#shatterthetaboo: Time to Talk About Mental Health & Opioid Addiction

The following is a guest post written by my dear friend & colleague Morgan. We’ve shared a lot this year: a classroom, ideas for several creative projects, and the grief of losing a family member.

Morgan lost her brother in February from a Fentanyl overdose. In an effort to #shatterthetaboo around mental health and opioid addiction, here are the words Morgan penned about her family’s experience as well as a video of the eulogy she delivered at her brother’s memorial:

On February 9th, 2017, my 27-year old brother Jamie died from a Fentanyl overdose.

Jamie struggled with mental health for the last 10 years of his life and he was eventually diagnosed with bipolar disorder.

At some point, he became an opioid user. Opioid addiction is often deadly because you need more and more to feel high each time. Eventually, he started to use heroin.

We assume that when he died, he thought he was using heroin, but he was in fact using Fentanyl. It is 100x more potent than morphine, and 50x more potent than heroin. When you die from Fentanyl, there is very little chance of resuscitation. You die almost immediately. It looks almost identical to heroin.

Jamie was an advocate for his mental health struggles for a long time. He wanted to champion his diseases; he did not shy away from telling people about them. However, he never divulged to us his battle with addiction. Being that addiction is a family disease, we were in complete denial and couldn’t see the truth right in front of our faces.

Perhaps if the stigma didn’t exist so heavily around addiction, he would have come to us. Maybe he would still be alive.

After his death, many friends have come to us with similar stories of mental health and addiction struggles. In the light of the opioid crisis, it has never been more important to shatter the taboo. To see just how bad the crisis is, take a look at these graphs: https://goo.gl/SgsfMo

As I said in my eulogy, “If you are struggling, if your family member or your friend is struggling, tell someone. Reach out. Ask how can I help. Suggest resources, share experiences. Just show up. If you know someone who is clearly an addict, speak up. Tell their mother or their siblings. Tell their friends. Tell someone.”

I miss my brother with every breath that I take.

We can not let this continue to happen. We have to #shatterthetaboo and build a community of people who help each other through this crisis.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, the resources below may be of some help to you:

https://www.nami.org/
https://www.ncadd.org/
https://www.samhsa.gov/find-help

You can also reach out to local health providers, as laws are changing daily in regards to opioid treatment, prescriptions for suboxone, and safe injection sites.

You don’t have to go through this alone.

Click below to see Morgan’s powerful eulogy:

https://www.facebook.com/plugins/video.php?href=https%3A%2F%2Fwww.facebook.com%2Fmorgxw%2Fvideos%2F10200768661038567%2F&show_text=0&width=560

Why The Internet Is Still Awesome

“They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the Internet. And again, the Internet is not something that you just dump something on. It’s not a big truck. It’s a series of tubes.”Alaskan Senator Ted Stevens, 2006.

“The Internet has its charms and its dangers.” – Peter the Librarian, to incoming freshman at Washington University, 2001.

“During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet.” – Senator Al Gore, 1999.

De de dee da do do do do do…

Since it first graced me with its presence in my home in 1996, I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with the Internet. In the beginning, I instantly fell in love with the dancing hamsters and the ability to find anything my heart desired on Netscape. Soon, I discovered that my crush was accessible 24/7 thanks to a little something called AOL Instant Messenger. My friends were also accessible over AIM and I’d spend many nights sneaking into the computer room to chat, waiting for that magical hum from the modem signaling to me that I was connected me to the internet/my dreams. Sometimes I’d throw a towel over the computer, hoping it would mute out that terribly loud sound and not wake up my parents.

Not only did the Internet connect me with my friends, but it allowed me to listen to all sorts of music I wouldn’t otherwise have access to. Thanks to Napster and later Kazaa, I could listen to the greatest hits of the ’80s, ’90s, and today without having to spend all of my allowance on CDs. All that money I saved really came in handy in college when I had to pay for things like laundry and Ramen noodles.

