new york city

Feeling Tiny In This Big Big World by Rachel Abrahams

I love visiting New York City but have always, deep down inside, been very intimidated by the city. It’s also made me feel a bit afraid as well despite the fact nothing threatening my safety has ever occurred while visiting. I always enjoy myself but usually with an edge of discomfort floating around on the perimeter of my brain.

Something happened on this last visit where I was incredibly comfortable in my skin and enjoyed myself to the fullest while wandering around the city, despite being 5 months pregnant. I walked around alone and never once felt the usual intimidation and edge of fear. It was very freeing. Most would say it was because I have been there enough that finally it felt familiar so I wouldn’t be nervous.

If I am being honest with myself, I know the real reason of this change in perceived fear is because of how my anxiety and depression have been doing these days. It’s not a topic I talk about too often, especially my depression, unless I show how silly anxiety can make me feel. The best way I can describe my depression is I wear it like a backpack. I feel it there, it has a pressing weight on my back, it’s an extension of me, & as long as I keep it in my sights I typically do just fine with it. 

View of Manhattan from Brooklyn Park

View of Manhattan from Brooklyn Park

It took me many many years (and umpteen therapy sessions) to understand that a lot of my depression is directly correlated with my daily anxiety. As a result, I have worked very hard to teach myself daily awareness, coping skills, and now make decisions to alleviate my anxiety. I have also learned there is no shame in this and I am honest with the people who love me about how I am feeling. I explain the not so great days and It feels like by doing this I don’t let the mountain of negative feelings and sadness build up because I admit to them right away. I don’t bury it deep in my secret shame drawer (which eventually explodes with being overly full and overwhelms me). This seems to do a great job at keeping my depression at bay and just hanging on me like a backpack versus cloaking me in its Darth Vader cape and making me disappear.

When my depression & anxiety does get ahold of me, it can make me feel very isolated and tiny in this big world. I get lost in the idea I am a meaningless cog in the overwhelming wheel of life. I am convinced I am a burden to the people around me. It envelopes me into a fear bubble of a perceived reality that my rational self KNOWS is not real but is too overwhelmed to fix this point of view.

Bryant Park Carousel

Bryant Park Carousel

I have had three very serious depressive periods of my life: first when I was 16, again during college, and then in my late 20’s/early 30’s. These periods didn’t come on all at once. Instead, I describe it as standing on the ocean’s shore watching a tidal wave come painfully slow at you and feeling powerless as it crashes over you and then pulls you off your feet into its murky depths – all happening at such incrementally slow speeds that you are thinking you are ok and then you are underwater wondering what has happened. Then, I fight to not drown and it’s exhausting.

During these times I was fully functioning in both school and work, an expert at performing to my fullest abilities but all while walking around inside my bubble of fear and loneliness. I was not truly connecting with those around me but still looking the part. This is exactly why when people decide to take their own lives it typically shocks everyone around them and comes as a complete surprise. During depression, the light is figuratively on but no one is emotionally home.

NYC Fire Escapes

NYC Fire Escapes

So, what changed for me? A catalyst in my finding a way to keep the depression and anxiety from becoming full blown episodes was watching the Brene Brown TedTalk Listening To Shame where she said:

            “If you put shame in a Petri dish, it needs three things to grow exponentially: secrecy, silence and judgment. If you put the same amount of shame in a Petri dish and douse it with empathy, it can’t survive”

That statement stuck with me and began a very long and involved process of teaching myself to be honest, owning up to my feelings, leaning on those I trust, and stop living in my petri dish of shame. Some might say I am overly honest these days about my anxiety and depression but it’s the biggest coping method I have to try to fight against the chemical processes of my brain.

Chrysler Building

Chrysler Building

And that’s how I know this is the real reason why I did not feel that overwhelmed stress and fear while visiting NYC because this time I was honest with myself and forced myself to feel empowered during my visit. I spoke aloud my discomforts and fear to my husband and friends who then gave me very rational and emotionally supportive responses. I believed them (no matter how hard my anxiety/depression makeup didn’t want to) and confidently took on the city feeling like I had the skills I needed to enjoy myself and connect emotionally with my surroundings, instead of walking the city inside my bubble of fear and isolation.

