Everyone needs to stop saying “that’s so gay”

Everyone sit back and recall those cheesy Hilary Duff commercials circa 2008. Two girls in a store trying on clothes when one of them says “that’s so gay”. Cue Hilary chiming in to let them know that it’s not okay to use someone’s sexuality as an insult and then (savagely, might I add) comparing it to referring to bad things as “so girl wearing a skirt as a top”. While the commercial hit big at the time and definitely worked to lower the use of the phrase in a negative way, its effects weren’t complete and the phrase is still pretty common.

A few nights ago I was sitting around with some friends who had some questions about what I do and do not find offensive as a lesbian. For the most part, I am pretty laid back and I am not offended by the light-hearted lesbian jokes my friends and family will make from time to time. They’re harmless, never ill-intentioned and usually not offensive anyway. However, I told them that the one thing that does make me angry is hearing people refer to things that they deem bad as gay.

Immediately, they all chimed in saying that it’s a reflex and they’ve been saying that since they were 10 years old. They went on to say that they don’t mean anything by it and that it’s just something they say. But that’s kind of the point here isn’t it? That this phrase has become so ubiquitous that no one even considers the fact that they are insulting an entire community of people when they use it.

When someone says “that’s so gay” referring to something they find bad or stupid or wrong, they are simultaneously equating being gay to being bad, stupid, or wrong. These negative connotations of a what is, to them, a harmless comment, continue to reinforce the stigma surrounding the LGBTQ+ community and perpetuate the negative views our society as a whole already has about this group.

Now I know a lot of people will say things like “stop being so sensitive” and “lighten up, it’s just a joke” and expect me to accept that. I won’t. To me, saying “that’s so gay” is essentially equating my sexuality and me as a person to being bad, stupid, and wrong and I am absolutely not okay with that.

I am sure most people who use that phrase have no intentions of making me and countless others feel this way, but they do. And they do so without even thinking about it. So I am urging everyone, do think about it. Pay attention to what you’re saying. Think about the effects of what you’re saying. Be better. Do better.

There has got to be an insult out there more original and clever than “that’s so gay” and offensive only to the person you are intending to offend. If you can’t think of one, then maybe go pick up a book and add some more words to your vocabulary. I promise there is something better out there to say and probably much more insulting to the person you actually want to insult.

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Everyone needs to stop saying “that’s so gay”

My Mental Health Journey

When I was 7, I was diagnosed with OCD. I had always been an anxious kid, but it wasn’t until one afternoon when I was sitting at the table doing my homework that my parents realized something was really wrong. I just couldn’t get my letter e to look right. I sat there for hours erasing and re-writing that letter e until I had erased straight through the paper and had tears streaming down my cheeks. A week later, I was sitting in a therapist’s office coloring while my mom sat in the waiting room. At the time, I didn’t really understand the diagnosis. They called it Obsessive Compulsive Disorder but that’s all I knew about it. After that, I continued to live my 7 year old life and found myself dealing much less with the compulsive part of the disorder and much more with the obsessive part. My brain would get stuck on a topic and it would circle around and around in my head until I couldn’t focus on anything else. Over and over again I would be crying to my mom because I couldn’t stop thinking about sex (which I had just learned about) or her dying or something else equally as terrifying to my elementary school brain.

Then, when I was 10, everything changed. When I was 10 my dad developed a serious drug problem that tore my family apart. My parents split up, we lost our house, and my dad disappeared. Being the oldest, I was forced to grow up very quickly and that year, my OCD symptoms started to slip away and were replaced by a wall that shut out everyone and everything. In the years following that, I continued to live my life. As far as anyone could tell, I had coped well and I was just a normal kid. I went to middle school, then high school just like I should have. I got good grades, played softball, was very involved in music, and had plenty of friends. But I felt nothing. I shut down my emotions and let nothing affect me. Over the years, my dad came in and out of our lives, popping up when he felt like it and disappearing again just as quickly. Eventually, the pills were always more important than us and won every time. The thing is, I didn’t care. If he was there, whatever. If he left, whatever. It didn’t matter. I thought I was okay; that everything was fine and none of it mattered. It was what it was and I was all good.

But then in my junior year of college, I fell in love. Only I didn’t know it was love, or I wouldn’t admit it to myself anyway. I didn’t understand why I was obsessing over my best friend and worrying constantly that she was going to leave me, that she was going to decide one day that she didn’t care about me anymore. I broke. I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t focus on school or my friends. I couldn’t do anything but cry when no one was looking. But I didn’t understand what was happening to me. People would ask if I was okay and I would respond that I was fine. I was fine right? I had always been fine so of course I was fine. I didn’t tell anyone what was happening. I couldn’t. I wasn’t that person. I didn’t fall apart. I didn’t let anything affect me. This went on for months.

