Treat Yo Self 2017

I’m back! And it must be treat yo self 2017 because I’ve been doing some major treating of myself. But more on that in a little bit.

I didn’t realize how much this “blog” (again, am I qualified to call it that? are there some sort of rules or something to be a blog?) is doing for me until I went a few days without writing and felt like I missed it. I’ve always said I wanted to write a book, so this is good practice. I’m thinking maybe continued writing on here will help me hash out a topic in my mind.

Back to the topic at hand. TREAT. YO. SELF. 2017. If you’re not familiar with the radical idea a la Parks & Recreation (again, me with my television references, I KNOW) “treat yo self” is the idea of indulging in yourself for one day and spending money on things you wouldn’t normally do/buy for yourself. For me, treat yo self 2017 has been more of a several months marathon treat and let me tell you, I gotta stop. I’m turning 26 in basically a month and being broke at 26 aint cute. 

I’m definitely exaggerating here. I actually just don’t want to touch the money I’ve put away in my savings/retirement account; I won’t and shouldn’t. Someone recently told me that all my hustling must be paying off because I went away twice in January of this year and I got tickets to see a few bands and shows this summer. Let me tell ya, some days I feel like I don’t know the first thing about money but I do know this: it’s perfectly acceptable to go through periods of treating yourself and periods of hustling to pad that bank account. So that’s my secret! Some months I’ll hustle hard on the savings account, and others I will let loose and enjoy my damn life. The one thing I will always recommend is that, no matter what, always have an automatic transfer on Pay Day from your checking account to your savings account (it’s a smooth & painless way to plan ahead–you never see it come out, so you can do your best to ignore it). Now you know all my secrets. These, and bargain shopping, but the cat’s been out of that bag for a long time.

My last big purchase to conclude my own personal version of Treat Yo Self 2017 was a beach cruiser bicycle. Now it’s time for my to CYCLE back into ‘saving mode’. See what I did there? CYCLE! Because I bought a bicycle. Its a pun!… I know, I’m the worst. You’re still reading though 😉 so I haven’t alienated you yet.

Aaaaanyway, let’s pretend that didn’t happen. So, I’ve always had a love//hate relationship with fitness, but I’ve also always liked biking. I’ve been wanting a new bicycle for a while now and it seemed like the right time since the weather is getting so much nicer. Research shows that staying active has a positive influence on happiness, sleep hygiene, etc blah blah blah BLAH honestly I’ll do anything to stay active that doesn’t make me want to slam my head into the wall while screaming internally. If you’re one of those people that gets joyful at the thought of cardio…bless your soul but get the hell off my page. Just kidding! Don’t go! Stay and tell me your secrets!

If you’re reading this I hope you find some magical way to treat yo self. Also, I should point out that this actually does not have to involve spending any money at all! I can be a bit impulsive. It’s overrated. Some of my favorite cost effective ways to take care of myself are really simple and I’d like to share them. Sometimes something as simple as a good Netflix B list horror movie will do the trick or a Youtube documentary (check out twin studies and/or the ‘past life’ experience as told by children) can be consuming– in a good way. A novel, a nice walk, or a nice cup of tea/coffee can make you feel refreshed as well, mentally and physically so that’s a win-win in my book. I also have about 92387492374, but don’t quote me on that number, television shows I can recommend if you’re looking for a good laugh, cry, something deep to think about, etc. I don’t know when my love of television started, but between that and writing, I know it can bring me out of even the deepest of funks.

As I’m about to go dive into last night’s 2 hour season finale of Scandal (Shonda Rhimes has me wrapped around her finger) I cannot stress enough how important it is that you do something good for yourself each and every day– big or small, costly or free!


May is Mental Health Awareness Month!

