The Three Brains

“I simply just don’t even want to do it today. I don’t want to write. I don’t want to feel. Bro, I straight up am not having a good time.”

That’s my anxious brain talking. Everyone say hello! My anxious brain is actually one of my more favorite parts of my brain. It might be confusing as to why for some, but my depression is very much linked to the past and the strongest sad emotions that really take over. I see these moments of my life on repeat and it’s typically moments of trauma. My trauma loop is exhausting. It’s like sitting through The English Patient, which I haven’t actually had to endure, but if Elaine from Seinfeld hates it I stan. However, my anxiety, oh baby, does she have some unique imaginative powers and girl has got some teeth.

I’ve heard people say that depression is about past thoughts and anxiety is often about the future. I don’t know if you can tell by my writing, but my creativity when it comes to thinking about the future is next level. I’ve dreamt up whole futures in my head, some good, some bad, some just right. None of them real, not even close. Trust me, I never would have dreamt I’d be living in Brooklyn, working at Planned Parenthood, writing a weekly blog, and posting pictures of myself in bikini’s unedited on the internet. I definitely didn’t guess that whole living in Alaska thing. Heck, I never saw myself actually falling in [romantic] love.

Ah, where the anxious brain and the depressive brain meet- Romantic Love. L is for the way you look so dumb. O is for the only ones I wish I didn’t meet. V is very, very stupid. E is even worse/great than anyone could imagine. I hope you tried to sing that and realized it doesn’t work, as I just did. Anyways, yes love has got me feeling some kind of way. As I mentioned in my last post I was seeing someone new. Well, guess who isn’t seeing someone new anymore? Yes, this girl. Guess who is seeing someone new though? That’s right an ex-boyfriend. I guess I should say THE ex-boyfriend. The first love. The blah, blah, yuck, ew love.

I don’t write a lot about my relationships, mostly because this is about me and not about them. No matter what happened with anyone that I dated, they are a part of me, so I try to be careful in the way I write about them because a part of me will always care about them. My anxious brain isn’t careful though; another reason I love her. I can’t even write some of the things she has said about them. She likes to curse, a lot. I am the queen of careful; I work so very hard to not hurt people feelings and play things safe. So, when I feel my anxious brain going off, I like spending time on the wild side, letting her free flow. If my anxious brain had a celebrity personality it would Mona-Lisa Saperstein from Parks and Rec. The w0o0orst. [But also the best?]

Here’s where I get frustrated though- I know we aren’t right for each other. I know it is completely done. I know I have dated like a lot, a lot of people since we’ve been done. I know all the things. Yet, one little post and I am sent into all the feelings from before which, coincidentally enough, was about all the future things. Hence the depression and anxiety teaming up. My friends, my real true loves, are great and they tell me to be kind to myself and they assure me that all the things I am feeling are normal. But dang, if  they could hear this girl talk. The anxious brain comes in and is like, “remember that whole mom thing you dreamed of? GUESS AGAIN!! muahahah” I told you she is straight up mean. She just comes up in here saying how I am going to be alone forever and I can’t find the right person because that is my destiny. Sometimes, the future looks bleak with this anxious brain. I will say, my anxious brain does kick my adrenaline into overdrive and my apartment is nearly spotless and all my errands were completed before noon today, so I do really appreciate that about her.

But then, in an overarching hero-like-fashion enters my rational brain. *BA BAD DA BUM* “I’m here to save you from these past and future thoughts to bring you directly to our present moment.” My rational brain is so dreamy. I love her the most. She comes in and is like “honey, let’s take a deep breath and really think about this… who broke up with these boys?” “uh… I did.” “and why did you break up with them?” “Uh… because I know what I am looking for in a partner and I haven’t found that yet and it’s important for me listen to my instincts and trust myself.” “Exactly, baby girl. You know exactly why you aren’t with these boys, so you just keep breathing and trust that you know what is right for you.” Ah, rational brain, my true love.

My rational brain was MIA for a v. long time. I think the depressive and anxious brain were holding her hostage somewhere. It wasn’t until she saw a slight break in the lock that she crawled out victoriously. The aforementioned break in the lock came from growing up, from loving friends/family, from therapy, and from Lizzo. When the rational brain wasn’t there, that’s when things like suicidal ideation would creep in. The more I let the rational brain take control of things the further and further I get away from having any of those thoughts. I can actually proudly say that I haven’t had a thought like that since June, which is the longest I’ve gone without such a thought and if that is not something to celebrate, I don’t know what is.

To summarize, this past week I was filled with anxiety about what my future love life holds, but it did not drown me. We went a little wild with our thoughts and then we brought it right back to the here and now. That is what I call growth, my friends.

Are you feeling anxious this week? Especially because 2020 is a ball of anxious energy and nobody knows what’s around the corner? Cool, cool, cool. Just feel it, remind yourself it isn’t real, and then come back to the here and now and take stock of all the things you can do for yourself in the present moment. As always though, if you’re not ready to be in the here and now, it’s all gravy baby.

