#WalkAway

#WalkAway: Stay Strong Everyone

When I first publish my #WalkAway story, I think maybe five to ten of my friends and family will see it. I look at it as a “safe” way (oh the innocence of youth) to “come out” to them and admit what I’ve been up to lately.

I decide to cover my bases and post it to FB and Twitter because I have conservative friends and family on both platforms that I’ve deliberately lost touch with. I want them to know that I’m sorry and ready to listen with compassion and respect, but I’m still too much of a coward to reach out to them personally.

One of these people is my own brother. This amazingly funny, musically gifted, devoted father and husband who I cast out of my life for the “crime” of being a lifelong religious conservative. I hope that my message will reach him, we unfollowed each other awhile ago (of course), but at the same time I’m too scared to directly send it to him.

I figure I’ll quietly post it and then wait for the inevitable angry phone call from my mother.

Then, as many stories nowadays begin– Reddit happened…

When I realize my video has been seen by thousands of people, this giant lurch starts to form in my gut because I immediately think of what they’re going to do with my past. There’s some pretty aggressive religious criticism and “hyper-woke” tweets, I’m sure– but it gets a lot messier than that.

I understand not everyone can be open about their struggles with mental health so I feel I have a duty to everyone out there suffering in silence to be LOUD about my fight to stay positive and move forward.

I consider for a moment whether I should take it down or make it private. Then I realize that’s exactly what my critics want me to do.

Strangers are using my love for creative and artistic expression as a way to convince others that I’m lying. They’re using my looks and my ability to speak in complete, mostly coherent sentences to say I must be a Russian bot or an alt-right, paid actor. My 20-year-old suicide attempt and my willingness to speak openly about it are being used as a means to discredit everything I have to say.

The problem? I’m not ashamed of any of it. You aren’t going to make me stop acting, you aren’t going to make me stop thinking, you aren’t going to make me stop speaking by pointing out my issues.  A damaged person that comes out the other side and embraces life is only made stronger by that damage. No amount of abuse hurled at me by strangers online will ever come close to the mental abuse I used to inflict on myself.

I just want to tell anyone reading this who has a past, who dares to say out loud that you’re going to think for yourself, if you’re openly proclaiming that you’re walking away they’re probably going to try and attack your credibility by using anything they can find to discredit you.

I sincerely hope you don’t let that silence you.

MeAndJ

Together with his first child– that baby is 17 now!

And there are happy endings: my mother has yet to say anything about the video. I’m holding out hope for her. But my brother saw it, loved it, and reached out to me. I know that we’re going to be okay going forward and I hope we find ourselves together again soon.

Please keep adding your voice to this collective of people from every side of the political fence that want to return to the days of compromise by engaging in civil discourse. Stay strong everyone, it’s rough out there but there’s light at the end of this tunnel if we keep coming together to support one another. You know where to find me if you need help.

 

 

 

 

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I get asked this question a lot and this promotional video from United Way / 211MD does a GREAT job of explaining just what a “typical” day looks like for me. And I’m not just saying this because it features yours truly! (I’m totally just saying this because it features yours truly.)

There’s no “usual” or “boring” day. Being a crisis counselor and resource specialist is more than just talking people off that literal ledge, it’s being there during someone’s worst moments and helping them realize they can get through this.

I’m really proud to be a part of the United Way and 211 community, to learn more visit www.211.org and www.unitedway.org.

My Personal Reboot, Random Thoughts

A Year Ago Today(ish)

I was going to write this two months ago to mark a different anniversary, when I was laid off from a job that was the culmination of my career in entertainment and social media. The weeks and months ahead left me struggling with my self-esteem in a way that completely surprised me. I was going to take my time remembering the fear and anger, the sense of betrayal, and a resurgence of the depression I’ve struggled with my entire life.

But I changed my mind and decided to write this for a different milestone, celebrating when my life changed for the better in a way I hadn’t thought possible.

Crisis counseling was stumbled into on a total whim, after reading the job posting and thinking, ‘What the hell?’ Because hey, I’ve been through some SHIT. Good writing gigs are always hard to come by– at least, the kind that don’t make you question whether or not you’re a compassionate or productive member of society. So in the meantime, why not try <gasp> GIVING. BACK?!?

And you know what? This year of trying something totally new has become one of the most rewarding of my life. This job, while hard and emotionally draining at times, is also the most satisfying thing I’ve ever done professionally.

Yes, there are challenging calls and frustrating callers. There are also moments that are beautiful and profound that leave me walking away from my shift feeling like I’ve actually made a difference in the universe today, even if it’s just because of one conversation. It’s the most tangible proof I’ve ever had that I’m not alone, and we can still connect with total strangers in a way that can be life-changing.

So far I’ve figured this out: the Me from a year ago that thought my professional life was over was right in a way. That part of my life – the hustle for leads and scramble for pitches, the constant checking of feeds and measuring of trends – that part is over, for now. Just… for now. And maybe… it’s over forever… I’m at peace with that too if that’s how the cards lay out.

It’s been a year of a different life, a different career, a different purpose, and it’s been one of the best. I thought my life was imploding, now I know that wasn’t the end. But at the time I was so immersed in the pain that I just couldn’t see that, and maybe it’s like that for others, and if I can help in any way it’s to say this:

Please don’t give up – there’s always a chance that it can get better. Sometimes it’s working hard and keeping that chin up, sometimes it’s just getting to the next day and trying again, but never doubt that great things can be ahead if you keep fighting for them.

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