One year in NYC: on getting kicked in the back in Times Square and the beautiful conundrum that is this city.

There’s not a whole lot that can better describe my last year in New York City than the following particular 24-hour stretch.

On Sunday, October 9, 2016, I ended up at a private Alicia Keys concert in Times Square with a handful – a several thousand person handful – of my closest friends.

Alicia

Every screen was lit up Alicia – she had bought out the entire place to film a concert special for BET, promoting her new album.

To close out her set – which had included Q-Tip, Questlove, John Mayer and Nas, among others – on comes Jay-Z and they, in Times Square, every screen lit up with them switching out with classic, black and white photos of the New York City skyline, performed Empire State of Mind. Continue reading “One year in NYC: on getting kicked in the back in Times Square and the beautiful conundrum that is this city.”

Angry & Sad: Because yes, they can coexist.

On Saturday, April 8th, my friend Abeku Wilson, in his mid-30s, was fired from his job and in a fit of anger, stormed back into the gym in which he was previously employed as a personal trainer, shot and killed two people, then committed suicide. Two days later, on Monday, April 10th, an acquaintance from the same group of friends, Abeng Stuart, in his late 30s, died of a heart attack while he was driving.

The depth of grief felt by our friends, by the families of both men, and by the families of the people Abeku killed is one that I cannot begin to quantify. For us, the University of Miami community who lost two of our own back to back, the breadth of anger, confusion, shame, shock, sorrow, emptiness, and more is not one I think I will be able to describe. Sometimes there are things I just don’t know how to unpack so I’m not going to try. These were things that were things. They were dark and unfathomable until they happened.

In the days after, I put up a few posts about mental health and taking care of ourselves that I wanted to go ahead and re-share here, for the sake of them being somewhere in case someone needs them.  Continue reading “Angry & Sad: Because yes, they can coexist.”

That tricky little bastard, serotonin.

One of the most important tools in the understanding-my-brain arsenal is pure science. It makes it all more manageable for me if I know why something is happening on a basic bodily function level.

In a previous post, I talked about having a chronic mental illness called dysthymia – it’s a chronic form of depression that I’ve had since I was 12 in which my brain doesn’t produce enough serotonin. I used to manage my body’s ability to produce enough of it – since it affects feelings of well-being, mood stabilization, and digestion (your body produces serotonin in your brain and all throughout your digestive tract) – with medications called SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors).  Continue reading “That tricky little bastard, serotonin.”

Being chronically ill but wanting to make a difference: the balance.

Three years ago today, I spent my day in a traditional Lakota sweat lodge. Two days prior, I had walked away from my corporate job with zero fallback plan.

Already in the midst of a major autoimmune crash, I was also doing work that was breaking my soul. I had been hired as the wellness communications specialist for a 15,000-employee company. The job description was everything I loved – creating messaging and programs to support and inspire health, educating around nutrition and wellness. What my position ended up being was spinning the company’s new high deductable healthcare plan. I could’ve just created the messaging being suggested to me – “Here’s all the ways this will be great for you and your family!”

Because I’m me, I instead started digging. I started running the numbers myself. I started going back to the vendors and actuaries and asking them to give me real-life scenarios I could illustrate so people could at least plan for what was actually coming. I found that, for anyone with any kind of chronic issue – asthma, diabetes, high blood pressure, depression, etc. – this plan was going to run them into the ground financially within the first three months of the year. It was a plan designed to cover emergency needs for otherwise healthy people. It was a plan designed to save the company money, not take care of its people so they can keep doing their jobs. Continue reading “Being chronically ill but wanting to make a difference: the balance.”

I’ve been depressed since I was 12.

Lora Zombie
“Rainy” by Lora Zombie

 

The most common comment I get since moving to New York City a year ago is that I am too positive for this city and that it will change me. My response every time is that I have worked too hard for my joy, and it isn’t going anywhere.

But I realize that people probably don’t know what that really means. That, when people see me being positive, they assume it’s an inherent trait – one that exists just because it’s who I am.

They don’t realize that I actually have clinical depression – dysthymia, specifically. That the chemicals in my brain are not wired for me to feel okay and that when I say I’ve worked hard for my positivity, I mean it. Literally how I eat, my exercise, my daily habits, my alone time – not only are they built to support my physical health, but my mental health too.

My happiness, my positivity is a choice, but it’s one that I had to learn how to make over years upon years of work, not only personally but with the help of doctors, clinicians, counselors, nutritionists and, at times, medication. Because – just like how my body does not make insulin, it doesn’t create enough serotonin, the chemical that helps contribute to feelings of well-being and happiness. Everything can be going right but without serotonin, my brain does not have the ability to recognize it. Continue reading “I’ve been depressed since I was 12.”

