Anthem

See: previous post.

This girl knows my heart and I need to see her in concert again, ASAP.

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Lies my brain has told me

Disclaimer.

This is not a happy post. Or a funny one. If you’re looking for either one of those, I recommend that time I posted a bunch of awesome fireworks pictures or when my cousins and sisters and I watched Magic Mike.

I wrote this a couple weeks ago, actually, and debated on when to post it. But with Robin Williams’ passing today, and the suspected reasons behind it, I feel like some more attention will be brought to mental illness and depression than has been in a long time. And that’s as good a reason as any to hit publish.

This post is also not meant to bring anyone down or make anyone sad. It is not meant to make anyone worry about me, or pay attention to me, or feel bad for me.
This is my personal experience(s) with depression and medication and nobody else’s. It helps me to write. It helps me to get everything out where I can see it. When I do that it makes it real, but it also makes me really examine how I’m feeling and realize that it’s often not the best use of my time to be feeling that way.

I’m not apologizing for feeling this way, nor do I plan to. I learned long ago that I could not help who I was or how I was, I could only hope to control it. (That last part, I learned more recently…as I’ve said before, starting therapy will forever be the best thing I’ve ever done for myself). I write this, like I said, for me, but also, maybe, in the hopes that it will help somebody else who deals with this damn disease, because that’s what depression is, a disease. It’s managed with medicine and treatments and won’t ever go away completely, and I’ve accepted that. But it doesn’t mean I have to let it win.

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For the past few months I have not been in the best place. Mentally/emotionally. Physically, I have been in my new condo, which IS the best place. But my mind’s not been as cooperative.

Remember how the doctor and my therapist thought I was doing so well we ought to try lowering my medication dosage? This is the medication that is responsible for keeping everything firing like it should be and keeping me from curling up under the covers and shutting out the world (actually, here’s some levity, when I just tried typing “shutting” I first typed “shitting” by accident).

Lowering it, turns out, was a bad idea. Maybe the worst idea.

I don’t remember when things started getting bad. An approximate day or week or anything.. for a while it was fine. There were some really bad, hard things that happened in March. And then there were a couple of situational things that piled on to that. And then the old stuff, the sad stuff, started creeping back in, slowly, like waves on a beach. That, I could handle.

So, I guess it was a little over a month or so ago that that changed. It got worse.

When you have depression, it’s a constant fight with yourself. There’s the part of you that knows better, and then there’s that dark part that wants you to fail, wants you to be miserable. And it starts to become easier to give in than to fight.

Here are some things that my brain has told me recently:
– You suck.
– It’s not gonna change. It’s NEVER going to change.
– Good try, but did you seriously think you could keep it up? (This one was about running when it got hard and then I got busy and then I abandoned it altogether) 
– Won’t happen for you, so quit thinking it will.
– There’s nothing you can do to fix this, any of this.
– You shouldn’t have quit running. That was stupid.
– Don’t bother other people with your drama. 
– Stay home.
– Stay in bed.
– Who cares?
– It’ll never get better. Any of it.
– Did I mention that you suck?

And then more of the old stuff came back. I wasn’t eating. Or I was eating too much. 

I stood in a place that I really should have been so incredibly happy to be in, surrounded by other people and their happiness and selfishly thought about just leaving, walking out the door, disappearing. Because what would it matter. And that approximately 30 seconds of selfishness I forced out of my head almost as quick as it came. Because I knew it was complete bullshit. And yet, it popped into my head anyway.

(Sidenote. I have never, ever wanted to harm myself in any way. But the feeling of wanting to run away, disappear, scared me and I never want to feel that way again, or anywhere close to it)

See, it’s that kind of stuff that’s a constant with this depression thing. And truthfully, when the medicine was stronger, I was stronger. I could handle it better. I could swat it away and call it what it is – RIDICULOUS. 

That list up there is all ridiculous. Now. When I was feeling it? Not so much. I cancelled plans (which was stupid and unnecessary and unfair to do to other people), I slept and then I didn’t sleep. I was letting it win.

This is the part where I get lucky though. (Not in that way, pervs.)

People saw that I was letting it win. People who love me and care about me and were going to help me fight it until I could do it on my own again. I made an emergency-ish appointment with my therapist who I might name a child after, I love her so much, and she made me feel less psycho by saying “Yeah, I see that there’s been a few situations that have made it worse, but I really think it started and is mainly because we tried to get you off the meds. I think a big part of it is chemical.”

