Suicide Prevention Awareness Month – What It’s Like to Lose Someone to Suicide

Another crazy busy day at work means another video as today’s post (sorrrrrry!). I think this video is extremely powerful though, and I think it’s a great sequel to yesterday’s post.

Although I feel very strongly that suicide is NOT selfish act, I do believe that it definitely has a wide-spread impact. Suicide has a way of affecting so many people in so many different ways.

Sometimes, with regards to death in general, I have this theory that some people do not allow themselves to accept that they’re struggling/grieving as much as they deserve. Does that make any sense? I think that because death is scary, yet common, yet simultaneously difficult to understand, we don’t always know how it’s supposed to affect us.

In reality, loss impacts each of us differently, and no one way is right or wrong. Because of this, we should accept that we each cope differently too. I don’t think there should be any shame in this. I also don’t think that we should expect the pain to go away at any specific point. Grieving takes time. In many senses, I don’t believe grieving really ever ends.

If you have lost a loved one and you want to talk about your feelings and your grief, I highly encourage you to. It can (and will) be extremely therapeutic and cathartic. If you are not comfortable sharing that part of you yet, don’t! You need to wait until you’re ready.

My only advice regarding this is to share how you’re feeling at some point, when you feel ready, whenever that may be. Like I said yesterday, there are people that understand what you’re going through. There are people that care and there are people that want to listen. Please don’t ever convince yourself that the way you are coping is incorrect, shameful, or unworthy of vocalizing. Your feelings are so beyond valid.

Loss is confusing and heartbreaking. It brings with it a mixed bag of emotions. Loss due to suicide, in some ways, is even more complicated. Please cut yourself some slack and just allow yourself to feel what you feel.

Suicide Prevention Awareness Month – Julie

Today’s piece is one I have been dying to share for a while now, well before I came up with the idea for this month’s collaborative project. 

This is a piece written by my aunt, Julie. In many ways, she has been someone I have idolized for so long. As I grew up, I was always so proud to have so many interests in common with her. To me, she was like the success story I wanted to one day become. 

I first read this piece a few years ago. I still remember how relieved I felt when I finished it. I remember feeling like “Oh…okay!  She’s not flawless, she’s human. Cool, I can be that. That’s attainable.” It was as if, in that moment, a huge weight was lifted off my shoulders. I remember feeling this urge to share the story with everyone I knew, in hopes that they would feel the same. 

This was long before I started to go to therapy, mind you. This was well before I was comfortable admitting that I struggled with anxiety and depression. This piece was one of the first real eye-opening experiences I ever had with regards to anything involving mental health. It was one of the first times I realized that maybe I wasn’t okay, and if I wasn’t, that wasn’t wrong. It was one of the first times I didn’t feel alone. 

When I knew I wanted to share pieces for Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, this is the first one that came to mind. Not only is Julie an extremely talented (published) writer, but she’s also a volunteer counselor for the Crisis Text Line

In case you have never heard of it, the Crisis Text Line is a 24/7 support service for anyone, in any type of crisis, at any time. It is an AMAZING resource. Check it out if you haven’t already.

Although I could go on for hours, I don’t want to ramble too long before introducing Julie’s piece. I hope it touches you in some of the same ways it did for me. Here it is:

 

The Fall of Strangers
Julie Greicius

Sometimes I write that she runs to the edge of the rooftop. Fifteen stories below, I’m running uphill on the sidewalk. She speeds up for momentum, so that she’ll fly past the instant when she might change her mind. The park isn’t safe at this hour, so I’m under the streetlights. I feel strong, so I lengthen my stride and decide to run farther. She vaults out past the edge, and gives herself to gravity just as I’m fighting it. For a second, she’s in flight. Our hearts are pounding. A few more steps and I’ll catch up to her.

Other times I write it straight: In 1996 I witnessed a suicide in New York City. I abandon imaginary details. I don’t really think she was running. Not at her age, in her state, or in those shoes: sullen mauve pumps, one of which landed askew next to her. It would be wrong to say she launched like a diver, or dove like a bird of prey. For all I know she might have been pushed. I only know for sure what I finally saw: her body on the pavement, head smashed beyond recovery, brains fanned out across the sidewalk.

I was working that year as a biographer’s assistant, at a small desk built into the underside of a loft bed in a one-bedroom apartment. Those were the early days of telecommuting. The woman I worked for lived just across town on the Upper East Side. We’d check in by phone, but most of the time I worked alone, interrupted by field trips to public libraries or longer getaways to private archives to find letters and diaries that belonged to people I had never met, most of whom were already dead. When I worked at home, days often ended at five o’clock with me realizing I hadn’t spoken a word to another living person all day.

I loved my job, loved holding the aged, handwritten letters of strangers, examining the journals of others and exploring the idiosyncrasies of families that were impeccable on the outside and daft on the inside. They felt familiar. I grew fond of the people I researched, and they became my community by proxy. I had freedom to work when and where I pleased, and to disappear whenever I wanted to. I lived with my fiancé, who was finishing medical school and rarely at home. When he was, he was fitfully asleep, or a shadow of himself, consumed by work.

