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**

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.

I Have Left My Heart…

I have left my heart in so many places. 

A year ago, on my 24th birthday, I spent about 48 hours straight just crying. It was the lowest I think I’ve ever been in my life. I felt unstable, lost, lonely, broken, and hopeless.

This year, I have realized after a lot of thought, that I can genuinely say I am in such a different place. Of course, it took a year of hard work, therapy, change, and help from a lot of amazing people, but I’m here and I couldn’t be more grateful.

For the first time in so long, I feel both happy and optimistic.

I’ve recently realized that, although I may have lost my childhood home (and to some extent, one of my parents too) and a lot of the stability that comes with that safety net, I have gained so much in the process.

 

I have left a part of my heart in so many beautiful places.

I may not have my first house anymore, but I’m starting to understand that my real “home” is scattered all over the country, and that is even better.

Here’s to 25 and all that is to come

Pride Month: Collin

Today’s piece is written by my great friend Collin — a man of many talents. A horseback riding, Soul Cycle enthusiast, and Twitter aficionado, if you will. They say a picture is worth a thousand words so, to better describe Collin, here he is: 

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Collin was actually the first person I ever asked to help me write an LGBTQ-related piece back in college. His willingness to support my projects, and also be honest and vulnerable in the process, has been something I really appreciate and admire. 

As cliche as it may sound, Collin is just unapologetically himself and it’s invigorating to be around. He makes the people around him feel comfortable without even consciously trying. As you will read though, not everyone Collin encounters even takes the time to realize they feel similarly.

I really loved this piece, because at its core it’s just honest. The idea of “Pride” really does encompass a lot of happy memories for people, but to truly appreciate the positives, we must also acknowledge the setbacks. 

Collin’s words will give you the perfect insight into what this means: 

My good ole friend Krump asked me to write a blog post about pride and what it means to me. I thought it would be easy! I’m gay. I have pride. Give me 20 minutes and a glass of wine and I’ll be done, but I was wrong.

I have to be honest, I don’t know much about blogs. In fact, I think of them as solely a place where people go to write about topics of expertise or to offer advice. You make a mean fudge brownie that’s under 4 calories? Blog it. You were able to overcome a terrible break up with a neighbor’s dog? Blog it. However, when it came down to writing this blog post, instead of feeling like an expert with advice to give, I became overwhelmed with a strange feeling of guilt. Who was I to write a blog post about pride?

Pride is often synonymous with being proud, but to me, that’s not always the case. In fact, there are many times I wish I could be more proud of who I am. For example, I felt like shit recently when I hailed a cab in NYC after a date, and the driver sped off when he saw me kiss my date goodbye. In high school, I cried in the bathroom after I was denied the opportunity to donate blood, all because I had slept with a man. I still get nervous holding hands with another man in public because I fear shame and rejection. When I think about these little things that make me not so proud, I realize there is still so much work to be done – both personally and in society.

But then again, there is also so much to celebrate. For starters, I didn’t even have a super dramatic coming out story. I was 16 years old, tying my shoes before school one day when my mom approached me and said, “Coll, your dad and I know you’re gay and it’s not a big deal. We will always love you.” Also, I can get married to whoever I want (PSA boys, DM me @collin_russ). Pride is compiled of little moments like those because when it comes down to it, I’m pretty #blessed. I have a supportive family, amazing friends, good health, and a career that leaves me feeling fulfilled. This month isn’t just about celebrating the LGBT community and the strides we’ve made, it’s about celebrating yourself and who you are. Being a living, feeling human is fucking hard sometimes, and Pride Month is a great reminder to reflect on all there is to celebrate. Be proud, have pride.

Needless to say, you can check out Collin on Instagram: @collin_russ
And Twitter: @collin_russ

Pride Month: Jocelyn

I’ve thought for a while about how to appropriately introduce this piece and I’m still at a loss for words, but I mean that in the best way. 

Today’s words are written by my good friend, Jocelyn. I’ve been lucky enough to have known her for a few years now, but I feel like it’s safe to say we’ve grown much closer recently. 

When I say I’m at a loss for words, I mean that I was blown away by how vulnerable, genuine, and honest Jocelyn was willing to be in this piece. These words speak volumes about the kind of person she has become, and it makes me so happy to see how she’ll continue to grow in the future.

I think that, regardless of your sexuality, or where you may be in the coming out process, her opinions and experiences will resonate with you. Not to completely overuse the word “pride” but, I just couldn’t be more proud to know Jocelyn after reading this.

