauty of it all, this thing we called life. Fuck, I felt truly ALIVE. But then, the unsettling feeling came over me and my mind told me to cherish this moment for it would not be this way tomorrow. And guess what? My mind was right. The next day, I couldn’t look at myself. I felt ugly. I felt gross. I felt I couldn’t do anything right. I felt like a failure – living at home still, working the same job I told myself last year I’d get out of to find my dream job. I made all these promises to myself and where the fuck were they now? It didn’t matter yesterday that I hadn’t accomplished all my dreams yet, but my shortcomings sure as hell mattered the next morning, my mind said they did. So that is what I focused on all day. I sat in front of the TV smoking weed until I reached the kind of high where you just don’t: don’t think, don’t move, don’t talk. 

My depression is interesting. I know how loved I am, it never blocks that from me. Sometimes it will try but I am able to swat it away before it solidifies into an actual feeling. I know I am not a burden on others, and I know my passing would hurt many. I mean this, not because I think I’m the greatest human to walk this earth, but I have felt death and I have seen it break those who I love. I have watched and experienced the passing of others and that is partially the reason I battle depression in the first place. That and the fact that is has always lived in me in some way. 

I take these thoughts seriously. I’ve never taken them as my desires or my truth but I do take them very seriously. Suicide is not selfish, not when you know what is truly going on inside someone, but that does not make suicide the answer. Please seek help if you are hurting, and fight with every ounce of you to stop the thoughts from becoming actions. It is easier said than done, I know. Suicide is not the action to take. Kill the thoughts, not yourself. Every living soul is different and every case of depression is different, but I believe that suicide is always the same in the sense that it does not solve anything. It only passes the hurt along. 

MHAM Post #15: Maggie

Today’s piece is actually written by a friend of a friend whom I’ve never even met. I just wanted to stress this fact, because the amount of support and enthusiasm I have received about this project over the past month is so amazing/heartwarming/mind-blowing to me. 

The fact that someone I don’t even know on a personal level would be so inspired to open up about her experiences for the sake of others is so crazy and beautiful. 

I really enjoyed this piece because Maggie, the writer, doesn’t focus too much on specific diagnoses. She just shares times in her life where things got especially trying, and in turn, negatively impacted her already existing mental health struggles. 

I think that’s an extremely important thing to remember. Mental health is a part of all of us, right? Whether good or bad. Some of us have a genetic predisposition to certain diagnoses. Some of us have more negative experiences with regards to our mental health than others. Some of us have labels that we can attach to our struggles. Regardless, we all have good and bad experiences in life, and those experiences impact our mental health. Regardless of predisposition, confirmed diagnoses, etc, our life experiences shape us and make us who we are. Our mental health is directly tied to all of that. 

Maggie’s piece does a great job at explaining just how drastically certain events in her life made these kinds of impacts on her. 

I am happy to share her story here: 

This is difficult for me to start, because my experience with mental illness has been both a marathon and series of short, painful sprints. I didn’t meet my triggers until late in college, and didn’t know how to talk about what I was feeling until after a terrifying and heartbreaking night in the emergency room.  

My case is different than some. I never worried about talking about what I was feeling. In
fact, I ALWAYS talked about what I was feeling, whether it was to someone else, or within my ever present (sometimes deafening) internal dialogue.  From an early age, I was assessing and labeling what I saw, heard, smelled, tasted, and felt, and if something wasn’t right, or I wasn’t where I wanted it to be, I fixed it.  Big surprise, I now work in healthcare. 

When I was in high school, I experienced hardship as everyone does, and instead of dealing with the things I couldn’t understand or label, I started digging deep to bury the hard things. This continued throughout college, until I ran out of space to bury the shitty stuff.  The biggest problem with this was that, because of the fact that I didn’t understand and couldn’t put a label on my feelings, I couldn’t find the means to talk about them. I wasn’t talking about what I was going through, but not because I was afraid or because I didn’t want to. I literally couldn’t.  I had dealt with death and hardship, and while these are horrendous and devastating things, this was DIFFERENT.  I stopped sleeping, I overate, drank an unbelievable amount, and completely stopped working out.  I managed to push through the end of college with minimal visible harm, and slid into my gap year. During this year, I took my physical health to the forefront, but did not think much about my mental health. Because physicality is such a huge part of my life, my mental health
improved with the improvement of my physical health.  However, I was not making a concerted effort to better myself as a whole, and I was doing myself a disservice without even knowing it. I thought my dark period in college was a come and go “rough patch” that I wouldn’t go back to, and DAMN was I absolutely wrong.

