Thursday, January 30, 2014

"Who the Fuck Cares?" Apparently, I Do!

Today, someone hurt my feelings. It wasn't a super close friend, just someone I know. I called a friend of mine to vent. Her advice was this "Sarah, who the fuck cares?" And she meant this with love. She went on to say "It doesn't matter what this person thinks of you. If I had one piece of advice for you it would be this: stop caring what other people think about you."

You know what, she is absolutely right. I realized that this is something that I struggle with. It's a common pattern that I see with myself. Someone's behavior towards me hurts my feelings, makes me angry or offends me in way shape or form so I internalize that feeling. I blame myself. I must have done something to piss them off. 

Then I rack my brain for what it could be. What did I do to upset this person that they would turn around and hurt me? My mind continues to obsess and analyze all the possible ways I could have offended this person. In reality, this is a total and utter waste of time that I could be using to do something productive like write a novel. Seriously, the amount of time I spend obsessing over what other people think about me could amount to a solid work of fiction. 

Though I believe my friend is right with regard to her statement, I wonder if it's possible to truly "not care" what other people think about you. I mean, I know that I spend an inordinate amount of time ruminating on this topic, but is it possible to not care about what other human beings think about you?

I believe this is part of the human condition. We all want to be liked by other people (unless you're a sociopath) and so you tend to care about how other people see you. 

So the question remains: is it truly possible to not care about what other people think about you? I wonder if it's a self-esteem issue. If you're confident in yourself and who you are, perhaps you are more apt to blow off the behavior of other people. 

While I'm pondering this question, I'm going to pretend I don't care if you comment on this post. But really, I do care. :) 

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Fighting Against The Stigma of Mental Illness

I have panic disorder. I manage chronic anxiety every single day. I had my first panic attack when I was fifteen years-old and (at the time) I had no idea what was going on. I thought I might be having a heart attack. It seemed like a physical problem at first. I had an uncontrollable racing heart followed by sweating and shaking. But then I quickly realized that nervous thoughts were accompanying my physical symptoms.

Thankfully, I wasn't alone. Anxiety and depression run in my family, and my mother knew exactly what was going on and how to help me. I started seeing a therapist and learned coping techniques to deal with anxiety. However, the techniques I learned were not enough. From ages 15 to 18 I still suffered from severe panic attacks that made it incredibly difficult for me to function.

For the most part, I suffered in silence. The only people who knew about my struggle with panic were my parents, my brother and my best friend, who didn't attend my high school. I attended a performing arts high school where I studied theater. I was an excellent actress, but not in the way one might think. I was well adept at hiding my mental illness from my peers.

After three years of covering up my suffering, I was mentally and physically exhausted. In 1998, when I was 18 years-old, I made the decision to see a psychiatrist. I started taking Prozac. My whole life changed after that. I didn't suffer from intrusive thoughts anymore, I was able to breathe, I was able to function like a normal human being. I thought to myself "Oh, this is what normal people must feel like."

I went on to attend NYU and graduate with a decent G.P.A. I could not have done this without the help of anti-depressants.

Since college, the only time I have been off of anti-depressants was when I was pregnant with my children or breastfeeding them. Other than that, I recognize and I know that taking anti-depressants helps me to keep anxiety at bay.

In addition to taking anti-depressants, I also eat mostly organic, take herbal supplements, see an acupuncturist and meditate daily. But these things are not enough. At this point in my life, I still need to take anti-depressants to manage panic attacks.

As a person managing chronic anxiety, I have heard a lot of unhelpful advice from people who don't understand mental illness. Here are some common things people have said to me:

1. Anti-depressants are just a bandaid covering up the problem. Why don't you stop taking them and try to deal with your anxiety?

This is analogous to telling a diabetic to stop taking their insulin and see what happens. Mental illness is a real condition that can be debilitating if left untreated.

2. You're being dramatic. You think too much. Why don't you just stop obsessing?

There is a chemical imbalance in my brain. My brain doesn't produce enough serotonin. Therefore, the result is I have chronic intrusive thoughts, depression and anxiety. Unless you would like to talk to the neurotransmitters inside my head and tell them to stop firing, I think we're done here.

3. You're lazy.

Quite the opposite actually. I have to work twice as hard to do the things "normal people" do, such as wake up, get dressed and leave the house. I am constantly battling the thoughts in my head. I would call myself a warrior.

Whether you're dealing with anxiety, depression, ADHD, or any other mental illness, you are fighting a battle. To those around you, it may look like an invisible war, but it's happening. You're working hard to be able to function.

Mental illness is real. We need to be just as empathetic and sensitive to those who are managing depression as we are to people that are dealing with physical ailments or diseases. If your friend tells you she she's having a panic attack, ask her what you can do to help. I promise you, she's not being lazy. She's trying to survive.

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Happy Birthday Samara! You Are Three!

Happy third birthday to my adventurous, fearless, outspoken, dynamic wonderful girl.