I wouldn’t be me if I didn’t acknowledge and address fully that May is Mental Health Awareness month. According to the most recent data by the World Health Organization (WHO), ONE IN FOUR people in the world will be affected by some form of mental or neurological disorder in their lives. This is a huuuuge number of lives touched, and this is just based on data that has been reported. Consider the individuals that choose not to disclose their illness for fear of judgment and stigma. Some individuals may not disclose for cultural reasons. Others may not because they may not have adequate access to treatment or care (#Resist). Just think about it….ONE in FOUR. Where are you right now and how many people are nearby? How many people do you work with? How many friends do you have? How many people are in your family?

I’ve alluded to my own struggles before, but now is a better time than ever to bare it all. I’ve been struggling with anxiety and depression since I was in the eighth grade. I have over 10 years of lived experience with mental illness and over 10 years of anecdotal proof to support how important it is to recognize your needs and do whatever you possibly can to meet them. I had my first anxiety attack in the 8th grade the morning of the Biology regents. My first experience with depression was when one of my friends ratted me out to the school social worker (thank you) who thought I was suicidal (I wasn’t, but thank you anyway). I will never ever EVER forget these experiences that began to shape my journey to finding my own sense of ‘okay’. If you’re reading this and struggling yourself, I promise you, although there are good days and bad days I am totally okay and you can be too!

The purpose of this post was not to address my own mental health journey but to actually talk about someone else’s– Hannah Baker’s. I’ve been asked a few times now about my thoughts/feelings on the popular Netflix series, adapted from the novel by Jay Asher, “13 Reasons Why”. If you’re not familiar with the series, it is about a teenage girl that commits suicide and leaves behind 13 cassette tapes to be listened to and passed on by figures in her life; each tape corresponds to one of the 13 reasons that she committed suicide. This character’s name is Hannah Baker. I recently was honored to be asked to be a part of a good friend’s project in which I was one of those interviewed to discuss the series. The following is an excerpt on what I had to offer, and what I would also like to share here, since it is Mental Health Awareness month and I have a lot of strong opinions and feelings on this particularly socially current topic.

I really love what I do and from both my educational background and my own lived experience I have a lot of strong feelings regarding “13 Reasons Why”. First, I need to express properly how critical it is to become educated about suicide and to talk about suicide. Suicide has this institutionalized stigma attached to it, where the individual struggling is perceived as weak. Because of this, he or she may be reluctant to seek help. If someone does seek help, it is important that people are aware of the suicide ‘red flags’. This, I think is the one positive of having the series depicted on Netflix. With the series on Netflix, an increasingly popular medium to watch television, someone with no background in Psychology or Social Work can learn to discuss suicide and/or learn the red flags without even realizing it. Take the school counselor, Mr. Porter, for example. Hannah gave all the warning signals (i.e. feeling “empty”, feeling like she didn’t care about anything, disclosing recent sexual abuse, to name only a few of these blatant signs). Even my mother, who works in mortgages, was screaming at the screen for Mr. Porter to hear Hannah’s cry for help and do something.

Even despite the little credit that I will give the show, I feel that more harm has been done that far outweighs the potential benefits. By the last few episodes of the show, a “trigger warning” is depicted on the screen before the episode starts. This is excellent and I was glad to see it included, however, by episode 8 or 9, the viewer is already invested. Not enough was done to protect the viewers that may have encountered sexual abuse in their lives. I feel this was really negligent on the producers’ part because they are leaving themselves open to having viewers retraumatized. Furthermore, I think that the show did not take into account long standing literature on the dangers of depicting suicide. Years of research into phenomena like “suicide contagion” or “copycat suicides” support the idea that depicting graphic suicide may be linked to an increase in suicidal ideation/intent/action. Based on this research, clear recommendation guidelines have been established for reporting on suicide in the media. Even in the book, it is only suggested that Hannah takes her life from an overdose. Intimate details are not given, and producers made the conscious choice to graphically depict a suicide by means that were not even true to the original fiction. It may seem that I am coming down harshly on the producers, but I have the receipts. These are facts and figures supported by the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, and several published and peer-reviewed studies throughout several decades.

