Personal

World Mental Health Day 2018: Letting Go of Guilt and Grief

The anniversary of my brother’s passing was on Monday. This year, I didn’t do anything on social media. No childhood photos, no tributes, no music videos from singers and bands he loved. I usually find it to be cathartic. However, this year, the feelings have been different. This year, it wasn’t simply “I miss Matty, I’m sad he’s no longer with us,” this year it was more about what the anniversary represents.

At this point, whether anyone has wanted to or not, my family has adjusted to life without him. It doesn’t mean we don’t miss him or don’t think about what life would be like if he were here (I went to text him a few weeks ago over something dumb Ronnie had said on Jersey Shore Family Vacation and it was like, “oh…oops. Guess I can’t.” I hadn’t done that in years.), it just means we’re past the initial shock and the pain has slightly lessened. Now, the anniversary represents the day life changed forever, and I am angry.

I am angry that it happened at a time in my life when things were coming together, only to have it be blown apart in roughly 24 hours. I am angry that someone made a horrible judgment call and he lost his life because of it. They don’t realize that they took a part of my family with him, and I hate them for it. I hate that I constantly feel like I’m bobbing along in water, fighting to not completely fall apart, especially this time of year. I hate feeling like I’m playing catch up in life, knowing that a large part of it was having to “take time off” so to speak to mourn, for the initial shock of his death to wear off. The year after he died, I tried so hard to go back to “normal” in a short amount of time. I tried everything to speed up the process, and it bit me in the ass and I feel as if I’m still paying for it.

I know I hinted last year that I wasn’t still in sad mourning mode, but I couldn’t articulate what it was. I wasn’t sure what it was either. I think this year I hit the nail on the head–now that the dust has fully settled, I’m seeing just how big the impact of Matty’s death really is. I don’t want to keep the feelings in, I want to normalize them. I want someone else who is going through the same thing to not feel guilty that they’re angry about their own lives instead of wearing all black and weeping over a photograph on the anniversary. Death has a ripple effect on the living, it would be weird if it didn’t. It doesn’t mean you hate the person, it means you hate what happened to the person and what the anniversary does to you, and that you even have to acknowledge an anniversary. My brother was only 30 when he died. I’m going to be turning 33 in a few months, it’s fucked up and not fair.

With today being World Mental Health Day, I really wanted to share this. Again, I don’t want others feeling alone and I don’t want to keep it bottled up inside. It is okay not to be okay every once in a while. It’s important to tell people things you may be feeling as they may be able to help. If they don’t like it, they’re probably not worth having around. I do miss my brother, I’m just unhappy with the aftermath. Perhaps now having said it, the guilt will ease up and I can actually relax and begin to let go. Let go and allow myself to enjoy things, to make the most of life as I’m still here. 

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Personal, Political

“I’m Gonna Take This Itty Bitty World By Storm…

…and I’m just getting warm.”–LL Cool J, “Mama Said Knock You Out”

I have a confession to make. After LivLuna changed creative direction and I left, I was lost. I no longer had a platform and combined with trying to pick up the pieces after my brother’s passing, I was shot. I couldn’t get angry the same way I used to. I’ve made a few attempts on this site, but they were all tied in with my brother or else a false start at a wellness blog. It’s been brewing inside me. I’ve been wanting to write again. But what little writing I did wound up in a diary or in short Facebook statuses (yep. I became one of *those* people.)

However, after the events of yesterday, I can no longer keep silent. In a single day, I saw my mother cry as Hillary conceded the election. I spoke to a friend from college in a private messenger where we raged about how fucked up the system is. I saw Facebook status after Facebook status where people were just so defeatist, I swear, it was all along the lines of “ho hum, oh well, all you need is love!!!! Let’s just be nice to one another and chill out!!!! We can always move to Canada!!!” without planning any real action. Who said we had to accept Trump lying down? Who said we can’t make change? This is supposed to be a democracy, not a dictatorship, for fuck’s sake.

