a one-way mirror | 2019

I look around me but nothing seems real. People are going about their lives like clockwork, some scurrying to whatever important meeting is happening today and others are lazily walking to wherever their feet takes them. Some listen to music and others are glued to their phone screens. Some are aware, others are not. I observe, all the time, wondering when I’ll get to be “one of them,” wondering when I’ll stop living life like I’m looking through a one-way mirror.

That’s the weird thing about depression, you know? As soon as you feel like you’re on top of the world, He creeps up behind you and startles you back into the corner you just barely crawled out of. You could be doing everything right and following everyone’s advice–but He doesn’t care.

Go to work. Get to class. Go to therapy. Eat healthy. Exercise. Write. Read. Stay off social media. Do yoga. Drink enough water. Do this, not that. Keep your friend group small. Find a new hobby. Smile. 

Depression doesn’t give a shit that you ate a gluten-free breakfast and drank 70 ounces of water. He is ruthless and random. He just is. It’s silly to assume that someone doing everything “right” is exempt from mental illness.

Three weeks ago I was positive, uplifting, and ready to singlehandedly take on the world. The past three days I’ve wondered if I have a purpose and questioned if my life in particular is worth living.

It seems silly– that much I realize. Of course my life is worth living. It’s worth just as much as everyone else’s life, but when He has you entangled in between His fingers, it’s hard to rationalize those thoughts. It’s hard to see things clearly.

I think when you lose a parent or someone you love to suicide, the more likely you are to question if life is worth living. My dad’s death has caused me a lot of issues that I didn’t come to grasp with until very recently. I never had the opportunity to properly grieve the loss of my childhood, so here I am ten years later trying to conquer the near-impossible. Deep down inside of me is a twelve-year-old that barely had the chance to be a kid. I remember being eleven and coming to an understanding that my father had the intention of taking his own life. I distinctly remember standing on the middle of Cemetery Street begging my dad not to kill himself. He promised me he wouldn’t and hugged me tight.

Less than a year later he was dead.

How does a child go through something so traumatic and not end up with trust issues? Anxiety? A general fear of abandonment that carries with them through adulthood? That’s just it– they’re going to come out scathed and fucked up. It’s a part of the process. You can heal and learn to love and let go, but that god-awful feeling of being alone in this world will never leave. Depression will make sure of it.

Don’t get me twisted, though– I think life is beautiful. I think my trauma, in some demented way, is beautiful. I think there’s a lot of good in this world. It’s not hard to find, not by any means. Goodness comes in many forms:

Kids that smile at you in the grocery store. The stranger behind you in the drive-thru that pays for your overpriced cup of coffee. The guy at the stop sign that lets you go first even though it was definitely his turn. There are so many pure things in this world that go unappreciated because we’ve forgotten that good things aren’t necessarily grand things. It’s hard to focus on the good when the bad is so amplified. It’s hard to be good when the world has done us so dirty.

I’m not going to lie and say I haven’t recently questioned whether or not I want to be here– I think we all do that at one point or another. Some more than others. I go through periods of deep depression around this time of year, every year. The cycle ensues, but so does my integrity and drive to do better. I said to my therapist yesterday that I don’t think I have any more fight left in me, but we both knew that was bullshit. If I truly didn’t have any fight left, I wouldn’t have been sitting in her office. I wouldn’t have gone to class. I wouldn’t have gotten out of bed. So while my morale is low, my stubbornness is not. The little girl inside of me that never had the opportunity to grieve is what keeps the adult me going.

Maybe she didn’t have a great childhood, but she deserves, in the very least, a good future.

What kind of asshole would I be if I let her down?

 

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Seasonal Affective Disorder | 2019

How do you, in good conscience, tell your family you don’t want to live anymore and you don’t know why?

Things have been good. You’ve been doing well and everyone knows it. You look healthier, your attitude seems lighter, and it’s like a weight has been lifted off of everyone’s shoulders. Whatever you’re doing, it’s working. Maybe you’re better now.

