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My Mental Health Update

It’s been a few months since I’ve written about the state of my mental health. A lot of instances of my reporting were the high points returning. I have seen a lot more highs lately versus lows but I have also come to terms with the normalcy of the lows that sometimes come my way. I was diagnosed with Generalized Anxiety Disorder last year around this time and I am proud to say that I am feeling a ton better since then. This time last year I was desperate to find a way to be cured from my anxiety and never have to deal with it again. There had to be a way to completely shake this debilitating disorder and I was hellbent on finding on it. I hated feeling like I was a constant burden to myself and to my family and friends. Thankfully, I found a therapist that I could be comfortable with and began the bulk of the healing work that needed to be done. I use the term healing because I am a lot better off than I was last year. It is a blanket term to describe the progress I’ve made from my lowest to date to the empowerment I feel through therapy and the acceptance of my emotions that come and go.

Will I ever be fully healed? No, I will not. However, the acceptance that anxiety is a part of the human condition has been an incredible relief. I’ve had too many days and nights thinking I was somehow broken because I couldn’t walk two feet without feeling dizzy or feeling like I would die at any moment. The physical symptoms and intrusive thoughts were terrifying at first encounter but now I am able to name these things and realize that they are something I can handle when they come up, rather than fear the unknown. I am able to use the tools I’ve learned in therapy, the tools I’ve learned in the Dare Program and meditation with headspace and find ways to become grounded at my baseline again.

It’s been a tremendous road of ups and downs and I still have downs some days. Rejoining a world in a pandemic sometimes leaves me terrified but I now have a strength that I never had before. I have the strength that moods and feelings all pass like the metaphorically storm that they are and whatever comes my way will be handled. I am eternally grateful.

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My love-hate relationship with Social Media

My first experience with social media began on MySpace in 2003. I was able to keep up with my friends, display my favorite colors and style at the time on my homepage, rate all of my friends and shove the besties into a top 8 and follow all the celebrities and musicians I loved at that age. It was a very similiar set up to the social media’s we all have now. Everyone was connected and was able to post anything that crossed their minds all in the click of a button. MySpace felt very innocent compared to the present day version of social media content we know today. Social Media is no longer just about connection with others; it’s a source of income, a lot of people’s news sources, and a place where opinions are rampant and often portrayed as fact.

With all that being said, I still have accounts. I’m on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter; all for a variety of different reasons but the main reason is for connection. As you age, you tend to be apart from loved ones or just people you generally want to keep up with. Everyone gets their own lives and gets busy so I find social media useful to be able to keep in contact with family, friends, and people in my community I wish to as well. I also like to use it as a form of self-expression through photographs, statuses, etc. It’s my way of leaving my mark on the world and being able to let others know how I am and what I’m up to. However, my relationship with social media isn’t completely benign.

Obviously, it is at the discretion of the user to filter the intake of information that they see on social media. It is our responsibility to fact check our sources, mute the crazy, and unfollow the nonsense. However, I think some of this should also be placed on the creators. The idea that anyone can get an account and usually post or advertise whatever they want with little to no consequence is concerning. We live in a world where people want information and products at the click of a button and their main resource is social media. I think the people and companies utilizing this popular outlet should be held accountable. Our world is left vulnerable by this ability and it allows too many people to buy into falsehoods and harmful rheortic that can be hurtful to a lot of people in our world.

My relationship with social media stands as a love-hate relationship. Most of the time I’m grateful for the ability of connection. A lot of the time I’m frustrated with the misinformation and the little no accountability for it. I think if accontability played a bigger role on these platforms, we can all continue to maintain connection while benefitting from the removal misinformation and hateful comments.

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Hard decisions to make (Life during Covid-19)

The last professional wrestling show I went to in-person was April 2019, it was a WWE Event at Madison Square Garden with my younger brother. We had a blast at the Monday Night Raw after Wrestlemania. It’s a coveted show to WWE fans because that’s usually an eventful night for their fans. Today was supposed to be my long awaited reunion with the wrestling world. Today I was supposed to head to New Jersey for my first All Elite Wrestling event and my first time watching wrestling live in over two years. Unfortunately, due to protcols in the arena, I needed to consider mine and my wife’s first and ultimately decide not to go.

While we are without a doubt healing from the Pandemic, we are still actively in one. Our world has not been eradicated from Covid-19, so when venues don’t offer any sort of Covid protocols, it makes me question my attendance there. This isn’t a dig at protocols or what’s right or wrong. I don’t like to publicly shame anyone for how they carry themselves. This is merely a reminder for myself that this new normal is very real and choices like these will continuously be presented.

Did I want to go tonight? Absolutely. I’ve been waiting for this day for over a year but knowing that I’m going to be getting on a plane in less than a week’s time for our honeymoon left me unable to go through with my plans tonight. I was given the choice to potentially jeopardize our honeymoon and attend or to stay safe in an environment that will allow me and my wife to travel on a vacation together for the first time in 5 years. This decision was not easy to make but a necessary one nonethless. Our world will be full of stops and pauses to think, is this safe? Am I putting myself and my family at a risk? It’s the reality of our new world and a very eye-opening idea for me to take on. It makes me sad that is how it needs to be but I am willing to do whatever it takes for myself and my family’s benefit. We all will at some point have to resume our daily lives but it doesn’t come without a known risk. I just hope we can all do our best to continue to help ourselves and others along the way.

