Take a Break…

I recently found myself singing the song “Take A Break” from the musical Hamilton. I work at a school, and I recently finished for the Summer before i start working for a summer program next week. These ten days off while some might be the embodiment of “YEEEESSSS!” for me is quite nerve racking. Anxiety thrives is stillness, which is why I’m not very good at being still.

I’ve been having anxiety attacks more recently, and my method is usually to function as much as I can through them, which can be exhausting. I end up, like Hamilton, just tossing myself into my work to push things aside. And then I use up my energy. I need rest, but I feel as if I’m in a place where I’m not really allowed rest. There’s so much I could do, and I don’t have the energy to be productive. (That’s pretty much why I’m writing this- it drives me to create). I find myself having too much time to reflect on things I may have said. I’m going to do what I can to give myself an actual break as much as possible. This week has actually been one of the most fun of my life as I have kind of thrown myself into every fun thing I can possibly think of and basically seen friends and favorites and lived in the city! But what I have trouble doing is relaxing. There’s always something. I don’t exactly know how to shut that off yet. I’m gonna take a social media break once I start my new job (I need something to keep my mind from itself until then), get as much sleep, spend time CHILLING with friends and not put pressure on myself. And, for the first time, get this out. I have been working hard to end the silence around these feelings. I am working hard at it. But if I can’t , I’ll try and give myself a rest.

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Take Care

A week ago today, the community of those of us struggling with mental illness was saddened by some recent high profile suicides. The deaths of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade only remind of the countless beautiful souls we have lost to battling these illnesses. I was walking to work when I heard, and immediately everything within me sank. I couldn’t cry for several hours but it weighed on me all day. These individuals who seemed to have everything had lost their battle. In all honesty, I can’t tell you how close I’ve almost came to losing mine because of silence. But when I came home, I noticed that the entire social media sphere was abuzz with “#endthestigma”. Everyone was talking about their experiences and offering input on how best to help. People like broadway’s Patti Murin were even brave enough to share what medication they use and how their illness affects them. I have been struggling as long as I can remember, been through therapy and some medication (don’t currently take anything regularly but I’m considering if that should change). I received the nicest comments on my story, and several people private messaged me to thank me as well. I learned that I am part of something truly great, a group of survivors who will never let me down. Since that day, there are several people I’ve began checking in on every day, and who have began checking in me. This is how we heal. This is how we pay tribute to those who aren’t still here for us. By living our lives together. Supporting each other and healing together. I truly never even had a clue that so many people were like me and I wasn’t alone in this until this year, and I’ve been in this for at least ten years now. I know of a child struggling with a mental health diagnosis whose parents continually seem to be finding excuses around therapy- costs (she has been offered a program that would make this possible without them paying) etc. etc. If more people are open, more and more people can see that mental illness is just like physical illness and there’s no shame in it. None of us are bad people. Some of us are the brightest lights I know.

 

This all kind of came to a head the other day. A few nights and the next day I was incredibly down, unable to relax, and anxious about the future and knew I needed some time away from work. I reread Patti’s article from April about her experience calling it due to a panic attack  and finally had the ability to do something for myself and take my first mental health day off from work in my life when I truly needed it and I’m proud of this stuff (totally didn’t say anything till now cause anxiety told me that would be dumb) but I realized how much I want to continue being open. It was a really rough day, but it taught me the value of taking care of myself. I’m still dealing with after effect pockets of depression, but I’m excited about this small victory that may not seem like a victory. My MO is pushing myself to be functioning and giving until I give out, and I finally took a step back one step before I nearly lose it. I’m really glad I did it.

 

I’ll end this with a call to action: take care of yourself and take care of others. Check up on any friends who have mental health conditions and/or are going through a rough time, as they may not be able to reach out themselves, I struggle with that a lot. And practice self care , which doesn’t just mean bubble baths and pampering and meditation, which are freaking awesome, but some like more than others. Be honest a bit more in how you portray your life and people will be honest with you. This is how we do it. Taking care of this community together. For all of us. And ourselves.

One of those Days?

