Honestly, I don’t know how I’m here: nevertheless, here I am. More shocking than the fact that I’m here, perhaps, is the fact that I’m stoked on it. It’s been quite a year and 10 days—give or take—since I tried to take my own life. (By the time I get sone writing this.) I’ve survived the unthinkable, I’ve come out stronger (sadder but wiser), and I’m still trying to pick up the pieces to form a better person. (A sentiment that I’m really beginning to think is a moving target.)
... feeling surrounded by the sensation of floating, free fall, and sinking all at once.
For the last 365ish days, I’ve been contemplating the notion that Rene Descartes questioned so long ago: what does it mean to be? There’s nothing like coming so close to death that you can feel your skin grow cold, your limbs weighing you down yet feeling surrounded by the sensation of floating, free fall, and sinking all at once. The sensation of slipping into and out of consciousness, the coldness of the bathroom floor against your flushed face. The sudden urge to cause yourself to throw up but the lack of the typical response from your nervous system, which would normally spring you back to life. The fear of being paralyzed and not knowing what comes next: hedging your bets that heaven is real but fearing that this act of self-murder would send you to a dark place with eternal weeping and gnashing of teeth. I remember thinking to myself that I didn’t want to die. All at once though, I didn’t want to be alive. I wanted to exist, but I couldn’t conjure up a reasonable state of being in all of my mind. It was everything to just hold on.
“I was essentially waiting to die.”
I was warring with myself, and losing.
I don’t remember exactly what happened in the following hours. I was in a near catatonic state for some of it, yet I drifted from that to moments of lively disarray. I was warring with myself and losing. I felt so heavy. I couldn’t stop heaving. It was all I could do to not let my eyelids flicker and flutter and close. Part of that was for the fear of not knowing when they’d open again, and coming to terms with the fact that I may not want them to. I remember rushing to my friend’s house and dropping off the dog. I remember an unseasonably sticky early June night, trudging through a bad neighborhood to get to the only mental health crisis center that would treat me for free. I recall the cracked and dirty pink and blue linoleum floor, the heavy doors that were inoperable once inside.
“Once you come in, you’re not permitted to leave until the doctor sees you and you’re cleared as ‘not a threat’ to yourself and others.” I thought that notion was laughable. My very existence is a threat to myself. Back then, that’s what it meant “to be.” I was essentially waiting to die.
After a long stay—made longer by the amount of involuntary committals the warm weather invoked, which were rightfully prioritized over my case—I finally saw a doctor. After what must have been an unremarkable conversation (I barely remember it) I was handed a prescription and given some forms to fill out: waivers and a kitschy and poorly-written promise that I wouldn’t kill myself.
After I left that hospital, I remember sarcastically thinking to myself that I never want to end up in a crisis center again: either I’d get better, or I’d make sure my suicide stuck.
Just because I’m here doesn’t mean that I want to be here. A lot of people who come out of suicidal situations are simply buying time. “I’ll see how I feel next birthday,” or, “let’s see how my quarterly review at work goes.” I know it seems somewhat macabre but when those who have conceded defeat in this journey called “life” still want to make sure they’re making the right decision. Call it unfinished business, call it cold feet, call it “just making sure.” Your mind just doesn’t act right when you’re coming to terms with your own death. It takes a while to start living again. Living is a still. It doesn’t come as naturally to me as others, and I suspect that I’m not alone in this.
At the risk of sounding like a “deep fourteen-year-old,” have you ever heard of the term kintsugi? It’s a beautiful sentiment:
Kintsugi (金継ぎ, "golden joinery"), is the Japanese art of repairing broken pottery with lacquer dusted or mixed with powdered gold, silver, or platinum, a method similar to the maki-e technique. As a philosophy, it treats breakage and repair as part of the history of an object, rather than something to disguise. | SOURCE
I think the day I started truly living was the day I realized that neither grand gesture nor sudden awakening could save my life: I’d have to commit to small changes. At first, the trauma seemed insurmountable, but I found solace in completing one small task at a time. Filling in the cracks with powdered gold, letting my shortcomings and flaws be refined to make me better than I ever was.