Without further ado, here is a look inside the mind and feelings of Joce: 

Pride To Me:

The word pride can have many different meanings and definitions. For example, The word pride is defined in the dictionary as follows:

Definition of Pride:

  1. the quality or state of being proud: such as
    a:  inordinate self-esteem:  conceit
    b:  a reasonable or justifiable self-respect
    c:  delight or elation arising from some act, possession, or relationship parental pride
  2. proud or disdainful behavior or treatment:  disdain
  3. a:  ostentatious display
  4. b:  highest pitch:  prime
  5. a source of pride:  the best in a group or class
  6. a company of lions
  7. a showy or impressive group a pride of dancers

Although my definition of pride may be a little different from others, I wanted to at least try and articulate the meaning in my own words. In light of this month, I’m going to swallow my pride (See what I did there?) and write a little post about what this all means to me:

I’ve always been, in some way, a closed book, and that’s because of a lot of reasons. I’m someone who has tried to steer away from attention and anything that involves the word pride all together. I’ve never been one to call myself a prideful person because I have spent a great deal of my life putting energy into covering up something that plays such a prominent role in who I am as a person. The world is scary, life is hard, and for so long I was not someone who was about to tell my world something so personal about myself…until recently…. and for that, I am proud.

Like many, I am terrified of being vulnerable and did not want anyone to think of me differently, or any less, after I told them about this part of me that was hidden for so long. When society tells you to be a certain way, it is tough to go against it. For so long, I was actually very stubborn and didn’t think it was anyone’s business to know about my personal life, or who I dated, etc. Granted, it isn’t anyone’s business anyway, but when you date someone of the same sex, it seems to suddenly turn into the topic of all conversation. I slowly, but surely, began to realize that this was not necessarily the case, and there is no shame in loving who you love, and being who you are. I can thank my supportive and amazing group of friends for always being there, and having my back throughout these times in my life.

Pride, to me, is not necessarily carrying a flag in a parade or shouting to everyone in the streets. (For the record, I’m not putting the gay pride parade down in any way because I will most likely be there – It’s just not what I want to make this all about.) To me, it’s not about being proud to be gay, or bi, or whatever your heart desires. For me, it is simply being proud of myself for taking those tiny steps to have the courage to come out to myself, and my friends and say, hey I like women as well. I love who I love, and that’s who I am.

I am not all the way out, so I’m proud of myself for even having the courage to write this post publicly. I still have a long way to go, but having the courage to even take those steps is what pride means to me. I was even reluctant to write this post at first, because who would actually care about what I had to say? But there I was again, caring more about what other people thought, rather than just saying – fuck it, who cares what people think.

Maybe this post will resonate with someone else who is in a similar position as I am. If it does, I’m thankful for that and would like to say to you, please don’t be afraid to take the first step….someone cares, someone is in the exact same position as you, and they are waiting to hear from you. You’re not alone.

Pride is to be free of what society labels you and to choose who you want to be every moment of your life. Don’t forget that there is beauty in being self-expressed, but it is also terrifying. So, take your time, and take pride in your love.

Thank you for reading!

Pride Month: Nick

The coolest thing about this collaborative project, for me at least, has been the number of amazing, unique, and inspiring people I have met during the process. Nick is one of those people. 

Nick is a friend of a friend, and honestly, it’s a little shocking that we haven’t met in person yet, seeing as we live in the same city and share multiple mutual friends, but that is beside the point.

When I first reached out to a couple of Nick’s friends about this Pride Month idea, they both, without hesitation, told me how perfect he would be for the project. 

Reaching out to strangers, in hopes that they will bear their hearts for you, is extremely daunting, but Nick has been nothing but supportive and enthusiastic from the start, and I just can’t help but admire him for that. In fact, his initial response to my completely random text was, “Okay so I am so into this and here for it and already know what I want to do.” That. Is. Cool. 

As you will quickly realize, Nick has a multitude of thought-provoking experiences and passion-driven ideas to share. His piece does a great job at highlighting some of the stereotypes that surround gay men, and how those preconceived notions played a part in his coming out journey.  

I hope you all appreciate his words as much as I do. Read it here:

Pride: noun
a feeling or deep pleasure or satisfaction derived from one’s own achievements, the achievements of those with whom one is closely associated, or from qualities or possessions that are widely admired.

nick and matt

My boyfriend Matt and I

Every year in June the LGBTQIA community celebrates what we call “Pride Month” to honor those who have, and continue to, fight for our rights and equality for all. What pride means to me is so much more than a month in a year. As a gay man from the suburbs of Virginia, I have definitely faced my fair share of discrimination and bullying, but at the end of the day, it all made me stronger.

Coming to terms with my sexuality was difficult enough, but the thought of coming out to my friends and family seemed impossible. I honestly never thought that day would come because I was so scared. I thought I would lose my friends, be judged and thrown to the side, and lose any respect that I thought people had for me. I didn’t even know where I would stand in the gay community. I honestly did not feel like I fit in in any community at the time.

nick soccer

Back in my college soccer days

Growing up I played soccer competitively, which I think threw a lot of people off. People did not think that you could be good at a sport like soccer, basketball, or football, and be gay. This made things even harder because guys who had the word “faggot” in their daily vernacular surrounded me.

