Posted in mental health, Personal Post

Farewell my Princess…

I don’t think I’ve been this upset about an actresses death since Liz Taylor and Lauren Bacall.

NPR broke the story for me, it popped up as a notification on my phone. I had to pull over and cry. Luckily I was on my way to my therapists appointment so she understood why I was a little late. See Carrie Fisher meant more to me than just Princess Leia, just like Lauren Bacall and Liz Taylor I related to her. I adored her. I grew up with her.

giphy-1

I can’t really remember how old I was when I first saw A New Hope, maybe 6 or 7, but I remember vividly my reaction to first seeing Princess Leia. I was enamored by her! At first it was “Wow she’s so pretty!” then I saw her kicking ass and taking names with the Stormtroopers and I was done. It impacted me in such a way that I only now realize, Princess Leia taught me that gender didn’t matter when fighting for what was right. She taught me that I could be that little girl who saved the galaxy. Let’s face it, Han and Luke would’ve been lost without Leia. Han probably still frozen in carbonite and Luke falling towards the Dark Side. You know it’s true, don’t deny it.

giphy-2

Not only was Carrie Fisher a bad ass in movies, but also in life. She was unapologetically outspoken and in many ways, mirrored Leia’s personality on and off screen. She didn’t care who she offended, if you couldn’t take it leave. I loved her for that.sub-buzz-350-1482868843-3

sub-buzz-31220-1482867807-11

But as I grew older, I began to realize that I loved her for a much deeper and more meaningful reason: Her strong, outspoken stance against the stigma surrounding mental health.

See Carrie Fisher struggled with her own mental illness for most of her life. She was an alcoholic, and suffered from bipolar disorder…which probably lead to the alcoholism in the first place.

sub-buzz-319-1482869219-5

Now I have depression, anxiety, and PTSD, I’m not bipolar but I have met people in my journey who have suffered from it and from what they tell me, it’s basically like a roller coaster ride from hell. That’s simplifying it of course, but I can’t in good conscience talk about something that I have no idea what it’s like. I know what it’s like to feel like you have this demon on your back constantly telling you how worthless you are, how stupid you are, how you are not enough no matter how hard you try. I know the crippling fear one faces while they’re in the midst of an anxiety attack–the feeling of gasping for air right as you’re about to hit the floor but you never do, it’s that feeling of falling without any resolution. I can imagine that both of those fall into play with bipolar disorder, and dealing with it takes immense strength and courage.

To speak up as a woman, and take no shit for it means you’re always under scrutiny of some kind. Carrie Fisher didn’t give a flying fuck about it, she was as real as they came. That is why I’ll miss her, that is why I love her. My life was impacted in a positive way by Carrie Fisher.

I’ll close with the first line of her obituary–as she would have wanted it:

Carrie Fisher found dead in moonlight, strangled by own bra…

giphy-3

May the Force be With You, General Organa.

giphy-4

Posted in Uncategorized

Unplug, or you might get Stuck

I thought I would divert from the political climate for a bit and talk about another issue that seems to be pressing: How much time we spend “plugged in” to our devices and games. I began really marinating on this topic when Sony announced Playstation VR, a futuristic headset that allows anyone who wears it to become immersed in the game they are playing. I know that there are other VR headsets out there, Samsung being one of them, but since I am a Sony Playstation fan girl, I really only feel the need to speak of that particular headset.

I can’t help but think of movies like Wall-E when it comes to this particular topic.

Then I really start to delve deeper into my thoughts, and remember that there have been countless dramas warning us about the potential harm of VR. Though I hate to admit it, the show Sword Art Online comes to mind…

Now I am one of those rare people who is actually on the fence about this show, joining my favorite YouTuber Arkada, I love the first few parts of it but hated the latter half of the first season and didn’t even bother with the second. So I’m just going to talk about the parts I watched and enjoyed.

Here’s the synopsis from Crunchyroll:

n the near future, a Virtual Reality Massive Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game (VRMMORPG) called Sword Art Online has been released where players control their avatars with their bodies using a piece of technology called: Nerve Gear. One day, players discover they cannot log out, as the game creator is holding them captive unless they reach the 100th floor of the game’s tower and defeat the final boss.