I called my mom, I texted my sisters and my best friend. They reinforced the opposite of what I listed up there. I don’t suck. I can fix this. Other people will listen to my drama because it’s my feelings, and you should never feel bad for having feelings or expressing them. The people who love you will listen. And they will help. They reminded me about the good things… and there’s so many good things, you guys. 

You know what blocks you from seeing the good things? The fog of the depression. Those commercials are no joke. It really is like a black cloud. Only it doesn’t have eyes ’cause that’s just too much. And creepy.

Things will get better. But I’m largely responsible for that – making that happen. The medicine won’t do all the work on its own.

And I’m working on it. I’m always going to have this, so I’m always going to be a work in progress..I think I’ve said that before, but it’s true.

I’m very lucky I – and others in my life – caught it before I got lost in that deep, dark hole. I’m blessed that I have people that care about me like they do and resources that I need to get better. Not everyone has that…not everyone thinks they have that, anyway. But they should.

Depression should never win. I can, and will, be stronger than that dark cloud in my head telling me I’m worthless. 

Because it’s a liar. 

And an asshole, really… 

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We need to talk about mental health. And mental illness. And all those brain and chemical and situational and emotional and whatever things that people have going on…

I wrote this because I want to talk about it. I want the people that have told me they feel better or not alone when they see me or someone talk about it remember that they they aren’t alone. I want to keep reminding MYSELF of that. I want anyone and everyone who is hurting to get better, and I really think that can happen. It has to. We can’t keep letting the disease win.

Best one yet? I’m thinking yes.

Besides the first one, obviously, but I don’t remember that one.

Oh, what am I talking about? Birthdays.

‘Member how I turned 30?

Well. It was kind of a big deal.

So.. I think I’ve been surprised maybe twice in my life. And usually it’s just been a matter of someone showing up somewhere that I didn’t expect to see them. I’m more of a startled person – like don’t jump out at me or you’ll get hit.

I bet I am making no kind of sense, am I?

OK. So last weekend was my 30th birthday. I had made a few plans and thought everyone was going along with it, but boy was I wrong.

A few weeks before the day, I told a few people I wanted to go out to dinner – we’d dress up fancy and just go somewhere and have a small, chill thing. I pitched it in the group text with the Game Night Bitchezzz and they were down, and suggested a pre-party before, because that’s what we do.

My sister, Rachel, convinced me to let Dad make reservations for the dinner so I’m not planning my own birthday stuff and that’s that.

Oh, and I went and bought a dress. It wasn’t only for my birthday, but the birthday seemed a good enough excuse as any.

And I didn’t think anything else about any of it.

Birthday Day came and started awesomely. Lots of birthday love from the second I woke up from friends and family, and of course, all over Facebook because that’s how it counts.

My friend, Stephanie, and I had plans to go get pedicures, so we did that and followed it up with lunch at Havana Rumba, pretty much the best restaurant ever.

Then it was time to go home and get ready.

You guys, I spent soooo much time getting ready. If I wear eye makeup, it must be important, and I worked on that shit for a while. Then put on my dress and headed over to Jenn’s where she said she’d “do my hair before dinner.”

And that, my friends, is when I lost any control I had on the day.

You see, I got to Jennifer’s and before I could get in the door, I was blindfolded, turned around, and told there had been other plans made for the day.

Jenn and Matt kidnapped me, basically, and put me in their car, and were playing some version of good cop, bad cop – meaning Matt was being nice to me and Jennifer was verbally abusing me. Anyone who doesn’t know her would think that’s bad, but as her best friend and after 14 years, I know it’s just the way she shows she loves you.

So here I am, my eye makeup now ruined (I’m thinking) and my hair not gonna get done and I hope wherever they’re taking me isn’t expecting me to look as amazing as I thought I was going to.

Oprah taught me never to be taken to a second location, but that didn’t work in this case and we discussed my impending death, because that had to be what was happening, they were taking me somewhere to kill me.

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I had even brought tiny margaritas for the pre-party. Who would drink them when my best friends murdered me?

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I was allowed to ask questions, but it got me pretty much nowhere.. because I had NO clue where we were going, who would be there, or what I was in for, as you can see.

Please note the “pop pop pop pop pop” sound as soon as the door’s opened. That doesn’t do much to soothe the worries of someone who thinks they are being taken to their death.

But SURPRISE!!!! No dying!!! It was paintball!