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The Dare App Premium Access (Review)

I found the Dare Book in 2019 when I saw excerpts from chapters on a high school friend’s Instagram page. The pages I saw were detailed ways to get passed your anxiety and different ways to do it. I was instantly curious after seeing his page and purchased the book to get the full experience of what was written. Within a few chapters of reading the book, I became very intrigued by what was written. My anxiety had begun to peak during planning my wedding and then just stayed at a level 11 after getting fired from a job I was at for four years and having to look for another job while planning my wedding. I needed something to take the edge off of my anxiety and the book became the perfect way to do that without having to partake in therapy at the time. I wrote a full review about the book, I’ll link it here.

The book was just the start of my DARE journey. The book later was accompanied by an app where I was granted access after paying a yearly fee of $59.99 to a full library of different audios to help soothe my anxiety in real time. The author of DARE, Barry McDonagh narrated all the audios and used his soothing voice to assist the users in calming down, help them remember that they are not alone, and explain all the different types of anxieties that people go through to further educate you about each kind. In my case, hearing Barry explain the types of anxieties almost verbatim to what I was experiencing was cathartic. I have always been labeled a hypochondraic so having someone explain how common it was to be feeling what I was feeling felt amazing. It was proof that I wasn’t crazy and could continue to work the steps of DARE and eventually find a stable mental place.

The app resources began to expand over time as more people began to use it. Eventually, Daily Dares were incorporated which spoke about different parts of mental health and how to help combined with a daily guided visualization to help assist in calming your nerves throughout the day. I used these a lot at the height of Covid in NYC. I was very disregulated and having this resource to utilize daily was helpful in attempting to maintain a baseline level of anxiety. The evening winddown was added in months and new master classes around mental health. The app membership also offers monthly calls with licensed therapists where you can ask questions about how to use the resources but also general questions as well.

I think the price of the app is well worth the cost because it provides multiple resources within the apps but also access to group calls with therapists at your discretion. I would personally recommend this app for people who suffer from anxiety. It has aided mine and allowed me to realize that the more resistance you give anxiety, the worst it gets. Let it go and let it flow!

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My experience with Headspace (Review)

For a long time, I was very much against the idea of meditation. I didn’t see a purpose for it. I thought that I would immediately fall asleep having someone speak in a calm soft voice to me and be instantly bored. However, when I was in the height of my mental health struggles, I was desperate to try anything to find some sort of relief. I tried a few different apps on my phone as a means to relax and get away from social media. I finally found Headspace and was able to get exactly what I needed to help quell my anxiety and assist with the sleeping issues that comes with Generalized Anxiety Disorder.

Headspace has a detailed meditation library that offers meditation courses, single, live and SOS meditations for your in the moment needs or daily use. Headspace also provides focus/sleep music playlists, focus/sleep soundscapes, sleepcasts, and short videos that are labeled as advice of all kinds to help assist your needs and better your mental health. In my experience, I found the guided meditations the most helpful. I used a variety of meditations centered around calming my body down and breathwork to help my racing mind throughout the day. Some of my favorite guided mediations are Alone Time, the WFH series, Taking a Break, and the Self-Love meditation. Each of these were able to be applied to my exact needs and help me gather my thoughts and feel more grounded throughout the day instead of fixated on worries and the constant need for the control of every thought and sensation that would feel like it would race through my body. All of these meditations are offered by different meditation coaches each providing their own calming cadence and structure to the meditation. I also used sleep mediations to help me fall asleep faster at night. The relaxing voice of the founder Andy Puddicome was able to calm my nerves nightly and get me into a comfortable sleep cycle.

As someone who suffers from an anxiety disorder, I would reccommend this app to anyone who’s looking for a way to calm their bodies and mind. I’ve learned that once both are connected and quieted, it makes life’s daily functions a lot easier and your ability to sleep a lot better.

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I LOVE NY

I am born and raised in New York City, I’ve seen I love NY plastered on cups, plastic bags, postcards, just about anything you can put print on. New Yorkers wear our city like a badge of pride. Most of us are very proud to be from here and truly mean it when we say we love NY.

This weekend has me experiencing reflective and grateful emotions. Emotions about 9/12/2001, the day after the towers were hit and how affected I was by what I saw as a child and how proud I was to see the entire world rally behind our state. In our hour of need, I saw so many people do whatever it took to help others and foster very much needed compassion for the horrid moment. I remember how inspired I was by this and took it upon myself to use my confirmation service hours to collect supplies for first responders at the World Trade Center who needed them. New York proved that in the face of tragedy we can come together when it really counts.

I also have a lot of gratitude for my city for the events from this year as well. We all collectively went through hell and are doing our best daily to bounce back. There are so many things I never thought I’d get to do or see again. The NY Pause gave me a lot of perspective for just how much I love NY and all it has to offer. It’s so easy to get caught up in the daily grind of it all and only fixate on all the inconveniences that come with day-to-day life in a city. The saying “You never know what you have until it’s gone” applies here. I found myself missing the commute, the ability to be in the mix of all different types of people, the subway, and the coffee on the go. I was surprisingly sad about all of the loss of all of these things. I was devastated to see Broadway go dark and see Times Square appear abandoned.