I no longer let myself take this isolating bubble tactic in life and it has made my world an incredible rainbow coloring full of love and empathy which helps me to have more good days than bad. It’s the recommended way to live. Trust me.

The View From Above | NYC Photography by Rachel Abrahams

How often do you find yourself participating in this age old conversation filler:

Person 1: Oh my, is it May already? Wow - where has this year gone?

Person 2: I know, right? It seems like it was just January and now the year is already almost half over.

Person 1: Blah, blah blah, busy, so busy, everything in life is busy. . . .

Person 2: Blah, blah, blergh, I too am busy, I think I am even more busy than you, blergh busy. Next think you know it will be next year!

See what I am getting at? I admit, every time this conversation (and the topic of weather - but that's for another day) comes up I want to hide inside my invisible turtle shell so no one can see me, the introvert in me crying and having a tantrum over this inanely boring small talk. Honestly - why do we do this?

I know most people do it because it helps fill the air and avoid being uncomfortable. The problem though is many people actually feel like this all the time in their life because they are spending 90% of their time surviving to the next moment and 10% (MAYBE - but it's generous) of their time actually planning / growing / improving life.

What happened? I call it getting lost in the weeds. It's when the details have overwhelmed you and taken control and minutes become days, which become months and yes, the next thing you know a year has passed and you cannot figure out where it went.

Ya, no thanks.

It's good to set time aside and take assessment of things. You have to get above it and look at the big picture - you know, that thing you are calling your life - and see where it's going and if that's what you want. When you put yourself in charge and get above the crazy minutiae you get a much better overall view of things. Imagine yourself in New York City, walking along the street, and the types of people and moments you experience. What if you spent your entire life always on the ground level of NYC - never once going to any of the higher floors to have a look-see-around.

Then you get a chance to fly in a helicopter above New York City for the first time and you see how MANY buildings there really are, that it's surrounded by water, and the beautiful horizon that can be hidden by the huge buildings seems to be never ending........there's so much new and amazing things to see up there! A whole new perspective.

This past Sunday was the 16 year anniversary of when the sunshine of my world, superhero, defender of fun, and extrovertedly amazing friend Sara died in a terrible car accident. She was 19 years old and I was 2 weeks away from graduating high school when it happened. Until that point, life seemed never ending and we had all the time in the world to do everything we had ever wanted and planned --- and then it all ended. My world exploded into a million reflective glass pieces and now the task was gluing all those pieces back together, one by one. It took about ten years for me to feel nearly "human" again (closure never truly happens, by the way, there's always shredded pieces and chunks missing from you after things like this). Ten years of surviving.....moments becoming weeks, leading to months.....and then years.

Every time I experience a huge life event, I always remember Sara isn't ever going to have this chance. As a result, I fight to capture and remember every nuance for myself - and for her. I am very precious with my plans. I sit down, I assess, and I redirect my course if I have to. I am always working hard to improve and my goals all focus towards 80% personal growth and 20% life maintenance.

Don't get me wrong, I LOVE spontaneity and unexpected awesomeness (that was Sara's forte). I also know what it's like to disappear into the vortex of "busy" and "surviving" and find you've lost yourself in the process.

So, next time someone wants to chat inanely about the fact time seems to be flying by......don't let yourself get sucked in! Is it really flying by? Then do something! Catch onto it - focus - and make sure you aren't missing out on maximizing what you've been given and even work to improve it.

Some people don't get that chance.

That Time I Broke My Tailbone In Central Park | NYC Photography by Rachel Abrahams

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Full disclosure: You have my full permission to laugh. I would (and do!) laugh at this story.

Approximately 3 months ago, I went on an amazing trip to New York City, NY and Paris, France. My husband and I visited Paris once before but it was for only one day and the majority of our time was spent on a bus traveling to/from the city. For this visit, we wanted to do everything on our wish list, and then some.

We started off in New York City for a couple days because despite having gone multiple times, there were still many things we had not seen or done. It was amazing. We visited the Statue of Liberty, the top of the Rockefeller Center building at sunset (so crowded!), and multiple locations that were all memorable. We topped off our last day in NYC with a bike ride through Central Park and this is where things went downhill for me.