But what really did me in? Seeing three girls in their early twenties just so jaded and defeated the same way my mother was. They’re too young. My mother is too young, frankly, but these girls are way too young. Two coworkers completely sad and distant as they walked out the door, while the third admitted to me that she was scared to come to work because of what Trump supporters would say or do. And then I realized–they don’t have the same space that LivLuna provided a few years ago. I gained confidence and wasn’t scared to fight. I wasn’t afraid to write about things that were fucked up. I was all over the 2012 election, calling out nasty senators that marginalized rape and wanted to implement racist and sexist laws against the poor.

Watching the girl who was scared to come to work interact with an older gentleman who was talking at her–not to her, at her–about why it was so great that the Obamas are leaving the White House when she was in a position to tell him “stop,” feel as if she had to take it because he was older and she didn’t want to ruffle feathers just broke my heart. We need spaces for younger women on the internet. We need spaces for all women on the internet to talk, to read, to feel empowered and not scared to say anything that may be considered outrageous or bitchy because they disagree with politicians or certain celebrities. I loved helping to provide that a few years ago. Facebook statuses are not enough. Sharing posts isn’t enough. I want to be empowering and encouraging again. I’m almost 31, so I’d like to think that I can give that guidance without being completely blinded by anger. LivLuna may not have been a household name, but we were woman owned and operated, which is a rarity anymore. HelloGiggles, Bustle, Jezebel, xoJane, all owned by media conglomerates run by men. Not me. There is Bust and Bitch, but Bust has become very Brooklyn hipster, while Bitch is more collegiate academic. We need both, don’t get me wrong. I want to provide a place where you don’t have to be intimidated if you’re not a 90’s punky alterna-girl or a PhD. candidate in order to contribute (although if you’re either one, you’re still welcome to contribute!)

So I’m done staying silent. I want to set an example for my younger female coworkers, as well as young women everywhere. I don’t have a catchy name, I don’t have a flashy site, I hate listicles, and I’m sure as hell not going to try and curate a lifestyle for people to follow, but I’m not letting that stop me from having a voice. I’ll figure it out along the way–I know I’m going to have lots to say from here on out. Take it away, LL…

 

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Celebrity, News

Celebrity Deaths and Decorum

Most people were saddened to read about the passing of David Bowie, who succumbed to cancer on Sunday at the age of 69. My newsfeed has been sprinkled with links to YouTube videos of Bowie’s songs, various articles and blog posts written in tribute, and posted their favorite pictures. Someone I know decided to post an article about rock stars that slept with teenagers, accompanied by a very snide and snarky comment. While I am against people of a certain age sleeping with those that have “teen” in their age, you would’ve thought this person was talking about deceased BBC presenter Jimmy Savile.

It’s a tricky subject when talking about celebrities and past transgressions–you don’t want to forgive them simply because of their status and their wealth, especially after they’ve passed. Just because someone has died (whether or not they’re a celebrity or in the public eye otherwise) does not mean that they automatically enter sainthood. However, there is something to be said about the matter of decorum in a time like this. I know that pieces like the one the snarky Facebook friend posted are going to be popping up over the next few weeks, it’s par for the course. Yesterday was not that day.

I wouldn’t call myself a Bowie fan the same way I call myself a Queen or a Jenny Lewis fan. I don’t have any Bowie albums, tee-shirts, other memorabilia, but I can sing along to a few songs and did enjoy seeing him pop up on TV and in movies. I also think it’s pretty bitchin’ that my day job plays “Let’s Dance” twice a day. But that said, when I saw that my best friend had texted me “awww David Bowie” with a crying face emoji early yesterday morning, I knew it was bad. When I googled to confirm, I was sad. Not as sad as when Davy Jones died (The Monkees were my BSB/N*Sync in 6th grade,) but still sad.