I was good at being alone, I thought, even though I was lonely some of the time and mildly depressed—a condition I dismissed as indigenous to New York, something I could handle.

At the end of the day, every day, I got out to run. Running in Manhattan put me back among people. And there were no people I would rather have mingled among more than the people of New York City. I would run from our apartment on 107th street through the neighborhoods on Amsterdam and Columbus, past the bodegas and towering apartment projects over to the giant hill at the upper western corner of Central Park. I’d run into the park and make a double loop around the reservoir. I’d pass people on rollerblades, lovers in arms, children with nannies. And by the time I got to the East Side the crowd was all Burberry and fine terriers on leashes. When I wanted a shorter run, I ran through Riverside Park along the Hudson, over broken crack vials and, further south, through the islands of flower gardens set in the cobblestone. I ran by people on park benches staring alone at the river, people with children and dogs, teenagers in tunnels. I ran in every kind of weather, from the worst heat to the heaviest snow. Running was my drug, my release, my state of grace.

By the time I left my apartment that afternoon the sun was setting. I ran down West Side Drive, from 107th down to 72nd Street and back again, and then on past my own block. A light rain started to fall. Ahead, I saw the lights of fire trucks in front of a building—maybe a fire alarm or a car accident. There were no police lines, up, and no one seemed distressed. So I kept to my path.

A group of people stood looking, their eyes all pointing to something on the ground. As I passed them, I suddenly saw her: a woman in her mid-fifties, curly hair, gray skirt, a single shoe on the ground near her foot. Cinderella. Her head had made a pit in the pavement. But there was no pit. The side of her skull was flattened against the ground. Her brain speckled the sidewalk all the way to the small bushes that bordered the building from which she had dropped. The same sidewalk where I suddenly realized my feet were falling. Now I was on tiptoe, horrified, leaping past what I had already disgraced.

Of all the thousands of ways we encounter strangers, meeting someone at the moment of their death is possibly second in intensity only to meeting them at the moment of their birth. Between those extremes, we pass by with indifference in grocery stores or airports, or confront with clear intention on battlefields or in bars. But to witness this woman alone on the pavement, destroyed, was more than I knew what to do with. I had no basis for processing it, no precedent for understanding the absurdity of how we had just made contact.  

A few minutes faster and I might have blocked her, stopped her, or obstructed her fall. Maybe just one person on the street below would have been enough to change her mind. Then again, she might have struck and killed me. But I wasn’t there when she fell. Should I have been? I was no one: a pedestrian, a jogger, a passerby. The cement was there to catch her.

I stopped running and sat on the curb. There were footsteps behind me, and then a hand on my shoulder.

*

Over the next several years, my fiancé, Mike, became my husband, and we moved to the suburbs of San Francisco to raise our two children. One afternoon my friend Stephanie called and asked if I would go to see Jason, a friend of hers whom I’d never met. She was traveling, and had received an email from him saying he was in trouble. He had stopped drinking a while ago, but was drunk today, far gone, and sounded like he might be thinking about taking his own life.

I don’t know what made her think I was qualified to give that kind of support. My husband said it might be safer—for Jason and maybe for me, too—to call 911. That might have been true.

“What am I going to find?” I asked her.

“I don’t know,” she said. “I just think he needs someone.”

I drove to his house. I didn’t find it easily, but soon realized that he lived in a house behind a house.

When I reached his door, I noticed the lights inside were off. Maybe I was already too late. I wondered if he was hurt or if I was going to get hurt. A small sign on the door read JASON—a note to help people find him. He wanted to be found.

I opened the screen door and rang the doorbell. I waited, then knocked. Still nothing. I opened the mail slot and yelled into it. “Hey Jason! Answer the door!”

Another minute passed, enough to scare me.

Finally I heard someone coming. He opened the door. His eyes were red and glassy. At the base of his bleached-blonde hair were black roots, tousled as if he’d been sleeping. He wore sweat pants and a T-shirt. “Hey,” he said. The apartment smelled like cigarettes and maybe pot. Definitely alcohol.

“I’m a friend of Stephanie’s,” I said. “She said you weren’t feeling so hot so I came over.”

“Stephanie,” he said slowly. “That girl. She’s good people.”

He opened the door wide and let me in.

“She was worried about you.”

“Yeah. I don’t know. I have a fever or something.”

His apartment was dark and stuffy. A small plant struggled on the kitchen table. He sat down on a small couch by sliding glass doors.

I sat down in a chair facing him. And there we were. I remembered once sitting in a therapist’s office back in New York. I was crying and crying—I couldn’t handle it after all—and she leaned down to the floor and pushed a box of tissues toward me without ever lifting her ass off her chair. I never went back.

I didn’t come there to sit back and stare at this man. I had nothing to say to him politely over a coffee table.

I said, “I’d rather sit on your side. I came here to make sure you’re okay.”

