The Dude that Metaphorically Shot my Hypothetical Dog a Billion Times

A Final TW: Depression, Suicide, Reality.

The worst part is that I can see the fall. From the outside looking in my rational mind watches the plummet. I know I shouldn’t be in bed till noon but my body doesn’t listen when my mind says get up, and then my mind slowly begins to agree with a full-time relocation to my flannel hideout when it begins to contemplate how not-worth-living life beyond this bed is. I wake up at 7am but spend 4 hours drifting in and out of a zombie-like daze alternating that with scrolling through social media until I’m filled with enough regret and envy and self-deprecating thoughts to make me sob. I sleep off the tears then wake up 20 minutes later and repeat. When I finally get out of bed I am filled with shame and disappointment because I have wasted yet again another sunny morning. I choke on thoughts of how I should just end my life because it is being wasted by someone with so much potential who can’t even get out of bed by 9am. My heartbeat is audible because I share my morning with a terrorizing fear that the power in charge of this human life is going to realize what a waste I am, since I can’t be motivated to accomplish anything, and will extinguish me in some horrific fashion sooner rather than later. A constant arm wrestle occurs between the voice trying to say it will be okay and all the other thoughts of death and despair that I am busying stomaching, but it is hard to hear the tiny voice of hope while it is getting its ass whooped.

I have lived with depression my entire life. I have gotten quite good at it actually, or at least good at maintaining an external impression of sanity and happiness. That isn’t totally fake, not really a mask. I just wear the face of a part of me that I rarely get to enjoy. I really am that bundle of joy most people know me to be, I am that happy, sometimes. I show you that because I love you and above all, I am empathetic to a fault. I could not stand the sadness I would cause if I shared the internal pain I endure on a regular basis. If you happen to be the closest person to me then you get to bear the brunt of all the things I keep from the rest of the world, and I sorry to my lovers past, present, and future for that. Over the past couple of years, my desire to wake up and try again has been constantly diminishing. It is again that empathetic bone I happen to be born with that keeps saving my life. Bidding adieu to this suffocating feeling of being constantly overwhelmed seems extremely appealing, but I couldn’t inflict the pain of my elected departure on those who love me dearly.

It has been 7 months since I was diagnosed as bi-polar. My decision to finally get help was triggered by a not so graceful rock-bottom, but this little post isn’t where I am going to speak to that. I have spent the past couple paragraphs trying to figure out why the hell I am writing this, and if I am even going to share it. The past couple years have been rough, I have felt lost and confused and my sadness completely unmanageable. It got exponentially worse when I uprooted from my upstate NY tribe and moved to a new city alone (for an amazing fully-funded masters degree, so how could I not). Here there is no one to wonder where I am when I disappear for days because I can’t even manage to shower so I’ve rationalized never leaving my house again. As this was happening I was experiencing some of the biggest wins in my life. No matter how many awards I won, shows I put on, degrees I received, I felt like a complete failure (pretty much only happy when I travel). I cried every morning and almost every night feeling so guilty for waking up feeling like someone had murdered my dog in front of me when so many things were going right. I am so lucky to have come so far out of the real-life pain and trauma I have lived through, but still, I want to die. I guess feeling depressed was easier when life was actually tough, now that I am constantly showered with amazing opportunities I don’t feel like I should be sad… unfortunately, that just makes it worse because it gives me one more thing to hate myself for.

I guess that is one of the reasons I am writing this and one of the reasons I should actually share it, depression is so misunderstood. Like many people suffering from short or long-term depression, I have been told countless times by those closest to me (with the best intentions) to just pick up my bootstraps, do some deep breathing, and think happy thoughts. “Your life is awesome, why would you be sad?” Even when I have tried all the ways to bring about happiness, and trust me I know many ways (I’m a self-proclaimed hippie for goodness sake)… my mind eventually announces “Namaste sad as f**k”. It isn’t something we can wish or yoga away, and that mindset is what causes so many of us to hide our pain from the world. That silent suffering results in people everywhere losing countless friends and family members every year. I have almost lost my life more than once because of forcing myself to only hurt when I am alone.