Now I did leave out one key plot element of the story: If the players die in the game, they in fact die in real life. I won’t go into the fact that they completely screwed this up and didn’t use it to it’s full effectiveness as the show went on, but in the beginning they used it very well. Death as we all know is permanent and they really made this fact weigh on our protagonists in the beginning.

I believe that shows like SAO and Wall-E are, much like Brave New World or 1984, cautionary tales for the twenty first century. See we spend SO much time on our phones now, I won’t lie I’m guilty too, that we tend to put these blinders on and only see what we want to see. We don’t really appreciate things as much; things like a hand written letter instead of an email, or a flower growing in between the cracks of the sidewalk (something I always thought was a great metaphor for nature vs industrialization). We are too busy playing Pokemon GO to realize that there are actual animals out there we can go see (though I wouldn’t recommend throwing things at them), sure it got people outside and off their butts, but it didn’t solve the underlying problem that we spend way too much time plugged in.

I know that it’s hard to not be plugged in. After all this world is fast paced, and just about everything is digital. Hell I wouldn’t be able to do this blog post without being plugged in. But my point isn’t to just drop everything and become a goat-herder in the Alps for the rest of your life; it’s to realize that there are much more beautiful things out there. Think about the last time you saw a sunset, or felt sand between your toes, or went on a stroll through the woods; what did you feel then? Chances are you didn’t feel the weight of responsibility that our digitized society places on you. You were in that moment, mindful of everything around you: the feel of the breeze, the smell of the ocean or earth, and the way the sun danced on the horizon.

Jon Kabat-Zinn is an author that I discovered a few years ago. His book Wherever you Go, There You Are talks about mindfulness and meditation. The practice of mindfulness has helped me immensely in my struggle against depression and anxiety, and it’s something I encourage all of you to start practicing. The great thing about mindfulness practice is that it can be done anywhere, from your cubicle to your car.

Be in this moment. This world is fast-paced, and people will run you over. But remember that there are things in this world, beyond your screen, that are worth your attention. Those things are precious, so don’t loose sight of them.

Posted in Personal Post

Yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus

I can remember believing in Santa right up until my double-digit years. My Mom was responsible for instilling within me a deep love for the Holiday season, I’ll never know the strength and endurance it took for her to keep up that faith.

My mom died in 2001, and that first Christmas without her was hell. It was just awful, everyone was walking on eggshells because they were trying so hard to make it special when it just couldn’t be special anymore. It hurt more than anything I could imagine, my heart was broken and there’s still a few cracks in it.

But as I got older, and the years kinder, I began to realize that my mother instilled within me all the tools I needed to make Christmas special. She made sure that we always spent it with family and friends, and, while presents were exciting, it was the time spent wrapping those for others that was more important. I still ache for her, I still long to hear her voice and have her wrap her arms around me, it still hurts. It will always hurt, but the pain becomes more bearable I suppose.

But back to Santa.

See it wasn’t really Santa that I believed in, it was magic. I believe in magic. I believe that there is something in this sometimes shitty world worth fighting for. What that something is, well that varies person to person. There is a lot of really awful things happening in our world right now, but I beg of you please don’t become jaded or cynical. I know it’s awfully hard, but here me out.

Francis Pharcellus Church was a newsman, in 1897 he received a letter from an 8-year old girl, Virginia O’Hanlon, asking if there was such a thing as Santa Claus. Now Church was a newsman, he was probably weathered and maybe a little jaded himself; after all adulthood wears on us all. He could have just as easy tossed this letter aside, forgetting about it and disregarding it as a silly childish whim.

But he didn’t.

Something moved Church, maybe he was a father, maybe the childish scribbles on the page before him moved him to think that this was the most important piece he would ever write. For if children can’t believe in Santa, what hope do we have for the future?

