3 Years

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This is what three years in jail looks like. 

January always marks another year. Another year that my dad has been in jail. Another year that I haven’t seen him.

I wanted to write about this for many reasons. First and foremost, I posted something similar a year ago, and a lot has changed since then.

Secondly, I just think sharing this kind of information is really important. I have an internal debate about this a lot though. On the one hand, I often worry that this type of experience (for lack of a better word??) isn’t relatable enough to the people most likely to read my blog. I worry that no one will care because no one (that I directly know) has been through something similar. But on the flip side, I also feel that this type of content is worth sharing even more than some of the other things I write about because it’s uncommon. I fear that, to an extent, I’m doing a disservice to myself (and others) for not making this all more commonly known.

Most often, I cling to that fear of not being relatable to avoid a bigger issue. In reality, this shit is just hard to put words to. I’ll preface the rest of this post with that. Even though it has been three years, I still have so many contradictory, confusing, and often inexpressible emotions tied to all this. I’m going to attempt to not let that deter me from sharing though.

When you look at the statistics, about 5 million children in America have parents that are (or were previously) behind bars. That’s about 1 in every 14 kids, or 7%. 

Less than 1% of white children have incarcerated parents though. 

My dad has been in jail for almost three years.

**To give a brief background for those of you who are unaware. My dad was arrested in January of 2015. I was living in Arlington, VA at the time. I haven’t seen him in person since Christmas of 2014. I just recently started talking to him on the phone this year. Over the past three years, he has been transferred between multiple facilities in multiple different states (PA, NY, CT). The details of his arrest are vague to me, partly because I don’t want to be involved, and partly because the justice system is extremely confusing and the process takes an extremely long time. From what I know, my dad was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison. I also know that, as of now, he is attempting to appeal this for a shorter sentence. **

Each time I try to put words to paper about this, a few things always come to mind:

  1. I often compartmentalize this part of my life which makes vocalizing my experience complicated
  2. I have a hard time wrapping my brain around the flaws within the current justice system and accepting the fact that I can’t comprehend how to fix it
  3. My relationship with my dad was very complicated prior to his arrest, which complicates the situation further
  4. There are people out there like me, even though according to the numbers I am part of the <1%
  5. My feelings and experiences are not entirely negative
  6. Incarceration is a loss too, but it’s not final and as a family member you can choose what that means to you over time

Along with that, when I think about my dad, I usually feel overwhelmed with a complex layer of simultaneous emotions. I always, without fail, feel anger, stress, guilt, loss, relief, shame, love, admiration, nostalgia, bitterness, and confusion altogether, every time.

I think that is what often makes me want to refrain from sharing this experience with others, in this way at least. Because my relationship with my dad is so complex, this isn’t just about having an incarcerated parent, it’s about having a parent with mental health struggles too, and how those experiences overlap.

So the way I have coped and the things I have learned are, in a sense, two-fold. Even though most people may not be able to relate to the situation directly, hopefully, what I have to share can possibly be beneficial to others in some way or another.

Part One: Incarceration

To start, I’ve learned to understand that incarceration is a loss, and with that comes grieving. There shouldn’t be shame in that. But there will be. Because the person you’ve lost is still physically there.

It’s not a death, but that’s the closest thing most people will compare it to. That’s the only way most people, who have never dealt with incarceration before, can possibly wrap their brains around the experience and the feelings tied to it.

Unlike a death, people will forget the anniversary. YOU will forget the exact anniversary sometimes. To complicate things, neither you nor your friends will usually know how to talk about it.

You also won’t spend time memorializing the person, not only because they’re not truly gone, but because your loss will always have lingering bitterness and confusion.

Also unlike a death though, you and the person you’ve “lost” will potentially have room to progress together. Your dynamic may change and your relationship may grow. It takes time though, just because you’re not ready at first, doesn’t mean you never will be.

First, you need to process the events surrounding their arrest. Regardless of the situation, I believe one thing will hold true, you will come to learn that no single person is all good or all bad. You will come to see that sometimes you can still love someone, even when they’ve done wrong.

As is true for most things though, the progress you make (both individually and within your relationship together) will never be linear. You will continuously feel like you’re taking 3 steps forward just to take 2 back. That part will never stop, but over time you will accept it as routine.

You will always, always, always be filled with mixed emotions. There is nothing wrong with that. There is no handbook to teach you how to appropriately cope. Even though there are literally 5 million other people out there that can potentially relate to you, you will still feel alone.

Sometimes you will feel helpless that someone you know is suffering, alone, behind bars. You will feel shame and stigma associated with the concept of incarceration as a whole. You will feel guilty that you couldn’t help “fix” them when you still had the chance. You will miss them, even when you think you don’t.