I feel like “13 Reasons Why”, in both the novel and the Netflix series, does glorify suicide. I won’t just pick on the Netflix version to explain this, because I acknowledge it about the book as well. The message that seems to be sent is one of revenge and seems to be very “they’ll feel sorry when I’m gone”. This does little to acknowledge the fact that suicide is permanent. It is only after Hannah is gone that you see the effects of her suicide on others. Although you see how difficult Hannah’s suicide is on her parents, one need only to consider the perspective of a teenage girl to see that the far louder message is that her peers would regret their words or actions to some degree after suicide is committed. But once it’s done, it’s done, and this was not fully acknowledged.

My biggest concern in watching the series is for those that identify with Hannah. I don’t want suicide to ever be seen as a viable option—because it is permanent and leaves a scar on everyone in its wake. There are no “do-overs” with suicide; it is a long-term solution for issues that can be mediated with the right help. It is a shame that, although we are finally talking openly about suicide, that it came with this cost– especially because turning the story into a Netflix series had so much promise. I will still watch “13 Reasons” Season 2 in hopes to see this promise turn into something more viable. The series has already gained a huge viewership, so much so that I almost have to believe that it is salvageable and can do some good…to think that it couldn’t would be paralyzing.

So there you have it, friends. My long-winded and wordy feelings on “13 Reasons Why”. I would like to thank my friend for allowing me to be a part of her work and for giving me another outlet to express myself on this! She’s a fellow writer and I dig her.

If you’ve managed to make it this far on this post, I dig you too. Before concluding, I want to touch on two more things (they’re worth it!).

When I was scrolling in social media land I came across two amazing Instagram accounts that I need to pass on and give some major credit to: @makedaisychains and @motivationaltattoos *

@makedaisychains is the artist and mental health activist behind the #boringselfcare movement, shining a light on all the simple things that can be done day to day that fall under self care and are little recognized! Her work is AMAZING and her Etsy is linked on her Insta.

@motivationaltattoos has a bunch of self care tips & gifts, including little temporary bandaid tattoos and pins that depict inspirational messages like “believe in yourself”, “you are worth it”, “love yourself”, and my personal favorite, “treat yourself”! Etsy page is also linked on Insta.

Thanks for reading & please feel free to reach out! Happy Mental Health Awareness month!

*This is not an ad, I was not asked by anyone to write anything about these accounts. They are just pure unadulterated awesome that I could not, in good conscience, keep to myself.

Raise Your Hand If You’ve Ever Felt Personally Victimized By (A) Regina George

Alright, friends. I’m going to make this one quick and dirty because I was supposed to be at my boyfriend’s house ~45 minutes ago (Sorry, Matthew! I know you subscribe to this).

Raise your hand if you’ve ever been body shamed! *Raises both hands emphatically*

Ok now raise your hand if you’ve ever been body shamed…wait for it… at the GYM.

Yup, it really just happened *shameless plug of blog title*. SO I was minding my business rocking out to some Good Charlotte (throwback I know, but I’m seeing them on Wednesday night and I have been getting myself pumped!) on the elliptical at Lucille Roberts. I go to Lucille, the ‘Women’s Gym’, because I’m self conscious and I fear judgment. I’M A HUMAN WITH FEELINGS AND FEARS–WHAAAT! WHO KNEW? I digress. Anyway, for whatever reason I didn’t think I would be subjected to self consciousness or judgment by other ladies. WELL, I was partially right because I made it a whole year and a half with no issues…until today some beyyyotch broke my streak.

So, like I said, I’m minding my own business when a fellow Fitgirl walks out of the bathroom and past my machine wearing almost the exact same outfit as me– she’s slender, she’s really pretty, & I think nothing of it. I pull out a headphone, because I’m about to tell her she has good taste (I’m friendly, I talk to strangers), and she proceeds to look me up and down and give me — THE LOOK. Now, I may sound paranoid here to some of you, but if you’ve ever struggled with your weight/your self image whether it be over OR underweight, you know The Look. This version of The Look was obvious. It was the ‘I wore it better and girlfriend, you’re really sweaty’ look that made me put my headphone back in and look at the ground red-faced (not JUST because I was really sweaty) and very embarrassed.