On Sept. 21, 1897 The New York Sun printed the letter and Church’s response to it, it has become the most famous piece of newspaper editorial ever. Allow me to quote it:

DEAR EDITOR: I am 8 years old.
Some of my little friends say there is no Santa Claus.
Papa says, ‘If you see it in THE SUN it’s so.’
Please tell me the truth; is there a Santa Claus?

VIRGINIA O’HANLON.
115 WEST NINETY-FIFTH STREET.

VIRGINIA, your little friends are wrong. They have been affected by the skepticism of a skeptical age. They do not believe except they see. They think that nothing can be which is not comprehensible by their little minds. All minds, Virginia, whether they be men’s or children’s, are little. In this great universe of ours man is a mere insect, an ant, in his intellect, as compared with the boundless world about him, as measured by the intelligence capable of grasping the whole of truth and knowledge.

Yes, VIRGINIA, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! how dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus. It would be as dreary as if there were no VIRGINIAS. There would be no childlike faith then, no poetry, no romance to make tolerable this existence. We should have no enjoyment, except in sense and sight. The eternal light with which childhood fills the world would be extinguished.

Not believe in Santa Claus! You might as well not believe in fairies! You might get your papa to hire men to watch in all the chimneys on Christmas Eve to catch Santa Claus, but even if they did not see Santa Claus coming down, what would that prove? Nobody sees Santa Claus, but that is no sign that there is no Santa Claus. The most real things in the world are those that neither children nor men can see. Did you ever see fairies dancing on the lawn? Of course not, but that’s no proof that they are not there. Nobody can conceive or imagine all the wonders there are unseen and unseeable in the world.

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart. Only faith, fancy, poetry, love, romance, can push aside that curtain and view and picture the supernal beauty and glory beyond. Is it all real? Ah, VIRGINIA, in all this world there is nothing else real and abiding.

No Santa Claus! Thank God! he lives, and he lives forever. A thousand years from now, Virginia, nay, ten times ten thousand years from now, he will continue to make glad the heart of childhood.

You may tear apart the baby’s rattle and see what makes the noise inside, but there is a veil covering the unseen world which not the strongest man, nor even the united strength of all the strongest men that ever lived, could tear apart

I’m far from a person of religious belief, such as a Christian or what have you, but I am someone who believes that there are things in this world that we just aren’t meant to understand. There is an inherent good in this world, there is beauty, and there is love.

This Christmas do what makes you feel love, peace, and remember: Yes, there is a Santa Claus.

Posted in mental health, Personal Post

Graduation: One Year Later

I must warn you all that I’ve had at least three beers (and working on my fourth) before writing this so it may be a bit more expletive than usual.

giphy

It has been a year since I’ve graduated college and as I sit here unemployed, in crippling debt, and broke I tend to let my mind wander. I allow it to wander across the plains of my fucked up brain and explore, explore the good, the bad, and the really ugly of what led up to that piece of paper that now collects dust in a frame–why I went through all of the blood, sweat, and tears to get the damn thing.

Let me start off by saying that I’ve never been the ideal student, I’m the daydreamer. I’m intelligent…when it comes to things I really like, things like literature or history, or the arts. Math? Fuck that shit. Letters and numbers are separate entities and should remain so. My mom was the one who showed me that all subjects mattered, whether I thought so or not. After my mom died, I became a volatile force, I was excelling at my literature classes but failing everything else. To this day I’m pretty sure my shitty Christian school gave me a diploma so they wouldn’t be held responsible for my farce of an education because there’s no way I could have graduated with the grades I had. But that’s neither here nor there, the point is that I was a terrible student after my mom died because I didn’t have a reason to live and get good grades anymore. I only went to college because I was terrified that she would haunt me the rest of my days if I didn’t.

I spent four years in a community college where most people spent two and six years at a university where most people only spent four. I had no fucking clue what I wanted to do with my life, and if I’m really honest about it, I really didn’t even want to live it because of all the shit I was going through. During my time at the university I was hospitalized twice for my mental health, and suffered several suicidal ideations (of which I never acted upon). I had to re-take several classes and spent many a minute in the bathroom suffering from panic attacks. I suffered in silence because I was afraid of ridicule. I didn’t reach out because I was a loner and trusted few.