Part Two: Mental Health

In my case, to some extent, I feel a lot of relief regarding my dad’s arrest too. If it wasn’t for his arrest, I don’t think I would ever feel so free from the responsibilities of constantly worrying about his well-being.

With that comes guilt too though. Guilt that I’m finally, in some ways, using this space as a chance to be selfish. Every letter and every phone call is another reminder that I have separated myself from someone who needs me.

My dad, from what I know, struggles with Borderline Personality Disorder, Depression, and Anxiety. As I think I’ve shared before, in a lot of respects, when my parents split up when I was 18, I became the person my dad turned to.

Until my dad was arrested, I spent almost every day helping to manage his problems that I couldn’t fix and emotions that I couldn’t bear. I did so partly out of love, partly out of fear, partly out of a false hope that I could really “fix” him someday, and partly out of a desire to avoid my own problems.

One of the best things to come out of my dad’s incarceration has been the realization that, at the end of the day, I can’t be responsible for anyone but myself.

In general, sometimes I also feel embarrassed. Sometimes I feel so unbearably alone. Sometimes I feel like all anyone can think about when they look at me is my father. And sometimes I think everyone forgets completely.

I’ve learned a lot this past year though. In many respects, my dad’s arrest has shined a light on all of his mistakes for me. It has given me an opportunity to see what he struggles with, avoid running into similar situations, and live my life completely differently as a result.

From this, I’ve learned that there is no shame in being yourself. In fact, the things you tend to be most ashamed of are the things that you should wear with the most pride. I’ve learned that people will accept you if you accept yourself, and if you wear your experiences confidently, people will often have respect for you rather than judgment.

I’ve also learned to let go of fear. It’s so easy to be afraid of what you have yet to try. I spent over two years telling myself I didn’t want to “live my life in fear like my father”, yet never truly followed through until recently.

I’ve learned that it doesn’t actually hurt that much to be disliked for being yourself. It hurts so much more to constantly try morphing yourself into the person you think people want you to be.

I couldn’t be more comfortable with who I am and what I like than I have been this past year. I am so proud to say that the things that kept my dad living in shame, like his mental health and sexuality, are some of the things that I am most proud to be open and honest about in my own life.

As selfish as it sounds, I can confidently say I would have never gotten to this place if my dad hadn’t been arrested.

Like I mentioned though, it isn’t always easy. It’s usually like sailing into uncharted territory with no sense of direction and no compass to show you the way. Most of the time I’m just guessing and hoping I make some sort of progress as a result.

I don’t have all the answers, in fact, I literally have none, but I hope, to some extent, my lack of knowledge is helpful too.

I think what’s most important to remember is that even the most confusing and seemingly negative experiences can have positive outcomes. And just because you don’t have it all figured out, doesn’t mean you aren’t dealing with your experiences correctly.

Take things one step at a time. Don’t forget to look back at where you started, and remind yourself of how far you’ve come. Be proud of who you are, and the factors that have helped to make you that way. And remember that everyone else is going through their own unique experiences too. Have patience, approach others with acceptance, and be understanding. We’re all just figuring it out as we go along. AMIRITE?

Happy 2018!!!!!!!! BE U AND LUV URSELF

(If you have any interest in reading the similar post I wrote last year, click here)

Summer in New York City | August ’17

First of all, I am very well aware of the fact that I haven’t written anything of value on here in literally months. Ya know, just figured I’d acknowledge my complete lack of commitment and say that I HAVE THINGS TO WRITE ABOUT AND I WILL SHARE THEM SOON.

In the meantime, check out August’s vlog ft. my friends with video footage to prove that we do in fact watch sports occasionally.

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month – Me

I have been literally terrified to share my own post for the entire duration of this month.

I spent a long time trying to decide how to best express my relationship with suicide/suicidal thoughts. It’s an extremely complex dynamic to put words to. On the one hand, I have seen people take their own lives, and I have seen how such an action can be so final, leaving so many broken in its wake. But on the other hand, no amount of experience and understanding can stop me from feeling the ways I have felt.

Like I said, sharing these thoughts is beyond terrifying to me. Yes, I have gotten to a point where I am able to be open about a lot of myself via this blog. I share so many thoughts and intimate experiences in hopes that they will help at least one person out there to feel more understood.

Ontop of that, every time I do a month-long project like this, I ask others to help contribute. I ask them to share things about themselves that they may not have ever said to anyone else before. Time and time again, I am blown away by the amount of support and participation I receive. That is why, I knew for this month, I just wouldn’t feel right asking other people to share their relationships with suicide if I didn’t share my own too. It’s really fucking scary though.

