Body Health, Essay, Mental Health


In my first-ever gym class of high school, we underwent a fitness diagnostic. Our gym teacher required the students to perform as many chin-ups as they could. If they were not able to do a chin-up, he offered, they could simply hang from the bars.

The oddness of those two choices – to either perform an act or engage in something that arguably proves nothing except the presence of fingers – was further underscored by the vast breadth of physical prowess. If you had hit puberty by then, you could do chin-ups. If you hadn’t, you hung like a limp flag or, more realistically, the trussed and plucked chicken hanging in a meat shop. Since I’m barely hitting puberty at 22, it’s an easy guess to figure out which camp I fell into.

That did not stop me from pathetically attempting a chin-up. I didn’t realize that it’s nearly impossible to do a chin-up from fully-extended arms, so I tucked my knees underneath me and tried to pull myself up from ramrod-straight arms. After several tense, physically agonizing moments, I let myself hang quietly before dropping back down to the floor.

And I remember, in the seconds that I hung from the bar, thinking how completely pointless this exercise was. Gym class proceeded much in the same way; after freshman year, I just opted to do homework with a clutter of the other unathletic boys while the fitter ones fucked around with dodgeball, or whatever. By senior year, I was skipping out of gym entirely – using my senior privilege and status a runner to avoid it. But, to be honest, having a gym class once every six days wasn’t doing me, or anyone, any favors.

So for most of my life, the chin-up, and any desire to do it, eluded me. When I started working out in college, I hopped in and out of the chin-up phase. Once I realized that clinging to the bars and literally leaping up into a chin-up position didn’t technically count, I swapped to the assisted pull-up machine and avoided it whenever I could.

The assisted pull-up machine requires you to put your knees on a pad and subtract weight from your total mass. So if you’re 160 pounds, and you subtracted fifty pounds, you were doing the chin-ups with a body weight of 110 pounds. I was subtracting so much weight that I was actually flinging myself upwards with every pull and reaching an exosphere orbit.

I would eye the people who could do a pull-up or chin-up unassisted with hot glowering envy. It seemed literally impossible, and then I saw people actually adding weights to their own self and doing repetitions with that. That was as unbelievable to me as those stories of mothers lifting up cars to save their loved ones – actually more unbelievable. I began to measure my prowess in terms of how many unassisted repetitions I could do – one was bad, two was better, three was ideal.

But as I worked out more, I began to reacquaint myself with the pull-up machine. As I lost weight and gained muscle, the notches of the weight began to shift lighter and lighter. Eventually, I was doing ten to twenty pounds of assistance, for a weight of roughly 185.

And then, a few weeks ago, I decided to leave the pad entirely. Straining, I pulled myself up – my elbows narrowing into neat acute angles – and down. When I completed sixteen chin-ups, four repetitions in four sets, I fell into a crouch and felt my heart pump blood headily into the aching muscles. But I kept doing it. every day, at the beginning of my workout, I did sixteen chin-ups – always in four sets of four – before moving onto the rest of my workout. I found that the less I focused on what I was about to do, the better I performed. If I hesitated, arms extended upward but feet still on the ground, I could barely get myself into the air.

I began to change it up – I added another set of pull-ups to the routine. Eventually, I switched to sixteen pull-ups (working the back muscles, shoulder muscles and the latissimus dorsi muscles). I tacked on a set of chin-ups, and on arms days, I would do sixteen of each.

I’ve noticed more muscle changes in the few weeks that I’ve started doing unassisted pull-ups. My shoulders are squarer, my collarbones swoop with the graceful lean of ship’s bows, and my biceps are bigger. In the shower, I catch glimpses of back muscles rippling in ways that they didn’t before. I’m obsessed with my shoulder blades, their hookedness like two eagle beaks.

Unfortunately, like a lot of people, I have a complex relationship with my body. And I’ve often leaned on the gym in unhealthy ways, eviscerating myself on days when I had to skip, or punishing myself for days that I didn’t push myself as far as I could’ve. In my most depressed, the gym becomes more of an outlet and a crutch. Before, when I looked my best, it’s often because I was feeling my worst. At a particular low point in college, mental health-wise, I would escape to the gym for hours every day, later pinching the fat on my hips as it melted away. I obsess over my body’s aesthetic, how this looks and how this lays.

