My Anxiety Will Not Control Me

The weight on my chest is suffocating, the crushing pain of it working up through my throat. I can feel the air getting trapped and my lungs pumping harder. The edges of my vision blur till I can only see what’s right in front of me. I feel like everything is moving closer, ready to crush me in seconds. Then it’s done. Everything zooms out and I’m back sitting on my bed. My anxiety attack is over.

I’m going to my dream college pursuing a degree in a major practically made for me so I can get a dream job in science communication. So why am I panicking?

Over the summer, as graduation day neared, my anxiety attacks were more frequent and usually unprovoked. And they happened everywhere.

In the shower.

On the bus.

Watching a tv show.

But I’m on a path to getting better.

I’m fortunate enough to have a supportive network of family, friends, my girlfriend, employers, and professors who all want to see me succeed. I would not be where I am without their unconditional love and support even at my lowest and, to quote Meredith Grey, “dark and twistiest.”

I’m also beyond lucky to have excellent mental health services through my university, and I was able to talk to someone to work out a plan to help me gain control of my anxiety. Because my anxiety will never be cured. It will never magically go away. As frustrating as it is, my anxiety is a part of me. So instead of fighting it till it exhausts my physically and emotionally, I’m going to take the steps I need to control it. Because I refuse to let it own me anymore.

 

My cousin, Kelsey, just started college this fall, and one of the pieces of advice I gave her was don’t be afraid to ask for help. Don’t wait till you’re drowning to reach out for a lifeline. I didn’t seek out counseling my freshman year until I was already skipping and nearly failing classes, and I still feel the repercussions of that decision nearly 4 years later. I’ve worked my ass off these last three years to help my mental health, and GPA, recover. I was worried I’d be the only one there. But when I first walked to UHS Mental Health Services and told the receptionist “I need help, and I need someone to talk to,” I noticed the whole waiting room was full. Full of students experiencing the same things as me. And I had been worried, no, ashamed to have to go to counseling.

I recently realized that I don’t write poetry anymore and it made me sad. I haven’t written since my senior year of high school. In a wave of nostalgia for a time before my poetic creativity was drained by the sleepless nights and anxiety ridden days of college, I found our creative writing anthology from senior year. It was one of the few books I’ve had on my shelf every year since moving to Wisconsin, always between the Black Dagger Brotherhood and Queens of Scotland series. As I read my poems, I realized they were more than the usual angst teens inject into their writing. They were the circumstances and fear and worries that followed me into college that eventually morphed into the fuel for the anxiety I have today. I should’ve paid closer attention to my own warnings to myself at the time. But you can’t live in a world of should’ve, could’ve, would’ve. Our anthology was called Baggage Claim. Nearly 4 years later, I’m finally picking up my baggage.

This post was a long time coming, and I think seeing it was Mental Health Awareness Day finally kicked it into gear. My blog isn’t usually my diary. Every time I sat down to write this, I would stare at the blank post format for a few minutes before shutting my laptop. Nope, wasn’t happening. It was infuriating to me as a writer. Writing has always been my most effective way of expressing myself, no matter if I’m at my highest or lowest point. Why is something that so many people suffer from so hard to talk about, let alone write about?

We need to normalize talking about this. We need to stop worrying about what people will think. I know that’s easy enough to say, but it’s the bottom line. I won’t lie, it was terrifying to hit publish on this post. But it was also relieving.

My name is Josie Russo. I’m a Dean’s List student. I’m Vice President of my sorority. I have two incredible internships doing what I love. I’m graduating with my Bachelor of Science in Life Sciences Communication this December. And I suffer from anxiety. I will succeed after college.

My anxiety will not define me. It will not control me.

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Josie Pozie’s Picks: El Grito Taqueria

El Grito Taqueria is one of the many food carts that dot Capitol Square during lunchtime. I usually head to Ian’s Pizza for a salad or Michelangelo’s Coffee House for a sandwich for lunch, but I finally visited after passing by the cart for nearly two months once my boss recommended it to me. She grabbed one for lunch and the whole office smelled amazing. I couldn’t resist any longer.

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While no one can deny that tacos are delicious, they don’t always make the best desk lunch. That is unless you want your notes and laptop covered in delicious taco toppings and drippings to save for later? To each their own, my friends. But let me say, these tacos are so worth the mess.

You’re always in for something new and delicious with a rotating menu every week, and you don’t stuck in a rut of ordering the same thing. You will definitely have favorites though.

While I haven’t tried any of their drinks yet, the pictures of the Watermelon Agua Fresca on their Instagram have put it on the top of my list. I’m not even into watermelon drinks and I want to give it a try. It looks perfect for warm summer days, though those will be few and far between as the Wisconsin fall lingers on the horizon.

