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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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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Health, Love, Personal

Three Months In

This winter royally kicked my ass. It kicked everyone’s ass–making plans around snow, worrying about whether or not I could work (or worse, get stuck there,) dealing with everyone else’s craziness stocking up on bread and eggs, the works. The stories I have of rude customers from my retail job over the last few weeks are astounding. Adding to this mayhem is that I’m one of those people that gets miserable without sunshine. The bad thoughts I had leading up to my 29th birthday came back with a vengeance–that I wasn’t good enough, that I was stuck, I was unwanted.

I know that’s bullshit, but man, I was really feeling it. My mom, also feeling snow crazy, decided that we should go away, somewhere warm, with plenty of sunshine and no work. That place? Disney World. She insisted that it’s a much different experience when there’s no children and only two people in the group, that it wouldn’t be anything like the family trip this past August. I was reluctant for a while, but as the trip drew near and the negative thoughts and emotions grew stronger, I was more than happy to bounce.

It was so worth it. It was so worth it to go, to get away. Yes, we had a jam packed itinerary, but I was the most relaxed I had been in months. It was nice to be removed from certain situations, and in new places. There was sunshine! Flowers! Warmth! I met Ariel! I got a kick ass hot stone massage! And, perhaps this is the weirdest thing, but being in Disney World made me realize a few things about myself:

  • I’m not ready for kids. Although I have more patience for kids now than I did in my early twenties, the mothers at my hotel looked so worn down and exhausted every day. I was that person in the parks wondering why there were so many damn kids (because, you know, it’s DISNEY WORLD.)
  • I have to take things one by one. I’ve been making myself crazy thinking that I have to get my own place, a better paying job and my version of Marshall all before I turn thirty. That’s insane. I feel if I take it one at a time, it’s less pressure and things will fall into place themselves otherwise.
  • I have to shift my perspective when it comes to thinking about time. I’ve been angry because I feel like I’ve lost two and a half years and that I’m trapped. I actually began thinking about it the weekend before I left; where I attended the engagement party of a good friend. At the time of the party last year, she and her fiancé were broken up. I’d always been looking at it from the opposite side; that it only seems to be when things are going well that bad things happen. It can go the other way, and I can’t be on my guard all the time anymore.
  • The most important: I can never be my “old” self again. And after some time away from my usual routine, I don’t want to be. If I’m my old self, that means (a) Matty is still here and (b) that means that I’m back in my early twenties where I was even more ridiculous than I am now–whiny, hung up on stupid, stupid guys, ungrateful (I want to tell my college self to chill out so bad, that things really weren’t so bad) drunk and really unsure of myself. I want to keep moving forward.

I know this may seem like a bit of a rehash from my last personal post, but I need a reminder sometimes. I think we all do, that things aren’t so bad, to be more patient, to slow down a little, or in some cases, speed up. Once you graduate from high school and/or college, when you know all the bullshit is going to end, there is no definitive end to things, unless you are 100% certain you know when exactly you’re going to die. It’s scary for some. An earlier draft of this post, titled “How Many Times Can I Learn to Fly?” detailed how I was sick of learning life lessons, sick of setbacks. But perhaps instead of resisting, I should actually put these lessons into practice.

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Celebrity, Personal

Leave Bobbi Kristina Brown Alone. Seriously.

It was announced today that Bobbi Kristina Brown’s family may (some sources say definitely, others say it’s a rumor) take the 21-year-old off life support on February 11th, the third anniversary of her mother’s death. Whitney Houston drowned on February 11th, 2012. Bobbi Kristina Brown was found unresponsive in a tub on January 31st, and has been in a medically induced coma ever since. Reports say that Brown had been struggling personally, with recent photos of the 21-year-old looking gaunt surfacing and reports of incoherent messages on various social media accounts.

So, naturally, instead of people offering Bobby Brown and other relatives condolences, people are criticizing the decision as to when to take Bobbi Kristina off life support. It’s “tacky,” it’s “ghoulish,” it’s “for publicity.” Are you fucking kidding me? I’m enraged right now. Yes, I know, internet commenters think they can say whatever they want, everybody has an opinion, but this is not about a poor celebrity fashion choice or calling out politicians on bad behavior. This is about someone’s life and the heartbreak a family is going through. No parent should ever have to decide when their child dies, let alone watch.

And yes, I do have a personal stake in this. Not with the Houston-Brown family, but I’ve been involved in a similar situation. Most people think that my brother died instantaneously. The truth is, it took him a full day. We got the call that my sister-in-law found my brother unresponsive in their bathroom while we were at the grocery store. We flew down to the hospital forty minutes away, where he was in the critical care unit. I’d never been more scared in my life. I knew that it was dire. Deep down, I knew he was gone. But because there was a small chance that he could recover, we held on to it. He’d gotten out of life threatening scrapes before, why couldn’t he do it again? I don’t know how my parents stayed relatively calm. I was a wreck, I didn’t even see him. I couldn’t. I physically could not gather the strength to get up out of my chair in the waiting room and go see him. We went home that night, with word that they were going to do one more test early the next morning to see if he could eventually recover.

The agreement my parents and I had was that if he was going to make it, they’d call. If he wasn’t, they’d come home and tell me to my face. Imagine my surprise when the phone rang, the number from the hospital. But it wasn’t my parents. It was the receptionist, looking for my sister in law so they could discuss what to do with his personal effects. Which meant my brother was gone. About ten minutes later, my parents came home and told me that Matty looked so at peace, how they watched him go. My sister and I both yelled at them “no parent should ever have to watch their child die!!” And they shouldn’t.

Now, that all happened in a matter of hours. Granted, my parents didn’t have to decide anything as my brother went, but they watched their child die. I still have trouble talking about it. Can you even begin to imagine what Bobbi Kristina’s family is going through? That they had to make the decision as to when to end her life? They’re watching her die. And people have the balls to talk shit? That’s really not okay. I hope that a majority of those commenters never, ever have to go through something like this. If the Houston-Browns want to pull the plug on the anniversary of Whitney’s death, let them. Remember, Bobbi Kristina was still a teenager when her mother died. Yes, her family had issues, but it’s still her family. You can’t expect a teenager, let alone anyone to know exactly how to grieve.

I can see the argument for people getting up in arms about choosing to end life support on the anniversary of Whitney Houston’s death. But that said, it’s the family’s decision. They were holding on to the idea that Bobbi Kristina could recover. That history wouldn’t repeat itself. They didn’t carefully orchestrate this to garner publicity (notice Bobby Brown has kept pretty quiet about the whole ordeal) but perhaps it’s a way for the family to help ease the grief a little. We don’t know, and we won’t know. And yes, Whitney Houston became a punchline towards the end of her life, but she was still a person. This is not easy for anyone involved.

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