I stood up and climbed over the coffee table straight to him, sat next to him and took him in my arms. He fell into me and I squeezed him hard. He shifted and turned so he could fit more closely. He sighed. “Thank you,” he said. He pulled his legs close to his body and curled up. I think I said, “It’s okay. It’s okay.”

He wasn’t crying. He breathed heavily in big sighs. Maybe he was relaxing, or just trying to breathe. I didn’t know how much he’d had to drink, but I guessed a lot.

We were quiet for a while. I had rushed over quickly after my friend called, right after a shower.

“Your hair is wet,” he said. “You smell so clean.”

“I think I know how you feel,” I told him. “I’ve felt exactly the way you’re feeling right now.”

“When?” he asked. “Tell me.”

But I couldn’t. The answer was “yesterday.” I thought it would terrify him.

*

Yesterday: I pulled the point of a razor across my skin and made a cut on the back of my left hand, on the flesh between my finger and thumb.

I wasn’t even close to admitting what I had been feeling in the previous weeks. I kept my life in a rush of accomplishment, so the empty spaces would blur, and was now at a halt, alone, leaning against a counter in my bathroom.

The pain stung, corrosive, but the color was rich and red—unmistakably healthy. The sight of it made me feel strangely robust, in spite of how I felt emotionally. Here was the blood that propelled me forward, the same blood that could tell me I was young and fertile, or mortally injured. I took my time, in no rush to see it end. Then I thought of my children and husband and job and responsibilities, covered the cut with a sober band-aid, and left the house.

I wondered, if someone was going to confront herself finally and truly, if it could only be done violently.

But that wasn’t enough. I didn’t want to die. I want to look over the edge, to confront the stranger in myself, and stand my ground.

*

“A while ago,” I lied. “I cut myself to sort of punctuate what I was feeling. It was like this huge cavern of loneliness and despair opened up in me, and I could make it small and manageable and put a band-aid on it. I didn’t think anyone else would understand.”

“I know,” he said.

But he didn’t know, didn’t see that the band-aid was still on my hand.

“So I’m here and you don’t have to be alone,” I told him.

“You know, you sound like you’re good at this,” he said. “The way you just showed up and let me hold on to you. Like you know twelve-step programs.”

“I don’t know. I guess I think it’s something we all need at one time or another.”

“That’s how sponsors are supposed to be in AA. They’re supposed to be there for you.”

“I mostly know them from The Wire.”

“I love The Wire!”

“Yes, well, Bubs is all I know about AA.”

“Bubs!”

There was Jason, this stranger in my arms, suddenly very much alive. In that apartment, I might have found anything. Or he might have never even let me in the front door. He would need therapy from someone more professional than me, or an intervention, but at the moment, he just wanted to shoot the shit.

We talked about television, about his sponsor, and about differences between suburban and city life. I said it wasn’t as easy to walk outside and enjoy the anonymous comfort of humanity like you can in the city when you feel alone. Jason agreed, or nodded, or mmhmm’d.

“But do you do this a lot?”

“You mean show up at stranger’s homes when they’re sad and sit on the couch with them?”

He laughed.

“No, I don’t.”

“And Stephanie just asked you to come over?”

“Yeah.”

“Stephanie. Shit. You know when you let people lean on you, when you help people, you forget about your own problems.”

Stephanie had called more friends, people Jason knew, and in a little while they showed up with their baby and gave Jason more distraction, more love, held on to him when it was time for me to go home to my own family.

That night he called. He sounded happy, relieved—and maybe a little in disbelief that the world had come through for him, stood in his way of a path he didn’t really want to take at all. And I told him that he rescued me, too. Months later I told him that it really was the day before that I had been feeling the way that he had. That it was my own vulnerability that qualified me to hold him up, to really understand how he felt, to hold him like some kind of fragile scaffold.

*

One of the bystanders had come over to me. He must have seen me run straight through the crime scene (was it a crime?), and I was ashamed.

“Are you okay?” he asked.

I nodded. That anyone should be asking how I was doing when a woman lay dead twenty feet away astonished me.

But I wanted the comfort. I asked him what happened, who she was. He said no one knew.

“Did she live there?” I asked, indicating the building above her.

“I don’t know. If she did, nobody knew her,” he said. “Are you sure you’re okay?”

“Yes,” I said, and stood up. “Thank you.”

I couldn’t pick up where I left off. I walked home because it didn’t make sense to run. Nothing made sense. I had no idea how long that feeling would last.

At home, I turned on the television to keep me company. Four different channels had shows about suicide. They were melodramas, made-for-TV movies, a talk show, and stand-up comedy. I turned it off.

I walked back up to the scene. The entire block had been tied off with bright yellow tape and flares at 109th and Broadway to prevent cars from coming down the street. From a distance I could see the woman’s body was covered now, her shoe still lying next to her.

I wondered who she was, what had provoked her, what weight had brought her down. There was nothing in the papers the next day, nor any day after.

I called a friend and she came over. We put our feet up and had a drink. She spent the night and slept next to me in my bed like my sister used to. We talked in the dark and soon fell asleep.