Remember when it was “the” Facebook?

Toward the end of college, a little social network called Facebook arrived to the scene. It allowed you to connect with other kids on campus and see what they were up to. At first, it sort of felt like signing someone’s yearbook. You’d leave a little note on someone’s graffiti wall and go about your daily business. Soon, we were able to be friends with people on other campuses. Then, eventually the whole world was invited to join along with everything that has ever been invented. Ever. You could suddenly post pictures, tag people in statuses, check in with people. Lots of information available about everyone including your old boyfriend, his mother, your best friend from middle school.

Fun at first! A great way to keep in touch with friends old and new! But funny things started to pop up. Judy had a party last week? All my friends were there? I wonder why I wasn’t invited. Do they not like me? Staci is backstage at the Justin Timberlake concert again?! She really leads a more exciting life than I do. I need to get out more. Why won’t anyone like my status? Am I not funny? Or interesting?

My boyfriend, according to Buzzfeed.

Thanks Facebook, not only have you exacerbated my fear of missing out, you’ve turned me into a cyberstalker and you’ve wasted ALL of my time. What’s worse is that Buzzfeed has joined the party to take up even more of my time. As if Facebook hasn’t wasted enough time, now there’s an array of easy-to-read (read: mostly pictures), hilarious posts about everything under the sun from news stories to why going to the mall as a child is different from going as an adult. If that wasn’t enough, they now have quizzes. So even though I didn’t go grocery shopping as I’d planned, I do know which writer from history I should have a romantic fling with (Anton Chekov) and which U.S. President I most resemble (Barack Obama). Equally as important, I’d say.

Aside from wasting my time, how about the fact that the Internet has dumbed down our society as a whole?! The Internet is rewiring our brains! Nobody even reads anymore. In fact, if you’ve reached this far in my post, I commend you! Hashtag thank you. Hashtag see what I mean about the dumbing down of our society. Hashtag I hate people who talk in hashtags. Hashtag sorry not sorry.

Some days, I am so disgusted by how much the Internet has taken over my life. As I write this post, I’m staring at my iPad while my iPhone sits next to me. You know, in case someone likes my photo on Instagram, I can instantly respond and return the favor by liking one of their photos.

Just last month, when I hit the peak of my frustration with the Internet and thought about unplugging forever, I was kindly reminded why the Internet is still awesome. One day, upon arriving home from work, I received a small package in the mail. I wasn’t expecting anything so I didn’t have a clue as to what might be in the box.

The mug and the letter.
The mug and the letter.

After opening the box and sifting through the hundreds of styrofoam peanut-looking things, I found a commemorative royal wedding mug and a letter that was typed on a typewriter. It was from a Twitter friend, whom I’ve never met, but who knows how much I loved the royal wedding and everything Will and Kate-related. His mother, who lives in Minnesota, got the mug as a commemorative gift from People Magazine and was going to throw the mug away. Not wanting a good mug to go to waste, my Twitter pal thought of the only person he knew who might want such a thing–me.

The mug was accompanied by a letter, another one of my favorite things. There’s nothing better than receiving a letter in the mail. The thoughtful gift was an added bonus. This encounter happened because of our friendship over Twitter and it reminded me why the Internet is still awesome. It connects people.

Isn’t that why we go online in the first place?

Happy Blogiversary To Me!

cheersToday marks my three-year blogiversary. Quite a milestone, if I may say so! I’d actually forgotten the exact date I took the plunge into the blogosphere until today when my WordPress account prompted to renew my expiring domain name (something I have to do annually).

Three years ago today, I bought my own Tweetupdomain name and started a blog so that I would have writing samples for potential employers. Little did I know that blogging would catapult me into a completely new career path and take me into the uncharted waters of tweet-ups and other social media/blogging-related meetups. Not to mention the countless people I’ve met virtually and in real life thanks to this medium.

