How to Make a Tulle Wreath

I am still trying to figure out how to fill my newfound, non-school filled, free time. One way that I have filled time is through crafting, although I am still trying to figure out what my niche is in the crafting world. I’ve tried button art and knitting (I can do one stitch), started to dabble in jewelry making, and want to maybe start sewing. I’m taking a pottery class next week. I am open to suggestions on what else to try!

Although, I have found one thing that I really like doing. Around a year ago, I started making wreaths. Usually, I do this making tulle. It doesn’t take very long, it depends on the complexity of the wreath and I have become quicker as I make more wreaths. I have made wreaths for Valentine’s Day, St. Patrick’s Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas, American, Delta Phi Epsilon, Mardi Gras, and I’m sure there is more I’m forgetting. I really enjoy making them, but they do take up room quickly. I’m considering to start selling them. But today, I’m going to share with you my first craft tutorial – how to make a tulle wreath!

Here is what you’ll need:

  • 12 inch Styrofoam wreath
  • At least 50 yards of tulle (2 spools)
    • You will most likely use almost all the tulle.
    • I usually buy about 75 yards, mainly if I want to add a third color. I have also found it better to have extra, and if you decide to do this on a regular basis, it is nice to build up supplies.
  • Scissors
  • Decorations for your wreath, such as letters, flowers, etc.
  • Ribbon to hang your wreath

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I don’t really do this as an exact science, but I basically eyeball it. It really depends on how you want your wreath to look; if you want longer or shorter tulle. Generally, I cut my tulle in strips of about a foot, but I have done it as long as 18 inches. If you cut them longer, you can always trim them down. If you have some too short, I tend to keep them as “filler.” I would start off my cutting three or four strips to see if you like how the length looks on the wreath. Now, to tie the strips off:

  • Take your strip and make a bight, basically an open loop.wp-1485693911856.jpg
  • Take the bight and pull it underneath the wreath so that the turn is facing inward of the wreath.
  • The longer end with be on the outside of the wreath. Lift up the bight, and take the strip over the wreath and pull it.
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  • You will want to pull it a little tight so that it stays in place. Additionally, once the wreath is complete, you want the knots to NOT show, so make sure you tie them all the same direction.
  • Once you have a couple pieces of tulle on the wreath, you can grab the longer parts together and kind of shimmy them together, pulling upward so it tightens.
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  • Repeat until the wreath is full!
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  • Cut and tie off ribbon to hang the wreath.
  • Decorate!
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I really enjoy adding additional decorations, although this wreath looks super pretty bare. This wreath was for my brother and sister-in-law, so I got wooden letters for their initials and some flowers to decorate it. The colors were their wedding’s colors, so that was a simple choice. But there really are not any parameters on how to decorate your wreath or not. I really like using the flowers. For any holiday-themed wreath, craft stores will generally have a plethora of items to choose from that work great. Heck, once I made a “monster” wreath using tulle, googly eyes, and felt. And that is probably one of my favorite wreaths.  It is what you want! Let me know what you think, and what you plan on making!

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Rawr

Peace and Love,

Vic Mik

What I’m Reading and Recommendations

So, I was at a loss of what to blog about and really just wanted to spend my evening reading and with a glass or two of wine. And that is where I got my blog topic. I’ll tell you about what I’m reading! I’m thinking that I will do posts like this every now and then. Now, because I’m a little bit of a weird and definitely a nerd, I’m actually currently reading two books right now: “Hamilton” by Ron Chernow (the book inspired the musical) and “You are a Badass” by Jen Sincero.

Some people find it odd that I read two books at once, but “Hamilton” is really long. “You Are a Badass” is self-help and more of an uplifting book, whereas “Hamilton” is a very detailed piece of American history. I have always been a reader. Seriously, ever since I learned to read, I’ve been reading some book. I was the kid with the book light on car rides so I could read on the way home. The Kindle is one of the best inventions in my mind because I can keep a library in my purse. As much as I am a writer, I am a reader. Hell, I have a tattoo of a book turning into birds to represent my love and reading, writing, and creativity.

