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  • BINTOU : ALTERNATIVE TO THERAPY pt 3

    3/3 “Last year I started regularly recording videos of myself talking. I try to do it once a week. There’s always a day in the week where I'm exhausted or sad or just want to vent, or I'm happy and want to share. My latest happy video is me being happy about the progress I made on my business. I was really, really happy. It was cool to watch that one back because when you're depressed, you feel like your life is always sadness. And watching those videos, I often see myself as a different person. It's kind of like I'm watching someone else. I don't know if it's me disassociating or what. But watching the happy videos helps me see that not every moment in my life is depressing. I do have good moments.” 3/3

  • BINTOU : ALTERNATIVE TO THERAPY pt 2

    2/3 “I had been doing therapy for two years, but I felt like I just wasn’t getting much out of it. So I started recording myself talking about my issues. If I'm ever feeling a way that week, I just record myself in Photobooth. I do it like I'm recording a YouTube video, but I'm talking about more personal things. And then later, when I'm in a clear mindset, I go back and watch those videos and analyze my emotions. When I watch back the videos, I see a lot of pain. My facial expressions – it’s sad seeing myself like that. I try to dissect why I feel that way. I'll write down the question, ‘Why do you feel that way?’ And then take a moment to really think about it and write my answer. And continue questioning: ‘Does it stem from somewhere? Why did it stem from there?’ I’ll read it all back to myself and ask, ‘Does it make logical sense to feel that way about yourself?’ Watching the videos later when you're logical and clear headed, you think about WHY you felt those emotions and can figure out WHAT you need to do to fix those issues. For me, recording myself and analyzing my emotions has helped me more than therapy. When I first started watching the recordings, I would see me being super harsh and calling myself dumb. And over time I feel like I’ve changed the tone I talk to myself in. I'm still really hard on myself – I feel like I always will be – but now I give myself a little more grace and I'm more forgiving of myself.” 2/3

  • BINTOU : ALTERNATIVE TO THERAPY pt 1

    1/3 “It saddens me that at 20 years old, I know more pain than happiness. I know more pain than some adults have known in their entire lives. I’ve been dealing with a lot of trauma since a young age. And I want to work through it before I get older and have to deal with real world stuff. I want to promise myself that I’ll get to a place where I am happy – because I'm exhausted from being in this space of pain. I get super emotional on my birthdays. For some people, their birthday is the happiest day for them. For me, it's one of the most depressing days. Because I reflect back on my life. All the trauma I’ve experienced – I see, hear and feel it on my birthday. Every year. And last year, on my 20th birthday, I was tired of feeling depressed. I was like, I have to fix these issues.” 1/3

  • BOB : HOW KAREN LED ME OUT OF THE CLOSET WITH KINDNESS pt 2

    2/2 “Karen Hughes is a woman I was working with. She was a lesbian. We worked at a video store and I would do all the displays. I was so excited because now I had stacks of posters of ‘Sliver’ and ‘Three Of Hearts’ for the display and I couldn't stop talking about Billy Baldwin. I was oblivious – I just thought Billy Baldwin was cool. But Karen could tell what was going on. One day she starts playing this game with me. She says ‘If you could go on a date with anyone, who would it be?’ I ask if the date’s sexual or non-sexual. ‘Let’s start with non-sexual.’ The answer comes flying off my tongue: Bette Midler. ‘OMG I would LOVE to sit and have dinner with Bette Midler! It would be SO awesome! I bet she has the BEST stories!’ Then Karen asks, ‘How about a romantic date?’ And she gave me so much room to breathe. I remember really taking a beat. I finally say, ‘I think Billy Baldwin.’ Karen closes the cash register, puts up the WE’LL BE BACK sign in the video store window, and says, ‘Why don’t we step outside.’ Karen was so kind. She kept asking me questions. She didn’t criticize me like the other guy who’d say ‘You’re gay and you’re gonna go home and prove me wrong!’ I actually think that guy kept me in the closet a little bit longer. Karen just gave me this warm space. And I was able to navigate and tip-toe my way out of the closet. On my own. I got to be like, ‘Oh, I think I’m gay. I’m pretty sure I’m gay.’ I had never kissed a man. I had never had sex with another man. And it would be another two years before I did. So there was no magic wand. But she gave me this beautiful gift. What she taught me was to just go to them and give them a safe space. And ask them questions and let them answer and find their own path. Instead of saying ‘I hear you love Bette Midler, so you know you like boys too, riiiight?!’ That’s not how you help somebody come out. You create a safe, loving space for them. That’s what Karen Hughes taught me.” 2/2

