My Favorite Albums of 2019

My Favorite Albums of 2019

lover

2019 was rough – I think we’ve established that. But, just like it always has been and always will be, music was there for me when I needed it. This year some absolutely amazing albums came out that I love very much. I could think of no better way to start off the new year than to look back on the albums that defined 2019 for me. Here they are, listed in chronological order of their release.

GIRL by Maren Morris

I remember the first time I listened to “GIRL” (the song, not the album). As Maren sang, “Don’t you hang your head low, don’t you lose your halo,” I was pretty sure she was singing to me. Hearing the album for the first time was no less significant, and I had already developed a special connection to it before I was even halfway through my first listen. Maren’s awareness of the sometimes sexist conditions of the country music industry is clear, but she reminds us all that she’s not just here to “shut up and sing” (her words, not mine). Watching Maren’s success with this album has made me so happy, and my connection to it has reminded me of how I feel about Kacey Musgraves’ Golden Hour, which is undoubtedly one of my favorite albums of the decade. {Favorite Tracks: “The Bones,” “Great Ones,” “Gold Love”}

Moonlight by Johnnyswim

Shockingly, there was a time in my life when I did not listen to the same album on repeat for days on end. So, when I listened to the latest from Johnnyswim three times in a row in one day, I knew it was something special. This album is simply stunning. Johnnyswim’s songwriting abilities are on full display. While the upbeat tracks are fantastic, I absolutely adore the more raw, poignant tracks (“Flowers,” “Long Gone,” “Amanda,” and “Same Old Thing,” just to name a few). I love Johnnyswim and I couldn’t love this era in their career more. {Favorite Tracks: “Souvenir,” “Flowers,” “Amanda”}

Singular Act II by Sabrina Carpenter

I truly love so many different genres of music, but there is something that always draws me back to pop music. Sabrina Carpenter has reached pop perfection in her follow-up to 2018’s Singular Act I. She got very personal on some songs, addressing her own struggles with anxiety (“In My Bed,” “Exhale”), while others exude the girl power and independence she has come to be known for (“Looking At Me,” “Take You Back”). Sabrina has come a long way from her Disney days and has proved in these two short but sweet acts that she is most definitely singular. {Favorite Tracks: “Exhale,” “Tell Em,” “Looking At Me”}

Inspired by True Events by Tori Kelly

Tori Kelly has been one of my favorite artists for…as long as I can remember. Every one of her albums is one of my favorites. I love what she did with Inspired by True Events, telling the raw truth about the past few years of her life, from her marriage to her grandfather’s passing. Interspersed between the songs are audio clips from home videos taken during Tori’s childhood. They make the album even more personal and add another layer to the meaning of the songs. Tori is an incredibly gifted vocalist and songwriter, and I know there is nothing but more good things to come from her. {Favorite Tracks: “Sorry Would Go A Long Way,” “2 Places,” “Your Words”}

Lover by Taylor Swift

Really, did you expect anything else from me? Lover defined my year. I anxiously awaited news for the album and the release of every single and music video. I even woke up from a migraine-induced nap one day to watch one of Taylor’s Instagram lives. I am a Swiftie through and through. I am happy to report that this album did not disappoint at all. It is perhaps Taylor’s most diverse album in terms of sound, and I truly think it has something for everyone. There are deep, emotional tracks like “The Archer” and “Soon You’ll Get Better,” as well as ones you just have to dance to, like “The Man” and “London Boy.” Taylor set out to capture all of the emotions, feelings, and facets of love and I believe that she did that – romantic love, love for friends and family, love for yourself, it’s all here. I couldn’t be prouder to see her “step into the daylight and let it go.” {Favorite Tracks: “Cruel Summer,” “Lover,” “Daylight”}

Get Well Someday

Get Well Someday

hospital

“This won’t go back to normal / If it ever was”

– “Soon You’ll Get Better” by Taylor Swift ft. Dixie Chicks

 

As of today, when I am now writing this, it has been ten weeks and four days since I was discharged from the hospital following treatment for an intense migraine. I feel very strongly that I should write about this – that I want to write about this – but I almost don’t know how to. The bruises on my arms from the IVs and the blood draws are gone now, but I still feel bruised. Parts of my time in the hospital, and the time that led up to it, seem black to me now, but thinking about the entire experience conjures an anxious feeling in me that is almost akin to a fight-or-flight response. I still haven’t decided between fight and flight. I suppose my body automatically chose fight for me, but my brain is still leaning towards flight. I don’t think I will ever be able to truly convey what this time was like for me. If you did not live it, or at least live it with me, I don’t think you will ever be able to understand. Unless my life mirrors yours. To my fellow migraine sufferers, my fellow spoonies, I salute you. We’re pretty tough, if you ask me.

