My Style & Philosophy
I am defined by mental illness. Riddled with pain, struggle, triumph; I am human.
Just three years ago, I was dead silent. At a time in which there is a how-to or roadmap for everything, there simply are no instructions for navigating mental illness or serious internal doubt. There is no one answer to how we will find a way to function at a level that makes us proud. It is not always a direct or easy path, but it is attainable. Exposing the most fragile pieces of myself to a world that has historically rejected these sorts of expressions was an exhilarating feat in which stigma had its chance prevail. But stigma is weak at its core and I kicked its ass.
The world fears women who push the envelope; those who say “it’s okay to be vulnerable.” Weaving humor and light into moments of discomfort or anguish can help to transform those mired in the chains of history. Sarah Silverman didn’t make history by sitting in the back and keeping quiet. Mental illness isn’t defeat; it is a sometimes-treacherous path to self- realization. Beside me stand so very many others in the same heavy shoes, wondering how they got here. This is for each and every person who has called or written to tell me they found hope in the context of a dialog I started. Take my secrets, how I cope, how I find light in dark places, and be free.
The first time I told someone I was depressed, she promised to always be the second mother I thought I needed. She fed me the meds I was terrified to take, and they helped. She held my hand when I broke. To me, she could do no wrong, and I was assured that the feeling was mutual.
One summer day, I chose to publicly admit the depth of my struggle in a space that felt safe. I decided, simply, to be, and to no longer shield it from anyone.
I wake up in the morning to 20 seconds of contemplation; the inevitable thought storm. It’s a new day with potential for all the good things I’ve only ever had for fleeting moments, but without fail, the mental game plays itself on. Will it be one of the good days or one of the bad ones, and do I determine the answer? Recovery has been a five-year-process; it will be a course of many more. But it still tortures me to wonder why on the outside I look so shiny and yet the mess remains. I got a new therapist last week - to make this go the hell away - but I'm smarter than believing it will. It is an everyday battle in which winning looks only like a functional existence.
"Expose yourself to your deepest fear; after that, fear has no power, the fear of freedom shrinks and vanishes. You are free."
Sand to Stone
Lately I’ve found terror on my dinner plate again.
Please, have a side of paralysis with your chicken.
The mirror is no enemy to me anymore.
It’s learning to unlearn the art of starvation that once robbed me minutes, seconds, hours of my life.
Sand to Stone
“That’s what people do who love you. They put their arms around you and love you when you’re not so lovable.”
When we first met, I ran 20 miles to the music you sent me and I could’ve run 20 more without getting short of breath. You make me invincible.
Every weekend, I find myself losing my breath in gratitude for what I have. Loving you is like roasting the perfect marshmallow in front of the perfect fire in the softest flannel I’ve ever known. Like having puppies and babies and flowers that won’t die, even without water. It’s the easiest thing I’ve ever had to nurture.
Don’t settle for the one who tolerates your oddities and celebrates the things that make you normal.
Don’t accept that your fears will be invalidated; even if beetles have you paralyzed and
takeoff leaves you shaking.
Don’t let someone in who doesn’t love every piece; who wouldn’t roll around with you in the grass to watch a cloudy sky consume your sunset.
The Only You
“Young Adolescents as Likely to Die From Suicide as From Traffic Accidents,” a November 3rd New York Times headline reports. The number of girls committing suicide has been increasing disproportionately by the year. I could have been a piece of this statistic: the slow, silent deterioration of my mental health began in adolescence. I decided to take a radical approach to the problem I viscerally knew yet had never challenged. Social Media infiltrates us with unrealistic ideals and exacerbates social hierarchies. It makes us feel perpetually inadequate and deepens our already harrowing insecurities.
Permission to Pursue Happiness in the Face of Mental Illness
There is so much more to a sunrise than the eyes can see. A gradient illusion of color and light, our focus is controlled by a desire to see it all. But we don’t have the capacity; the tiny island peppered with trees, and the white object so distant it could be anything, get lost. Honing in on the small details in a broad portrait takes discipline. Each element is composed of something unlike the rest. The lake, filled with frigid water, is independent of the valley that rocks it gently on its chest. The mountain peaks framing the scene invite life, weather, and geology that the lake, at its most void depths, does not.
The empty space in my sink holds water. We turn on a faucet and water, from a source we do not care to know, flows until shut off. If we leave it on, the water flows with thankless obligation. My first Kenyan shower was three sun-warmed buckets of murky water. I live in an oasis that I had yet to see. Experience hardens us to ourselves; to the reality that we are blissfully ignorant. It violates us with its all-knowingness; forcing us, with great effort, to change.
I remember the time I watched a documentary on Golden Gate Bridge suicides. Some of the men and women who stood on the railing, making the ultimate contemplation, were talked out of jumping by bystanders or recognized, as it was almost too late, that there was something worth living for. Still others couldn’t find the strength to endure any longer and simply let go. Is this “selfish,” I wondered, as I watched? I positioned myself, as best I could, in the shoes of both the victim and victim’s family. I thought back to those in my life whom had bluntly expressed how self-centered they found suicide. But, I thought, who are we to judge another when he or she can no longer live with such anguish?
I feel this judgement sometimes, tangible, as I stand alone in the most vulnerable of moments, unsure of whether what I need is to be coddled or slapped.
This Is My Normal
The following are a number of original pieces of my writing. Most link back to my blog, where you can find frequent updates on my writing and life journey.
Healing is acceptance that things may not change. It isn’t pushing back on that notion, but rather chugging forward and divorcing comfort for courage.
Evolutionary psychologist Randolph Nesse says there are adaptive benefits of depression. Some people actually have no mood. They straddle an invisible line with great ease and never falter. But most of us are volatile, stumbling around here and there. Nesse has dedicated his life to proving that an inability to fulfill unrealistic goals is what triggers low mood, which in turn helps us to disengage from unrealistic ambitions.
Etsy Shops & Semicolons
Highly-publicized acts of violence – which capture events that are actually few and far between – have become a trademark in dialogues around mental illness. Social heuristics lead us to associate mental illness with violence, when in fact poorly-funded institutions and resources can account for much of the problem.
At the 2017 NAMI Convention in Washington D.C., I met one mother whose son had a serious mental illness episode last Christmas Eve. At the time, she took all the right steps and drove him to a hospital for psychiatric evaluation and inpatient care. Her only demand was that the hospital give her frequent updates. Yet, without her knowledge, her son – clearly still in the midst of an episode – was sent home from the hospital in a cab the next morning.