I have spent countless hours thinking about what I hope those of you reading might get out of these words. I really still don’t have a clue. They’re not creative, or well-written in the least. In fact, they are just the blunt and candid thoughts that have come to mind over the years when I have found myself at my lowest.

These words are a part of me though. They have been a part of me for many years.

I think the point in me sharing this is two-fold. First, I want to really stress the fact that “normal” people can experience these thoughts and urges too. So many people struggle with these similar feelings in silence. Second, I want to prove to myself that I don’t have to be ashamed of thinking these thoughts. I want to remind myself that I have made it thus far, even though I struggle. These feelings can be a part of me, without overtaking me.

Also, I’d like to express that, at least from my own experiences, suicidal thoughts aren’t always present, but that doesn’t make them any less real. Just like depression, it can vary in intensity from day to day or week to week. I can have great days, and I can have days where I feel like I will never be happy again.

With that said, here are some extremely personal, private blog entries that I have written in the past:

 

Monday, June 8, 2009
I feel like I have no one

Wednesday, October 28, 2009
I cant keep doing this anymore

I’m never ever happy

Sunday, February 7, 2010
I’ve never been more unhappy

Tuesday, February 22, 2011
I got so mad when you told me you think I’m depressed

because I love being happy and I love loving life
but I think you’re right and that scares me
I can’t think of the last time I was truly happy
I feel tired and run down all the time

Monday, June 13, 2011
I’ve felt so numb the last few days

like I’m upset or alone but I don’t have enough emotion to express or explain WHY I feel that way

Wednesday, October 26, 2011
No matter how many people I physically surround myself with, I still feel so fucking alone

Saturday, June 23, 2012
I mean I always used to get sad about things, even for long periods of time sometimes, but I would still feel something

Whether it be sadness, or anger, or the occasional bursts of happiness, or excitement or passion
Even in the most painful of times I still had feelings in one way or another
I still had dreams and aspirations that ultimately made me happier
now I’m just numb
I don’t feel anything, just emptiness
like I’m here but I’m not actually here
I have no motivation to do anything at all
and no matter where I am or who I’m with I can’t shake off the numbness
Sometimes I’m just better at hiding it in front of people
but sometimes I can’t even bring myself to speak or move
if I could sleep for weeks I would

Sunday, July 1, 2012
Atypical Depression Symptoms

-sadness or depressed mood most of the day or almost every day
-loss of enjoyment in things that were once pleasurable
-a major change in weight (gain or loss of more than 5% of weight within a month) or appetite 

-insomnia or excessive sleep almost every day
-physically restless or rundown that is noticeable by others
-fatigue or loss of energy almost every day
-feelings of hopelessness or worthlessness or excessive guilt almost every day
-problems with concentration or making decisions almost every day
-recurring thoughts of death or suicide, suicide plan, or suicide attempt
-For a diagnosis of atypical depression you must have this symptom:
-Being cheered up by positive events

Why am I too scared to talk to anyone about this if I know this is how I’ve felt for so fucking long
I just want someone to tell me how to get better

Monday, October 15, 2012
I know I haven’t written in a while but I think it’s because I was just waiting until I felt like there was really something to say

For a while, like I said, I didn’t have feelings at all it seemed like
I just was numb all the time and every day felt the same and I remember thinking to myself so many times I’d rather feel absolutely miserable than nothing at all
because at least miserable FEELS like something, numbness is horrible and empty and boring

Monday, December 3, 2012
I live inside my own mind so fucking much sometimes and it’s such a self-destructive concept that I need to learn how to stop

There’s just this literally insane train of thought that I have every single day
I think about how alone I feel or how stressed I am and then the rest of the thoughts just pile on top

Thursday, January 24, 2013
Adderall really does make me 10x more depressed

Tuesday, October 1, 2013
I’ve felt really sad lately

not the kind of sad where I crave attention
not the kind of sad where I’m lonely
and not the kind of sad where I feel empty either
just sad
like uncontrollably so
I keep crying for no reason
and I feel no need to have real connections with anyone
I only feel comfortable alone

Monday, November 4, 2013
The biggest reason I hate
Adderall is because it makes me think really horrible thoughts
like often times I genuinely feel that my Adderall makes me bipolar
like actually bipolar, I’m not just exaggerating when I say that
because when I take it there is a period of time where I get really happy and excited to be productive and my brain feels like its flooding with happy thoughts
and then there’s a large period of time where I just think about all the reasons why I’m unhappy
When I don’t take my Adderall I’m really unfocused and people say I can be really annoying
but my brain feels calmer
I don’t have 9million thoughts bouncing around all the time
and I feel genuinely happy and confident in myself as a person for the most part
I never feel that way when I’m on Adderall
I’m always second-guessing myself and over thinking things and worrying
and feeling anxious and awkward and unconfident