I’ve always carried that anxiety when going to the gym; that I could backslide and become obsessive again. I still have lingering habits, a twinge of despair when I weigh myself, or a slight internal battle about how much cardio to do. I take my backslides softly, and slowly, and I’m trying to treat myself gently. It doesn’t always work, maybe not even half of the time, but I try.

Doing these pull-ups aren’t about how they will make my body look. It is a physical challenge, a test of my own strength – something that doesn’t come from aesthetics alone.

But this feels different for me.

When I’m doing pull-ups, I revel in the strength as I lift upwards. I imagine all of the scenarios where I can pull myself up. Action movie scenes, where the ground falls away beneath me and I have to swing myself up from the lip of a cliff. Deep dark holes that I’m trapped in. American Ninja Warrior monkey bars. I revel in getting stronger, and it feels wholly unconnected to aesthetics or attractiveness. In every muscle micro-tear, I steel myself with strength. I feel myself getting stronger, and I nourish it like a seedling. I picture myself as a warrior, each line of muscle meaning that I am more capable, more sturdy, more indomitable.

It isn’t about how I look – it’s about how I feel.

And damn, sis, I feel good.

Humor, Life, Mental Health, Things Happening RN

Lol – I’m Depressed

It was probably the eighth time that I went to open a Word document to write a blog post, hovered over that blue W and then flicked my finger away that I realized something was probably wrong.

It was probably when waking up left me feeling more tired, the kind of deep, head-wrapped tired that dips your bones in wax.

It was probably when the thought of sending an email filled me with enough anxiety to justify binge-watching the latter half of Real Housewives of New Jersey. (I also just, like, had to do this. Siggy is crazy, y’all).

It was probably when depression curled itself around me like an angora sweater-shawl that I realized something was up. A blend of cashmere and sadness.

Depression is weird because even when you have a “handle” on it, it can still surprise you. I’ve been in therapy on-and-off since I was fifteen; I’ve had ups and downs and I thought that I was pretty solid on my mental health. Even so, I would be surprised to realize that the few “bad days” I was having, where nothing seemed to go right and my thoughts couldn’t be quelled, were small depressive blips.

In lay terms, I often describe those blips as a common cold. It knocks you out of commission for a few days; it makes you a little fuzzier and a little slower; you don’t realize it’s happening until it’s almost over. But, in the same way that a healthy person always seems a little in denial that their body is fallible, I’m always a little naïve that I can fall prey to these blips.

This last time has been more than a blip: a blap, perhaps, or even potentially a bloop. Depression is wild because it completely changes your way of thinking and distracts you from itself. It’s the Cheshire cat of mental health: me not being able to write a coherent blog post, or answer an email suddenly gets attributed to other things – I’m not funny or talented, or I still can’t figure out if “Best, Danny McCarthy” is going to be my email signature. It took a few days/weeks to realize, “Oh, it’s been you beside me all along.”

I live for a romantic comedy, but not one that ends with me and Depression kissing in a gazebo.

This bloop was brought on by a myriad of things, none of which were particularly noteworthy or memorable in and of themselves. I’m applying to grad school and wading through applications. I’m working. I’m trying to find a psychiatrist. I ran into my major high school crush whilst at my day job when I was underslept and overshaven. I’m living in my childhood bedroom. I graduated from college and I’m spiraling.

There’s no real button to this blog post that’s neat or clean. I’m still having a bloop; and I’m doing self-care in the ways that I know how: forcing myself to write, doing pull-ups and listening to a lot of Kelly Clarkson. I think it’s important to write this because I often feel that whilst I’m in the moment of a bloop that I can’t talk about it: better to wait until it’s over and then I can be triumphant and saintly and tough. But that’s not realistic, and that’s not relatable. And as much as I worry that these seem like “Cry for Help” posts or pity parties, I know that they’re not. I’m fine now, and I’ll be fine later. I don’t want to wax poetically about how I “made it through, and you will do.” I know I’ll make it through, and I know you will too, but hon, we’re here for the moment. Might as well lean into that angora and be honest.

