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Learning How To Live Again

When most children age, parents begin to leave them home alone. This is when my earliest memories of OCD began. While my parents were comfortable going out to do quick errands, I was home alone with the golden retriever, given I was an only child. I was a pretty average kid. I would indulge in a ton of writing, reading or video games. While snacking on goldfish or playing tug-a-war with my furry friend, my mind would wander — but not in the normal way.

Despite my parents going out to grab an extra gallon of milk or attend a parent-teacher meeting, I was convinced they were in some horrific car accident. I’d run to the phone multiple times in an hour, panic-calling my father’s cell phone in a crying fit to make sure they were still alive. Sometimes, my mom would be outside planting in the yard when the sound of an ambulance would suddenly pass, causing me to drop my snack on the ground and run to the window. I was always certain the ambulance was for her and not someone miles away.

My Experience & Reaction

I’d pace around the house, sweating, anxious, then usually would run to the bathroom feeling sick about the hypothetical trauma I just endured. It felt as if I was in some terrible 4-D movie theater. If we left on a family outing, I’d feel the need to run upstairs manically making sure no candles were lit, all things were unplugged, and no windows were open. My brain would always tell me, “What if you start a fire and your dog dies?” Or “What if you leave your windows open, and then your home is robbed and someone gets hurt?” This happened every moment of every day, and it was unbearable.

I could never relax and be in the moment, no matter how wonderful it was. I rubbed the skin off my hands from anxiety. I picked and clawed at my arms until blood ran down them and would call them mosquito bites. I often had to lay down and hide from all the extra noise because my mind couldn’t take it. The only antidote was a good fictional book, or soundtrack music, so I’d read about three a week and get headaches from the non-stop escapisms and loud headphones.

Searching for an Answer

My parents quickly noticed I had some unneeded levels of stress, so they took me to the doctor. The first one said I was just going through puberty. The second gave me a medication for my stomach acid saying my upset stomach (that was actually caused by high stress) was the thing bothering me and making me scared. The third said I was lying for attention. The fourth said it was my hormones. The fifth said, finally, “Oh, your daughter has anxiety.” This wasn’t unexpected for me as I was a premature baby, and easily overstimulated and emotional. Of course I would have anxiety! So they wrote me a prescription and sent me away. Problem solved, right?

But neither myself nor my parents were convinced. I could never relax and be in the moment, no matter how wonderful it was. Obviously, it didn’t work. I didn’t just have anxiety, I had Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. A subset disorder of anxiety that creates a weeded field of intrusive thoughts in one’s mind, but it would take over a decade to finally get someone to tell me that. So in the interim, I got worse.

I didn’t let that stop me from trying to see what the doctors couldn’t, so I would sneak into the “no” sections of the school library and open the few medical books we had. I read and I kept reading, clawing at the pages, desperate for an answer. Then, I would sneak into the computer labs to look up terminology I didn’t understand from said books. I was desperate to find a little line that could give me some hope I wasn’t slipping into manic insanity and that I was somewhere, even an outlier, on the normal spectrum.

Coexisting with OCD

Digging took a decade, but that digging eventually saved my life. I did, in fact, find the phrase that would help me get not just professional help but also the right kind. The phrase was “intrusive thoughts”. It’s been over two years now since receiving a Harm OCD diagnosis after a lifelong fight and recovering from a suicide attempt. I often have to re-teach myself the most basic elements of life, like how to eat and enjoy breakfast now that I’m not sick from anxiety in the morning anymore. I’m learning how to have enjoyable dinners despite all the triggers of “potential” allergic reactions and “dangerous” steak knives that have been born out of my Harm Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, another subtype.

I’m still trying to trust doctors after over twenty years of misdiagnoses and wrong medication. I’m working on letting people see my anxiety, crying and hand ringing, and accepting that I am not a burden. I’m letting the intrusive thoughts into my wonderful, intimate relationship with my significant other, and I bask in the fact that I am loved, and worthy of it. I used to spend so much energy trying to evict my chronic and lifelong issues such as OCD out of my space, but I found more joy once I became “friends” with them through coexisting.

How I Coexist with OCD

One of the definitions of “coexisting”, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary is, “to live in peace with each other.” Coexisting comes with mutual understanding and acceptance — and that includes even the most violent, horrible thoughts. When you practice coexistence, you realize your value and potential don’t lie in how few or many thoughts you have (or how scary and irrational). You are a separate being, learning to share a space. And being at peace does not mean being in a season without questions. It is accepting that even in spite of not knowing all the answers, life goes on anyways.