How was I supposed to say, “Oh, by the way, that is what I am….”? It also annoyed me that everyone had a certain idea of what a gay person was. Someone super flamboyant, who loved shopping and getting their hair done and blah blah blah. Yeah, of course, there are gay guys who are like that, and they are fucking fabulous and amazing, but that just wasn’t who I was or who I am. I hate shopping. I get my hair cut once a month and I dress like a Dad who just dropped his kids off at Lacrosse practice.  

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My parents visiting the historic Stonewall Inn where the gay rights movement began.

I wanted people to know that everyone is different regardless of their sexual orientation and wanted to change people’s views on that.  So that is what I did. My senior year of high school I came out to everyone in my immediate family and high school.  I was sick of lying, sick of pretending to talk about hot girls (even though they were gorgina and I still live for them), and just not being authentic to who I truly was. I remember how I did it as well. We were at our Senior Beach Week, I was shithouse drunk and a Katy Perry song came on. “California Gurls”…  maybe you’ve heard of it. And I remember just being a Queen and dancing on a table and telling everyone. Nobody was really that surprised. Some people were, but most were just like…. makes sense. That actually made me feel a lot better. That even though they had a hint or feeling, they still didn’t treat me differently. I had a good coming out experience; I did it and could not believe how easy it was. That is, until I left for College.

nick family

With my chosen family Caitlyn (left) and Victoria. They were the first people I came out to and are still my very best friends today.

When I went to College, I had a scholarship to play Division 1 Soccer and accepted that. I won’t name the school but I really did not like it. I knew I was in for a rough experience the moment I landed there, and I actually went back in the closet. Kind of like a turtle peeping it’s head out, being scared, and retreating immediately. I made some life long friend there, and they were the only ones who had my back once things got rough. I kept my sexuality a secret to a very unhealthy point. I had my best friend visit me and we bought lube and condoms and pretended to have sex. Thanks for that Caitlyn! I do not know how we did not laugh the entire time, but we made them believe it. The next day her car got towed and she was wearing a “legalize gay” shirt and my friends saw her. I fucking love that girl but what an idiot.

nick rupaul

W/ Violet Chachki (winner of Rupaul’s Drag Race Season 7) and Carmen Carrera (Trans Activist)

So after that, people questioned things and eventually, I told some close friends there. Most were supportive and some weren’t. The ones that weren’t, I do not keep in touch with. I quit the team, only a few guys reached out, and the rest just talked shit about me and made sure I wasn’t invited to any parties, and that I just wasn’t included in things in general.They also, get this, DE-FRIENDED ME ON FACEBOOK. The nerve. What assholes and how dare they. So I transferred schools and my life changed for the best. I thought about what I went through there, how I overcame it, and all of the amazing support I had in my life, and that is when I had my first feeling of Pride. I was proud of what I overcame, I was proud of my family and friends for sticking by me, and I was proud of the community I was a part of.

nick drag

Dressed in DRAG, Halloween 2015

School went smoothly and all was well and then I decided upon graduating that I was going to move to New York City. I always wanted to live in New York. The idea of it made me have butterflies and it was so foreign to me. Hunnyyyy, it was the best decision I ever made. I first interned here are got a taste and once that happened, all bets were off.

nick pride 2016

Pride 2016, New York, NY

During my time in New York, I have witnessed many victories and tragedies in my community. I was here when gay marriage was legalized across the country. We can now just say “marriage” because gay marriage isn’t a thing. Marriage is marriage, fucking finally. I remember crying at work when that happened and I called my Mom and Dad. That was a great day. I was also here for my very first Pride March and that was an out of body experience. I never felt so normal in my life. Then I realized being normal is overrated. I was also here when the Pulse Shootings happened. I went to Stonewall for the vigil and to date, it was one of the saddest things I have ever experienced.

nick march

March for those murdered at Pulse Nightclub.

 All of those experiences are examples of what makes Pride Month so special. It is a celebration of what we have overcome and what we still have to overcome. We are so far from where we need to be, and there are so many things left to be done. Give your friends a hug, tell them you love them, give them a random compliment.

Just spread love and light because we need it now more than ever. Also, let this month be a reminder that together we will continue to fight for what is right, to not judge each other, to love and support each other, and to drink a lot of vodka sodas because calories do matter.

Happy Pride,
Nick Wright

You can check out Nick on Social Media:
Instagram: @nickreedwright
Twitter: @NICKREEDWRIGHT

He also hosts his own podcast called “Nick Interviews Friends”! 
Listen to it on Sound Cloud (aka binge all 7 episodes now) 

Pride Month: Rain Dove (ft. Kate Bornstein & María José)

I’ve spent the past couple hours trying to find the right words to describe Rain Dove, and I still am at a loss, but honestly I think that’s exactly why I wanted to write about them.