After renting the bikes and getting them “fitted” to our height, we circled most of Central Park and stopped at specific locations. I am so short I had to make a choice, either have my seat 1) low enough so my feet could touch the ground when stopped but my knees in my chest while pedaling or 2) too high off the ground but more comfortable while pedaling. I went with the 2nd choice. It was a fantastic way to see Central Park because it is so large and we were lucky, on that day, there was no traffic within the park.  As we pedaled up a small hill to our last stop, to visit Strawberry Fields (John Lennon) memorial, everyone was ahead of me and I stood up on my pedals to get some extra push going and that’s when it all fell apart.

My flip flop slipped off the pedal, I fell downward, my tailbone slammed the seat edge, and I was stuck dangling there mid-air because my feet couldn't touch the ground. I was in so much pain and was trying to stay conscious and not vomit over the side, all while angling myself and the bike downward so I could touch the ground. No one else saw it happen and when they turned to see where I was, rather than admit I was hurt I lost my mind like a crazy person.

My husband asked me if I was OK and I proceeded to ramble / yell / froth at the mouth about how I hated riding bikes, where could I return the bike, when would this be over, this was the worst idea known to mankind, and told him I was taking the bike back and didn't care about stupid Central Park. Mind you, this was filled with some super salty language. Quite a few f-bombs and other creative unsavory words that would make my grandmother blush scarlet. I was like a pirate after a bottle of rum who had just stubbed his toe and forgotten to take his meds that day.

As I went on my crazy lady rant, my husband looked at me with such confusion. He’s known I've always wanted to see the Strawberry Fields memorial, especially since I had the poster of the memorial hanging in my room starting at 15 years old.  He looked at me like I had lost my mind (I had) and said “What is wrong with you? Just get off the bike and walk up the hill. It’s RIGHT THERE” as he pointed to a distance of less than 50 feet away.

Still not admitting I was hurt, I heaved my leg off the bike so I could walk it up the hill. Once I got to the top and started turning a normal shade of coloring from purple to semi-red, I then explained to my husband what happened and finished with “I think I broke my tailbone”. All he could do was shake his head because, if you know me well, this isn't surprising news. I am always hurting myself.

By the way, our flight to Paris was scheduled to leave in several hours.

We visited the memorial and I walked the bike back to return it (the location was literally at the bottom of the hill we were on). As we got closer to the flight departure time, I knew and feared the pain was going to be tremendous on the flight and I wasn't wrong. I couldn't sit, stood instead, had the flight attendants ask me multiple times if everything was OK (Yes, everything is fine. No, I’m not planning on doing something terrible). It was 8 very very long hours.

The good news is, I toughed it out (the worst was trying to stand up from sitting and sitting in the taxi cabs), slept on my stomach, took tons of pictures, visited every single thing I had on my list, and was teased about my “broken butt” constantly. I had to laugh because yes, this is EXACTLY a story I could add to my “Rachel’s List of Stories”. I've been told I could write a book – like the time this guy asked me for directions while he was in his car and it took me several (far too long) seconds to realize he was stark naked behind the wheel. To be honest, I was distracted by how sweaty and red he was. I’ll save that story for another day though…..

P.S. It’s 3 months later and it STILL HURTS. It’s definitely improved but I still can’t sit too long, sit in cushy seats (like the couch or movie theater), sit comfortably in a car, or exercise extensively. I've read it takes forever to heal. They weren't wrong.

P.P.S. (or is it P.S.S.?) I will be posting more Paris photos in my next several posts. Sorry for the tease photo above :-)

Ghosts In Grand Central Station | NYC PHOTOGRAPHY by Rachel Abrahams

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I have been sick with a cold, so I have no energy for wittiness or descriptive writing. I've been working my way through the 7 Cold Dwarfs: Sniffy, Drippy, Coughy, Sneezy (a classic), Achy, Chilly, and Sweaty (the twins). Loads of fun, I tell ya. My husband even declared wherever I am to be the "No Fun Zone".

As to the photo, this was a happy accident. Sometimes, those can be the best things to happen to you. I had my settings for a darker location before and the shutter was open for longer than I intended. It worked out better, in my opinion.

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