I have always been driven, determined, outgoing, outspoken, and didn’t give a flying fuck about what anyone thought about me, until I started dating the person I thought was my forever partner. We met right before I started grad school, and immediately clicked. I had never felt that way about anyone before, and things moved much too quickly.  We were living together after only a few months. The fights we had were vicious and sometimes very scary for others. Things spiraled downhill almost as quickly, and I saw a side of myself that I wish to NEVER see again. I let someone else dictate my life. I made all decisions based on this person. I didn’t realize it until almost a year after the fact, but I was living in constant fear that if I said or did the wrong thing, or didn’t consistently put this other person first, that he would leave me and my one true love would be gone forever, and he didn’t let me forget it. One of our infamous fights hit an all-time low, and I tried to kill myself. Waking up to the pure sadness that I saw was the most heartbreaking thing I’ve ever experienced, and I would not wish that feeling on anyone in the world. Despite this, I stayed with this
person another two years, and it was a constant ebb and flow of amazing days and some of the ugliest days I’ve seen. I let myself get to a point where I told myself I had nowhere to go but inward. I knew what I was feeling, but I was so paralyzed by fear that if I expressed myself, he would leave and I would be left with nothing. Little did I know, I am fucking everything and more (and so are you).

Last summer, his beautiful mother passed away, and to say that it was devastating is an understatement. I didn’t deal with this loss, because I didn’t feel as though it was mine, and I knew I needed to be his rock.  After this, I made the move to NYC, and I was biding my time until he was able to move up here as well. In this time, he became distant and meaner than ever. I was constantly anxious and terrified that I was doing the wrong thing. Later I came to find that he had started dating someone else, but it was just too hard for him to tell me (insert eye roll here). I. Was. Devastated. I lost 20 pounds in less than a month. I wasn’t sleeping. My work suffered, and my already broken relationships with my family and friends suffered even more. 

Here comes the upswing (you knew it was coming at some point).  Instead of letting this person continue to define me, I decided to redefine me. I told myself, “I live in the greatest city in the free world, take advantage and just do you boo boo”. I started just doing things that I wanted to do, whether I had someone to do them with or not. A random happy hour by myself, where I met an amazing woman my age in the same boat (WHAT?! WHY?!). Check. John Legend concert. Check. All you can eat pizza fundraiser for breast cancer. Check. Training for, and soon to run, a half marathon. Check. Signing up for my first marathon. Check. Getting accepted to a doctorate program. Check.

During this time, I worked with some of the greatest and most supportive earth angels on the planet. They took me under their wings, and didn’t comment on my obvious, rapid weight loss, they didn’t try to tell me what to do, they were just there for me  even though they hadn’t known me for very long. They let me talk when I wanted to, and, most importantly, they didn’t judge me for feeling. They are now some of my best friends in the world, and if it wasn’t for this shitty situation, I wouldn’t have been able to expand my bad ass squad with these rock stars. Not only did I make new friends, but my best friends (which includes my family) were truly amazing (which is the understatement of the century). They dealt with, and still deal with, my breakdowns at all hours with unbeatable
grace and always had a kind word or a laugh to share. 

I have also been able to pay it forward. I am not the only one of my friends that has struggled with one of many mental health issues. We have created an open dialogue that may look terrifying to the outside eye, but it’s our safe space.  Doing this has also given me an incredible amount of perspective when I am having my bad days. We are not alone. We can do this. We are a tribe that gets shit done in grand fashion.

While I will always struggle with the need to fix and label, it’s getting easier with each day and a lot of hard work.  I will never let someone else define who I am. I will continue to be the outspoken (sometimes too blunt), funny, lighthearted person I always was, but my bad days are quite a bit different now. I know the bad feelings will not last forever. I know that I am not only enough, but I go above and beyond.  I have a bad ass team behind me, and I don’t have a clue how I got so lucky to have them all in my life. I am a mother fucking queen.