But like all good things, that feeling of contentedness comes to an end. Nothing happens. Nothing prompts it. You’ve got it good– so why do you feel like you can’t “handle” it anymore? Why do you feel like you’re six feet under? You get mad because you know there’s no real reason why you feel the way you do–it just is what it is. You get even more angry because you know people out there have actual problems. They should be depressed, not you. You’ve got it good.

How do you, in good conscience, tell your family you don’t want to live anymore and you don’t know why?

They say talking about it helps but you can’t find the right words to say because nothing makes sense. Like water on ink, everything blurs and deciphering it would be a waste of time. You’re afraid that if you speak about your feelings, you’ll stress them out. Your parents have heard it enough. Your friends don’t take you seriously. They all wonder when and if you’ll ever get better. They know you’re trying. Do they know you’re trying?

How do you, in good conscience, tell your family you don’t want to live anymore and you don’t know why?

You don’t know which is worse– being numb or feeling everything that has suddenly piled up. You don’t even know what you’re fucking sad about and that’s the most frustrating part. You were happy a week ago. It frustrates you and them. You don’t want to be a disappointment. You don’t want to be the let down. Why can’t you be like the rest of them?

How do you, in good conscience, tell your family you don’t want to live anymore and you don’t know why?

You thought you were ok, but you’re not ok. You know you have the ability to overcome it, but the idea of going through the cycle again exhausts you. It’s not worth it. Is it worth it?

How do you, in good conscience, tell your family you don’t want to live anymore and you don’t know why?

 

The Unknown | 2019

The bathtub is filled half way with cool water. I wanted it hot, but it must be all out. Sometimes that happens.

I try to focus on the drip drip noise that comes from the faucet but I can’t hear anything. I feel heavy and indifferent. My mind is racing, but my body is slow and forlorn. I try to focus on anything but the thoughts running rampant in my brain, but they don’t stop.

That’s the funny thing about anxiety. It doesn’t stop.

Anxiety doesn’t care that I’m a good person, or that I have goals to achieve. He doesn’t care that I have a job to go to and friends to keep up with. Anxiety doesn’t care– it just is.

I sit up in the bath and I try some deep-breathing. It helps sometimes. My body is cold and the water is slowly draining; but I don’t care. I’m slowly draining, too.

The optimist in me knows that I have the strength to conquer even the hardest days–fuck, she’s never been wrong before. What makes lately any different?

My therapist confirms that my worry stems from The Unknown, a term I’m coining for my anxiety. The Unknown is a part of me. It is my ultimate downfall and my biggest blessing.

With it; I am haphazard. Without it; I am not me.

Some days I don’t know which is worse.

I’d like to take full responsibility for how I feel because it seems like the right thing to do. For awhile I blamed my dad’s suicide, and the sexual assault, and this and that. I was hell-bent on finding someone to blame other than just letting it be what it is– a part of who I am and something I don’t have full control over. I’m not a controlling person, but Goddammit, I wish I could be in control of this.

Anxiety doesn’t have to be a negative thing, though it’s damn hard to flip the switch on something with such a depressing connotation. Manifesting something so self-debilitating and turning it into a power tool to create a better you is not something easily mastered. I won’t pretend like I have done it myself– I haven’t. But I have complete faith that it can be done; only, and only if, you allow yourself to become wholeheartedly vulnerable.

I get it. It’s hard for people to come to terms with anxiety and all it entails. It’s hard to admit when there’s a problem; and even worse, it’s hard to seek help. When you do receive help, it’s hard to accept what’s being told to you. It’s too easy to fall into the rabbit hole, constantly wondering why do I have to be like this? and why can’t I just be normal?

I guess everyone is different. I’m no expert, you know? I have no idea what the hell I’m doing most of the time. All I really know is that I go through some shit and with that comes a burning need to help others that are dealing with the same emotions I am. Not everyone is strong and level-headed. I can’t fix these people, but I can be there for them as much as they’ll allow me to be.

The water in the tub has completely drained. The air has frozen my body but I make way to grab a towel. I’m frozen, but my mind is not. She keeps going, and going, and…

I have a theory that everything happens for a reason. All the good, bad, and traumatic has a place in our lives. We aren’t always meant to know why. We aren’t always going to understand it. It’s okay to not understand. Roll with the punches, take shit at face value, allow yourself to be engulfed in whatever life hits you with.