A[wo]men

you are breathing,
reading,
existing.
you are love.
-in the here and now

Connecting it all

Hey friends. Today is Thursday in case any of you were wondering. I know days seem irrelevant in the current state of the world, but I am here to remind of arbitrary things like the day of the week and how we are already in the middle of July… somehow. My past week has been a week of grief, strength, and, if I’m being honest, pure angst.

I have been on this up and down rollercoaster of emotions which honestly reminds me of being a teenager. If I had to venture a guess, I would assume this is where the angst is coming from. It’s wild to me that even as a 29 year old I can be transported back to my 16 year old responses so easily. However, I am still 29, so the rollercoaster just ends up giving me acid reflux and neck pain. I’m easing into turning 30 quite swimmingly.

Grief is a funny thing. Not a like LOL hilarious funny thing, but like a this is oddly familiar, yet totally foreign funny thing. Whenever someone I love dies, I am flooded with memories of all the other losses I have experienced in my life. My first experience with death was as a kid. We had barn cats that would always think it was okay to cross the highway and very rarely did they make it. Although, my pet cat Eric (named after Eric Matthews/the boy I happened to have a crush on in 3rd grade with the same name) really did have 9 lives. He was one of our only cats that got hit by a car and ended up surviving. My little miracle kitty. Then, the first human loss I experienced was in high school. It was an odd thing to feel suicidal while also mourning the loss of a teenage life. I think I stuck around in the ‘bargaining’ stage of grief much longer during that period of my life. “Take me instead. Her life was better than mine. Why wasn’t it me?” I remember thinking nothing can feel as painful as this loss, but I was wrong. Each loss cuts through me, without warning, and I lose my own breath when someone else loses theirs. What I have learned from each loss is how grief is not a straight line of moving on, rather it is a scar that we will always live with and while the mark may dim it will always remain.

For a long time I hated my body. (I promise this connects, just hear me out.) For a long, long time I hated my body. I would curse the way it looked and prayed that some how it could change. In the last few years I have worked really hard to not only be comfortable with my body, but to love it. Each mark and dimple no longer gets harsh words tossed at them, but rather each part of myself has felt a gentle touch and words of love. Part of the past hatred included my scars- both the physical and psychological one. (See I told you it would connect again.) In my discovery of self love I have also learned how to heal in the other parts of life. Those scars, those losses, no matter how painful are the result of deep and vast love. I no longer sit around in the bargaining phase, instead I think about all of the ways that life impacted me. I use a gentle touch and words of love to work through grief.

When I first started blogging, I didn’t expect to ever right about loss or depression or mental health or a number of other topics I have touched on. In the beginning it was about me documenting my weight loss journey. I’m pretty sure I am 10lbs heavier than when I first started blogging, so jokes on all of you. The thing is, I didn’t realize that writing would actually help me overcome this desire to change everything about me. I didn’t realize that all this healing, this whole time, was actually a way for me to understand the way I move through the world.

I celebrated my one year anniversary of blogging [with more fervor and tenacity] recently and I spent some time reading through old post. I got to read real moments of self-discovery that I can remember viscerally. I am lucky enough to be able to go back in time and feel parts of myself that I might have otherwise forgotten. Through this reading, as I was mourning, I realized all the tools I have in my toolbox to get through hardships. All the ways I have built a community around myself to fall upon when I am struggling. I will go through a million more hard moments in my life, but I finally realize that I will make it through all of them.

With a loss there is a moment where we look upon the persons life and wonder if they were happy? If they did all the things they wanted to do? The thing I have realized about these questions is that we are partially asking them because we want to be happy; we want to do all the things we want to do. So, as I continue to move forward with this new scar I am being gentle with myself, I am using my tools, I am leaning on my supports, and I am reflecting on all the ways death brings new life.

A[wo]men

physical, mental, imaginary.

round, square, heart.

scars come in many shapes.

love them all

as they are u

-seeing all of urself

 

 

 

 

 

A Butterfly Spirit

Hi, friends. A lot has happened in the last two weeks, but I don’t want to talk about most of them. Most of them are minuscule and irrelevant at this point in time. This is not to diminish my experiences, but rather to express the fact that I’ve experienced a great loss this week. A loss changes your world, alters your perception, and minimizes all else around you. This past week my supervisor, my work advocate, my friend passed away- Vilma.

She was the light during one of the darkest times in my working life. I would work with her often and sit in her office. She had the worlds softest giggle that made things just seem like they would be okay. Vilma was an employee for 31 years, so her knowledge of the job was invaluable. I would often sit with her as she described what the role was like ‘back in the day’ and all the major changes along the way. During this time of uncertainty she would always say “Sarah, I’ve seen some really hard times here before. We’ll get through this.” She shared stories of her youth, how she would always leave her hair long and natural like I do and would only wear skirts and dresses, unlike I do.

We would often sit laughing at the fact that she had an iPhone 6 that refused to hold a charge. She would say to me “Sarah, come look at this. It’s at 15% and I haven’t used it all day!” I would ask her why she didn’t just get a new phone all the time and she always said, “eh, it still works though. Why would I get a new one?” And we would both giggle. She told me she loved her phone before this one and would still have it to this day if it didn’t shatter in her hands. We laughed at how the pieces of her old phone just broke. She thought it was a defect in the way it came apart. She made it clear to me thought that she didn’t need anything fancy, she just needed things to work. I admired this about her.