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My reading and writing tattoo

I read all genres, but lately I have been on an American history kick which, along with the popularity of the musical of the same name, led me to Hamilton. My company was also founded by Alexander Hamilton which is pretty cool. I’d like to recommend a couple other U.S. history books:

“The Residence: Inside the Private World of the White House” by Kate Anderson Bowser: This is an excellent look at how the White House operates, the loyalty and hard work by the staff, and gives insight and perspective to many First Families in a very unique way. The White House is expected to run as efficiently as possible, and its operations were fascinating to read about. Bowser also has many first-hand accounts from employees who share anecdotes that only they would have about the First Families. Definitely a must read if you are interested in the families that lived there.

“The President’s Club: Inside the World’s Most Exclusive Fraternity” by Nancy Gibbs: This book was absolutely fascinating. It discusses the relationships between the current president and past presidents, starting with Truman and Hoover. Truman had reached out to Hoover when he was thrust into the presidency as Hoover was the only living former president, and an unlikely friendship and presidential tradition was born. The only people who can relate to what the current president is going through are the previous presidents, and so after their terms, they pledge themselves to their services of the current president. An example of this would be former presidents George HW Bush and Bill Clinton – former political rivals – working together at the request of President George W. Bush after the Haiti earthquake. It was extremely interesting and eye opening to see how former presidents can continue to serve after their term.

“Decision Points” by George W. Bush: The 43rd president’s memoir shows some of the most significant moments in modern American history, most importantly the 9/11 attacks in 2001, and including the controversy of the 2000 presidential election, Hurricane Katrina, the financial crisis of 2008, and the Afghanistan and Iraq wars. His point of view of these American moments in history is unique to only him. The book (481 pages and very detailed) also covers his life before the presidency and moral issues had in office, such as stem cell research. Regardless of your personal thoughts, this book is a must-read for American history buffs as it is a memoir of vital events that have shaped our country. I thought it was well-written and informative; I couldn’t put it down. Unsurprisingly, the novel gives a different side of Bush for readers to consider. It is the only presidential memoir that I have read, but it is one of my favorite books.

And now, a brief synopsis of what I’m currently reading…

“Hamilton” is the biography of Alexander Hamilton. Excluding being a Founding Father of the nation, Alexander Hamilton is possibly best known for his death in an ill-fated duel against Aaron Burr. However, his life was much more complicated than that. A brilliant mind, he was born out of wedlock, orphaned by his mother while being abandoned by his father. Noted for his talents, eventually he was taken in by a wealthy merchant family and made his way to America for schooling. He ended up serving in the Revolutionary War under George Washington as a senior aide and eventually became the first Secretary of Treasury, wrote anonymous, controversial letters to newspapers as part of political battles, formed the first national bank and the Bank of New York (Now known as BNY Mellon), and founded the Federalist Party. All of this while married and fathering eight children. This book is extremely detailed and almost dry at times, but Hamilton’s achievements are astonishing. It is taking me much longer to read than what it normally would due to the amount of detail, but it is very attention grabbing and I have learned much about early American history.

“You are a Badass” is followed by “how to stop doubting your greatness and start living an awesome life.” This is my first self-help book, and I am really enjoying the message and learning from it. There is one thing I don’t like about it, and that would be the writing style. I feel like it is me being a writer snob, but some of it is just too informal and conversational for me. However, I feel like that is a fine line from being overbearing to almost conversational, and I’d rather take this than it reading more like a textbook. The examples given in the book are excellent. Those have been really eye opening, and I have been able to apply in my everyday life. I feel like I have been able to take much more from this book more than I ever anticipated. Additionally, the overall message of “love yourself’ is something we all can do a little bit more often! Not to sound corny, but it has truly changed my perspective on life and just over halfway through.

What are you reading? Let me know in the comments!

 

Healthy Lifestyle – Fitness Journey

Getting fit is a pain in the ass. Sometimes, literally. My fitness journey has had several ups and downs throughout the past year, but I think I’m finally getting to a point that is going to lead me to where I want to be.

Just about a year ago, I joined the local YMCA in downtown Pittsburgh. It was perfect; it is only a short walk from my work so I’m able to go on my lunch hour. Despite the initial struggle, I began making pretty good progress especially with weight training. However, about four months into my fitness exploration I injured my shoulder. While I was able to do other activities, the injury itself and difficulties concerning my diagnosis and treatment significantly lowered my motivation and I really struggled for awhile. I had a lot of leg days, and I didn’t struggle there and reaped those benefits, so that’s a positive. I’m well again now, but it was definitely a setback. I try to maintain the idea that a setback only makes it possible for you to have a comeback.

