Decisions and desires

There are a lot of things we choose to do and we think that we make that choice because it is the best decision. In reality, there are so many factors that contribute to that choice, whether it may be the fact that it’s just the easiest option, the most socially acceptable option, or what we truly feel is the best option.

Growing up, I was always striving for acceptance, and validation from others. At school, I was surrounded with incredibly intelligent, creative people. I constantly compared myself to others and their accomplishments, not realizing what a hinderance it was to developing confidence in myself. Instead of developing my strengths, and addressing my weaknesses, I constantly compared my actions to others’ actions and what seems to be easiest for everyone else. I was indecisive externally, internally struggling with trying to hash out what I actually wanted.

I started college at 17. Since I was young, I wanted to be a Pediatrician. Unlike many others, this was the career that I wanted for myself until I went to college. I went to college orientation and attended a group session for pre-med students. The majority of the session was them telling us how few of us would make it through to medical school. I now realize how I let their scare tactics and negativity influence my confidence and my goals. Shortly after that session, I decided I would try to be a nurse instead. They got to me. They convinced me that I was one of the ones that couldn’t do it, instead of pushing me to work hard enough to make it through. Looking back, it’s really disappointing to think about that session and how I let them influence me. They shattered my already weakened confidence in myself. At nearly 30, I am working on my Masters in Public Health to address mental health and developmental disorders in children and adolescents. I think that if I had actually known more about myself and my strengths and weaknesses, I would have known that I could have done it. I could have accomplished anything I wanted to do. I know that now and it makes a world of difference in my motivation and dedication to my goals.

I have learned to embrace who I am. I have learned to embrace my faults, and cater to my strengths. I have learned to express myself and my desires. I would be lying if I said that I didn’t still struggle with being externally decisive due to anticipated rejection. I have learned that it’s okay to be wrong, and that I will never develop confidence in my thoughts if I didn’t express them. I often still cater to others and their desires, but I have learned to speak up when I do or do not support something. I have learned to fight for who I am and what I believe in. I have learned that I have to be myself, regardless of what others think, because it doesn’t matter what others think.

I have learned to love myself. I have realized over time that I didn’t love myself. Honestly, I still struggle with this at times. I suffer from an anxiety and panic disorder, depression, and OCD. But I am not my diagnoses. I have to remind myself that I am much stronger, smarter, and more independent than I think. We must love ourselves in order to truly be happy and accomplish our true desires.

So, here’s your reminder: you are amazing.

We are all incredible creatures with the ability to achieve great things. Put your heart into it. Forget what that person said about your ideas. Forget what that teacher told you in 6th grade. Forget what that person said to you about your body. Turn inward, develop your confidence and self-love. We can do anything.

365 Days

365 Days.

It’s been 365 days since I lost him.

It’s been 365 days since I lost my best friend.

It’s been 365 days since I had to make the hardest decision in my life: the decision to put him to sleep.

It’s been 365 days since I put to sleep the cat who laid with me every night since the day I adopted him.

It’s been 365 days, yet I still cried when I found his old collar and tag in the drawer of my desk last week.

When I adopted Percy, then Cheech (his brother was Chong), I was questioned on whether or not I would still want to adopt him because he had a heart condition. He had a grade 5/6 heart murmur. I was told he could live a full life, or he could last a year. Considering the fact that I too had cardiac issues, I was a little offended at the notion that someone wouldn’t want him solely because of his heart issue. Of course, I took him home, and he was the most loving, social, and intuitive cat.

Over the years, he laid with me during some of the roughest times I’ve faced – physically and mentally. He was my baby. He was my rock. It’s been 365 days.

On December 13th, I took Percy to the vet. It was his first time going to the vet since we relocated to New York. I noticed he had some increased effort when breathing and seemed to be breathing faster than normal. The vet was amazing. She was incredibly caring, responsive, and gave me the most information she could. They did a chest x-ray. She brought me in and showed it to me – it showed his entire abdomen had built up fluid. She let me know he would need a chest tap and to spend the day with them. I left him there and she called me back shortly after I left to let me know I needed to pick him up and immediately take him to the animal hospital. She did the chest tap, but it wasn’t the fluid she was expecting – the fluid was filled with blood. She did another tap, still… all blood. We took him to the animal hospital in Manhattan. We could have kept him alive, but the fluid could build up within a matter of hours, or a matter of months or years, and there was no way to tell which it would be, and medication wouldn’t necessarily help him. I could have taken him home, but come home from work the next day to him passed away. It didn’t seem like it would be fair to do that – to prolong his life for my own benefit, to hang onto him for one day… while he suffered.

On December 30th, we went to the shelter and rescued Lincoln. He’s brought a brightness into our home when it felt so empty after our loss.

It’s been 365 days, but I had a remarkable 2118 days on this earth with him, and each of those days makes up for each day without him. I went into his adoption ready to rescue a cat who may or may not make it through a few months, and I got 2118 days with him. For that, I am thankful.