Tuesday, November 12, 2013
Sometimes I work myself up so much that I want to just scream really loud

or drive down the highway for a really really long time until I end up somewhere different
or write something passionate that depicts my thoughts
or run for miles until I get so tired that I fall over
or SOMETHING to release all the thoughts in my head

but then I get too lazy
every time
and just do nothing at all
but sit and feel overwhelmed about everything in my brain
and feel tired and useless

I feel literally dumb and lazy and useless all the time
I have no passion or drive or strong opinions/thoughts/feelings
I just feel indifferent all the time

I wish I had a purpose in life
I wish I didn’t give up before I started EVERYTHING

like even writing this I just want to give up and delete it and stop
whats wrong with me

Wednesday, May 21, 2014
I think about killing myself almost every night while I’m laying in bed

When I was at school I had people around all the time so I had a lot of distractions and I thought about it less
now I spend way too much time alone

Wednesday, October 15, 2014
I’ve already cried 3 times today

I feel like I’m losing my mind 

Saturday, January 24, 2015
I wonder if anyone will truly love me and by
that, I mean all of me
I wonder how much longer I  will have to wait to meet someone who makes me happy to be myself

Wednesday, January 27, 2016
having a lot of anxiety

feeling depressed a lot of the time

Thursday, March 17, 2016
I think about killing myself probably on average once a week and definitely at least every other time I’m drunk. 

I don’t think about how and I don’t plan it out so I guess I know I won’t actually do it.

But I guess it’s more that I feel lethargic 100% of the time and I’ve run out of hope that that feeling will ever go away. 

I’ve had these thoughts for years now but they’ve just become more consistent I guess and now I have them in the middle of the day in public whereas a couple years ago I would only think this way alone in my room in the middle of the night.

I also sound like an idiot trying to honestly express those feelings bc it sounds like such a cry for help or something. I just have never said those words out loud and I’ve definitely never expressed them to anyone I know so it feels good to write it somewhere I guess idk.

Monday, June 20, 2016
idk what is wrong with me
I genuinely don’t think I will ever change my ways or ever feel less alone

Tuesday, October 25, 2016
my mom is the only reason I would never be able to kill myself

she’s been through too much already to lose a kid
but Jesus do I feel like I have no reason to be alive

Friday, May 19, 2017
oh, also I keep feeling like really painfully sad after drinking again.
cute cute!!

Friday, July 21, 2017
I really think I am incapable of love
I fucking hate myself

Sunday, September 10, 2017
This is one of the numbest moments I’ve had in a while.
I feel so empty and alone
And I keep laying here thinking about how I felt this exact same way 2,5,7 years ago
The difference is now I don’t even cry
I’ve done everything I can to stop these thoughts
Counseling and medication and time and work are supposed to bring about positive change right? What happens if I’m trying and I still feel the same emptiness though
Is everyone in the world meant to feel full and whole and completed?
I don’t think so
I think some of us are meant to only make it part of the wayI’m so empty
I want to die I really mean it

After re-reading these posts, I noticed so much shame and embarrassment in my words. Like I said, I was so hesitant to share any of this. The plethora of ways people can interpret these feelings is so terrifying to me. But I think it’s important to overcome that fear and speak up this month.

I hope, if you are reading this and have ever felt similarly, you know that you are so understood and so far from alone. I hope you know that, although it is so much easier said than done, sharing how you feel is cathartic in so many ways.

There is a good chance I will continue to struggle with these feelings for a long time to come – I really have no idea. But I am so happy that I was able to put them out into the world for the sake of this month.

Like I have said many times already, your feelings are so valid, whatever those feelings may be. Today I learned to take my own advice a little bit too.

Every 12 minutes, someone takes their own life…. that equates to over 38,000 Americans a year losing their lives to suicide. On top of that, 20-25% of Americans over the age of 18 struggle with depression, yet only half of these people seek help.

Whether or not you have any personal experiences with suicide/suicidal thoughts, I hope the words and videos that I have shared this month have resonated with you, and have helped, in some small way, to break the stigma surrounding mental health and suicide.

It is estimated the 80-90% of those who seek treatment for their mental health issues are treated successfully. Although, when it comes to mental illnesses, there is no “cure”, by breaking the stigma, we can persuade more people to feel comfortable enough to seek help and find progress and success. 