I don’t think I ever thought about where blogging would lead me or what would actually become of this blog. I simply just wrote in hopes that someone, at least–if not solely–my parents, would read, enjoy, be entertained, and be challenged by what I wrote.

breakfast sandwichMy first blog post was about a sandwich. I’m a woman of many words when it comes to the foods I enjoy, so it’s no surprise that food posts have made many appearances on this blog. I’ve shared family cooking traditions, expounded upon my own food obsessions, and even passed along a recipe or two.

classroomAnother thing I’ve loved about having this blog is that it’s been a great forum for creating dialogue on social issues that are important to me such as education, health care, and the latest happenings in local government. Facebook and Twitter rants don’t quite do it for me.

I raise my glass to you, Prince William!

Then of course, there’s the lighter side. That’s the great thing about having a blog called Ramblings, I can write about whatever I want. Conversation starters for the socially challenged, gushing over my literary crushes, reflecting on an old celebrity crush, requesting to work for Saturday Night Live in a cheeky cover letter, lamenting the death of romance, ranting about Comic Sans. One of my greatest joys came from solving the age-old mystery from my youth about the disappearance of the other Cinnamon Toast Crunch bakers.

Perhaps the biggest laugh for me is in realizing that Snooki has provided my blog with the most traffic. Thanks to the post I wrote about her publishing a novel, there was always a spike in traffic to my blog on Thursdays just before Jersey Shore aired. Thank you, Google image search!

So, what’s next? What will the next three years bring? More of everything, I hope! For starters, it’s time to get back to a more frequent blogging schedule. Second, it’s time to get more personal. Perhaps throw in a bit more about my own life, only the interesting parts of course! Lastly, I really want to take a look at how I can engage foreign readers. Within the last year, WordPress started keeping stats on clicks by country. It’s really cool to look at the map of top views by country for my blog:

Screen shot 2013-01-25 at 9.47.56 PM

People from Myanmar have visited my blog? Not to mention Albania, Egypt, Mauritius, Australia, and India. It blows my mind! If only I could get this visitors to speak to me and share their stories. The possibilities would be endless. I would love to find a way to foster an international conversation.

We’ll see what’s happen. Here’s to the next three years and beyond!

Champagne toast!
Champagne toast!

I Love It When You Retweet Me

“Will our tales of digital courtship capture the imaginations of our daughters? Will they be impressed when we tell them about that time the text message was misinterpreted, or how the cute boy re-tweeted our Vampire Weekend reference? Will they care?”–Charlotte Alter, “Guns, Ammo, Romance?” Published November 17th in the New York Times.

Romance in the digital age.

When I was small, I never imagined that my heart would palpitate at the sight of an instant message from my real life crush’s screenname, an unexpected text message from a beau, or a retweet. Sometimes it creeps me out how much of a thrill I get from connections in the digital world while ignoring what is lacking in the actual world. A retweet? That’s all I get? No handwritten letter? No surprise visit? No stroll down the lane? No reading sonnets aloud by the fire? No fortepiano duets? No froggy went a-courtin’? Sometimes, I think I was born in the wrong era.

Now, don’t get me wrong, I don’t think any of this is any one particular person’s fault, it’s just a sign of our times. Things progress as they always do, but I’m just a little disappointed that my stories of romance will never rival the ones my grandma told. I can just picture the tales of romance I’ll recount to my grandchildren some day:

“Hey kids, you want to hear about romance? Let me show you my gchat history! You’ll read some very romantic exchanges in there!”
“Grandma, why is there a 30 minute time-lapse between responses?”
“Oh never you mind. Want to read some of my old text messages? See there was this boy and he texted me to ask me how my day was going and…”
“Let it rest, Grandma.”
“I think I have one love letter somewhere…”
“We’ll take your word for it.”

No, I imagined my stories of romance would be more like my grandma’s. Tales of being escorted home from school by a handsome boy; letters from the WWII front; a man who demanded to paint her portrait, a portrait which hung in her house for 50 years; the man she met at a church fair who later became my grandpa.