A lot of these dramatic retroactively but it’s the perspective I needed and the restart to falling back in love with my beautiful city. We are a place of diversity of all kinds, silent acceptance where it’s not always seen, and a haven for anyone who’s willing to put the work into their dreams. Every activity I get to resume, I resume with gratitude beyond anything I’ve imagined. I am thankful for the little things again and so proud to be a New Yorker.

I’m including an old post explaining some of the things I love about New York. It’s an old unjaded post but I feel like it’s so fun to look back on because it explains some of my favorite reasons why I am so in love with this city. Feel free to check out if you’d like. New York, New York, it’s a helluva town! (No, it really is!)

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September 11th – 20 years later

There is always the moment in history that people will retroactively ask you about. Questions like where were you when it happened? What were you doing? How did you feel? September 11, 2001 when the World Trade Center towers fell was my major historical experience. I can remember where I was, what I was doing and how I felt. I was 12 years old on that day, I was supposed to be in school but I had stayed home not feeling well. I slept most of the morning away with cramps but was awoken by Dad after the second tower was hit. He explained to me what had happened and that it was important that I wake up to see all of this. I went into my living room and sat by the TV and watched it all unfold. My mother was already getting my brother from school and I was sitting at home paraylzed by the sight in front of me. I’d never experienced anything like this before. I had only read about events like this in books which led my already anxious mind to a million questions, would there be a war like I had learned about in school books? Would this unknown enemy be here to stay? I was just shy becoming a teenager so my mind couldn’t wrap my head around any of it. I had a lot of questions and very few answers to them were immediate.

Now as a 32 year old woman, I have been working in the Manhattan area for 14 years walking the same path that so many did on that day. Every year I find myself feeling extra somber on the anniversary but always grateful to have never met the same fate. Twenty years is a long time but I know as a New Yorker that I will never forget that day. I will never forget the fear I felt, I will never forget the uncertainty, but I mostly will never forget how New York banded together to help each other anyway they could. How food drives started, how collection of medical supplies began, and how so many people helped each other get home when the city was in chaos. Looking back on that day as an adult and when I share the stories with the generations after, I always moved by the generousity of others in times of tragedy. We were all fearful and afraid and so many had been lost, but hard times created so many kind stories.

To anyone who experienced this first hand, my heart will always be with you.

Photo by Fabiola Ulate on Pexels.com
One hand in the air for the big city
Street lights, big dreams, all lookin' pretty
No place in the world that could compare
- Empire State of Mind by Jay-Z (Ft. Alicia Keys)

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Connection for the disconnected: TLP experience.

I wanted to share my guest blog post on The Letter Project blog. The Letter Project is an organization that writes letters to women and girls from ages 5-100 years old to empower them when they need the extra support. Letter bundles are requested by family and friends or the girls/women themselves and sent out in hopes that they will find comfort in the kind word. Check out the entry below that I shared on my experience for this wonderful charity. If you’re interested in getting involved, please visit theletterproject.org.

The year of 2020 was a challenge for me. I was dealing with the “new normal” of a pandemic but I was also forced to confront my lowest point of mental health head-on. I began talk therapy in August 2020 and am still actively going. In therapy, I talk a lot about myself, but my first therapist decided to send me on the journey of talking to others. My anxiety was very severe at that point in my treatment and I needed to be taken out of my own head and find the connection that I was missing so much in a world where social distancing was a safety measure. To fulfill the missing connection, he wanted me to write letters to other people also in need of connection or encouragement. I went to Google and started looking for the right fit of letter writing and how I could embark on a safe and emotionally fulfilling journey, which is how I found The Letter Project. I signed up to become a letter writer and began to read through the requests for bundles from the women and girls on behalf of themselves or the family and friends on the behalf of their loved ones. After reading through the requests and writing my first initial letter, I was hooked.

I loved the idea of sending encouragement out into the world to others who needed it, just like I did and still do sometimes. I loved reading the brave stories of people who solicited help for themselves, but I am also touched by those who solicit help for the loved ones who may not always see themselves as worthy of needed encouragement. I was eventually able to request a bundle for myself, in hopes to have my very own little piece of this beautifully baked pie that this organization had created.

I didn’t really understand the impact of the bundle until over 20 plus letters from all over the world began to filter into my mailbox.

Hand-written, decorated, and beautifully written words of encouragement began to pile up and I was in awe. Let’s face it, 2020 was a challenging year for humanity globally, so the idea that so many people read my story and chose to take time out of their days to lift me up was life-changing. The bundle of letters made me feel seen, loved, and like I had a cheering section from all over the four corners of this beautiful planet.

I wanted to pay it forward in some way and offer a connection of hope, the same connection served to me in a time where I believed in so little of hope myself.

The letters offered me a chance to give myself a break from worry and stress. A chance to sit still and read over and over the importance of small but impactful gestures. Every week became my moment to pause and pray that I would deliver the same feeling to girls and women around the world. I wrote for every letter that I received and then some. A cathartic process that allowed me to realize what I had in me was not just a gift to others, but myself as well.

