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

Madeline Raube- Journey to Empowerment

Hello my social distancing friends. Writing this to you from the comfort of my own home and not a coffee shop. It feels v. off, but I am making do.

I am excited to announce that this weeks post is the second interview session of the year! I usually prepare people for that at the end of the previous blog, but the last Wednesday of March came so quickly. That’s right… next Wednesday is April 1. Sorry if that is shocking news to you; it was shocking to me when I found out. Had to do some deep breathing when I realized I had three days to write this interview post, when I typically give myself a couple weeks. Honestly though, what else am I doing in this social distancing time anyways?

What I am doing is A LOT of FaceTiming, so it worked out quite well for this weeks interview consider she is a friend, previous roomie, and someone I often call when I am on any sort of lock down, whether it be governor mandated or depression suggestions. Madeline Raube, for those of you that don’t know, is an aspiring broadway singer/actress with talent radiating from her. Her voice is so beautiful, the birds return the song, as if we are in some Cinderella movie. I wish I was exaggerating, but I’ve literally witness it first hand.

My favorite thing about Madeline though, is getting to see her how best friends usually get to see each other- no make-up, hair thrown up into a bun, old t-shirt and sweatpants being the optimal clothing choices. In public Madeline is a star. Her outfits are always ready to meet an up and coming director, her makeup is subtle, yet, pristine, and her hair has a beautiful bounce to the curly red locks. In her profession “all the worlds a stage” is not just a quote from William Shakespeare. This is why I love getting to see the behind the scenes, the raw person. Because even without the make-up and hair and outfits she is still this person that is shining, even if she doesn’t always see that. That part though, we will get too later.

The interview started off a bit different this week, seeing how the world is a bit different this week.

“Tell me about your quarantine experience,” I asked.

“My quarantine experience has been okay,” she smirks, “I’ve only had two breakdowns so far, this week. None of us have privacy and we’re all cooped up inside, so it just makes me feel depressed sometimes, so it’s rough, but, you know, it could be a lot worse.”

Madeline isn’t just social distancing, she is in full-on lock down. Madeline is diagnosed with Type-1 Diabetes, which is at the heart of our interview today. This is something that she has lived with for most of her life and in today’s pandemic it makes her vulnerable.

“What story are you hoping to tell today,” I digressed.

She took a deep breath, as if to remind her body that she is safe. “I had a hard time thinking of, like, a specific story. Um, like the biggest thing that popped into my mind was just my experience with my diabetes.” Madeline, as mentioned earlier, has Type-1 Diabetes described by mayoclinic.org as “a chronic condition in which the pancreas produces little or no insulin. Insulin is a hormone needed to allow sugar (glucose) to enter cells to produce energy.”

She continued by saying, “that’s usually what triggers my anxiety or like it’s the biggest thing in my life that causes me personal emotional problems. So, um, and the thing is like I have so many stories about my experience with it that it’s hard to nail down one.”

Her words, which are often concise and clear, began to have words like “like” and “um” mixed into them. I could tell she was nervous, but the kind of nervous that felt brave, as if parachuting out of an airplane or entering your 1st audition room. It’s those moment where you know the afterwards will feel great, but your brain is still like “B**ch, are you nuts?” She kept going though, breathing through the fear with confidence.

She then began to discuss her career. What it is like to have diabetes in the world of acting and how hard she tries to hide it from the people deciding if they will give her a shot or not. I wanted to know what would happen if they did know before hand. Would she be denied roles due to her diagnosis?

“I mean, I don’t know,” she answered “but it might sway them and [they] could say ‘you know it’d be easier to hire someone who doesn’t have this versus someone who does’ because it’s be easier to put their contract together or be easier to work with them. [I mean] they encourage people with disabilities to audition. Um, I mean someone just this past year won a Tony [award] and she has been in a wheelchair all of her life, so, I mean, it’s possible but it’s also not fully evolved yet.”

She discussed the visible ways she can’t hide her diabetes. Madeline wears a continuous glucose monitor (CGM) on her arm (as pictured it the featured image). She talked about the giant bandaid that she covers it with and wonders what casting directors are thinking when they see it. She mentions the looks she gets with faces that scream “what happened to her arm?” and how vulnerable that can feel, even without any words being exchanged. Madeline has two instagram pages for this very reason- one for her singing and the other for her “secret diabetic life” as she terms it.

Madeline has only recently started being more open with her diagnosis, so even having a public platform for it at all has been a huge step in her life to breaking down walls and ending stigma. I know how scary that can be, putting your private life into the public eye. I remember binge eating after I posted my first blog. Terrified of the response I would get.

I wanted to know, “now that it’s in the public spotlight are there things you’re still kind of nervous to put out there?”

“I’m definitely holding back [from things]. I used to keep my diabetes a big secret from people, so now I am just sharing little by little and going slow… I would just try to hide it at all costs. I would hide my insulin pump, check my blood sugar under a table so no one would see. I was really ashamed and embarrassed of having this disease. So, me sharing on social media is actually pretty new. It’s almost therapeutic in a way because I am learning how to find my voice and kind of share what it’s like. And actually, people are interested,” she said entirely surprised. “I didn’t think they would be.”

“So, for my interviews, I like to do stories that maybe a lot of people don’t know about you… Is there a part of this you haven’t shared yet, that you want to discuss today?”

“Yeah, so I guess the thing that I haven’t ever really talked about, which is related to diabetes is just body image with diabetes. There are times where you to eat food, even when you don’t want to, because it keeps you alive.” I could tell that her breathing was getting faster and she looked up to the ceiling more often as we started this topic. She was being vulnerable and brave and I could feel myself holding her energy. Wanting to tell her it’s okay, but she was releasing and I left the space for her to keep going. “And like, there have been times where I have almost like neglected giving myself the food because of that. Just almost as a way of like punishment, or like the opposite, where I would binge eat… And then just the component of having to constantly prick my skin and inject needles. Like, I have a lot of bruising on my body and a lot of scar tissue. I just have a lot that’s always on my body. I’m really self conscious of it.”

She talked about the struggle of dating and how “awkward” it can be to say “hold on, let me just take some blood out of my finger” in the middle of dinner. We both laughed, imagining the conversation to be one of deep intellect only to be paused by a need for blood. Vampire vibes, really. Then our laughter slowed as she expressed that she’s had some bad experiences. She talk about a guy that put his arm around her waist and he could feel her insulin pump. “He didn’t know what it was because I wasn’t telling him I was diabetic. And he was like what is this and I was like ‘oh, nothing. Don’t worry about it, it’s nothing. It’s just my phone’ and then my phone was sitting on the table in front of us. So, then I had to tell him and his response was ‘What? So, you’re part robot?” and from then on he wanted nothing to do with me.” She talked about her desire to feel sexy and beautiful and a hope to not feel tied down by what she was wearing on her body, and then to hear her be called a robot by someone she liked felt as though she had been punched in the gut.

I could feel my own anger bubbling up inside of me. HOW DARE A PERSON MAKE MY FRIEND FEEL ANY LESS THAN BEAUTIFUL AND SEXY AND AMAZING. I could only imagine how she was feeling in that moment. She made a point to recognize that not everyone is like that, though. How she has met people in her life that have made her feel exceptional. She also mentioned that she is currently single, so fellas, if you interested I’ve got a keeper for ya.