Hm, maybe I should take my own advice?

I’m out of the tub now, sleepy and ready to rest my head.

Tomorrow is a new day, and maybe The Unknown won’t be so bad.

But even if he is, we’ll get through it.

We always do.

Lessons From a Dead Man

Someone highly important to me recently recommended I read “The Last Lecture,” by Randy Pausch. I never even heard of it, nor did I bother to see what it was about before purchasing it.

I won’t reiterate what can easily be Googled. Instead, I want to emphasize the importance of the message:

Positively overcoming obstacles and making the most out of any situation– even the tragic ones.

Randy Pausch knew he was going to die. He was well aware that he could spend the last of his days sulking in his unfortunate demise and feeling sorry for himself. That’s exactly what he didn’t do. Due to the nature of this book, I don’t want to use the word “positive” to describe it, but that’s exactly what I got from it– an overwhelming sense of positivity.

When you find yourself in turmoil, it’s easy to become engulfed in negativity. It’s easy to ask dead-end questions.

“Why did this happen to me?”

“What did I do to deserve this?”

For a long time, I dwelled in my sorrow. I made excuses for why things weren’t getting better. I became complacent with my self-destruction because it was comfortable for me. The less I had to think about the root of my problems, the easier it was to ignore them.

I don’t know if I have a definitive answer as to how I got myself out of the mess I made for myself. I wouldn’t expect it to help you either– we are all vastly different individuals, set on different paths with varying degrees of hardships. My answer may not be your answer.

I will say that I woke up one day incredibly tired of the way my life was panning out– after having been in the hospital for complications with my anti-depressants, experiencing sleep paralysis nightly, completely emotionless– I knew I had to make a change.


In the ever-evolving world of social media, it’s hard to make positive changes in our lives when we are constantly reminded of what we don’t have. I pretended like social media was helping me in a positive manner, but really, it was destroying my self-esteem. It’s easy to lose yourself in the mess of the world wide web. It’s easy to forget what you do have when you’re surrounded by images of things you don’t.

Differentiate what is real and what is not– only then will you find peace.

I think a majority of my unhappiness stemmed from Facebook and Instagram because I was not emotionally secure. I was outwardly happy, but inside I was a mess. I was not confident. I was not proud. I was letting my past and the struggles I had faced dictate my every move. The image I had yearned for was not realistic. It was not me.

So I cut back, like a smoker trying to reduce the amount of packs she smokes per day. It sounds ridiculous, but it’s true– social media is addictive. I spent so much time trying to keep up with everyone elses’ lives because I knew it distracted me from my own.

Maybe not completely, maybe not a lot, but I did cut back.

And just like that, I was happier.


When I made the decision to move away for college, I had been broken up with my on-again-off-again boyfriend for a few months. I knew I couldn’t have made that decision while dating him. Moving away was something I needed to do so I could grow as a human being, so when we got back together again– and became engaged– I knew it wasn’t going to work and I knew it wasn’t for the right reasons for either of us. I loved him, but I loved myself too, and I knew this was something I needed to do alone.

So I did.

I moved.

And along the way, I found myself and I found the things I knew I needed– self-love, ambition, and a drive for happiness and well-being. I slipped up along the way, but that’s fine– good, actually. Everything that has happened can be chalked up as a learning experience, a lesson, and maybe even a laugh.


Randy Pausch made a valuable point:

“We cannot change the cards we are dealt, just how we play the hand.”

Truth be told, life can throw us some pretty shitty, inconveniencing, nasty shit. It’s what we do with it that means the most.

One year ago I was stuck, but I was fortunate enough to know it didn’t have to remain that way. I didn’t have to stay in my situation if it made me unhappy. I was free to live life how I wanted to, despite what anyone else thought of it.

You know the cool thing about that?

You can too.

You are not shackled to your past, or your problems, or your insecurities. You have just as much right to live fully and freely as everyone else. What others think of your passions or dreams is none of your business. After all, this is your life. Do what makes you happy.