As I took the time from my day with a message of hope and encouragement via stamps and handwritten letters, I felt an unspoken network grow. We all need little reminders once in a while that we can achieve anything we set our minds to, no matter how big or small. It was to a point that every letter I wrote I felt a piece of myself become stronger knowing that I could make the same impact I had been blessed with. It has been a full circle process and so unexpected, just as the past year has become.

As we begin to transition back to our normal “before” lives, I gained a lasting effect to reach out and not only find the sunshine in the clouds for myself but also provide it to others who are on the same journey I am and may not even know it.

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The realization of my people-pleasing.

The term “people-pleaser” is one that I learned in the past year through therapy. It’s a term that feels accusatory but it’s fitting with my anxiety and behavior patterns. This was both alarming but also disheartening to really deep dive into. My need for therapy homework struck again and the therapist suggested the book, The Disease to Please by Dr. Harriet B. Braiker. This book gives a detailed breakdown of habits of a people pleaser, a break down of how it applies in everyday life, and a detailed program created by the author to assist the reader in breaking these habits. I immediately began to overthink things and attempt perfection (which is a whole other beast) in ridding myself of these habits. 32 years of habits aren’t just going to go away over night. I was being driven by shame and anxiety that if I didn’t shake this that I would be further doomed than I was before.

While the anxiety has slowed, I still battle people pleasing. The need to control situations for my own comfort or my need to overprotect loved ones still happens to me. I’d love to sit here and say therapy and a book was the cure all but it’s the application of the tools from therapy and the book that help me with this daily struggle. Finally, realizing why I do some things and that I’m not responsible for the happiness of anyone else but myself is freeing. However, it doesn’t make it any easier when situations come up. I want to help, I want to fix and knowing that I can’t always do that for everyone or even myself with my own emotions is scary to feel. It’s not easy to just let go but I know it’s going to foster better relationships with myself and the people around me.

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The Silver Linings of a Pandemic

The title sounds like a fluffy crock of shit. I know, I get it. There are so many people in the world who have seen more crap in the last year and a half than they have in their entire lives. However, my therapist said something that got me thinking. “Without the pandemic, you would have never stopped to see what wasn’t working.” Honestly, they were right. Pre-pandemic I spent a lot of time bathed in distraction desperate not to feel any physical sensations or mental stress. I wanted to capture this version of myself that I wanted to be for everyone else. The reality was, it wasn’t working for me but I was too scared to say it out loud. This pandemic gave me the pause that I needed to start from the ground up. What felt like a “mental breakdown” was actually a necessary breaking point that I needed to rebuild a version of myself that was finally for just me. It’s the reframed thought that I’ve used to pull myself out of the idea that I had to be ashamed of having struggles. Nothing was wrong with me, I just needed a break to find out who the hell I was without anyone else’s approval, opinions or ideas. The distractions faded and I was bathed in the scary silence to hear my own needs, thoughts, and ideas.

Outside of the realm of me, I found the gift of connection. I’ve spent a lot of time on here sharing my mental health story and updates as time passes but I haven’t shared the other important parts of me. Truthfully, I have the best friends on the planet. From the first week of the pandemic until to this day, we’ve found a way to become closer than we ever have before. Pre-pandemic we were all wrapped up in our own lives. We’d text when we remembered, we’d make the effort to see each other a few times a year but it stayed there. Now, we talk daily and stay up to date with each other’s lives and do our best to be there for each other and share our respective lives when we can. What started as drunk zooms to make the best of a crappy situation turned into a daily updates, which I am beyond grateful for. Thanks to the Marco Polo app, we have a place to chat on our own time without the schedule coordination that Zoom took. It’s been the missing link to our friendship and I’m so glad that we’re now able to keep up with each other more than we ever have. I think being pushed to band together when it hurt the most was valuable. It was the reinforcement that we weren’t alone and one I know I’ll cherish forever.

These were the two biggest silver linings for me. It’s easy to get lost in all of the damage that this time has done. I still have to ground myself in the sadness sometimes because it can be very consuming. However, I remain grateful that I am able to find the little things that can bring light to my world. They mean everything.

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The Pieces of Me – A Journey to Radical Acceptance

The concept of radical acceptance felt like conceding when I was initially told by my therapist that would be the game changer for healing. How could I accept debilitating anxiety? How could I accept the disruption my mental health was causing to myself, my wife, and family? The idea was a very confusing concept for me when she suggested it. Wasn’t the whole point of therapy for me to continue to fight this battle I was in? The thought of abandoning control and just accepting things for what they were in each moment felt so foreign. I entered therapy with the mindset that I needed to be saved and fixed. I was inherently broken in some way. How could just letting things be do anything? I had a lot of questions that were slowly answered over the course of each session we’ve had.