** Originally published in the anthology Rumpus Women, Vol. 1, editing by Julie Greicius and Elissa Bassist **

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& check out some of her other work for The Rumpus

September is National Suicide Prevention Month

I’m extremely excited to mention that I am working on another collaborative project for this coming month. As I’m sure you can tell from the title, the pieces will revolve around the idea of suicide and suicide prevention.

Having said that, I’m approaching this topic very apprehensively. This is without a doubt the most sensitive subject matter I’ve attempted to tackle yet.

I want to preface this by saying I am far from an expert. Although I will share my own experiences, and some pieces written by family and friends, these are only a couple of viewpoints in the wide world of opinions and experiences related to suicide and mental health in general.

The intention behind these stories is simply to create dialogue. In my opinion, we still don’t often make open conversation about such sensitive subject matter very readily available. How are people supposed to know how to seek help/cope/understand what they’re feeling if resources aren’t easily accessible and dialogue isn’t actively promoted?

According to Mental Health America, Suicide is now the 8th leading cause of death among Americans (it used to be the 10th according to the CDCP). Over 40,000 Americans take their lives each year.

Why does this matter so much to me?? Because I think that this topic is so much more complex than we often talk about. Those numbers and statistics cannot even begin to encompass such a multi-dimensional concept. It’s honestly difficult for me to even put into words what I mean by this because of how intricate I believe the topic of suicide is.

Here are the ideas floating around in my brain to support what I’m trying to get at though:

  1. That number of “40,000 American’s” doesn’t even include suicide attempt survivors or people with suicidal thoughts that have not yet acted on them
  2. The question of why people have suicidal thoughts is extremely complicated and difficult to answer (and it’s not a one-size-fits all type of situation)
  3. Suicide affects friends and family members too. On top of that, the extent to which it affects these people differs from person to person.
  4. Wanting to die doesn’t always mean you literally want to die,  but it still feels all too real, and explaining what I mean by this is almost impossible.
  5. There is a massive stigma surrounding the topic that negatively impacts those struggling even more.
  6. Shame is such a huge factor that plays into all of this, and I believe the only way to learn and teach others that there is literally nothing to be ashamed of is to talk about it more!!!

Some of these posts will be from the point of view of those who have lost a loved ones to suicide. Some will be from the point of view of those struggling with suicidal thoughts themselves. Some of these will have comedic undertones, and some will be much more serious.

I hope that if you can take away one thing from this, it’s that there is no right or wrong way to share these experiences and feelings. And even more so than that, I hope that if you can relate to any of these words, you are able to begin to realize that you are so far from alone.

Also, a quick disclaimer: because this is such a delicate topic, please, as readers, keep in mind that each piece I share is, without a doubt, intended to be as sensitive and compassionate as possible. 

I will start sharing posts for this month after Labor Day!

**Also, if you are interested in writing something for this month and I haven’t reached out to you yet, please feel free to contact me!! I would LOVE to share your words**

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: Chrissy

Remember last month when I said how crazy and mind-blowing it was to receive so much positive feedback regarding the Mental Health Awareness Month posts? If you had told me then that these Pride Month posts would receive even more views, shares, and positive feedback, I probably would have never believed you. 

More on how appreciative I am for all of that another time, but I did want to touch on it for a reason. The writer of this piece is Chrissy, a friend of my friend Laura. It was so beyond humbling when Chrissy reached out to me to write a piece for this blog (thanks to you too, Laura). This kind of interest from people like Chrissy is exactly why I wanted to start this project in the first place. 

I think Chrissy’s words are important for many reasons. As you will read, she explains a common misconception that many people struggle with. For some reason, there is still this unspoken belief that, as a female, you can’t be both gay and pretty. There is still this massive lingering stereotype that gay men are all chiseled Gods with wonderful taste in fashion, and gay women are masculine,  sports-loving, for lack of a better term, “dykes”. 

Not only do I strongly disagree with this long-standing theory, but I actually believe it can be really detrimental to both people within the LGBTQ+ community, and people still coming to terms with their sexuality. To see what I mean by this, check out Chrissy’s piece below: 

“You’re too pretty to be gay.”

A phrase that holds more power than I could ever imagine. Most people who utter it think it’s a harmless joke after feeling unsure of how to react when I disclose my sexuality. But I wish so badly that I could show them the self-conscious whirlwind it sends me down.

I used to feel so much pressure from society to “be a certain way”, and at first, that meant trying to be “straight.” I was unhappy and uncomfortable in my own skin. I felt empty – like I had no purpose in life when I could not live it, or express myself, the way that made me happy. I felt like I was constantly drowning. There was no coming up for air until I could let the part of me out that would help keep me afloat.

When I first started coming out to people, I felt obligated to be the “right kind of lesbian.” What does that even mean, anyway? Ask most close-minded people, and the responses you may get are “butch” or “dyke”. My personal favorite? “Lipstick lesbian.” A term that is thrown around like some foul, derogatory thing, like it’s the “wrong” lesbian. I felt I had something to prove, as if I had to show people that I could be the “right” kind of lesbian. But not anymore. I love women, and how I look and how I dress doesn’t change that. I am free to love who I want, and that, that is what pride is about for me. This month is meant to show people that it’s okay to not fit in a perfect box. Not everything is black and white. It’s something to celebrate, not something to put others down for. Love is beautiful in its entirety.