We then discussed the cruel fate of an anxious brain. 100 comments saying you’re beautiful and all you need is one to send you down the self-hatred spiral. Those negative comments are what leads to food restriction and over-exercising and binging.

“When I would hear comments like that I would think to myself ‘okay, so that is weird for them to look at so I need to work out a lot so that at least my body looks really amazing. Just like, maybe they won’t notice the things on my body if I am in incredible shape. I would just go the totally wrong direction to compensate.”

I found myself lost as we were talking. I was Madelines roommate for two years. We didn’t just share an apartment, we shared a room. Even being so incredibly close these are things I never picked up on. I didn’t notice the over compensating, but as she spoke it was clear that it was there the whole time. I know I have said this before, but this is what I love most about these interviews. Even people that I have known in a deep way have pieces of themselves that they have hidden away. I get to learn more about their vulnerable sides. The things that even in a drunken stupor, eating Artichoke Pizza on the kitchen floor, are kept secret.

“Now,” she continued “I’m not in that space, which is good.” Her journey to get here though was long. She was first diagnosed in 4th grade where her whole class was informed, she had to go to the nurses offices every few hours to get a shot, and she felt different from everybody else right off the bat. Very self-conscious and scared are the two words I would use to describe the beginning of my journey.”

“You mentioned you aren’t in that space any more. What helped you get here?”

She said what I always love to hear from people “for the most part, therapy.” I could hear me give a sigh of relief in the recording of the interview. Every time someone I care about tells me they are in therapy, I can feel a weight lift off of my shoulders. Not because it was my burden by any means, but to know they have a safe space and to know they are talking about how they are feeling, at least an hour a week, its give me peace of mind. I mean, I still worry about the people I love, pretty much all the time, but t to know someone else is there for them helps. I know what can happen when we keep those things inside. It can get ugly, real quick. “I talk about this a lot in therapy. Like I’ve told her how I have worked out till it hurts, and my therapist was like ‘uhm, no. Don’t do that.’ It just helps to have support and to hear I don’t have to do that.” She also talked about the amount of support she has received from her family and friends, without whom this she wouldn’t be where she is today.

As we know though, just because we aren’t in a certain space anymore doesn’t mean we are free and clear of any negative thoughts. Madeline shared how she’s found peace in knowing that her body is forever changing and she doesn’t need to beat her body up because of that. Although she still get’s angry, and rightfully so.

“It comes in waves. Recently I’ve been angry with it just because I feel like I can’t control it sometimes, or I’m doing my best and it isn’t working. A lot of it is out of my control.” Not being in control is hard to accept, for anyone. (Hello pandemic). Madeline though, believes this is all part of her journey to acceptance and to her real end goal of being a spokesperson for this disease.

“It feels like a calling.. I feel like I’m finding my voice and other people are able to relate to this so like I kind of can’t wait until I’m able to fully own this so that I can really speak about it from the perspective of like ‘yeah, this is what it is and its really difficult but you can get through this. Like, that’s it. I wish I had someone tell me that when I was in fourth grade.”

I asked her to go bigger with her dream, delete the limitations.

She’s starring in Wicked playing the role of Glinda. She is able to share her story and inspire others. She has not only become empowered, but she has empowered others just like her to reach for the stars. Feeling no shame or stigma as she talks about every aspect that comes along with Type-1 Diabetes. That is her dream.

“If you were talking to somebody that had diabetes now or has a different disease that feels really vulnerable, but also open and scary, what advice would you give them?

“Number one, you are not alone because everyone is going through something. And it’s really difficult right now, but one day you will be able to take back control and no matter what anybody says about you, you are beautiful, with the disease that you have. That is the truth. That’s what I would tell my younger self, my younger little Madeline. That’s what I would tell myself now.”

Little does Madeline know that with those words she is already stepping towards her dream. One day she will be inspiring millions of people from a platform so large and powerful. I can’t wait to see this for her and for all the people who need to hear her words.

A[wo]men & Madeline Raube

**Check out Madelines instagram pages @mdrsinger & @t1d_inthespotlight & her website where you can learn more about her singing and acting journey**

hidden

or out in the open

pain

is universal.

out in the open

or hidden

healing

is universal,

too.

-what we all go through

 

An Exercise in Grounding

Wassssup (entering old school today- tongue out and all).

I think we are all aware that the world is, well, to put it gently, “off”. Now, I could spend the next hour writing about how I am feeling and all the scary ideas that are running through my head. Most typically, this is exactly what I would do. I would want you to know your aren’t alone in this and we are all going through it together. However, I don’t think that’s helpful right now. I think we are all feeling the unknown and we all have a better understanding of just how intense anxiety can feel. So, I thought it might be best to switch it up on the interwebz for a moment. You know, share something that isn’t all about a pandemic, or anxiety, or toilet paper.

I’ve been racking my brain over the last few hours trying to figure out exactly what that would be. What I could write about when my mind seems to be consumed with all of these things and more. What would help me to slow down and for a moment forget I’m alone in my apartment, unsure about the state of the world?

Gratitude.

It’s so simple, I am surprised it took me a few hours to come up with it. Just hear me out, I know that sometimes it is annoying when you are feeling one way and people are like “just think of all that you have”. Sometimes it makes me want to puke in my mouth. Sometimes I want to be angry and scared and petty and vent and not think about all the good. Sometimes things just suck and I want to sit in that suckiness for a bit. We have every right to do so. There are other times though that thinking about all I have can alter my mood in ways I never thought it could. When a brain is on fire and is able to say I am thankful that I have water to put it out- that, my friends, is power. A power that is free of cost and fills up time and is totally doable in, let’s say, a quarantine situation.

Today I will be making a list of 25 things that I am so incredibly grateful for today.

  1. The sun is shining, baby. Gettin’ that Vitamin D under my skylights as I am writing this.
  2. I have a place to live.
  3. There is food in my fridge, freezer, and cabinets.
  4. My friends are amazing. They check-in on me. They call me. They send me texts. They remind me that I am loved. I may be physically alone in this apartment, but I am definitely not alone.
  5. I have hobbies. I write and I dance and I run and all of these things keep me grounded.
  6. I am working. People still need our care and I am going to help provide that care for as long as I am able to.
  7. Netflix.
  8. Hulu.
  9. Disney+. (Yes, they all get their own separate numbers because that’s how grateful I am for each one.)
  10. My family group chat right now is straight fire. We even got a water challenge going so we all stay hydrated.
  11. Memers are on the top of their game. They say laughter is the best medicine and damn, Instagram has been saving lives with its pure comedic medicine.
  12. I have a washer and dryer in my apartment. Thankful for this on a daily basis.
  13. I am healthy.
  14. I have running water.
  15. Electricity.
  16. My awesome book collection is, well, awesome.
  17. Coloring books are a gift.
  18. Fat activists/diet school dropouts reminding me that it’s okay to eat. That I don’t need to prioritize weight loss in this moment or any other moment. And that sometimes food is comfort.
  19. Healthcare workers.
  20. Grocery store workers.
  21. Therapy. Talk about your feelings- get support.
  22. Soap. and subsequently-
  23. Lotion.
  24. Candles aka therapy of the aroma variety.
  25. I’m alive. And while life can seem so fragile, it’s that fragility that reminds us just how important it is to live it.