I fought the concept initially. I am a fixer by nature so none of this made sense. While they continued to explain this to me further they also recommended Radical Acceptance: Embracing Your Life With The Heart Of A Buddha by Dr. Tara Branch. The first few chapters into the book gave me a lot of anxiety. The author made this all seem too easy to do. Was I missing something? Was there some sort of skill set I wasn’t mastering? The shame and fear grew larger. The idea that accepting all of the parts of myself that I found inconvenient or wrong or “too much” would make all of the heaviness of anxiety and mental turmoil go away felt counterproductive. I was in therapy to rid myself of this, not embrace what it did to me. However, once I stopped obsessing over doing everything the therapist and the book told me to do in a perfect way, the change happened on its own.

Action took the lead and I stopped myself from overthinking every step that I was given. I told myself that it’s time to stop beating myself up for being anxious about things not everyone may be anxious about, it’s time to stop labeling myself the resident “chicken shit” of any room I walk into, it’s time to experience big emotions and fully even when it makes me feel uncomfortable or vulnerable. It’s time to accept that I am a human with complex emotions and thoughts just like anyone else. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to mold myself to fit the needs and wants of other people. Life as a people-pleaser will give you that fate but everyday I try and make the conscious choice to allow myself the full spectrum of the human condition with condemning myself for it.

Is Radical Acceptance easy to do? Absolutely not. It is the hardest thing I’ve been challenged to do in therapy but it has been the most helpful. I’ve wasted a lot of time in my life living in the shame of my mental health, shouldering the burden, and not giving myself the freedom to be me even when it was hard. It’s a process that I still struggle with because of my learned patterns in my 32 years on earth. The journey for acceptance will be never ending, it’ll always be a new challenge to endure and push myself into but I am determined to love myself with the same reckless abandon that I love others with. It’s so needed and deserved.

To anyone who struggles with anxiety like I do, I see you and I feel for you. But, know that you are not alone in any way. Everything you think is annoying or inconvenient isn’t nearly as bad as your mind makes it out to be. I challenge anyone with anxiety to try for acceptance. As much as you may want to control your situation because it feels like its spiraling, I promise you there is a freedom in the ability to let go and face things as they come. There’s a freedom in being present and not allowing your anxiety to be your sole focus. You deserve to be your whole self, without the label of good or bad and just being.

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Sugar, butter, BROADWAY!

When Covid hit, New York gradually started to shut down some of the biggest staples that kept the heart beating in our Big Apple. Landmark after landmark went down, but when Broadway went dark I knew that this pandemic was serious. I took the loss of the great white way harder than I wanted to admit. Theater was a part of the magic that my younger self found in New York City. It was my own oasis of a glittery escape in my own backyard. I pictured the normally lit signs dim as the streets lay deserted with no usual foot traffic and life to pound the pavement. Sad wasn’t the word, I was devastated with no control of what was to come and it was the scariest feeling to watch my city slowly go dim.

I know we aren’t out of the woods yet. The threat still remains real but we are figuring out every day a little more pieces to the puzzle. Science is working double time and the lights are coming back to my beautiful hometown.

The last time we saw a show was November 25, 2019. Katharine McPhee was back on Broadway reprising her role as Jenna Hunterson in Waitress. We’d seen the show twice by then but couldn’t resist going back to see our girl tear the roof off the place again. We were 13 days into our new marriage already kicked in the teeth by the thoroughs of life. We needed an escape desperately and Waitress more than delivered. Our mutual love for the arts is one of the many things my wife and I share and this show was no different. Life was good in that evening, there was no reality, no stress, we were having a date we both needed.

Today after 650 days since our last show and 555 days into the Covid-19 pandemic in New York, I can happily and gratefully say that we made our return to Broadway and back to the diner. I felt like a kid on Christmas. A bundle of nerves being exposed to crowds again (we were all masked and vaccinated or tested) but excited to be back in the theater. It’s been almost a year and a half since I’ve seen Times Square and today I took it all in like I was seeing it for the first time. Waitress was revived and brought to the Barrymore Theatre directly across the street from its original home at Brook Atkinsons. I’ve dreamed about this day, I’ve mourned the idea that lights would never come on again and I cannot explain how happy I am to have spent time inside of a Broadway show again. The world has a ways to go but these gifts of what was once reminds me to never take advantage of what you have in front of you because it can be gone in an instant. I am thankful, humbled. Thanks for taking to me to the moon, Waitress. I’ve missed you and I’ve missed my city more than I could explain.

Wife heading to the theater.
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Covid Summer Vs. 2021 Summer

Last year feels like it’s blended into this present year but there’s been some vast differences in my Summers. Last year, we spent vigilant and on guard. There was little to no eating out, no going places indoors, and nothing was truly certain. Truthfully, I was miserable if I’m honest. I’ve always thrived being near people and being in the thick of mental health struggles, I needed people more than ever. However, despite the struggle I was in best shape of my life. It is amazing when you’re limited with things to do just how creative someone can become. I spent more time outside, I walked the poor stumps off of my dog and I was more connected to nature (or as connected as I could be in a city) than ever before. There was a few silver linings that came out of the quarantine and my time outside was a massive one. I was able to find some sort of comfort in moving my body and embracing any fresh air I could get my hands on. It was a quiet time of learning and finding out just how creative one could get in hard times.

