celebrity, Mental Health

WHY IS IT NECESSARY TO KNOW HOW PEOPLE DIED?

In the last week, both designer Kate Spade and chef-journalist Anthony Bourdain decided to end their lives via suicide. It is, to put it bluntly, incredibly fucking sad.

It’s sad, yes, because they were successful and seemingly had the means to seek help; in fact, according to Andy Spade, Kate’s husband, she was working with doctors and dealing with her depression and anxiety. It’s sad, yes, because they leave behind loved ones – Kate’s husband and daughter, Anthony’s partner Asia Argento, as well as countless others. It’s sad, yes, because it triggers people with suicidal inclinations or mental illness.

And it’s sad because their deaths become spectacle when news outlets report on the hows of their deaths. I do not understand the impetus behind reporting on how exactly people take their own lives. There is, of course, the argument that that is part of the story, but, actually, it really isn’t. Knowing how exactly someone takes their own life does nothing for understanding the news other than satisfying the base, macabre instincts of consumers.

I was texting with my friend about the death of Bourdain, and he reminded me of a few other celebrities who had taken their own lives. When there were a few names that I didn’t recognize, I googled them and was greeted with explicit, black-and-white details of their death. In their little Wikipedia summary, it included “Cause of death,” like it was just another quirky fact.

I understand the desire to know; it’s the same reason we look at car accidents. There is a curiousity about death, and the people connected to it. But when I saw reporting on Kate Spade, and the rumored way she took her life, all I felt was this triggered sickness. Talking about how people died completely dehumanizes them. It turns the story from them, their lives, their struggles, and forces you to picture them as they literally died. Because that’s all that reporting the cause of death does: forces the reader to envision the reported in their final moment.

But instead of satiating any curiosity, knowing the methods just make me sick, like I had barreled in on these people’s loved ones in their moment of mourning. It turned their private emotion into public spectacle, for public consumption. It operates under the belief that we deserve to know, that we are owed something. We don’t, and we aren’t. god, it literally just makes me so sad – sad for Anthony and Kate, sad for their families and their friends and their fans, sad for people who will be triggered mortally by this, people who will find this affects them in ways that they can’t quite verbalize.

It’s all well and good to publicize the hotlines of suicide prevention (1-800-273-8255 is the phone number for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline; 1-866-488-7386 is the nymberof the Trevor Project) but I encourage you to reach out to people. It doesn’t have to be “Hey, are you okay?” It can be as simple as texting them hello, or to say that you’re thinking of them, or forwarding them a meme or a joke.

Mental illnesses like anxiety and depression prey on the fear that you are alone; dissuade that notion in the people in your life by showing them that that is not true. No one, ever, is alone. There is nothing so dark that you cannot come back; there is no hole too deep for your voice to echo upwards. Reach out; hold on. Please. Pleasepleaseplease. You matter so much, so greatly.

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2018, Mental Health

MARIAH CAREY COMES FORWARD WITH BIPOLAR II DISORDER DIAGNOSIS

Header image source: Wikipedia


I’ve come out three times in my life. First as gay, second as depressed, and third as a ride-or-die Kelly Clarkson stan. Strangely, it’s only the last that has caused permanent strife in my family. I expected that; the truth is hard to hear.

On Wednesday, skinny legend Mariah Carey announced that she has been dealing with a diagnosis of Bipolar II Disorder. In an interview with People, Carey described that, while she was first diagnosed in 2001, it was only in the last few years that she fully accepted and grappled with treatment.

“Until recently I lived in denial and isolation and in constant fear someone would expose me,” she said to People editor-in-chief Jess Cagle. “It was too heavy a burden to carry and I simply couldn’t do that anymore. I sought and received treatment, I put positive people around me and I got back to doing what I love — writing songs and making music.”

It’s easy to drown this announcement in platitudes and inspirational sayings. It’s easy to say that Mariah is brave. It’s easy to say that this is important. It’s easy to bury this in well-wishes and forget how desperately important this is.

So it needs to be stated regardless: this is fucking important. This is fucking brave. And this is life-saving.

I was fifteen when I started going to therapy. I was nineteen when I went on medication. I remember the first time I went to CVS and picked up my prescription. I carried it back to my apartment, the small paper bag crunched up into my sweaty fist furtively. I eyed the small blue ovals with displeasure, and resented every swallow, every day, until one day I didn’t.

I am, relatively, extremely lucky. I live in a bubble where my mental health does not limit or define me. I have friends who have their own struggles, and I have parents who have advocated for me. It’s easy for me to forget the magnitude of disclosing mental health now that it has become so normalized for me.

But I let myself forget sometimes that I started writing about my depression and anxiety because when I needed it most, there was no literature that I found helpful. There were dry, clinical descriptions, and there were void-swallowing depressing missives. There weren’t people that I could relate to, people who were “normal” and functioned.

And in 2001, I can’t imagine the hostile environment that Mariah was facing when she received her diagnosis. It would have probably been career-ending to come forward, as a woman and as someone with bipolar disorder. She would’ve been labeled disruptive or crazy or entirely unreliable. She would’ve been a national joke.

It’s only the last few years – if that – that I’ve noticed a shift in the conversation surrounding mental health.

If I had had someone like Mariah – or Demi Lovato or Kesha or Dwayne Johnson – when I was fifteen or seventeen or nineteen, I think that I would progressed out of that shame a lot more quickly. I probably wouldn’t have been so reticent to accept help. I didn’t know that you could be successful and also depressed; I didn’t know that this didn’t have to be a life sentence or a limitation.

Despite the strides we’ve made, disclosing mental health issues is still a major risk. There’s a stigma attached to it, stigma that could eliminate job opportunities or personal relationships or credibility. That stigma is reduced when people disclose their own struggles, and represent as people who are functioning, productive and driven. It also opens the conversation to the ways that mental health can contribute to people’s downfalls, when people aren’t functioning or productive or driven. It can open the conversation about the ways that we are failing people who struggle with mental health.

Because there are people like Mariah, who had wealth and time and resources to understand and cope with her diagnosis. There are people like me who have a supportive family and a network of people.

But there are so many people without those resources, without the access to therapy or medication, for whom mental health can be detrimental. This helps them.

“I’m hopeful we can get to a place where the stigma is lifted from people going through anything alone. It can be incredibly isolating,” Mariah told People. “It does not have to define you and I refuse to allow it to define me or control me.”

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Body Health, Essay, Mental Health

HANG LIKE CHICKEN

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.

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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.

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Mental Health, Rambles, Things Happening RN

MENTAL HEALTH IS CHIC, YOU GUYS

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

THE SENATE RELEASES THEIR HEALTHCARE BILL

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

FOR THE SAKE OF THE GOLDEN RATIO

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!)

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

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