If you’re still feeling overwhelmed right now, just check-in with your body. You are here and that is enough right now. Maybe you could make your own list. If 25 seems like too much, think of 1. Maybe you’ll start and not be able to stop. Maybe, just maybe, you’ll remember all you have right in front of you. Or maybe you’ll just want to sit it in the suckiness for a bit. That’s cool too.

If you are struggling with any of the things on this list, like lack of food or TP or essentials in any way please reach out to me. I may not be able to help out a lot, but I will do what I can.

Also, if you’re just looking for an ear, I am pretty good at listening, or so I’ve been told.

A[wo]men

i

love

you

-simplicity

 

 

Best Case Scenario

Hola friends. I’m practicing my Spanish for when I go to Spain for my 30th birthday, so you may experience a few different greetings over the next year as I start to practice more. Starting off simple.

This week I have been feeling really strange… Like not bad, but not good either. A middle of the road feeling of uncertainty is how I might describe it. I don’t know if it is the changing of the weather or the idiotic time change thing we do that disrupts our sleep patterns or the political climate or the corona virus or that terrible finale of the bachelor- things just feel off. Recently, was discussing with a co-worker how we, as empaths, need to take care of ourselves. Basically, empaths have the ability to absorb energies around them. So, you can imagine the amount of anxiety that is being absorbed at the moment. All I know is that it is a lot to handle and I think my body is just like “what the f*ck is happening?”

My answer to that is I really don’t know. I don’t know what is happening and that feels scary. Yet, it is just a part of life, right? We never know how things are going to turn out. What’s around the corner? As Pocahontas so beautifully sang, “just around the riverbend,” ya know? As I’m writing that though I’m thinking that it doesn’t have to be scary. When I was a kid watching that scene I remember thinking how she was full of adventure and wonder and unclear if she should marry the man her father chose for her or take her own path. She was excited about things that could happen, about her story and how it might be written. And hey, it didn’t turn out great, her boyfriend was shot and all and her father almost beheaded him, but like they got through that. So yeah, maybe around the riverbend is something not so great, but also maybe it is something worthy of the movies. I’m trying to learn to explore more of both of those sides. That doom and gloom auto thinking is a hard habit to break away from. So, I’d like to put it into practice exploring that exciting side. How maybe just around my riverbend is something really beautiful. “They” say the best way to get what you want is to put it into the universe. Can’t hurt to try:

I leave this Starbucks today. The weather is perfect, because “it’s not too hot, and its not too cold, all you need is a light jacket” (Name that movie! *cough Miss Congeniality cough*) Due to this fantastic weather, I decide to go for a run. While I am running, I realize I don’t feel tired. In fact, I want to keep running. I meet my three mile goal today. I feel unstoppable. On my cool down, I see a dog and give it loves and the owner says ‘wow, she is usually not this friendly with people, but she really likes you.’ A compliment of the highest honor. My serotonin levels are soaring at this point. I then decide to keep walking around the neighborhood. While walking I see people holding hands, and birds are singing. I can’t help but smile at the way people are scared but still living their lives as best as they know how. My smile makes my serotonin levels even higher and I feel as though I am floating on a cloud. I finally go grocery shopping and get all the groceries I need, under budget. I put the extra money I saved onto one of my credit cards. My credit score goes up and I’ve finally made it into a new bracket. At 5pm, I post my blog. People are loving it. It’s relatable, its kitschy. My blog goes viral, but I don’t find this out till the next morning because I decide not to be obsessive about how many people are reading about what I wrote. I go to WW and we talk about our highs and lows of the week. We all lean on each other for support and encourage self-compassion. I then go get drinks with a friend. We have a lovely time talking about work, life, and all the things in between. Is my socializing over? Not quite. I then go on a date. He’s sweet. He buys me a drink and says that he likes the way my brain works. I like the way his works too. At the end of the night he gives me a goodbye kiss that is magical and I leave thinking ‘wow, I don’t know where this is going, but I am excited to see him again.’ I get to bed at a decent hour and wake up to find out that Ellen would like me to come on her show. I’m honored, blessed, grateful. I start writing full time and continue to do social work part-time. Now, it’s ten years into the future. I have published 2 books, with a third one on the way. I have two children, without a third one on the way. My partner is amazing and supportive and loving and snores too loud and I never let them forget it. We go for our yearly flu shot and corona virus vaccines as a family. Michelle Obama is our president. Betty White is still alive. Life is still scary sometimes, but every week I explore what good could be around the riverbend. My kids think its a weird practice and they tease me by saying “okay, millennial”. Then we laugh and laugh as our pet pig Petunia the second is resting by our feet.

Okay, that was way more fun than I thought it was going to be. It was also surprisingly easy to think of all the good things that could happen. I really tried not to limit myself, because yeezy knows I never do when I am thinking what bad could happen. I have found myself in some pretty dark holes, so it was really fun to be in really bright spaces. However, those bad thoughts didn’t shut down while I was doing this exercise. I still found myself saying, but also what if no one reads this and what if my date goes horribly, but for everyone of those thoughts I had a positive one to combat it with. It’s okay to explore both, but I know I need to be better at exploring more good. I can always tell you worst case scenario. I am really good at it.

If you find yourself always going to that space, I encourage you try this out. It’s really fun to think about what good can come your way. Plus, without restrictions you could marry your celebrity crush if you write your story that way. Then, according to “them”, the universe will provide. So, like I said, can’t hurt to try. Also, we have enough of the worst case scenarios just from turning on our TV’s. We deserve more best case scenarios out there.

You’d really be helping an empath out.

A[wo]men

i

can’t predict,

can’t guess,

can’t know-

how

exciting.

-what’s next?

Our Own Best Ally

Hello friends. It feels like it has been years since I last wrote even though it was only a week ago. The reason for this is I had the… FLU… dun dun dun. It was awful. I didn’t leave my house for two days, everything hurt and I thought my life was ending. Obviously, I don’t do very well with being sick. Most of the time I use my sick days for mental health needs or bad headaches. I don’t usually get puking sick. So, when I do I am a total wreck. Today though, I am feeling totally better and it feels good to be sitting in front of my computer in a Starbucks, in public, even if I am sweating profusely because that is the most I’ve moved my body in awhile. It is a nice change of scenery and my body is happy to be in a different setting as well. I love my apartment, but one can only watch so much Netflix. Didn’t know I had my limits until now.

While I am excited to be writing, I also know I don’t want to push it, so this may not be the longest post. I am just going to listen to my body, trust myself- a practice I have been working on for awhile and through this flu was reminded of.

While I was sick a lot of things came up for me and some of those thoughts took me aback and I want to process them with you all because I have a feeling I am not alone in this. As someone who has been through different eating disorders and struggled with my body I sometimes get these automatic toxic thoughts. For instance, when I started to puke my first thought was, ‘well, I bet I’ll see the scale go down at WW’. As soon as I thought it I felt sad. Sad that those thoughts still consume pieces of myself; sad that I was trying to justify my bodies pain; sad that I was even thinking about weight in that moment.