Properly refilling the roll of toilet paper rather than letting the empty cardboard tube sit while leaving the new roll on the sink. Taking a shower. Cooking for myself. Washing the dishes after cooking for myself. I was set back in a huge way when I lost my job but under the wise guidance of some strong people in my life, I went for a job I felt I wasn’t quite qualified for (spoiler: I was) and I got it. (And I’m killing it, by the way.) That was a big one. That led to paying my bills on time, to making the changes that I needed to be the best version of my self. Finding the courage to live alone and take care of myself when no one else was watching. Teaching my first workshop. Buying a new car. Finding the strength and getting good at leading meetings and standing up for myself to my boss, a skill that eluded me throughout my early twenties. What I didn’t realize was happmening while I was taking care of menial tasks was that I was learning just how much I was worth.
“What I didn’t realize was happening while I was taking care of menial tasks was that I was learning just how much I was worth.”
Back to the idea of beautification through embracing flaws: something that I’m so lucky to have learned and thrilled to pass along is the idea that there are so many different versions of ourselves out there and we have the power to continually be the best one to every person we touch. What’s that mean? It means that no one gets through life unscathed, and just as the person I was one year ago is much different than the person I am now, the person I am today has slightly more experience than the person I was yesterday. Same applies to you as well, by the way. Isn’t it a wondrous notion?
The person I am today has slightly more experience than the person I was yesterday.
I can’t acknowledge much about where I am today if I gloss over this era in my life where suicidal ideations were as commonplace as the four-letter-words that I’m trying so desperately to not lean so heavily on. Every utterance of “fuck” or “shit” would likely translate to just as many fixations on an untimely death. (I’m sure you can gather that it’s quite a few on any given day.) As much as I hate to admit it, I don’t think I’d be the person I am today if I hadn’t been through this entire hellish ordeal. I’m a firm believer in people being able to pull themselves out of great adversity long before they get to the point of rock bottom—however—I’m stubborn. (Strong-willed sounds a little better so I’ll go with that from now on.) It doesn’t matter though. I really doesn’t matter. I’m here. And I’m happy that I can say that much.
I wonder if I’ll ever be capable of staying in love without the fear of a looming episode of self-sabotage, or if the people I’ve hurt in my recklessness will ever forgive me. I wonder if I’ll ever be able to take care of myself without hurting others in general. But when I think back on my former whole self—how unrefined, how green, how naive I was—I have to be thankful that I was able to learn from it, and that part of the refining process has involved letting go of grudges that I used to love to hold. I’m learning how to apologize earnestly; how to not just see myself as a victim.
Once you come back from a long time spent ruminating on death, you can’t help but wonder, “what now?” I think I’m okay though. The answer to that question, like so many other things, is a moving target. Some times are for deconstruction, some are for rebuilding, some are for thriving. I’m proud to say I’m somewhere between those last two, and I think I’ll be okay to stay here for a while. I’l relish in my brokenness, I’ll admire my strength instead of downplaying it.
Save for an unfortunate act of God calling me to eternal rest before I celebrate another trip around the sun, I know I’m going to make it to 28. Throughout most of my adult life, I haven’t been able to say that with confidence. I was always merely buying time until I was brave enough to end it all. Not anymore. This has been one of the best years of my life, and I can’t wait to see what else I can do. Excited to have you along on the journey with me. I’m excited to see which new patterns will form once my cracks are gilded with gold, and, to me, that’s what it means to be.
I tried something new this quarter: I got myself a suit. It’s not too fancy, the look might not be the trendiest, but I’m headed to Chicago with my agency for a trade show so I figured: if not now, when? It has a subtle windowpane pattern, which I think elevates it just so. To keep it casual, I paired it with a band tee and some white sneakers. For the real deal, I’ll probably pair it with a boxy button-down, but I can tell you this: the sneakers are absolutely staying.