Yesterday, my facebook friend hosted a facebook live where she talked about how we as people allow the little things and beginning of our days to completely ruin our days. I realized how true it is! If we wake up tired or crabby or bad things happen we constantly repeat to ourselves “As if anything else could go wrong today!” and it does. I’ve been having some bad anxiety lately and unless something exceptionally good happens, letting myself feel down. The things build up. Instead, it’s important to notice the first GOOD thing that happens to you every day. Today, I woke up and found out that Patti Murin and Chris Evans  FINALLY met and it filled me with joy. I knew and declared today was gonna be a good day. And guess what? IT WAS. Part of my job is monitoring a little girl’s behavior and today she was the best behaved she’s been in our two months together. We had a dance party for Star Wars day at lunchtime. AND I think I did really well on an interview for a position next school year. Today was the first really good day I’ve had work in a while and I feel very happy! For #mentalhealthawarenessmonth I wanted to share in addition to the bad sides of how we feel some day, it’s important to share and notice the GOOD! #Maythe4th be with all of you! What was the first good thing to happen to all of you today?

A Love Letter to Disney’s Frozen on Broadway

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, 2013, as a sophomore in college, my best friend and I saw Frozen after a blessed turn of fate that the movie we wanted to see was sold out. I was amazed at the story of these two brilliant women who found the courage to open up after loss. I grew up an only child, always wishing for a sister,constantly feeling alone and wishing I had someone who understood and loved me, making up and reading stories, and found a best friend who became my sister in college. During the movie, my friend looked at me on the line “I’m awkward, you’re gorgeous” and looked at me and said “you!” I found something in an anxious, cute princess who looked like me. I immediately loved the themes of the film and found in both Elsa and Anna something very beautiful. My nickname among friends literally became “Princess Anna” due to my loving “mom” nature for everyone around me as a teacher and my absolutely unwavering optimism as a coping mechanism.
I have also suffered from clinical depression and anxiety since the age of twelve, and also felt I had to “handle it myself”. Despite being treated for years, I did not tell a single person outside of my parents and Grandma until that night, after Frozen, when I opened up to my best friend and had that moment. also could deeply identify with Elsa, as I thought there were parts of myself- depression and past pain- that I needed to keep hidden and noone, including my parents, understood. Like Elsa, I found that “ our secrecy and silence comes at such a cost”and the dream that someone could love and understand me was dangerous, as she elaborates in the musical. A weight was lifted and I could exhale. I found peace in speaking the thing that scared me to death. The following summer I got an internship that meant I would direct children shows at a local camp over the summer. To my honor one of the shows that I had the opportunity to direct was frozen. I got to deliver a showcase of all of the material of Anna to about thirty young girls and boys. They adored me and looked at me like a princess. A lot of people saw me as Anna but I never saw myself as Anna, truly,despite my hope. Enter Patti Murin. She made this character real and made me feel like I was seeing myself represented for the first time (ever). I know the Elsa to my Anna felt the same way. In every movement Patti made, I saw a little bit of… me! While film Anna gave me permission to be the awkward quirky person I have always been, this broadway show taught me that I can endure heartbreak. While I trust everyone as Anna does, the one difference other than her impulsivity we have (sometimes – I am not the BEST with financial decisions) is that while we are both living in search of love, she taught me not to fear heartbreak in “True Love”. Anna lives her life in the insecurity that she’ll never achieve anything really meaningful- that she’s a spare, and I for the longest time, thought of myself as a side character in my own life. I was only brave for others. Watching this living breathing embodiment of my own life made me feel like I was looking at myself- and not criticize but seeing the beauty of being flawed. I’ve spent the past week remembering every glance and the pain it held before it turned to hope- I had never exhaled the way I did when I was given permission to. The magic made me feel the way I felt when I was eight and I saw beauty and the beast- dreams can come true. I never thought anyone would love me. And now I know I have people who do. And I never thought I could be a princess- and for the first time looking at the stage of the St James theatre, it made me believe that MY dream doesn’t have to die. It can come true. For me, Ally. And for Anna, who saves herself with her own true love. I wouldn’t be the same person I am without this story for women. But I also know it doesn’t end here. Maybe I’ll find a kristoff but I know no matter what I have love and I get to share love every day of my life- and “maybe one day all these feelings I have in my heart could mean something to [more people]. How I’d love to play that part”

One Step of the Journey: Body Image

Content Warning: slight eating disorder, self harm mentions

I found a post I wrote in honor of eating disorder awareness week and wanted to share. I took the post, wrote more,and updated so this was partially written two years ago and part today.