You are three!

I love you!

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Venus Teaches Me to Love My Curves

When I was a child, I was skinny. I was nine-years-old and I remember my aunt Mary Jo telling me:
"You eat like a bird!" It's just the way I was. I drank more than I ate. I never thought much about it.

I did, however, observe my mom on many diets. She struggled with her weight and I watched this as I grew up. In my mind, I was determined to be the opposite of my mother. I didn't want to care about weight. I ate and drank what I wanted and I purposely tried not to acknowledge what my body looked like. I didn't love my body, I literally just ignored it. Probably because I knew if I acknowledged it in any way, I might find flaws.

Of course, when I went through puberty, I learned to critique different parts of my body. My nose was too big and I wished I didn't have freckles. But everything from the neck down I intentionally ignored. I didn't want to analyze and find imperfection with my body.

When I turned 11 I started to grow breasts. Before my chest developed, I used to sleep on my stomach. When I started growing a chest, I couldn't sleep comfortably on my belly anymore and I resented these new annoyances.

Before I knew it, I was 16, had big boobs and I was self-conscious about them. My insecurity about my  chest made me hunch over when I walked despite my mothers attempts to get me to stand up straight. She told me when she was in school, they gave out grades for posture. She'd always gotten C's and now she had back problems later in life.

Also at 16, I fell in love, got my heart broken, stopped eating for two weeks and got mono. Over those two weeks I lost a lot of weight and didn't recognize my own body. It was a terrifying experience. When I finally got well, I vowed that I would pay more attention to my body. I would stay healthy and never allow myself to get sick like that again.

I became neurotic with food. I was overly concerned that I wasn't eating enough. I obsessed all day long about the next time I would have to eat again. What would I eat? Would it be healthy enough? Would it fill me up? Feeling hunger pains felt like a failure.

When I started to gain weight back, I wasn't skinny anymore. My body was curvy and more like that of an adult woman. I looked in the mirror a lot, studying the contours of my body. After years of ignoring what I looked like from the neck down, I finally gave myself a chance to really look. Whenever I glanced at my stomach in a full length mirror, I was reminded of Sandro Botticelli's painting, The Birth of Venus.

In Botticelli's piece, Venus has a full round belly. When I stared at my stomach in the mirror, I would imagine her belly in this beautiful painting. I would remind myself that despite what the outside world says, what the media tells us, bellies are beautiful.

Over time, I went to therapy and worked through my issues with food. But it took over 15 years for me to have a "normal" relationship with eating.

After many years and a lot of introspection, I've learned to love my body. After I had my two children, my body changed again. I became even more curvy than I was before. Now when I look in the mirror, I remember that Venus has a big beautiful belly and so do I.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

America Doesn't Want People to Have Babies

When I got pregnant with my son in 2008, I was terrified. I wasn't scared to become a mother, but rather I was fearful because I was only going to get three months off from work to "bond" with my baby. I tried to rationalize the time frame. This is standard procedure, I thought, many mothers in the United States do this and then find childcare for their babies when they return to work. 

 Three months passed rather quickly, and I attempted to return to work. Only, it felt wrong. I was still breastfeeding my baby. I had to go into the bathroom to pump breast milk. When I asked my office manager if there was a refrigerator where I could store my breast milk, she looked at me like I had three heads. 

Every day I would come to work and all I could do was think about the fact that I wasn't with my baby. I came home and I could swear that he looked different from one day to the next. This just didn't feel right to me. The other major issue was that my three month old baby was not sleeping much so neither was I. I was attempting to do a full time job on four hours of sleep every day. 

So I made the decision that I would quit my full time job to stay home with my son. My husband and I struggled financially during that year to make ends meet. We barely had enough money for groceries, but somehow we survived. And I do mean we survived. It wasn't pretty all the time, but I just couldn't leave my baby at three months.

 I live in New York City where daycare costs as much as renting a studio apartment. When you choose to have children here, it seems you also have two choices: a) stay home with them and be poor or b) go to work to and pay thousands of dollars a month for someone else (a daycare facility or a babysitter) to watch them. This doesn't seem right to me.

 When I picked my son up from Kindergarten today, I met a babysitter who lived in Holland for seven years. She told me that when a working woman gets pregnant in Holland, some companies will actually provide her financial incentives to support her growing family. I thought, how progressive. Holland's got the right idea. The Dutch also value Homebirth and view it as the default way to have a baby. Hospital birth is looked at as an exception to the rule.

America seems to devalue the idea of having and nurturing babies. This is not just about mothers. Most companies don't have paternity leave of any kind. If there is any paternity leave, it's most likely unpaid and fathers need to use their time from FMLA. What I don't understand is how this is accepted as normal. We just accept the fact that we all go back to work when our babies are still infants. That's not healthy or "normal." 