If you, or someone you know, is struggling with any type of emotional issue, I highly suggest looking into some of the amazing resources below. They are confidential (almost all are also anonymous) and extremely helpful:

Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255
Crisis Text Line: https://www.crisistextline.org/how-it-works/
The Trevor Project (LGBT-related crisis help): 1-866-4-U-TREVOR (866-488-7386)
SoulMedic (Anonymous Online Chat help): http://remedylive.com/soulmedics
I Am Alive (Crisis Network): https://www.imalive.org/index.php

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 – LJ

The piece I am sharing today is written by the very talented, LJ. If you read my blog pretty frequently, you probably remember her post from Pride Month. Something about the way LJ writes is so captivating to me. 

As you will soon read, her piece is about her stepdad and his struggle with Parkinson’s disease. I love the insight her story gives to this month’s topic. In my opinion, it’s easy to assume that suicidal thoughts have a direct correlation with mental illnesses like depression, but it’s easy to forget how many other factors can drive someone to want to take their own life as well.

The point of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month is to share a variation of stories in an effort to shed light on such a taboo, stigmatized topic. This is LJ’s story.

As painful as it probably was for her to share these words, they are so important. More than 10 million people worldwide are currently living with Parkinson’s Disease. After doing some of my own research, I also learned that, although suicidal ideation is known to be a very serious issue in patients with Parkinson’s disease, there is a lot that is still unknown. Doctors are still trying to figure out a relationship between suicide, age, medical treatment and disease within patients with Parkinson’s.

Having said that, LJ captures his stepdad’s experiences, and how they impacted her family in her words below:

May 17, 2016.

If I had known on this day the events that would happen the next morning, I would have done things differently.

May 18th, 2016 at 8:39 am

I had just finished unpacking my work bag and was talking about my weekend plans with a coworker when I received a call from my mom.

Barely audible and between gasps of breath, my mom informed me that she had just found my step-dad, dead from a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

My step-dad’s name is Bob. He married my mom when I was ten. He is the love of her life and he seamlessly became another father figure for my brother and me.

A few years ago, Bob was diagnosed with Parkinson’s Disease. If you do not know, Parkinson’s involves the malfunction and death of vital nerve cells in the brain – neurons. While many people associate Parkinson’s with shaky movements, not many realize that the disease also has a huge impact on mental health.

When I think about it now, I realize that I experienced the complete life cycle of Bob’s Parkinson’s. Before my very eyes, I watched this bubbly, adventurous, and energetic man transform into a mere shell of himself, full of anxiety and pain. Parkinson’s had won.

While learning about my step-dad’s suicide was devastating, what torments me still is the impact it’s had on my mom. Seeing the woman that has consistently been the force of strength in my life break down is heart-wrenching. Knowing that there is nothing I can do to fix it is debilitating.

A lot of people say that taking your own life is selfish, but I refuse to accept that dialogue. I know that my step-dad loved my mom more than anything in the world. He would have done anything in his power to ensure her happiness. Parkinson’s destroyed his mind and his will to live.

I strongly believe that if Parkinson’s stayed the fuck away from my family, things would have turned out differently. I wouldn’t be constantly wishing I had called home on May 17th 2016.

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.

Pride Month: Carrie

Although this weekend was Pride in NYC, that doesn’t mean my posts are over yet!! I still have a few more awesome pieces to share.

For those of you who know Carrie, are there even words to accurately describe her? Like I’m asking genuinely because I don’t know if there are. Carrie, the writer of this piece, is like the best combination of all of your favorite comedians, rolled into one.

Befriending Carrie felt so natural. It’s just impossible to feel uncomfortable around her. My friend Morgan put it best when she said, “she’s hysterical, yet the most personal and easy going at the same time. She’s a real life example of not taking anything too seriously and counting your blessings.”

That is Carrie to the T. Genuine, compassionate, and without a doubt, always the funniest person in the room. 

She is the type to put her whole heart into everything she does, which is why I am so excited to share her piece for Pride Month today. It’s raw and honest and seriously beautiful. Her words literally radiate this newfound confidence, and I can guarantee you’ll find it just as captivating as I do.

Here it is:

“What are you so afraid of?”

I sat across from my therapist shaking like a leaf. If I could’ve gotten up and bolted to the door at that point I would’ve, but my head was spinning and I thought any sudden movement would send my dinner all over her Persian rug. It was early October, I’d just graduated from college, and I hadn’t seen my friends in what felt like years. You know those heavy, grey coats they used to make you wear at the dentists when they’d x-ray your teeth? I felt like I was constantly wearing six of them– I was a slab of lead, I was dead wood, and I was sick of feeling like I couldn’t speak, or breathe, or grow, or do much of anything, really.