The more you practice a state of coexistence, which in the first stages feels like pulling teeth, your Obsessive Compulsive Disorder becomes more of a nuance. Obviously, getting professional treatment is what ultimately taught me this – giving me valuable exercises that I still practice. While these were difficult, it pulled me into a world without as much anxiety, and I see everything differently now.

Grieving Myself

The second battle one has to face when getting a diagnosis of any sort is the grieving of themselves. Sometimes we grieve what we lost through the diagnosis. We take note of how drastically our minds or bodies change and the abilities or lifestyle we used to have. Sometimes we grieve the life we never had because of the condition(s) that we had to walk through. Currently, I am still learning how to grieve and find gratitude for my childhood. Sometimes I wonder what or who I could’ve been without this weight on my chest. However, I would walk through the shadows of all of those years again to discover what I know now, and make it my goal to pass that information to others.

This is why it is imperative to support funding and resources for mental health education; discussing and promoting the taboo terminology, uncomfortable questions, and realities to upcoming generations. The earlier we can pinpoint the type of struggle a child is facing, the earlier we can intervene and get them proper resources, professional help or support. If you’re currently on a path of trying to re-learn even life’s fundamentals after a diagnosis, I can promise you, it gets easier in time. I hope you someday feel empowered to share your newfound wisdom and understanding with others so we can begin to broaden mental health understanding together.

-Sarah

Happy Halloween 2022

Please enjoy this video from the TurningPointCT team sharing what they like about Halloween! Happy Halloween everyone!

What do you like about Halloween?

Hello From Maria!

Hi there! My name is Maria Chappa. I am the new Peer Leader for TurningPointCT. I am so excited to begin working on this project and provide helpful recourses to you all!

A Little About Me

I am 24 years old and graduated college in 2020.

I have dealt with mental health struggles for most of my life and for many years felt very alone in it. I hope to use my experience of learning how to cope and function with anxiety and depression to help others. I am very passionate about making sure the people around me know it is important to lean of your support system and be honest about how you are feeling.

A big hobby of mine is painting. Typically I paint with acrylics on canvases, but also paint with
watercolor. I love making gifts for friends and family and am constantly working on projects for
myself. For me, painting is a way to quiet my mind and truly relax. When I’m not painting you
can find me reading. My favorite authors are Taylor Jenkins Reid and Collen Hoover! I also love
spending time outside whether it’s going for a walk on the local trail or simply sitting outside in
the sun.

Fun Fact

In 2019 I traveled to Costa Rica to become a certified Wilderness First Responder. While on my
trip I learned how to care for someone injured in austere environments away from medical
care. Not only did I learn many skills, I also learned how to surf, zip lined through the jungle and
went white water rafting! A few months after my trip I was chosen to go on a second trip, but
this time as a teaching assistant. Going back as a TA allowed me to work on my leadership skills
and sharpen the skills I had learned just months before.

– Maria

National Pumpkin Day

We are right around the corner from Halloween, and what better way to get into the spooky season spirit than to talk about Pumpkins! And even better… on National Pumpkin Day!

You can use pumpkins for quite a few things. You can use them to cook delicious foods, use them as decorations, or you can carve them into jack-o-lanterns.

I know many people enjoy pumpkin pie, but I personally don’t. I’m more of an apple pie fan. However, I do enjoy eating some pumpkin bread and pumpkin spice cookies!

Jack-o-lanterns are also very cool! When carved into one and with a light put inside it, they look super spooky!

Using pumpkins as decorations is also very neat. In my home, we have several pumpkins spread throughout the space. It gets us into the holiday spirit a bit and it adds more color variety since we don’t have many orange things in here.

What is your favorite thing to use pumpkins for?

– Therell

My Biggest Insecurity: My Lazy Eye

Background

I was born with hardly any vision in my left eye, leaving me practically half blind.  The medical term is “amblyopia” but basically, I have a lazy eye.  While some people’s lazy eye drifts inward, mine drifts outward.

When I was an infant, I had to wear a contact lense in my left eye and an eye patch over my right eye. This was supposed to force me to use my left eye so that the brain would make connections to it and I wouldn’t completely lose sight in that eye.  My mother told me it was a struggle to get the contact in and that I used to try to rip the patch off all the time.