MHAM Post #7: Caroline

Today’s post is a piece written by, not only one of my closest friends, but also my roommate, Caroline.

Living with someone can be complicated. Their highs and their lows become, in a way, your highs and lows too. I’ve known Caroline for years now, but I’ve learned a lot more about her over this past year. I can genuinely say I’ve grown so much as a result of our friendship.

She writes about how she motivates herself when she’s feeling low, touches on some of her harder realizations, and expresses some of her most prized memories. 

I especially enjoyed her writing because, although we may share similar diagnoses, we cope very differently. It’s nice to remember that there is a multitude of solutions to the same feelings, you just have to find the one that suits you best.

ENJOOOOOY:

I once asked my psychiatrist if I was born this way, or if the events that happened in my life caused this. She told me, “well, I think you were born this way, but I don’t think those events helped”. That’s something I have had to come to terms with this past year. Although something tragic happened to me, I was born with anxiety and depression. Its like having an arthritic knee and running a half marathon on it. Insult adds to injury. Death of a sibling adds to depression. A break up adds to anxiety. And vise versa.

This year, everyone around me felt helpless. Not only did I push away certain people who were nothing but supportive, but I leaned too hard on those who were left around me. That’s probably the worst part of this “condition”. You act out, say and do hurtful things, and then when you’re falling apart, there’s no one left to help you put the pieces back together. That’s another lesson I learned. Only yourself and a trained professional can truly get you out of this rut. And although it feels so unfair, you are responsible for the things you’ve done while you were unhealthy. There are going to be people out there who can empathize and understand that anxiety and depression can cause this erratic behavior, but there’s only so much people can take. Why should they be expected to show love and support when they only receive hate and hostility in return?  I personally learned this lesson the hard way, but if I didn’t, I don’t think I would have ever changed.

Now, I am still a work in progress. But I’m much better then I was. I feel like my confidence is up, I don’t cry over everything, and I see everyday as a gift and an opportunity to have fun. That last one is probably something I am most proud of myself for. Before, I didn’t see the point. And now, I constantly feel alive and want to experience everything. I think a lot of that I owe to my brother.  After losing my him the way I did, I almost feel like I have a leg up in this world. That sounds weird, right? But I’ve felt that since the day he passed. I look at a day spent in bed as a waste. I have this constant nagging voice in my head of my brother saying, “Come on, get up. You’re not even trying”. And I get up. I shower. I go outside. I surround myself with fun people. If I feel anxious about something, I hear him say, “Just let it go, who cares?” And it genuinely brings me back down to earth and I don’t care. It’s the most freeing feeling, and that’s why I say I’m lucky to have endured what I did. He taught me that life shouldn’t be so complicated, it should be enjoyable. Your day shouldn’t be spent in bed, crying, trying to change something you can not change.

And here’s a little anecdote ~ I remember one day he got some bad news after a routine doctors visit. He came home, cried to me, and said, “it’s really bad this time, Caroline”. He sulked, laid in bed, and I held him through it. The next day he was up, and asking me if he could give my flash pass to his friend (uh sure, why not) so he could go to Six Flags for the day. Wait, WHAT?? Here I am, still recovering from the awfulness of yesterday and this kid wakes up with a smile on his face telling me hes gonna ride roller coasters all day? That’s when I really knew how amazing he was. And when he left this earth, I promised myself I would emulate all that zest for life, for the rest of my life. End anecdote ~

Although I would give anything to have him here with me, I am so lucky to carry him with me always. If it wasn’t for him, I don’t know if I could make as much progress as I have. And if he was here he would yell at me for not giving myself more credit. So yes, here I am giving myself some credit. I’m killing it. 

Ok, thanks for listening. Hope you enjoy this beautiful day and go to happy hour and laugh with friends and smile at the sunshine!!

Feeling Stagnant

I have been avoiding writing for so long because I feel like
nothing I can say will have as much weight as my previous post.

I’m usually pretty hard on myself about writing too. I’m not
the most eloquent or the most creative or the most unique, so why would I write
publicly if my words don’t have meaning to anyone aside from myself? What’s the
point of creating content if it’s not influential or moving?