It was my fourth session with my therapist Susan, and I’d made pretty good headway since I had nearly gone into cardiac arrest coming out to her a few weeks prior. I had made some progress, but the real challenge was sitting right in front of me, staring me in the face: I had to come out to my friends and family.

Figuring out the logistics of coming out was turning into a big, gigantic fucking nightmare, and I was getting lost in the details. I felt like I was trying to throw a surprise party, only instead of everyone surprising one person, I was one person trying to surprise a mob of people. What if I tell this person and they can’t keep their mouth shut so they tell someone else, and it spreads? I’m not ready for all of kingdom come to know I’m gay. I can’t do this shit…

Trying to control a rumor is the easiest way to make yourself insane. The x-ray coat began to feel heavier and heavier.

I was in the middle of rambling on when Susan cut me off: “What are you so afraid of? What’s stopping you from coming home, right now, sitting your family down and saying, ‘hey guys, I’m gay.’”

She was right. I was scared. I was absolutely petrified. I thought that coming out meant I’d risk losing the friends/family/relationships that I cared the most about. I thought my friends would think I was weird. I thought my relationship with my sister would change, I worried my little brother wouldn’t look up to me the same way he did. I just wanted things to be the way they were, I didn’t want to be labeled, or boxed in, or put in a corner over something that I had no control over.

I was starting to work myself up into a state, when Susan looked me dead in the eye and said “Well, yeah. That might happen. You may lose some friends, people may look at you differently. But when you’re totally yourself, you’ll attract the true friends, and you’ll build stronger relationships than you’ve ever had before.” 

It’s crazy how the worst thing in the entire world can turn into the most important lesson ever. Yeah, I really did feel like my worst nightmare had come true- but it was the first time that something really clicked. It was the moment I realized that I had to really start to love myself- FULLY- every part, regardless of if I’m different, or weird, or off-the-wall, or whatever. Regardless, unconditionally, I had to be good with myself. I had to get right with myself.

It’s been 6 months since I came out, and while some things have changed, the important things have remained the same. The people who matter couldn’t have been more supportive, present, and encouraging. I’m talking rock stars. The night I told one of my best friends, Cat, she replied with: “Damn. Donald Trump was just elected President and my best friend’s gay. Today is officially the most shocking day of 2016.” We both fell into an instant heap of laughter. 6 months later, and I still crack up telling people her response … like I said. Rock stars.

I realize that not everyone has the same outcomes though. Some people don’t have the people; some people don’t have the support. That’s why, now more than ever, we have got to love ourselves and practice being true to ourselves every day. It’s not easy and it’s something we’ve got to work at. When you’re true to yourself you glow, and you simultaneously give other people permission to do so too.

In the end, nothing is more important than being true to yourself. No image, no idea, no preconceived notions about what you should do with your life, who you should love, who you should be, should come before being true to yourself. I won’t act like I’ve got it all figured out, I’ll be the first to admit that I’m on the first step of a thousand-ringed ladder. But for the first the first time I feel like the ladder is leaning against the right wall.

About a year ago I stumbled upon a post about coming out, and I thought, “damn it, I wish I could just talk to this person anonymously. I don’t want to open a whole can of worms, I just need someone to listen.” If you’re feeling like this, don’t do what I did, and put it at the bottom of your to-do list. Come talk to me. Doesn’t matter who you are, if you know me, if you’re feeling just a hunch, or you’re like WOW IM AS GAY AS SUNSHINE. It’s 2017, but it still takes a heap of courage. The more we can help each other out the better off we all will be.

Special Thanks to you Krump, for asking me to write this blog. It’s one thing to be brave enough to put your stuff on the big bad internet like she does every month, but she takes it a step further and gives other people the opportunity to share their voice too. Hats off to you my friend.

Check Carrie out on Instagram: @carriebrennan

 

MHAM Post #18: Kelsey

With the long weekend that just passed, I wanted to wait to share this post until today, when I knew people would be back to their everyday schedules and more likely to read it (it’s just that good).

The writer of this piece is, again, someone I was introduced to through a friend. Her name is Kelsey and, although we don’t know each other in real life, I feel genuinely connected to her after reading her words.

As cliche as it may sound, Kelsey’s writing truly makes you understand what it feels like to be a part of the roller coaster ride that is her dad’s mental health and addiction struggles. 

My favorite thing about this piece is how well it shows that people’s experiences can impact their loved ones mental health too. 