My favorite taco is their Chipotle BBQ Taco with Cabbage Slaw. It is the first taco I tried and the best, in my opinion.

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The BBQ keeps it bold and tangy, with the chipotle in it giving a little bit of heat. I know people say food is mouthwatering a lot, but I seriously mean it when I say my mouth starts to water in anticipation while I wait in line for these tacos. When I walk into the office with them, everyone goes “Oh my god that smells amazing,” because the sauce smells as heavenly as it tastes.

Two thick corn tortillas are stacked on top of each other and keep all that amazing Chipotle BBQ juice from soaking through all over your hands. Seriously, look at that. You don’t want to waste any of that. No thin flour tortilla could save that. All I can say is thank god for corn tortillas.

What brings this taco together is the cabbage slaw. I could eat a bucket of this slaw just by itself. It’s sharp yet sweet, and adds the perfect bite. Every aspect of these tacos look like a work of art, and taste even better than they look.

Where to find it

El Grito’s food cart, the one I visit, is at Capitol Square at the top of State Street by the Veteran’s Museum from 10:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Their food truck is found at various locations throughout the week, and the times and locations can be found on their website.

They’ll be on campus at Allen Centennial Gardens on September 7 from 4 p.m.-8 p.m.

Visit their Instagram or website to see their tacos beautifully photographed, showcasing just a few of the dozens of combinations they offer. It seems like their creations are endless, which also means more reasons to visit again and again.

Cheers, Josie

Josie Pozie’s Picks: Gotham Bagels

Working on Capitol Square means tons of fun and trendy places to try for lunch. Gotham Bagels is tucked on a side street off Capitol Square next to the Children’s museum, and is one of those places I’ve heard about since I moved to Wisconsin three years ago but have only just got around to trying. It was during one of my usual cravings for Brooklyn Water Bagels that I decided to walk down to Gotham during my lunch hour.

I haven’t had a chance to sit and really enjoy the atmosphere of the shop since I usually run here to pick up something for lunch during work. You really get the deli vibe from the brightly lit case filled with deli salads, lox, and pastrami to the hand-chalked specials board. Their menu of hand-rolled bagels and cream cheeses hangs down above the counter where you order, with the bagels themselves stacked in baskets over the cooler case.

 

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Gotham serves cold sandwiches like deli salads and lox, or hot sandwiches like pastrami and piled high corned beef. I haven’t tried any of the hot sandwiches yet since I take my food to-go, but they sound amazing. There is an a la carte menu too, where you can get your favorite bagels, meat and deli salads, cream cheeses, and even their Gotham pickles to take home. They also offer catering platters for 10-15 people.

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The staff is friendly and the shop is inviting to come have a quick, relaxing lunch in just from what I’ve experienced just waiting for my takeout order. To-go sandwiches are beautifully wrapped with precision in paper that becomes the perfect makeshift plate for wherever you’re taking your lunch.

If you’re looking for a quick bite, but a comfortable and relaxing place to sit, Gotham Bagels is the place to be for breakfast or lunch. Check out my picks from Gotham Bagels.

Bagel with Cream Cheese  $3.25

 

I got an egg bagel and decided to be adventurous and give the chimichurri cream cheese a try. As much as I wanted to like it, it didn’t really do it for me. I love chimichurri, but it didn’t have the flavor I was looking for. The egg bagel was perfect, though it came plain when I asked for it toasted, but hey, not all days will be great. I think Gotham’s egg bagels the perfect base if you’re going to try one of their crazy cream cheese flavors. While the chimichurri cream cheese was a dud for me, I’m excited to try some of the other fun flavors. I think jalapeño/garlic might be my next shot.

Traditional Egg Salad  $6.00

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I’ve never had egg salad with celery in it, since Publix is my usual go-to for that and they use pickle relish in their egg salad and I don’t think Brooklyn Water Bagels has any “crunch” item in theirs. Still, I really enjoyed Gotham’s egg salad. I added arugula for an extra $1.00, but that’s worth it for me. I like greens on all my sandwiches. Getting this on a toasted everything bagel was the right idea, since it gave even more crunch and flavor to the egg salad.

Long-Guy-Land  $8.25

House-roasted turkey breast, fontina cheese, arugula, tomato, and mayo.

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This is one is my favorite so far. I substitute out the mayo for their spicy mayo, which is amazing with the bite of the arugula. The first time I tried it on an egg bagel so I could taste the spicy mayo and roasted turkey individually, but the second time I got it on a toasted everything bagel and it was to die for. I highly recommend giving this one a try.