But you know what? I shouldn’t be embarrassed. Not in the slightest. I was at the gym making a healthy life choice. I’ve struggled with my weight my entire life. I have two preexisting conditions (#Resist) that make it difficult to manage my weight. PCOS & Hashimoto’s don’t define my life, but they do define some of the lifestyle choices I’ve had to make to live with these chronic illnesses. Does this judgy girl know that? Nope. Does she need to know that to be a decent human being and keep her thoughts off her face? Nope!

Anyway, my point is this: It takes no energy to be a nice human. Bodies are bodies and come in all shapes and sizes. I know I sound like an after school special, but forgive me and hang in there, because everything you’ve ever heard about the importance of accepting others is true. I’m me, so I know I’m pretty strong and can take some dirty looks, but what if I wasn’t? What if I was really fragile or had body dysmorphia or an eating disorder? How do you think something as simple as The Look would affect me? Probably not well I’d say.

Anyway, if you’re reading this, no matter what the hell you look like I think you’re beautiful! Unless you’re really judgy of others–just kidding, I could probably still at least tolerate you. Maybe.


I never work a day of my life.

Who remembers that cliché and cheesy “love what you do and you’ll never work a day in your life” shtick? All of you? I thought so.

Today I’m thinking about that and thinking about how truly beneficial my job is to me. Every quarter my agency hosts a staff forum in which there is a guest speaker and lunch is served. This past quarter we had a speaker come in and discuss the benefits of employment for the mental health community. Many of my clients are able to lead productive lives in the work force, and as someone that struggles with my own mental health (anxiety and depression– this is a post for another day), work can be a true solace of mine. I enjoy throwing myself into my work and letting it occupy my time and feed my soul.

If you’re not familiar with what I do I’ll explain. I’m a Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) working as the program supervisor in a residential mental health facility. Essentially, it is a 50-unit apartment building for people living with serious and persistent mental illness where we provide intensive services to assist them in gaining the skills necessary to live independently. Working in a residence is really difficult (one of my cherished friends and coworkers, may he rest in peace, used to say, “In residential social work you get to get down and dirty, to the nitty gritty, and smell the piss…I love it!”) but it is completely fulfilling and rewarding. Plus, I always have the best work stories. But truthfully, you cannot work in this field if you don’t have a true love for others. You need patience, compassion, a strong backbone, and a strong stomach.

Back to my original point. My day started terribly. I don’t want to get into it, but all you need to know is that it involved Geico insurance company and my thickly-accented and verbally aggressive Armenian neighbor. I came into work in a mood. I was dealing with said incident all morning and did not have enough time to properly finish my morning routine. The second I walked in the door I was greeted warmly by a few of my clients, who didn’t even notice that my hair was in a wet messy bun and that I did not have a stitch of makeup on my face. They are literally always happy to see me. Stigma about the mental health community drives me crazy and kills me a little on the inside because some of the people I work with are nicer, warmer, and more resilient than anyone I know that doesn’t carry a diagnosis. But I digress. #Resist

Later in the day, a client that barely ever speaks told me a cute joke (How do you turn vegetable soup into gold? You put 24 karats into it!), one client offered to assist us by sweeping up the hundreds of cigarette butts polluting the outside walkway and garden, and another client that moved out a few months ago came back to visit and gave me a big bear hug. These are only some of the things that made me smile and feel warm inside. Somehow even when dealing with the not so great things I still can keep a smile on my face. So much happens in a day. Although I had some great interactions in the morning, I also happened to be called rude by another client because I wouldn’t breach HIPAA privacy laws, got side eye and major ‘tude from another one that I had to address for bringing alcohol into the building (program contract rule), and caught a third one of my clients watching pornography in the client computer room in the afternoon. It’s all relative.