So if I’m not a big Bowie fan, why did that pithy, bitchy comment piss me off so bad? Because it’s disrespectful. It was not the right time or place to post that list, to make Bowie fans that are already feeling shitty feel even worse. I mean, again, it’s bound to happen–for every nice article about Michael Jackson after he passed, there were several that felt the need to point out his scandals in the days following his death. I remember when Whitney Houston died, a different Facebook friend posted a very tasteless joke about Houston’s demons just minutes after the story broke (and it was intentional as this person referenced her death outright.)

Perhaps it is a coping mechanism–who expected to see “David Bowie Dies at 69” all over the news and social media yesterday?–and perhaps it is to point out that amongst all the heartfelt posts that again, Bowie was human. He fucked up too. Just because he’s dead doesn’t mean he’s instantly in the running for sainthood. But that said, the man was an artist and touched a lot of people’s lives. Most of the posts I’ve read talked about how Bowie’s music helped them feel not so lost, not like such a misfit thanks to Ziggy Stardust and other projects. Others talked about their sexual awakening thanks to his role as Jared the Goblin King in Labyrinth (1986.) Others posted/quoted their favorite songs. There’s no denying that Bowie had an impact, and not just for people of a certain age. 

Or, perhaps this person is looking for attention knowing that anything else they posted was going to get lost in the Bowie shuffle. And hey, it worked–this person’s post pissed me off so much, I wrote this post. But seriously, let’s be mindful of what we post in the wake of someone’s passing. This is a situation where if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. 

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getting fine at 29, Health, Love, Personal

The Painful Awareness of Aging

While trying to come up with a loving tribute to my brother to post as a Facebook status as today marks three years since his passing, I just couldn’t. I tried so hard, but everything came out so angry and negative. Earlier today, while shopping with my mom (our tradition to help distract from the day,) we walked into a Disney store, and the first two displays were Star Wars and Marvel Comics. To make matters worse, a very wistful version of “A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes” was playing in the background, and all I could think of was that he’d either be angry that there was so much merchandise (angry that Disney, Disney!! of all things owns Obi-wan and Wolverine, and that Disney is totally fucking over X-Men because of Fox, blah blah blah) or beyond excited that there was more access to things that he once loved. I burst into tears. I had to leave the store. Last night at work, every minor thing was pissing me off. I couldn’t focus, I felt panicky all night.  Obviously, this day is always going to be sad and weird and hard. But the last two anniversaries, I didn’t cry on the day. I didn’t have borderline panic attacks at work the night before. Things were always just…meh. The weeks leading up to the day have always been anxiety producing, but as it got closer, it would kind of stop til I was just…meh. Why is this bothering me so much on this particular anniversary?

Oh, that’s right. Two months from Monday, I’m going to be thirty. I’m going to be the same age as my brother was when he died. Barring any sudden terminal illnesses or freak accidents, once I hit thirty and three months, I will be officially older than my older brother. To me, that is the meanest and cruelest of reminders that he’s gone. I can’t wrap my head around this. I mean, logically, yes, it makes sense that since my brother is no longer alive and I am, that I would out age him, but emotionally, it’s scary and weird. Thirty is crazy enough, but this? This just adds a whole new layer of hurt. I am dealing with this alone, and it’s hard. Who do you even talk to about this? This isn’t like a dating problem or something more universal, this is something most people don’t ever have to even think about. The last time I sought professional help in dealing with grief, the shrink more or less told me that the solution was to get a better job and a boyfriend. I’m not even kidding, that is what I got for $120 a session. I’m not trying to be a special snowflake, poor Princess Furey, but this is really hard. Anything age related, and I can’t handle it.