Jeeze this is long. I feel better though. I have been figuring out a medication strategy that works for me over the past 7 months. I found something that works and for the past 2 months, I have been okay. I stopped taking both my medications a few days ago because I lost my insurance and while I waited for my Medicaid card I couldn’t get my prescriptions filled. I didn’t think anything would happen honestly, well I was wrong… I haven’t felt this way in months, but I woke up with that asshole named Depression sitting squarely on my chest. The dude that has metaphorically shot my hypothetical dog a billion times was like “hey girl hey, memeba meee?”. This morning sucked, but I cried my way to my kitchen and sat down and started typing. I typically suffer that feeling of drowning with my hand grasping at air trying to not go under, maybe my “pen” can save me this go around. Maybe writing about it will help me process faster, heal a little sooner. All I know is I don’t want any of my friends to suffer alone, I don’t want anyone to suffer alone, and if I am blessed enough to make all my wildest dreams come true, I don’t want to be one of those incredible people who I stare at on social media while the monster on my chest proclaims that I will never be as great as them because I am a giant sad worthless blob… In this world of insta-perfection we get caught up trying to live up to standards that are so far from the real human life behind that post.

It is terrifying to think that once I tell people this “dark secret” about me they will see me as less, that those people who look at me as this epically brave traveler will stop seeing me as great. Well, I can be sad and still brave, I have depression but I am awesome and epic and kickass… there are just so many days I forget that about myself, maybe the more I talk about it the quicker I will remember how cool I am. I don’t want to just be present when I feel okay, I want to know it is okay to show up as I am in every way, every day. I am a whole person and if I want to share my life and successes as an inspiration to fellow women, travelers, brown people, and anyone really, then I need to share all of me, the most authentic me. This is me, the real me, the me that I am trying to learn to love. It is an exhausting work in progress, but we all have to start somewhere. If you are reading this and you relate, I am here, and will always be someone that any of my friends/strangers who need a shoulder can come to. If you are living with depression, your life is dark enough… so let’s stop living with our pain in the shadows, shall we?

In Defense of Wanderlust!

The life of a travel blogger, or a travel-addicted nomad, posing as a travel blogger (shhh don’t tell anybody), is a lifestyle often accused of residing “out of the box”. The fact that I can live from a singular backpack for a year, or that I have been known to go without a permanent address for months at a time, can sometimes make folks uneasy. To live this lifestyle you find yourself sacrificing that night out again with your girlfriends, incessantly ‘instagraming,’ locking yourself away for hours on end to write (not good at this one yet), and my least favorite… missing lots of holidays. When people ask you “what’s your 10-year plan… or 5-year plan… or 2-year plan… ok, what the hell are you doing next month?!?” I usually giggle and give them the same response every time, “Something fun I suppose,” and throw my hands in the air the way I do caution to the wind.

I am certain at least a few of you have experienced that this lifestyle isn’t always well received by family and friends. I remember right out of college, after working my butt off at an Ivy League school (literally… cuz those hills on Cornell’s campus are no joke), my family was like… ok and next. They didn’t miss a beat, it was “where will you be going for your Ph.D.?”, I was in no shape to hop back into the term paper saddle, let alone begin a full-blown career. After 4 years at Cornell, I wanted to take a nap… like a nice year-long nap. My ‘gap year’ turned into two, and my family continued to freak. I continued to rebel… the wild child that I am, what else did they expect. Those 2 years turned into four, but it didn’t take all four years for them to get the picture that I would be living life in my own way and on my own timeline. Every single person came around to that idea, they saw the joy that traveling brought me, they saw that I wasn’t starving or homeless (except when I elected to live in and out of hostels and on stranger’s couches for months at a time in developing countries… but that is a technicality). I had the support of my family, which actually means everything to me… no matter how many times I tell my mom that I don’t care what she thinks.

