Sunday, October 12, 2014

Outfit of the Day: Leather Weather

 It was another beautiful Sunday afternoon in Brooklyn! The sun was beaming, church was great and it was the perfect weather to bring out the leather. I was looking for any excuse to bring this baby out of the closet, so I decided to go for harsh breaks between black and white for this fit. 

Friday, October 10, 2014

October 5-11 is Mental Health Awareness Week

       October 5-11 is Mental Health Awareness Week, a week devoted to free screenings, free consultations, lots of informing, and overall awareness to a problem that sometimes gets pushed under the rug. Mental illnesses can vary from eating disorders, to Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, to Depression to Schizophrenia. We've seen a few headlines dealing with poor Mental Health with the sudden death of both actor Robin Williams, and singer Simone Battle who both committed suicide. But those are just 2 out of the 40,000 suicides that occur in the United States. For many of us, unless its in the media, we wont know about it. Or maybe you're like me: you knew about mental illness, but you didn't know know just how huge of a deal it is. It wasn't until my childhood friend Nicole* opened up to me about her own struggles with depression. Her courage to talk to me about what she was going through opened up my eyes to an issue that I never thought would hit so close to home. She allowed me to see what days are like in her shoes and I'm so glad she is so willing to share her story.

1.How long have you dealt with depression? What differentiates one diagnosis from another? Which have you been diagnosed with? 

     It's hard to answer that question. To be honest, I would say I had the symptoms for over a year, but I was diagnosed about seven months ago with Major Depressive Disorder. Depression can come in many forms, but generally have a uniform set of symptoms. Some people have Dysthymia, which is generally a chronic form that has exceeded two years. There is Atypical Depression, where a person who suffers may experience the need to over eat or over sleep, unlike the major depressive who does the opposite. Another type is Manic Depression, which is often called Bipolar Disorder. This diagnosis differs the most from the others because it involves extreme mood swings and episodes of impulsive behavior.

2. What was it like hearing that you've been diagnosed with major depression? (Were you relieved, scared, in denial etc)

     Hearing my diagnosis aloud felt a bit like a death sentence. I had known something was very wrong, but I had tried unsuccessfully to convince myself that I was okay.

3. Just like a lot of other illnesses, there are symptoms. Were there any red flags that went unnoticed prior to your diagnosis or is that a misconception? 

      There were a lot of red flags for me.  I had cried myself to sleep every night for weeks. I had been lying to my family and friends about how I was doing. People I enjoyed being around had been seeing less of me, and a few months before I actually sought counseling, I had been having suicidal thoughts. Each day, it became harder to eat a full meal, and each morning It literally hurt me to get out of bed.

4. Many people would describe missing the train or spilling their coffee the makings of a bad day but will probably shake it off by afternoon. How would a bad day affect you? 

     Depression can often times feel like a series of bad days. I'd say that most negative feelings in the mind of someone who is depressed are maximized. That thirty minute ride downtown Brooklyn on the 3 train suddenly feels unbearably tiring. The person who skipped you in line at the registrar upsets you for the entire duration of your day. And it is very easy to become irritable. A "bad day" for a person suffering from depression may be set off by something relatively simple, and end in tears, or going home completely just to avoid interacting with other people. Your bed suddenly becomes an escape from dealing with life, although it's hard to sleep. And no amount of sleep can cure what you're feeling.

5. Some people might ask "Why can't you get over it?" Well, why? What's the difference between "getting over it" and overcoming depression?

     Depression isn't something you get over. I had believed it was for the first few months after my diagnosis, and when my therapist expressed that she thought it may be helpful for me to be on an anti-depressant, I thought she was exaggerating the severity of my situation.Thinking someone can get over depression is one of the biggest mistakes we make. It's not as simple as taking a hot shower, or going for a run. Being depressed comes with a lot of physical symptoms, and they often vary depending on the person. For me, it can be aches all over my body, ringing in my ears, or an upset stomach, with nausea, and often vomiting. People don't realize that depression is not something you have to believe in for it to be real. (MESSAGE!)
      I'd say to overcome depression would be to intentionally develop a treatment plan with the help of a healthcare professional, stick to it, and wake up every day with the desire to be better. This plan may involve more exercise, a change in diet, going to counseling, sometimes taking medication, for me, asking God daily for His help, and very importantly, realizing your limits. Depression does not subside on it's own and it isn't something you can let it take its course. If untreated,  it can literally kill you.

6. What kind of healthy coping mechanisms do you use to help you through the course of a good day? 

     Some coping mechanisms I use through the course of the day are making a manageable schedule and sticking to it to minimize stress, making sure I eat healthy food, doing something called radical acceptance, where I take a moment to consciously accept my circumstances, and repeating the serenity prayer to myself. Some people have mantras, and I suppose the serenity prayer has become a mantra of sorts to me. I also deal with anxiety disorder, and it can be very calming for me to ask God to help me be realistic about my abilities.
    Another thing I do to cope is called self care. On days that are especially stressful, I may buy myself a few flowers, pamper myself when I get home, light some scented candles in my room or listen to one of my favorite CD's. Self-care is just doing something therapeutic that doesn't take much preparation or effort. It reduces stress.