While I’ve come to terms with the fact that there is no wrong way to love, I still struggle with getting to the stage of readiness where I can tell other people about who I love. My reality of being a lesbian? Imagine every time you met someone new you had to preface with “I’m straight”. It sounds absurd, right?  To announce your sexuality as if it could make or break a relationship. Or worse, that it’s something that could put your life in danger. That’s the reality I live in. With every new move, every new opportunity or experience, any time there’s a chance to meet someone new, it’s a thought that’s in the back of my head, constantly. How to do it, if I should say it, playing out the worst case scenario of how someone might respond. 

As the years go on, I have realized how much it consumes my life, and though I have become more confident with who I am, the fear of people’s responses has grown stronger. I literally feel an obligation to come out again, every time I meet someone. When I was dating, I felt like I had to explain to everyone that I was gay before I could bring my girlfriend around. Needless to say, the anxiety won out most of the time. Unfortunately,  it has been the cause of many breakups, which is infuriating. I want to be angry at all the people I feel as though I have to explain myself to. But who’s fault is it that I have to explain myself? That is the million dollar question. Where did this notion that I have to “get permission” to be gay around people I consider friends come from? Without anywhere to direct that anger, it can bubble inside. Combined with the anxiety it brings, it’s like the angel and the devil on your shoulder, only worse, because they are both whispering terrible things into your ear.

Working in healthcare, I feel as if I will forever be living a double life. I feel obligated to hide the truth about my sexual orientation for fear that it will impact being hired or being able to maintain a job, or worse, how my patients view me. While I want to be angry at the people who make me feel like I have to hide, I am actually more upset with myself for letting other people have such a hold on my life and how I live it. I don’t feel like me, not completely. Because a huge part of me is missing for the majority of my day, and instead, it is always just tucked away in my mind.  While most of the time it’s not something that’s actively a part of my day, it’s impossible to permanently evade the “do you have a boyfriend?” question. A question I so desperately want to correct, and say, “do you mean ‘do I have a significant other?'” I wish I was just bold enough to respond with, “no, but I have a girlfriend.” That day has yet to come though. I am hoping one day I’ll be brave enough because that day will be the first that I feel infinitely free.

 While I would like to think we’ve made progress in this world, it’s still a very scary place to live in. The fear of rejection can make you feel like such an inadequate human being. It can waste you away into nothingness, and infiltrate your every thought until you actually start to believe that you aren’t worth it, that you’re wrong, and that you’re not enough. If there’s one thing I want people to take away from this, it’s that they are enough. They are worth it. Rejection does not define you as a person but rather, it speaks volumes of those who are unwilling to open their minds. It is so incredibly important to rise above those people and love in the way that feels right to you. That’s why “Pride” is such an amazing experience.  You can feel the power of love, and you can sense the strength of all those who have risen above the worst of it. That strength is what we need.  That strength gives people hope. That strength is why I’m here today.   

You can also check out Chrissy on Instagram: @chrissy_wojo

Pride Month: LJ

Today I am extremely happy to share a post written by the very talented, Lawn aka LJ. I met LJ freshman year of college, and I remember feeling like she was just immediately one of the most friendly, outgoing, and accepting people I had met thus far. 

Freshman year of college is weird AF, you’re trying to get to know people, find your niche, and feel comfortable in a foreign place. I was lucky to have been introduced to LJ through another friend of mine, Kara, and our friendship just felt natural. I’m pretty sure the first time we hung out she literally let me drag her along to a concert hours away from our school, for an artist she had never heard of, and even welcomed us to sleep at her house afterward too. 

Anyway, the reason I asked her to write has nothing to do with that (lol), I just wanted to give a funny little backstory. I asked LJ to write because I think her ideas are extremely important. I’ve been following her on Twitter for years now,  and I just feel like there is so much substance and importance to the things LJ tweets and retweets. I just had this feeling that if I reached out to her, she’d have something unique and valuable to share. 

To be honest, LJ’s piece surpasses what I even expected. I know this month is about “Pride”, but like I have said before, “Pride”, and the meaning behind it, encompasses so much more than just positive experiences. Her words aren’t necessarily about a coming out story or a supportive moment, quite the opposite actually, and I think that is what makes them powerful. I don’t want to give too much away with my summary, so just check it out here:

I’m gay, but don’t tell my coworkers

June. The month many LGBTQA members of our society are looking forward to every year. Why? Well, because it’s the month corporate America so generously gives to the LGBTQA community as a chance to be unapologetically proud of who we are and who we love.

For starters, I am a cisgender gay woman and my pronouns are she/her/hers. I am out to pretty much everyone: my parents, my friends, and even the random girls I meet around midnight in bars while I’m in line for the bathroom.