Oh hey, sorry I haven’t been posting too frequently. Work’s been consuming most of my time—the Q2 struggle is very real. I wanted to share an article from We The Muses—one that includes some of my thoughts on bipolar, what it’s like living with it, and how you can help your bipolar friends.
I’m in love with this man-repeller of a frock—isn’t it darling? I have wide hips and tend to stay away from anything with a drop waist because of it but I just couldn’t say no to this little number. It’s bright and fun, so I paired it with sleek black accessories to keep the look more on the modern side.
I love Sundays in Philly, they’re often filled with kismet and adventure. (At least for me.) I want to the farmer’s market in the hopes of finding oysters and fresh pasta (both were sold out… not waiting until 40 minutes before it closes next time!) and ended up at Bloomsday, a charming café that just opened a few weeks ago. It looked cute from the outside and I was craving some Sunday afternoon libations. Once seated, a friend I hadn’t seen in a while because she moved away snuck up and surprised me. We got to talking, and it turns out that she moved back and has been laying low the last few weeks. See? Kismet. A Reconnection and a Venetian Style. (Think: mimosa, but with honeydew juice instead of orange juice.)
Of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, I walked into hers. Here’s to more Sundays like this one.
As much as I can’t stand the heat (I simply have too much hair), I can’t hate summer. I don’t know anyone who does, aside from maybe huskies and other cold-weather-bred dogs.
Continuing my long-running habit of creating monthly playlists (and occasionally sharing them with you all), here’s one for June. This month, I’ve been loving throwback vibes, as well as actual throwbacks. (As you’ll see.) There’s a lot of drama in these songs, and while I’m trying to avoid drama in my personal life, I welcome it in my musical choices.
If there’s anything I know about Fishtown, it’s that the “thrifted dress, $400 shoe” combination is a way of life. I don’t make the rules, I’m merely observing. Something about it just seems so right though—the timeless and eco-friendly allure of secondhand clothing married with the elegance of a well-crafted, not too trendy piece is the best kind of high/low.
Not much can be said about this look aside from that, and an obligatory, “I like it.” I’m actually wearing the same thing sans hat (plus a few extra bracelets) for a work event tonight. Elevated Fishtown farmers market seems appropriate for a Brooklyn rooftop soirée, no? I think the appeal of BK style is very much the same: just don’t be a try-hard and you’ve got it.
I recently received a message from a former classmate: my ten-year high school reunion is later this summer. Difficult to believe, right? That means I’ve been working for 12 years—nearly half of my life. I know that doesn’t make me special, that’s not why I’m writing this.
But still, I struggle with managing my emotions
I realized something: in the 12 years that I’ve been working, I’ve picked up a myriad of skills: copy editing, cold calling, pitching, negotiating contracts, writing scripts, writing marketing copy, writing books, and, to bring it all the way back, mixing a salad with a spatula in such a way that each and every item is the salad is evenly coated with dressing—even the thick ones such as Russian and Blue Cheese. One thing I haven’t learned, however, is how to “be okay” in the workplace. Call me your typical Virgo or enneagram 3w4, I’m a very career-oriented person in pretty much every way. But still, I struggle when it comes to managing my emotions.
Don’t get me wrong: I love to work. I look forward to going into work most mornings. However: I did a big thing recently: I’d worked at my current place of business for over seven and a half months before I cried at work (for work-related reasons, at my desk and not in the park by the office–you know.) Believe it or not, I felt guilty. I felt like I’d failed myself. I felt like I wasn’t strong enough. Or maybe even that I was weak. Why couldn’t I just separate my feelings from my job function? (Admittedly, I’m fairly new to this separation: you can read more on that here.)