It wasn’t until I had a creative writing class that I felt it necessary to share my story, I don’t know why and to this day I can’t give you a reason why I did it. Maybe because I felt safe there, maybe it was the amazing professor, maybe it was the students in the class, hell it was probably all of that. I think I was also just so tired, tired of hiding, tired of carrying this burden on my own. With ink and paper, the encouragement of my professor and peers, I was able to release. I was able to share my burden, even if it was just on the page.

Throughout the rest of my college career, I kept that class in the back of my mind. And on December 19, 2015, I was able to walk across the stage and get my degree that I had worked my loving ass off for.

So why did I go through all of that? Why did I even bother?

See when you have a mental illness you’re constantly reminding yourself of the things you can’t do, things that seem impossible. It’s not you saying those things, it’s your illness lying to you–daring you to even try to defy it. It tells you that you’re worthless, you’re weak, you’re not enough. I believed it some days, and others it was silenced by the little spark of defiant hope that I had.

My point is this: Defy the voice that tells you that you can’t. Defy the voice that tells you that it won’t get better. I got my degree to show myself that I am capable of doing great things, that even if I never get my dream job (novelist preferably), or I never get out of debt–I can still put my feet on the floor in the morning and say I’ve lived. I woke up. I breathed. That’s a huge victory for someone who didn’t think life was worth it.

So live my friend, breathe the air of life and suck it all in. For it is beautiful.

 

Posted in Uncategorized

A love letter to Joseph Campbell’s Monomyth Theory

Joseph Campbell, you have inspired me for years and I am only just now realizing that it’s your Monomyth Theory that has captured my imagination and it’s one of the many theories that has given me a critical mind.

First let me start by explaining the Monomyth, the theory presented in his extraordinary work The Hero with a Thousand Faces. I recently saw a video that explained it beautifully, and I just had to share with the world.

What do some of your favorite modern day heroes (Katniss, Luke Skywalker, Harry Potter, etc.) have in common with the heroes of old (Hercules, Odysseus, etc.)?

monomyth

First of all, let’s think of the above diagram as a clock:

12 o’clock: Status Quo – What is the Hero’s current status?

1 o’clock: Call to Adventure – The Hero receives a mysterious message, an invitation? A challenge?

2 o’clock: Assistance – The Hero needs some help, this is usually from someone older or wiser or both.

3 o’clock: Departure – The hero crosses the threshold from their normal, ordinary world and enters the special world.

4 o’clock: Trials – Heroics is hard work. The Hero solves a riddle, slays a monster, escapes from a trap, etc.

5 o’clock: Approach – It’s time for the Hero to face their biggest ordeal–usually their worst fear.

6 o’clock: Crisis – This is the Hero’s darkest hour, they face death–possibly even die, only to be REBORN.

7 o’clock: Treasure – As a result, the Hero claims some sort of treasure–special recognition, power, etc.

8 o’clock: Result – This varies by story–do the monsters bow down before the Hero? Or do they chase him?

9 o’clock: Return – The Hero returns to their ordinary world, crossing the threshold once again.

10 o’clock: New Life – This quest/journey has changed the Hero (for better or worse), they have outgrown their old life.

11 o’clock: Resolution – All of the tangled plot lines are straightened out.

12 o’clock: Status Quo – Upgraded to a new level, nothing is quite the same once you’re a Hero.

Okay, so why is this such a big deal? Why does it matter that Katniss and Odysseus share more than just a Greek name?  Because the hero’s journey isn’t just Katniss’s or Odysseus’s journey, it’s your journey. See Katniss was a normal girl thrown into an extraordinary circumstance–a circumstance that seemed way beyond her capabilities to overcome. Yet through the sheer strenght of her will, she did it, she did it because she had something and someone to fight for.

In the cave you fear to enter, lies the treasure you seek.

What is the treasure you seek?

 

For more information on Joseph Campbell, check out the Joseph Campbell Foundation:

http://www.jcf-myth.org/