When I was a toddler I had surgery on my left eye to try to correct the muscles.  I was too young to remember any of it, though.

Growing up and even now, I am supposed to (and do most of the time) wear either glasses or protective lenses all the time, mostly to protect my right eye.  If something were to happen to it I would pretty much be blind.

Affect on my Life

My left eye is one of my biggest insecurities.  I strongly dislike having photos taken of myself due to my eye.  To me, when I look at a photo of myself, it appears as if I am not looking at the camera, even though I am.  Instead, it looks like I am looking somewhere off into the distance.  I make YouTube videos, and even in those, it looks like I’m not looking at the camera even though I am.

Special pictures, such as school or graduation photos, of myself I feel are “ruined” due to my eye condition.

I’ve received countless comments from people online who point out my eye.  Their comments will say something like “What is he looking at?” or “Where is he looking?”.  While those comments aren’t that bad, I have in fact been made fun of because of it. 

I run into this problem with people in person as well.  I remember multiple occasions where I was looking at someone, talking to them and they looked at me for a second, then looked behind them as if I was looking at someone else instead of them.

I’ve been told by a few eye doctors that there is nothing that can be done to fix the vision in my left eye.  While I don’t necessarily care about the vision anymore because I’ve lived without it my whole life, I wish there was some sort of surgery that could be done (again) to at least straighten my eye so that people and myself can’t tell that I have a lazy eye.

What I feel like I look like to people

Conclusion

This is something that is always on my mind.  I figured I’d share it in case you see a video or picture of me and wonder what I’m looking at, or maybe this is something you struggle with, too.  I feel like we all have something we are born with or developed later in life that we struggle with.  The most important thing is if you notice something like that in someone, please do not call attention to it, because they more than likely already feel extremely self conscious about it.

– Therell

My New Song

As some of you may know, I make music. I recently released a new song titled Watch Your Back. You can check it out below.

This is my 7th song that I have done and I have many more to come in the future!

For this song, I had written part of the second verse first and it was originally going to be the first verse. However, as I continued writing, I felt the original first verse would work better as a the second verse. Then, I came up with the first verse, and lastly, the chorus.

The main message behind this song is to, well, watch your back for those who may be plotting against you. I have a YouTube channel for my music where I will also be making videos breaking the down the lyrics of each of my songs. You can visit that channel here and be on the lookout for those videos soon!

If you would like to check out other people’s art, visit our Creative Expressions page here!

– Therell

Sharing My Poem “Enough”

In honor of Black Poetry Day, this post is me sharing my poem Enough that I wrote a year or two ago and read aloud on my music YouTube channel.

This poem was made after the loss of a friendship that I really treasured. Sometimes relationships, platonic or romantic, fizzle out and it can be heartbreaking, especially if it was a relationship you thought would last forever.

– Therell

National Stop Bullying Day

Today is National Stop Bullying Day.

As someone who was bullied quite frequently throughout my school career, I am a big advocate to stop bullying. I know what it’s like to be bullied, and I dislike seeing others go through what I went through.

It doesn’t help that I often see stories or videos of the victim being pushed to their limit and fighting back, only for people to intervene and the victim to receive a larger punishment than the bully. That is something that upsets me greatly. All it does is tell victims of bullying that they will get in trouble if they defend themselves.

Below is a video of me sharing a story about one of the times I was bullied in middle school.

If you have been bullied or are currently getting bullied, I am so sorry. You did not and do not deserve that. If I was there with you, I would do my absolute best to help you and get you out of that situation.

I hope we can all ban together and end bullying. It isn’t funny, or cool, it’s just downright awful.

– Therell

Welcome Dez!

The TurningPointCT team would like to formally welcome our new Project Assistant, Dez! You can read more about him in his story here.

We know Dez will be a great addition to the team and we’re looking forward to seeing what he brings to the project!

Alternatives To Suicide Group

Positive Directions is offering a new, free Alternatives to Suicide support group that starts this Tuesday, 10/4/22 at 7pm.

National Singles Day 2022

I have been single my entire life.  While I used to think my life would be better if I were in a relationship, I now realize that being single isn’t such a bad thing.  

Throughout high school, middle school, and even the later years of elementary school, there was this sort of social pressure that you should start having a boyfriend or girlfriend.  These days, I think it was quite silly that we were all so worried about that when we were so young.  

