A Different Experience for a Different Person

c/w suicidal ideations, depression

Hi all. It has been a week. I’m currently writing this with chip debris sprawled onto my shirt, no pants on, and the stain of tears on my cheeks. So clearly, I have been struggling.

After my post last week, I felt a moment of relief, as I usually do after writing. Usually that relief sticks around for awhile, but this time it didn’t. I kept doing things that I thought would bring that feeling back. I ate, drank water, ran, cleaned. Anything I could think of that usually brings me back to a good place, I did. In fact, I rented a car drove 2 1/2 hours to some mountains, hiked for 5 hours, and then stayed in a hotel room before coming back. After that hike I thought to myself “this is going to do it. This will fix it all.”

I was wrong. It didn’t fix it this time. Nothing seemed to be fixing it this time. I watched videos on tapping, I did yoga, I journaled, I slept a decent amount of hours each night. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. Nothing. I even had time off of work. Nothing. Without fail, I still felt empty and sad and cried for most of the days. I kept racking my brain on what else I could do to get out of this slump. What is going to bring me joy? How can I just feel better because I need to feel better.

For a very long time I avoided the idea of medication. It was one of those things where I would encourage and support anyone close to me to use it if that felt right for them, but it didn’t feel right for me. This past week I thought about why that was. There are a lot of reasons. Most important being that I tried medication when I was a teenager. The medication made me more suicidal than I had already been. I feared this same shift if I were to try it again. I also know that stigma played a major role. I advocate for others day in and day out, but I am not immune to internalized stigma. So, I tried to think what I would say to a friend who was thinking about using medication.

Right now, I feel broken. When our legs are broken we go to the doctor, we get surgery, we take medicine. Right now my heart and my head are broken. I go to my therapist and I take my vitamins, but it isn’t enough. What is wrong with taking medication to help me feel better? Nothing was coming up except for fear of my past self. However, I am not the same person I was when I was in high school. I have done a lot of growing and I am so much stronger and I thought about how this medicine could help make me even stronger.

I made the appointment with my doctor. She had a me take a quiz prior to the visit to rate my anxiety and my depression. On the depression scale I was 19, moderately severe, just bordering severe. She walked me through her thought process on what she thought would be best to prescribe me. I disclosed the full details of my experience in high school and shared my fears. I like my doctor, she listens to me. She prescribed me Wellbutrin, expressing that she would start me on the lowest dose and we would meet every three weeks while we are exploring what’s best for me. She was empathetic and kind and listened. When I was in high school, I said I was sad, and a doctor gave me SSRI’s and I didn’t even really know what I was taking. It was already a different experience. After my doctors appointment I met with my therapist.

She told me she was proud of me for taking steps and for getting support where I could. She reminded me that my fears of medication are valid, while also reminding me that I have grown up and can be more conscious of warning signs. She reflect on the fact that my support system is now stronger than ever because I’ve talked to others about starting medication and my fears. We talked a lot about that teenage girl and what things were like then vs now. I talked to that teenage part of myself after my session and told her we were going to be okay this time because we have learned a lot. I gave her a hug and we held hands for a moment.

Once I processed it all, I walked to the CVS around the corner from my house, picked up my medication, and felt accomplished. Yesterday was the best day I have had in several weeks. Just knowing I was taking a new step felt invigorating. This morning when I woke up, I took my first pill. The orange bottle with the little yellow pills stared up at me. I wondered in that moment if they chose yellow because it is attached to joy. I held it in my hand for a moment, returning back to my inner teenage self. I said it again: We are going to be okay. I swallowed that first pill this morning and afterwards I cried, hence the tear stains on my cheeks. I cried because I felt like I was in this new stage of growth where I could really see my progress. I cried because I was trying something new and new things are scary, but it’s never stopped me from anything before. I cried because I felt hopeful.

It’s been really tough for me these last few weeks, but with each breath I take it is a victory that I can’t even begin to describe. I have been in this low spot before and felt like I was never going to get out and I did. So, I know that no matter how hard it feels I will keep going. Each moment in life is leading me to the next. This sadness right now will lead to joy again, that much I do know.

I don’t expect this medicine to be a miracle drug. I don’t expect that tomorrow, or a week from now, or even a few months from now I will magically feel stable. I don’t even know if this medicine is going to be the right medicine for me. But none of this is really about the medication. This is all about the journey that I am on to healing. Each time I make a decision to choose myself, care for myself, and honor my truth is a moment of extreme healing. I spent a long time choosing others and I was the least important person in my life. I no longer feel that way. Just typing those words made me feel free. I am important and I care about myself and I will do whatever it takes to be here and thrive.

Also, if you’ve been wondering if medication is right for you, and I know that it is not right for everyone, just try to have some real conversations with yourself, with a therapist, and with your doctor. These are all vital pieces of support ensuring you’re making the best choice for yourself. I plan to update how I am feeling throughout the next few months and my journey with medication because that is part of the destigmatization process.

So, tune in next week as we continue to battle the stigma. 

A[wo]men

put down the shame,

pick up the pen.

write.

feel your pain

write.

paint the pages

write.

-more than one kind of medicine

Strength is Found in Awareness & Help

C/W suicide, depression

Hello friends, welcome to our newest time and place. If you didn’t see the memo yesterday I am officially posting my blog on Thursdays because I have just found myself extremely tired on Wednesdays, so I have been using those days to heal. Healing looks like many things right now. Resting, first and foremost, but also scheduling my therapy on that day to help process what the last 7 days had brought me. Since I didn’t write last week, I’ll catch you up on what the last 14 days brought me.