When I opened my eyes I saw five of my very favorite people dressed the complete opposite of me, ready to help me cross something off my list.

I found out later, that my best friend, because she’s awesome (despite the verbal abuse from earlier in the day) had decided a couple months ago to do something big for my birthday. She got on this blog and looked at my list for something she could help me cross off. And since my friends wanted to play paintball too, that got chosen!

First of all – the paintball experience in itself is getting its own post. Second of all – I wouldn’t in a million years have thought that’s where they were taking me. So much fun. And I was covered in paint when it was time to change back into my dress to go to dinner.

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Fancy.

So yes, it was at this point I thought we were going to a nice steak restaurant for dinner that I’d never been to before. You know, the one with the small group.

NOPE.

Blindfolded again. At this point I’m figuring we’re ending up at a party somewhere – someone’s house or something. No clue though, really. But I know it’s not the steak place.

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Again I’m completely caught off guard because my family and friends have organized a second surprise for the day. Lining the patio outside of our favorite Mexican restaurant up the street were about 30 people I love a lot. I couldn’t believe it.

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And the rest? Is history. I’ll let the pictures explain, especially since it gets a little bit fuzzy after about 30 minutes of being at the restaurant…

I’ve said it many times before but it bears repeating. I am blessed with some amazingly awesome people in my life. I am so grateful for every single one of them, and they made my (potentially scary) 30th birthday the best I’ve ever had. Love you all!

Highlights? Dad and I slow-dancing at a bar to Liz karaoke-ing to Usher’s “Let It Burn.”

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Oh and my grandma had some tequila.

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Dirty 30

That headline alone should get some clicks, don’t ya think?

It’s not what you think. Or maybe it is. I don’t know how your brain works.

Today I turn 30.

Holy shit.

I thought that was old, once upon a time. And I still feel like it’s old every once in a while. But I am also at the point where my friends are hitting that age first (I’m the baby of one group of friends). And I haven’t seen any major “OMG” moments happening because the 3 is the first number now.

I don’t know what I expected…but when you’re younger, 30 always seems so far, so significant. Like, “by the time I’m 30 I’ll have this and do this and blah blah blah” and that’s not how it is at all when you get there.

Within the past few years or so I have, I’ll admit, had the momentary freak-outs of “Is this where I’m supposed to be in my life, at this age?” And, well, that’s kind of dumb.

Do you know who decides who you should be and when you should be it? YOU.

What a concept, right? Took me a bit to figure that out, but I got there. Eventually.

And, believe it or not, I think I’m right where I need to be. Recently I’ve been reminded of that, because as I got even closer to that “milestone” of turning 30, things have been getting better and better.

I am closing on a condo in the next month. I might will be getting a puppy. I got a raise at work. The photography thing is picking back up and I have a couple other things in the hopper (HOPPA – friggin’ love that commercial and that accent so much) in the near future that could mean even more big changes. Hopefully. I am where I want to be in my relationships – I am beyond blessed with friends and family that I am grateful for every second of every day.

I am happy. I am happier than I’ve been in a long while. And for someone like me who has struggled with the four flat tires of depression for as long as I can remember and who even got pretty low a couple months ago, that’s HUGE.

The happiness thing has made me want to share that feeling with others..but, how should I do it?

I had a grand plan a few weeks ago to do this big thing for my birthday. Remember the girl I told you about we saw in New York? That got 2,900 flowers donated to give out for her 29th birthday and used them to urge others to be kind and pass along her kindness? I wanted to do something similar. And silly me thought with little planning I could make it happen and get it all done in a day.

Change of plans.

This year, in honor of 30 awesome years behind me (some more awesome than others, of course), I am going to do 30 awesome things. That could be anything – from spending an entire day doing acts of kindness to a trip somewhere to taking part in an experience I’ve never had before. It may include checking some stuff off my list.

The possibilities are endless. I want your input – your suggestions, your help, and, if possible, your company on some of these! Thoughts?

There is absolutely no reason not to make 30 (and every year after it) something great. So. Leggoooooo.

Photo of the Week

This is currently the background on my phone and I kinda want it this size on a wall in my next home. In other news, New York was awesome and much-needed after the week we’d had before it.

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Best laid plans and whatnot

I had these plans, you see. I wanted to take some time and have a regular stream of stuff written for this blog (for this month, especially), because in a little over a week, it turns five. Yes. An inanimate object, a bunch of words and photos and files I put together turns five years old March 30. 