This all began in September, perhaps the second week or so. Exact details are completely lost to me now. I got a migraine. This is not exactly something to write home about, seeing as I live with chronic migraine and deal with a constant headache that fluctuates to a full-blown migraine multiple times a week. This particular migraine did not go away, which isn’t out of the ordinary for me either. Several times a year, I will have a migraine that lasts for about a week, at which point I contact my neurologist and I go in for an IV infusion of multiple medications to break what I have come to call the “migraine cycle.”

There was a hitch in this plan this time. I had recently begun seeing a new neurologist. It wasn’t that I didn’t like my old neurologist, or that I thought he wasn’t doing enough. It was just that nothing was changing and I was frustrated and I wanted someone else to look at the situation. Initially, I had been satisfied with the care I was receiving from the new office. I had gone into the office for an infusion over the summer to break a migraine cycle. These positive feelings changed rather quickly when the new office basically did nothing to help me. For weeks, I lived with this migraine. I endured this pain. They did not return phone calls. They were slow to set up an infusion. It was awful.

At this point, it was October. Yes, October. It had been a month. And there was something different about this migraine. It was an ever-present companion. The pain level ebbed and flowed. At times it was better and at times it worse, but it never left me. I started to feel desperate. I felt like I was going crazy. I rested in dark rooms. I did yoga. I used ice packs and cold cloths. I even went to urgent care for an injection of Toradol, an anti-inflammatory medication commonly given for migraine pain-relief. The next day I took my Shakespeare midterm because I felt slightly better and I didn’t want to have to deal with putting it off and thinking about it later. The day after that, my new neurologist’s office finally got in touch with us and said I could come in for an infusion that day. I was given a combination of medications that I had taken before and gotten relief from.

That was Wednesday. Everything changed Thursday. I woke up at four o’clock in the morning confused. I wasn’t really sure why I was awake, and then I realized it was because of my head. The pain had woken me up. I tried to fall back asleep but I couldn’t. I couldn’t do anything really, other than wake my mom up and tell her that something was wrong. I tried to lay back down again, but I couldn’t stay still. My father gave me a priesthood blessing. I took Tylenol. I kept grabbing my head. At some point I sat up in bed and started rocking back in forth. I always try to avoid crying for any reason when I have a migraine because it makes the pain worse, but for the first time in my life the pain was so bad that I was involuntarily shedding tears. The words of a Taylor Swift song, the same one I quoted at the beginning of this post, kept running through my head. When I have a migraine, the pain is always concentrated in my forehead but this time the entire right side of my head was hurting.

And then suddenly the pain subsided, just a little. Enough to make me think that instead of rushing to the emergency room, we could start by going to urgent care. The same doctor who saw me a few days before when I got the Toradol injection was there, and she wasn’t wasting any time. She noticed the entire right side of my head, where the pain was so bad, was red – from my cheek to the skin behind my ear. She called the emergency room and sent me there immediately with papers explaining what she had seen.

My experience at the ER was not a pleasant one. Despite the severity of my symptoms and how they differed from what I was used to, my nurse was disinterested at best. The attending physician wrote me off as just another migraine patient and ordered the typical “migraine cocktail” they give in the ER. The only person who seemed particularly concerned was a medical student working with the attending. By the time I had received the medication they had ordered, I didn’t feel “cured” by any means, but my pain level had decreased. Combine that with the fact that I was so sedated I could barely walk and I was ready to go home. It wasn’t perfect but I hoped it would be enough.

My struggle with my new neurologist continued. I was given new medication to try, but I was told that if that didn’t work, there was basically nothing else they could do. It was at that point that I made an appointment with my old neurologist. While waiting for that appointment, I continued to be in extreme pain. I was barely able to work on assignments for school. I was barely able to do anything, really. There were multiple times that I debated returning to the ER. One day, when things were particularly bad and I was back in I-think-I’m-losing-my-mind-mode, my dad gave me another priesthood blessing. I am not exaggerating when I say I experienced a miracle that day. My pain decreased more than it had in weeks. I was able to rest that night. I was able to keep going. I know this was a tender mercy from my Heavenly Father.