It is so easy to get lost in that mindset. And it’s
especially easy for me to take that doubt and insecurity and let it manifest
into laziness.

Also, for lack of a better euphemism, I feel like I have
just been existing recently, and I don’t find that worth expressing. Living in
New York City can be such a liberating experience, but recently I think I have
taken that for granted.  

As silly as it may sound, I came to the realization that I have been in this rut after watching the last few episodes of Girls. That show
always ignited this sense of passion within me. It made me excited about my 20′s
and spending that time in Manhattan with best friends and new adventures and
romance and heartbreak and passion and wonder and love. I know that may sound
dumb, but I always had these high hopes for my time spent here.

Don’t get me wrong, living in Manhattan has been so worthwhile
thus far, but it’s just much too easy for me to get stuck in routines, lose
track of aspirations, and become bland.

Throughout high school and college I immersed myself in
people. I collected friends like trading cards and I used these friendships as
a protective blanket. I loved those times in my life. I loved those people I
met and the experiences I had. But this is the first time in almost 10 years
that I’ve felt devoid of this safety blanket and I’m still learning to navigate
without it. I think we all need to be reminded once in a while that loneliness
can be constructive though.  

My point in this is that not every experience in life will
be a liberating high or a thought provoking low. Yes, it is much more moving to
express those two extremes, but the in-between can have just as much weight
too. Overlooking the in-betweens leads to immobility. That’s where I am at
right now. 

Something I’ve Learned Recently About Confidence

I’ve been thinking a lot about confidence lately. For the longest time I thought there was a direct correlation between confidence and perfection. I thought the more flawless a person was, the more self-assured they must be. 

Confident.
People.
Can.
Be.
Broken.
People.

Broken is beautiful. Flaws are beautiful. Flaws are POWERFUL

I sure as hell am not perfect. I have a lot of inner demons I still have to conquer. But I have such a drastically different appreciation for myself and those demons now than I ever had before. 

Life is too fucking short to spend time pitying yourself for your imperfections and shortcomings.

Love. Yourself. First. and release your inner power/strength/beauty and never apologize for it.

I Promise I Will Write Something Soon!

I haven’t written in over a month I think. I’ve been feeling a little disconnected with myself and my creativity recently if that makes any sense. I spent the last month or so wrapped up in the holidays, and although that made me so happy, I think it was subconsciously my way of disassociating for a little while. 

Happiness is great and like I’ve said so many times before, I feel happy a lot of the time! But when I let myself lose sight of my deeper feelings/stop writing/etc I know I’m letting myself only feel the happiness and that can be counter productive.

Life is all about a multitude of feelings and progress is about acknowledging and processing it all. 

On a related note, my best friend bought me this amazing Blog Planner book and I cannot wait to use it. 

Kewl kewl totally kewl. HAPPY MONDAY

#WorldMentalHealthDay is Cool!!!!!!!!

Although I’ll probably post this tomorrow (aka Tuesday when
you’re most likely reading it), today is World Mental Health Day. Coincidentally,
when I was falling asleep last night I was reflecting on the changes in my
mental health recently. So what better time to write about it than today!!

Let me start by saying, today I tweeted about how important
I think it is to try to erase the stigma surrounding mental illness. I said
something along the lines of “seeking treatment/medication literally changed my
life this year and it can change yours too”. First off, I’m going to elaborate on
this concept later in this post but, I want to touch on the fact that I don’t
really think therapy/medication is a cure-all. I also don’t think it is an
immediate fix, nor do I think it works for everyone. I also mildly exaggerated the
fact that it “changed my life” to emphasize the points I was making on Twitter.
I think every day is different and every person struggles/copes with mental
illness differently. For me, I have good days and I have bad days. But the major
point I wanted to make via Twitter was that if you are struggling or think you
might be struggling with anything related to your mental health, you should
speak up and seek help! I can say from experience that not saying anything is guaranteed
to make the problem worse in the long run. Two-thirds of people struggling don’t
do anything!! That is CRAZY to think about. But also, I was that person for so
long! So my tweets were more geared towards those people that are silently
trying to cope and have yet to ask for any help.