I remember when I was a freshman in high school, I was made fun of by another student for not having any romantic experiences.  At first I was embarrassed because of peer pressure and social status, but now it doesn’t bother me as much.  Not everyone will experience the same things at the same time as everyone else. 

Since the pandemic, dating has become even harder for a lot of people as there have been less chances for in person social interaction, something that many humans crave.  Most people are making connections online which definitely isn’t the same as in person.  It’s difficult to determine if you have a bond with someone when you’re only communicating through text.

My main reason for wanting a relationship was due to being lonely.  While I still get lonely sometimes, I know one can still feel that way even if they are in a relationship.  I’ve seen first hand and have read countless stories of people who were not too happy in their relationship due to lack of affection and what not. 

In my opinion, it takes a lot of hard work to be in a successful relationship.  When you want to do something, you more often than not will have to keep your significant other in mind and how what you want to do might affect them.  You also have to (do your best to) satisfy the needs of your partner.

I’ve also come to realize that I am not yet ready to be in a relationship.  The time and energy that it takes is something I am not capable of giving at the moment.  I feel I still need to work on myself so that when I am ready, I can give my future partner the best version of myself.  Until then, I will appreciate being single.

Therell

Who Are Your Role Models?

Therell shares who one of his heroes/role models is in his life. Who are yours?

Turning Point CT Reads Mean Comments

In this video, our Social Media Assistant, Therell, reads some weird and mean comments we’ve received on our YouTube channel!

My Favorite Quote!

Maternal Mental Health

Maternal Mental Health Awareness Day/Week/Month focuses on the mental health of mothers who are going through childbirth.  At least 1 in 5 new mothers go through some sort of anxiety disorder regarding childbirth in many countries.  The illnesses often go untreated which can have long-term consequences to both the mother and the child. 

Anxiety disorders can be developed by women who are from many different backgrounds such as culture, age, ethnicity, etc.  Symptoms of such disorders can be seen any moment during a mother’s pregnancy as well as the first year after childbirth.  Effective treatment options are available to help mother’s recover.  

If you are a soon to be mother or you know someone who will be, contact the maternal mental health hotline at 1-833-HELP4MOMS or 1-833-943-5746.

Minority Mental Health Awareness Month

Every July, National Minority Mental Health Awareness Month is recognized to raise more awareness to the hardships that racial minority groups go through in the United States.  Getting help for their mental health has become even harder for minority groups because of the Coronavirus.

As someone who is considered a minority, I feel that our mental struggles need more attention.  While I am both white and black, most people perceive me as black.  I have been discriminated against due to the color of my skin, and it does have an effect on my mental health.  It makes me feel as though something is wrong with me, like I am a threat when I try so hard to come across as welcoming.  It is a constant additional stress that I have to live with.

I hope we can all come together and really focus on bettering the mental health of minority groups.  For more information, visit https://www.cdc.gov/healthequity/features/minority-mental-health/index.html.

My College Experience

A couple months ago I graduated from community college.  I wanted to talk a little about my college experience, so as Mario would say, here we go!

I took many classes throughout my four years of college, and there are only two that stand out as my favorites.  Those classes would be Public Speaking and General Psychology 2.  The environment in those classes were very good, from my fellow classmates to the professors; it was a good experience all around.

About half of my time at college was in person while the other half was online due to COVID.  While I enjoyed being in person very much as I am someone who craves social interaction, the downside was that my grades weren’t the best.  I had to retake classes a couple times and there were classes that I barely passed.  However, the move to online classes helped out my grades tremendously.  I earned a lot more A’s and it brought my GPA up quite a bit.

During the in-person portion of my time at college, I made a lot of connections.  I got along with nearly everyone that I met and I made some good memories with them.  Unfortunately, when COVID hit, I fell out of contact with all of them.  

Other positives about my college experience would be that there were a lot of support services to help me pass my classes.  If I didn’t have those support services, I may not have passed those classes that I mentioned in which I barely passed.  It was also pretty affordable; I don’t have any student loans to pay back.

Now I want to talk about some of the benefits of a community college.  For one, you can have a pretty flexible schedule.  I always scheduled my classes when it was convenient for me, and it always worked out. 

You can also live at home if you’d like, which is what I did.  Or, you can live close to campus.  Since I lived at home, I took public transportation to get to school; the train and then a bus.  I didn’t mind this at all as I looked forward to going to (most of) my classes so the train and bus rides were a breeze.