Finally, on October 29th, I saw my old neurologist. I think he could tell something was wrong, aside from the fact that I had told him a very long (and, to me, traumatizing) story. I always brush off what is wrong. I always say I am okay when I am not. But that day I looked in his eyes and told him he had to do something because I could not continue in that state. He submitted orders for me to be admitted to the hospital the next day.

And so, after waiting half of the next day for the hospital to call and say that they had a bed ready, I was admitted. I was, somewhat shockingly, happy to be there. I knew that this was the first step to me feeling better, and I was willing to accept being in the hospital if that’s what it took. By the time I was admitted it was rather late, so only one thing happened of note that day: my port was accessed. I had my port implanted because I get IV infusions regularly and I have horrible veins. However, when you’re in the hospital, you can’t just simply have the nurse access your port, as one would expect. First the attending physician has to put in an order for your port to be accessed instead of just a regular old IV. Then you wait several hours. Then the “IV Team” comes to see you. They are not just regular nurses – they are IV professionals, and, by extension, port professionals. The two members of the IV Team who came to see me, Bob and Dave, quite honestly deserve their own reality show on TLC. Bob was training Dave, who was new to the hospital, and Bob had quite obviously missed his true calling as a stand-up comedian. He kept up a running commentary while preparing to stick a needle in my chest. At one point he almost fell on top of the chair my dad was sitting in. It was an experience, and it was the exact hilarity that I needed after having just been admitted to the hospital for the worst pain of my life.

My neurologist was a bit concerned that there could be another cause for the severity of my pain, so he ordered several tests. The problem was that if I had something like a ruptured blood vessel, the migraine medication he would give me would worsen that. Therefore, everything had to be ruled out. This was how I ended up getting a dose of Ativan at six o’clock in the morning on my second day in the hospital because I have slight claustrophobia that could bother me during the MRV (a form of MRI that looks specifically at the vessels in the brain). (To be clear, I have had more MRIs in my life than I can count, and I have not needed any medication to assist me since I was, like, six. The doctor was worried about me.) Before my MRV, I was taken to get a CT scan where I met a super-nice, super-gregarious nurse who, upon hearing what I was there for, told me, “Well, you’re just falling apart, aren’t you?!” (Yes, yes I am.) I was supposed to go to the MRV immediately afterwards, but they weren’t ready for me. In fact, they weren’t ready for me for hours. Meaning the Ativan I had taken was pointless. To top it off, they gave me another dose of Ativan. So I was feeling nice and calm for that MRV, which was actually a highlight of my time in the hospital. Those of you who have had any form of MRI done before know that it is very loud. I think somehow I ended up in the pediatric unit, and the very-nice technician asked me if I wanted headphones during the test, or if I wanted to listen to music, asking, “You like pop music, right?” I was ready to sob right there on the spot. That day, Selena Gomez, Halsey, and the Jonas Brothers got me through my ordeal.

By the time I got back to my hospital room, the attending physician (who just happened to my own neurologist on this day) had determined that my test results were okay and I could proceed with the planned course of treatment. This treatment was DHE, a fairly extreme migraine treatment that is typically given via IV. DHE can be given in outpatient infusion centers, but getting it in the hospital is preferable because of the extreme side effects it can cause. I was feeling very optimistic when I began the DHE even though I knew it could be intense. However, it was only a few hours before I started noticing those dreaded side effects everyone talked about. I was hit with extreme nausea that was almost unbearable. My nurse brought me crackers and soda and hesitantly informed me that sometimes the nausea can be so bad that patients cannot continue the treatment. Eventually, I had to take a dose of Phenergan, the anti-nausea medication that had been prescribed for me. I’ve taken Phenergan in the past and I’ve had some mild issues with restlessness because of it. But what happened that night was unlike anything I have ever experienced. I was up all night with severe muscle spasms that would not stop. What made it even better was that Phenergan is a very sedating medication…as is Ativan, which I had had an extra dose of. So, when I tried to get up and move around, I was quite literally flopping back in my hospital bed because I didn’t have the strength to get up. This seems really funny to me now, but at the time I thought I had reached my breaking point. At some point I managed to get a few hours of sleep. I woke up that morning feeling horrible, vomited, and went back to sleep. Later that day, my mom mentioned something that the doctor said when he made his rounds that day and I had absolutely no memory of it. Thankfully, they switched my Phenergan to Zofran, which I have no problems with.