Bonus

Lauren, a fellow intern, swears by the Yellow C.A.B., which has cheddar cheese, bacon, avocado, lettuce, tomato, and mayo ($8.00).

Where to find it

Gotham is at 112 East Mifflin St., Madison, WI 53703. They’re open 7 a.m.-3 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 8 a.m.-2 p.m. on Sunday.

Check out their full menu at www.gothambagels.com

Cheers, Josie

My 6 Best Finds at the Lands’ End Warehouse Clearance Sale

My roommate, Maria, and I took a drive to Dodgeville on Friday to check on the Lands’ End Warehouse Clearance Sale. My mom was an intern for Lands’ End, which has it’s headquarters in Dodgeville, when she went to school here and made the 45 minute drive from Madison everyday, sometimes in the snow. I honestly don’t know how she did it, it felt like forever. That’s about the same time between where I live back in Florida to Boca Raton and that drive never feels long. I’m also not used to long stretches of farmland in between destinations, but this was worth the drive.

The sale is at Ley Pavillion in Harris Park and goes for six full days, with the stock rotating everyday. The last day is tomorrow from 7:00 a.m. – 4:00 p.m., so try to make it out there and get some deals while you can. Apparently the last day is the best deals, going up to 70 percent off.

 

I’d never been to a warehouse sale before, so it was a little overwhelming when we first walked in and saw the rows and rows of clothing racks, boxes, and tables. They give you a huge, clear garbage bag when you walk in to fill with things you find. For a Friday afternoon, it wasn’t super crazy crowded. It was mostly old ladies fighting each other for things, and Maria and I couldn’t help laughing at the passive aggressive remarks they kept making to each other. Only a couple other groups of people our age were there, but the deals here are great for college students, so I’d really recommend trying to get out there if you can and bring a whole group of friends. The coolest thing to me was they have everything that was a mess up or returned monogram or embroidered name heavily reduced. It’s cool seeing what was returned and wondering why they were. You might even luck out and find your name. I found one that was only a letter off from my monogram. Damn, so close.

My haul consists of six pieces, much less than the people walking out with two or three filled garbage bags of stuff. Everything I got was discounted extra for being “Not So Perfect”, which ranged from discontinued items to catalog returns to physical mistakes. A couple of mine say it’s for fabric damage or mess ups, but I certainly can’t find or see them. I got major savings, and would say the little day trip out to Dodgeville was a success. Take a look at my finds below!

Side note: I apologize now for the awful lighting in my room. A basement apartment doesn’t make for a great photo shoot.

Women’s Explorer Down Parka in Black

  • Originally: $199.00
  • Marked Down: $119.00
  • Extra 50% off: $59.50

 

Women’s Polartec Aircore 100 Fleece Half Zip in Lavender Pink

  • Originally: $34.00
  • Marked Down: $17.00
  • Extra 40% off: $10.20

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Women’s Active Crop Pants in Classic Navy

  • Originally: $45.00
  • Marked Down: $31.50
  • Extra 40% off: $18.90

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Women’s Starfish Leggings in Black

  1. Originally: $35.00
  2. Marked Down: $24.50
  3. Extra 30% off: $17.15

Acrylic Throw in Blackwatch

  1. Originally: $25.00
  2. Marked Down: $6.00
  3. Extra 30% off: $4.20

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Plush Fleece Throw in Blackwatch

  1. Originally: $24.00
  2. Marked Down: $14.00
  3. Extra 30% off: $9.80

Original Total: $362.00
New Total: $119.75
Total Savings: $242.35

With huge savings on items from a company I know has reliable clothing that’ll last me a while, this event will be on my calendar from now on. Take a trip to Dodgeville and see what steals and deals you can get for yourself. Let me know what cool things y’all find!

Cheers, Josie

Extreme Makeover: First Apartment Edition

This is the Year of New for me. It’s a new school year which is terrifying since it’s already my junior year, I’ve got a new job, a new kitten, and a new apartment! The apartment is one of the most exciting parts in the Year of New, and it wouldn’t have happened without my amazing parents taking time to come up and putting it together for me.

“I HGTV’ed the shit out of it,” -Mom

They took a blank slate and turned it into a home that my roommate and I can enjoy for the next couple years before we graduate and have to face the real world. My Mom took her incredible design eye and made the apartment something beautiful. Also, shout out to my Dad for suffering through putting together all the furniture with all those confusing directions and random pieces that always get lost somehow.