One night over winter break, I was up late and sitting in the living room of my house crying uncontrollably. I couldn’t make it stop and I felt so terrible. I couldn’t take it anymore – I needed help. I forced myself to walk upstairs into my mom’s room and I woke her up. She came downstairs with me and held me while I sobbed for hours. I had opened a floodgate by falling in love. I had let one emotion force its way out and then all of a sudden, ten years of emotions poured out with it.

The following day, I went to the doctor and was prescribed anti-depressants and anti-anxiety medication. I started seeing a therapist a week later. As it turns out, mental illness doesn’t like to be ignored. With the emotions flowing freely, my OCD obsessions had returned in full force and along with them came massive anxiety.  I couldn’t feel anything but sad and scared. But I started to understand why I was feeling the way I was. I began to understand the weight I had been carrying around with me for more than ten years. I started to feel all of the sadness and anger and fear that resulted from my dad’s addiction and its effects on me. It was the scariest time of my life. But it was also the beginning of surrendering.

That night on the couch with my mom holding me while I cried was the first time I had ever asked for help. That was the moment my mental health journey began. And it is just that – a journey; a process. That night was more than three years ago and I am still on that same journey every single day. I have taken giant steps forward in my mental health but there are days, weeks, and months that I’ve taken even bigger steps back. I make an effort to spend time by myself doing the things that I love – writing and singing for the most part – every day or as close to it as possible. I have opened myself up so much since that time in my life. I share as much as I can about my mental health and my mental illnesses through my blog posts and with friends. I try talk about it with anyone who is interested no matter how uncomfortable it makes me. On one of my worst days, I wrote a piece about my anxiety that went viral and gave me the opportunity to share some of the most intimate details of my mental illness with hundreds of thousands of people. I have been able to speak with so many people who reached out to share their own mental health journeys and to help me with mine.

On the other side, I have had plenty of days where anxiety has won. I have gone long periods of time doing things that are not good for my mental health and have ignored the negative effects they’ve had on me. I have lost myself and felt like I was back at square one more than once. I have had weeks where I could not get out of bed, where I could only cry. I have had to ask for help over and over again from the people who love me.

And that’s the thing about a mental health journey. It isn’t a straight line. It goes forward and backward. Sometimes you make lateral moves. You lose friends in the process and you find support in people who will surprise you. But you won’t know until you reach out, until you let yourself ask for help. Going upstairs that night took every ounce of willpower that I had and turned out to be one of the best decisions I have ever made.

Every single day I have to fight for myself. I have to remember that my mental health comes first and everything else comes second. Over the past six months or so, I have had a period of steps backward. I have neglected my mental health and it is visible in everything I do. Over the past few weeks, I have been making an effort to pull myself back toward writing and singing as well as evaluating my mental health and reaching out to friends and family to pull me back on track. I can already feel the difference in myself and my mental health.

I am sure I will have more periods of losing myself along the road. I am sure I will feel frustrated and angry and scared again. But I am also sure that I will have people around me who will be there to help pick me back up. If I have learned anything from this journey I’m on, it’s that it isn’t about suddenly being “fixed” or never having another bad day. It’s about working every single day toward a better tomorrow. It’s about falling and getting back up over and over again and continuing to fight even when you don’t want to. It’s about putting yourself first, learning to love yourself, and never ever giving up. This is a journey that I will be on for the rest of my life but it is a journey I want to be on and will never stop fighting for.

My Mental Health Journey

Kind of, sort of dating…I think?

Lately, I have been having a lot of conversations with friends revolving around dating and relationships and it has made me so much more aware of how ridiculous today’s dating culture is – if you can even call it dating. Everyone wonders why they can’t manage to have a solid, healthy relationship but truthfully, there isn’t much to wonder about. Our relationship culture today is unintentional, noncommittal, and based more on likes and streaks than spending actual time together.

My biggest and most frequent complaint is that no one makes their intentions clear. Rather than asking another person on a date and making it clear that we are romantically interested in them, we instead go through different stages of communication until we, eventually, fall into a relationship by default.