At some point during all of this madness, I got another visit from Bob and Dave. My neurologist wanted to give me some additional medication to attack the migraine that was not “compatible” with DHE, meaning it could not also be run into my port. I needed another IV, but since I am such a hard stick, they sent in the IV team with their fancy ultrasound machine to find a vein. And find one they did, although it was quite deep and a bit difficult to get to. This IV worked fine for approximately twenty-four hours, at which point it began to hurt. My nurse checked it and ensured and that it was still in the vein, but sent the IV team to look for another possible spot. This time I was visited by another, less entertaining member, who found another, much less painful spot for my IV. Getting stuck twice was worth it when the first IV began to hurt more than my head.

I can’t quite accurately describe everything that happened in the hospital. Everything has bled together in my memory. I also feel like a part of me has blocked some of it out because it was a very painful time, not just physically, but emotionally as well. I can remember bits and pieces, like when I went for another MRI and said I could walk instead of using a wheelchair and almost fell over. I remember that the food was basically inedible and my parents had to keep going to get me pound cakes and brownies from Starbucks. I remember my favorite daytime nurse who made me laugh so hard at one point that everything felt okay for a second. I remember my favorite nighttime nurse who tried her best to let me get as much rest as possible even though they have to come check my vitals every few hours. I remember getting my blood drawn in the middle of the night so the results would be ready for the doctor in the morning. I remember most of the side effects of the DHE fading, except for the leg cramps which only bothered me when I stood up (which wasn’t very often). I remember my mom reading texts and Facebook messages from family and friends to me. I remember attempting to watch Live PD but falling asleep.

Most of all, I remember thinking I would go home one day. But then my pain increased again. And the attending came back and said he had talked to my neurologist on the phone and he had said I had to stay another day. The second he left the room, I dissolved into tears because part of my mind thought those twenty-four hours meant everything. And then I remember finally being discharged the next day. I was not completely well. On that magical scale of one to ten, my pain level had decreased to about a four. That was good enough for the new attending. And at that point, it was good enough for me too.

I cannot fully explain the ways in which this has changed me. My migraines are mostly back to normal now. My pain is no longer unbearable. They have returned to their natural rhythm. But nothing else has. The only thing I have done since I have left the hospital is go to see two movies and go the store a few times. All of these excursions have left me in bed for two days following. I spent some time with my extended family recently and it was a true highlight for me after all that I’ve been through. It knocked me out for three days. I can barely leave the house for medical appointments. I went through a long period of time when I couldn’t even read. If you know me, you know this was like a death sentence. I have very little physical strength. And to be honest, I have very little emotional strength left at this point.

I had a very profound thought during all of this. I would go so far as to call it a revelation. It happened shortly before I was admitted to the hospital. I was praying, pleading with Heavenly Father not so much for relief, but for comfort. And it was then that I realized that He had always been with me – that Jesus had always been with me. They were with me in my room on that Thursday morning when the pain was so bad that I genuinely thought I might be dying. They were there with me in the emergency room. They would be there with me in the hospital. They would be with afterwards. Even if I felt alone, I would not be. Even if I felt like I couldn’t keep going, I would. They would make sure of that.

“When You don’t move the mountains I’m needing You to move / When You don’t part the waters I wish I could walk through / When You don’t give me answers as I cry out to You / I will trust in You”

– “Trust in You” by Lauren Daigle

Spring & Summer 2019 Favorites

Spring & Summer 2019 Favorites

Now that fall is officially upon us (although the weather seems somewhat confused about that), I thought it was time to share my favorite things from spring and summer. These are all things that I’ve been loving the past few months. Let me know what some of your recent favorites are in the comments!

endgame

Movies & TV //

Avengers: Endgame – I loved this movie so much that I dedicated an entire blog post to it. I have been a Marvel fan for years now, and this was the perfect way to end a saga. Plus it offered the greatest theater experience I’ve ever had. Crying and cheering is way more fun when you do it as a group.

Toy Story 4 – This movie was simply perfect. I’ve never been the biggest fan of the Toy Story franchise, but this one definitely held up to the standards I have for Pixar. It was an incredibly emotional, poignant film with the perfect amount of nostalgia for those who have grown up with these movies.

Master Chef – I ended up seeing one of the early episodes from this season pretty randomly, and I was hooked. I’m not a huge fan of cooking shows, but I loved the competition aspect and seeing the rational, normal side of Gordon Ramsey. I will definitely be watching again next season.

Beauty //

Catrice Fresh it Up Primer – I cannot say enough good things about this primer. It is perfect if you have dry skin, or if you just want a little extra hydration. I really feel like this pairs well with any foundation, and the price can’t be beat.