The most recent example: crush gone wrong rejected me for a girl that is significantly younger than me. Again, not the worst thing that ever happened to me. It’s not like he cheated on me or the girl he went after had a vendetta against me. But since I have “oh shit, I’m coming up to an age that should be celebrated, not scary but is because of my stupid brother” attached to me, I wanted to punch this guy. I felt so old, so ugly, and so horrible about myself when shit went down. But I couldn’t quite say to him, “You don’t like me that way, I get it. But for fuck’s sake, could she just be a little closer to your age so I’m not feeling shitty about my age more than I already am thanks to my dead brother? Thanks, jag off!” I admit, this is selfish and unfair on my end–I’m totally taking my anger out on this guy simply because I can’t grasp this weird, weird, weird fact. Yes, getting rejected sucks ass, but overall, it isn’t his fault. It’s not Matty’s, either. He didn’t plan this. It’s a hard, strange fact that I’m having trouble with and can’t process. Will I ever get over it? Is this going to taint every birthday? Because those are hard with or without this “death age” thing hanging over my head.

And that is why I can’t do the, “I’ll always love and miss you, brother!” type post on social media this year. As much as I want to, I can’t. I do want people to talk about him. He existed. I can’t pretend he wasn’t born; wasn’t a major part of my life as well as other people’s, like his widow, his friends, our sister, our parents, our extended family. He was. He still is. It’s just that this age thing has me freaked out. It’s not supposed to be this way. But it is what it is. And now that I’ve had the breakthrough (if you’ve read this far, thank you very much.) I can ease up a little more and actually enjoy what’s ahead, which I know he would want.

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fitness, Health, Personal

Furey Vs. The Giant Ledge

Before I begin, here’s some music to set the tone of my unexpected cathartic journey this weekend:

Since my last post about the joys of run/walking, I kept up for a few weeks before dealing with a series of events, which, had they happened one at a time, I could’ve handled. But since they happened in the span of two weeks, I was done. It all started with yet another crush gone wrong, leaving me feeling broken hearted. Worst thing to ever happen to me? Absolutely not. But when you add the pressure of company visits at your retail job and other major shakeups, getting cursed out by one customer and then being treated like scum over a minor issue by another, finding out your last surviving grandparent is ill and not going to make the week, causing a great deal of stress fights in your family and sure enough, he dies a day shy of a full week, you’re shot. You are defeated. July was bad enough with Matty’s birthday, but now all this shit? Done.

So, with time to spare before the funeral, I kept my plans to visit my best friend in the Catskills. Marcia*, my true blue, ride or die best friend who survived a two week barrage of text messages of one new thing after another with me. We stopped in Kingston on the way up for Asian food (Sushi for her, Thai for me) and I was just tired, sad and worn out. Lucky for me, Marcia isn’t the “aww boo, let’s eat copious amounts of ice cream while watching Magic Mike in our sweats! We can do tequila shots and paint our nails! It’ll be soooooo fun!” type. She decided I needed to do something bigger. Her first suggestion was white water river tubing down the Esopus. I shot it down as the previous summer, the creek royally kicked my ass. “All right,” she said. “we’ll go on a hike then. A BIG hike.” Along with her boyfriend, Derek, we headed east to conquer Giant Ledge, a three mile hike with an 1,100 foot elevation. For experienced hikers, that may seem piddly, but to a frustrated, much closer to sea level girl? Game on.

I was not at all prepared for what was ahead late Saturday afternoon. Rocks and rocks and rocks and an incline greeted me after we left the parking area. 5’7″ Marcia and 5’10” Derek practically flew up the trail from the get-go. 5’3″ me stupidly tried to keep up with them. When that didn’t work, I knew it was ultimately up to me to take care of myself. Yes, Marcia and Derek were kind enough to wait at certain points, but overall, it was mostly bestie and I doing call and response type yells to assure ourselves. I was embarrassed at first–fuck, I’m in worse shape than I thought, we should’ve gone tubing, I’m making a great impression on her boyfriend whom I just met last night. But after I passed the point of feeling like I was going to vomit, I realized–I had to do this. After the two weeks of heartbreak, stress, anger and death, I needed the break. I needed to do something out of the ordinary, which is why Marcia went for climbing over cupcakes.

Wouldn't you pick this over cupcakes?

Wouldn’t you pick this over cupcakes?