I then took a deep breath. I rubbed my stomach and I apologized. I said how sorry I am for thinking that way. I then dove into where that thought came from. This was also a way for me to not think about my nausea for a brief moment. I sometimes struggle with this idea of honoring all my thoughts when in those moments I want to beat those thoughts with a bat. I know though that they are there for a reason and I need to give them the space. So I asked myself “why did you think that?” I took another deep breath and closed my eyes. Maybe WW is too much for you right now? Maybe I watched too much romantic reality tv shows and feel gross compared to them? Perhaps dating is bringing up a lot of insecurities in myself and I tend to equate thinness to love? Perhaps, I feel guilty about not being at work and I want to think about anything other than not being there? This went on for a while. I just let all these thoughts cross my mind and swirl in and out. I sat there for about 15 minutes with a million thoughts crossing.

Then, I opened my eyes and sat in front of the mirror. My sick face, drooping, white, sickly; my eyes bulging and blood shot, unable to stay closed due to the fact that I needed the toilet every 30 minutes; my hair drenched in sweat, stuck to the sides of my face. I just sat there looking at every inch of myself, reminding myself that my body takes care of itself. I am sick because something needs to get out and my body knows that. I thought about how powerful that is. How innate it is for our bodies to just care for us, no questions asked. So, I used that when I looked in the mirror. I said out loud “I want to take care of my body- innately and unconditionally.” Those other thoughts are just leftovers from a time I didn’t trust my body.

I then got up and puked.

After I finished that up, I laid on the couch and rubbed my stomach. I called my mom and told her how much pain I was in and she told me to just rest and that it will pass and, of course, she added “if it doesn’t pass in the next few hours, go to the ER.” It did pass though. Just like that thought, the pain subsided. I rested and healed just as I knew my body could.

Yesterday, during that healing, while my body felt like it got run over by a bus, I decided to do some Yoga with Adriene for illness. It was nice to gently move my body and stretch out the parts of myself that were crunched up for 24 hours. The thing I loved the most though was how the video ended. She said when she is sick she uses the affirmation ‘my immune system works perfectly’. With our hands at our hearts we both repeated those words. As I spoke those words into the universe, I recalled my moment from the day before. A sense of relief just wafting all over myself.

I think all of this is to be a reminder that A) things are always changing and B) we can/should learn to trust our bodies more. I used to push those thoughts away, not give them the time of day. Now, letting myself explore why I had that thought and all the things that came along with it allowed me to realize that I am not in that same place. It gave me a moment of self-reflection that I wouldn’t have gotten if I just shut it down immediately.  I suggest learning to trust yourself- I promise it feels so much better than being an enemy of yourself. “They” always say you are your own worst enemy, but I would argue that we are our own best ally. 

I would also argue that we could all do better at washing our hands.

A[wo]men

a reflection
in the water,
in the mirror,
in the window,
in the puddle,
in the broken glass.
always-
you
-wherever you go.
rooting for you.
-your number one fan

Shannon Robinson- Love Can Survive Fear

Welcome to a new season of my interview sessions. I’m excited to share that we are starting this year off with another family member and I am so happy to share her brave and honest story. Just to fill you in about our story teller Shannon (more commonly known as KneeKnee in our household)- she is a 27-year-old, nanny, who is the youngest of us 5 girls. That’s right, the baby sister. She’s got a big heart (as you’ll see from her interview) and is working on her own healing.

As I got ready for the interview, calling her several times to no avail, I though ‘well damn, she bailed on me.’ About two minutes after that I get a text that says:

“Sorry! I fell asleep. Let me go out to my car to call you.”

I should probably also mention the text I received that morning: “You should just interview someone else. I can’t think of anything significant to talk about.”

Both of these texts are important because throughout our interview we talked about Shannon’s mental health diagnoses. One of those included anxiety.

“Wait… why are you going out to your car? Roommates?”

“Yes.”

Both of these are examples of the way Shannon navigates her anxiety. She works hard to keep herself safe as her body warns her that something doesn’t feel right. Throughout our interview those moments continued to come up-

“Wait is this car trying to get around me? Wait, hold on. Oh, no they are okay,” she says with a sigh of relief. “So, I’m parked by this park, and there is like a funeral, and I’m nervous that people are going to hear me talking,” she whispers into the phone.  “Is this even a story? I don’t think I’m talking about anything important.”

We, as Robinsons, laughed through most of it. “Speaking of anxiety” we would say as we giggled like we were still little kids playing store in our front living room, one of our favorite games.

Shannon has this beautiful aura about herself. Her skin is always flawless. Her hair a beautiful auburn, brown, blonde mix that has these amazing curls through it. She is the sister you go to if you need beauty tips. Every time I am home to visit I exchange goods (clothes, meals, shoes) for her to do my hair and makeup. As kids, Shannon would spend hours getting ready for school while I would wake up 5 minutes before we left to drive us around the corner. In the interview the natural light, from sitting in her car, makes her face glow and her bright blue eyes shine.

“If I don’t like the interview, will you just not post it?” she half giggles and glances up, already expecting a no from me. “I don’t know where to start.”

“I suppose I would just not post it if you really didn’t like it, but that hasn’t happened yet.”

“I’ll be your first,” she says as she does a side smile and squints her eyes.

I laughed, knowing that this is how she operates. Knowing that she just wants an out, just in case. I placate her and say “okay” also knowing that she is one of my biggest supporters and she knows I’ll do her justice. I then dive into the interview asking her about some of the things that came up from her while she was thinking of what she wanted to talk about.

“Well, like veganism was one thing I could talk about, but I’m like, err, nobody cares.” 

Shannon goes on to say that she was trying to pull a story out that would make people cry. She said she read the other interviews and wanted to “tug at the heart strings.” She thought ‘talking about animal cruelty might get some tears in there.’ Again we giggle. She talks about some of the events from childhood that, she believes, converted her to veganism. Each story she tells I can feel her going back to those moments. The memories so vivid and distinct to her. The real story I am hearing though, behind the acts that she witnessed, was her desire to witness kindness over cruelty. Between the lines she is sharing her fear of people that can cause harm.

I am not here, nor is she, to debate this topic though. As she is talking it becomes clear that veganism is important because it speaks to a larger desire for peace of all things and a way in which she can control that feeling of peace for herself. As her family members though, we started to witness something else when Shannon decided to go vegan- her mental health seemed to improve.

“I’ve been diagnosed with depression and borderline personality disorder, anxiety, and uhm, uhhh, what else?” She rattled these off without a wince. I mention this because when she was first diagnosed the response to those words were much stronger. Knowing the person I am interviewing helps me steer some of the questions. I ask her about when she was diagnosed.

“Probably 23, or 24, and it was helpful at the time but also… I was excited to know some things that were wrong with me because once I figured that out I was like ‘oh, this is not normal behavior that I’ve been experiencing all my life,’ but, uhm, also, it was hard to hear all of that. I started obsessing over all my diagnoses and how to treat them, and I felt like, kind of like I was a crazy person because I had all of these and I’m like also questioning it. Just cuz they say I have them doesn’t mean I do have all those, ya know?”

I do know. Oh, do I know. And although she was diagnosed in her 20’s she shared that she felt something was off long before that.

“I think from a very young age, like probably 5 or 6 I’ve known. Especially my anxiety is like way severe compared to other peoples like I’m worried about weird things. And ppl I’ve dated have always told me ‘you need to calm down because thats not a thing that you should be worried about at all.’ Like I constantly worry about peoples judgement. Like I would skip out on like school projects and things just cuz I didn’t want people like looking at me. Like isn’t that weird?”