But that’s just one day in the life, and that speaker I mentioned earlier really knew what he was talking about.

Let me tell you something, Sallie Mae is an evil mistress with green dollar signs in her eyes. BUT THAT’S OKAY. I know that I got into a flobbityjillion (science!) dollars worth of debt and that really sucks, and seeing the direct debit come out of my account every month really REALLY sucks, but loving my career and feeling like I don’t work a day of my life doesn’t suck so much at all.



So I mentioned in my ‘About’ post that I’m in a long-distance relationship (LDR). Matthew and I have been together for 5-plus years. I say “plus” because, depending on which one of us you ask, results may vary. I acknowledge our anniversary as being in May 2012, however, he thinks we’ve been together much longer than that. If you’re wondering how that is possible, chalk it up to what can best be described by referencing yet another television show (this is a pattern of mine): “Awkward”. There was no set point in which we sat down for the conversation–the DTR (Define The Relationship). After several months, we finally were unmistakably together in Spring of 2012, but — get your buckets ready because it’s gonna get mushy– it’s a well known thing that I was his long before that.

Not the entirety of our relationship has been long distance. We only fell into this when his career brought him 5 hours away in February 2016. Since then he’s been on an 11p-7a schedule and has come home (and I refuse to allow myself to reference his apartment as “home”) whenever he can. Sometimes this is weekly, sometimes this is biweekly, sometimes worse. It varies because he does not have any set time off and his schedule rotates. My career has similar caveats;  I work as the program supervisor in a  residential mental health setting on a Tuesday through Saturday schedule and I’m on call on a pretty regular basis. Managing our careers with our relationship has not always been easy or convenient. but it has been worth it.

I’m writing about this today because I’ve been doing a lot of self reflection. I mentioned in starting this blog that I would be using it to process, and wrote previously that the last 2 or so years have been difficult. I’m sure I’ll write more on those things another time, but my main coping skill has been taking time to reflect on the beauty of the positives. Today, this is exactly what I need.

Matthew is one of the people that there are no words good enough to describe. He has been my absolute rock when life has gotten overwhelming and I just couldn’t deal. Thinking about when our LDR is no longer long distance, where I can see him every day, whenever I want, at normal human hours (remember he works overnights!) makes me feel hopeful and keeps me going. I’m the kind of person that does well with things to look forward to. His move back here has been in the works pretty much since he took this job, which was something he absolutely needed to do to better himself in his field. I couldn’t really make the move with him because we agreed that I needed to be here for my job. These are the tough decisions and conversations you have to have, the ones that nobody told you could be a part of doing the whole ‘adult’ thing. (It blooooows.)

Someone told me just yesterday that they did not know how I did it (the LDR) because they missed their boyfriend who was away for a few days. Having the one you love away for any amount of time sucks. As for the people that have their significant others living much further than 5 hours away…I don’t know how they do it.

Patience, catching one another awake at the same time to call/text/Skype, and loving each other fiercely is the only way to make the days count. I love this guy more than anything. He’s the smartest and most attentive person I know and today I feel better by reflecting on how lucky I feel to have not just someone that “gets” me, but to have him, even if he is a flobbityjillion miles away (science!). He’s a goofy, sarcastic, loving, stubborn pain in my ass and I would not change or trade him for all the rice in China.*


*FUN FACT: That one was a “You Can’t Take It With You” reference, which is how he and I met! We did theatre in college.


Why Ya Gotta Go & Make Things So Complicated?

So something has been plaguing me for the past few days. It brings to mind a silly little haiku I read once:

To err is human

But why insist repeating?

You a broken record? 

Okay, maybe it’s not so silly after all. I would imagine that there are some magical unicorn people out there that can make a mistake once, learn from it, and never make it again. But I, my friends, am sadly not one of them. This is what is on my mind at 10:23pm  on a Tuesday, while I can’t sleep, and I haven’t yet finished my allotted 80 oz of water for the day.