The process starts with liking Instagram posts, tweets, Facebook statuses, or swiping right. From there, at least a general interest in another person is established. Then there is the dreaded “talking” stage. This one drives me completely out of my mind. We talk to someone day after day, from morning until night. Only it isn’t really talking exactly. It’s texting, it’s snapchatting, it’s tagging each other in memes back and forth, and more than anything else, it is through our phone screens and never in person or even over a phone call.

Recently, my friend told me that she talks to the guy she’s interested in every single day “in one form or another”. When I asked what she meant, she told me that they had been consistently snapping each other. Is that talking? Is there any real conversation even happening there? How is that even considered communication between two people who care for each other? How is that meaningful in any way?

I suppose I can see how the talking stage is important and justified to a certain extent with the social media world we have no choice but to get sucked into but come on, there has got to be a line drawn somewhere, if even just in the sand.

From there, the talking stage more often than not becomes hanging out. Hanging out becomes hooking up. Hooking up becomes emotional. Emotional becomes romantic, and here we are, dating with no real intention established or known to either person.

This is the part that makes me absolutely crazy. Both people knew from the beginning that they wanted to be with the other or that they at least knew they wanted more than just friendship but, rather than simply state that and make it clear that they were romantically interested, they insisted on playing this long, drawn out game that has no clear beginning or end.

Now these two people are connected and are more than obviously into each other enough that their friends refer to them as “boyfriend and girlfriend” or “boyfriends” or “girlfriends” before the couple themselves has even had a discussion as to whether or not that is what they are. Which leads to even more confusion. The questions of “is it appropriate to assume this person will be my prom date?” “Can I safely assume I have a date for my cousin’s wedding next month?” “Should I consider myself ‘off the market’?” arise and then comes the inevitable talk.

Eventually it has to happen. One person gets overwhelmed with the anxiety associated with this kind of unofficial, unattached kind of dating and is forced to sit down with the other and ask the forbidden question, “what are we?” at which point the couple has to decide if they are actually a couple or if they are not. If things are going well, the answer is usually, “yes of course we’re dating. I definitely assumed we were,” which seems like a positive outcome, but here’s the thing – relationships and love shouldn’t just be an assumption. We should know that we are pursuing another person because we care for them and they also care for us.

When there is no clear commitment, it can also leave openings for cheating or foul play of any kind which isn’t actually cheating or wrong because of the perfect excuse, “we’re not together” right? It can all be so infuriating and incredibly hurtful when both people know that this situation is well past casual and involves real, deep feelings. The noncommittal nature of these relationships allows a loophole, a way out, a reason for an otherwise guilty party to get off without a stitch of culpability and to me, that seems absolutely ludicrous for something that is supposed to be loving, trusting, and more than anything, safe for two people. We should know that we are spending this time with another person with the intention of being in a relationship with them.

And that is what all of this boils down to- the intention. No one outright says, “this is a date”. No one outright asks “will you be my girlfriend?” anymore. No one says what they want. Everyone is so afraid of being vulnerable enough for these things that they skip them altogether. As a result, we end up with a lot of broken, unsuccessful relationships and unnecessary heartbreak.

We need to change this way of going about relationships. We need to ditch the phones and find our way back to each other. We need to return to the intentional dates and to the in person, face to face dating with social media intertwined instead of the other way around. Stop falling into relationships and instead intentionally walk into them, knowing what we want and making it known. Maybe then we won’t have to wonder so much.

 

Kind of, sort of dating…I think?

“Good for her, I could never do that.”

I got my boobs in second grade. I had also been the tallest girl in my class since kindergarten. I was used to standing out for being “bigger” in those ways. Then, as I got older, those weren’t the only parts of me that grew bigger. I’m not afraid to admit it, I was a fat kid. At the time though, I had no idea.

I was the kind of kid who took dance classes with all the other girls and laughed while I stumbled around on stage, completely unaware that I had zero rhythm whatsoever. I played soccer for six years and scored one goal. For the first two seasons I played, I would sit down and pick the grass in the middle of the field while the other kids ran around me and actually, you know, played soccer. I didn’t care. I was happy. And I was completely oblivious.

I tried my best to keep this image of myself in the back of my mind as I got older. It turns out, loving yourself and not worrying what everyone else thinks is not the norm. Especially when you’re a girl. We are instead taught to be hyper critical of our bodies at all times and never ever for one second think that it’s okay to wear a bikini if you are anything bigger than a size two.