However, there is one group of people to which I have never uttered the words, “I’m gay” — my coworkers. While many of them probably assume my identity because I never bring a date to our staff parties and can rock a pantsuit better than Ellen, they never bring it up.

Kenji Yoshino best describes this term in his book, Covering: The Hidden Assault on Our Civil Rights. In Laymen’s terms, to cover is to tone down a disfavored identity to fit the mainstream. It’s not a new term and it isn’t solely attributed to the LGBTQA community. There is also racial covering and sex-based covering, but this post focuses on LGBTQA covering.

People cover for many reasons. I cover for fear that my homosexual identity will undermine the quality of work that I produce. I don’t want to be known at work for my sexual orientation because I don’t want to give anyone a reason to dislike me for something that is irrelevant to my work performance.

Is this thought process messed up? You bet. It’s hard going to work every day feeling like I have to censor my true self to cater to the bias and comfort levels of other people.

But covering doesn’t make me feel safe and “in control.” Instead, I feel ashamed and dishonest. I’m ashamed that I care so much of what current and future colleagues may think of me and I feel a dishonesty that is so privileged because I can pass as straight.

It’s also discouraging to think that people I work so closely with every day might suddenly shift their opinions of me because of who I have feelings for.

I guess I have to decide what’s more important to me, the comfort of others or how beautiful my girlfriend will look at our next holiday party.

An Aggressively Long Novel i.e. My Feelings on the Election!!!!

So I purposely attempted to wait a little while before
writing anything about my feelings on the election. Partially because I still
am not entirely sure how I feel, and partially because I wanted to let it sink
in a bit.

I’ll start by saying this post is going to be very different
than the post I started to write last Tuesday after voting. HAVVVVVING SAID
THAT, originally I was VERY bitter that I was so happy and hopeful on Tuesday, and then so heartbroken on Wednesday, but I don’t feel that way
anymore.

I am still so
thankful that I took the day off last week to vote. It was the first election I
have voted in and I am really proud that I spent the time trying to really understand
who/what I was voting for. I am also proud that I took the day off to travel
back to Pennsylvania. Pennsylvania, as I’m sure you know, is historically a
swing state, so I feel like my trek back was worth the effort, even if the rest
of the state didn’t end up voting the way that I did.

On an unrelated note, Tuesday was also nice just because I
was home. I spent the afternoon sitting and writing at the Starbucks in the
center of town that I used to hang out at every weekend throughout my teens. It
was kind of a funny coming-of-age feeling to be there as a “mature” voting
adult, after spending so much time there as a little naïve kid. I also spent
the evening looking at houses with my mom, and eating dinner at a restaurant
she used to go to all of the time when we still lived in Doylestown. It made me
really miss home and it made me extremely excited that my mom is considering
moving back there in a couple of months. Doylestown just has such a place in my
heart (in case you couldn’t tell!!!).

It’s also just very weird but very (for lack of a better word) cool
to look back on how much I’ve changed since I was still living (full time aka
pre-college) in Doylestown. I feel like I’ve really grown into myself over the
past year or so and I’m really proud of that!

ANYWAYS onto the political part. Obviously I was not too
pleased about the election results (to put it lightly), but I am trying to be
open-minded. To start, I voted for Hillary mostly due to social reasons. I
believe that (at least for me) political views can change and fluctuate anywhere
along the liberal/conservative spectrum over time. I think that currently, as
24 year old female living in New York City, social reasons play the biggest
part in my political opinions. Maybe 10, 20, or 30 years from now that will be
different. Who’s to say that sometime in the future I won’t be more interested
in voting for economic reasons? I don’t know! But right now, as I’m sure you
have already guessed, I identify as a very liberal person. I am very passionate
about equal rights for women, LGBTQ+, POC, immigrants, etc. That is why I voted
for Hillary. As I said in my Instagram post, I wanted a strong FEMALE role
model for kids to look up to. I wanted the future little girls of America to
never doubt that they can be just as good as the boys. I wanted LGBTQ+ youth
(and adults) to feel safe in their communities. I wanted POC to feel like they
had an equal shot at whatever they strive for. I wanted there to be more advocacy to decrease the stigma surrounding mental health. I wanted immigrants to never
have to fear their potential deportation.

Obviously these dreams are a bit unrealistic. I never
genuinely assumed that, if Hillary became president, our entire country would just adopt
accepting views and automatically become filled with endless love and open-mindedness.
But my point was, that Hillary would have been an amazing step in the right
direction, just as Obama was (is). You can argue forever over whether or not Obama was a good president. Regardless, I believe that an African American in the White House was a huge, important step forward for America. Basically what I’m trying to say is, I didn’t vote for Hillary because I was
voting against Trump or something, I voted for Hillary because I support what she stands for, and because she gives me hope for the future.