Unfortunately, their acceptance wasn’t where the difficulties ended when it came to choosing a life of adventure over sitting complacently while being spoon-fed conformity (a tad dramatic, I know). There is a lesson I had to learn recently, one that I want to share with all those out there trying to make a name for themselves in the travel industry, the blogging sector, or really any field that goes against the traditional grain. There still may be people you actively choose to have in your life, who accept your lifestyle but resent you for it. They will ‘reason’ your love to travel away, by telling themselves that you are in a constant state of flux because you are somehow lost, and one day when you are found, then you will finally settle down. I guess it makes it easier for them to swallow the fact that I can pick up and go with such ease, if they label it with an alternative purpose, with an end game. I decided to stop letting people shame me into believing I was being selfish, I was taking too much time “discovering myself and soul-searching”. How dare I reject societal norms, how dare I not fit their mold… it must be because I am lacking, lacking something… and clearly, I am searching for it in places far and wide.

I have a secret to tell you… There is NO SHAME in spending time ‘finding yourself,’ but don’t let anyone convince you that just because you elect to live a life full to the brim with adventure and challenges, that you are lost. I am never going to stop ‘finding myself’ because that is who I AM. There is no rhyme or reason that can stand up to my love for exploration and my dedication to personal growth. I am a girl who loves to learn, to venture into the unknown, and if that unknown includes the depths of my soul, so be it. I don’t have to be lost, to adore flying to foreign cities and losing myself wandering on ancient cobblestone streets. Anyone who sees the road to self-discovery as a voyage with an actual destination has clearly never taken on the task of looking for themselves. Don’t let anyone write your life story for you, forge your own trail and love yourself every damn day that you have the courage to do so!

Have Camera, Will Dream.

Last year around this time, maybe a month earlier, I bought my very first SLR camera. I am a huge fan of buying myself Christmas presents, I always get what I want that way! I didn’t go top of the line, but I wanted something to take me close to professional. I had been exploring cameras since my first trip to Hawai’i when I was about 11 years old. My Nonna took me on that trip, which changed my life in so many ways, and one of those being discovering my love for photography. I got to have not only 2 disposable cameras, but also a disposable underwater camera to use on my very first snorkeling adventure!!

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Fast forward to Christmas 2014, I have my very own fancy-pants camera, a Canon! I got it right in time for some big traveling. I went from Arizona, to Peru, to South Africa all within that year, and of course everywhere I went, attached to my hip was my Canon. My dream was to do something with these photos, share them, sell them, something. I dreamt, and I dreamt big, and I dreamt often. That, my readers, is the key. It is something I so easily forget, but it is the secret to breathing life into your dreams, if you have a dream it must consume you for it to come true.

Knowing what you want and envisioning yourself getting it everyday is exactly how you are going to get there. Now I’m not advocating sitting on a meditation cushion and willing a trip to Madagascar into reality (maybe some folks have that power of manifestation… I’m not quite there yet). What I am saying is that when your dreams are always in the forefront of your mind, with every decision you make you will clearly see if it serves your dreams or not. Soon you will be effortlessly and automatically only following paths that lead you closer to that dream.

Learning to clearly define your dream, trust your intuition, and have the courage to jump blindly after what you want… is so freaking hard!! Just because I know what to do doesn’t mean I am good at always doing it. Yet, I do get lucky from time to time 🙂

Not even a full year after the first time I used my camera, I was hanging my very first photography exhibit. “Footsteps of a Nomad” was a huge success, it was so much work, and worth every ounce of stress! I sold 4 photos during my opening reception, and I even got to have my family there with me. I took my show down after a month, and the day I took it down I hung another show up at a local bakery, and they will be showing my photos for 2 months! Two shows and counting, only a year after manifesting my big-girl camera!

After hanging my very first photography show!

 

My show at Heavily Brewing Company in Montour Falls, NY

 

My second show is now up at a local bakery in Ithaca, NY

 

The Triphammer Ithaca Bakery

 

Featured Artist for the next 2 months!

 

When there are no words left, all that remains is gratitude. I am so grateful for all the support of my family and friends, the opportunities made possible only through collaboration, and I am grateful to myself for believing and being courageous when I needed it most. If you have something beautiful to share with the world, go for it!! Share it under this post as your first leap of bravery!

Mom, Dad, Sisters!! All came to support me!

 

My fellow teachers, and one of my students (the baby in my arms), came to show support!

 

Flowers from my loving grandparents!