If a dying man can do that, we all can.

Be good, do good, and remember that everything you want out of life is attainable; and if nothing else– know that I am rooting for you.

We need you.

5 Things I Wish I Would Have Known 5 Years Ago

I spend a lot of time reflecting on the past and how the events that took place during the last ten or so years of my life have shaped me as a woman. I like to think about how I can improve as a human being, a friend, a daughter, a girlfriend– the roles in my life that make me who I am.

Is that a good or bad way to spend my time? That’s up for debate. I don’t have a definite answer, nor do I want one.

What I do know, however, is that there are a lot of things that I look back on and wish I would have known sooner. It seems silly to think about the what-if’s and the could-have’s. That’s not what this article is about. This is merely a look at the lessons I’ve learned and the knowledge I have gained from being a really stupid teenager. The fun bit of this is that not much has changed–as opposed to being a really stupid teenager, I am now a really stupid adult with a caffeine and ibuprofen addiction. (Don’t get old, kids.)

Let’s begin.

  1. Credit cards are not your friends.

Ah, yes. I remember eighteen-year-old me thinking I was so cool because I got approved for a credit card. Instead of being responsible, I just nearly maxed that bad boy out. Why? I was using it to impress other people with bullshit items and buying things for my ex-boyfriend whom literally did not deserve to even know me. What did we learn from this, my friends?

  • Don’t buy things you can’t afford, don’t need, or will not use.
  • Don’t go spending money on men that don’t have any goals/jobs/aspirations
  • If you do not listen to the first two points above, you will end up in debt and needing to take out a small loan to cover the ridiculous balance and interest rate. Don’t be me.

 

2. People are not projects.

There is not a single person in this world that you need to fix more than yourself. I can scream this from the rooftops, from the mountains, hell; I would scream it from a plane if I could. If a person isn’t willing to get help for themselves, it isn’t your problem and it’s not your responsibility to put their pieces back together. Everyone goes through shit–especially you. Yourself. At the end of the day, as depressing as it sounds, you are all you have. Not everyone that walks into your world is going to have the same heart or mindset that you have– that is exactly what makes you so unique. Run with that. Nourish yourself. Eat well. Seek help. Go to the gym. Sleep enough. Take care of you. Unless you have children, everyone else comes second. The sooner you put yourself into this mode, the better. I wish this was something I realized sooner. What happens if we do not follow this golden rule?

  • Heartbreak
  • More heartbreak
  • Disappointment and a lack of trust

3. Not everyone is out to get you.

Listen, if you’re anything like me, anxiety makes you their bitch. There are times I will walk into a coffee shop or a store and feel an overwhelming sense of dread because I feel like everyone is judging me or looking at me. You know what that is? Egotistical. It is absolutely egotistical to think that in people’s everyday busy lives that they’re thinking of me amongst all of the other bullshit they’re dealing with. People have work they need to get done, kids they need to feed, cleaning they need to do. They’re not thinking about me. They’re thinking about how the hell they’re going to clean the house whilst doing a 16-page report for their art history class. What I wish little Leah would have known/did:

  • Nobody cares what you wear
  • Nobody cares what your hair looks like
  • Breathe, you big dummy

4. If a man cares about you, he will not force you into having sex with him.

Ah yes, you all knew this was going to get uncomfortable at some point. Guess what? Life is uncomfortable, and awkward, and overall messy. Get over it. I wish I could go back and smack 18-20 year old me in the face for this. No man will make you do any sort of sexual act and call it love. You know what those guys are? Assholes. They are assholes. A man will never disrespect you or your body for their benefit. True men will wait as long as they need to if they truly respect you and your boundaries. Manipulation is not synonymous with love. Key points:

  • You don’t need to have sex with someone in order to love them
  • Sex is a two-way street
  • If you withdraw consent, it is then considered rape
  • Be safe