  • BOB : HOW KAREN LED ME OUT OF THE CLOSET WITH KINDNESS pt 1

    1/2 “Billy Baldwin had released two movies back to back: he had a little indie film called ‘Three Of Hearts’ and a big movie called ‘Sliver.’ They both happened to come out in the theater within a few weeks of each other. By the end of 'Three Of Hearts' I was sobbing my face off. And there was a scene in ‘Sliver’ where he’s at the gym and he’s on all fours talking to Sharon Stone, and he’s kicking his leg up in the air. I just remember having this jolt of electricity. It’s obvious now what it was. But at the time, I had never had a male role model, so I thought maybe this is what it’s like to have a male role model. I dyed my hair dark brown to be like Billy Baldwin’s, I got a gym membership so I could work out on that same machine, I got the hair brush he was using in ‘Three of Hearts.’ I would go see ‘Sliver’ one night and ‘Three of Hearts’ the next -- alternating each day – for a few weeks in a row. I was nineteen. Looking back, it’s so obvious I was gay. But at the time, to me, I wasn’t. I didn’t know I wanted to make out with him. When I’m looking at his hairy chest, I’m not thinking ‘Oh my gosh I’d like to lay my head on that.’ Instead I’m thinking ‘Is MY chest hair going to grow in?’ When you’re dealing with somebody who’s in the closet, just because it’s obvious to everyone else, it’s not obvious to that person. I had a girlfriend. And she had this friend who was like, ‘You’re gay. Your boyfriend’s gay. You just need to know that he’s gay. And he’s probably gonna go home tonight and fuck you even harder just to prove me wrong, but you should just know he’s gay.’ And I went home and that’s exactly what I did.” 1/2

  • BRANDY : GRIEVING

    1/1 "I’ve known 46 people who’ve died. 46 humans who I’ve interacted with – young and old – including 14 to cancer, 10 to illness/disease, 8 suicides, 5 car accidents, 2 accidental overdoses, 1 heart attack, 1 brain aneurysm, 1 unsolved murder, 1 killed by police. After my ex-boyfriend’s suicide, I genuinely wondered if I would ever smile again. When I wasn’t weeping or screaming, I would sit and stare into nothingness. Hours and hours would pass by. Three and half weeks later I came-to and so much stuff had piled up in my apartment that I couldn’t see any of the floors or counters. Reaching out for help or support was too difficult. When people asked me what I needed, I felt too embarrassed to admit what the inside of my home looked like. What I needed was a clean-up angel to bust through my door. I don’t remember how I eventually pulled myself out of it – I guess just picking up one item at a time. Everyone grieves differently. I know I’ve grieved each one of those 46 deaths differently. But I’d rather show up to a grieving loved one’s home to be their clean-up angel and have them not answer, not need me, or yell at me to go away – than know they were in so much pain they couldn’t take care of themselves. It makes me feel good to think about being someone’s future clean-up angel when they’re grieving an agonizing death. Knowing a very specific way I can help a loved one during unspeakable pain – that makes me smile." 1/1

  • ANDRIANNA : WHAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE pt 7

    7/7 “It took me nine years to graduate from undergrad. And when I was finally done, I was like, I am never going back to school. That was horrible. Originally my plan was to be a teacher. My first job out of college was a preschool teacher. Then I really started thinking about it and I was like, I really want to be a therapist. I want to be the part of people's lives where it really can change their life – and make things a lot easier and better for them. And you can't become a therapist without at least getting a Master's degree. So one year after saying I was never going back to school, I applied to the graduate program at Pepperdine. I started at the beginning of the pandemic. So far academically I'm doing a lot better in graduate school than I did in undergrad. Even though it's a lot harder, it's what I'm really passionate about. Which is why it gets so anxiety-inducing. I know I must do a good job because you can't just not pay attention in school when you're learning to be a therapist and expecting to do a good job as a therapist. I need to be learning this stuff because I'm going to be working really sensitive parts of people's lives, and I need to be as well educated as I can be. So far I have a 4.0. I've never had a 4.0 in my life. That’s including all the mental health struggles that I've had – because they definitely have not gone away. I've had plenty of depressive episodes, and I've dealt with a lot of loss. I've had family members and close friends die every quarter. But that’s the good thing about being in school to become a therapist. All your professors are therapists, so they are beyond understanding and so willing to work with you and help you. If you need to sit there and Zoom and cry – they are there for you. That has been the most amazing part of it. Knowing that your professors have your back, and that if you fall down or fall behind, they’re there to help you get back on track – it makes all the difference in the world.” 7/7

  • ANDRIANNA : WHAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE pt 6

    6/7 “I ended up taking half of my high school classes at a School for Independent Learners. It was a separate school that was accredited, where you worked one-on-one with teachers. I took math there for three years, chemistry, physics and one English class at that school. They were a lot better about working with you and your specific needs because you're the only student in their class. I got really close to my math teacher. She ended up doing a lot more than just teach me math. When my anxiety got really bad, I wouldn’t go to school. I couldn't even make it to the one-on-one classes. My math teacher would just come to my house and teach me there. She encouraged me to make connections at the School for Independent Learners so I didn't feel as alone while I was there. I don't believe I would have graduated high school if it hadn't been for her. She was just very, very invested in making sure that I crossed that stage the end of my senior year. I think about my math teacher a lot when I reflect about how far I've come. I think about my therapists and the people over the years who have helped me, and want them to know, ‘Hey, I made it.’” 6/7