I could feel my blood boil at this point. How dare someone tells her she needs to calm down. How dare they tell her she shouldn’t be worried. I take deep breathes, knowing they meant well, but as I also know, that is not how anxiety works. We don’t just hear “calm down” and think ‘oh, they are right. Guess I’ll just calm down now.’ Anxiety is our bodies way of telling us we are in danger. She felt uncomfortable for whatever reason and she needed support in those moments, not to be dismissed about how she was feeling. Big sister mode was activated, but I tried to remain focused on her story. I asked her about specific times she felt anxious, so you as the reader could understand what anxiety can look like for a 6-year-old.

“My friends would have sleepovers when I was younger and I would just straight up make up an excuse not to go just because I had social anxiety and I would compare myself to my friends and yeah…”

I am now picturing a 6-year-old Shannon depriving herself of sleepovers because she felt like she couldn’t go. Because she felt unsafe. Because her mind told her she wasn’t like those other girls. An innocent 6-year-old trying to navigate anxiety and having no words or understanding of what that even is. 

Her conversation about her friends from school shed some more light on the topic. An array of memories of being picked on and bullied or watching others being picked on or bullied and this little girl joining in due to fear that she would be the target if she didn’t. Again, big sister mode is activated and I want to Liam Neeson these little shitheads and be all like, “I will find you and I will kill you.” Not literally, but maybe just send them that gif.

Shannon, however, steers the conversation and she moves from these mean memories to how she wants to use those memories to make the world better.

I feel like in school kids should have more of a place to go.. like I know there are school counselors and things like that, but I think it should be more. They should like push it more on kids to talk about their feelings with somebody as far as like bullying and things like that. I asked Eli [our nephew] the other day, I was like “do you have,” cuz I know he has anger issues sometimes, I was like, “do you have somebody in school that you can like talk to when you feel yourself getting upset like this” and he was like “no” and like I’m sure he does but also if he said no, he’s not very aware of this person or doesn’t want to talk to them.”  

Shannon has taken her experiences and doesn’t want to see the same thing happen to the people she loves. When she is around kids, and I’ve seen it in action, she talks about emotions with them. She is honest and brave with them, demonstrating both safety with her and compassion. She even discusses her experience as a nanny. She tears up talking about the two little kids that she cares for and how she talks to them about their feelings and works with them on being kind. She pours her heart and energy into working with kids to spread more love.

While she is sharing all of this I find myself wondering, how does she show herself love? How, after some really hard times in her life, how does she now work through it all?

“When I’m experiencing depression I get those moments where I look in the mirror, and I’m talking to myself just like mean bullies in elementary school and they would call me fat and I would cry. And that’s pretty much how I talk to myself in the mirror when I’m depressed. I just hate every little thing about myself and there is nothing good about me. But then luckily most of the time I can talk myself out of that. And I know now that those are irrational thoughts and I don’t feel that way about myself most of the time… [And] it’s like, luckily for me I know that I have to heal those things. A lot people keep moving on with their life like it’s nothing.”

“Where did you learn that? Like how did you get the tools to talk yourself out of those negative thoughts?”

“A part of it, when it first started, was because I started talking to this woman named Cheri and I started doing reiki with her and I think, I don’t know, something clicked in me.. And, well, I also did start seeing a therapist around that time too, so I think the combination of those two things. To have someone to talk to who was like Cheri, who was like kind and would tell me what an amazing person I am, it was just so nice. And I just started doing that. And well I talked to Tara (our cousin) too and she was like, she would tell me she would write herself notes on her mirror like “you are beautiful!” and eventually it just changed her outlook on how she saw herself. And I was like ‘oh thats a good idea!’ I started doing that… And so, I feel like I’ve only gotten better at doing that myself at being like hey I am a special person, I am pretty, I am beautiful, I am smart, I am all kinds of stuff.”

“You are” I reiterate to her. I then asked her my favorite question of any interview I do “What advice would you give to someone in a similar situation?” 

She talked about the importance of seeking therapy, and I swear I didn’t prompt her to say this.

“Definitely seek therapy. I feel like that’s the best thing I’ve done for myself and I feel like that’s the advice I’ve been giving my friends who are struggling mentally. But it’s a choice. You have to make the choice to put the effort in to do it because you can come up with all the excuses in the world. I have a lot of friends who are like “I can’t afford it,” “I don’t have the time for that,” “my life is too busy,” and it’s like if you actually care about yourself, and you want to not hate yourself, and you want to live life in a healthful way, then you will. You will seek out therapy and try to get help for your problems because honestly that’s the only thing that’s made a huge difference in my life anyways.”

As most of us are, there is resistance to therapy. The stigma, the fear, the overall commitment to change.. it’s a lot. So, I also probed a little more about what it was like for her to overcome that resistance. 

“The first time I went to therapy I was the most depressed I had ever been. I was trying different medications and they caused me to become suicidal and that was really scary for me. I couldn’t get out of bed, I was crying every single day. All I would do was lay in bed and watch Les Misérables. It was like a sad movie just made me sadder, but for some reason that was comforting. ‘Cause it was like they were going through so much in the movie but it was comforting to see problems that were worse… I was like okay this is actually scary and I need to fix things or I will be miserable forever or I will die. So yeah, that was the first turning point and then the second time, now that I’m in therapy again, it’s just like I know that’s that only things that’s helpful to me when I’m going through these bouts of depression. The only thing that does help is releasing these things I’m holding inside and until I sit down in that chair I don’t even realize how much I am holding in. I just don’t talk to anyone about the actual hard things that I’m dealing with emotionally and it’s nice to have someone who will listen to that without telling me exactly what I need to do rather just listening and asking me what I think I should do. It’s  a good perspective.”

I don’t say it and I’m not sure I even showed it, but in my head there is cheering and people doing the wave and fireworks going off. Obviously, as a mental health professional, I believe all these things about therapy, but to hear it from someone else, unprompted, doing the work and finding it helpful, it feels so validating. It also just makes me happy as a sister to hear that my sister feels safe somewhere.

So then, I start to wrap up the interview. I tell her when I expect to have the first draft to her. I tell her about the process and I again assure her that if she hates it we can “throw it away” and again we giggle. But then, unprompted she shares she has a “closing remark”. 

“My closing remark is just to be kind. Be kinder to people, ya know? You never know what people are going through and usually people are going through a lot. I feel like it makes a huge difference to just to be kind to people. I know like, especially lately, people are in bad moods and grumpy ’cause of the cold weather and like, I don’t know, I think it helps sometimes just to do something as simple as let somebody merge into the lane. Like it just creates  a ripple effect when humans are kind to each other. I think that’s my take away from all of this. Be kinder.”

I couldn’t agree more- Be Kinder.  

A[wo]men & Shannon Robinson

I sincerely thank Shannon for sharing her story and being so brave and honest with me about her experiences. If you or someone you know has a story they would like to share please fill out the form on my contact page. And if you or someone you know is experiencing mental health issues and don’t know where to start feel free to reach out and remember you are not alone.