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The one on the left is now, the one on the right is back around March 2016. Not much of a change, but I’m using it as motivation. Hopefully in a couple months we see more of a difference! 

Right now, I’d consider myself a New Years resolutioner. What better time is there to make a clean start than the beginning of a year? It hasn’t been going too bad so far. The hardest part is staying consistent and maintaining motivation. I have been doing a combination of strength training and cardio. I hate running, I love kettlebells.  I might not be a huge fan of running, but I like doing 5ks especially the “fun runs” like a color run or ugly Christmas Sweater run. Some of my friends do the Tough Mudder, I continually go back and forth on whether or not I’m brave or strong (yet) enough for it!  My favorite is lifting weights, but I definitely enjoy yoga as well (In fact, later today I’m going to a yoga expo! Cannot wait to see what that all offers.).  There is a lot to take in with establishing a health and fitness regime, it can be a very overwhelming process. Tools like Pinterest help put together or discover new workouts and healthy recipes, but I’ve been lucky to have a couple extra tools.

First, I recently bought a book “Firefighter Functional Fitness” by Jim Moss and Dan Kerrigan. Described as the “essential guide to optimal firefighter performance and longevity,” it has helped reshape my thoughts on fitness only a few chapters in. It breaks down firefighter health into four pillars to work with and defines a “Big 8” of firefighter fitness. I’m not even halfway through the book, and it has already impacted how I view my fitness and my own personal fitness plan and goals. I’ll provide a full review once I complete the book!

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Firefighter Functional Fitness – check out their website if you are interested in learning more!

I just purchased a Fitbit Charge 2. I have had Fitbits before, but this seems to be the one that best meets my needs. The heart rate tracking is an excellent tool, and the Charge 2 also has a “Guided Breathing” mechanism which I think will be valuable to helping my anxiety and during yoga practices. Now that I am done with school and have more time, practicing meditation and mindfulness is something that I am interested in. Decluttering my mind will be quite the process. There are a couple books I have picked up to help me understand meditation  and how it works better, however, I hope this “Guided Breathing” well, guides me. But back to the Fitbit, the app also is helpful with tracking my progress.

The final aspect of my fitness plan would be nutrition. I won’t lie, my nutrition has sucked. Recently, my dad has had to diet due to a gallbladder issue so I decided that I would diet along with him. It was a good opportunity, and it will help my dad and I to have someone else dieting! As well, it gives me a chance to try all the Pinterest recipes I’ve pinned over the years! I was successful in making Greek yogurt, banana chocolate chip muffins with whole wheat flour and was surprised with how much I liked ‘zoodles’ (zucchini noodles)! I’m trying to plan out my lunches a little bit more and also making ahead smoothie packs for breakfasts. I’m looking forward to see how this part of it turns out. I’m aiming to go for moderation/the eat clean 80% of time approach. The cravings might be a pain, but it’ll be worth it. The hardest part will definitely be cutting out pop!

Spotify is great for workout playlists. Mine ranges from Disney to the Rocky soundtrack to Bone Thugs n Harmony. It is fantastic. Motivation is a huge part of this journey. It is also something I’ve struggled with. There are times where you just don’t want to anymore. More than once, I’ve joked that I’m waiting for my Apollo Creed to tell me “That’s not how it’s done,” and emerge from the shadows, ready to be my guide through this. The Rocky soundtrack is a fantastic motivator. Hell, I consider Rocky a motivator. Let’s look at this Rocky quote:

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To me, this is great motivation. I feel like I’m fighting against myself, fighting against old habits. At times, it can be hard to not care about what other people think. Who doesn’t have that moment of insecurity? Or who doesn’t have the self doubt when they struggle and think, what am I doing? I can’t do this. But Rocky’s right; fighters fight.

I’m doing this for a variety of reasons. Yeah, there’s a bit of the aesthetic reason, call me shallow, the “holy shit look at you.” Overall, I’m trying to be the best that I can be. Right now, my goal is to be in the best shape of my life. I know my weaknesses, and it isn’t exactly fun knowing that is where I have to work. But I’m going to do this. I’m glad I’m doing the dieting alongside my dad. That is easily the hardest part. I’m doing this to be a better firefighter so that I can be the best possible firefighter I can be too. It is good for my mental health. There’s nothing like the euphoria after a workout when the fog of the day clears. It is when I get a chance to feel like me again. I can’t wait to see how strong I get.  I am hoping to share parts of my fitness journey along the way with you all.