This year the world is waking back up again. While the Delta variant is still a danger, I find myself getting to do much more than I did last year. I’m able to see people in most settings, I’m able to go to dinner like we used to, I’m still working from home which sucks and makes the days really long but the weekends are filled with busy activities again. The world feels more awake and normal but I find myself lethargic at times. I miss being forced to do things that made me move more, I miss being outside on a constant basis. I know all of that is still attainable but the distractions are back and I’m struggling to find that necessary balance for both. Covid Summer gave me a lot to realize and I’m glad I did and this Summer gave me my time with family and friends back, who I missed more than ever.

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My experience in finding the right therapist. (And breaking up with one too.)

Disclaimer: I am in no way qualified to give medical or mental health advice. I am simply someone who’s had their own mental health experiences and want to share my processes used for treatment. This post is in no way medical advice.

The process of finding a therapist can be daunting. Often people begin the arduous search for this unbiased resource to help them when they are at the most heightened state creating a miserable search that too many people could get burned out by. If you have insurance, there’s finding a provider that is in your network and then getting the consultation to see if they are a good match for the help you want provided. If you don’t have insurance, it’s even harder because the process often becomes about finding a therapist that remains cost effective to a budget but also suits your needs and gets the help that you’re looking for. Once the initial steps are taken, there are things I like to look for in a therapist to provide the best care for the issue I want to be maintained.

  1. Someone who specializes in goals I want to set or issues that I want to help manage for myself.
  2. Someone who listens to me without judgment.
  3. Someone who can be relatable but also not use the session to talk more about themselves entirely, but focus on the task at hand for that session while providing insight.
  4. Someone who holds boundaries in our professional relationship and doesn’t allow me to become overly attached to them.
  5. Someone who doesn’t blame me or others for my struggles but rather helps me accept myself for who I am in that moment and who I can become along the way.

This list can be added to or even subtracted but it is my baseline set of standards that I used to find my current therapist that I work with. My first therapist in 2020 was helpful but became someone who stepped outside of the standards that I wanted to set for my healing journey. “Breaking up” with this therapist was difficult because I developed an unhealthy attachment to them. After a while, it became apparent that our time together was becoming toxic, and I needed to start over with someone else. It was a scary thing to tell this person, but I gathered my courage and left a short and simple text message that while I was grateful for our time together, I no longer felt that they could help me any further. Thankfully, their response was cordial which eased my anxiety about leaving but it didn’t make any less nerve wracking to do. Change is hard especially when you’re not feeling your best, but it is possible to do. It’s important to stay true to your journey and make sure that you have the appropriate person to help you along the way.

If you have insurance, you can use your insurance’s website data base but if you want a broader search for a mental health professional, I’ve used psychologytoday.com with great success.

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Once Upon a Penny

I got my first dog at age 7 because I was terrified of dogs. My parents were on a mission to break this fear in the only way that they knew how, which was exposure to having an animal in the house. For about a month I was terrified until eventually I picked up the dog’s toy and we started playing together. From there we became the best of friends and all fears were gone. He was with my family until I was 20 years old. After him, I wasn’t sure if loving another pet was an option because my heart hurt so badly from his loss then I met my wife and her family, and their zoo of animals and I was hooked. I knew eventually I would want an animal of my own again, but I never really could settle on when or what type of dog I would want.

The internet introduced me to the Pembroke Welsh Corgi breed. I was instantly in love. Everything about the breed was easy to love, their tiny bodies, their little legs, but most importantly their personality. I have never seen a dog with that much personality in a tiny body. From what I saw online, Corgis are so expressive and great companions to all their owners and their families. I knew this would be the breed for me, but it always felt out of reach because of the cost to get one from a reputable breeder. The average cost of a Corgi in the USA ranges from $1,200 – $3,300. This cost was always out of my price range and I never imagined becoming a Corgi owner because of that.

Fast forward to November 2020 and I was hit by the most unlikely of news. My wife follows Long Island animal shelters to browse for a new member of our home. The timing was never right, the breed was never what we wanted. There was always some reason not to get an animal. Until one night when she showed me a listing for a 2 year old female Pembroke Welsh Corgi. It was like seeing a shooting star! Most Corgis are surrendered to rescues as adults and younger ones are incredibly hard to come by in a rescue setting. While adopting older dogs and senior dogs are just as beautiful to do, I was desperate to bond with a dog from a young age so when I saw this, I immediately sprang into action. The next day came and I called the shelter to submit paperwork for adoption. This was too unlikely of a circumstance to overthink the possibilities of life after our quarantine. This was my dream breed that needed rescuing. Once our applications and references checked out, we arranged a meeting for the next weekend.

This was the first picture we ever saw of Penny.

The anticipation of the meeting was like waiting for Christmas morning. My wife and I were over the moon with excitement and it just carried into our meeting with our potential new dog and the rescue team. We all chatted for about 30 minutes and we were given the information that due to her being picked up with a chip (despite her previous owners not answering). The dog was legally obligated to stay within the shelter for 14 days in case the previous owners wanted to claim her. We weren’t thrilled with the idea but followed the rules and waited what felt like a lifetime of 14 days until we received the confirmation phone call that she was officially ours. She would be spayed before she was given to us and we could pick her up directly after the surgery. We began rushing around like new dog parents and getting all the supplies before the pickup day.

