Tag Archives: social work

On Being Friends With You: Understanding Depression & Self Acceptance

You ever spend so much time with someone that you feel like you want and need some space to yourself? I feel like this is, generally, a concept understood and accepted by most people. Now, I’d like to invite you to also consider that the person that you spend the most time with is yourself. But, for the ~300 million people worldwide (World Health Organization, 2017, and that’s just what was reported) that live with depression, this may not be such a great relationship. For those people, living with depression is like living with someone that you’ve spent too much time with and can’t get away from.

Sometimes I like to think of my depression like a mini version of myself that I can control. I watch a lot of Black Mirror on Netflix (think ‘White Christmas’ if you’re a fan; if not it’s a 10/10 so, put the blog down…back away slowly and pull up a tab and get to watching, this is not a drill). Thinking of it this way helps me externalize things and gives me a sense of control. This is what works for me. I once read an amazing Reader article on Buzzfeed by someone that likened their depression to a “bad dog”. That one can be found here and is a personal favorite.

Now, to put it this way is really watering things down. Often times depression shows herself with other, different faces, like anxiety or anger. These are the faces that are less commonly recognized as depression but are still her, through and through. Depression is cancelled plans. She is sleepless nights. She is sleeping all day. She is eating everything and eating nothing. She is screaming at your loved ones, your mail man, and your pizza delivery guy. She is not showering for days. She is hyper vigilance. She is isolating into the depths of your apartment to watch reruns of a show that has been off the air for years. Depression knows no age, she doesn’t care about the color of your skin or what vibrations your throat makes when you speak your native tongue. She doesn’t care who you pray to, what you stand for, or what you believe in.

I know what you’re thinking. How can all those things be depression? Some of those things seem to compete with one another. You may have heard that depression is an inability to sleep and eat, listlessness, fatigue, etc. and you’re right. These are many of the symptoms of clinical depression. The other symptoms however, are common of atypical depression, which is characterized by oversleeping, overeating, mood disturbances, etc.

Let’s talk stigma.

Because depression can happen to anyone, understand that not everyone seeks treatment because not everyone believes in treatment. Remember when I referenced the 300 million people worldwide that have depression and said that this was just what was reported? This is because many cultures do not recognize depression as even existing, much less being a legitimate thing that they should be seeking treatment for. My purpose for writing this is obviously because I’m sharing my own experience, but I’m also providing some education here on how to understand this from all sides.

I feel like this post would be lacking if I didn’t mention the misgivings I feel people have about those that suffer, and I mean truly suffer with their illness. People with depression often get labeled as ‘lazy’. We’re not lazy- we’re SAD. We’re SAD and we need a sense of empowerment and control. I’ve seen some of my friends get disappointed or angry if I’ve cancelled plans, but if I need to put my mental health first I need to put my mental health first. I’m not flaky- I’m depressed. I’m not ditching you – I’m anxious and can’t be around other people sometimes. Sometimes I need to partake in some #boringselfcare (this is a THING- check it out on Instagram!) and wash my face and deep condition my hair. Seriously– sometimes my depression doesn’t let me do those things. Again: Not lazy, SAD.

To anyone out there that loves someone with depression: Please try to understand this. Your friend and loved one is going to have their bad days. Even if they’re in therapy, intensive outpatient program, or on medication, this doesn’t mean they’re “cured”. You can be in recovery, on medication, and still struggle. They’re going to have days where they don’t even want to be around themselves. Normalize and accept this and LOVE. THEM. ANYWAY. If you can’t do this, my suggestion is that you excuse yourself.

To anyone out there that has depression: Be friends with yourself. You spend a lot of time together. Something I’ve been trying to do lately is add one piece of self care to my ‘To Do’ list. I took a training last month that urged us to consider ourselves and do daily check ins and ask ourselves how we’re doing in each of the areas of wellness (Physical, Emotional, Spiritual, Social). Essentially, these areas create a “Wellness Wheel”. The idea behind this is to check in with your wheel when you’re feeling “off” to help you identify and address why because when one section of the wheel is “deflated” the whole wheel can’t help run the car (you). Long story short– I went home and cried. Let’s just say my “Wellness Wheel” was more of a “Wellness Deflated F*cked Up Line”. Casual. But you know what, I KNOW I’m not the only one out there with a messed up Wellness Wheel (case in point my JOB for Pete’s sake). I’m fixing it one day at a time, the best I know how, and that’s okay.

So if you’re out there and you’re a little sad, or a lot sad, you’re struggling, you’re depressed, you need a shoulder, or you’ve got an ‘effed up Wellness Wheel, I’m with you and this one’s for you. We’re okay.







I’m only funny in 160 characters.

Did you miss me? I haven’t posted in almost 6 months, so I hope you did. As much as I’ve missed writing, I’ve been really busy with a bunch of things over the last ~180 days (mostly crap) and I just haven’t had the time to do the things.