The last two weeks were filled with a lack of energy to do much of anything. I felt completely void of motivation. I cried A LOT, more so than usual- which is A LOT, A LOT for “regular” people. My shower schedule went from every day, to every three days. I still brushed my teeth every day, twice a day which is honestly the biggest win of them all. I ordered takeout food every night, most of which was fast food, and most of which could have fed two people.

It is mental health awareness month, and with that I want to make people more aware of my experience with depression. This is something that I have sprinkled throughout all of my posts, but it is rarely the star of the show. Depression was a side character to enhance the more “important” story. I quote important here because in reality discussing depression is just as important as the other parts of the story, but the thing about vulnerability in writing is that it can be easier to write the story and hope the reader can read between the lines. Today, I don’t want there to be any messages between the lines. I want to be raw about my experience. I would also like to be raw about my experience of healing and processing and the journey that my life has taken.

This last week was a reminder that healing is not linear and as much as I hope and wish that old habits have died hard, I know they are still there, lingering around. In fact, the last couple of weeks my depression has been the worst it’s been in a year. I felt numb and tired. Anytime a person asked me how I was I would respond “Oh, ya know, just tired.” There it is again, the reading between the lines, hoping that someone recognizes the fact that I’ve been tired for two weeks and that isn’t normal. Praying for someone to ask me again, “how are you really though?” There is this fear that if we say how we really are we won’t get the response that we really need. We know we need the help though, so we leave context clues and hope one day someone picks up on it. It is interesting how subtly people ask for help because of this fear. I’ve picked up on it a lot in the work that I do. If you have someone always saying they are are tired, or when asked how they are always respond with the same answer, try asking them again. I like to call this phenomenon the folly of small talk. Sometimes people really don’t want to know how we are. So, there are these automatic lines we sprawl out like a red carpet for others to feel more comfortable. I loathe small talk. It is devoid of any real meaning and I think it should be canceled. In my opinion, if you don’t want to really know how someone is, don’t ask.

Okay, I am getting a little bit off topic, let’s circle back to my depression. Spending most of my life with, I’ve gotten good at hiding it from others and having my automatic answers lined up. My experience with depression has been a long and winding road, escalated by trauma. I have wished to be dead on countless occasions. Again, no reading between the lines. I would pray and cry and beg to go to sleep and not wake up. I recently read online somewhere (I wish I could remember where so I could give them credit) which said suicidal ideations are often the hope of getting rid of your current life for a new one. Meaning, people don’t necessarily want to die, they just want the life as they know it to be different. I wanted my life as I knew it to be different. The older I get the more my depression ebbs and flows, and the less I want a different life. I can go a long time without feeling any of it’s lingering effects and then one day I am triggered by something and it sets off this downward feeling. A feeling that is both slow and fast at the same time. I’ve done a lot of work around this and working through triggers. My recovery time is actually much quicker nowadays. Something I am proud of.

Working through depression though, is a battle. If you have watched Game of Thrones, you can recall the scene where Jon Snow is being trampled to death during the ‘Battle of the Bastards’. For those of you that haven’t seen it, he’s literally under a pile of humans all stepping on him, as he is gasping for air. While watching it you’re like “Oh yeah, he’s definitely going to die” and then somehow, against all odds, he comes out. Yeah, that is how I would describe battling depression. In fact, it’s a great title for the battle of depression as well. Those bastard voices in my head trying to keep me down and I have to come back ten times harder. It’s a muscle though and I know that the more I keep coming out of it and fighting back the easier and easier it gets. I think an example may help to get a better idea. I’ll walk you through a day of my worst depression this week. I’d also like to note that this experience is vastly more doable than what my depression looked like when I was younger. I have done a lot of work.

My alarm goes off, although I’ve only been partially asleep because my body can’t seem to shut all the way down. The sound of the alarm is not jarring, it is just irritation. I calculate how much longer I can stay in my bed, how much longer can I push the time? If I skip showering.. again.. I can lay here for another 20 minutes. In those 20 minutes I am not resting. I am thinking through a million different thoughts. ‘I wonder what today will bring? Why can’t I just get out of bed, it’s not like I’m actually sleeping right now? You are so lazy. I wish I didn’t wake up today. I wish, I wish, I wish..’ I finally role out of bed. I go into the bathroom where I convince myself that brushing my teeth is necessary. As I brush my teeth I look in the mirror and stare at the bags under my eyes. ‘Why do you look the way you do? Maybe because you didn’t wash your face again last night?’ I then talk myself into washing my face. I go the kitchen to get breakfast. All I want is junk food. I eat left over, cold pizza. I take my vitamins, hoping that they are the magic pill to make this feeling go away. I realize I only have 10 minutes to leave the house and then I rush around picking out an outfit, looking in the mirror at my hair realizing there is no time to fix it and leave. I bike or walk to work, knowing that it is good for me to get the exercise. That this will help with how I am feeling. It actually does. I get to work, where I know I have to have space for others trauma, so I leave mine at the door. Before I enter I remind myself that my pain is not important right now, this space is for them. Once in that space, I feel a little break. I hold space for other people, and my pain feels lighter, but by the the end of the day I am exhausted. I now I have my pain on top of there’s and I don’t know where to put it. I bike or walk home, again knowing that this is the most helpful thing I’ve done all day for myself. I get home and want to turn it all off. I turn on TV and watch something that I know will numb my thoughts. I order take out. Most likely shake shack for the 4th time this week. I eat the food in front of my screen. I eat it so fast that I barely remember what it tasted like. I feel full to the point that it hurts. I stare at the screen wondering why I just ate so much. The pain is so familiar and it makes me feel good, in the worst kind of way. I try to stay on my screen for as long as I can, so I can avoid hearing what I know I am thinking. I know those negative thoughts are swirling in there- you’re horrible. you’re disgusting. you’re unloveable. I finally make it to my bed where I spend another 30 minutes on my phone, trying to avoid the moment the noise all stops and I have to hear those thoughts. I finally turn the phone off and count down from 100. This helps me fall asleep and avoids the noise further. Finally I am asleep, but not really.