Is it internalized bias? Am I conditioned to feel this way? If a man gets “emotional” at work, is he not seen as passionate or sensitive in a strong way? And a woman, she’s irrational, unstable? How is that fair? Or maybe I let my pride get the best of me. Maybe I need a little pat on the back so often, and it’s like one negative reaction undoes weeks of “atta girls?” (Who else feels me?)
If you’ve been in the same place, I have a beautiful sentiment for you: it’s okay. You’re not a machine, and you shouldn’t see yourself that way. Confronting your emotions at work is the only way you can ever overcome them. Of course, breaking down and sobbing in front of all of your coworkers probably isn’t the best idea, if your voice cracks in the heat of an intense discussion or your eyes well up after reading an upsetting email, you’re okay. You’re strong. It means that you’re engaged and that you care, which are overall good traits to have.
You’re not a machine, and you shouldn’t see yourself that way.
When dissecting this behavior, I think it’s important that we consider why crying in the office seems like the worst thing we can do? I liked what this Forbes article had to say on the matter:
Why is crying at work so taboo? For one, it violates what anthropologists call “display rules,” or our cultural norms for self-expression and socialization. It’s why we have no problem understanding why a friend going through a breakup starts crying over dinner, but we’re caught off guard when a coworker bursts into tears during a meeting or performance review.
An interesting side note here?
Biologically speaking, crying is meant to be cathartic. But in the workplace, there’s evidence that women actually feel worse after crying. (Men feel better)
There are a lot of tips in that article for picking yourself up after getting emotional at work and proof that if you can get past it, it won’t hurt your career one bit. The most salient point for me though, is that crying is not destructive and you shouldn’t ever feel like you’re throwing off the workplace dynamic if you let a few tears slip out here or there.
Think about how popular open workspaces are these days. Now consider how quickly toxicity can spread in the workplace. If you don’t express your frustrations (whether it’s by going out and taking a walk, venting to a coworker you trust, or crying if you feel the need) you can turn bitter and, thus, quite disruptive. Though being 100% stoic is seen as desirable in the workplace, you can’t put your emotions on pause or lockdown when you leave in the morning and keep them in that state until you get home an unwind.
The secret to being truly happy at work? Don’t pretend to be happy 100% of the time. Let yourself feel. “Get it out.” Don’t let your emotions define you: you should define them for yourself. Being emotional is a sign that you care about your performance, the greater good, and doing a great job. While, in a perfect world, no one would be upset or stressed enough to cry at work, if it happens, it’s not the end of the world.
I’m going to be alright, and so are you
For me, once it happened, it happened. I was no longer afraid of it happening. A coworker experienced it, and he wasn’t mortified. I still have my job, and I know I’m not due for a good cry for quite some time now. (Hopefully—I’ve made it thus far into Q2, which has been the most chaotic time of my life. It’s great though.)
Part of growing up has been realizing that I don’t need to completely abandon things I once saw as “bad habits.” (In this case, my emotions getting the best of my from time to time.) I don’t need to not cry at work. In fact, I think that’s an impossibility. I just have to recognize why it happens and know what I need to recover. I’m going to be alright, and so are you. Let’s be strong together.
I found it: the perfect summer dress. Isn’t it wonderful? I’ve loved Nina Egli’s beautiful dresses for years so when she asked if I wanted to take some photos in her My Song dress last fall, I was into it. When she showed me her summer collection and asked if I’d want to do it again, I was so excited.
The collection is beautiful, but my heart beats for this dress and this dress alone. It’s stunning—it’s in the most breathaking red and hugs every curve just the right way. (Who said thick folks can’t rock a wrap dress?) I can’t wait to wear it with some flats as I head out to brunch and the farmer’s market, or with some heels and sparkly jewelry for a night out. It’s ideal for any occasion—save for maybe a work function. I don’t think my coworkers need to see this much of me.
Ah, spring. What is it about this season that has me so up and down? (Besides, of course, my mental illness.) I recently began a strict regimen of vitamins, supplements, and, most importantly, medication. It’s the first time I’ve really buckled down and forced myself to take part in the not-quite-as-fun aspects of self-care. Anyone can take a bubble bath. Anyone can eschew the household chores of cooking and washing dishes for an evening of Chinese takeout. Such can always be justified for the sake of self-care.