I think it's time we changed this. We need more time to spend with our children. Life is not just about working to make money, it's about valuing our families. Americans deserve extended maternity and paternity leaves. We need to get to know our children before we return to being ourselves in the workplace.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Catch Ari on WTVY News 4!

Sean Sporman, producer at WTVY News 4 in Alabama reached out to me and asked to share Ari's story with their viewers. I asked Ari if he wanted to talk about ponies on TV and he said yes! For a  link to the full story click here.  Here's the clip below!

Thank you so much to the Brony community for all your support. Special thanks to Sethisto and Equestria Daily for helping to share Ari's story!

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Ari's Favorite My Little Pony- A Video Interview

Some of you have written me asking who Ari's favorite My Little Pony is. Ari wanted to share with you all who his favorite pony is and why in the video below!

Without further ado, Ari reveals his favorite pony!

So do you agree? Who is your favorite pony?

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Hasbro Sends Ari Some My Little Pony Love

The other day, I wrote a post about my son Ari's love for My Little Pony. Before I knew it, the post had gone viral! I wrote to Hasbro and sent them the post. Kristin from the P.R. department was gracious enough to send Ari over some awesome My Little Pony toys. 

Ari is holding the Applejack Equestria girl and his favorite pony of all time, Rainbow Dash.

Thank you so much to the wonderful people at Hasbro for making my son's day. He is so excited to play with his new My Little Pony toys. 

Monday, January 6, 2014

The Bronies Come Out in Support of Ari

When I posted My Son is a Brony, I never imagined the impact it would have. I was merely expressing my son's love for My Little Pony.

Shortly after I posted the article, it was picked up by one of the biggest Brony websites, Equestria Daily, which has a readership of over 800,000 My Little Pony enthusiasts, both Bronies and Pegasisters. My post went viral! It had over 10,000 views!

Suddenly I had the support of an strong community of folks who frankly were just plain awesome. In fact, one website called the Brony Syndicate created Ari and I as ponies!

Another Brony website called EverFree News welcomed Ari to the herd.

I want to thank you guys in the Brony community for being so welcoming to Ari and his love for My Little Pony and, in particular, Rainbow Dash. Our cat, Carly, likes her too.

Our other cat Egreck loves all the ponies:

And let's not forget Samara and her loyalty to Twilight Sparkle!

It's been a pleasure taking over the internet with you! 

Friday, January 3, 2014

My Son is a Brony

My son Ari is five years old and he loves the show My Little Pony. For months, I’ve been purchasing the My Little Pony figurines for my daughter, Samara, who is two years old. One day Ari wanted to watch a show on Netflix and he spotted the My Little Pony Friendship is Magic picture featuring six colorful ponies with enormous anime character
eyes. I figured I’d give the show a try, not knowing if it would hold his attention.

As it turned out, after the first episode he was hooked.

“Mommy, can I hold the ponies while I watch it?” He asked.

“Sure.” I said with a shrug.

“I want that one.” He said pointing to Rainbow Dash.

 He asked to watch episode after episode of My Little Pony all the while holding the tiny pony figurines in his lap.

When I had Ari, I imagined we’d share similar hobbies. I taught him to play chess and twenty questions, but our mutual love for My Little Pony was a surprise. You see, when I was a child, I was obsessed with My Little Pony. I would become infuriated when my brother would steal my precious My Little Pony figures holding them just out of my reach.

I remember one time my mom and I were in a toy store on the Upper East Side of Manhattan buying a birthday present for a friend of mine. I must have been six or seven years old. I begged my mom to get me another My Little Pony. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t allowed to get just one more. I needed my fix.

Flash forward to 27 years later, and my son has the same obsession that I once did. Funny, when I first noticed the new My Little Ponies I was certain it would be my daughter’s thing to collect every single one and covet them like precious jewels. Maybe I’m playing into
society’s stereotypes of what are “girl toys” and “boy toys.” My son certainly knocked those stereotypes out of the water.

I asked Ari what he likes so much about My Little Pony. His answer was simple:

“I just like them.”

There you have it. He just likes them.

When I confessed to my friends that Ari was a My Little Pony enthusiast, I found out there was a name for him. Ari is a Brony. A Brony is defined as a male fan of the show My Little Pony. That’s just what he is, a boy who likes My Little Pony.

I find it funny that there is a name for a boy who likes My Little Pony. It’s perfectly fine for boys and girls to watch My Little Pony as it appeals to children in general and not a particular gender. I have a conflicted relationship with the term “Brony.” On the one hand
I think it’s kind of great because it’s something to be proud of. Yo, what’s up? I’m a Brony, a boy who digs My Little Ponies.

On the other hand, it also plays into the stigma that the show is typically one that girls watch and there’s something weird about a boy watching it. Therefore, society does what we do best and it creates a label for someone who watches the show who isn’t the typical
demographic of a female child.

My point is, we can all love My Little Pony without labeling each other boys who like it and girls who like it. It’s a fun show.

In the words of Ari, on each episode of My Little Pony, “Every pony learns something.”