May not mean a lot to you, but for someone who doesn’t know who she is if she can’t write, that’s a big deal. That’s a commitment. That it has kept going – kept me going – and people have read and laughed and cried and loved along with me, well, that’s really important.

So to celebrate I wanted to have post after post ready to go, to tell you all sorts of things and show you some great pictures and keep up some of these features I do that have become a habit on here.

All of this may sound trivial, but it’s not, to me. I need to write. I need it like I need water or air. I need that creative outlet and that place to put down all of the thoughts and feelings and stories I have when I can’t – or don’t want to – say them out loud.

That said, these past two weeks have dealt two major blows in my life – last week, actually. This week, I’m still reeling. Letting things sink in.

There are things I want to write about – I need to write about. They’re serious things. Important things. But I’m not ready, yet. I can’t, yet. I want to keep distracting myself with other things, share my pictures from my recent trip to Boston and NYC, where my sisters and I collectively celebrated our birthdays and were able to be together after our hearts had been hurt so badly last week.

I can’t wait to tell you about those trips. I can’t wait to tell you about two very important parts of my life that I’ve had to deal with losing  in the past week and am still just starting to process. I can’t wait to celebrate having kept this sort-of time capsule-y thing, this look into my mind and heart and life for the past five years.

Soon. Very soon. 

At a loss

For the past three days I have been staring off into space a lot. Or sleeping. Or trying in vain to distract myself from the truth. The truth, that my friend is gone.

I’m without words but at the same time my brain is filled so full with things I want to say, it feels like it could explode. Does that make sense? Does anything make sense?

On Monday, a very good friend of mine was shot and killed. Ambushed by a couple teenage thug wannabes, one who I’ve heard has a large confederate flag tattooed on his chest, if that tells you anything about his level of intelligence (or lack thereof). He was selling them drugs, when they decided to rob him.

My friend was shot and killed over what? Something stupid. Something materialistic. Something that – no matter if it was money or if it was drugs – would be gone soon anyway and then what would they be left with?

Think what you think about drugs of any sort. But does someone deserve to be killed over them? Never. But it happens all too often. And this time it was way too close.

I first met him about 9 years ago – when I started working at the restaurant up the road from my parents’ house, when I was 20 and a day, legally old enough to sell alcohol though I couldn’t drink (legally).

In addition to someone who has become one of my very best friends in the world, I met several other awesome people who became good friends. Three of those people were brothers. Brian, Dave and Mike.

For a while I worked mostly with Dave and Mike, as they were both servers, and Brian – who I thought was much more quiet and shy – worked the expo line.

As I was there longer and longer and worked more and different shifts I got to know Brian just as well. I stood around waiting for my food to come up and struck up conversations.

Eventually the time came when I left that restaurant, and so did everyone else, eventually, because that location closed and is now some chicken place (after three other restaurants went in there and failed).

I don’t remember what got us talking again officially, who added who on Facebook, or who gave who their number to hang out sometime or text on occasion, but that was several years ago too.

And hang out we did – I remember one day in particular a couple years ago after he’d picked me up from a bar (I was kind of over it and just wanted to leave). I spent the night and all day the next day we just spent watching TV and listening to music, running random errands like him going to get cigarettes and stuff to cook and playing with his dog, Romey. It was one of those days, a relaxing day to spend with a friend and not worry about other responsibilities.

Though I knew he took pills, I only ever saw him actually take any one time of the several we hung out. Usually it was just he and I, catching up, talking about relationship drama we’d had with other people and how we both wanted better jobs and money to up and leave for a month to Costa Rica where we’d sit on the beach and drink Coronas and margaritas and have no other responsibilities than just making sure not to get a sunburn.

He was one I could text in the middle of the night – or anytime, really – with any problem I was having. He fended off a weirdo I didn’t want texting me anymore one time, telling the guy to “stop texting my girlfriend,” even though we were never that.

When Dave committed suicide in 2012, things changed. The happier texts were fewer and farther between, but when they happened, it was still the old Brian. But his brother’s death hit him hard. I remember the day he texted me that it had happened. When I called him and he was still in shock, still processing that it had happened.

One day last week would have been Dave’s 33rd birthday. On that day, I texted him, like we had so many times before, to tell each other we were thinking about them and let them know “I’m here, whatever you need. Love you.” It was a text that had become more frequent since Dave’s death – I checked in on him a lot. He’d been through some rough patches but seemed to me to be doing better, especially since I had dropped him off a few months ago at a hospital to see a counselor for some treatment for all he was feeling. Before we went though, he came to visit me at work and we had lunch, something I will always remember.