 

 Black History Month’s featured Black Artist:

“So I sing a song for the hustlers trading at the bus stop
Single mothers waiting on a check to come
Young teachers, student doctors
Sons on the frontline knowing they don’t get to run
This goes out to the underdog
Keep on keeping at what you love
You’ll find that someday soon enough
You will rise up”

-Alicia Keys, Underdog (2020)

Underdog is one of Alicia Key’s newest songs, released this year (2020). It goes through some of the difficult lives that people can experience and still rise up through it all. Alicia Key’s is of Jamaican and Italian decent. She has discussed in various interviews struggling with some of her differences and self-esteem issues as a child. She has channeled a lot of this into her work. For me and our story teller, Shannon, Alicia Key’s was someone we could always agree to listen to. For our stark contrasts in music preference this was a good middle ground. Her music is not only poetic, but also soulful and has a way of making an anxious mind feel at peace.

 

 

 

 

So, that’s why they call it chemistry?

Hello friends, glad to have you back & happy to have you here/hear.

In my previous post I referenced some pretty heavy moments- suicidal ideations, depression, and lack of functioning. If you thought it was a lot reading it, imagine living it (I’m sure some of you can).  I am happy to report that within this last week it has been a lot more tame and stable. I’ve felt alert and present and able to complete daily tasks. Life seems more manageable. Thank yeezy for that, because I was not ready to handle another week of that.

This past week, while much easier to handle, was still full of moments I thought about sharing with you all. I had a lot of processing time, friend time, down time, bachelor nation time, and dating apps time. You may find yourself more interested in some of those things over other things on that list. I could go on for hours about the most recent bachelor season, but I won’t bore those of you not interested in it. To sum up my opinions though- they all suck, including Peter. Let’s wrap it up…

Speaking of one loser dating a bunch of people- this week I want to to discuss my dive back into dating. It’s what I get the most requests for, so I shall oblige the masses. I also like that I am being really ballsy and jumping back into dating during mercury retrograde. What an adventure. I had made it a personal goal to not date until after February, but you know, V Day came and I was like let’s just see, which then turned into scheduling dates. It all happened so fast. **Not really, I knew exactly what I was doing, so whatever. My main goal with taking a break was to clear my head and stop feeling so bogged down. I was ghosted twice in December and it took a toll. It is not cool to be ghosted during your birthday month. There should be a rule against it. But while I was treating myself on Valentines day, I thought you know what, I’m ready to get back out there and jump back on the ol’ dating horse. The wind blew, as I wrapped myself in my sheer sweater on the beach porch, just a single, 40 year old, divorcee, ready to date again. Sorry, went into my own little romcom there. Let’s get back to reality.

Because in reality, this is not a romcom at all. It would be like if a romcom removed all the rom, and only included com – that is how I would describe dating on the apps. The good news is though, that I am a big fan of comedy. Messages about my figure tend to take the lead. “MMM love those curves,” appear in bold letters, like it’s supposed to make me what? Drop my pants for them? I screenshot for my friends and occasionally insta and then don’t engage. Second funniest dudes are the ones who like to say hello and then nothing else for 4 months. Not exactly a ghoster because I didn’t invest any time in them, but like what are you doing? Why did you say hello? So mysterious, so funny. Then there are the people that literally didn’t read anything on my profile and ask me everything about what is already there. “So, where do you work?” Bro, it’s literally the first piece of info on there. Less funny, more annoying. This now leaves like 2 people who I actually have a conversation with. Eventually we meet and then we mutually decide if we want to keep meeting or play the disappearing act. Ooh, maybe it’s comedy and some mystery, a commyst™ if you will.

Like I said, I oddly love it. Not just the comedy of it all, but the whole meeting new humans and figuring this all out. Don’t quote me on this if in a year I’m still on the apps and it isn’t working and I am ded. Truly, my favorite part of the apps are the first few month or so. I’m just so full of hope and my grade A detective skills back online. Full systems go. No, I don’t mean detective work like stalking their social media, I mean in the sense of who they are and who they are in reference to me.

Each date, each person I meet or talk with, I learn more about myself. What I want and don’t want. I also just love meeting new people. I am the type on the apps (because everyone is a different type) to be like ‘lets meet up ASAP’. Yes, I am that girl. I want real conversation and I want it right away. You would be amazed by how many people are great at texting and not so great at talking and vice versa. Plus, I’ve seen catfish. Don’t even try to play me like that. Little tip for those in the same app boat, I highly recommend the coffee date. It’s the easiest, most low-key way to get to know people. One hour, over yummy drinks, without alcohol impairing judgement. Plus, to me it feels like a lot less pressure. It’s not this big formal date I have to dress up for. I’m getting coffee with a potential friend. Because what is a partner if not a friend that you also do romantic stuff with? (romantic = sex)

Even as I am writing this I am realizing the change in mindset I have had since taking my break. I’m trying to look at dating as more experimental than definitive. I am molecule A and I am adding different molecules to my equation until I find one that seems to make sense. Ya know, I really loved chemistry as a kid, so this is all making a lot of sense to me. Woah, is that why they call it having chemistry. What a lightbulb moment. I love when things just seem to come together.

I guess all of this is to say that we humans put a lot of pressure on ourselves all the time. Do this, don’t do this, feel this way, don’t feel this way and I just want to call some bullsh*t on it. Do I want to find someone special that I want to spend the rest of my life with, I don’t f****ing know. I don’t even know what I am doing this weekend, I’m not really interested in thinking about a lifetime. I don’t even know how long my lifetime is. Do I want to find a friend to do romantic stuff with who only wants to do that romantic stuff with me (still talking about sex)- yeah, I do. Am I over feeling bad that I don’t have that yet- absolutely. Which is precisely why I chose the featured image that I did: That feeling can kiss my a**.

To the ones that already have it, I hope it is a friend that you feel safe and healthy with. To the ones that don’t have it, I hope that you feel safe and healthy with yourself and try not to let society tell you that you’re doing it wrong, or that you need to be with someone, or that you need to feel a certain way. You’re doing great and you are exactly where you supposed to be right now. Be easy on yourself… and maybe review your chemistry notes from high school, could find something useful in there.

Oh, and if anyone, yourself included, is mean to you, tell them to kiss your a**. And that’s advice for everyone.

A[wo]men

 

Black History Month’s featured Black Artist:

“‘I woke up in this
In my skin
I can’t wash it away, so you can’t take it from me
My brown skin”

Melissa Jefferson (Lizzo), My Skin

My Skin was released by Lizzo in 2015 on her album Big Grrrl Small World. Lizzo is a fierce advocate for people and her song My Skin was born out of the desire to stand up against racial profiling. She has also made a lot of strides in fat activism often referring to body positivity in her music. Her references to self-love were a major influence in my life as soon as I listened to her. She has this way of making me feel beautiful in any light. No matter what I am doing, when Lizzo comes on my playlist it feels like she is a friend, telling me not to talk down to myself- ever. And lest us not forget that Lizzo, the queen, is single.

P.S. Excited to bring you our upcoming brave and honest story teller next week. She’s been through a lot and has a learned a lot along the way. I hope you come back to read her beautiful story.

P.P.S Yes, that is my butt.

Diving into Love

C/W suicidal ideations

Welcome back, loves. Glad to be here, even if only 5 days ago I would not have said that. Went through a small spout of depression this week. The bad kind. The kind where I could barely get out of bed, brushing my teeth was considered a victory, and the idea of disappearing sounded more ideal than anything else. Haven’t felt that down in a long time. Luckily, the feeling didn’t stick around too long and I am out on the other side.