Colourpop Luxe Lipsticks – These are some of my favorite products from one of my favorite brands. I’m so happy that Colourpop made “regular” lipsticks, and so happy that they stand up to the amazing quality customers have come to expect from them. My personal favorite shade is “Lay Over.”

Yes To Face Masks – I am very picky about face masks, but this brand has never let me down. Not only do they not irritate my skin, but I feel like they actually help clear up acne. There’s such a huge variety that you can find one for any skin need.

Books //

Lovely War by Julie Berry – When I read the synopsis of this book, it sounded like it was written for me. World War I historical fiction mixed with Greek mythology? Um, yes, please! I adored this book and the sweet story it told. Definitely a standout amidst the young adult fiction constantly being released.

A Gentleman in Moscow by Amor Towles – I guess you could say I’ve been in the mood for historical fiction recently. This book had such a unique story – a man sentenced to house arrest inside a grand hotel after the Russian Revolution. The lovely writing was just a bonus.

Scriptures & Quotes //

“The most ordinary mortal bodies are housed by spectacular souls.” – Julie Berry

“And he said unto them, It is not for you to know the times or the seasons, which the Father hath put in his own power.” – Acts 1:7

“Step into the daylight and let it go.” – Taylor Swift

“And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen.” – John 21:25

Songs //

  • “ME!” by Taylor Swift ft. Brendon Urie
  • “If I Can’t Have You” by Shawn Mendes
  • “Sucker” by Jonas Brothers
  • “First Aid Kit” by Maddie Pope
  • “The Bones” by Maren Morris
  • “Miss Me More” by Kelsea Ballerini
  • “Look What God Gave Her” by Thomas Rhett
  • “Fighting For Me” by Riley Clemmons
  • “Rainbow” by Kacey Musgraves
  • “Greater Than All My Regrets” by Tenth Avenue North
  • “Broken & Beautiful” by Kelly Clarkson
  • “Lover” by Taylor Swift
  • “Exhale” by Sabrina Carpenter
  • “Say It” by Maggie Rogers
  • “What If I Never Get Over You” by Lady Antebellum
A Recap of the First Democratic Debates

A Recap of the First Democratic Debates

Image: Democratic Presidential Candidates Participate In First Debate Of 2020 Election Over Two Nights

{ image via Getty Images/NBC }

Last week, the first of the 2020 presidential debates took place for the Democratic nominees. According to Ballotpedia, there are currently twenty-five Democratic presidential candidates. However, only the twenty with the highest polling numbers and donor contributions made it on to the debate stage. The candidates were split into two groups of ten that debated over two nights on NBC/MSNBC. (One thing that I appreciated about these debates is that the candidates were chosen at random for each night, meaning presidential hopefuls polling at higher and lower ends of the spectrum ended up on the stage each night. This was a contrast to 2016’s Republican debates, which featured higher-tiered and lower-tiered debates. You can guess which of those debates got more viewers.) The debates were moderated by Savannah Guthrie, Lester Holt, and Jose Diaz-Balart, with an additional panel comprised of Chuck Todd and Rachel Maddow.

So, how did the debates go, you ask? Let me break it down for you.

*All of my opinions below are based solely on debate performance, not on whether or not I agree with a candidate’s ideology and policy proposals.*

Night One

Candidates: Cory Booker, Julián Castro, Bill De Blasio, John Delaney, Tulsi Gabbard, Jay Inslee, Amy Klobuchar, Beto O’Rourke, Tim Ryan, Elizabeth Warren

I was most impressed with: Julián Castro

I was least impressed with: Beto O’Rourke

Politics is often akin to a circus, and it was not long before the circus began during the first debate. During the answer to his very first question, Beto O’Rourke began speaking Spanish (not very good Spanish, I might add). Not to be outdone, Cory Booker later did the exact same thing…after he stared at Beto in complete shock, becoming an Internet meme forever. Amidst all of this bilingual chaos, Elizabeth Warren established herself as the debate’s front-runner in the first half. She gave clear, direct answers and had a ready-to-explain plan for every issue. She showed true leadership when other candidates seemed to be floundering.

One of the biggest talking-points of the 2020 campaign is, of course, healthcare. When asked who was ready to immediately abolish private insurance and move to Medicare-for-all, only Warren and De Blasio said yes. Booker and Gabbard do support Medicare-for-all, but aren’t quite so ready to jump in. O’Rourke and Delaney said no. Perhaps Amy Klobuchar put it best when she said that although everyone has different plans and paths to get there, all of the candidates are in favor of universal healthcare.