Lastly, as mentioned before, it is quite affordable.  And, you can transfer your credits to a 4 year school.

Overall, I would give my college experience a 7/10, which is much higher than what I would give my elementary, middle, and high school experiences.  Even though I mostly enjoyed my time at college, I probably would not do it all again, as I feel I am done with school (for now at least), and am ready to enter the world of working.

Alone

Social Media Assistant, Therell, shares his song, “Alone”, which is about how he feels alone in the world.

Men’s Health Week

It is men’s health week.  If you identify as a man, it is time to take a good look at your health if you don’t do so already.  

Some important questions to ask yourself not just this week, but always, include: Am I eating well?  Am I sleeping well?  Am I moving regularly?  Am I getting enough vitamins and minerals?  

In my opinion, physical health and mental health go hand in hand.  If your physical health isn’t where you would like it to be, your mental health may be affected as a result.  I will use myself as an example.  A few years ago, I would say I was in my peak physical condition.  I was happy with how my body looked and felt and this helped my confidence.  These days, my physical health isn’t where I’d like it to be.  From the start of the pandemic, I have been struggling with depression and gained a lot of pandemic pounds.  Due to the decline of my mental health, my physical health suffered, and due to the decline of my physical health, my mental health has suffered.     

Recently, I have been making an effort to feel better.  I try to do activities that keep my mind occupied momentarily so that I’m not constantly thinking about how I haven’t reached my health goals, which makes me feel hopeless.  Some of these activities include: writing lyrics and recording songs, writing fictional stories, making & watching YouTube videos, and exercising.  I enjoy these activities and they have had a positive impact on me mentally and physically.  

What are things you do that have a positive impact on your health?

Therell Shares His Poem “Outcast”

May The 4th Be With You

Star Wars has been a part of my life since I was a little kid.  I grew up with the prequel trilogy (The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, & Revenge of the Sith), so I tend to like that set of movies the most, but I still love the originals (A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, & Return of the Jedi) too.   

Watching Star Wars has had a positive impact on my mental health.  Whenever I watch it, it puts me in a good mood.  Even the sequel trilogy (The Force Awakens, The Last Jedi, & The Rise of Skywalker), which I don’t really like that much because of the story, but I do like most of the characters.  

I honestly feel like parts of my life would be drastically different had I not been introduced to Star Wars.  For example, I wanted to be a Jedi when I was younger, I often quote Star Wars in my day to day life, and I have also lived by some ideas within the franchise.  One of these ideas was that negative emotions (the dark side) are bad.  However, I don’t live by this anymore because I have learned that continuously suppressing negative emotions can be unhealthy.  

Star Wars means so much to me.  I still have a lot of merchandise from the franchise; toys from my childhood, clothes, books, video games, etc. 

To end off, I will leave some of my favorite Star Wars quotes below:

“Fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, hate leads to suffering.” – Yoda

“Try not.  Do, or do not.  There is no try.” – Yoda

“I am one with the Force and the Force is with me.” – Chirrut Îmwe

Happy Star Wars day everyone!  May the Force be with you!

Impractical Jokers: One of My Favorite Shows

I have been watching the hit TV show Impractical Jokers since I was in middle school.  The show was about four high school friends from Staten Island who compete in challenges with the sole purpose of embarrassing each other.  At the end of each episode, the member who fails the most challenges is punished with something even more embarrassing.  

One of my favorite challenges is called “The Name Game”.  In this challenge, one member at a time acts as a receptionist.  In front of them are a list of extremely bizarre made up names that the other guys have created for them to read.  As they read the names aloud to the unsuspecting strangers in the waiting room, they have to try not to laugh.  Whichever group member laughs the most loses the challenge.  Some of the names they have created are: Cranjis McBasketball, Dr. Shrimp Puerto Rico, Secret Agent Randy Beans, and Earl Turlet.

One of the most iconic punishments that they’ve ever done on the show is when one of the members gave the other three members tattoos.  One member was given a tattoo of a ferret skydiving (they often say that specific member looks like a ferret and he also had a punishment where he had to skydive).  Another member was given a tattoo that says “38, Lives Alone, Has 3 Cats”.  The third member was given a tattoo of Jaden Smith.  Their reactions to their tattoos were hilarious, especially the member who was given the Jaden Smith tattoo- he was very upset.