I felt like an awkward Spider-man, climbing like a baby beast while singing “Roar” and “Hearts on Fire” in my head. I was sore, my arms and legs on fire. Then, just when I thought I was getting to the top, I got lost. Just what I needed. I was scared for about thirty seconds, but then logic kicked in. I got lost making a left, therefore, going right would probably get me where I needed. Sure enough, I was right–Marcia’s voice got louder and louder and I was amped. I met her, and asked, “where the fuck is this point?” “Here!” she chirped, pointing to clearing where you could see the hills for miles. I stepped on to the ledge, and almost cried. If I could do this, I can do anything. Forget the idiot boys and angry customers. They don’t define me. While it is unfortunate my grandfather passed away, that’s life. Life isn’t going to stop because I’m having a bad time. 

Don’t worry, it didn’t end like a total teen TV episode–I tensed up on the way back down due to a fear of slipping, so I had a wicked headache the rest of the night. Yesterday and today, the area above my left knee is really feeling it. But it was worth it. So, so worth it. Thank you, Marcia.

*names changed to protect teachers from nosy children

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Health, Personal

“I No Longer Walk or Run. I Lumber.” (or: Furey’s First PPA Run in a Long Time)

Picture it: Lake Carmel, spring 2013. I was a run/walking maniac. I’d be outside every day, going 4-6 miles on foot while listening to Queen on blast, stopping to stretch. I also did free weights every other day, so I was in fantastic shape. I wasn’t eating junk, only needed one cup of coffee to get through the day, and slept very well.

Fast forward to June 2015, and I am a mess. I’m doughy, I’ve gained more weight than I thought, and I feel awful. I was still stuck in my terrible winter habit of waking up late, making the first of two cups of coffee, and eating brunch while staying cozy in my living room chair and catching up with my friend Hulu til it was time for me to go to work. In my head, I knew I had to get back in shape–I bought brand new hand weights, stocked up on fitness magazines, bought healthier food, just deterrrrmined to start exercising again. I mean, I had the basic motivation–smaller clothes, a better appearance, feeling good, having energy. I mean, I felt like a prince of the universe two summers ago:

But it didn’t fully click until today. I was sitting inside, on my laptop and streaming Hulu through my Xbox. I look outside, and see that it is gorgeous. It’s not ridiculously hot, nor is it cold and raining. So why the hell am I sitting inside? I got dressed, put on sunblock, and did some stretches before hitting the pavement. I felt good, I felt determined, I was ready to sprint. And I did–not very far, as I got winded rather quick. But that didn’t make me turn around and go home. I did my original 4 miles. Although I did have to stop from time to time, swore a lot (I think I said “fuck I’m fat/old” more than once) and couldn’t sprint for as long as I used to, I still did it.

So why today of all days? Was it simply the nice weather? No. It boiled down to two larger reasons:

–I Do NOT wish to repeat the health issues of 2009-11.

I can’t explain how or why, but around spring 2009, I started gaining weight which to me was alarming as after I had gained a shit ton of weight in the previous school year due to my over consumption of cheese, fattening coffee and champagne, I made a very conscious effort to drop the excess weight and then some. I kept it up, walking everywhere and taking a tae kwon do class which helped me get to a more manageable weight. But for whatever reason, no matter what I did in spring 2009, I just kept gaining weight. By early 2010, I was almost 300 lbs. 300 pounds, and I’m only 5’2″ and change.

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I look like the female version of Cleveland Brown, Jr. What a sad time that was.

Then, my period, after being dormant for almost two years, came back in the form of blood clots. I admit stress didn’t help–lucky me graduated in 2009, when it was considered a miracle to be hired. But was it really just stress? Nope–turns out, my metabolism fully shit out on me, which contributed to the period mess, which contributed to the gall bladder issues, so on and so forth. I was able to get it under control and I was determined to keep it that way, making sure I was doing at least some form of exercise once a week, no being dormant. I don’t want to relieve that, my foot has started to act wonky from the lack of activity and I’m like, no way, I’m nipping this in the bud. No more health issues.