Mental Health, Rambles, Things Happening RN


In typical fashion, I had a perfect title before I had anything else even written.

I just sent an email to a potential new psychiatrist (in the event it works out and I eventually tell you about this, hi hon!). While I was in school, I utilized our student health services and saw the same psychiatrist on-and-off for about three years. Always check out the resources available to you, especially when you’re at school—I’ve heard some horror stories about SHS, but I’ve always had good experiences.

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Body Health, Mental Health, Politics


Read my articles about the CBO analysis for the House bill here and the March AHCA bill here

In other news, before we get started—President Trump took to Twitter today to confirm that there were no tape-recordings of his conversations with former FBI Director James Comey; tapes he insinuated weeks ago he had.

Written when I was going to write about using self-tanner in preparation for New York Pride, and the realization that the healthy, sun-kissed glow I actually needed was for my soul—but more pressing matters have arisen.

This morning—Thursday June 22, 2017—the new healthcare plan was released after a cloud of mystery while it was being written in private by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and a small group of colleagues. The bill’s mystery was protested by Democrats and Republicans alike, who feared that this bill would be introduced and forced into a hasty vote before anyone had a chance to read it. according to CNN, the bill will have a one-week-turnaround, meaning that McConnell hopes to get it voted on within a week.

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Inspirational, Life, Mental Health


Partially inspired by my latest podcast interest Who? Weekly (I think I’m going to leave “obsessed” and “obsession” in 2016), I decided that I need to follow more celebrities on Instagram. Let me back up and explain myself, because this is going to be a wild ride.

In order to obtain a better ratio—thusly avoiding social media humiliation and ostracizing—I often unfollow celebrities whom I follow on social media platforms. I do this because A) they’re never going to follow me back, and I firmly believe in a “Follow for follow” maxim, and more importantly B) I’m afraid that if I unfollow people I know that they’ll somehow realize and unfollow me, thus ruining all the careful calibrations I made to achieve the ratio.

Side bar: has anyone factored the “Golden Ratio” into Instagram ratios? Just a thought.

Side bar update: my ratio is not the Golden Ratio. And I did math to prove this. Is this interesting? The golden ratio is that the ratio between the two individual numbers is the same between the ratio between the total sum and the larger of the individual numbers. The ratio between my individual sums (followers vs. following) is 0.501, and the ratio between the total sum and the greater individual is 0.666. Oh my gosh, I just wrote that out and how spooky!! So, like, how do I get the the golden ratio? If more people follow me without me following anyone (unlikely) the first ratio will decrease, so I need to follow more people without other people following me (very likely). Therefore, I’m perfectly warranted in following garbage celebrity accounts, because I’m in pursuit of the Golden Ratio!

I can’t believe that I just used math in a productive way. I might be the next (what’s his name, the guy who was in The Theory of Everything?) Stephen Hawking! Wow, that just mitigated any progress I thought I had made, because I only knew him from the Eddie Redmayne movie (a name which I knew instantly).

But in the pursuit of the perfect ratio (let’s think of a different name for it, since it’s not the Golden ratio…Silver is too high…Bronze is bourgeoisie…Tin! The Tin Ratio!) I unfollowed every semi-interesting non-friend account. That led to my Discover page becoming increasingly scattered as it, panicking, tried to find edgy fun accounts for me to look at. And I was not pleased. At all.

Before I decided to play God, my “Discover” was full of fat-to-fit Instagrams, hot dudes working out, photos of the Kardashians, and delicious potato products. Now, I only really have pictures of the Kardashians (AND NOT EVEN KIM), and pictures of this one hot gay that a few people I know follow, so he’s always there—some sort of karmic retribution for me somehow, I’m certain.

There are “suggested” videos for you to watch in a constant stream. Mine were usually grouped into the categories of “Boston Terriers” (<3) “Extreme Weight Loss” (-_-), “Make-Up Tutorials” (thanks Kylie; no seriously, thank you so much for all you do), and then just random food-making videos or cake-decorating. I was living the life, and I didn’t even know it, is the crazy part. I had so much going for me. Then I decided to tamper with my ratio, and I lost everything. But isn’t that always the case? Wolf of Wall Street, Picture of Dorian Gray, etc.