Peace & Love,

The Vic Mik

Firefighting

It is not uncommon for little kids to want to be firefighters at any point in their life. How many get to live that out? Like anything else, kids tend to change their mind. What drives someone to become a firefighter, career or volunteer? This is something I sometimes wonder, because it is one thing I know that a majority of kids do dream of, and sometimes it occurs to me that maybe it is kind of a strange thing to do for free.

            But it is something that I could never not do.

            I want to share my story as a volunteer firefighter. Like all of those other kids, I wanted to be a firefighter growing up. However, one difference from most kids was that my dad was the local volunteer fire chief when I was growing up. Some of my earliest memories come from the firehouse, hanging out with my brothers as my dad did fire chief duties. My dad and older brother met President George W. Bush with the fire department when he surveyed damage done by Hurricane Ivan back in 2004. I was counting down the day until I could join. And then, finally, it was my turn. In April 2006, I finally, finally, (to my teenage mind, it had seemed like I had been waiting forever) was able to put in an application as a junior firefighter. Then, I was a junior firefighter

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My brothers and I. Jake, the youngest, is now the one counting down until he can join his brothers and sister as a firefighter.

My next thought, probably, as I began learning about being a firefighter? It’s freaking hard. Now, that probably seems like an obvious statement but it was hard in ways I don’t think I necessarily expected. From Hollywood’s portrayal, to the news, and even to what I had seen with my two eyes, I never expected it to be hard to just move. Walking was something different in all of that gear. I was short and felt slightly overwhelmed by the folds of turnout gear as I tried to move. It was an odd sensation. But soon, the smell of turnout gear became a comfort, something familiar, something I loved.

The next four years flew in a flurry of calls and training and fundraisers; frustration when I struggled and elation when I succeeded. The summer when I was 16 I decided to take an EMT course, which I passed. At 18, I was able to become an actual structural firefighter and go into buildings. Now, it was so much more real. I was no longer limited by the orange shield on my helmet proclaiming that i was a junior. On my first “real” fire? We were the RIT (Rapid Intervention Team), the group that goes in if a firefighter goes down. There are very precise methods to this, and on that call I wouldn’t have actually gone in for that due to lack of training  (many trainings require you to be 18). However, I was excited nonetheless. What happened? I learned I had asthma because I had my first ever asthma attack and ended up going to the hospital. What a way to start (Side note: It was sport induced asthma and I haven’t had an asthma attack since my sophomore year of college. The whole thing was weird.)

I went to college only about 40 minutes away, but I knew I’d miss the fire company. All four years, I kept a photo of a group of us in front of our engine on my desk. I stayed as involved as much as possible while in college and making sure to be involved with college too. I balanced it pretty well. I had firefighting sorority letters, the first pair I ordered. I took my Firefighter I not long before finals my junior year, and then the next year I had a friend drive me to take a test for a vehicle rescue certification. I’m not sure if my friend ever thought this odd.

Becoming a firefighter was the best thing I ever did. I, along with countless others, have shed literal blood, sweat (a lot of sweat. A lot.), and tears in some connection with the fire department. I wrote my undergraduate thesis on a firefighting issue, and it ended up published in a firefighting magazine! That is my top two greatest accomplishment (it’s up there with getting my Masters) As a writer, that was the coolest thing ever. Not only was my article in an magazine that I could actually hold and this entire thing which seemed surreal but was reality, it was a firefighting magazine! How did I get so lucky? How did this happen? I still don’t really know to be honest, I never expected the magazine to actually accept it.

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Training during a vehicle rescue class

Once, I had a friend tell me that I was always smiling when I talked about firefighting. I really hadn’t considered it before, but I knew how proud I was to be a firefighter, and, I suppose, I was generally happy when someone asked me about firefighting. It was a comment that has stuck with me for a while now. Firefighting has been my passion in life for ten years now. The gear that once seemed impossibly heavy doesn’t have nearly the same weight now. The act of “packing up” (putting on our self-contained breathing apparatus), which once seemed like a jumble of another heavy weight, clasps, and straps is now a second nature, no different to me than putting on a sweatshirt. However, the only thing that has ever been easy about firefighting is how much I love it.