Before I start, I want to make sure I state that it’s important to raise awareness that eating disorders aren’t diets or about being trendy, they are serious mental illnesses that kill. As someone who lives with mental illness, I know how hard it can be to fight those thoughts. The first time I blatantly remember being concerned about my body, I was eight years old. I’m definitely not thin now;  I’m a size twelve. But until I was seven or eight, I was a very skinny child. I ate decently but I couldn’t gain weight, and my doctors were a little concerned. Because I was also short due to my body not producing growth hormone, I had to begin taking medication, and gained quite a bit of weight. I was put on my first diet that year, third grade! Looking back, that seems ridiculous, but it’s not uncommon, especially considering the recent news that Weight Watchers is marketing to teens now. I lost most of that weight again, and was relatively thin until around the beginning or middle of high school. I got so many comments on my body no matter which side of the spectrum I was on, but they were far worse when I was on an up swing with weight. Just based on the messages sent to me while I was already being bullied, I can completely understand how toxic messages about diet culture can easily enter our brains. I’m pretty sure I haven’t liked my body since I was eight. I was introduced to the body positive movement in college and have come more out of my shell over time. I engaged in behavior that were very harmful to my body that I’m around at least two years clean from, but I still have that almost daily meltdown any time I actually have to take stock of what my body looks like. Sometimes I hide it behind cute outfits that I love, but I still can’t say I’m happy with it. However, I’m also really lucky to have mental health resources and body acceptance guides. I’ve seen very few women of my size able to exist and succeed in media. In fact, the only character I can think of where her weight is not an issue at all is Julie, played by Beanie Feldstein,in Lady Bird. Also, studies show we discriminate against women who are plus size or like me, just under plus size. I’m working hard to do little by little to be kinder to myself, and so should all of us.

Almost all of us struggle with body image in some form. In the future, I hope that we can

  1. Never compare bodies. For example, quit statements like  “I hate the way I look. I wish I was X. I wish I looked like her.” because it just breeds more negativity. It can never be positive. Never comment on someone’s body for any reason, it doesn’t need to be done.The standards society and media sets are bad enough without comparing ourselves to others. We need to build each other up, not perpetuate the insecurities we feel. Even if you’re complimenting, it can be detrimental too. Beanie Feldstein, who plays character similar to myself in Lady Bird, explained this better than I could! (link at end of post)
  2. As much as possible don’t let other voices in.If someone tries to tear you down, it’s because they feel torn down themself. It’s not about you, and it’s important to evaluate what matters to you. Society’s standards change. Your own beauty doesn’t. Don’t change for others.
  3. And that voice in yourself that tells you you aren’t good enough is only that as well. If you’re someone like me who deals with clinical anxiety and depression, it’s enough to struggle with without having outside messages. That negative monster inside won’t speak the truth either. Be strong anyway. Fight it. Build other women up and yourself up. No body is perfect, so listen to what your body is telling you it is supposed to be, because you are more than a body anyway. It is okay to think you are good. It’s okay to eat what you want to eat. It took a long time before I could stop feeling shame for eating “junk”. I try to balance. For years, I struggled with being afraid to exercise because I was afraid to sweat and look even worse, afraid to look stupid, afraid that because of bad hips and knees I couldn’t do as much as everyone else could, but now I exercise moderately because it makes me feel GOOD, not because I’m punishing myself, because it’s just a part of self care. I still can’t step on a scale without getting too panicky, but that’s just something to work on, and something we need to stress less as a society anyway. More and more of us need to follow more body positivity, and incorporate it.