Pick up day arrived, and we bolted to the shelter to pick up our new dog. She was surrendered with the name football, but the shelter renamed her Penelope, and we kept the name. Little Penny Lane was the newest member of our family and it couldn’t have come at a better of a time. I was going through some of my worst times mentally and getting a companion like a Corgi felt like just what I needed. Once she recovered from her surgery, her personality shined through making the heaviness in our house a little bit lighter, giving me a daily purpose to fuss after something other than myself, and completing the dream of mine in being a Corgi owner. She saved me in ways I’ll never be able to thank her for, but I will spend the rest of her life doing my best to try to show her just how much she means. A dog is without a doubt a big responsibility but one I’ll never regret because she came into my life when I needed her the most. She’s the perfect addition to our growing family and one of the biggest highlights of the shitstorm that was 2020.

Our first picture together as a duo.
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Blogtember

I’ve been writing since I can spell. For as long as I can remember, writing was an emotional outlet that allowed to express myself in ways I didn’t know were possible to do. As a child, I wrote elaborate handwritten birthday cards expressing how I felt for loved ones because it was one of my favorite ways to say it without appearing too repetitive or not acting my age. As a teenager into my early 20s, I created an entire world in written roleplay on MySpace with my character as a way to experience life on my own terms and meet others who were doing the same. It was the ultimate escape and what would lead me to find the love of my life in the real world outside of the pages of writing. Writing has always fit somewhere into my identity in an obvious way and I’ve never questioned my place in it until now.

As an adult, life gets in the way. Anxiety flares up, I’m living experiences in real time and sometimes so swept away by it all I’m exhausted. However, the ember is still flickering inside of me and a craving for self-expression. I still consider myself a writer but I find myself getting lost in the comparison to others. I’m surrounded by such an insane amount of talent in the Twitter world and my tiny NaNoWriMo platform and it’s been a daunting task to try and keep up. Am I an author exclusively or can I be a blogger too? Am I up for the challenge of consistent publishing and marketing? Can I stick to a deadline? I’ve found I’ve had a lot of difficulty with self-trust and I want to be able to keep a promise to myself in one of the safest places in my world; my writing.

I’ve tried series on here and always somehow embarrassed myself along the way with some sort of excuse as to why or how I couldn’t continue. I want to make the change and train myself with Blogtember. I’ve decided to do this now versus December because as of this month, my life is going to pick up to a level of pre-Covid speeds. Am I crazy for trying this during that? Probably. But, I am eager to build this stamina in my writing. It’s who I am, it’s one of my gifts and I want to use it as a wisely as I can. I’m going to be creating a table of contents below that can be used to enjoy the entire 30 days of this journey. I’ve had some topics I’ve wanted to discuss and some personal journeys I want to document. All of these will contain links as each article becomes published so you can use this to follow along.

30 days of September:

  1. Introduction
  2. Once Upon a Penny
  3. My experience in finding the right therapist. (And breaking up with one too.)
  4. Covid Summer Vs. 2021 Summer
  5. Sugar, Butter, BROADWAY!
  6. The Pieces of Me – Acceptance Journey
  7. The Silver Linings of a Pandemic
  8. The realization of my people-pleasing.
  9. ~~~~DAY OF REST~~~~
  10. Connection for the disconnected: TLP experience
  11. September 11th – 20 years later
  12. I LOVE NY
  13. My experience with Headspace
  14. The Dare App Premium Access (Review)
  15. Hard decisions to make (Life during Covid-19)
  16. Dream Hunter: A short story
  17. My love hate relationship with Social Media
  18. My Mental Health Update
  19. The Truth About Self-Love
  20. ‘Twas’ the Night Before A Very Delayed Honeymoon
  21. Disney World: Travel Day
  22. Disney World: Day One
  23. Disney World: Day Two
  24. Disney World: Day Three
  25. Disney World: Day Four
  26. Disney World: Day Five
  27. The Disney Downs are Real
  28. My experience traveling in Covid
  29. Dear Me,
  30. Blogtember Wrap Up.
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Spirituality doesn’t dissolve.

It makes me sad that so many people in our community walk away from their faith because they feel like there is no other choice for them. It is incredibly isolating and sad to have such a familiar environment turn on the drop of a dime.

I see you and you are valid for any choice you make to handle these types of matters. For so many years, I found myself sneaking into the back of churches for an Ash Wednesday or wondering if anyone would notice if I was gay in a religious crowd. I was terrified that somehow God was watching me commit this “sin” despite how much love was coursing through my veins as I lived my truth in my true identity and eventually in my current marriage to my wife.

From a very early age, I found a strong connection to God. Religion was always a comfort for me, a moral high ground that I used to justify the right from wrong as I navigated my years of growing up. I was baptized a Lutheran because the Catholic Church didn’t consider my parents’ marriage valid because they got married in City Hall and not a church. I was eventually converted to Catholicism in the 5th grade because my dad’s “Catholic guilt” got the better of him. However, my profession to Catholicism only furthered my connection to God and my bonds to family. Coming out brought great conflict in my spirituality. No matter how much I prayed or did the right thing, I was sinful because I found romantic attraction to both men AND women.

I didn’t know how to process the fact that one part of myself would cancel out the other. The idea of putting my true self and my religious convictions felt impossible.