I don’t think you can do this job if you didn’t completely love it. As I said before, it’s blood, sweat, and tears. It is also a lot of time, between responding, training, fundraising (for most volunteer departments), and just general department work. My own department went through a merger with another to create an entirely new department; a difficult but undoubtedly interesting process that I’m glad I got to be part of. I have found some great friends for life through firefighting, and there is no stronger Brotherhood. I am truly proud to be a sister of this Brotherhood. There are so many people I could go to for anything. Technology has made connecting with others in the service easier, which is pretty cool. We learn from each other. This connection always us to share the brotherhood. I think back to the St. Crispin’s Day speech in Shakespeare’s Henry V, “But we in it shall be remember’d, we few, we happy few, we band of brothers, for he today who sheds his blood with me shall be my brother.” My brothers and sisters; firefighters. What gets me from this is “we few, we happy few, we band of brothers.” I like to think that we are a happy few, proud of the work we’ve do and aiming to help others.

That isn’t to say there aren’t still struggles. Lately, I have been trying to overcome my own, namely strength. I’ll share with you another quote that I consider through this, “Do or Do Not. There is no try.” (Yoda, The Empire Strikes Back). I have been working on my fitness and now nutrition. There is nothing more I have ever wanted than to be a good firefighter. Recently, I purchased a book “Firefighter Functional Fitness” (which I am hoping to review on here at a later date) to help guide me through fitness specifically to gain strength as a firefighter. I can’t help the fact that I’m a short female, but I do have the power to not let it hinder me and overcome my limitations. That’s my current journey. I’m excited to give fitness updates along the way, and possibly share some healthy recipes I find. Some may go back and say, “Do or don’t? Isn’t that setting yourself up for failure?” To me, it doesn’t set the bar too high; it just sets it where I need to be. Besides, the benefits of health and fitness go beyond firefighting. I am the type of person who thrives on goals, and, along with my Rocky workout playlist, this gets me focused.

I am the lucky one to be a firefighter. It is truly the best thing I have ever done. Even in my studies (specifically my Master’s), through my sorority’s philanthropy work, and as I establish a career, I have always felt that I was meant to help others because I have the ability to help others. Firefighting is no different. I can’t fully explain it. It’s just something I do. As corny and cliché as it may sound, it is part of me, just like anything else. I hope you enjoyed this post and got a glimpse into my firefighting world. Have a fantastic day.

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Showing 6th graders how firefighters pack up

Peace and Love,

Vic Mik

Reflection on MLK Day

Today, we honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and his accomplishments for civil rights in the United States. I feel that this year that the holiday is more poignant than ever. With this in mind, I decided to reflect upon Dr. King’s accomplishments and how some of his speeches and quotes are very relevant and important today. As Sir Winston Churchill once said, “Those who fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” With this in mind, it is very important to remember the accomplishments and sacrifices made by Dr. King and to learn from his life.

Dr. King is best known for his leadership during the Montgomery bus boycott in 1955 after Rosa Parks’ arrest for refusing to give up her seat and his “I Have a Dream” speech during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963. Given on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, it is considered one of the best speeches of the 20th century. As well, he was adamant that the protests remain nonviolent, even when the protestors themselves faced excessive force and brutality. He was assassinated April 4th, 1968 by James Earl Ray in Memphis, Tennessee, an escaped convict and outspoken racist against Dr. King and had stated his intention to do so before. Dr. King left behind a wife, Coretta Scott King, and four children.

There is much we can learn from Dr. King’s speeches and life. Unfortunately, today, America faces a great divide among itself. Some of it stems from the multiple deaths we have seen of unarmed African-American men at the hands of police, some comes from violent protests which have followed. Frustration is rampant. Other divides have developed politically, and these have continued to grow after the 2016 presidential election.