This is what a day with really bad depression felt like recently. Each step is hard and it is something that I mentally need to tell my body to physically do, otherwise it would just stay in that state, in my bed, not moving. I usually give myself a day, when I am feeling that way. I call it my depression day. It’s like a staycation for pain. I recognize that I’ve pushed my body far and it needs a break for a moment. I just kind of melt into my feelings and give it some space. I then spend the following 24-48 hours pushing back hard. Every negative thought has an equal and opposite reaction. This last spell though was a bit longer than 24-48 hours of pushing back. I think because there is just so much going on at once. Like COVID, depression, dating, trauma, drama is a lot for one girl to handle. But I still pushed back and I finally feel like I am finding a clearing. BLESSED.

What really helped me find the clearing though is therapy. I reached out to my therapist, who I hadn’t talked to in awhile, because for awhile I was doing really well. The second I realized this time felt a little different though I sent that email. I knew I needed support and I knew, as much as I love my friends and family, I needed a different type of support. The moment she came onto the screen I burst into tears. Not because I was sad, but because I knew there was space for me to just be. It was tears of relief, of all this pressure being lifted off. We talked for the full hour. I honestly could’ve talked to her for two hours. She reminded me of my strength and my ability to reach out when I need help. I had forgotten to recognize this as a strength. She helped my brain process in a way that felt like all the static was clearing and I could get a good image. She reminded me of different ways I can help myself, ways I didn’t even think about.

The most interesting part of our session was when we discussed my work. We were discussing how I should hold space for myself between patients. When talking about what I could do I said I have a meditation app and I could listen to that between each person. She looked at me with a puzzled face and said “Sarah, that really won’t help you. When you are experiencing trauma, even vicarious trauma, you are being heightened. You are disconnecting from you body. Meditation will only make you go higher. In those moments you need to remind yourself of where you are. You need to be in that room wholly.” She said “the best antidote for trauma is embodiment.” I was shooketh. All this time I’ve been told that meditation is basically the end all be all and here is my therapist being like ‘nah, that is not what you need.’ She talked about literally tapping my body to remind myself that it is here on earth, in that chair, in that place. So, for the last 24 hours, anytime I could feel myself leaving the room, I began to tap. My face. My chest. My legs. Tap. Tap. Tap. It brought me back every. damn. time. Brilliant and simple. My favorite kind of healing technique.

The thing with healing through, and depression, and mental health is that our stories all look different. Yet, we all have pain, we all have mental health, we all have feelings and we are all constantly trying to heal. The reason there is a month dedicated to awareness is because there continues to be this stigma that nobody else experiences these things and if you do experience this you are “not normal”. I have to argue the exact opposite. I can’t think of one person in my life that hasn’t experienced pain or that couldn’t benefit from therapy. We go to the doctor when we break our leg, but when we feel pain, when our hearts shatter into a million pieces, we think we have to heal it on our own. This is cultural. There are people trained in healing broken hearts. I beg, urge, and plead with you to help me break the stigma. Tell people that you hurt too, just like every normal human being, and that there is ZERO shame in seeking support in that. Isolation creates and perpetuates negative self-talk and feelings of depression. Culturally, we think we are being strong by not getting help, but in reality we are actually harming ourselves in ways we don’t even know. The reality is that being strong means we know we can ask for help and then doing just that.

Today, be strong- reach out for help and tell your story.

A[wo]men

P.s. Not sure where to start? May I suggest right here.

tap. tap. tap.

you are here 

in this space.

you are breathing

in this space.

you are living 

in this space.

you are

in this space.

-grounding

 

The Opinion of Others in the Context of Me

Hello and welcome to day 10 million of lockdown. I’m your host, Sarah Lorraine Robinson, and on tonight’s top stories we have murder hornets and rain. Let’s send it over to Tracy with the details.

Okay, so there is no Tracy and I will be damned if I am talking about anything with the word murder in it today. There is actually something much more important to discuss and frankly more vital to the world right now: Mental Health Awareness Month. This is absolutely one of my favorites months. Not only because we celebrate the ending of stigma for mental health and because people are especially honest and brave during this time; also because it is not too hot and it is not too cold… all you need is a light jacket. May has great weather.

In all seriousness though, this is something that is near and dear to my heart. Mental Health Awareness is all my blog is about. I celebrate everyday in the conversations I have and the own way I take care of myself. Mental Health, at least for me, is a constant, ongoing focus in my life and I feel so lucky to work in a profession that allows me to follow that passion. To all my fellow mental health professionals I just want to honor you and say thank you for working to end the stigma. This work is so very needed.