And as 2016 ends and 2017 is poised like a loosened gargoyle hanging above you off a dilapidated cathedral in a French noir film, I think it’s important that we give ourselves as much joy as possible in the face of…you know. Everything.

(As I’m writing this, a bunch of no-name robot Instagrams are following me, thus driving me deeper away from my Golden Ratio dreams) 

I followed a few YouTubers I watch (I watch luxury haul videos as a method of stilling my anxiety, which might be the gayest thing about me currently), some “celebrities (?)” like Chrissy Teigen (I know she’s like a celebrity, but is she a celebrity-celebrity? I didn’t even know who John Legend was until “All of You”; like, I really like her, but I like that she’s kinda solidly B-list even though she’s friends with A-list people), some reality television ‘stars’, A BUNCH OF FOOD BLOGS, and Taylor Swift. The last one is truly so dark, that I don’t even know why I did, but I think it’s the best thing for me rn.

When I was a kid/young teenager—and my best friend can attest to this (he doesn’t like the pseudonym I gave him but I haven’t thought of a new one yet)—my iPod (classic, duh) I had a total random collection of music. I don’t know if there is a statute of limitations on this, but I used Limewire when I was young. I would download everything and anything so that if someone looked on my iPod, they would think that I was cool.

And I thought that I had shaken that habit, but I did the same thing with my Instagram. I didn’t want to follow the girly fashion bloggers I like, or the horrifyingly funny joke Instagram accounts. I was curating my following list for someone who doesn’t exist and doesn’t care. And for what? So that someone someday would think I was cool? I want to be happy and enjoy something stupid and fun if that’s what I want, not look at a boring Instagram feed or an iPod (well, not an iPod because it’s 2016) of unlistenable music.

I just watched a great video about the Law of Attraction, and I think that it’s something I’m going to take into the new year. I’ve been repeating, in various articles, that 2017 is going to be hard. It will be. That’s not crazy for me to say. But how I deal with it, how I react to it, is up to me. And I know that these could just be empty words, and I could go on operating from my base level, which is pessimistic. But fuck that, you guys.

Fuck it.

I’m going to be positive. I’m going to see out the golden ratio of good energy in my life, and I encourage everyone else to A) also seek it out and B) send it/$20 my way. Much appreciated. But in all seriousness, I’m really going to seriously try. I know people in my life who are always getting good things their way, and it’s not because they’re sitting on their asses. It’s because they’re striving towards it.

There’s a great series of books called the Grisha Trilogy by Leigh Bardugo. In them, she deals with this idea of “thisness” and “thatness.” It’s in specific relation to essentially witches who can manipulate matter by accessing the similarities in molecular structure—am I the smartest fucking person or what?—but there’s a great quote that is also touted as an aphorism (seriously so fucking smart):

Like calls to like.

Putting out good energy calls to good energy. Positivity breeds positivity.

This got surprisingly deep for a post originally about how I followed a bunch of Foodstagrams, but I’m not hating the place it went. Have a great day! (See what I did there? I’m outputting positivity!)


Source: Giphy// I want more of this in 2017

celebrity, Mental Health, pop culture


Written before the death of Debbie Reynolds at 84 years old, a Hollywood legend and mother to Carrie Fisher. Reynolds was known for Singin’ in the Rain, The Debbie Reynolds Show, and Halloweentown. Reynolds was the president of the Thalians, which was dedicated to mental health causes, and received the Academy Awards Jean Hersholt Humanitarian Award in 2016.

Carrie Fisher, 60, died on the 27 of December 2016, drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra. Her words, not mine.

Fisher wrote that obituary for herself in her 2008 memoir, Wishful Drinking. The book was adapted from her one-woman stage show, and featured a story from her days shooting Star Wars. George Lucas went up to her and told her that she shouldn’t be wearing a bra.

“Okay, I’ll bite. Why?”