The thing I insist repeating? Thinking that other people will learn from their mistakes. No, you read me right. Am I the pot or the kettle today? Well I guess that depends on what shade of black I’m in the mood for.

So, the thing is, logically I know that to err is human and that people have flaws. I know that people- for the most part- tend to repeat their mistakes, just as I do, but where is the line? It gets messy. What happens if a friend keeps making a mistake that they know will hurt you? If you can see through my hypothetical questions, you know that this is the situation I feel I could be in.

I don’t expect anyone to be perfect but I do expect people to recognize when they say/do something, whether it is once or twice (depending on how forgiving you are), that hurts you and do what they feel is necessary to make it right. I don’t want to believe that this is asking for a lot. To whoever my audience is, I feel like the natural response to this would be, “Well, does Person XYZ know that what they’re doing hurt(s) you?”

Yes. They do.

Why do I put up with it? Because life is stupid and complicated, duh! I like this person. We have a ton of history. They’re comforting to me and they listen to me bitch about [insert stupid thing that I don’t remember being upset about]. You ever have a person that feels safe and familiar like a security blanket? That seems unhealthy. I don’t care. That’s this person to me. I know that this may not make sense to some people, and maybe these are some of the magical unicorns I mentioned earlier, but I’m willing to bet that most people have someone out there that just feels like ‘home’ in some way– dysfunction be damned. For me, I guess I don’t know when enough is enough.

Is it actually my repeated mistake for allowing myself to be hurt by someone else’s repeated mistakes? 

A significant amount of time has passed and this person has not made any attempt to try to acknowledge the situation or make things right. I’m a huge proponent of not needing to agree with how you made someone feel. Regardless of your intentions, if you know you made someone feel badly, acknowledge it. If you care about someone, you find a way to get past it, because you don’t get to decide how other people feel about your words and actions.

But maybe that’s what’s bothering me the most here. Reread that last sentence in the paragraph above. Did you see it? I did. That’s how I would think someone would act, trying to make things right…if they care enough to do so.

I was watching (my fourth rerun of the series) “How I Met Your Mother” recently. The main character, Ted, narrates something along the line of how sometimes we may know that something is a mistake, but we know we need to make it anyway. I can wrap my head around this. The thing I’m struggling with is knowing something is a mistake that will hurt someone and still somehow needing to make it anyway and then knowing that they are upset and not reaching out to make it right. I’m not a fire breathing dragon, I forgive and I try to work things out. Let the record show that I do recognize that I also have a lot of esteem issues and personal hang ups (see: baggage) coming into play and influencing me here and it’s worth noting that I understand that this person has a lot of issues of their own as well.

I’m a broken record but it’s really not that simple.


I totally copied this from the ‘About’ page

Hello, friends!

My name is Alex and my life is incredibly average. I’m a 20-something Licensed Master Social Worker (LMSW) working in residential mental health. I live on Long Island, NY with my mother, Liz, my college-aged sister, Jordan, and my two Yorkies– Sadie & Olivia. I’m also in a long distance relationship with my boyfriend of 5+ years, Matthew.

If you’re anything like me, you’ve probably never made good on any of your New Year’s resolutions. Well, this is me trying to change that. One of my resolutions for 2017 was to start writing again. I spend my days counseling people ad nauseam about the benefits of ‘coping skills’ i.e. “Journal!” “Get it all out!” “Sometimes you can’t sort through things unless they’re right in front of you!” “Are you even still listening to me?” You get the idea.

Anyway, things have been pretty rough around the edges for the past two years and I think this “blog” (Am I qualified to call it that? Do they have requirements for this sort of thing?) could be really helpful for me to process some things, get them out into the universe, and finally take my own damn advice.

If you’re reading this, thank you. I hope that you find some comfort in my stories, struggles, and musings on whatever this wild journey takes me on.