For this weeks post there is something specific I wanted to talk about when it comes to mental health. I was scrolling through instagram the other day, for several hours as one does during quarantine, and I came across a picture that said “who are you without the opinion of others?” I stared at the post that was just written in bold, black letters; no fancy image drawing my eye in, just plain text, and I couldn’t look away. I couldn’t look away because I didn’t know how to answer.

I am, in layman terms, a people pleaser. I want people to like me, constantly. I am always concerned about how I am making other people feel. I spend A LOT of time and energy wondering what other people are thinking of me. Honestly, it can be one of the most exhausting parts of my personality. Who am I without the opinion of others? My own brain didn’t even know how to comprehend this question. This led me into a downward spiral. I spent literal days pondering this question. Eventually, the only clear idea I could start to see was that my mental health apparently lies directly on top of the opinions of others.

Well, then I became even more disappointed and when I become disappointed in myself I become mentally abusive. ‘What is wrong with you, Sarah? Why aren’t you stronger? Why don’t you know who you are? Can’t you just stop being a people pleaser? Can’t you just think for yourself? It’s no wonder you are depressed. You only care about other people. Do you even really matter?’ See what I mean by a downward spiral?

I’ve gotten a lot better at those thoughts being momentary and drifting in my life. I hear them out and then they float on by. This time though those voices started to make a connection for me. What are the opinion of others in the context of me? In reality, I don’t know. I’ve never been told by a person they hate me. I’ve rarely received negative feedback. I’m sure they are out there- the haters that is- but I haven’t spoken to them directly. So, this tells me that the opinions of others, those opinions that I am so terrified to hear, are actually just the projection of my own fears. This, my friends, was a lightbulb moment. Of course I am going to think a bunch of random people, who I don’t even know, hate me for a variety of reasons, because apparently I hate me for a variety of reasons. Okay, I don’t hate me, but there all these fears I have about myself, just like any normal human person. I.e. I’m scared of being annoying, so what do I think people are saying behind my back- that I am annoying AF.

What if I were to then change that narrative? What if instead of being scared that I am annoying, I am excited to be brave today? And then maybe someone else gets inspired to be brave today. What if I focus on the things I am striving to be and not the things I am striving not to be? CAN YOU IMAGINE? I can. Over the last day or so I have been trying to do just that, focus on what I want, not what I don’t want. I have to admit.. it has done wonders for my mental health, even in just two days. I’ll provide you an example from my morning run:

I woke up thinking about how today was a running day. The last time I went for a run, I wasn’t able to complete my goal and I became frustrated. This was coincidentally a day I was really thinking about that damn quote. I remember that run being filled with thoughts of ‘how would I run without the opinion of others? would I run at all? why is the sun so damn bright today?’ yada yada yada. So, today I used my new approach. I thought about what I wanted. I didn’t say things like “I don’t want a repeat of last time.” Instead I said things like “I really want to make this goal. I bet it will feel good to meet it.” I even (and this is real hippy dippy, so get ready) imagined myself finishing the goal. That’s right, baby, manifestation at it’s finest. This all led to me being gentler during my run. I said things like “I know you can do this. It isn’t a race, so take your time. You can complete this at any pace you’d like.” And guess what? I did it. I finished my goal and felt so freaking fantastic.

If we add this all up, I guess what I am trying to say is that in reality my mental health did not lay on top of the opinion of others. My mental health was and is about the opinion of myself. It’s those voices, the inner child wounds, the narrative we tell ourselves- those are the opinions we are hearing. The strongest people I know, the ones that could be told to their face that they smell bad and look ugly and they just shrug it off and say ‘eh, guess I wasn’t their type’, they are the ones that have those strong inner narratives.

I am working on that inner narrative. I am working to understand that the most important relationship I have is the one I have with myself and that the opinion of others are irrelevant in this context. If you find yourself in a similar position, always wondering how others see you, try taking some time to sit in those fears and then flip them on their head. What do you want to be? Not, what do you not want to be. And as always if that sounds like too much right now, just try for a moment altering one small word or opinion.

You may be surprised on the impact even the smallest changes can make.

A[wo]men

boom. boom. boom. boom. boom.

it helps to know your heart beats,

only for yourself.

-where to start when changing the narrative

Body image, trauma responses, and a pandemic, OH MY!

c/w trauma, binge eating disorder

Hello all! I hope this post finds you in a space that is ready to read. If not, perhaps put down the device and take a moment for yourself to create a more suitable space. I take no offense, please take care of yourself. For those of you that do find yourself in such a space to read, I welcome you!

I’m currently sitting at my dining room table as my skylight windows are drenched in what can only be described as a bleak, gray, uninviting day. I would also describe this as the perfect writing weather- nowhere to be, no rush to get outside, just a strong desire to process. So buckle up friends because today we are driving full force into it: Body image, trauma responses, and a pandemic, OH MY! So, let’s get into gear, shall we?

This last week or so has been rough. I had a shift in mindset and I can pinpoint the exact moment it happened. I was sitting on my phone, for longer than I had intended, scrolling through social media, and this old voice comes into my head. ‘You’ll never be like them. They are popular and beautiful and you will never be them, so stop trying. And they certainly don’t want to be like you.’ I couldn’t seem to turn the voice off. Running, which has been my solace throughout this pandemic, couldn’t even shut it down. It just played over and over. This voice has been a dear friend of mine for some time even though I used to be really harsh with her. “SHUT UP!” I would usually yell, which only made it louder. I now use a different approach. I respond gently and inquire what is coming up, what memory or pain is there?