Watching this show has helped me get through many dark times in my life.  It might be silly because I’m watching four 40 year old men act like middle schoolers, but it’s just the type of comedy I needed in my life to help keep me afloat.  This show means a lot to me as it’s been with me for almost half of my life.

The reason I said that the show was about four friends is because the show is now about three friends.  One of the members, Joe Gatto, recently left the show for personal reasons.  In place of Joe, they are going to have a different celebrity special guest in each episode.  A few weeks ago, they came out with their first episode with special guest, comedian Eric Andre (only at the end of the episode though).

Even though Joe is no longer part of the show, I still enjoyed the episode.  His absence was definitely felt, though.  He was the most boisterous of the four so him not being there definitely leaves its mark.

More new episodes (without Joe) return in June.  I’m curious to see how they will keep continuing without Joe, but I’m hoping it goes well.  As mentioned before, this show helps me tremendously when I’m down; no other comedy comes close to it for me in that regard.  So without it, I don’t know what I would do.

7 Year Anniversary of Being Vegan

Today marks 7 years that I’ve been vegan.  April 9, 2015 was the day I decided to give up meat and dairy forever.  The last non-vegan thing I consumed was a chicken patty from my high school and after that I was like “I don’t want to do this anymore”.

My mom was vegan and before that a vegetarian long before me so she was a huge inspiration in my decision.  I also saw videos (Earthlings, etc) of animals not being treated well as they were prepared to be brutally turned into food.  This obviously also played a role in my decision.  I just did not want to contribute to the horrors that those poor animals were going through.

In addition to feeling better about not contributing to the horrible treatment of animals, I also know that my choice has had a positive impact on the environment.  Being vegan means I have saved not only animals, but also water, CO2, and forests. (https://thevegancalculator.com/#calculator). 

Being vegan has also improved my health.  Before going vegan, I noticed that I would get sick quite frequently.  After going vegan, the frequency at which I would get sick decreased significantly.  

Vegans have a stereotype of being annoying, pushy, and talking too much about their beliefs, so I don’t really talk about being vegan with people unless they ask me or it comes up in conversation.

My favorite vegan restaurants are Three Girls Vegan Creamery in Guilford and GZen in Branford (which is unfortunately closing at the end of this month).  There are also a few other restaurants that I enjoy which have vegan options.  Outside of those restaurants, I eat vegan “meat” products, veggies, fruit, grains.  There are so many vegan versions of a lot of foods nowadays.  

I’m not sure how I will celebrate my 7 year anniversary of being vegan, but it will probably involve eating vegan food!

Will Smith vs Chris Rock

As I’m sure most of us are aware, there was an incident at the 2022 Oscars between actor Will Smith and comedian Chris Rock. Chris Rock made a joke about Will Smith’s wife Jada Pinkett Smith and Will Smith walked on stage and slapped Chris Rock in the face.

Most of the internet has been divided, some siding with Will Smith, some siding with Chris Rock. Then there are those who are either not picking a side or just enjoying the countless memes that have been created about the situation. I am one of the people who isn’t siding with anyone, but I do have some thoughts about what happened. This is definitely a complicated and complex issue.

I feel as though Will Smith had some pent up emotions. There was a shot of him laughing at the joke that Chris Rock made, then suddenly he was extremely upset and did what he did. He might have been under a lot of stress as he was a nominee that night, and there is already a lot of drama surrounding his relationship with Jada.  

Chris’s joke also calls into question what is okay for a comedian to joke about. Should some things just be off limits? Where is the line between humor and being respectful to each other? Either way, I do think Chris Rock handled being slapped in the face quite professionally, not physically retaliating, just verbally reacting. Apparently he is not even pressing charges. While Rock may not have meant any harm with what he said, I can relate to being the butt of a joke. You don’t always want to show that it bothers you, but at the same time, there’s only so much a human can take.  

Even though I am not picking a side, I will say that I don’t fully agree with reacting to something like that with violence, especially as a black male. I just feel like it proves what racist people think of us; that we are violent. I have already seen some racists come out with their opinions on social media. While it shouldn’t matter what racists think, unfortunately we live in a country where there is systemic racism. For that reason, our actions are under a microscope. When we do not support each other it is magnified. For example, even though Chris Rock hosted the Oscars and Will Smith won one that night, the media are focused on the slap.  

What are your thoughts about this? Are you taking a side?

Things That Uplift Me When I’m Feeling Down

Below are things that uplift me when I’m feeling down

Monster

Social Media Assistant Therell shares his song “Monster” which is about how he feels like a complete and utter monster.