**I also will be honest, I’ve watched one too many
documentaries recently about the Women’s Liberation Movement, and the 13th
Amendment, the Criminal Justice System, and Gay Rights and I’ve basically spent
the past month or so panicking even more than ever about how far we’ve come
socially, but how much further we still have to go. LOL vague statement I know…
maybe I’ll get into all of that in another post. Once I start ranting about
that stuff though, it will spiral endlessly out of control until I just start
talking about how, even if we fix every problem in the world, we will still
probably die of a natural disaster. ~See some of my prior Twitter tirades as an
example~ YEAH SO LETS NOT GO THERE. Not a pretty sight!! Not a rational
conversation!!**

So liiiiiiiike Trump is the next president. Sick!!! I spent
most of last Tuesday night watching the poll results and panicking, until I finally
fell asleep around 1am, had not one, not two, but THREE nightmares that Trump
won the election, and then woke up to the realization that he actually really
did win. My first reaction was to cry. I was frustrated, angry, and
embarrassed. Embarrassed by how I thought the majority of the country agreed
with the way I was voting. Angry that a woman still wasn’t going to be
president. And frustrated that an idea I thought was a joke a year ago just
became reality.

My next reaction was to fight back. At first I thought that,
because Trump was elected, this must mean the majority of the country didn’t
care about the social issues that I cared about. I couldn’t understand how
anyone would vote for him knowing his morals and past actions. I immediately wrote
a lengthy Instagram post about my feelings. By this time, Hillary was giving
her concession speech. Obviously I wept as I watched, I’m sure most people who
support her did. Her speech was filled with so much love and hope and passion
that it broke my heart. Then I took a break, and tried to consider other
people’s viewpoints. I tried to think logically about why and how Trump could
have won the election after I was so convinced Hillary was going to blow him out
of the water.

I came to the conclusion that this election result is not entirely
bad! I’m sure plenty of people have probably made these same points, but here
is my reasoning:

  1. Setbacks
    just teach us to fight harder.
    The fact that I basically assumed Hillary
    would win without question just means that I was a little naïve with regards to how progressive
    our country currently is (or isn’t). Trump’s win is the shock that should show us (aka
    anyone who is passionate about fighting for human rights) that the fight is
    nowhere near over. With this setback, we can find the passion and drive to
    fight for the equality everyone deserves, now more so than ever.
  2. This one
    is a stretch…
    but Trump used to be a Democrat, and I’ve read some
    articles (although I can’t guarantee they’re even remotely reliable… heh) about how his actions
    during this election could MAYBE have been purposely exaggerated to grab the
    attention/win the votes of the middle of America that tends to be more strongly
    conservative. I can’t say how much I believe this point, but hey, I’m including in anyway. Optimism AMIRITE!!! Don’t read my content if you’re looking for totally factual information because I’m tellin’ ya now, I ain’t supplyin’ that!! But my point in this is…… maybe he’ll chill the EFF out a little when he gets into
    office. It doesn’t seem like that yet, but cross your fingers, ok.
  3. On a more serious note, we as a
    nation are strong enough to fight back.
    Look at the statistics. 55% of our
    country is in favor of gay marriage, 56% of us are in favor of abortions
    being/staying legal, 58% of the nation supports universal health care, 64% of
    the country believes in global warming, and 59% of believe that immigration is
    more helpful than hurtful. SOOO if Trump wants to make massive changes that
    negatively impact these wildly supported concepts, we have the numbers in our
    favor. We have to use this to our advantage.
  4. This has
    opened my eyes to how the internet (kind of) blinded me from the truth.
    The
    majority of people I follow and websites I visit are verrry liberal. I
    purposely follow a lot of powerful women and LGBTQ+/POC online because I like
    seeing their strong, powerful, hopeful messages and I love promoting their
    content. It was so easy for me to assume that because 90% of the media I’m
    consuming is liberal, that 90% of the country must be just as liberal too. That
    is soooo far from the truth. This has reminded me that there is a whole
    plethora of viewpoints out there that I should be more aware of. We have to
    step outside our bubbles to really see the full story sometimes.
  5. Not
    everyone who voted for Trump hates gays or women or people of color.
    A lot
    of people I know who voted for Trump did so for economic reasons. A lot of very
    intelligent people I might add. I can’t and shouldn’t judge these people,
    because in my opinion, like I said before, we all have different motives behind
    our votes. I’m not saying I approve of Trump or am willing to overlook his
    negativities. I am saying that not everyone voted for him because they want to
    deport immigrants, or criminalize abortions, or overturn the legalization of
    gay marriage. I know it’s easy to immediately judge someone who disagrees with
    your opinions, but I’m trying really hard to be open minded and understanding.
    And I’m trying to remind myself that this country is still filled with many
    more good people than bad.
  6. Change
    can still happen on a smaller scale too.
    Even if Hillary had won, there
    would still be plenty of racist, sexist, homophobic/transphobic, etc etc, over-all judgmental
    people in this country. We can help to change the views of these people on a
    smaller scale. We can support local organizations and safe-spaces right now! We
    can donate our time and money to the places that we believe in. I currently am
    working on finding ways to support Planned Parenthood and the Trevor Project! You can find tons of awesome places/organizations like that too! 
  7.  We can
    use our voices!! Right now!!
    I love communities like YouTube for example,
    that have become a space for people of all walks of life to share their
    experiences. I follow so many amazing people on YouTube and I watch week after
    week as these people are influencing hundreds of thousands of viewers worldwide
    with their stories. I purposely follow a lot of young gay/lesbian/trans people
    because I love seeing how they’re teaching so many others to be comfortable in
    their skin. I also follow a lot of people who openly talk about their struggles
    with physical disabilities and mental illnesses. I follow comedians, activists,
    and a lot of kewl passionate young kids who are trying to do awesome things.
    Although I am not creating content like these people, I openly support them
    with my subscriptions, likes, and comments. I also try to share content that I
    find specifically influential with a wider audience on my social media platforms.  I think it’s really important to show your support for these people!! It’s fucking terrifying to share your true and honest self
    with the world. These people receive a lot of negative feedback for their
    content. It’s important to express to them that you support what they’re doing! It
    really really helps, I’m telling you! This applies to anything, not just
    YouTube. From a post on social media, to a protest on the street, if you agree
    with it, let them know! And if you want to share your beliefs and experiences
    too, do it! Even if people disagree, I’m telling you that people will support you
    and I’m telling you it’s worth it. Fight for the change/equality/acceptance that
    you believe in. You will feel proud and empowered, I promise.