There were plenty of memories and pain. I knew I was having a trauma response (hence the skipped blog post last week). I had stomach aches and I recognized them from a mile away; I got them all the time as a kid. This is known as the mind-body connection, wherein your body hears what your mind is saying and responds to it (i.e. sadness leading to stomach aches). I have gone through different types of trauma in my life and there are a few warning signs that let me know a trauma response has been triggered. First, my inner critic starts up. Second, are the stomach aches. Third, is this overwhelming desire to eat until I can’t feel, which then masks the stomach aches. No longer do I have to think about the feeling I am having, but rather I can focus on the self-induced pain I have caused by eating too much.

This is also known as Binge Eating Disorder, something I have suffered from for most of my life. Actually, I would like to instead say, something I used for coping with most of my life. Albeit, not a healthy way of coping, but a coping skill nonetheless. The thing about binge eating though, is that it all connects back to that initial thought, right? Because when I eat too much, I feel like a failure, which then makes me sad, which then makes me have stomach aches, which then makes me want to binge eat. It’s a cycle.

So, this brings me back to that harsh vs. gentle voice. Since I now know and recognize all the signs, I am able to process a little differently. In this last week, I had a lot of reflection time. What is coming up, what memory or pain is there? This pandemic has brought up a lot of hard memories and pain. Memories of feeling alone. Memories of being a teenager and feeling like being here was just a little too hard. A lack of direction and needing guidance. Pain from broken relationships. Thoughts about loss of love. It was baby Sarah again, just wanting someone to hold her.

I would like to note that as I am writing this, tears are splashing onto my table, flowing from my cheeks like a waterfall. Not because I am sad, no; I am crying because there is a release happening. It’s like being under water for a long time and then getting to come up to the surface for air. There is that mind-body connection again, my brain processing and my body responding to it. In this connection, I’ve learned that the best way to heal from past experiences is actually embracing how my body is responding, not shaming it.

I’m also crying because my younger self only knew shame. Now, knowing that there are other ways to understand oneself is equivalent to taking in that first big breath of air. Shame was something I learned young and specifically from how I presented my body. I remember being a young girl and “developing early” as they say. My boobs grew in fast and my butt was always bigger than the rest. Something I now embrace, but as a kid I could only feel shame about. I remember wearing outfits that would hide and distract from the fact that my body didn’t look like the girls in my class. My friends were all thin and blonde and kids. I was thicc, had boobs in fifth grade, brunette, and had to grow up too fast.

I guess this is all to say that quarantine is bringing up these feelings in me again. I can feel baby Sarah isolated and alone, but instead of feeling shame I go to the source and I examine it deeply.  So the source came from when I was scrolling. What was I seeing as I was scrolling? This thicc body of mine has been a source of jokes for many people lately. Memes draped in images that look like my body, with words that express fear of being like me. Posts about eating too much because there is nothing to do, when my stomach knows what overeating really feels like. These images have hit the core of baby Sarah and that inner critic. However, after exploring it more I found that these things have not made me feel shame, what they have made me feel is lucky that I now know my worth. That I have had time to examine my body outside of what others think it should be and I have found pride in the creases and lumps and dips and highs and lows. I remind baby Sarah of all the things this beautiful body has brought us. This life I have is all thanks to the body that got me here.

I say to her now:

“Baby, we don’t feel shame for this body anymore. We still feel a lot of things all the time, but we do not have the space for shame. Brené Brown once said ’empathy is the antidote to shame’ and we hold that antidote inside. We are superheroes, healing ourself. We still feel a lot of things all the time, but baby shame is no longer one of them. There is a pandemic and people are sick. We are healthy and surviving. I know it feels easier to focus on our body because it is a space we can understand, but if we are going to do that we are going to use our antidote. Baby, we don’t need shame, we need understanding and self-compassion. It’s okay that we felt triggered, we experienced some tough things, but guess what? We made it through and we will keep making it through. Baby, we do not have the space for shame.”

In this quarantine if you are finding yourself responding in ways that you don’t like, try not to yell “shut up!” Maybe try a gentler approach. Gather your empathy that you so often share with others and turn it inward. You deserve love and understanding as much as anyone around you does. Perhaps, you’re having trouble knowing how to be gentler and that’s okay too. Just try starting small, like saying ‘shh’ instead of ‘shut up’ and maybe those words eventually turn into ‘I love you’.

But for now, just remember, you are a superhero with the antidote for shame right inside of you.

A[wo]men

**Side note: with this blog post I am doing a giveaway! To enter:

  1. Follow my instagram account- sarahlorrainerobinson
  2. Follow my friends instagram account- sopowart
  3. Tag a friend that you think would enjoy reading this weeks blog and use the hashtag #awomengiveaway on a photo on my instagram page.

You will then be entered to win $50 via Venmo and a painting made by sopowart (see featured image for painting). Winner will be chosen Friday 5/1.

SHUT UP!

SHUT UP!

SHUT UP!

“I can’t.”

they whisper.

“but maybe,

if you held my hand,

i could change my tune.”

-how to approach yourself

 

 

A different side of anxiety

Hello all my quarantine cuties. I hope you’re all hangin’ in there, whatever hangin’ in there might look like for you. We’ve officially been on lockdown in New York for 25 days and many of us started social distancing long before that. I must say it has been a wild ride thus far.