It is okay to surround yourself with positive things. It’s okay to love yourself. If we work towards that, things can change.

For more!

Eating disorder resources https://www.nationaleatingdisorders.org/help-support

Don’t Worry Be happy (or some crap life advice like that) by Patti Murin https://pattimurin.blog/2016/03/28/dont-worry-be-happy-or-some-crap-advice-like-that/

Believing is seeing by Eva Noblezada

https://www.livevamaria.com/blog-posts/2017/11/14/believing-is-seeing

Don’t punish yourself thin by Carrie Hope Fletcher https://www.instagram.com/p/Bd70EgHHpxH/?hl=en&taken-by=carriehopefletcher

Please stop complimenting me on my body by beanie feldstein https://www.refinery29.com/2017/11/182816/beanie-feldstein-weight-loss-story

Podcast with fat intersectional voices: search “She’s all Fat” on podcasts
Other body positive Queens to follow : @iamdaniadriana  & @bodyposipanda

Spring, Returning

I was reflecting after reading an article about how incidences of suicides, mental health hospitalizations, etc. Increase this time of year. Seasonal depression, anxiety, can be increased by the cold, dark, and stress. In the words of “Spring Awakening”, “Wind always wants to creep up and haunt you, With its heartache and its sorrow, winter wind sings and it cries.” A lot of attention can also be brought to potentially triggering things. I’ve been suffering due to the lack of warmth and time able to spend outdoors and active, alone with thoughts more and more. Feeling insecure, alone, isolated. Despite Christmas and my birthday both being in Winter, it’s a pretty sad season for everyone. The world feels lifeless and so do I sometimes, as I’m sure a lot of us do. There’s a reason “cold” is a metaphor for “unfeeling”

But the good thing about winter is: its almost over. “The stars too, they tell of spring returning”. Spring is my second favorite time of year (I do love Fall). Although we still have another month of winter, I am going to be filling it with so many exciting things. And life is so exciting and will truly be able to blossom in the Spring. I’m holding onto the hope that the same will be true to myself. That is the beauty of this world, whenever its Winter, Spring will return and before we can blink Summer will be here with all the joy that brings.

Insecurity

I don’t think there is anyone on Earth who hasn’t dealt with insecurity, or as it is defined “uncertainty or anxiety about oneself; lack of confidence”. We all experience doubting our abilities or lacking positive thoughts about ourselves. Having anxiety, I’m certainly no stranger to this. While I love social media, unfortunately, it can definitely be a negative. It’s not difficult to fall down the rabbit hole when you see people you follow on instagram or twitter post a selfie and get 300 likes and 50 retweets and quotes like “OMG HOW ARE YOU EVEN THIS PRETTY?” or a video singing with the same- hundred likes, “WHEN WILL YOU BE ON BROADWAY?” “goddess” etc. It’s easy to feel inferior when someone else posts a selfie and gets 2 likes. In a 2018 world, it’s tough to not compare oneself or think that less “likes” means less value. We cannot equate our value to the amount of retweets we get on Twitter. Life is not a competition. While I let this doubt seep in “I’m not talented or pretty so it doesn’t matter”, the truth is that none of that is true because what matters is happiness and what we create. Don’t post for others, just do it cause it makes you happy. Don’t live your life for other’s approval. And if you need, talk it out. It’s also okay to feel like crap and need reassurance from loved ones that no, you don’t suck and you aren’t hideous just because anxiety is being a bitch today. Or media tells you that you need to be thin, but with feminine curves, not too short but also not a giant, or whatever b.s. Body stereotype is currently preferred by industries trying to sell something today. We all have value. We’re all beautiful, no matter what we look like, and it’s ok to rock that! We also have value outside of what we look like and our abilities- it’s okay if you’re not the best singer or soccer player, etc. in the world. We don’t need to be the best in the world at anything- we just need to be us and live our lives in a way that feels authentic, and makes us happy. And spread love to others- support them and what they do, help them to do the same. And tell fear to bite it, because it can never help us. Just live, breathe, and be happy. That’s how we feel secure, no matter what’s going on around us.