Experiences of Racism

I am mixed, half white and half black. However, to others I only look black. Just like most, if not all, black people in America, I’ve had my fair share of racism come my way.

I grew up and currently live in a suburban town that is somewhat diverse but mostly white.  

The earliest instance of racism that I can remember was when I was in second grade. A white student was telling me that it is not racist to say the N word, while I was telling him that it is.

I remember another instance where I was racially profiled when I was around 12 years old. I was with my mother (who is white) in a small store during the winter. I had a large coat on and I was walking around the store looking for candy while my mother was talking with an employee. I picked some candy from the shelf and started walking back to my mother. Because my coat was large, the sleeve was sort of hanging over the candy. The store owner saw me and threatened to call the police on me because I guess he believed I was intending to steal the candy. I have not been back to that store since.

At another store with my mother, employees would often follow me, I guess to make sure I wasn’t going to steal anything? I noticed this and would stay close to my mother, but that did not stop them from following me. I also have not been back to that store.

Other instances that come to mind are two situations that happened where I live. I live in an apartment building and there are many older white folks that live here as well. One time when I was coming in from taking the trash out, a woman asked me if I was there “to rob the place”. Another time when I was going to take the trash out, a neighbor called me a “slave”.  

Then there were those times all throughout my freshman year of high school where a white classmate would often say the N word, most times directed at me. I would report him to the teachers, but they never did anything When I was a junior, another white student would often say racial slurs around me, and when I called him out, his excuse was that he didn’t know I was black.

I would also get certain looks from others that I can tell are racially motivated and those looks make me feel like an outsider sometimes. A couple years ago when I was out taking a walk on the nature path near where I live, I saw a white woman walking toward me. When she looked at me, she immediately stopped and turned around and went behind her husband.

Those are some of the instances of racism that I have experienced. I try not to let racism get to me, as I want to live my life to the fullest and be successful.  

Living With Tourette Syndrome

When I was in elementary school, maybe 3rd grade, I was getting in trouble a lot; the teacher said I was always being disruptive like making noises in the classroom and what not. My mom took me to a neurologist who diagnosed me with Tourette Syndrome and prescribed me medication.

The medication completely turned me into a zombie. I was so tired and out of it. There was one day in class where I even fell asleep, for the first and only time. The medication was adjusted to better suit me.

Ever since I was diagnosed with Tourette Syndrome, I began trying to hide my tics as best as I could when in public because I was embarrassed. Unfortunately, one day in my 4th grade music class, I had what I would call a “tic attack”; I could not control my tics, they were out of control. The music teacher kind of shamed me in front of the class and I started crying. I went to the nurse who called my mom who took me home.

In 5th grade, I took myself off of the medication because I didn’t like the side effects and haven’t been on any medication for my tics since. 

Throughout the years, I’ve still hidden my tics in public to the point where people would be surprised to learn that I even have any. I’m so embarrassed by them that I even hide them when in front of my mom, even though I know she would never ever make fun of me for it. She’s actually always been supportive of me and my journey with everything.

While I do my best to hide my tics in public, some do end up coming through. I’m not sure if anyone has even noticed, but if they have, they haven’t said anything. Even so, I still prefer not to let my tics out in front of others in fear of being made fun of or looked down upon.

A lot of people seem to think that Tourette’s is just cussing up a storm and saying weird things, but most people with tics don’t even have those symptoms – I know I don’t.  My tics include neck & shoulder twitches, eye twitches and sometimes lots of blinking, motor noises, etc. I would recommend to those without Tourette Syndrome to read up about it so they can educate themselves on the topic. For those with Tourette Syndrome, know that you are not alone and that there is support out there.

Being A December Baby

By Therell Mayes

I was born in December, two days after Christmas to be exact. I’m someone that enjoys birthdays; I love wishing people a happy birthday. I consider birthdays to be a sort of “holiday”, which would make my birthday my favorite holiday.

While I’m sure a lot of people with holiday birthdays have their gifts combined, ever since I was a kid, my mom always made sure to separate my birthday from Christmas. I would receive gifts for Christmas and two days later, gifts for my birthday – in birthday wrapping paper. And when we could, I would have parties or get-togethers for my birthday. One of my favorite parties we had was when we went to an indoor trampoline park when I was in 6th grade.