Okay, actually, my brain is totally in protective mode and I feel numb to most of it right now. It’s like being on a rollercoaster and just as you’re reaching the peak, the person comes on the speaker and says “folks, we’re having some technical difficulties. Our maintenance person is on the scene and checking things out. Please standby.” You know you’re like still safe cuz it’s not like the ride is moving, but it’s freaky, but also what are you gonna do and like all you can do is just like sit there in the ride with your ass squeezed in there, and just like wait… Well, that’s how my quarantine is going anyways. Honestly, I thank my brain constantly for knowing what I can and can’t handle.

Aside from that all that though, life is still moving and I am continually trying to find the bright sides to this whole no human contact outside of work and groceries thing. I’ve been trying to occupy my brain space with other things, so I don’t have too much time to linger on much else. I’ve been writing a lot more, like outside of this blog. Which I actually don’t do that often, but want to do more of. I have this dream of writing short stories, more poems, perhaps even a book some day, but I lacked the motivation in the past. Right now, I don’t necessarily have the motivation, but I do have the time, so it makes it easier to self-motivate.

Writing, no matter what I am writing, is a way to help me process things, because remember I am a slow processor (see “A little less alone and a little bit more seen” for more details). Even when I am writing fiction type stories and I look them back over, I see a piece of myself in the characters and I recognize the areas of my life that I am working through. This week as I was writing about a kid that played too safe, never tried things she didn’t think she would be good at, I was like “oh shit, that me.”

I’ve filled my space and my head with activities I know I am good at because being good at something makes us feel good. That’s normal. However, it is hindering if I only do things I know I can be good at. Actually the quote that comes to mind here comes from one of my faves, Jake the Dog, from Adventure Time when he says “dude, suckin’ at something is the first step at becoming sorta good at something.” Jake the Dog is right, but gosh when I think about suckin’ at something it makes the perfectionist in me v. anxious.

The thing I’ve learned about anxiety though, is that we can still do stuff with anxiety. For instance, dating is so triggering for my anxiety, but guess what? I still go on dates. Sure, I have to remind myself to breathe and I drink water to keep moisture in my mouth because otherwise it’s completely void of it, but I do it. Dating has taught me a lot in my life, but that is the number one thing I have learned from it- no matter how scared you are to do something you still can. And not to brag, but now I’m becoming sorta good at dating (I think).

I’ve taken this lesson to help me through quarantine and I’ve started doing things that make me feel anxious. It all started with my photo shoot. I’ve been trying to grow my brand or whatever you wanna call it, and I thought a good way to do this would be to do a photoshoot with myself. This involved the dreaded makeup portion. To clarify, makeup is not needed for taking photo’s; however, I am scared of makeup because I don’t know how to do it and therefore wanted to try suckin’ at it so maybe I could be sorta good at it.

I was ready to jump in. I gathered my pack of makeup which consists of all one-four year old makeup. (I know it’s gross, please don’t shame me). As I was viewing all my tools I thought, ‘wouldn’t it be funny if I did one of those “makeup tutorial” type videos, but since I’m not good at it the end result will just look like mess?’ LOL. I turned on my camera and I just went really quick through it pretending like I knew what I was doing. Then, something strange happened. I looked in the mirror at the end and I thought “well, that’s weird. I actually really like it.” Can you believe? It wasn’t the Starry Nights of faces by any means, but like I even added a winged liner and they matched. I thought ‘who is this girl?’ And let me tell you, that photoshoot was fierce. I had so much fun just taking pictures and thinking of fun poses and picking out outfits. I was just totally entranced in it for a few hours, which is a big chunk of time in quarantine land.

All of this is to say that in this weird, bizarre land that we are living in now, I am finding some interesting ways to take up brain space, while also feeling brave. My anxiety is completely attached to this central idea I have of myself: I am not good enough. My therapist described this core belief as a sticky piece of paper that clings onto everything that will make it feel true. Every negative comment, every heartbreak, every rejection it will feed into that thought. My hands don’t tremble when someone says I’m not worthy; I shrug and say ‘you’re right.’ Which means my  goal is to change that central thought, which is what I have been working on for the last year. I want my central self to read: I am enough. So with every scary task that won’t feed into that narrative I am altering those words to how I want to feel. Every date I muster up the courage for, every blog post I write without being a trained writer, every photoshoot I do in the middle of my living room, every time I pull out my makeup and start painting my face is a chance for me to say no to that central idea. I will keep doing things that make my hands tremble because I know that means I am doing something important for myself. I know that means that I am saying “I am enough”.

We are living in a time where most of us are probably trembling, not just in our hands but throughout our entire being. Just know that those trembles are your body living, which means you are doing something really important for yourself. And if the trembling is too much to take right now, perhaps a break with some TV might help.

I recommend Seinfeld, but whatever works for you.

A[wo]men

*Featured photo from said photoshoot*

think of your first time falling in love

hands trembling

unable to eat

breathe

sleep.

why should our standards

be any less

for any other passions

we deem fit?

-a different side of anxiety

 

What goes down, must come up.

I wrote an original post that talked about all the pain that I and others are suffering through right now. About how my moods have been up and down and there is so much going on that it is hard to process any of it. Halfway through though I deleted it. I deleted it because we all know what is happening right now. We all feel the pain and the fear attached. We all know the downs right now. But, if my moods are up and down why am I only writing about what it feels like when they are down? I think we have enough of the down right now, so imma go ahead and talk about those ups. Those moments in my day when I feel peace.

