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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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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Love

Valentine’s Day Pressure is Bullshit

I am usually a big fan of Valentine’s Day. Although I’m always single on the day, I usually find a way to make it fun–celebrate my other single friends by going out to dinner and a movie, give them little gifts. Make valentines for everyone I know. Celebrate myself by buying something I normally wouldn’t for myself. (this year, I bought myself two tulle skirts, one powder blue, the other with Cinderella’s castle printed on it from the Cinderella: a Collection by LC Lauren Conrad at Kohl’s.) I don’t believe Valentine’s Day should make people feel shitty. Use the “love day” as a way to express love and gratitude for those you do care about–friends, yourself, family, co-workers, whomever.

But this year, I can’t take the pressure this holiday brings to many people. I think it’s because I’m closer to 30 and by October, I’ll have been to two engagement parties, three weddings and a former college housemate will have had her baby (that she’s excited about) within the year. So what does Valentine’s Day have to do with it? It’s bringing up these insecurities. There’s weird consumerist pressure to make February 14th either ultimate day of romance and passion or to make single women feel like they’re walking Cathy comics that I feel stressed.

(I had to.)

It’s such bullshit–why?  Valentine’s Day makes single people feel awful for being such, and it makes people in relationships feel stressed out over an unofficial holiday where it’s like, you don’t pick the right restaurant or show up with an engagement ring, relationship over!  It’s so dumb. So how do we circumvent these awful feelings? It’s not easy, at least from the single person’s perspective. The last two Valentine’s Days, I’ve had to work my retail job where customers and coworkers alike shot me looks of pity and served backhanded compliments as they were running off to meet their significant others while I was stuck closing the store. ugh, it was the worst. And as I can’t stress enough, it’s not necessary. We should be appreciating our loved ones every day. Valentine’s Day should just be seen as a bonus with cute decorations and a better color scheme than Christmas.

So is there a way to beat the pressure? You could be cynical and look at it as just a day for retailers to make money at the end of January/beginning of February, or you could hold on to the hippie dippy ideal that we go all out for everyone we love. I think in the end, you make the day as you want it to be. People are always going to try and be “helpful,” but they’re not important. What is important is that you’re happy, healthy and secure in your relationship. If you’re single, don’t look at it as a race. When you do get to the point that your friends are, it’ll be worth it. Don’t settle. If you want a relationship to happen, it will. You just need patience and to not let greeting card companies, movie studios, restaurants, and magazines make you feel awful. You’re fantastic!

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Health, Sex

BREAKING: Men have body image issues!

Nice try, Cosmopolitan.com. Perhaps author Anna Breslaw was trying to be funny, but the list of “10 Reasons Sleeping With a Husky Guy Is The Best” really isn’t. I stumbled upon it on Facebook last night, and clicked, thinking it would be nice. Instead, it was rife with awful jokes and tired stereotypes (guhuhuh, you can eat in front of him and he won’t care!) The line that stands out to me the most is “his largeness makes you feel like a gossamer porcelain ballerina!”

Where do I begin with the wrongness of this? Firstly, if Men’s Health or Maxim made a list of “10 Reasons Sleeping With a Plus Size Gal Is The Best” and included lines like, “you get three extra pillows with a pussy!” or “you’ll feel like Joe Manganiello next to her largeness!” there would be an angry response on Cosmo about ten minutes after it came out.  Second, as I mentioned earlier, it’s tired jokes and stereotypes. If Breslaw had wanted it to be funny, she could’ve come up with better reasons that didn’t involve food or comparing figures.

Third, men do have body image issues. Think about it–the praise that Seth Rogen and Jonah Hill got after losing great amounts of weight–they went from “schlubby” to “sexy and funny!” And not gonna lie, I don’t think someone like Billy Gardell is going to be on the cover of People‘s Sexiest Bachelors issue. And I’m pretty sure most guys weren’t feeling too hot after Magic Mike came out in 2012. I think the reason a lot of people don’t see that this kind of shit has a negative effect on men too. I think the reason that there aren’t a lot of “Love your body!” type campaigns for men is because they don’t really talk about it. You have larger men in movies and in positions of power, so why complain? That doesn’t mean that men don’t have the same insecurities as women. Who enjoys being referred to as “a third pillow with a dick” simply because you don’t have six pack?