Klobuchar and Gabbard were certainly the more moderate candidates of the night. I found myself liking both of them, although neither had a huge night. Unfortunately, Delaney, Inslee, and Ryan remain the mysterious candidates that we know little about. While Warren was a standout in the beginning, she could not keep her momentum going long enough to stop Castro from becoming the night’s breakout star. His comprehensive immigration plan was impressive, as was his experience serving in the Obama administration. He certainly made a name for himself. But someone who didn’t? O’Rourke, who did not live up to the excitement his campaign has generated. His answers and ideas were, honestly, lackluster.

Night Two

Candidates: Michael Bennet, Joe Biden, Pete Buttigieg, Kirsten Gillibrand, Kamala Harris, John Hickenlooper, Bernie Sanders, Eric Swalwell, Marianne Williamson, Andrew Yang

I was most impressed with: Kamala Harris

I was least impressed with: Joe Biden

Night two’s circus-factor came from the lack of civility on stage. Unlike night one, when everyone was fairly courteous, the second debate featured candidates yelling over each other, trying to answer questions that weren’t directed at them, and calling out each other and President Trump. Adding to the circus even more (and in a much more entertaining fashion) was candidate/spiritual leader/author Marianne Williamson, who has become the Internet’s new favorite person. At one point, she said her first act as president would be to call New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, who said her country would be the greatest place to live, and tell her, “Girlfriend, you are so on.”

Bernie, of course, continued his “Democratic Socialist” spiel, prompting Hickenlooper to insist that the party needs to stay as far away from socialism as possible. Bernie and Harris were the only two candidates to agree to abolishing private insurance this night (although Harris seemed to possibly recant that statement in a later interview). Joe Biden had a huge target on his back the entire night, taking heat from Swalwell who claimed to have witnessed Biden give a speech about passing the torch to the next generation of leaders – when Swalwell was just six years old. He also faced strong criticism from Harris over his past stance on busing and segregation in what was surely the most memorable moment of the night. To add insult to injury, Biden had no response when Diaz-Balart brought up the Obama administration’s deportations of illegal immigrants when Biden criticized the current administration for doing the same.

One interesting part of the second debate was the more obscure candidates’ ability to stand out and get time. I think I can actually identify Bennet, Hickenlooper, Swalwell, and Yang now. However, between her takedown of Biden and several other good moments, it was clear that the night belonged to Harris. She truly seemed presidential and ready to take on anything. Biden, on the other hand, did not. I honestly believe he thought he could get through the debate with nothing but rehearsed responses. It did not bode well for him.

We are already seeing some early polls showing effects from the debate, but what will its real aftermath be? Only time will tell.

The End of the Line

The End of the Line

Avengers

{ image via Marvel/The Wrap }

*Warning: Avengers: Endgame spoilers ahead.*

22 movies. 11 years. And it all came down to this.

“Part of the journey is the end.”

– Tony Stark

If you are not yet privy to the international phenomena known as Avengers: Endgame, allow me to enlighten you. It is somewhat of an ending to a twenty-two film journey that has spanned multiple characters, storylines, and planets. All of it has been based on the comic books made by Marvel, and it has come to be known as the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

I have never read a comic book in my life. I don’t think that makes me any less of a fan. I have just experienced these stories through a different medium.

The first movie I ever watched within the Marvel Cinematic Universe was The Avengers. It was 2012, the summer before I started middle school. I heard about this very hyped up movie, and I wanted to see it. I am fairly certain that I had never actually seen a superhero movie before in my life, but something about this one intrigued me. So, I went to see it with my dad. And that’s when things changed. I left the theater fascinated by these superheroes. There was a guy who loved America even more than me? And some guy from another planet whose brother kept causing problems? And a guy who was really good at archery? And, most surprising to me, a woman? It certainly wasn’t that I didn’t think a woman could be a superhero. (I had heard of DC’s Wonder Woman and Supergirl.) I had just never seen one before. So, in that way, Black Widow opened up a new, exciting door for me.

After that, it became my mission to watch every MCU film that had been released. Poor, young, tasteless Mary-Faith had some interesting opinions about which films were best. Thankfully, times have changed. But one thing never has – from the very first time I saw him, Captain America has been my favorite superhero. He has embodied the idea of a hero to me. I have loved Steve Rogers as much as I have loved Cap, and I loved him just as much pre-serum, when he was a little guy ready to fight a big bully.