5.  Be honest with yourself.

Listen, the hardest part of recovering from anything is admitting there is a problem. It’s silly and cliche, but you’ll never heal unless you allow yourself to realize that things are either not good, not healthy, or not progressing. Everyone and their mothers go through rough patches, fall on hard times, and go through phases. You are absolutely allowed to feel that way. However, it is up to you to get up and brush yourself off. It might be the hardest thing you’ll ever do. Show yourself some respect and better yourself from whatever tragedy, problem, or slump you are in. Don’t wallow in self-hatred and don’t be the “woe is me” person. I have dark humor, and I joke constantly about self-loathing– but truth be told, I know my limits and I know that my happiness is entirely up to me. What I learned:

  • Nobody is going to pick you up when you fall except for you
  • Don’t rely on others to make you happy
  • It’s going to take a long time to get to where I need to be. I may as well enjoy the ride

And kids, there you have it. I could probably think of many more things I wish younger-me would have known, like remembering to change the oil in my car regularly and not to talk to strangers on the internet or whatever. However, my fingers are sore from typing and I have other adulty things I need to get done today.

Keep on keeping on and remember– we need you.

 

 

An Apology Letter to Her

I think in the midst of life’s changes I lost myself. I lost what I stood for. I lost sight of my goals, my dreams. The bigger picture once painted beautiful shades of blues and reds had crumbled along with my mental health.

I won’t pretend like I’m in a good state of mind— it would defeat the purpose of everything I stand for. Still, even on the darkest days, my message remains the same: we need you.

I wish I could take my own advice. Isn’t that funny? We have sound advice for everyone but ourselves. Humans are funny and incredibly sad creatures.

Firstly— I’m sorry. I’m sorry that I repeatedly fail you and treat you like shit. You don’t deserve that…no one does. This won’t be the last time I apologize. It’s a repeat offense, a cycle that never ceases. I long to be in love with you but most days I can’t bare to look at you. I don’t want to feel that way. You’ve come so far and there’s something to be said for that. Deep inside, buried underneath the rubble of our past, I am proud of you beyond words of expression. You need to hear that.

Secondly— please understand that success is not a race, nor a set destination. Little things can be considered successes too. There’s triumph waking up in the morning when the night before you wanted to die. There’s power in conquering an essay when you didn’t know if you’d pass or fail. There’s beauty in terrible things. Don’t let it go unnoticed. You will fail, (a lot, probably) but that is not a representation of who you are. Perfection is not the goal. There is more to life than making good money or getting a 4.0.

Existing is easy but living is hard. My mind is constantly gnawing at the “could have’s” or the “what if’s.” Pay no mind to those questions. They are not beneficial. They will destroy you.

Your existence is meaningful to people, even if some days you don’t understand why. There’s a purpose for everyone, so what makes you any different?

Try to understand that existence is not black and white. Shades of color fill in the void, even on the black days. Happiness is on its way— but don’t chase it. It is not a destination. Its just an emotion. Let it engulf you when opportunity arises, but understand that some days you won’t find it anywhere. That’s okay.

Everyone grows at different rates. Life is not a race, nor a competition. Don’t let society and social media tell you any different. Everyone is fighting a good fight. Everyone has demons that dim their light. We are all just trying to get by on what we have– including you.

Your existence is a beautiful, fiery mess. Let it be.

I can’t get out of bed

I can’t get out of bed.

The mornings are dull, my heart aches with the desire to feel something other than void, the thick air feels heavy against my skin.

I can’t get out of bed.

What’s the point? You can’t afford this. How are you going to manage a real job? You’re in over your head.

The voices speak but I’m tuning them out. They don’t know me. They don’t define me.

I can’t get out of bed.

Responsibility calls but I don’t answer. Instead, I cry; for nor particular reason at all. Depression calls. I answer her.

I can’t get out of bed.

I read endless articles about positivity and happiness and how to become a healthier me. It seems simple. I try it.

I still can’t get out of bed.

Tomorrow is a new day. Opportunity awaits. Depression will call me, but I’ll try to decline her. She never has anything good to say.

Tomorrow I’ll try to get out of bed.

How Anxiety Landed Me in the Hospital

For the past week and a half, I’ve been feeling truly sick– heart palpitations, leg numbness, shortness of breath, extreme thirst. I let it go for awhile because I assumed I was just dealing with a pesky cold. I didn’t want to make the trek to urgent care unless I was truly dying.