Fast forward to my senior year in college. My friends and I decided we wanted to do the whole “spring break” thing, load up the car, and drive the 25 hours to Panama City Beach Florida for some sun, sand, and ~possibly~ an alcoholic beverage or two. At the time, I was wearing a size 12 pair of jeans and for the beach, I brought a *gasp* bikini. I know, who did I think I was wearing something that might show my not-so-flat stomach and back fat?

The first day on the beach, my friends and I were playing games and trying (failing) to bop the volleyball around to each other without letting it hit the ground. We were all laughing and totally carefree with Lime-a-ritas in our hands and miles of ocean in front of us. Then, this group of girls walked by. There were probably two or three of them. All tall, tanned, and definitely somewhere around a size two. I bent down to pick up the volleyball that we had dropped (again), and heard one of the girls say in a hushed tone to the others, “Good for her, I could never do that,” as they looked at me in my bikini and continued walking by.

This sentence has stuck with me ever since. This girl felt like she had to commend me for wearing a bikini to a beach as if it were some magnificent feat that most people can’t do. The sad part is – most girls and women feel as if they really can’t. They feel as if their bodies are not the right shape or size or a myriad of other ridiculous things that are seemingly required to wear a bikini.

I did not choose to wear that bathing suit to make a statement. I did not wear it to stand up to “the man”. I wore it because I thought it was pretty and I wanted to. Simple as that. If there is one thing hearing that sentence taught me, it’s to be proud the little girl up on stage doing her own thing and the happy little grass-picker ignoring the rest of the soccer game and the girl in her bikini on the beach. She did those things because she wanted to and didn’t give a rats you-know-what about what she was “supposed” to be doing. That girl has the right idea.

“Good for her, I could never do that.”

What happens when you get fired

Today I was fired for the fourth time in the past year. I know, what a loser right? That was my first thought too. I thought, how could I be this pathetic? How could I be so stupid that I can’t hold down a simple job? How am I ever going to have a future with someone if I can’t be responsible enough to receive a consistent paycheck? What is wrong with me?

I reached out to the people closest to me, asking them the same questions I was asking myself. As much as they tried to help, it was useless. It’s not like anything they said would make me feel better about myself. Then it hit me. It’s not like anything they said would make me feel better about myself. Because this isn’t about them at all is it? This is about me. After that thought crossed my mind, it was followed by about a million more. Here are a few of those thoughts.

It’s not you. It’s the job.

Now this isn’t necessarily always true. But in most cases, it is. When people get fired from jobs, more often than not it’s because they were not giving the job the kind of dedication and work every job deserves. I was not giving this job anywhere near my all. Why? Because I didn’t care. I wasn’t passionate about this job and for me, that’s everything. For me, no happy = no worky. Some people will say, you have to pay your dues and all that mumbo jumbo, and they’re right…to an extent. Sometimes a job is just not for you and that’s okay.

This is not the end of the world.

So you found out a job wasn’t right for you…so what? On to the next one. Being fired can be a make it or break it moment for you. Of course the initial meltdown is okay and definitely will happen. But then pick up the pieces, bury them six feet deep and move on from it. There are millions of jobs out there. One of them will hire you. This job is not the last one you’ll ever have. A girl (or boy) has gotta eat.

Your job does not define your worth.

 If you learn nothing else in life, learn this. Your job status does not determine who you are or what you’re worth. What your boss thinks of you, does not define you. A job is what you do during the day (or night) to pay for the things you do when you’re not working. Keep that in mind. Getting fired from any job, no matter what it is, doesn’t make you pathetic and it doesn’t make you a bad person.

You will be okay.

This one doesn’t need an explanation. Just trust it. You will move forward. You will have a bright future. You will be okay.

 

What happens when you get fired

How do we let people who hurt us back into our lives?

Letting someone who hurt you back into your life is one of the hardest, most underestimated acts of bravery someone can make. In my opinion anyway. When you’ve been broken by someone else, when another person has torn you apart into so many pieces you didn’t think it was humanly possible to put them all back together, allowing them close enough that they could do that again is paralyzing to say the least.

I mean, it’s the basis of any heartwarming estranged parent/child scene in any movie or TV show. It’s what had everyone up in arms when Ross and Rachel tried to work things out after their break. It’s at the heart of millions of our favorite stories. But what happens when it isn’t a story anymore? What happens when it’s real life and it was your heart that way broken, my heart that was broken? Is it even possible to get past that, to be okay again, to trust again?

8 months ago, I felt like my still-beating heart was ripped out of my chest. I had a constant knife in my belly, an incessant ringing in my head. I was destroyed by a love that was not ready for me. But now…now she wants back in and even more terrifyingly,  want her back in. I want another chance for us to have the relationship I always knew we could have if only we were ready. Now, she claims she’s ready. Now, I think I am ready.