While all of these things are all still possible, technology has taken away the urgency of face-to-face contact. As an obsessed avid iPhone user, I definitely enjoy a surprise text or tweet, but it doesn’t really make for a great story. I don’t quite know what the answer is, except that I want stories that could at least be in the same category as those tales of romance my grandma once told me.  In the meantime, I guess I’ll settle for a retweet.

14 Pearls of Wisdom From the 20 Something Bloggers Summit

“You know you’re a twenty-something blogger when your friends and family think you have imaginary friends.” – Jenny Blake, 20sb summit keynote speaker, author, and coach.

This past weekend, I attended the 20 Something Bloggers summit in Chicago. Featuring two days filled with informative sessions and vibrant speakers, the 20 Something Bloggers summit taught me more than I could have ever imagined about blogging, building communities, connecting with brands, coming up with creative content, and vlogging. Not only did I learn a lot, I also connected with other bloggers and creative minds. There is nothing more energizing than spending time with creative, motivated and smart people who share similar passions and goals.

We got free tacos from the Gap taco truck.

Even if you’re not a blogger or very active in the social media space (or a twenty-something), you can still benefit from some of the pearls of wisdom that came out of the 20 something bloggers summit. Here are 14 pearls of wisdom that I compiled from the seven sessions that I attended at the summit:

  1. Progress begets progress. (via Scott Belsky, keynote speaker)
  2. Ideas don’t happen because they’re great. (via Scott Belsky)
  3. Organize yourself with a bias to action. (via Scott Belsky)
  4. When trying to make a point, think about the craziest thing you could do to get that point across and then go from there.
  5. Push yourself. Stretch outside your comfort zone. Do it over and over again.
  6. Think about yourself in a year from now. How would you feel if you hadn’t made any changes to your life? (via Jenny Blake)
  7. Big goals require blind faith. (via Jenny Blake)
  8. Embrace uncertainty.
  9. Know your personality. Some people are not suited to work remotely. They get distracted by laundry and cats.
  10. When you get to where you want to be, don’t stop networking. Keep building those relationships.
  11. Offer a new viewpoint on something that people experience regularly.
  12. Take a break when you get stuck.
  13. If something spectacular is happening, don’t lose the moment by introducing yourself.
  14. Just do it. Make it happen.
The free Vera Bradley bag from Day 2 was nice, too.

I hope you’re feeling motivated after reading these words of wisdom. If not, perhaps you should read these. Or go for a jog. Anyways, I’m feeling energized after attending the 20 Something Blogger Summit and I’m hoping to take apply some new ideas here on my blog. So, sorry in advance for some of the awkward vlogs I’ll be posting in the near future.

Here’s to the Newlyweds! And They’re Not Even Friends on Facebook!

I went to a beautiful wedding in Connecticut this past weekend and would you believe it that the bride and groom are not even friends on Facebook?! A married couple, both with Facebook accounts, but not even Facebook friends. That’s right because these wonderful people don’t need a social networking site to prove to the world that they are in love and that they are going to have a long and happy life together.

Unlike most modern couples, their relationship did not unfold in real-time as a

What do you say we snap a photo of our marriage proposal and put it on Facebook?

series of Facebook status updates and photo albums. They did not document their proposal and subsequent engagement in an album called “The Night He Took Me To Chili’s And Then Got Down On One Knee.” They are not tagged in one another’s profile pictures and they’re not even listed as in a relationship with one another (you can’t do that if you’re not friends).

In this Facebook relationship status obsessed culture, it is a breath of fresh air to see that two people are actually enjoying a loving and committed relationship together without documenting it all on Facebook.