These last 365 days have been filled with so much. So many laughs, so many tears. In these last 365 days, we’ve gained some, and lost way too much. We lost Percy. We rescued Lincoln. We lost Caleb. We decided to make the leap and move to DC in January 2019. I will face the next 365 days with my head up, my heart full, and ready to face the adventure each of those days brings. Thank you, Percy, for showing so much affection to everyone you encountered. Thank you, Caleb, for showing us all the best way to live and reminding us every day how important it is to live with light, love, happiness, passion, perseverance, strength, and hope.

365 days. 

Inexcusable

Today made my stomach turn in a way it hasn’t turned since November 2016.

Following the Kavanaugh hearings today was frustrating to say the least. I have very little confidence that he will not be confirmed tomorrow. The fact that he admitted he didn’t even watch Ford’s testimony is disgraceful. The fact that Ford had to testify today is saddening. She said that what she remembers most is his laughter, uproarious laughter. As a sexual assault victim, I immediately thought of the things I remember. The parts that stick out so clearly to me. The parts that make me want to vomit when they flash into my memory. She has a doctorate in psychology and I’m sure she very much so understands why she remembers their laughs so clearly. That doesn’t make it easier.

Why can’t anyone see that the bigger issue here is not whether or not he did it, really; it’s about the fact that, by confirming Kavanaugh, we are saying that someone who most likely has sexually assaulted 1+ women is deemed fit for office. This isn’t about Kavanaugh admitting he stole a candy from the 7-11 when he was 10. This isn’t an accusation that he got a C in middle school math. By confirming Kavanaugh, we are saying that it’s okay to sexually assault someone and then occupy a seat on the court that is has the ultimate say on laws in the land we call home. It’s okay that appointing that person to the Supreme Court, to determine how we live, for the remainder of that person’s life.

Women finally have the courage, strength, and power to stand up for themselves and demand a better life, where they feel that they have ownership of themselves. Women finally are standing up for themselves, but our government is infiltrated by pigs. Men with low moral standards, who go against everything women are currently fighting for. Men who think that it’s acceptable to sexually assault women because they think so little of women that they think they are entitled to do whatever they want to whoever they want. I don’t want to live in that society. The society being governed by people who have no actual interest in the individuals they govern and are only concerned with fulfilling their own needs, that is not my country. I don’t know about you, but I think we need some serious change, because I damn sure will not let some jackass determine my value and place in this world.

I Believe Her, Because I Am Her

It’s hard to understand the outrage people have over women coming out against their aggressors. We do not share our stories for us. We do not share our stories to bring up all of those memories flood back to us. We share our stories in hopes that it will open everyone else’s eyes to the reality we have been living in for centuries. It’s hard to grasp the idea that women are questioned when they finally have the courage to tell their stories. We do not tell our stories for us.

Dr. Ford has faced such hatred for coming out against Brett Kavanaugh. You really think someone would bring that much attention to their life if they were making it up? No. Her life will never be the same. It was already eternally altered by her experience with him those 30+ years ago. You really think she wants to testify and bring back the memory? No, but as a victim, she knows she does not want anyone else to experience this. The individuals appointed to the highest court in the United States should have high morals standards.

The outrage is that women are shaking it up. The outrage is that survivors of sexual assault survived and are speaking up. The outrage is because women have a voice, and we are using it.

It’s happened before, we are just trying to stop it from happening again. I believe her, because I am her. I believe survivors, because I am one. No, I did not survive fighting on the front lines, or a terrorist attack. I did not survive through a violent attack, but I survive in the way in which someone survives a sexual assault. Every day, moving forward, and pushing those memories to the back of my mind.

#IBelieveHer #IBelieveSurvivors #YesWeSurvive

1-800-273-8255

Within a week’s span two well-known individuals lost their battle with their illnesses and committed suicide: Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain. We were unable to see the pain and suffering that they endured from their illnesses. We were unaware of their struggles.

I suffer from major depressive disorder as well as an anxiety and panic disorder. It took me 25 years to come to terms with this. It took me 25 years to seek help. It took me 25 years to overcome the stigma of having a psychiatric disorder. I have had days where I could not stop myself from crying. I could not calm myself down. I had no motivation to lift myself from my bed or my couch. I have had days. I have had weeks. I have had months. I have been confused and hurt and angry. I have doubted the purpose.

The CDC released the U.S. Suicide Rates/Trends by State from 1999-2016 and they are nothing short of horrific. We need to divert public health resources. We need to offer assistance to not only those with mental illnesses, but also their family members. These statistics are astounding.

All too often people do not seek help for their illness because of the stigma surrounding mental health. All too often people do not recognize psychiatric disorders as actual illnesses because it is an illness you cannot physically see. This needs to end. I know of multiple individuals whose healthcare has been mishandled due to their symptoms of a physical illness being attributed to their mental illness. This needs to stop too.

The number of individuals who commit suicide with no known mental health condition is higher than those diagnosed with mental health conditions for men and close to the same number in men. People go undiagnosed for decades because they are afraid of the repercussions of being diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder. They go undiagnosed because we live in a society that is full of judgement and not support. We live in a society of hate and fear, not love, compassion, and empathy.

I am shouting to the rooftops over this. PLEASE: Get help. PLEASE: Reach out to those who you think may be suffering. Reach out to those who seem completely fine. Reach out to the strongest people you know and the weakest. Let each of them know that they are important and that you care. Offer a judgement-free environment for them to express themselves.