So I have been taking medication for my anxiety/depression
for a few months now. At first, like I said before, I was pretty hesitant to
try it. And in the beginning, it had little to no positive effects for me. But
last night, as I was falling asleep, I was thinking about the past couple
months since I started taking my medication. I have still cried, still felt
anxious, still felt alone, and still felt helpless, yes. But

1.      
How many times have a thought about killing
myself? Drastically less than before!

2.      
How many times have I felt so empty that I didn’t
think I needed to be here anymore? Not as many as pre-medication!

3.      
How often have I felt motived and genuinely excited
to see friends? So many more times than before!

4.      
How often have I felt more optimistic about my
life and future? Waaaay more than I had in the recent past!

I know I am still
early in the medication process, but I’m grateful to be in a better place now
than I used to be.  

I can’t really pinpoint the first few times I realized I was
struggling with anxiety or depression. In a lot of senses, it was just always
part of me. I was always a very anxious, worried, self-conscious kid. I think
my anxiety only really started to become an issue when my depression came into
the picture. I have always felt emotions very strongly, but I think my depression
started to creep in during college. In high school, yes I felt overwhelmingly
sad sometimes, but I could always draw a connection as to why I was feeling
that way. In college, it wasn’t that simple. Over the past 5 or so years, I
just began to feel progressively darker. I started feeling uncontrollably
helpless once a year, then once a month, then maybe every other week or so,
until recently, it became constant. I used to think about killing myself only
when I drank. By the time I started taking my medication, I was thinking about
it soberly all the time.

Don’t let that scare you. I wasn’t planning my suicide, I
just felt so useless and empty that I couldn’t understand how I’d ever feel any
differently again. Depression can become this black hole that just sucks you
in, making you believe that there can’t possibly be a future filled with
anything other than emptiness and loneliness. I didn’t want to speak up about
these dark feelings I was having, partially because I didn’t think people would
understand, and partially because I feared that they would overreact. How do
you tell your friend or your parent that you think about how you shouldn’t be
alive? How do you explain to them that you feel miserable but can’t even
articulate why? How do you let someone in during those low moments, without
completely terrifying them?

I don’t really think I’ve ever explained the depths of these
feelings to very many of my friends. I did however, finally open up to my mom
earlier this year. I am so thankful for gaining the strength/energy/courage to
talk to her, because with her help, I’ve found a therapist and physiatrist that
truly have my best interests at heart.

I may deal with these depressed feelings and anxious
thoughts for the rest of my life. I may feel empty and alone on and off until
the day I die. I don’t know! Even if that’s true, at least I am seeking help.
At least I am consciously trying to make things better. That’s really my point
in all this! Seeking help for a mental illness is never an immediate fix. It’s
not like a broken bone that just needs some time to heal. It is a long process,
but having people to talk to, and coping mechanisms to rely on, is always
better than trying to fight the problem alone.

A lot of brilliantly amazing and talented people struggle
with their mental health. One in four adults are struggling right now!! That’s a
quarter of us! That’s like 450 million Americans (I think? If the stat I read
is right? Aka uhhh don’t quote me on that .. ha)! But that is a crazy amount of
people! Reach out to other people like you. Share your feelings and your story.

And even if you’re not struggling, offer an ear to listen or
a shoulder to lean on. You may not be able to completely understand what
someone is going through, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still sympathize with
them. When I’m at my lowest, all I want is someone to physically be with me!
Try to figure out little ways like that to show someone who’s going through a
hard time that you’re still there.

To those people afraid to open up about how they’re feeling,
my best advice to you is that most people will surprise you. Before I could be
honest about my mental health to anyone, I assumed very few of my friends had
ever struggled with anything similar. You have no idea how many people feel
just like you until you find the guts to open up. And you may also find a lot of
friends who care enough to listen, even if they haven’t been through something
similar. Sometimes it just takes seeing someone struggling first hand to be
able to sympathize.

SOoOoOOooOoO the moral of MY World Mental Health Day issssss,
today was a good day! And recently I’ve had more good days than bad! Who’s to
say what tomorrow will be like, but for today, this is enough.

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