Check this video out before I go any further:

Rain is everything I love about the idea of a gender spectrum. I know there are definitely (many) people in the world that have a difficult time understanding Rain’s gender identity, but that’s exactly why Rain is great. There are so many more people out there like Rain than most of us realize, and I think by exposing us to the very real idea that gender is not binary but rather a spectrum, more people will be willing to identify somewhere along the spectrum as well.

Here is Rain talking about how they consider themselves a “Gender Capitalist” and what that means:

Needless to say, Rain is powerful, beautiful, extremely talented, and confidently themselves. Just to note, I find it important to use they/them pronouns when talking about Rain. In a recent interview I read, Rain says, “I’m not transgender because gender doesn’t exist in my book.” Because of this, I don’t think it’s fair for me to assume Rain goes by she/her (or he/him for that matter). Plus, in case you couldn’t tell, Rain is killin’ it as an agender model and deserves recognition as such.

I wanted to end this post with a video of not only Rain Dove, but Kate Bornstein, and María José as well. Three flawless and very influential people that identify three different ways within the gender spectrum.

For those of you less familiar with identities outside of the gender binary, this video (as well as the two above) may have been a bit confusing/eye-opening/interesting/perplexing to you. I understand that. There are so many terms for so many identities that take time to truly grasp and recognize. But my point with this video is that these identities are just as real and just as valid as the cis-gendered male and cis-gendered female identities are. Sometimes it just takes getting to know people along the spectrum to really comprehend it.

Like Rain says in the last video, “my state of being is just unique”. Now that is true beauty.

Pride Month: iO Tillett Wright

Like I said before, throughout Pride Month I am going to be sharing some awesome content written by some very talented people. But along with that, I’m going to introduce you all to some very powerful people that inspire me by just being themselves. Hopefully some of you already know some of these people, but if not, you will now!! This month is just going to be filled with a bunch of peeps that inspire me. Without further ado, here’s the first of many……

iO Tillett Wright – American author, artist, and activist. I’ve been following iO on social media for quite a while now, and I have learned quite a bit about their journey with gender. iO currently identifies as he/him, but didn’t always.

The video below is iO’s Ted Talk speech in 2012. I find this speech to be especially powerful because it discusses the idea of the boxes we put each other in, the ways we bond, and the environments we grow up in that impact our views on the world. Although you may not be able to directly identify with iO’s experiences with gender, you can, without a doubt, still identify with so many aspects of this Ted Talk. My summary clearly cannot do it justice, so I highlllllly suggest watching the whole talk. If nothing else, it will leave you questioning ideas you’ve probably never questioned before.

Along with that, iO’s Ted Talk touches on the Self Evident Truths project (link to the website here). A big reason why I wanted iO to be my first Pride Month post is because of this project. The basic idea behind it is that there is an infinite amount of people in the world that identify as “not 100% straight”. All of these people are just as equal, just as beautiful, and just as valid as any “100% straight” person is. iO puts it best in the Ted Talk by saying, “Visibility really is key. Familiarity really is the gateway drug to empathy. Once an issue pops up in your own back yard, or amongst your own family, you’re far more likely to explore sympathy for it or a new perspective on it.”

Check out the most recent Self Evident Truths “We Are You Campaign” video below. It is beyond powerful. To call this campaign inspiring is putting it lightly.

Along with this, iO is a published author. His memoir, Darling Days, can be best summarized here:

“Born into the beautiful bedlam of downtown New York in the eighties, iO Tillett Wright came of age at the intersection of punk, poverty, heroin, and art. This was a world of self-invented characters, glamorous superstars, and strung-out sufferers, ground zero of drag and performance art. Still, no personality was more vibrant and formidable than iO’s mother’s. Rhonna, a showgirl and young widow, was a mercurial, erratic glamazon. She was iO’s fiercest defender and only authority in a world with few boundaries and even fewer indicators of normal life. At the center of Darling Days is the remarkable relationship between a fiery kid and a domineering ma—a bond defined by freedom and control, excess and sacrifice; by heartbreaking deprivation, agonizing rupture, and, ultimately, forgiveness.”

Here is iO speaking about writing Darling Days:

Check out Darling Days on Amazon and check out more of iO’s work on his website.

Andddd if I haven’t promoted iO enough, you should also follow his Instagram!! Trust me, I follow it and it is v cool (he posts a lot of great instastories, ok).

Like I said, I’m not sure how well my summary of iO’s work, life, and current projects can really do iO justice. For the most part, you just have to let these videos speak for themselves. iO can teach and influence just by being, and for that, it is no surprise that he is the first of many inspirational people I wanted to share for Pride Month.

MHAM Post #15: Maggie

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

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

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

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

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

I am happy to share her story here: 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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