This is not okay. We are not okay. We need to be better. We need to do better. We need to work together. We need to help and support one another.

I’m making this up as I go.

In less than 2 months, I’ll be 29. A year from 30. I am not having some sort of oh-dear-god-I’m-getting-old moment. Graduating high school and starting college at 17, I thought I knew what I wanted to be when I “grew up.” I thought I wanted to be a nurse. I screwed up in college. I temporarily lost my scholarship, and I never got into nursing school. There have been numerous times throughout my life since college where I have chastised myself for screwing up. I started working for a hospital in Florida shortly after graduation, and ended up there for 6 years before relocating to NYC. Once again, I started working for a hospital here in NYC. For the past 7 years, I’ve learned so much about healthcare, pediatrics, clinical trials, patient care, etc. Most importantly, I’ve learned so much about myself: who I am, what my strengths and weaknesses are, and what I want in life.
To quote Evan Hansen:
“Does anybody have a map? Happen to know how the hell to do this? I don’t know if you can tell, but this is me just pretending to know. So, where’s the map? I need a clue, ’cause the scary truth is: I’m flying blind … and I’m making this up as I go.”
For the past few years, when I would think about my career, I consistently shaped it after what I was currently doing and what I thought that I could achieve instead of what I want to achieve. I didn’t have a map. I was familiar with the maps that others have followed to get where they were. I didn’t have a destination point on my map, so I had no idea how to get there.
This week, I sat and thought about it. I stopped worrying about what seemed like the easiest plan. I stopped worrying about what fit with my job experience thus far. I thought about who I was and what I was passionate about. I am passionate about improving the quality of healthcare. I am interested in chronic disease epidemiology and Public Health & chronic diseases. As someone with both major depressive disorder and an anxiety & panic disorder, I am passionate about mental health awareness. I am passionate about pediatrics. I am driven to reduce the prevalence of diseases that we can research and hopefully, one day, find the cure to.
So, here I am, with my answer: I want to research pediatric psychiatric disorders. The WHO predicts that by 2020, child neuropsychiatric disorders will become one of the five most common causes of morbidity, mortality, and disability among children. We are not doing enough to address this. There is still too much of a stigma around mental health disorders. Too often children go undiagnosed, or poorly treated. The resources available to families with children with psychiatric disorders are few and far between.
I felt revitalized by coming to this realization/conclusion. The first person I had to tell was my best friend. My best friend, who was diagnosed as a child with bipolar 1 and PTSD. My best friend, whose son has had a wide range of neuropsychiatric diagnoses thrown his way from different doctors: autism, bipolar, ODD, intermittent explosive disorder … and who knows which diagnoses are actually correct. I have learned so much about dealing with children with psychiatric diagnoses through my work experiences, but it’s my experiences with him that have taught me the most.
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I look forward to pursuing this. I look forward to the day where we can discover the reason(s) for the increase in prevalence, and develop public health initiatives to address this increase.

Hear the Children Crying

When I see people blaming mass shootings on bullying, it really grates me down to the bone. Not every mass shooter has been the product of bullying. Bullying has been a decades-long issue. However, the widespread ownership and use of military-grade weapons has not.

When I was a child, I was a scrawny, quiet, female. I had a teacher who bullied me. Anytime I wanted to say something in class, he made sure to demean me and diminish my worth. It was because I was small and quiet. I lacked confidence and he made sure to point it out. He continuously called me “mouse girl.” A boy in my class also rode my bus and he liked to bully as well. He caught on to the teacher’s name-calling and proceeded to make fun of me the entire drive home from school on that big yellow school bus. I was a victim of bullying, but that bullying did not result in me wanting to shoot up my school or hurt others. Yes, I would like Mr. Mullin at Ammons Middle School to not have a job anymore – to not be able to harass, belittle, and bully anyone else. You look online at RateMyTeacher and boys continue to praise him in their ratings for being funny while numerous female students mention his bullying. He continues to bully middle school children – children who are at a very delicate stage developmentally and emotionally.

I remember Columbine. I remember being stunned. I vividly remember a student at my cousin’s middle school being stabbed to death in the bathroom in 2004 while my cousin sat in his classroom as they tried to determine who the killer was. I remember everyone being in shock from the violence. We now face these situations all too often. Our once stunned and confused reactions are now anger-filled. No one is shocked. We are living in a sick world where this has become the norm. Thousands of children are Marching for their lives. They aren’t marching because they don’t like the school curriculum or because they like the attention. They are marching because there are so many who cannot. They are marching for their future and to ensure others have a future.

Open your eyes and look within,
Are you satisfied with the life you’re living?

Jah come to break down oppression,
Rule equality,
Wipe away transgression,
Set the captives free.

I look back throughout history on generations of demonstrations, marches, and protests and see their strength in the students Marching today. The older generation belittling these students’ opinions and speeches because they are young, yet their generation was around their age when they fought for the freedoms they currently have the pleasure of having. Isn’t this what democracy looks like? What made them forget the past? What made them forget how we got here?

This is how history repeats itself.