When I see incessant Facebook posts and photo albums featuring one’s significant other, it leads me to believe that maybe the poster needs a little convincing that he or she is happy in his or her relationship. It’s as if these posts are screaming, “Look at me! I’m in a fun relationship!” If you were really having that much fun, I would think you wouldn’t really have the time for so many posts and pictures because you’re just having too much fun.

For some, the Facebook relationship status is a source of serious anxiety. This anxiety comes in several forms. First, there’s the “why won’t he change his status,we’re in a relationship for crying out loud” anxiety. There’s also the “why won’t she list the fact that she is in a relationship with me” anxiety. There’s even the “why won’t he accept my friend request” anxiety.

Isn't it obvious how much fun I am having?

Pictures just make this anxiety worse. What’s he doing next to that girl? Are they really just friends? Why does she still have pictures tagged with her ex-boyfriend? My favorite, though, are the we-just-broke-up-and-I’m-so-bummed-so-I’m-going-to post-thousands-of-pictures-that-show-me-all-dolled-up-out-on-the-town-having-the-most-fun-and-doing-cool-things-but-really-I’m-just-trying-to-cover-up-the-pain-and-show you-what-you’re-missing-out-on-you-big-fat-jerk photo albums. As if the only way to prove that you’re moving on from a relationship is through Facebook photo albums.

The best way to eliminate all this silliness is to simply do what my newly married friends have done, avoid being friends online. They’re already married in real life, what more do they need? The internet isn’t going to have an impact on the way they relate to one another.

If you’re using Facebook to broadcast the entire progression of your relationship or your relationship status, your relationship is probably not that serious. Or at best, superficial.

I’d like to raise my glass of champagne to the newlyweds one more time and wish them a long and happy life together in the real world, beyond the reaches of Facebook friendship. To the newlyweds!

Support Refugees Worldwide, Get a Blue Key

The camp population is still growing, topping 17,000- a small city. Day starts early, with a long trip along the brackish marshland, through whitewashed villages, to the border,  and then all day in the sun and wind,  thousands of  anxious, tired, hungry, people desperate to go home or, in some cases,  anywhere else.  Hearing the stories of those coming out of Libya, the depth and sheer brutality of the racial  discrimination there,  even more than the violence, makes you angry at the regime. One Eritrean could not even bring himself to speak of the humiliation he had experienced. –Andrew Purvis, UNHCR worker, “Diary from the Field: Excerpts from Tunisia.

A few weeks ago, I was particularly struck by this particular post on Spin Sucks: “Get Your Blue Key In Support of World Refugee Day.” This post shed light on the Blue Key campaign which supports the 43 million refugees around the world and the workers at the UNHCR (United Nations High Commission for Refugees) who support them. For $5, you get a blue key to show solidarity for refugees and those who care for them.

Upon reading this post, I immediately thought, there’s absolutely no reason why I shouldn’t do this. I can certainly spare $5 to show my support of the world’s most vulnerable population. It’s the least I can do. As much as I may gripe about what I like to call “first world problems,” I can’t even begin to imagine what it would be like to be forced from my home and then subjected to unthinkable violence. There is simply no comparison in our own experiences to the experiences of refugees.

Who are the world’s refugees? (Facts courtesy of the UNHCR.)

Ivorian refugees in Liberia, awaiting registration. Source: USA for UNHCR Facebook Page
  • 43 million people worldwide have been forced out of their homes since 2009.
  • Of these 43 million people, over 26 million people have received aid and protection from the UNHCR.
  • Around 41%  of the world’s refugees are children under the age of 18, 11% are under the age of 5.
  • 47% of refugees are women and girls.

What Can I Do To Help?

  1. Get a blue key. Show your support for refugees by sporting a blue key.
  2. Spread the word about the blue key campaign on Facebook and Twitter. Donate a tweet a day.
  3. Follow the USA for UNHCR on Facebook to get frequent updates on their work.

Thank you for your help in spreading the word about this great cause and helping the blue key campaign reach its goal of distributing 6,000 keys by World Refugee Day on June 20th.