Needless to say, I have seen all 22 films by now. Some have been better than others. (Personally, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Black Panther, and Thor: Ragnarok are the three I consider to be absolutely perfect.) But none of them have been just movies. Some have deeply affected me, like Black Panther, which started a new conversation about representation in film, and Captain Marvel, which was Marvel’s first female-led film. Some say fantasy is escapist, and maybe it is. But these characters have given me strength. If they can do that, then maybe I can do this.

If Wanda Maximoff can lose everyone she loves and fight those who have hurt her…

If Tony Stark can completely change who he is to become a better person…

If Carol Danvers can find her own power after being manipulated for years…

If Natasha Romanoff can accept her past and move on to find a better future with her new family…

If Steve Rogers can consistently choose honor and integrity, no matter what…

Avengers: Endgame was not the end of the road, but for some characters, it was. Watching this movie was a deeply emotional experience for me, as it was for millions of fans (and all of the people sitting around me in the theater who cried with me…shoutout to you guys). It’s been said that this movie is a gift to fans, and I agree with that. But it seems strange that Marvel would thank us when we should be thanking them.

For 22 films. For a new world. For laughs and smiles and tears. For characters to identify with and be inspired by. For stories that will never get old. For Natasha, who taught me to forgive. For Tony, who taught me to grow. For Steve, who taught me to love. Thank you.

“I used to be embarassed because I was just a comic book writer while other people were building bridges or going on to medical careers. And then I began to realize: entertainment is one of the most important things in people’s lives. Without it they might go off the deep end. I feel that if you’re able to entertain people, you’re doing a good thing.”

– Stan Lee, Former Vice President of Marvel Comics

My Migraine Journey

My Migraine Journey

mighty with migraine

{ #mightywithmigraine started on Instagram by @mindfulmigraine and @the_migraine_life }

June is Migraine Awareness Month. As someone whose life has been affected by chronic migraines in the worst way, migraine awareness is important to me year-round. But, I thought now would be a good time to share my own journey with migraines. Reading the stories of others who have experienced similar things often helps me, so I hope that maybe this can help you.

I had my first migraine when I was twelve. I had been sick with a bad viral illness, and my doctor thought that my migraine was perhaps caused by that. If only that had been the case. Instead, the migraines kept coming. I went to see a neurologist who diagnosed me and began treating me. That was the problem, though. I couldn’t really be treated. None of the medications he prescribed helped me. Or, in some cases, they caused such bad side effects that I was unable to continue taking them.

A few years after my initial migraine diagnosis, my neurologist noticed that my heart rate was a bit high. He decided to take orthostatic blood pressure readings, meaning I would have my blood pressure taken while lying down and then several times while standing up, with about ten minutes between each pressure. This showed that my heart rate increased upon standing, and even more the longer I stood up. He began talking to me about dysautonomia, and I later saw a cardiologist who diagnosed me with Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome (POTS).

According to the Cleveland Clinic, “Postural orthostatic tachycardia syndrome (POTS) is a condition that affects circulation (blood flow). It involves the autonomic nervous system (which automatically controls and regulates vital bodily functions) and sympathetic nervous system (which activates the fight or flight response).”

POTS and migraines often go hand-in-hand. Many POTS patients report having migraines as well. As I’ve gotten older, my POTS symptoms have worsened. Simultaneously, my migraines have gotten worse as well.

Now, I have a constant headache. About two or three times a week, this headache intensifies to a full-blown migraine. Sometimes one of my migraines will last for a day or two, sometimes longer. I once had a continuous migraine that lasted for over a month. When a migraine goes on for more than seventy-two hours, my neurologist typically tries to treat it with steroids. If that doesn’t work, I go to the hospital for an IV infusion of multiple medications. This tends to provide some relief after a day or so.

I am not currently on effective treatment for my migraines. I am not exaggerating when I say I have tried every medication typically used for migraines. None of them have helped me. My abortive medicine that I take when I feel one coming on does not help. I have tried Botox, dry needling, and acupuncture to no avail. Recently, the FDA approved several new medications that all work in a similar way and are administered via injection once a month. They are the first true migraine medications (whereas other medicine used in migraine treatment is often anti-seizure, anti-depressant, etc.). I tried the first of the approved medications, Aimovig, for nine months. I only noticed minimal improvement during month two. Other than that, I experienced flu-like symptoms for a few days after the injection, among other side effects.