From my point of view, it is also too easy for people to hide behind a computer screen and comment. Yes, I recognize the irony of this statement as I blog. But I see so much hate online! I dread reading the comments section, so many people just use hate as their basis or anyone who doesn’t agree with them is an idiot. I can’t stand that. Lately, many of these experiences have started to make me feel like a hippie, something I never considered myself. I was always the kid who wanted everyone to get along. I suppose that hasn’t changed. I hate, hate. Hate isn’t a word I use lightly. It takes too much energy to hate. If people channeled their energy in hating into something positive – like to make change – the world would be a much better place. The only person I can think of that I hate would be Osama bin Laden. And I don’t think I have spared him many thoughts since he was killed. I wonder what Dr. King would think of the world today. Sometimes, I think we forget about the rights we have as Americans to free speech and peaceful protest. I don’t understand any of it, to be honest. I see these disagreements on both side, and it is kind of mind boggling and makes the hippie come out. But I wanted to share my thoughts on some of his quotes and how important it is to apply and remember today.

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.

I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.

These two quotes go together. This is exactly what I am talking about. You can’t combat something has negative with hate with more hate. All you’re going to do is butt heads, and in some way, shape, or form, someone will get hurt. Hate takes a lot. It is exhausting. Love allows growth. Great things come from love. Love can mean many things. Of course you have your romantic love, but I’m talking about something both simpler and more complex. Love for your fellow man. Love for life, love for country. In the end, we’re all just trying to live a happy life. Life and liberty. Reach out to others! Maybe I’m a fool, but I believe love can change the world. We can change the world – it’s our world! Let us work together. Listen to the opinion of others. Keep your mind open and heart full. I’m a walking cliché today! Our beliefs may be different, but I will respect your right to it.

The time is always right to do what is right.

What is the right thing? Currently, that really seems like a loaded question. To me, it is helping others. Bringing others down just isn’t something I can support. How did “treat others the way you want to be treated” become so complicated? Granted, Dr. King was probably speaking on a grander scale, but that’s a start, right? It is not always easy to do what is right, but it’s important to so that we may grow as individuals and society. It is one small step that can lead to something great! Just like Dr. King also said, “Faith is taking the first step even when you don’t see the whole staircase.” Keep faith in love! Keep faith in doing what is right. Keep faith in your fellow man. We’re all humans trying to leave. Sometimes, we just might need to reach out to each other.

Honestly, I could go on and on about Dr. King and responding to some of his quotes. But I hope that I have made my point. To honor Dr. King’s life, mission, and sacrifice, to honor our country built for freedom, let us remember the importance of doing what is right and respecting our freedoms. I’m not the most religious person, but there is one verse that is important to me and quite applicable here. 1 Corinthians 13:13 – And now these three remain: Faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love.

Faith, hope and love. We need these. If you’ve read my blogs before, you know how I feel about hope. Along with faith and love, it can change the world. My goal with this post was to help people reflect on this MLK day and share my own reflections. It is up to each of us to keep these going; whatever be your faith, whatever you keep hope in, whatever and whomever you love. How can we serve others? How can we bring change? How do we want to see the world? I hope that this allows people to reflect on our freedoms, rights, and how we can become more unified in the future. We all have a role to play in making change. I never thought I’d be a hippie, but here we are, so peace out.

Have a fantastic day,

Vic Mik

Hidden Pain, Open Kindness

When I was 19 years old, a university psychiatrist told me I had the symptoms of severe major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety. She suggested that I take off a semester from the university, gave me a script for medications, and a recommendation to make an appointment for the psychologist on campus. That was it.

I had been struggling for some time. This was early in the second semester, but over the winter break, I had reached what was essentially my breaking point. My parents and I decided that it was beyond our realm and that I needed professional help at that point. Hearing the diagnosis, I went back to my apartment, sat on the kitchen floor, and cried. While I understand now that my diagnosis isn’t anything to be ashamed of, at that time, I felt like I was completely broken. I felt unworthy and sick. I needed to get over it, and move on. Except…I knew something wasn’t right. When it wasn’t something obvious, like crying for no reason or being irrationally angry (I’m not an angry person), I just…existed. Later, when I was more myself again, a friend had told me that I seemed like a ghost. Physically, I was there. But it seemed like it took a few tries to really get anything through to me. That night on my kitchen floor, I cried, called my mom, and ended up going home for a weekend. I didn’t know the impact depression would have on me, or how I’d grow as a person because of it.