As I’ve gotten older, though, I have found it to be challenging to get friends to celebrate my birthday with me. People are more focused on spending time with their families during the Christmas/New Years season, which is completely understandable.  

Along with there being holidays, the winter weather has also played a factor. I remember one year, I invited people to celebrate my birthday with me, but on that particular day, it happened to snow pretty hard, so the get-together had to be canceled. Rescheduling was not an option as they were then busy with the holidays.

However, even when I didn’t have a party or get-together with friends, I would have my family tradition of going to a restaurant of my choosing on my birthday. Last year I chose Chipotle, and we also watched the sunset at the beach, which was nice. This year I am choosing my favorite restaurant, Three Girls Vegan Creamery in Guilford, CT.

For those of you with birthdays close to or on a holiday, how do you celebrate?

My Journey With Writing Songs

My journey with writing songs started when I was a kid in elementary school. I was quite a big fan of Usher’s music at the time, so he inspired me to write my own songs. I would write whenever I could. A lot of what I wrote didn’t make sense and was not very good, but that’s okay, I was just a beginner after all.

By middle school, I had moved on from Usher and was now a big fan of Drake (the rapper, not the Nickelodeon star). My writing songs had kind of slowed down at that point, but I was still very into listening to music.  

In high school, my hobby of writing started back up again once I was a senior. I was in a creative writing class where we would write poetry and such. This is where I’d say I had an “aha” moment that writing was a true passion of mine. And my classmates and teacher seemed to really enjoy the poems I was writing. At this time, I was also introduced to the artist Juice WRLD, whose music I found to be really meaningful and relatable. 

After graduating high school and entering college, I found myself still writing poetry. Over the next few years, though, the poetry slowly started turning back into songs. During the pandemic, the transformation from writing poetry to writing songs was complete. For me, the difference between writing poetry and writing songs is that with poetry, I have no intentions of recording them, but with songs, I do.

Writing song lyrics is a very interesting process. I tap into my emotions and think about all the things I’ve been through, and most of the time, it creates something very beautiful.  

In the summer of 2020, I scheduled a day at Sage Sound Studios in Shelton and recorded my first ever song “Remember Me”.  Going to a professional recording studio for the first time was very stressful, but fun. I remember being very nervous sharing what I wrote with other people, and by the end of the session, I was pretty tired.  It also took me several takes to get the recording right, but I enjoyed my time there. 

A year later, summer 2021, I recorded my second song “Friends & Enemies”.  In my opinion, there was a massive improvement this time. It didn’t take as long to record this song as it did the first song, and I felt a little more confident and comfortable in the studio. Since then, I’ve recorded a couple more songs and I plan to continue doing so every few months.  

These days, I still find myself listening to Drake and Juice WLRD, but also Lil Wayne and YouTube musician KSI. These four artists inspire me very much, but in different ways. Drake and Juice WRLD inspire me to express my emotions and talk about what troubles me. Lil Wayne inspires me with his wordplay; I’m always thinking of different ways to have double meanings in my lyrics. KSI inspires me to push boundaries and get out there as he is always doing himself.

Writing the lyrics and then recording the songs is a very therapeutic journey for me. It helps me get my feelings out in a healthy way and it creates something that everyone can listen to. I always hope that my music can bring as much joy to others as it does to me.

Why Thanksgiving is My Favorite Holiday

By Therell Mayes

one of my past Thanksgiving meals

When I was a kid, I used to enjoy Christmas more than Thanksgiving because all that seemed to matter as a kid was getting presents. As the years went on, though, that began to change. I no longer enjoy Christmas at all, but I enjoy Thanksgiving a lot. Both holidays have an underlying theme of family, but I’ve never really had that sense of family because my family has usually always been separated; it’s really only been my mother and I.  

While it may not make sense to most because of what I mentioned above, I just can’t enjoy Christmas because of the stress of having to think about what gifts to get to people and because I don’t even see my family anyway. Thanksgiving is nice though, because while there may be some stress about getting food, for us it’s nice and quiet and we enjoy spending that time together eating delicious food and not having to worry about gifts. We are also vegan, so instead of eating turkey, we have other things.  

I also enjoy the process of saying what we are thankful for before we eat. It’s just a nice way to reflect back on the previous year and take note of all the good things that may have happened even if I’m feeling down. For example, one thing I am thankful for this year is my new job as TurningPointCT’s Social Media Assistant! Happy Thanksgiving everyone!