7. Do you have any other outlets to help you with your depression? How has faith played a role in your progression? 

      Absolutely. Writing has helped me in so many ways. I often write when I can't find the words to express myself, or have things I can't say aloud.  Whether it be writing about an experience I had during the day, writing a letter to myself, or writing a letter to someone important in my life ( I don't necessarily give them the letter) getting my feelings out has always been easier on paper. Faith has played a huge role in my journey. There are numerous times I believe God saved my life. In the climax of my depression, I was overdosing on pills, hoping each time that maybe I wouldn't wake up the next morning. I cut my arms, stomach and sides, and by God's grace, no cut was deep enough to kill me.  I believe God wants me here for a reason, and I think I owe it to him to live out my purpose. Each day, I try to pray not only for strength, but for God to heal me, and through my healing to heal others who know my story.

8. What's the hardest part about dealing with depression? 

      The hardest part of dealing with depression? Well I have two answers actually. One is seeing the people who love you hurt because of the condition you're in. And two, having a disease that people constantly feel like they need proof of. Sometimes as a society, depression is treated like Santa Claus, or something fictional that some people just "believe" in. It is real, and it tears people apart daily. Depression is a condition that often isn't taken seriously because it doesn't come with a rash or a broken bone, and for many people, taking care of your  your brain is not as urgent as taking care of a broken limb, or a bad kidney. It's hard to struggle with something you can't quite understand yourself. 

9 . Any last words? What do you want people to know about depression that they might not know? 

     I suppose I just want people to know the severity of mood disorders. Anyone is vulnerable to them, and depression itself is something that can happen for many reasons. It can be genetic, a chemical imbalance in the brain, or it can be set off by a traumatic life event or being under too much stress, for too long. To people who are suffering: you aren't alone, and please don't be ashamed to get help. To anyone who doubts, please educate yourself thoroughly about depression...someone you care about may be suffering in silence, and they'll need your support. 


    Nicole's story about her own mental illness really shed some light on an issue that gets ignored - especially in our communities. Its our job to inform people about what 1 in 10 of us is going through. Maybe someone will open up to you! Let them know that there is help and its not over! 

If you or anyone you know is suffering from any kind of mental illness, click here for a full list of hotline numbers for every illness. Reach out to someone, there will always be someone out there who wants to listen, who wants to help. Including me.


Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Outfit of the Day: Birthday Edition!

 Happy Birthday to me!!! I am very excited to be one year older, wiser, and growing for the better! Most of all I can finally chop up my sister's ID because I'll never have to use it anymore! I turned 21 last Tuesday, September 30 (hey Libras!) and I wanted to do something different this year. Instead of a birthday dinner like I'd done for 5 years prior, I opted for a birthday brunch. I chose a brunch because its about time I stopped celebrating my birthday at night! Something about the daytime that makes things more pleasant, and it gives me more options when choosing an outfit! Click below to see my Birthday ensemble!

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Farewell to the Summer...

 As the Summer has long come to a close, I've begun reminiscing. I had an undeniably amazing summer! Not every memory became a post, but I wanted to share my beautiful memories with you guys! Sometimes I cant believe I accomplished all that I did this summer but I am forever grateful. This summer will stick with me for a very long time. If this was what Summer '14 looked like, I cant wait to see what Summer '15 has in store!

Friday, August 29, 2014

"When in Rome.." Day 2: The Vatican and the Sistine Chapel

     My second day in Italia! We got off the bus and was greeted by this very friendly English speaking gentleman explaining what the tour is like inside of The Vatican.


       The Vatican City is its own separate state from Rome and its divided into 3 sections: The Vatican, The Sistine Chapel, and St.Peter's Basilica. Because we already purchased our tickets, this gentleman offered to give us a tour of the Vatican, Chapel and Basilica for one low price. We "needed" a tour because "the Vatican and Chapel are free but you must pay to enter the Basilica". 
       Spidey senses started tingling all over! I suggested we go inside The Vatican and get the real information and like clockwork our new "friend" lowered the price of the tour. With that I dismissed him and we entered into the Vatican. We later found out that we have free access to The Vatican, Sistine Chapel and the Basilica with the ticket we purchased. 
     The moral of the story is.. DO NOT GET SCAMMED BY THE "TOUR GUIDES". They will be EVERYWHERE. Bring all your questions and concerns to the information desk inside The Vatican.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

"When in Rome" Day 1: The Pantheon

Next stop, The Pantheon! The Pantheon is a temple dedicated to the pagan gods of Ancient Rome (Pan-theon = All gods). Built under the reign the Emperor Hadrian, The Pantheon was the most preserved and most influential structure in Ancient Rome.

I want everyone to understand how large this building is. The doors alone are 21 feet high! I couldn't fit the entire height of the structure in my camera frame (I even crouched to the ground to no avail.) When I turned the corner I couldn't believe it was real. It had its own real life filter. Thankfully it wasn't as packed as the Colosseum. I had space to breathe - plus it was free admission. Above the pillars read an inscription "M. AGRIPPA.L.F.COSTERTIUM.FECIT meaning "Marcus Agrippa son of Lucius, having been consul three times made it” in reference to Marcus Agrippa who built a similar pantheon but it burned to the ground during about 40 years prior. The reason behind Hadrian dedicating his structure to his predecessor is unknown. 

Saturday, August 9, 2014

"When in Rome" Restaurant Review @ Al Gladiatore, Roma, Italia

When in've got to try the food!! After the Colosseum, we went walking around looking for something to eat. We wanted "real Italian food" for a "real American price". We'd been advised not to go to the restaurants so close to any tourist attraction because everything on the menu would be over priced. So we began our search for a great restaurant. As we were walking a waitress stopped us and immediately started pointing out all their pizzas and pastas on their menu. Maybe it was the hunger, or the good ol' tourist spirit but we grabbed a table..right behind the Colosseum. (how much closer could we get!?)