While it was hard to be in that state, I did get to reflect on some pretty cool self improvements. First, I recognized what was happening. I didn’t try to pretend it wasn’t there or act like I couldn’t explain it. It was a feeling I knew well and I jumped in. I thrust my body off of the diving board, gracefully crashing to the bottom of the pool. Second, when I hit the water and was gasping for air, I listened to that. My body told me to breathe and I took long, deep breaths. It said rest, so I laid on the couch all day on Sunday. It said eat, so I ate. It said don’t eat, so I didn’t eat. It said take a walk, and I took a walk. That is a huge improvement. In the past, I felt as though I couldn’t trust my body; my body was the enemy. If my body said eat, I would say “why are you trying to make me fat?” A gross statement in and of itself. Now, when my body says eat, I say “what are we craving? What type of fuel do we need?” What a relief to find trust in my body. Finally, I didn’t let it hang around too long. I had previously wrote a post about needing to fight. That we need to fight when things don’t feel worth fighting for anymore. This is where listening to your body can get a little complicated, because if I let it my body could stay under water for a very long time. It’s easier to not kick and just stare up at the surface through the water seeing a blur of what life used to look like. It’s safe down there. But see, I had to kick because my body also screamed for air. That line is understanding desire vs need. I spent a few days below the surface before breaking through- pushing my legs and arms as hard as I could to in order to reach the surface. What did that look like in reality as opposed to this diving metaphor?

It was crying and telling myself that all things change. It was saying that this feeling, as hard as it is to feel, will indeed change. It was saying that this is not how I want to live. It was hiding under that covers and then coming out from under the covers. It was going to work, after 1100 ‘snoozes’ of the alarm.  It was doing things one step at a time. It was everything I could muster. It was reaching out for help; it was me telling my friends I’m drowning. (Can’t seem to escape the swim metaphors *shoulder shrug emoji*.)

At one point, I started to feel like a burden. That is a sign for me that I am reaching the lowest place, the place that is hard to come back from. The place with suicidal ideations. I had to repeat to myself that I am not a burden and that people love me. I was sitting in the dark, my arms wrapped around myself, fighting that feeling when all of the sudden there was a bright light in my face. My best friend was calling me. I picked up sobbing into the phone. She said her “best friend spidey senses were tingling”. She knew I need her more than I realized I needed her. We talked on the phone for a couple of hours. When I first answered I was crying, barely able to breathe, feeling like I couldn’t go on. By the end of the conversation I couldn’t remember why I was upset to begin with. It was like my soul had been restored. A simple conversation from a friend who sat there with me and said “I wish I could do or say something, but all I can say is I love you.” The thing is… that was all I needed. I needed to be reminded that I am loved, I am loving, and I am lovable.

Which brings me to the point of this post. I know, it was a really lengthy way of getting here, but I am dramatic and had to build it up. But seriously, it’s that time of the year. If you’re sitting there confused, I’ll fill you in. LOVE TIME aka Valentines Day aka hallmarks holiday. This Friday is that day that romance gets shoved into our faces and us single folx are reminded that we are not in a relationship. Okay, that may have sounded a little bitter, but honestly I am not bitter about it. I love Valentines Day.  When people ask me why (which is just rude, tbh) I always respond with “why would anyone hate a holiday that celebrates love!” I mean I know why, but I LOVE love. Yeah, I’m annoying like that. Every year I make a point to celebrate the love I have for myself. This year I am treating myself to some takeout and a bikini wax! I also believe I owe myself extra because last year I spent the day crying into my pillow because I ran into my ex with another girl. Gotta make up for that disaster. I think I see a massage in my near future.

This year though, I want to make it a point to celebrate even more love. This year, I want to remind the people that I love that I love them, because Valentines day isn’t just about your romantic partners- it’s about having a day dedicated to reminding the important people in your life that you care. My friends, as is evident from the story above, are life saving humans. My family lifts me up and gives me so much support. This type of love, well, its unlike any other. It gives me power to get through feelings of suicide that can lead to me forgetting I was even having those feelings in the matter of two hours.

I refuse to be bitter on a day about love because I am luckily enough to be surrounded by it. That is a gift I will never take for granted. When I was sitting in the dark, crying, asking someone to make the pain stop I got that prayer answered. I am pleading with you this year, for Valentines day, celebrate all the people you love. Pick up the phone and call your friends, family, dog, neighbor. Spread it around like it is bursting out of you. You may just answer someones prayer.

And I know one day isn’t enough, we must say it continually. So, staying on theme, I am just going to dive right in: I love you, my dear reader.

A[wo]men

Black History Month’s featured Black Artist:

“Everything want to be loved. Us sing and dance and holler, just trying to be loved.”

Alice Walker, The Color Purple

Published in 1982, The Color Purple focuses on the life of a black women in America the 1930’s. Alice Walkers way of writing is done in a way that nothing else matters while I am reading her material. The book was also adapted into film and a broadway show. I saw the broadway show and it was hands down the best performance I have seen thus far. I cried… hard. Alice Walker herself is a brilliant mind that graduated valedictorian from her high school. She grew up struggling with personal difficulties and would find comfort in writing poetry and reading. The Color Purple was one of the first books I read when I started reading for pleasure (I was a late bloomer in that aspect). It will always hold a special place in my heart.

Good Intentions With Negative Impacts

Hello friends, fam, and all around lovely humans. Happy Black History Month! As an artist I would like to pay tribute to the amazing contributions from Black artists that have influenced me as a person. I will end each of my posts this month with works from Black artists that I’ve been impacted by and think you should check out as well. I hope you will enjoy them and please reach out to me if you have any of your own suggestions for things I should check out.

Speaking of amazing artists there is something that I would like to talk about that was ignited by the halftime show- our need to comment on other peoples bodies. This thought first started to linger in my head as headlines scattered across my screen following the Super Bowl half time show. I’ll be honest, I didn’t watch the Super Bowl and I only watched the half time show after it was posted all over my feeds. I don’t really care about it unless the Packers are playing, so sue me. (GO PACK GO.) After watching the half-time show I remember thinking what’s the big deal? Why are people so concerned about these people? What is it about skin that freaks people out? Is it the fact that it is brown skin? Is it the fact that it’s the skin of people with vaginas? Is it because it’s “old” skin that “looks young”? Their art, and it was beautiful art, was clouded with judgements about their appearance. It just didn’t sit well with me.

I didn’t realize how much it didn’t sit well with me, until today. I was out for my daily run and a person insisted on yelling loud enough for me to hear over my loud AF headphones: “It’s okay honey, thick is good. THICK IS GOOD.” I think their intentions were kind. I think they didn’t want me to think I had to run. BUT, and pardon my language here, F**K YOUR INTENTIONS. As I continued my run, I thought about how they don’t know me or my body. It didn’t make me feel good, it made me feel violated. My body is not for anyone else and I don’t want advice or comments or anything else about it. That shouldn’t matter if I am famous or poor or rich or naked in the middle of the street.

I spoke to my friend about it who said, “it’s good it was you, a person that feels confident in themselves [most days]. Imagine it was someone else, who’s whole day or progress could’ve been brought down by that.” My day isn’t ruined and in fact I love being thick. Heck, my insta bio specifically says I’m a ‘thicc NYC babe always’. I just think about the lack of disregard for what people are experiencing and how we shouldn’t be assuming anything about people. Shakira and Jennifer Lopez may have their lives documented in the public light all the time, but we don’t know anything about them. Just because they are famous, doesn’t mean we have the right to say things about their bodies. They, as much as we forget sometimes, are humans. We are all just humans.