But how do I get through all of the horrible things I went through the first time around? How do I learn to trust that the bad things are different now; that when she tells me something, she’s telling me the truth; that when she expresses her feelings to me she’s being honest; that she won’t be angry with me every time I experience anxiety that’s somehow related to her? How do I trust that she will treat me better this time?

Letting someone back in sounds so easy. Forgive and forget, that’s how the story is supposed to go right? If I choose to forgive, that means I have to forget right? If I choose to forgive, that means I don’t have a right to be afraid of old habits dying hard with her right? Or at least, I don’t have the right to vocalize that?

The thing that gets me, the thing that always gets everyone, is the fear. Fear will get you every time. Fear that our beating hearts will be beating in someone else’s hands instead of inside our own chests. Fear that we did this to ourselves. Fear that we may be playing with fire again, and we very well may be burned, again. Fear that the second we let our guard down, the kill shot will be ordered and we will be left defenseless.

But that’s the thing isn’t it? If we give in to fear we lose and if we don’t, we might still lose. I guess we have to choose which odds we like and if the risk is worth the fight. I am still not sure if the odds are in my favor but I don’t know that that matters when it comes to situations like these. I don’t think the odds are ever in our favor once our hearts get involved.

And I guess that’s ultimately how we get past the past. That is how we let someone back into our lives even after they hurt us. Because no matter what the odds are never in our favor when it comes to love. No matter what we do, we have a higher chance of losing than we ever do of winning. So in the end, why not just take the chance? If the odds aren’t great either way, we have to choose the path that could possibly even have the teeniest, tiniest chance of letting us win.

So we let them back in. We let them back in on the off chance that our hearts remain beating in our chests and end up just a little bit fuller than they were before.

How do we let people who hurt us back into our lives?

My brain on OCD

At seven years old, I was diagnosed with  Obsessive Compulsive Disorder or OCD. I obsessively washed my hands in fear of germs. I  sat at the kitchen table for three hours trying to get my letter e to look just right. Every time my parents would leave the house, I was convinced they were never coming back.

I developed massive anxiety. It interfered with my schoolwork, my friendships, my happiness. My mom took me to see a therapist and after a few months, it was as if I never had any problems at all. After that, my OCD laid pretty dormant for years.

It wasn’t until I was nearly 21 years old that the old habits resurfaced. Only this time, I didn’t get to be better in a few months and move on with my life. This time, I encountered problems that will most likely stick with me for the rest of my life. 

I wanted to share a bit about what it’s like and what it feels like to have a brain on OCD.

Every single thing comes with a what if. One of the biggest challenges I face with OCD face is the constant what-if game being played in my head. What if they leave me? What if I did something wrong and they hate me now? What if my cat dies because I forgot to feed her this morning? I know that these thoughts are completely irrational and I would know if I had done something wrong; my cat won’t die if I forget to feed her once. But I continue to worry all the same.

Then there is the what if game’s cousin, the intrusive thoughts. My mind goes places I don’t want it to go without my permissionI do not actively think about all of the bad things that could happen however, that is why these thoughts are called intrusive. They come from nowhere and present me with all of the worst possible options for what may happen.

The next part is my personal favorite: the obsessions. The what if game and the intrusive thoughts come to me and cause me enough trouble in themselves. Adding the obsessions to the mix really just puts the icing on the cake. Once my brain finds a thought it likes, it latches on and won’t let it go. My brain operates without my control at this point. It decides without me which thought we get to obsess over and then keeps that thought on a loop until I do something about it.

Then come the compulsions. When I was young, they were hand washing, erasing and re-writing the letter e, calling my mom on her cell phone until she answered and reassured me that she was okay. Now my obsessions are all more related to the people I love and the way they think of me. My compulsions almost always include double, triple, or even quadruple texting someone I think may be upset with me for some reason I am unaware of. For others with different obsessions, the compulsions will be what seems like a reasonable reaction to their thoughts. The compulsions are our way, or my way at least, of making the thoughts stop if only for the moment.

But that’s the problem with OCD. The obsessions always come back or are replaced with new ones. It is endlessly frustrating to not have control over your own thoughts and impulses. It is very very hard to understand why I can’t control what’s going on in my brain. I mean, it’s my brain. But that’s how it is and, for the time being, there isn’t much I can do about it.

This is my brain on OCD. 

My brain on OCD