When the sun is shining in my little neighborhood, I go to my stoop and I sit there. I let the sun drench my skin and I can feel myself come alive. My days off of work provide me solace in the sun. No schedule. No place to be. Just in that moment having vitamin D absorption provide me with the only medicine I need. This is where I have found the most peace. The Sun has been a bit fickle here, as is expected with spring weather. April showers yada, yada, yada. There is something about the sun though that lets you forget for a moment all that is happening. It’s a reminder that the world keeps turning and each day will come and go again, regardless of pandemics, politics, or anything else.

Those cloudy, rainy days though have been the toughest, so I’ve been channeling my energy every day into something more productive. I run my chaotic energy out like it’s a little kid I need to exhaust before their bedtime. I am officially up to three miles, which I intended to reach by the end of April, so way ahead of schedule. I guess I can thank chaotic energy for that. Turning my music up to full volume, feeling my body push itself in ways it never thought it could, this is one of my favorite feelings. Fat bodies are often told they can’t do things; they can’t wear crop tops, they can’t be healthy, they can’t run. It’s funny because at the moment my fat body is doing all of those things, so I am not sure where they are getting their data from. Running is an act of defiance in my fat body. I’ll show you what a fat body can do. I feel the air fill my lungs, my feet gently tapping the pavement, and my sweat painting my body. How fantastic human bodies can be. I can’t help but find peace here.

At work, it’s been a bit more difficult to find peace. I feel lucky, scared, sad and a whole mix of other emotions while I am there. As a social worker and an empath, I am a holder of not only my own emotions, but of others as well. Finding a way to unwind in that role is important. On my lunch break I leave the building even if it’s only for a minute. It is amazing the impact fresh air can have on a busy mind. I make it a point to find a spot that is empty, which is much easier these days. I stand there for a moment, with my headphones in, but no music playing, just to drown out the sounds of the city. In through the nose, out through the mouth, in through the nose, out through the mouth. I repeat these words in my head until it is all that I can hear. My anxiety started to shoot through the roof the day we had to start wearing masks at work. Which is when I realized how valuable fresh air is. Between patients I would stick my head out of the window and just breathe it in. *While I am painting a pretty picture it was actually a pretty hilarious sight, which I sent to a few friends.* This need for fresh air then turned into my need for my lunch time inhalations and exhalations. Hand to hearts center, namaste.

Nah, imma stay in bed is also where I find peace. I don’t actually lay in my bed all day though because I reserve that for sleeping (which I’ve also been doing a lot of). I do, however, spend more time sitting on my couch watching TV. Not just any TV. TV shows that I have seen a hundred times before. I recently read an article about this and they said we gravitate towards these shows in times of crisis because they provided us with a sense of comfort and control. This makes total sense to me. When Dawson’s Creek is on I feel way more in control and, by in control, I mean I am just swooning over Pacey J. Witter the whole time. It’s a great distraction. I love you Dawson’s Creek. Never Change.

Another thing that hasn’t change is finding comfort in food. An age old tradition in my brain to turn to food in moments of crisis. While, yes, stuffing my face to the point where it doesn’t feel good is not the healthiest of coping skills, I have to say I really don’t give a sh*t. Oh, I’m sorry, was that aggressive? But seriously, the copious amount of posts talking about the fear of emerging from this quarantine with a fat body is horrendous. If your worst case scenario is that you get fat, I’d have to say you are a really lucky person. I’d also urge you to unpack your fat phobia. Your fear isn’t of your health, it is purely of your body getting bigger. Digest that for a minute. Food is comforting and that doesn’t need to scare us. It’s okay to eat the things that bring you joy. In fact, anything that is bringing you joy right now is important to hold onto.

Because right now we don’t have a whole lot we can hold onto. Right now things are unpredictable and ever changing. So, I am holding on to these little pieces of life right now that bring me up when I am down. And the beautiful thing is that there are ups. I think it was Isaac Newton who said “what goes up must come down”. Well, it seems you can’t have one without the other and therefore, what goes down, must come up.

Try to find what your ups are. Maybe they are similar to mine or maybe they are vastly different, but either way search for them today. Heck, search for them everyday. You might have to look all over for them, but trust me they are there. And you might just find it helps you through the downs.

A[wo]men

*Featured image from a stoop session*

look up;

close your eyes;

embrace 

-the known;

accept 

-the unknown.

inhale,

4,5.

exhale,

4,5.

repeat.

-how to find your ups.

 

A little less alone and a little bit more seen.

Welcome to what feels like day 5,682 of COVID-19. I’m your host, bored and lonely, and today we’ll be exploring loneliness in isolation, but first let’s hear those smooth jazz stylings of Kenny G. *Dododododdododo*

Okay, but seriously, I can’t really avoid it any longer. I haven’t wanted to write about what it’s like being alone right now because I know we are all feeling it. We are all scared and unsure and to put it simply- freaking the f**k out. Except, my blog is about being honest and brave and if I were to skirt around how I am feeling right now, well then it wouldn’t be too honest or brave of me.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by this topic it’s okay to put the phone down. It’s okay to take a deep breath where a deep breath is needed. You don’t owe anything, to anyone (except maybe your landlord #rentstrike).