It’s heart-felt and heart-breaking all at once, and I’m pumped to share it here:  

HERO:
My dad is my hero. He is my favorite person in the whole, entire universe. We have the same humor, we have the same cackle, and we have the same antsiness when it comes to scheduling/agendas. Our hobbies together include: Watching Family Guy, making terrible, bologna sandwiches (drenched in too much Oscar Meyer, mustard) and taking midday naps in a shitty, box-fanned vortex, with our two, unruly Irish Setters.

My dad is a Clinical Social Worker.
And he’s damn good at what he does.

I’ve listened-in on countless, midnight phone calls, convincing his clients to “make it” or “hold on” until tomorrow. My dad would repeat: “Phil, you won’t feel like this tomorrow- It might not be any better, it might only feel slightly different. But I’ll guarantee you: It won’t feel the same.”

Dad would take a few minutes, nodding/listening to the distraught man on the other end, “Phil, call me in the morning. Promise me you’ll be around.” And just like that, Dad and I would continue our movie night, no comments/questions needed. Phil would call 6am tomorrow morning.

On the weekends, we’d go to garage sales so dad could, “Buy Richard a table for his Birthday,” because Richard didn’t own any furniture. We would take a pit stop, on the way to the grocery store, so dad could “Give Janice a pack of cigarettes, and a Snickers, so she’d make it through the week.” Always something.  

He’s my hero.
But he wasn’t always.

THE BEGINNING:
I found out my dad had a problem in 2005, when I was in 8th grade. Through Mom’s crying, through selling our home, and through a short-lived divorce, I found out that my dad had another talent.

My dad is addicted to Poker.
And he was damn good at what he did.

Until he wasn’t.

We lost a lot that year. My parents decided that restarting (again) in Idaho was the best option. In turn, we watched my dad like a hawk, and Dad attended Gamblers Anonymous Meetings (G.A.). Out of guilt, Dad encouraged mom to be a stay-at-home mom. In turn (because her babies weren’t in need of this role), Mom reconnected with her good friend, wine cooler.

Looking back, I never recall being sad. My parents were always dysfunctional. My dad always worked a lot, and mom always drank. Just how it was.

LATER ON:
By 2014, Dad had stopped going to G.A. Meetings, and Mom was Mom (that’s another story, for another time). Dad was working later nights. He was gone more weekends. He was on-edge, stressed from working On-Call at the hospital. I loved my Dad, but he was definitely a different person than he was in 2005. But I understood. Mom wasn’t working. He needed the extra cash. I’d pitch in when I could. I would let him borrow $200 here, $300 there. I’d let him put groceries on my credit card.

Regardless, I was proud.
Dad had stopped playing poker.

Until he didn’t.

In summer of 2014, we found out Dad had never actually been working nights, or going to Hospital seminars over the weekends. Dad was never borrowing money for groceries… Dad’s friend, John cracked one day when Mom cornered him. “John. Where’s Steve? And don’t you dare lie to me.” John whimpered, “He’s at a casino in northern Idaho. He will tell you he’s in Vegas, but he’s not. Someone needs to drive and get him…”

Dad finally called, after ignoring our calls for 3 days. “Jan. I messed up. It’s bad.”

Over the last year, Dad had gambled away an unspeakable amount of money. He took money from my Brother and I to count cards, and he maxed out our credit cards. I thought, “Kelsey…How could you be so blind?”

That was just the beginning.

ACUTE WITHDRAWAL SYNDROME:
We also found out that Dad had been abusing opioids. He had been addicted for the last 7 years. My Brother and I knew that Dad would pop an anxiety pill here and there… but we didn’t realize the dosage, or frequency, or how bad it really was.

Wasn’t it normal to take an anxiety pill, every once in awhile?

With his new job in Boise, insurances/doctors had changed, and Dad no longer had the “Doctor, Homie-Hook-Up.” Dad went off these drugs cold turkey. In turn, Dad went crazy. In 2014, Dad started going through Acute, Opiate Withdrawal Syndrome. (It’s now 2017. He isn’t any better.)

Dad stopped being any form of my Dad. His “Family Guy humor” stopped, his cackle stopped, and he spent most of his time in the room of vortex fans, sleeping. His hands shook. He preferred to sit alone, instead of goofing with his kids.

Recently here in 2017, Dad tried to explain this chemical imbalance/withdrawal syndrome to my Aunt. “It feels like I’m going to jump out of my skin. And I have a hard time with day-to-day tasks. The thought of shaving gives me high anxiety.” He continued with a story: One-day at work (before he realized how bad it was), Dad was counseling a couple. The couple was fighting in Spanish, and Dad couldn’t get a word in. Dad was patiently waiting for them to stop speaking Spanish, so he could help.