It was also months in the making, since we started shopping for it when I moved out of the dorms this spring.  82Tip: Shop at consignment or thrift stores right after spring semester ends. People who graduated are donating all their old stuff and you can score a great deal. Our biggest score was a Natuzzi 3 piece sectional and a kitchen table with 4 chairs.

We made the a whole apartment a balance of new and used items to make it the perfect space!

We spent every waking hour of five whole days working on this place, and it came out incredible. Every room has it’s own look and personality, and to be honest, it looks pretty damn good for a first college apartment. I even have my own pub table set and beautiful, golden bar cart of my dreams in the living room. Did I mention we live directly across from the stadium? Game days have been crazy so far, since we get a front row seat to all the excitement and fun.

My favorite room in the whole place is my bedroom. It’s my first time having my own room since I was 5-years-old, and I’m loving having my own space. It’s a preppy, coastal cottage combination and it’s everything I’ve ever wanted.

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The coolest part of my bedroom is the driftwood contact paper as an accent wall. The contact paper was my Mom’s idea, and it’s a great way to make any room your own since you can’t paint walls or put up wallpaper in an apartment. Contact paper goes on and comes off easily, which can sometimes be a pain when the humidity gets bad in the apartment and makes it peel since we don’t have AC. It’s easy to fix, but it can get a bit annoying, so keep that in mind. We used it in my bedroom, the kitchen, and the living  room. It adds so much to a bland, generic apartment wall, and there are tons of designs and options to chose from. Check out all the ways my Mom used them in the gallery below!

I’m so excited to share all the before and after pictures with y’all. Keep an eye out for Rey, my new kitten, wandering around in some of the photos. I’ll make a Meet Rey post soon! Enjoy the virtual gallery tour!

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Cheers, Josie

 

High tides and good vibes in the Florida Keys

The Florida Keys are one of Florida’s main tourist destinations, but I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been to them, and the last time was probably 10 years ago. I guess distance really does make the heart grow fonder, and since I’ve moved to Wisconsin, I’ve wanted to visit more of the Florida attractions like Kennedy Space Center and the Keys while I’m home for the summer.

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Grandma and I enjoying some frozen, chocolate dipped key lime pie and fresh key limeade at the Blond Giraffe

My grandparents bought a caravan last summer and decided to make a quick trip to Key Largo for some “glamping,” so we decided to tag along. We stayed at John Pennekamp Coral Reef State Park and explored Key Largo. I had to make a trip to the Blond Giraffe for some chocolate dipped, frozen key lime pie on a stick and some fresh squeezed limeade. I also stocked up on key lime juice and cookies to bring back to Wisconsin with me this fall, so I don’t go through withdrawal. We also went to the famous The Pilot House Marina, Restaurant & Glass Bottom Bar for dinner so my Mom, Grandma, and Grandad could get their fix of seafood. I had just seen it featured on Diners, Drive-ins and Dives the week before, so of course we had to give it a try. The glass bottom bar was so cool, but we only got to enjoy it for few minutes before the torrential rain forced us inside.

My favorite part of the trip was our day excursion to Key West. While Tropical Storm Colin was drenching northern Florida, we were enjoying the sun in the southernmost point of the United States.

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Lily, Mom, me, and Izzy in front of Ernest Hemingway’s House 

The best part of Key West was visiting the Ernest Hemingway House and Museum. For $13 (they only take cash), you can tour the house, property, and get a glimpse into Hemingway’s writer’s studio. Many people associate Key West with Hemingway, and even though he only lived there for about nine years, he wrote 70 percent of his works there. He used to get to his writer’s studio by the catwalk connected to the house. The catwalk was destroyed in a hurricane years ago and was never reconstructed, but you can still see where it once was. We learned that Hemingway would write 500-700 words from 6 a.m. to noon every day in his studio. I wish I could motivate myself to be that productive!

There are also 52 cats roaming the property that you’re encouraged to give lots of love and to pet. They have free reign of the whole house and grounds, and they take advantage of that. There was even a cat lounging on Hemingway’s original writing desk in his writer’s studio. Nearly half of the descendants of Hemingway’s cats are polydactyl cats, or cats that are born with unusual number of toes. This gene was introduced into the large family of Hemingway cats after he was given a six-toed kitten from a local ship captain. It was all I could do not to hide one in my bag and take one home with me.

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One of the many six-toed cats at the Ernest Hemingway House

It was so much fun getting to spend a few relaxing days exploring the Keys with my family. Check out the rest of my photos from our week in the Keys at the bottom of the post. Now I’m in Ocean Isle Beach with my Dad’s side of the family enjoying the North Carolina surf and sun. Stay tuned for more of my southern summer adventures!

Cheers, Josie