What people don’t realize is that, while it’s easy to laugh things off out loud, it’s still wrong as it gets internalized. I mean, look at Richard Simmons on Wendy a few years back detailing his struggle, he’s near tears:

There will probably be some guys who’ll read the Cosmo piece and feel like a punchline. A younger bud of mine once lamented that because he didn’t look like the “teen idols” of his department at work, he couldn’t find a girlfriend. It made me sad that he was down on himself due to the lack of a six pack. He has plenty to offer, and to be honest, just because someone is physically fit doesn’t mean that they’re perfect overall–once you get past the just hooking up stage, if you really want to date, it’s going to take more than a gorgeous smile and great arms to sustain a relationship. You need to bring intelligence, humor and patience as well. 

So, Breslaw, Cosmo, think before you write. I know you could’ve come up with a better, more positive list of reasons to sleep with a larger guy that didn’t reduce them to a punchline. You get mad when it happens to women, so why should men be treated any differently in that regard? It just sucks all around.

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Personal

Dealing With Death: One Year Later

During the redesign of LivLuna earlier this year, I had the task of deciding which posts would appear on the new LivLuna and which ones would not. When it came to my short series about dealing with my brother’s very unexpected death at the age of 30 last October, I opted not to move them. I thought they were too sad; that they would prevent me from moving on if they stayed up.

 

 

Now I wish I had kept them. This past year has been a mess. Although the official anniversary isn’t for another two weeks, it’s close enough. I had always told myself that I would write a “one year later” piece, where I’d hoped that I would be enlightened, changed for the better, so on and so forth. I’m not quite there yet, especially with the events that followed Matty’s passing–Superstorm Sandy (where I was in the middle of nowhere pretty much by myself,) my grandfather having a health scare, my grandmother passing away, my brother’s dog having to be put down, my dad being in the hospital for two weeks with bacterial pneumonia and not being able to go back to work for four months, my cousin losing his house in a freak lightning storm, all on top of the day to day. However, losing Matty is definitely at the top of our lists. That is the one we’re having the most trouble recovering from.

 

 

 

I was (and still am) determined that I was going to not let the sadness take over. He wouldn’t have wanted that, not wanted the family to fall apart because of his action. So I tried everything to help speed up the grief process–anti-depressants (never again) throwing myself into work, throwing myself into friendships, drinking, weekend getaways, smoking pot, online dating, hooking up, staying out all hours of the night, running for two hours a day, shopping to the point where I had -97¢ in my bank account. Nothing helped–it either blew up in my face completely, or else was a quick fix. The only thing that can help is time, and what sucks is that there is no definitive time frame for grief. You can’t say, “well, in four months, I’ll be here, in six months I’ll be there,” You just have to wait and see, really, and it can be hard. And I want to stress, that this is not about getting over the person–this about getting over the sadness, the anger you have about their passing.

 

 

Matty and his beloved Chuckie, 2010.

 

 

There have been some changes–after re-watching The Avengers in November (the last movie I saw with Matty,) and having a panic attack, I vowed never to see a comic book movie ever again as they were his favorite. In August, I got asked on a date to see The Wolverine. I agreed, and then got nervous–this wasn’t like being at a friend’s house, this in a theater with a stranger who could potentially be romantically interested in me. I wasn’t ready to be that vulnerable if I had a meltdown like I did in November, especially in a public setting. However, I couldn’t hide from the movies, especially one that I wanted to see. So, I kept the date, and…nothing happened. I was fine. I loved the movie, and knew he would have loved it too. Although that’s a small example, it is still a big step, and it makes me feel human, that things are going to be okay.

 

 

I would like to believe that once the anniversary passes, when the majority of firsts will have passed, we’ll be able to really move on. Right now, we’re all in a weird place. I feel like I’m reliving certain grieving points from the year at warp speed. But what is really going to happen on October 8th? As much as I think he would have loved it, I don’t think zombie Matty is going to show up at the house, or the earth is going to swallow us whole. Yet, we’re all feeling this anxiety, like something big is going to happen, but we’re not quite sure what.

 

 

I wish I could offer more enlightenment, but honestly, the only thing I can say is that you have to let time be your friend.You are the only one who can manage your grief, and if other people don’t like it, too bad. As for things to help you move on, they’re distractions, they’re not real solutions. Distractions can be good, they’re necessary–if it weren’t for work or my friends, I probably would be a hermit, hiding out in my room and smoking up all day. But that’s hiding, and you can’t do that. The deceased wouldn’t want you to.

 

 

And as for you, Matty, we love you very much and miss you every day. That will never, ever change, no matter how much time passes.

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