The Good and Bad of Watching The Keepers as a Sexual Assault Survivor

July 25, 2017: This post has been featured on The Mighty as “The Pros and Cons of Watching ‘The Keepers’ as a Sexual Abuse Survivor”.

Trigger Warning: This post discusses sexual assault and mentions suicidal ideation. If you need support, you can call RAINN/National Sexual Assault Hotline: 1-800-656-4673, reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255, or text “Start” to 741741 to reach the anonymous Crisis Text Line.


Released in May 2017, the Emmy-nominated Netflix documentary series The Keepers examines the decades-old unsolved murder of beloved Catholic School Teacher Sister Cathy Cesnick in Baltimore. The series connects the nun’s disappearance and murder to the claims of sexual abuse filed against the then-chaplain of Archbishop Keogh High School by former-students in the 1990’s. Through interviews and conversations with former Keogh students, The Keepers pieces together the story of Sister Cathy, the dark testimonies of mistreatment by chaplain Father Maskell, and the ways in which the cases may have been mishandled by Baltimore police or repressed by the Catholic Church.

As a lover of true-crime, I was very excited for the series’ release, but as a sexual assault survivor, I was afraid to watch it. My abusers were not members of the clergy, but any stories or images of sexual abuse can trigger me and send me into a state of hypervigilance and panic. Fueled by curiosity and perhaps a bit of masochism, I turned it on, against my better judgment. The first episode of The Keepers is harmless enough (as far as brutal, unsolved murders go), so I decided to continue, naively unaware of the truly horrifying narrative ahead. Continue reading “The Good and Bad of Watching The Keepers as a Sexual Assault Survivor”

What I Want to Tell My Friends About My Recent Social Isolation

July 7, 2017: This post has been featured on The Mighty as “To the Friends I’ve Pushed Away While Working Through My Mental Illness.”

Lately, I’ve been feeling very guilty. I wish I didn’t feel that way. I wish I could easily tell myself that I’m taking care of me, and that I’m not responsible for how other people feel, or what other people are doing, or how other people react to me. But I can’t. Not yet, anyway. I’m working on my ability to separate my own feelings from others’, and as someone who has internalized others’ feelings my entire life, it isn’t an easy process. Continue reading “What I Want to Tell My Friends About My Recent Social Isolation”

Why Depression is a Completely Legitimate Reason to Call Off Work

droopy2-2Depression tends to be viewed as a non-issue by those who do and don’t have it. Despite its categorization in the DSM-IV as a mental disorder, depression is often swept under the rug as a “case of the nerves,” feeling “down in the dumps,” or “having a bad day” (every day). Major Depressive Disorder affects 6.7% of American adults, suicide is the tenth leading cause of death in the United States, and for every successful suicide, 25 more people attempt suicide. Continue reading “Why Depression is a Completely Legitimate Reason to Call Off Work”

Audio: Ellen L. on Keeping Happy with Anxiety and OCD

My friend Ellen, a double major in history and elementary education, is one of the bubbliest, fun-loving people I’ve ever met. Because of her seeming enthusiasm for life, I asked if she would speak to me a bit about her ideas of happiness, what obstacles tend to get in the way of her happiness, and how she remains positive in difficult times. She kindly obliged. A lot of nervous giggling ensued.

Because the audio is a little quiet (you may need to turn up your device’s volume), below is a transcript of Ellen’s interview, edited for “likes” and laughter.

Continue reading “Audio: Ellen L. on Keeping Happy with Anxiety and OCD”

Perfectionists: Birds of a Feather

bowerbirdThe bowerbird, found in New Guinea and Australia, builds elaborate, brightly decorated nests to attract a mate. The male bird does not rely on plumage, but goes the extra mile, collecting trash, shells, rocks, and berries, selecting and displaying spectacular color palates in the hopes that a female bird will look their way. Finicky, particular, and diligent, these birds continue working, even despite the presence of danger in their terrain. In short, bowerbirds are nature’s perfectionists. Continue reading “Perfectionists: Birds of a Feather”

Review: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven

niven_jenniferLight Spoilers; Trigger Warning: Death & Suicide

Jennifer Niven’s All the Bright Places is a stereotypical young adult romance novel wherein a troubled boy meets a troubled girl, they embark on an adventure together, and they fall in love. However, instead of being a feel-good, bubbly book, the protagonists of All the Bright Places are both suffering their own personal tragedies. Violet has just lost her best friend and older sister, Eleanor, to a car accident, and her sense of identity is completely lost. Theodore Finch has already tried on so many different identities (80’s Finch, Badass Finch, British Finch) that he can’t figure out who exactly he is. He is a quirky teenager, experiencing the identity-shaping turmoil of adolescence that we all go through, but he also suffers from undiagnosed bipolar disorder. Most of his story is told from a manic perspective wherein he is trying to avoid the “sleep,” or the nearly catatonic lows which send him into a numb, suicidal state. Continue reading “Review: All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven”

Automatic Thoughts and the Song Stuck in Your Head

May 16, 2017: This post has been featured on The Mighty as “When ‘I Want to Die’ Replays Like a Song Stuck in My Head”

Note: This post discusses suicide ideation and may be triggering. If you need support right now, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.

I want to die.

This is a thought that plays over and over in my head, endlessly, without prompting or any feasible substance behind it. I want to die. I want to die. To die. Die. And I have no real reason for this. I have no evidence as to why I should die, or any idea of why this desire is so strong. I can’t say, “I want to die because…[fill in the blank].” There is no blank. There is nothing. But it’s there, all the same. The words, like a tape on loop, playing until I can’t stand to hear them anymore. I want to die. I want to die. I want to die. Continue reading “Automatic Thoughts and the Song Stuck in Your Head”

My Mental Health Begninning

by-nicole-helbigI’ve decided that before writing about mental health, I want to be open and honest about my own mental health narrative. I often feel that I am open and transparent about my mental state, but upon talking to some people—people close to me, they are very surprised by my situation. I guess I’m not as open as I thought I was, or I just don’t think about how startling it might be to hear that I, a fairly well-functioning person, have struggled, and do struggle a lot with mental wellness. So, I’ve decided to write my story, and to articulate in the best way that I can the things that I deal with on a day-to-day basis. I know that it helps me a lot to learn how other people manage their stresses. Knowing that other people in the world deal with issues similar to my own has been very liberating, and I hope to pass that feeling onto someone else. Continue reading “My Mental Health Begninning”

Audio: Josh Tvrdy on Sprituality, Sexuality, and Happiness

In our noisy school café, I spoke with Josh Tvrdy, one of the brightest people I know (intellectually and his overall demeanor). Raised Christian, Josh talked about the conflict between his sexuality and spirituality. While his body has been a source of constant shame and guilt, Josh still finds it to be a source of happiness, especially through running.

Apologies for the noisy background.

Music by Laura Marling; Photo by Josh’s friend Carolina Gonçlaves