Soooooooooo THAT’S MY SPIEL!! DID YOU LIKE IT? DID YOU HATE
IT? IDC EITHER WAY HA!! On a sort of funny note, I’ve already lost 8 followers on
Instagram this week based on my past three liberally-swayed posts lol. I really
thought that would be something that upset me, but it honestly makes me feel
proud. I am proud that I spoke my mind and shared what I believe in. If people
disagree so much that they don’t want to continue to follow me that is fine by
me! 

I have plenty of friends with differing opinions and we can still mutually respect
each other. I think that’s how it should be! There will always be Republicans
and there will always be Democrats. For everything you support, there is going
to be at least one person that is going to oppose it. That is just the way life
is! 

But hopefully some parts of this post made at least a little bit of sense!!?! I’m still working through my feelings and opinions honestly. So who knows,
maybe a couple months from now my outlook on all of this will have changed
again. But for now, this long rant is how I feel. Hopefully Trump doesn’t fuck
shit up and we all live happily ever after!!!!!!!!!!!!! ‘Murica, amirite? 

**Disclaimer, this was 4 pages long, SRY. HOPEFULLY IT’S SORT OF GRAMATICALLY CORRECT I WROTE IT AT WORK SO SRY OK BYE**

 But seriously, let me know your thoughts/opinions too? If you want?

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? 

Being 24 with Acne

I was originally planning to write a post about a new podcast I am listening to BUT I’m going to save that for another time because I have a new pressing issue that I want to complain about. 

I LOVE COMPLAINING TO THE INTERNET!

Anyways, like I said the other week, I started a new medication for my depression and anxiety a few weeks ago. I have always been a little hesitant towards medications of any kind because of the potential looming side effects. For about 5 years in high school and college I took Adderall and at first it was a dream. I lost weight, I could focus, I was happy, I felt motivated, etc etc etc. But VERY quickly things began to take a downhill turn. I started feeling numb, I had even more trouble focusing than I did when I started, and if I went a single day without taking it, I was useless. I finally decided to stop taking Adderall when I graduated college and it took me a solid 3 months to regain any energy or motivation. And in all honesty, I still really haven’t felt the same since. 

This negative experience was the beginning of all of my fears and concerns. Then last August I started taking birth control for the first time. I was finally fed up with having horrible, never ending cramps, and I figured my experience couldn’t be THAT bad, since ya know like eeeeeveryone takes birth control, right?? But nope, this didn’t go well either! I’ve been taking birth control for a year now and I’m still not happy with it, not to mention the fact that I definitely think I’ve gained weight as a result. 

Sooooooooooo when my psychiatrist suggested I try a new medication, I was terrified. Especially because a lot of depression/anxiety medications tend to have a long list of potential side effects. I’m a little over two weeks in and, I’m indifferent and still extremely nervous. The biggest issue I am noticing now, as you can tell from the title, is my acne. 

I have always said that I was a late bloomer with regards to acne though. I didn’t really have breakouts until college, but this is waaaay worse. I’ve never has acne like this in my life and it’s terrifying. 

My point with this is, although acne is a minor side effect, it is extremely discouraging. Getting to the point where I feel comfortable taking a medication like this is hard, and to realize that it is causing side effects that make me even sadder is even harder. It took a lot of guts to admit I may need more help than just some appointments with my therapist, so to know that medication isn’t as easy as it sounds is reallllllllly difficult, especially for someone than struggles with anxiety/depression. 

Like, if someone said to you “hey, I can give you a life where you’ll probably be happier (no guarantees, tho) but as a result you’ll constantly feel ugly and possibly struggle with more side effects like no sex drive, but at least you might be happier! (even though you may at some point down the line also struggle with withdrawal symptoms)”… would you accept the offer? or would you rather consciously choose to struggle with depression?