As much as 2020 broke me, it also presented great change. Organized religion had always made me feel dirty and unwanted because I was the big old oxymoron bi-sexual Catholic girl. None of it could ever mesh together, or could it? My first therapist sent me out on the hunt for LGBTQIA+ affirming churches. My homework was to find one that had a mass that I could attend virtually. I wasn’t convinced that this would end well. The only other time I had saw a stroke of religious representation and LGBTQIA+ mesh together was a Pride float in NYC. This float resembled what looked like a club for ostracized Catholics like myself which was comforting but also horrifying at the same time. I began the search with little to no expectations and was blown away by what I found. I came across gaychurch.org which presented an entire database of churches from all faiths that welcomed LGBTQIA+ people. I cautiously searched Catholic and was blown away but what I saw. I found at least a dozen churches in NYC that welcomed our community. I went to every church website for the proverbial proof in the pudding and saw some mention on some sites but nothing that stuck out. It wasn’t until I saw St. Ignatius Loyola that I was sold that religion and my bi-sexuality could mesh together. There was an entire ministry of people made up of people like me and allies in this Catholic church. I was blown away by this and quickly joined their Facebook group and began to watch their interactions from afar. I was painfully shy and wanted to wait before I made myself known. After listening to a few sermons that impressed me and watching the Facebook group, I eventually attended their Zoom meeting and felt like I was home.

The marriage of these parts of my life has given me more comfort than I can explain. For years I felt like I was being tugged in two different directions and felt like I had no choice but to choose. I know that my story isn’t always the happy ending for everyone but I hope to provide some hope for anyone who wants to have a relationship with God in a church setting and still be their truest selves. It is very possible to do if it’s something you want to pursue. It is also perfectly okay to maintain a private spiritual relationship with whatever God you believe in. The choice is yours and whatever you choose is valid and great.

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DARE: The New Way to End Anxiety and Stop Panic Attacks (Review)

“The only way out is through.” That’s one of the many positive affirmations given to the reader in this book and it’s the one that stuck with me the most. Last year was probably one of the worst of my life professionally. I was in constant conflict with my managers, always having to look over my shoulder in professional settings and my anxiety was at all-time high. I saw a therapist for a little over six months but my insurance was no longer accepted at the facility. I was out of options and too anxious to try and get to know another therapist. That’s when I found DARE by Barry McDonagh. Social Media keeps me in touch with people from all parts of my life and a friend from high school was posting excerpts of the chapters of this book and I knew I had to read it. Everything on his Instagram stories felt like it was talking directly to me. After doing more research, I found out that author and founder of the program DARE, Barry McDonagh also suffered from debilitating anxiety. Knowing this made me feel less alone and less suspicious about opening my mind to his new suggestions. He had applied his program to his own anxiety and it had worked so I took a chance and hoped it would work for my own.

The book introduces something called the Dare Response, which is a new way to view your relationship with your anxiety. The key points of the response are defuse, allow, run toward, and engage. Defuse shows the mind that you are not in any real danger when you take on a blasé approach to anxiety, “Who cares”, “So what” are phrases that the author uses to allow anxiety to take on a smaller form rather than feel unstoppable. By using the act of diffusion, it replaces worry with power of the situation when anxiety makes you feel powerless. Allow is the means of letting the anxiety come as it wants to. Resistance can make anxiety seem bigger than it is. By allowing anxiety to just come and flow naturally through you, it takes away the fear of what could happen or what is happening to you. You have the control of the outcome. A funny line from this step’s section for me was when McDonagh says to sit down your anxiety and invite it in for tea. The visual created in my brain was exactly what I needed to see that I was in control of my anxiety and my anxiety didn’t control me. I was the one calling the shots and deciding what, when and where anxiety can appear. Run towards is the next step. McDonagh suggests that by running toward your anxiety you can change the perspective of it. He explains that fear and excitement are often the same and when the mind readjusts the feeling toward anxiety, it can reduce its power and change the way the brain views anxiety. A negative can quickly become a positive and instead of looking for the “boogeyman” over your shoulder, you can embrace the present world around you. The final step is to engage. Engage in something that takes up your full attention so the anxious feelings can no longer reel you back in. This felt like the most important step because it encouraged me to focus on my life and stay in the present versus stay in my head with the fearful anxiety. Furthermore, the book details ways to apply the response to several different aspects of anxiety such as panic attacks, health anxiety, intrusive thoughts, and fear of being abnormal. Each section details how to apply the response to the situation but also provides thoughtful insight on his experience with the situation or the experiences of others that he helped. I found several different scenarios relatable and have returned back to these chapters for guidance and help.

All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Self-help books aren’t for everyone but this method got me through a time in my life where I feared there would be no way out. Applying the DARE response to my life allowed me the confidence I needed to take back control of my anxious mind. While I still have issues with health anxiety from time to time, I have since gotten a new job and thanks to the DARE response I am able to contribute my experience with an open mind and heart to my position and have had a very successful three months at my firm because of that. I think any kind of positive outlet can help mental health issues and I would suggest this book to anyone who wants to reach with themselves and learn to navigate ways to better themselves.