Because, he explained, apparently your body—due to the weightlessness of space—expands while your clothing—or more particularly your bra—do not, thus strangling you.

“Now I think that this would make a fantastic obit—so I tell my younger friends that no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra,” Fisher wrote.

Fisher spoke publicly about her bipolar disorder and her addiction to cocaine and prescription medication. In 2001, she discussed her drug addiction as self-medication with Psychology Today, particularly the use of drugs like Percodan to curtail the manic aspect of her bipolar disorder. In 2006, she was a part of the BBC documentary Stephen Fry: The Secret Life of the Manic Depressive. She published her memoir in 2008 and discussed her experiences with electroconvulsive therapy on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson.

In 2016, Harvard College awarded her its Annual Outstanding Lifetime Achievement Award in Cultural Humanism for “her forthright activism and outspokenness about addiction, mental illness, and agnosticism,” which have “advanced public discourse on these issues with creativity and empathy.”

It’s important that Fisher got her last wishes concerning her obituary. It’s important that she’s remembered how she wanted to be. It’s important that she was in control of her story.

So often people with mental illness deal with events outside of their control, inside their heads. We struggle to get to a base level that other people operate from effortlessly. We work so much harder, every day, to get the same things. And sometimes we fall fucking short. We don’t succeed in the way we wanted to.

Carrie Fisher succeeded in the life she wanted. She was an actress, a woman, a parent, a writer, and an advocate. She brought so much light and laughter to a topic that sometimes, sadly, has so little of either. She showed that you can be funny and sharp and there, even if you are struggling with mental illness.

She proved that you can be more than. She was more than Princess Leia. She was more than an actress. She was more than her illness. She was more than her addiction. People will try to label you; to shove you into boxes; to dissect you, understand you, curtail you. But Carrie Fisher showed that you could exist beyond the expectations of people and society. And you can fucking rock it.

She lived a life of advocacy, of humor, of strength, and she died, drowned in moonlight and strangled by her own bra.

I want to extend my sympathies to Fisher’s daughter Billie, and her brother Todd, and her half-siblings, Joely and Tricia.

Mental Health, Rambles, Things Happening RN


I’m stressed, and I need that to be okay.

I didn’t realize I was stressed until I was sitting in my psychiatrist’s office today. Emotion after emotion, thought after thought, rose up and spilled out of me like I was a cup in the sink overflowing from a tap that was left on accidentally. I was stressed, I was under stress, I was stress. My entire body was made up of the coiling gray wires that I envision stress to be.

I feel like it’s not okay to be stressed. We’re allowed to be “stressed” but not Stressed. We’re not allowed to be Stressed because we’re conditioned to believe it’s a symptom of not working hard enough. If you’re doing poorly in a class, it’s because you’re not applying yourself enough. If something fails in the romantic sense, it’s you. If you can’t find a job or an internship, it’s because you’re not striving towards it with enough vigor.

We’re allowed to be stressed but it must pass. It must be something that can be neatly dealt with. We’re not allowed to be weak with it, weak from it. And I’m weak from it. It’s breaking into my sleeping, my waking, my head.

I’m stressed about a lot of things. Some are personal and I’m not discussing. Some are classes that I just finished up, some are familial, some are the overarching overhangs of life after graduation. I’m stressed but I’m not allowed to be Stressed. Particularly about jobs. Millennials are classed as lazy. We’re not getting jobs because we expect things to be handed to us. We’re too addicted to our phones. We’re self-obsessed and expectant of praise.

We’re told that we need to be the best to get jobs, and even if we’re the best, that might not be enough. You need to get an internship. Already have one? You need one more. Then one more. It’s never ending. We’re also told that there are no jobs; that we’re fucked. So we’re fucked either way: if we work hard and don’t get anything, it’s because the job market can’t sustain us. If we work hard and don’t get anything, it’s because we’re too idealistic. We expect too much too soon.

So that’s making me stressed. I’m stressed that I just finished a class where I was told, over and over, that my career choices were not valid. That what I wanted to do was not realistic. That “real journalists” didn’t do what I did. What I do.

I’m stressed and Stressed and I’m hoping it’ll pass and I know that it will.