That spring semester was the hardest couple months of my life. I tried and tried again different medications, I went through a few therapists. At that time, the best thing that could’ve ever happened to me did: I joined Delta Phi Epsilon sorority. We started as a colony and were re-chartered by April. Twice a week in the evenings, I didn’t have a choice – I had to go out and go to sorority functions. Other than classes and work, that was the only thing guaranteed to get me out of bed and not stare at a wall. In those months, I began to find the best friends I could have ever had and the sisters I’d always wanted. My joke is that if Robert Morris is my Hogwarts, DPhiE is my Gryffindor (Even though I’m a Hufflepuff, but to keep within the series plot). Without DPhiE, I truly don’t know what would’ve happened to me. It kept me going. For that, I will be forever grateful.

I have come a long way since then. I have come back and I have had set backs and all the way back again. I’ve tried different medications and therapists and treatments. I have lost friends who didn’t understand and gained friends who have just reached out. Losing friends because of an illness is horrible. This is why I aim to tell my story. I see no reason to hide what is wrong with me. I can’t explain my depression or anxiety. I can identify parts at time. But I know I would do anything not to have it. I don’t know anyone with a mental illness who wouldn’t.

Could you imagine napping every weekend to wake up and not want to face anything and still feel exhausted? That you hate yourself, you deserve this pain raging in your head, and that you deserve more, physical pain to match? I have the scars. When I’m well or sick, the sight makes me stomach turn.  People see them and would never guess. I got my first tattoo, simply “fighter,” to remind myself, that I can, that I will fight.

To be afraid to ask for help, whether it be a teacher, friend, or retail worker to the point you feel sick or faint? To fear asking your friends something because maybe they’ll realize you might as well be a squirrel for how nutty you feel? To be able to drive a car under normal conditions but not have your license because you have a full anxiety attack when you take the test? And hate making plans because its assumed to be had?  That’s what I live with.

Who wants a life like that?

Well, that’s why I fight. I hate taking medication. The first time I had a medication that worked, it was disgusting to take. But the weight that was lifted, the fog had cleared, it was so worth it. Just recently, I added a medication, and I have felt more like myself than I have probably since I was 19 years old. Talk therapy isn’t for everyone, I haven’t had great experiences with therapists. But I know I should try again, I need to treat myself. Working out is a wonderful outlet, its created a great habit for me, but sometimes that feeling, I’ve learned, is only short term. I have photos and songs and videos I turn to when I’m feeling sad. I go to passages and re-read them, I have a book of quotes. Always, I try to make my treatment work. Often, it’s changing. Pinterest is good for me, knitting can be helpful. Writing, like this, is another outlet.  Once upon a time, I was writing a book called “Depression is a Lying Bitch.” I haven’t looked at that in a long time, essays and poems and feelings, but I’d like to go back to it. By the way, what Depression tells you is never true. I try to manage my depression and anxiety, not the other way around. There are many, many days I don’t get it right. And it’ll always be a changing treatment. I’ve made much progress, but I still have a ways to go.

Why am I telling my story? One reason is I was inspired. As I said, I’m a huge Star Wars fan and was always a great Princess Leia fan. A little girl who admired Princess Leia who grew up to admire the late, great Carrie Fisher. Carrie’s writing genius explored her own battle with mental illness, which ranged from addiction, depression, and bipolar disorder. And her writing and books were with raw emotion. So many people are afraid to talk about mental illness. How can the brain just not work like that? How does any illness work? There’s your answer. Carrie got people talking and people understanding. Far too many people don’t get help (I sure as hell didn’t want to), and some end up taking their own lives for it.

I remember hearing that Robin Williams had committed suicide, and my heart had broken. How could that man who made millions laugh and seemed so sweet have had succumbed so far? All the fame and riches didn’t make him immune to this horrible disease. You never know who can be hurting. Just a year ago, a mutual friend, someone I respected, took his own life after his own struggles. Far too young with far too much potential. And to see some of my friends go through that, some of whom I consider family, is beyond painful. I can never understand truly that level of pain to make that decision; I only have an inkling of understanding.

But all I can hope is that one day those who face this struggle find their voice. That is why I speak up. I’m not ashamed. My mental illness does not define me. My mental illness does not make me weak nor is it my fault. It is okay to have a bad day. I hope maybe one person will have a little bit more understanding, or reach out to someone they think is struggling.

                                                                                 Hope.