Yesterday I grew tired of feeling like death’s guinea pig, so I made the trip and forked over my ridiculous copay– only for them to tell me to go to the emergency room for blood work. My blood pressure was high and they began to worry because of my leg numbness.

Reluctantly, I made the trip.  The last thing I wanted to do was spend the next 10 hours in the ER, but I clearly lack strong decision making and any dignity, so I did it anyway. They ran a multitude of tests; from blood work to urine sampling to a CT scan. Despite my oddly above-normal heart rate, all tests came back normal.

The doctor’s suggestion?

  1. I should see an endocrinologist for further treatment.
  2. It is likely I just have severe anxiety which causes me to have physical symptoms.

How frustrating it was for them to come to that conclusion, seeing as though I already knew I had anxiety, yet it has never affected me like that before. I have had real panic attacks, debilitating ones that have stopped me in my tracks. I have hyperventilated.  I have gone through all of that before– but never something like this.

Do I really believe the doctor?

I mean, I guess I don’t have much choice. She’s obviously much more qualified than I. I suppose more than anything I am just frustrated, with myself and this feeling that has plagued me for most of my life.

What’s next?

I don’t know. I am too stubborn to give up on this fight for normalcy. I would sooner die than be put on medications again. It does feel unbeatable sometimes– especially nights like yesterday. It’s frustrating. I feel dumb. I feel misunderstood. I feel a billion things– none of them necessarily good. But I know deep within me that I am worth so much more than this, and I will get it.

Even if it takes fifty years, I will get it.

 

 

 

The Art of Pleasing Others– and Why it’s Bullshit

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Living is hard enough. Living for others? Bullshit.

Societal pressures, family, friends– they all tell us we need to be something other than ourselves.

If we don’t do this then we won’t amount to anything.

If we don’t lose weight we’ll never be attractive to the opposite sex.

If we don’t have kids, our futures are worthless.

If we follow our dreams, we’re irresponsible.

If we play it safe, we aren’t living. 

Quite frankly, it’s all bullshit.

I truly believe our early twenties are the roughest years in terms of trying to find ourselves. It’s painful to be pulled in fifteen different directions, silencing your inner voice for the sake of others’ happiness. We are afraid to branch out and see things for ourselves because we can’t handle the unknown. We are petrified of not being accepted. We are so consumed in other people’s (irrelevant) opinions that we often forget that our only duty is to keep ourselves happy and healthy.

When I first enrolled in college, someone told me I was “stupid” for studying anything other than computers or technology–words I remember being spoken like shards of glass in my back. It hurt to be let down, but it hurt even more coming from someone I thought I could trust.

Gradually, things began to change. I found something I was good at and ran with it. It’s hard to incorporate passion with career. It’s hard to keep your head above water when it seems like the whole universe is attempting to drown out your hopes.

Don’t let them steal your spark in life.

The day I enrolled in university, I knew I had to do it for me; regardless of what people thought or how crazy it seemed. They thought I was crazy for studying media and culture– but I thought they were crazy for not giving me a chance to prove myself.

The art of pleasing others digs much deeper than career choices or college majors. I’ve done a whole array of things that my family has deemed questionable; from relationships to my appearance to how I act or what I do. Its exhausting pretending to be someone I am not.

So I stopped.

I imagine it hasn’t or won’t be that easy for others in the same situation. I feel for them.

Truthfully speaking, I don’t owe anyone any explanation for why I do the things I do– and neither do you. It is not our job as humans to conform to what other people want. We need to do what’s right for us in order to grow and contribute as decent people. Being someone we are not gives the false idea that it’s okay to hold back.

It is not okay.

We aren’t doing the world any favors by keeping ourselves on a tight leash. The world desperately needs more authenticity.

At the end of the day, it is imperative to remember these three things–

  1. You don’t owe anybody shit
  2. You are you for good reason– don’t question your worth
  3. You don’t need anybody that doesn’t need you

When life seems to be getting too tough, too unbearable– keep going. We need you.

We really fucking need you.

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