As humans I want to urge us to move forward with more intention. When the intentions are good and the impacts are negative we must be able to sit with that and work to remedy it. We must also being willing to speak up about those negative impacts. When they yelled this to me, I smiled and moved along, not wanting to make waves. I always fear making waves, believing that they will swallow me whole, rather than believing I can ride them. I want to be better about speaking up and telling people when I’ve been hurt by their words or actions. I want the people around me to do the same.

In fact, some of my favorite moments in my work is when people tell me how I might have misspoke or misinterpreted or misjudged. I don’t love messing up, the Type A in me actually hates it, but I do love it because of the powerhouse sitting in front of me. No, I don’t mean the mitochondria, that’s the powerhouse of the cell. I mean people acknowledging that they want better. They are recognizing their worth and their need to be respected in the way they want to be respected. That energy when I see someone speak up is power. They are power; you are power; I am power. I am channeling that power moving forward.

I actually felt some of that power this week when I had a lovely conversation with an acquaintance from high school. She reached out to me via FB to discuss some of the feelings she was having about the halftime show. She was honest and brave and we had a beautiful dialogue about what it means to be a person in this society and how that gets interpreted and what that means for others. I bring this up because it is moments like this that I am speaking about when it comes to being powerful. You don’t have to be famous to make an impact. There is power in talking, texting, putting words out there, even when it seems scary or overwhelming. Every time you tell someone what you are thinking, feeling, needing, wanting, scared of, excited for, worried about- the world is a safer and kinder place to be.

Be brave. Be honest.

A[wo]men

“Love heals. Heals and liberates. I use the word love, not meaning sentimentality, but a condition so strong that it may be that which holds the stars in their heavenly positions and that which causes the blood to flow orderly in our veins.”

-Maya Angelou, Mom & Me & Mom

Published in 2013, this book explores Maya Angelou’s relationship with her mother. It is raw and beautiful and made me bawl on an airplane in 2016 when I first read it. Maya Angelou was a human of many talents and her art is something that will always make me feel so many things. I highly recommend Mom & Me & Mom but in all honesty just get anything done by her and you will feel things you didn’t know you needed to feel.

The Battle of the Secrets

Hello beautiful souls. Welcome back and I hope you’ve enjoyed the posts of 2020 thus far. I just wanted to start by saying that I will not be having an interview piece for the month of January, but they will be back and better than ever starting in February. Which reminds me, if you are invested in telling your own story feel free to contact me and let me know.

Okay, now that housekeeping is out of the way, let’s get to the goods. I have been feeling some type of way and I’ve enjoyed exploring those feelings more as of late. Interestingly, I have started a new form of birth control that I swear has evened out my hormones. I know a lot of people say they feel more mood swings with the pill, but I have never felt more even keeled. I am sure there are a lot of factors that go into why I am feeling like this, but I really think that is one of them. Now, when I say more even keeled, it does not mean I am not emotional. I still cry on the regular, don’t you worry y’all, gotta get that release somehow. However, those low-lows that I used to have, get less and less. I haven’t had a real low-low in about a month, which is impressive, if I do say so myself. Plus, that low was triggered by alcohol which I have been avoiding as well. So, I am sure that has helped a lot. While I do feel more stable there is an area of my life that is bringing up a lot of feels and a lot of what I’ve been exploring this past month.

Ey-yo, low self-esteem check! (Tiktoc reference, for you oldies. JK I’m old, but I like to stay up-to-date on what the cool kids are doing). But seriously, I’ve been feeling not very powerful and it has been really interrupting my groove. As someone with a history of eating disorders, the new year is the hardest time. Everyone around me is talking about their diet; the weight they have gained over the holidays; the desire to be thinner, thicker, taller, shorter, beefier. Every “I just need to loose 5 lbs, 10lbs, 100lbs” scatters about me and I don’t know how to respond. I oscillate between wanting to be happy with who I am and wanting to be thin. Should I want to loose weight? Should I not? How do I feel about myself? So many thoughts constantly echoing in my brain. “The Biggest Loser” flashes across my screen and  brings me back to the image of fat people puking while a thin person berates them. I play Demi Lovato’s new song Anyone on repeat while I think about all the things she has overcome and how glorious she looked on that stage at the Grammy’s.

Last night, with Demi in mind, I stared into the mirror and I saidyou are worthy of everything you want’ and I began to cry because I didn’t know if I believed it or not. Everyday I wonder if I am loving myself correctly. In this instance, is self-love admitting that I want to change? Is it wanting to feel okay in my current skin? Is it both? I think it is both… No, I know it is both. Why can’t I have a desire to change while also loving who I am? Both can exist at the same time and both can be a beautiful admittance. My worth does not depend on whether I want to change or not. My worth is a value that comes from  inside of myself, even on the days I get self-love wrong, I am worthy.

This morning I stared into the mirror and I said ‘you are worthy of everything you want’ and I began to cry because I knew it was true whether I believed it or not. That’s thing about being gentle with yourself. It’s okay to be exactly who you are at all times, even when it feels like you might be a walking paradox. It is hard to feel worthy, unless you start to accept pieces of yourself that might feel scary to accept.

In light of this revelation, there is a secret I have been keeping to myself that I feel I need to let out. I joined Weight Watchers again and typing that is really scary for me. There it is, out in the open. Even just typing it out loud feels liberating. I think this is scary for me to admit because it feels like I am failing in some way, like wanting to change means I don’t just fully embrace who I am now and that means I am doing self-love a disservice and everything I’ve said before is a lie. The thing is though, that I do love myself as I am today and I want to be able to eat more reasonable portions and I wouldn’t mind losing weight. I do not want to feel shame or guilt in that. Weight Watchers, to me, is a place where I find community, where I can talk about my struggles with eating and feel no judgement. It feels so good to not be holding that in any longer.

Keeping secrets is a heavy weight to carry around. As a social worker, I think the number one phrase I’ve heard in my position is “I’ve never told anyone that before“. After they say it, their change in body language can only be described as amazing. There is always a deep breath and a feeling of relief. The power that I witness firsthand in letting out a secret is one of my favorite parts of the work I do. I feel that feeling each week as I sit at my computer. Each post accompanies a deep breath and feeling of relief.

There are pieces of me that are hard for me to admit, but with each blog post, with each conversation with a friend, with each confession, I feel more and more worthy of what I want. It all starts with ripping the bandaid. Telling your secrets to the air, your pet, a piece of paper, a computer screen, a trusted friend, a stranger, your therapist – is powerful. Scream it out or whisper it quietly. Secrets that we keep inside are the real parts of ourselves that we need to battle. Today, take out your sword and be brave- tell a secret you’ve been holding on to. If you don’t have anyone/thing to tell, you can tell me. Just go to my contact page and if you want to remain anonymous just make up a name and email. I just want you to know that you have a place here that is safe. I feel safe in telling you my secrets and I hope you feel the same in return.

Today I am going to be brave alongside you and I am going to tell three more secrets before the day is done. You will be able to find them on my Instagram page.

A[wo]men

i feel the aching-

today in my chest,

yesterday in my bones,

tomorrow in my stomach.

it will always linger,

always want out.

i close my eyes,

open my mouth,

let the words

escape my lips

i’m free.

-letting go of secrets