  • ANDRIANNA : WHAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE pt 5

    5/7 “Anxiety was a subject that would sometimes come up on playdates. My best friend also has ADHD and we were having the same issues from a pretty young age. We both deal with anxiety, with both deal with depression, and we both deal with ADHD. We have a lot of compassion for each other. We've been friends since sixth grade and we're still best friends to this day. I was just in her wedding. As teenagers, we would talk about issues we were having with friends, anxiety over boys, struggling with school, and teachers giving us a hard time. I remember in high school I had certain teachers that didn't know how to work with students with ADHD or special needs in general. They just did not understand accommodations or did not want to give them to me. The accommodations I typically got were extended time on tests, extended time on assignments, and sometimes a distraction-free testing zone. In college, I could get a note taker if I wanted. But I had professors who would say, ‘I don't want to give you extra time because it's not fair to everyone else.’ I'm like, the reason I have accommodations is to make it fair to me. It’s not like I'm not taking away from other students. I'm making it so that I'm on a level playing field with them. And I had professors that just could not understand that.” 5/7

  • ANDRIANNA : WHAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE pt 4

    4/7 “I started out on Ritalin and I'm on Ritalin to this day. My behavior improved so much when I took it. Ritalin really helped calm me down, which is ironic because it's a stimulant – and given to the wrong person, it can wire them for days. But it calmed me down so much and it made me more reasonable. It just made it easier – if I was having a really bad temper tantrum day, sometimes they would give me my medication and it would help alleviate the temper tantrum. Ritalin also helps me with paying attention in school, getting my homework done, and sometimes even falling asleep. I've gone off it many times over the years. And what happens? It just makes things a lot harder. I don't take Ritalin on a regular basis because the more you take it, the less effective it is. So now I only take it two or three times a week. I take it on days when I have classes. So that's twice a week. And then if I have a day when I really need to get a bunch of assignments done, I'll take it on that day. But I try to be light-handed with it because I when I need it, I need it to be effective. I had a pretty bad anxiety attack yesterday. Sometimes I’m able to deal with my anxiety better than others. Yesterday was one of the days when I wasn’t able to deal with it as well on my own. My partner had to help me a lot. When I have a bad attack, I start hyperventilating. So he comes in and brings me Kleenex. He’ll give me a hug until I can regulate my breathing again. I take deep breaths, and he helps me get back on the baseline. Because I can’t always do that for myself in a timely manner. It takes me a lot longer on my own than with someone helping me.” 4/7

  • ANDRIANNA : WHAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE pt 3

    3/7 “My dad definitely has ADHD – even though he’s never been formally diagnosed. He cannot sit still. Has to be doing something at all times. On vacation, he’s not a sitting-on-the-beach-and-chilling-by-the-pool-with-a-drink kind of person. He must be doing something. Otherwise, he loses his mind. If anything, his ADHD has helped him. He can hyperfocus like nobody's business – and that has helped him build his business. He would be gone until five in the morning because he would just lose track of time working so hard. And that kind of drive you have when you have ADHD – and you find something you love – that drive is very strong. He managed to find something he loved and turn it into a career. He’s the president of a very successful business that he founded. My ADHD diagnosis was definitely a relief to my parents, just knowing that it wasn't their parenting that was making me that way. They’re very good parents, and they were up against a lot with me. I was a tough child. Once I was diagnosed, my parents really educated themselves and tried to figure out how to best support me. They took courses on raising kids with ADHD and seminars about girls with ADHD. They got me into child therapists that specialize with kids with ADHD and psychiatrists to get me medication. I've run the gamut with all the medications at this point. But there’s one that has ended up being the most effective over the years.” 3/7

  • ANDRIANNA : WHAT MAKES THE DIFFERENCE pt 2

    2/7 “I was diagnosed with ADHD when I was nine years old. At home I was having a lot of emotional outbursts – a lot more than my sisters. One of my teachers suggested to my parents that I get tested. She noticed I was really checking out during class. I had a lot of trouble organizing. I would forget assignment deadlines and end up having to throw together book reports the morning they were due. That's a very vivid memory. It was the 90s. Girls did not really get diagnosed with ADHD in the 90s. Back then it was seen more like a disorder for boys because it was more obvious in boys – as far as the hyperactivity part of it. Boys tend to be more rambunctious, interrupting the class, and showing more of the outward signs of ADHD. With girls it tends to be more inward – like checking out during class. I think as we begin to understand ADHD more, we see so many more hidden symptoms like the executive dysfunction, and just how much that affects our lives. It affects the smallest thing. Like you can see a sock on the floor for weeks and think, I should pick up that sock. And every time you walk by, I should pick up that sock. But you never pick it up. And then finally one day you do pick up the sock and you put it where it belongs, and you’re like, Oh that was really easy. Why didn’t I do that three months ago? Nowadays there are people who say, ‘It seems like everyone's getting diagnosed with ADHD these days.’ And it's like, no – these are women in their 30s who were overlooked and not diagnosed as children. And they're finally realizing these symptoms are not character flaws. There's a reason they’ve been struggling with this their entire lives.” 2/7