What’s not, however, easy to justify is the spectrum of side effects that accompany any medication designed to treat misfiring synapses in the brain. The fog is unreal. Sometimes I’ll be halfway through a sentence and forget what I was saying. I’ll be walking somewhere and after a few steps, find myself reminding or reassuring myself of my general direction. I’ll even be holding something—any sort of object—and forget why I picked it up in the first place. As annoying as that can be though, it’s still somehow better than the alternative. (Or so I must continue to tell myself in the moment.)
I’m only on a small dosage, and it can take six weeks to really start seeing a marked improvement. I’m not sure if it’s a placebo, but I do feel a difference. Perhaps it’s the act of taking care of myself when before, I’d rely on a cigarette, glass of red wine, and binge-watching Sex and the City when I was feeling out of control?
When we do kind things for ourself, it opens the floodgates of affirmation
(Carrie Bradshaw voice) Could it be that the act of self-love in itself is transformative? And that I could reap the same feel-good benefits if I swallowed Tic-Tacs in the morning instead of my Lamotrigine? I couldn’t help but wonder if all I needed this whole time was a Cosmopolitan, my suspiciously good-looking group of girlfriends, and low doses of baby aspirin to make the dull heartache of bad life decisions simply melt away like the piles of browned Manhattan snow on the first warm day of springtime.
I will leave that uniquely early-2000’s form of navel-gazing where it belongs and counter it with this sickeningly simply sentiment: when we do kind things for ourself, it opens the floodgates of affirmation. The break-in period for my meds is not fun, yet I love myself and those around me enough to deal with it. The alternative—not taking my meds—is much, much easier. However, it’s not what I need. If you’re in a similar space, pat yourself on the back. What you’re doing is not easy, and few will understand the “sacrifice” you’re making.
After all, the medicated life comes with its own shitty stigma. Everyone thinks they know what’s right for you. “You need to be on MORE meds,” some will clamor, while others recommend alternative healing such as essential oils and salt lamps. (Both of which I am not opposed to—in fact, I have several of each in my home—but if you think that those are sufficient enough to mend the inner turmoil of mental illness, maybe you should leave those opinions to yourself.)
Playful and hopeful one moment, contemplative and prone to an unmoving kind of sadness the next.
Having said that, there are times when I am shocked at the minutia of this disease that grips my brain in the oddest of ways. I’ve made a habit of curating a playlist every month. The only rule is this: include what you feel. That’s about it. I’ve been doing this for years, and my monthly playlists have served as mood charts or mille bornes of significant events. Heartbreaks, happiness (it’s been a while), hypomania, career triumphs, career failings…. everything. Every moment, remembered as melodies and vaguely relevant lyrics. Though we’re barely one whole week into May, I’ve had two playlists for this month already. (I got a head start and began one of them towards the end of April. Transparency included for the pedantic nerds who will send me a DM on Instagram with an accusatory statement about my feigned “authenticity.”)
What you’ll see in the accidental juxtaposition of these two lists is what it feels like to have this illness: playful and hopeful one moment, contemplative and prone to an unmoving kind of sadness the next.
You can see a sort of melancholia taking over towards the end of this first one, which is why I decided to start a second, which devolved into all-out sad nostalgia for lost love and other motifs so powerful that getting out of bed despite them seems like an all but improbable outcome.
There you have it. I’ll call this my aural introduction to bipolar disorder for those who don’t know what it feels like. It’s pretty entry-level, but I’m sure you’ll understand. Whether you’re also mentally ill, struggling with heartbreak or failure in some other way, or just want to stay grounded (for the latter playlist) or you need a pick-me-up, want to have some fun singing in the car, or have no reason to make yourself sad with painfully beautiful but melancholy music, the former is for you.