I may have discussed this before, but I am a slow processor. I often get called “the quiet one” of most spaces I find myself in. It’s not because I’m shy, or because I don’t feel like I fit in, nor because I am judging you, or feel superior in any way. Which is all feedback I have received from many people in my life. “When I first met you I thought you totally hated me because you just, like, didn’t talk.” I get it, it’s a fair assumption to make. If there is silence, then there are thoughts to fill that silence. But I promise that’s not it at all. I’m quiet because I am hearing everything you are saying. I am taking it all in, so later I can go home and think about what was said and not only understand my reactions to things, but actually formulate reactions, and not jump to conclusions.

I don’t know when this slow processing thing started, but I used to hate it. I would get so upset when I couldn’t formulate an opinion on a moments notice. “Here is x, y, z- what do you think that means? Sarah?” Then I would be the kid in class with bright red cheeks because I didn’t have an answer. “Pass,” I would mutter, feeling like a dumb dumb. I don’t get upset about it anymore though. I find it to be a blessing really. I’ve seen what can happen when people throw out reactions without thinking it through. How many painful moments could have been avoided if we just took a moment to process instead of feeling a need to fill the air? It’s also handy that I know this about myself now. I can preemptively tell people about this little known fact and there isn’t this, ‘why is this weird girl so quiet?’ thoughts. They can just think that I am weird with an explanation for my silence. I dig it.

All that is to say, my slow processing is etched into every aspect of my life. I’ve been awarded “WORLD’S WORST GOODBYE” before because I don’t get sad in those moments. I was leaving New York to move to Wisconsin, indefinitely, unsure when I would see my friends, and was like ‘welp, this was fun. TTFN.’ Two weeks later, I was sobbing, uncontrollably on my kitchen floor. This gives you an example of how long it can take me to process sometimes. World wide events are no different.

COVID-19 was making sweeping changes across the world and people called to see how I was doing. I would tell them “I feel okay for now, just give me a couple weeks and call again.” Well folks, here we are, a couple weeks in and I actually had to pick myself off the kitchen floor again- snot everywhere, hyperventilating, and scared out of my mind.

When I was little I used to get these stomach aches when I was upset. They were excruciating, like someone was tearing my insides out. I still get those to this day. Although, now I recognize them as my body signaling a need to process some emotion. (That, my friends, is called growth.) I felt it two days ago. My stomach was in knots and I knew what was happening. My brain was ready to process this whole ‘I’m alone in a worldwide pandemic’.

I don’t mean alone, alone because I am lucky enough to have some of the most amazing people in my life. I get texts, FaceTimes, phone calls, social media notifications. However, I am physically alone, and no matter how many calls or texts I get, it is a hard feeling to shake. During my run the other day I had to stop and take deep breathes because my brain decided to show me images of me loosing air, unable to call 911. Hunched over on the side of the road, trying to ease my panic attack, I’m sure people in the nearby building thought I had the Rona and was about to keel. Anxiety has this way of putting images like this in your head and then making you believe they are real.

My anxiety was yelling “WAKE UP DUDE. YOU NEED TO START PROCESSING.” My anxiety was right. So, I talked about and I wrote about it. About what it means to be in isolation without another body to occupy the space with you. Most everyone I know has somebody else, whether it be a family member, or friend, or loved one, or furry pal that is in their physical space. I don’t. People call me talking about the arguments they are having with those close to them and I find myself doused in jealousy, wanting to argue with someone because it would take up my brain space in a new way. Yeah, you read that right, I was jealous of those who are fighting. I wanted to fight, laugh, hug, make-up with literally anyone.

I spent the last couple days in the fetal position, rubbing my tummy to remind it that I am working through this stuff and that we will be okay. What I found in this space of processing is that it is okay for me to be scared, and jealous, and bored. Emotions that I don’t often explore here, but that are just as valid as my sadness or anger or joy. These are parts of myself that I don’t often connect with. I usually put my fears, jealousy, and boredom into the DO NOT SHARE column. They have this negative little connotation that make me feel like they are not good things.

And that’s when I remembered that there is no such thing as good or bad when it comes to feeling. These are just natural human responses. I can be fearful of being alone, jealous that other people have company, and bored because I can’t just go to a coffee shop. Not good, not bad- they just are. When I was able to just feel these things without judgement I could feel my stomach untwist itself. A beautiful reorganizing of the way a stomach should feel.

We should be able to share our emotions without a quick response. We should be able to talk about how we feel without judgement spewing from others words. This includes the way we talk to ourselves. If we feel fear it doesn’t help to quickly respond with ‘that’s stupid’ because all that does is create a disconnect from how you are feeling and how you think you should be feeling.

When I have a patient in my room (or on the phone these days) my number one goal is to try and make this person feel as though they are being heard. I try not assume where they have been or where they are going. I don’t try to think of advice or what my next sentence should be. My main purpose is to listen. To fully hear the words that they have managed to put together and share with me. An honor I never take lightly. I wonder what it would look like if we all did that with ourselves.

When I am feeling lonely and looking in the mirror, instead of saying I am stupid perhaps I listen to that part that feels alone. Perhaps I hold a gentle space for it and let it share how it is feeling. Maybe I even say it’s okay to feel lonely. I could even hold that part of me, gently, and let the feeling waft over us. And may, just maybe, by being heard it feels a little less alone and a little bit more seen.

This is how I would describe loneliness in isolation- devastatingly poetic.

A[wo]men

can you hear me?

can you hear me?

can you hear me?

my brain,

screaming this;

from the top

-of the lungs,

to the depths

-of the belly.

just listen.

-processing