Anyway. On Dave’s birthday, I sent him one text. It said “Just wanted to let you know I’m thinking about you today. Love you.”

He wrote back, “Thanks. Love you too.”

That’s the last exchange we had.

I’m glad it included the word love, because I cared about him so much. I’m glad he was in my life, and that I was in his.

I keep reminding myself of this as I fight off the anger I have since he died – the anger at the complete waste of a person the moron is who shot him, the anger at him for putting himself into potentially dangerous situations like that night.

I miss him already.

Unconditionally

There’s this new-ish song I like. And surprise, surprise, it’s by Katy Perry. She of the mega girl crush I have. I love her.

Anyways. I bought her new album not too long after it came out and there are a few on there I’ve kept on repeat, but none more than this one.

It’s called “Unconditionally,” and besides the fact that its a great song and so much fun to belt in the car when I’m by myself, I like what she says in the lyrics. And I can definitely relate.

Supposedly she wrote it about John Mayer and it basically says “no matter what you did or what baggage you’ve got or what faults or mistakes or anything, I will love you. And all you have to do is do the same for me.”

And if ever a song was relatable for me, it’s this one. Not in the exact same way, necessarily, but the overall message.

I’ve always prided myself on being a pretty nonjudgmental person. I give people the benefit of the doubt most of the time (sometimes when I shouldn’t) but generally, if you’re in my life and you’re someone I care about – friend, family member, boyfriend, whatever – I love you unconditionally. No matter what you’ve done or not done or been through or whatever. And all I expect is the same in return. When I haven’t gotten it, I’ve moved on (took me a while to realize it in my younger days, but we all have lessons to learn).

Basically, it’s the holidays and late at night and I’m sappy and in a good mood and want you all to hear this song. And to know I love y’all, unconditionally.

Went to the chapel..

..but I wasn’t the one who got married. Don’t worry, y’all will know long before that happens someday.

Nah, my most recent wedding is one where I TOOK THE PICTURES. Like, the official pictures. That people buy. And will keep in their house forever.

Yes I’ve done this twice before (most recently last summer for my BFF, Ashley).

But this wedding was for someone I didn’t know personally until she called and asked to meet me to discuss photographing her wedding.

She got my business card from my therapist, of all people, and liked my portfolio and what do ya know, the second weekend in August, I was shooting a special day for a sweet couple in maybe one of the most beautiful churches I have ever seen.

I gave them about 500 or so to choose from. Here are a couple less than that.

Best Week Ever. Part 3.

The story of our week in Jamaica is one best told in pictures – for the most part – so it’s a good thing I took tons of them.

However, a good portion of the photos on my camera were taken by kids there – one in particular, named Jordon.

Jordon is a 12-year-old kid who latched onto our group the moment we got there. Throughout the week, he became kind of our mascot. He was our little favorite and was the first one I trusted to take my DSLR camera and go shoot pictures at different places we went throughout the week.

I’ll make note of the ones he took as they’re posted, but to be honest, there’s a lot of times I can’t tell which ones he took and I didn’t. The kid has an eye. And I told him to keep up with photography if his whole running thing doesn’t pan out (he’s fast though – watch out, Usain).

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Some of my favorite pictures from the week – and the majority of the time Jordon had my camera as well – are from our time in Greenvale, where we took part in street evangelism.

Street evangelism in Jamaica >>>>> street evangelism in America. ‘Cause it’s completely different. It’s focused on love, not hate. Not condemning you to hell for whatever it is you’re doing – like the “evangelists” I saw in college and see on the street corners downtown, spewing hate through a microphone at all of the sinners that pass them by.

Our street evangelism over there? Having a party in the middle of the street with music and dancing and prayer for anyone that wanted to be a part. If you didn’t? That’s alright. Because Jesus loves you, even if you don’t come down and party with us. And even if you’re the Rasta who tried to sell me weed and told me how very bright white I was.

*takes break so I don’t go on a tangent on what Christianity means to me because that’s definitely a blog post for another time*

Greenvale is also known as that place where I wanted to take all the kids home with me. On account of the adorableness. But I’m pretty sure you can’t get 30 kids through customs without some sort of documentation.

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Just an awesome day…

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And now for your viewing pleasure, the following photos, taken by Jordon.

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I may or may not have hired Jordon as my assistant. Now…to get him to Kentucky..