Let me sum up what I’ve learned in the last 6 months for you right here:

  1. I’m only funny in 160 characters. There have been times I’ve thought about writing about something funny that happened at work or in my personal life, but it’s been best served as a snappy tweet. Like the time my friends and I wound up running down the street from a Santa on a motorized scooter or the time my mom was yelling at me over something ridiculous so I started singing hymns to her. I’m a grown ass adult. I’d love to do stand up, but I feel like my best friends are the only ones that would laugh at my sarcasm and/or poop humor. Shout me out if you like poop humor.
  2. Sometimes even the people that are supposed to be your mentors let you down. It’s like when you find out that your parents aren’t superheroes and you realize that they’re just Gracie Lou Freebush and Eric Bob from New Jersey (you caught me, I watched Miss Congeniality last night) and don’t fight crime behind the scenes. It’s the same with your mentors. Sometimes they don’t do right by you, sometimes they don’t stand up for you when they should, sometimes you see the underside of a proverbial bus… I’ll stop there.
  3. Same thing with doctors. We finally found out that we spent over a year doing a million tests on Matthew (see: Boyfriend), including biopsies, painful and invasive tests, etc etc and it turns out it was his gallbladder the whole time. I’m no doctor, but doesn’t that seem like a really basic thing that should have been checked out a long time ago? I lost faith in doctors in 2015.
  4. I’m still comparing my Chapter 3 to others’ Chapter 10. FOMO is real. The desire to rush through your 20s and settle down is real. The only thing I haven’t experienced is the biological clock rush to have kids but I’m waiting for that to hit me like a ton of bricks. #Realtalk. I’m not ashamed to have put my career first, and I’d make that choice over and over again and I’m sure my boyfriend would too, but it just kind of stinks sometimes when I’m sitting at my desk wearing reindeer ears counseling clients about the importance of wearing deodorant and remembering to practice mindfulness knowing that I wish I was going home to my guy at the end of the day, that’s all. (That was just today, one isolated example, and it’s only 10:25am! Goodie.) All in all, my clients could pretty much ask me to walk over hot coals for them and I’d consider it. I mean, of course I wouldn’t do it, but I’d consider it more than I would for the average person. My career is SO much to me and I love working with these people. They’re some of the kindest, most resilient and genuinely impressive individuals and I’m lucky to know them.

That’s the main message of the tail end of 2017. I get that some people had a great 2017 (ie: Taylor Swift, and boy was her saying that controversial!), but I think for the vast majority it was pretty much the pits.

Let’s talk resolutions. First of all, I’m not calling them resolutions anymore. Why? Because it sounds shitty when you don’t do them. Let’s call them ‘INTENTIONS’. I think this is much more person-focused, positive, less cliché and kitschy language and I like the IDEA behind making an intention.

I’m looking to go into 2018 with a new set of intentions (or a new outlook on old intentions), most of which I INTEND to write about in the coming months as I battle with them. I wish for all of you reading that you find some comfort in my musings, battles, and off beat humor. Who knows, maybe I’ll be funnier in more than 160 characters and actually start my book or look into doing some stand up. Probably not.


The ‘Ick’ Factor: How To Not Please Everyone & Do it Well

If you’re a person, chances are you know someone that no matter what, you just can’t make them happy. Or, if you’re really lucky, you could know several.

I’m finding that the older I get, the more I see that I am the captain of my ship and dictate how I can respond to these individuals. Seems pretty simple in theory, but could be much more difficult in practice. Why? Well, let me tell you a secret, I’m a recovering People Pleaser. I know, I know. Deeply rooted in my own issues that date back to probably elementary school bullies was that nagging sense that I had to please everyone and be liked by everyone. I still struggle with the feeling that I want to be liked by everyone, and I’m thinking that I’m not alone in this. To be frank, knowing that someone else is not happy with something I’ve done- even when I’m trying my best- feels icky and I just don’t like sitting with that feeling. But, the thing is, sometimes you have to, because you literally cannot please everyone and some cannot be pleased at all.

Does this sound like something you needed to hear? Good, me too. When it comes to responding to people that cannot be made happy no matter how many times you do a headstand and spit out wooden nickels (anyone else’s Grandma use that old adage?), I’m finding that the best thing to do is just stop.

Yup, just stop. Even if it feels icky.

If you’re unable to find some common ground, stop trying to please them and do what you think and feel is best. Not only is this person using up their own energy, you’re letting them use up yours. This is energy that can be spent in more productive, adaptive ways, rather than spinning your wheels and gears for someone that won’t do the same to meet you half way. I’m finding, especially in my social work career, that if I can balance trusting my gut with doing what is the most ethical and well-intentioned, I’m usually on the right path. This can- and does!- ease the ick factor.

Now, when I say that you should stop, I’m not saying you should be rude. You can agree to disagree, hold your ground politely, or disengage- depending on the scenario and your relationship with the person involved. Sometimes I practice the art of ‘hold my ground, be polite, keep the conversation moving, get the hell out of there’- in that order. Whether it is professional or personal, I’ve been trying to be mindful of this and practice it when I can.

I’ve made a pact with myself, and I guess now with my blog readers too, that I’m going to reduce the negative energy I expel or feed into and really make an effort in nourishing the positive energy. I’ve heard that this can help increase that thing that everyone is talking about… I think that they call it “happiness”. Maybe you’ve heard of it? In all sincerity, sometimes you have to work at happiness and for me, this is a big part of it.

So far, so good.



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.


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.