Turns out…

The couple was speaking English.

SHIT HAPPENS:
Later in the summer, Dad crashed the Prius. His reply to the accident was, “I wish it killed me.” That day Mom took Grandpa’s guns from the house.

A couple months after Dad fessed up about gambling, and beginning the journey of this new mental illness, Dad lost his job. They were losing the house. My brother broke his arm and lost his job as well. I was the only one in my family with a job, and I was just offered an internship at my dream job, outside Seattle.

One Saturday afternoon, while working in the Boise, Idaho Mall, I had a full-blown panic attack. I fell in the backroom at my store, chest pounding, not being able to breath. How could I leave to Seattle for this internship? “How dare I think about leaving them.”

CONCLUSION:
My boss at the time (now Mentor, and who I consider a best friend), Meghan, found me defeated on the dust-bunny covered, cement floor. I’ll never forget the way she calmed me down. These were the conclusions she lead me to (took me until just now to finally accept):

-I can’t save my parents
-I can’t send them money (no matter how indirectly I’m asked)
-Mental illness is real
-Suicide is real; I can’t blame myself
-I can only focus on me, and my well being

 Because of this mind-set, I’ve accomplished so much more than I thought I could.

-I took my dream internship outside Seattle
-I became a Jr. Marketing Coordinator for the company
-I paid off my car (big win for me!)
-I dropped in on my first mini-ramp
-I received my Bachelors of Business Administration Degree
-I moved to California
-I became a Marketing Coordinator for another, kick-ass company
-I started volunteering for a dog rescue 

NEXT STEPS:
My dad rarely calls. When he does, and I see his caller ID, I think “Is he ok? Is he calling to say goodbye?”  This is the truth I live with.

We lost our house, and my childhood memorabilia, yearbooks, and Harry Potter action figures are stored in my best friend’s garage.  My parents are living pay-check-to-pay-check in a small, rental house. Mom finally got a job after 8 years. Dad is on unable to work, and is applying for disability. I haven’t been home in 8 months, and I’m honestly a little scared to.

However… When days are bad, and holidays away from Idaho feel extra heavy… I think back to when my dad helped Phil, on the phone all those nights…

“Kelsey…you won’t feel like this tomorrow- It might not be any better, it might only feel slightly different. But I’ll guarantee you: It won’t feel the same.”

So it turns out sharing a little bit of my personal life on here has already had some pretty cool outcomes

alexkrump:

Although these may be little accomplishments, bear with me, because its progress nonetheless. The morning after I wrote that long post about my inability to express my feelings, one of my best friends reached out to me about how she felt like it took a lot of courage for me to share those thoughts publicly. I know its silly, but things like that, even from someone I talk to everyday, feel really great sometimes. 

Sometimes all you need is a reminder that what you’re doing takes guts. It is so easy to beat yourself up and feel like you’re weak and cowardly and incompetent because you don’t have everything (or anything at all) figured out. As cliche as it is, we really are our own worst critics. I am so guilty of that every single day. But positive affirmation from someone can really go a long way. I need to remember to try to share that positivity with other people more often also. 

Today another friend of mine happen to stumble upon my tumblr and that post too. It felt good to know that I have people that genuinely do care, and genuinely do want to listen and want to let me be open and vulnerable with them. It is so easy to automatically assume no one wants to hear what you’re struggling with. At my anxious moments, I work myself up and assume that because no one is asking if I’m okay, they don’t care about my wellbeing. But in reality, how does anyone know to ask how you’re doing if you don’t give them a reason to? 

It takes a lot of courage to admit to someone that you’re not okay. But I try to remind myself that that courage almost always brings a massive reward. It is terrifying to feel like you’ve given this big part of yourself to someone else. Especially because they can literally do anything they want to you in return. No one has to accept and support you, and honestly not everyone will. But I can pretty confidently say that most people will, and with that support you will grow. Those people who do end up judging you will help you grow too. 

Not every day is a good day for me. I actually had a few pretty bad days before this, but I’m thankful for today. I am thankful for the reminder that I have people to rely on, even when my anxiety is trying to convince me I’m so completely alone. With this support I will hopefully start to take more and more baby steps towards allowing myself to be a more honest and vulnerable person. Maybe one day I’ll be able to share these feelings in person with someone! 

It’s also pretty cool that my post last week got 3 likes. I know that is such a minuscule number, but to me it means a lot. It means there are 3 people out there that read that post and could relate to it enough to like it. There are 3 people out there that understand how I feel. 

Maybe one day soon I’ll have the guts to share something more detailed about my dad.