I think when people hear the word “migraine” they just think it’s a typical headache. They don’t think it’s a big deal. But chronic migraines have taken over my life. I spend most of my time in a dark room. A lot of time in bed. It can be hard to look at a screen or read sometimes, but I do it anyways, because if I stopped doing everything when I had a migraine, I would never do anything. If you talk to me on any given day, no matter how I look, I’m probably experiencing some kind of head pain.

I feel proud of myself for all that I do in spite of my migraines. I’ve gotten a college degree and I’m working on another. I’ve found things that I love to do that I can do when I’m not feeling great. I’ve found things that inspire me and help me keep going, even when it’s hard. I haven’t let migraines stop me, no matter how hard they try. I truly am mighty with migraine.

Celebrities Speaking Out About Mental Health, Pt. 2

Celebrities Speaking Out About Mental Health, Pt. 2

May is Mental Health Awareness Month. Mental health awareness is a cause that’s close to my heart. I truly believe that speaking up about the reality of mental illness is one of the best way to break the stigma surrounding it. So, who better to speak up than those with some of the most influence in our society? Last year I wrote about seven celebrities who have spoken up about their struggles with their own mental health. This year I decided to do it again, with a specific focus on stars whose stories have helped and inspired me personally. Here are six celebrities who have chosen to be open about their own mental illnesses:

Chris Evans

chris evans

Chris Evans is not only one of my favorite actors, but someone who I have really come to admire as a person. His openness about his struggle with anxiety has definitely played a part in this. Evans, who is best known for playing Captain America, has shared that his high-profile job has contributed to his anxiety. He initially even turned down the role of Captain America, and began going to therapy after beginning the Marvel role. In a video for Motivation Madness, he gave simple yet profound advice about how to quiet “brain noise” – just tell your mind “shh.”

Bebe Rexha

bebe rexha

Singer Bebe Rexha has never been silent about her struggles with mental illness. It’s a topic she addressed in her hit single “I’m A Mess,” with lyrics like, “It’s gonna be a good, good life / That’s what my therapist say” and “I’m obsessed, I’m embarrassed / I don’t trust no one around us.” She also recently shared that she has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder on Twitter, writing, “I’m not ashamed anymore….I love you all very much. And I hope you accept me as I am.”

Carson Daly

carson daly

Carson Daly is the host of The Voice, one of the co-hosts of the Today Show, and recently finished hosting his own late-night talk show, Last Call with Carson Daly. One might assume that his busy schedule means everything is well in Daly’s life, but he has revealed he has generalized anxiety disorder. He says that it helps him to take time to focus on his breathing throughout the day. But his main focus? “I wake up, the alarm goes off, and I just thank God I’ve got another day to get it right and I just worry about today.”

Ariana Grande

ariana grande

Ariana Grande has cemented her status as a pop superstar, but she hasn’t been without her struggles. In 2017, there was a terrorist bombing at her concert in Manchester. The attack deeply affected Grande, who recently shared she has PTSD in a big way – she shared images of her brain scans in her Instagram Story in a side-by-side comparison with scans from a “healthy brain,” all to prove that PTSD is, as she put it, “not a joke.” Grande later said she didn’t want to concern her fans, but wanted to share something she felt was important. And it most certainly is.

Niall Horan

niall horan

Niall Horan was a member of the now permanently on-hiatus boyband One Direction. In the last few years, he has cultivated a relatively successful solo career. However, a lot has changed now that he’s no longer on stage with his four bandmates. Horan has said that he once didn’t even fully believe anxiety was real, but he now struggles with feeling anxious before performing or going on TV. He also has “mild” obsessive compulsive disorder, and “feel[s] like [he] has to do things in a certain way.”

Lady Gagalady gaga

Singer-turned-actress Lady Gaga has never been silent about her mental health. She has had a huge year following the success of her movie, A Star is Born, and she has used her increased fame to shine an even bigger light on bringing awareness to the plight of mental illness. During a speech at the Patron of the Artists Awards, Lady Gaga referenced her diagnoses of dissociation, PTSD, and panic attacks. “We need to share our stories so that global mental health no longer resides and festers in darkness,” she said, referencing the consequences of leaving a taboo surrounding the discussion of mental health. Lady Gaga is one celebrity who is truly leading the way in the fight for better mental health awareness.

{sources: The Mighty | Genius | Health | Today | CNN | Teen Vogue | Teen Vogue | USA Today }
{ image credits: Film Magic/Biography | Getty Images/Elle | Carson Daly on Facebook | One Love Benefit/E! | BBC | Getty Images/Vanity Fair }