What it’s like to watch people die from your disease.

My immune system attacked my body when I was 10, resulting in a loss of ability to make a crucial hormone called insulin, which turns the food you eat into fuel for your body. Without insulin, the sugar from your food compounds in your blood stream, quickly poisoning you from within.

Before 1921, this event was a death sentence. The only “treatment” was starvation. Even over the last few decades, being diagnosed with this autoimmune disease meant shorter lifespans and drastic changes in what life could look like. Outcomes weren’t great. Complications were inevitable.

Technological advancements have made it so that I, by being born at the right time and into privileged circumstances, can not only live, but can live the life healthy-me would’ve lived too.

But the reality is, people still die from complications of type 1 diabetes all the time. And whenever I hear stories of it, I break down. When people die from this disease, it’s rarely from their own negligence. It’s mostly from simple mistakes – not realizing that what felt like the flu was actually diabetic ketoacidosis. Not waking up from a low blood sugar and dying in your sleep. Miscalculating how much medicine or food you would need when you’re out and about. Or, also commonly, from not having the money or resources to afford what you need to survive. Continue reading “What it’s like to watch people die from your disease.”

Only love is real.

elephantsMy entire life and being could be summed up by this – I do absolutely nothing halfway.

If I’m going to get sick, I’m going to get SUPER sick. If I’m going to break my ankle, I’m going to break it the most it can possibly be broken. If I’m going to be an awkward idiot, I’m going to be the MOST awkward idiot.

But if I’m going to go for a goal, I’m going to sprint. If I decide I like something, I’m going to be the most enthusiastic supporter of it you’ve ever seen, be it Christmas or a world-changing organization. I go at my own pace – it is fast and intense and full of eagerness and gusto. And this way of being means that when I love, I love with my whole heart, my whole being, with every ounce of my intention centered on pouring belief and passion into that love.

And you, my friends, make it really damn easy to love that hard. I am so consistently lucky to have you all in my life. You make love easy. You make caring easy.

I’ve said it a million times before and I’ll say it a million times again – I don’t know how I deserve such amazing people in my life, but know that I’m appreciative and I love you with everything I have to the point that I’m consistently struck by and in awe of it.

Happy Valentine’s Day, friends. Love you deeply.

On heartbreak.

heartbreakA few caveats before we go into this:
1) I’m fine. I’m not writing this from a place of current pain. It’s just something I’ve wanted to put on ‘paper’ for a while.
2) To the person who was involved, we are absolutely good. Life is an amazing teacher and I’m grateful for all of it.

My mom says there have been two times in my life when she wasn’t sure I was going to make it.

The first was my type 1 diabetes diagnosis at 10. After being inexplicably ill for months, I almost slipped into a coma and spent several days in the intensive care unit being stabilized, an IV inserted into my jugular because the rest of my veins would collapse with any attempt to place a needle.

The second was the summer of 2015 when my entire being broke in a way I didn’t know was possible.

Every morning, for six and a half weeks, I opened my eyes feeling like I never slept. Without respite, the memory of why crashed over me. Unwillingly, tears started sliding down the side of my face as I pushed myself out of bed. Waves of grief hit me in the shower; in their most overwhelming I curled up in the bottom of the tub, water washing over my body. Continue reading “On heartbreak.”

Being chronically ill in the age of resistance.

I’m worn out. Mentally. Physically. Drained.

Not more than anyone else. I get the times we’re living through right now. None of this is normal. We’re all feeling depleted.

It’s in a different way. Beyond the emotional and mental burden of everything happening in the United States right now, my immune system has been firing at insane rates again, and my body is breaking down. Again.

This isn’t new. This happens in cycles, multiple times throughout the year. Continue reading “Being chronically ill in the age of resistance.”

It’s just sex.

There tend to be two ways that young women are taught to think about sex. I’d argue that neither is correct. They are:

  1. Don’t. Protect your virtue. I mean… it’s your decision. Obviously. But *shrug* do you REALLY want to be known as *that* girl? Do you want people to talk? I mean, I’m just saying, but it’s not very lady-like. You can have your fun but, you know, be careful. Men only want one thing anyway.
  2. Free love! You live in the age of women’s empowerment, honey! Don’t let anyone try to slut shame you! Do you! Need some condoms?

I wish someone had told me about the middle ground. I wish someone had ever had a sex-positive conversation with me that leaned less on the act or the societal expectations and more on the energy sex requires.

Stop, get your mind out of the gutter.

I don’t mean physical energy. Step your workout game up. I mean your spirit. Continue reading “It’s just sex.”