–I Do NOT Want to Let Depression* Win

Oddly enough, when I started my crazy running schedule, it had only been about six months since Matty’s passing. But after this killer winter, combined with seemingly everyone I know getting engaged/married/pregnant/promoted/new apartments in a short span of time, I was just shot. I’m angry about that. Don’t get me wrong, I am extremely happy for my friends and their milestones, I’m angry because it’s been almost three years and I’m only now “waking up” from the grief fuzz and feel like Leo The Late Bloomer of life.  I mean, it’s a tough thing–some people seem to be fully up and running in a short amount of time, other people I know experienced loss over a decade ago and they’re still frozen in that time. I don’t want to be the latter–I made a promise to myself the night before Matty died that I would not completely fall apart, and want to stick to it. I want to make the most of things, not get trapped in the emotional heft of loss.

*I haven’t been formally diagnosed with depression, but I really didn’t know how else to put it

So, there you have it. My physical health and my mental health are what finally got me out the door, along with the nice weather. And I’m glad I did–I forgot how much fun it was to put on earbuds and just go. Be outside, see different people (yet not have to talk to them if you don’t want to,) not worry about appearances. It’s good to release those endorphins!

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Celebrity

Meghan Trainor and Outrage Fatigue

I know I may be a bit behind, but I do have something to say surrounding the controversy behind Meghan Trainor’s “Dear Future Husband.” I just can’t. The song itself is insipid. No, I don’t like the one sided mentality Trainor has, that women are crazy and men are basically servants. But the way some people are carrying on about the song and video, you would think Trainor was singing a ditty about how women shouldn’t be allowed to vote or drive and that abortion is wrong so we should spend all our time giving birth and never saying a word about it.

Part of me thinks Trainor is such a target because many people expected her to be the voice of the average person, that because she isn’t a supermodel with a microphone like Katy Perry or Nicki Minaj (who have been made into real Barbie dolls in the past,) she should be alternative and 100% feminist. Instead, her attempt at female body positivity turned out to be all about boys and what they want, followed by a song about how all men are liars, and now a very one sided list of demands for a potential husband that’s accompanied by a video of Trainor sexily washing a kitchen floor.

Is it problematic that Trainor is considered a teen idol and spreading such a message to young girls? Yes. Is it the most sexist thing in the history of the world? No way. I think I’m more burnt out by the degree of anger people have towards the candy colored throwback, acting like it’s the biggest injustice ever committed against women. There are far more important issues than an insipid pop song that feminists should be fighting against. More and more states are making it harder to get an abortion, there’s still the matter of equal pay for equal work, and why women in the media constantly get quizzed about clothes, nails and diets while their male counterparts get to discuss whatever they’re promoting. That should be the bigger concern.

So in short, while Trainor’s song is dopey and could use a refresher as to what a healthy marriage actually entails, I really don’t think it’s the most offensive thing that has ever happened in popular culture. I don’t know if it’s me getting older or burning myself out getting so angry during my time at LivLuna where I destroyed Taylor Swift not once, but twice over her boy craziness, but I really wish people would just step back and see that you can’t have the same level of anger for everything that offends you.

I’ll put it to you this way–when I was in college, I had friends who were part of a social justice organization. I admired what they did, but didn’t always agree with them.  This prevented me from really joining them, as I was afraid that if I didn’t get angry over every single thing they got angry about, I wouldn’t be good. But when the issue of the food service workers on campus not having a contract came up during my senior year? I was all over it. And honestly, I felt better connected to the cause as I wasn’t spreading my energy to every single cause that came up alongside it. I was able to focus on the right things. Perhaps some of it is age (I notice most of the blogs having a major coronary with Trainor’s video are oriented towards younger audiences,) but I think overall, it’s learning to figure out just how angry to get over a particular subject. Aside from my winter burn out, I’ve been struggling to come up with content for this reason. What deserves my anger, and what deserves a “meh?”

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