That is what I am aiming to create. That is what reaching out does! If more people start talking about it, if more people get treatment, we can create hope. One person – one – is all it takes to make change. Hope can move mountains. It can change a person’s world. For a long time, I didn’t have hope. But I know the impact that it can have. A simple act of kindness, whether it be a friend or a stranger, can change someone’s entire outlook. Regardless of whether you have a mental illness, we all need to take care of our mental health. I suppose that’s the message I hope you take: Be kind. Our world can use a little more kindness.

Everyone is fighting a battle. So many people have told me they would’ve never thought I was depressed – why should I be? Good question. So many people have also told me it is okay. I hope to write more of my thoughts on mental illness in the future. Looking forward to your feedback. Have a fantastic day!

Peace & Love,

VicMik

 

Hello!

Hello, WordPress and the Internet!

This is my first blog post. I am an individual who is used to being very busy, and recently, I graduated with Masters of Public Administration. I was going to school online (We Are! Penn State!) while working full time and I suddenly find myself with much more free time in the evenings than I know what to do with! So, I have been looking for a couple hobbies. But, first, let me tell you more about myself.

My name is Victoria. No one calls me that. I really like my first name, but most people call me Tori. That’s fine. I am 24 years old and live in Pittsburgh, PA. Yes, I bleed black and gold. Currently, I work for a large financial institution in tax documentation. I am also a volunteer firefighter/EMT. At 14 years old, I became a junior firefighter and never left. There is nothing I love being more than a firefighter. It is truly an honor to be part of the fire service.

I’m a sorority sister who loves my sorority, my sisters who I miss dearly, and bows. I keep my hair in a pixie and love it. My style is an odd combination of sometimes pretty girly, sometimes tomboyish. Whatever.

When I’m not working or at the fire station, I have several hobbies to keep me busy. I have been trying to improve my fitness and have found that working out is a great outlet. That’s another thing – I am a huge advocate for talking about mental health. My other blog is all about that. The reason for that is that I have had, unfortunately, a few mental health issues over the past couple years. Officially, my diagnosis is major depressive disorder and generalized anxiety. It…sucks. That’s putting it lightly. People don’t like talking about it either. But I think it is really important to. The more we talk about it, the more people might go get treatment. And that’s a step in the right direction. Anyways, I love working out. Lately, I have been focusing a lot on kettlebell and yoga. I really want to learn more about meditation and get a handle on that.

What else? I’m an avid reader, of most genres, but lately with a focus on presidential history/history in general. Right now, I’m reading Hamilton which goes on forever. As well, I am starting a book club that meets at a bar. Books and booze, I like both. I love movies. There are no movies I love more than Star Wars (RIP Carrie Fisher). I also love most genres of movies, except horror. Love most sports too, do you notice a pattern here yet?

Like I said, I have a lot more free time. I’m somewhat crafty, so I’ve been trying to build up on that more. I make wreaths, which is fun but takes up a lot of room. I just started buttons art, which can be kind of weird. I’m also trying to learn to knit more, and want to get started on making jewelry.

Maybe you’re wondering, why is she giving me all of this? Well, because this blog is going to be about a little bit of everything. It’s my point of view. I also thought about calling it “talking to myself.” But I hope to have some interaction from my readers! If they exist? My opinions, reviews, books, what I want to do, learn, see, DIYs., a little bit of everything! What should I talk about? I’d love to hear ideas! I didn’t want something to just keep it stuck on one topic. I want variety, the spice of life.

Perhaps the most important thing about me. I am a writer. I have been writing since possibly the fifth grade. I hope to share some of my creative writing with you; I am considering writing poetry again. Around 7-8th grade, I was published in a local library periodical for some content, to be honest, I don’t remember the particulars. But I wrote a short story about a girl’s vacation to Nantucket, a place I had (and still haven’t) been. My undergraduate degrees in English Studies (Lets Go Bobby Mo!). My proudest accomplishment to date would be my publication in Fire Engineering magazine. I edited my undergraduate Honors thesis to a magazine article. Having an article published in a magazine is something I never expected.

So, with this blog, I hope to improve my writing. I hope to write about different topics, some of which I have experience with and some I do not. Now that I’m not in school anymore (Victoria M., MPA), I really have opportunity to explore my writing again. And I can’t wait. I can’t wait to hear your suggestions, and I hope you come along for the ride.

Have a fantastic day!
VicMik

P.S. I’m new to this blogging thing. I hope it’ll get better? 😉