She also had a love for sweets. On my lunch break she would often give me her Starbucks gift card to pick her up a Frappuccino to help her get through the day. The last few times I worked with her I also would grab us both lunch to ease her need to walk far. Through this I learned that she loved Italian subs, with extra mayo, and Cole slaw on the side. She would also always want me to grab her a shake, but last minute would say- no I don’t need that, maybe next time. I wish I got her the milkshakes anyway. She would make hot cocoa in the break room, even on hot days when she needed a “quick fix”. Her face would light up when our coworkers would bring in donuts or bake sweet treats. I loved to see her smile.

She talked to me a lot about her family. It was clear she loved her family more than anything in the world. I got to hear stories of her father who worked in fancy hotels, and the stories he would tell her and the way he watched the landscape of New York City change over time. She spoke of her parents unending energy, even as they aged. She told me how much she hopes to have that much energy when she gets older. I wish I was right when I said “I bet you will, it runs in your family.” She should’ve have gotten that chance.

Her room was a spectacle and every patient that entered would say “I love all your decorations.” I wish I could’ve taken credit, but I’d always respond with “unfortunately, it’s not my room, but it’s my favorite room to work in.” Vilma was a big fan of tchotchke’s many of which she had collected over the years of working. I could spend hours sitting in her office discovering things I had no idea were there before. My favorite was a sign that read ‘kindness is always free” something Vilma always lived by. It sat across from where our patients sat, so I always wondered if it also served as a reminder for those sitting in that chair. Not that they would need it- Vilma was so kind it just radiated and permeated those around her.

Over the last few days I went from sadness that took over my entire body, to anger, to complete numbness. I knew writing this post would help me break out of feeling numb and enter a stage of feeling complete luck for having known such a beautiful person (while also feeling continued sadness). Writing and talking about my memories just reminds me that she was right when she said “I’ve seen some really hard times before. We’ll get through this.” The thought of getting through this without her is hard to imagine, but I know I can. She has given me strength over these last few months and will continue to be a guiding light for me. She may be gone, but her warmth, kindness, and maternal energy will always be with me.

I hope wherever you are, Vilma, there are endless shakes and sweets. I love you.

A[wo]men

your voice,

a memory.

ingrained forever-

soft,

gentle,

calm.

-a butterfly spirit

Hard Times; Good Feelings

Hey friends, welcome to another week of the complete and utter nonsense show. I feel like I have been riding a rollercoaster of emotions and I would really like things to just slow down for a hot minute. I’ve been up and down all week and I have been doing everything in my power to even the playing field. I have rode my bike, gone for runs, ate three square meals a day, brushed my teeth, went to therapy, and even the dentist. Yet, life keeps coming, fast and loose with the things. All the things. And the thing that continues to make me feel the least stable and is, of course, a majority of my life at the moment I can’t exactly talk about. Let’s just say it rhymes with twerk and pays for my life.

So, leaving that off of the table, there isn’t a whole lot I want to write about today. I am in the middle of moving, and dating again, and figuring out where I want to go with my career, and there are so many transitions happening in my life that I think my head might explode. I reflected on all of these things in therapy yesterday. I went down the list of changes that provoke both fear and excitement one by one. My therapist listened intently, not interjecting, as I poured out everything that was happening. Then together we went down the list of coping skills I am using in each instance. We paused so I could feel where it was in my body.

Something was different yesterday, though. In the past every pause was to feel the pain that was coming up in my body. However, we were no longer pausing for pain, we were instead pausing to feel the good in my body. I told her about tapping between patients before grabbing the next one, even if they had been waiting.. because a few extra minutes of grounding was going to help me be a better support. We paused. “Where do you feel that self love and compassion in your body?” I closed my eyes and took deep breaths as I felt my heart and chest warm up. “Good,” she said.We continued to talk about dating. I told her I changed my profiles, being more direct in the fact that I am looking for a relationship, and putting out my boundaries, up front. We paused again. “Where do you feel that in your body?” I continued to breath as I felt that same warmth in my shoulders and upper back. She informed me that the shoulders and upper back are often correlated to protection and support. “You setting those boundaries and asking for what you want is providing you with protection and support for a relationship that you deserve to have. You’re no longer desperate for just anybody.” We both took a deep breath.  We discussed my medication and how I feel tired, but not like I used to. How simple things no longer feel like a chore and how I feel like I can actually keep up with my work. Another pause to scan the body and reflect on the power of caring for myself.

“I’m so proud of you, Sarah” she said with a smile.

Those words again, something I unknowingly needed to hear, again. I started to cry. I was crying because I didn’t believe I would ever get to this place. The place where I can feel the good things, even when my world feels like it is spinning out of control. The place where I fully and truly believe that the life I want and deserve is within my reach. Like, just to repeat, I SAT WITH GOOD FEELINGS IN MY BODY YESTERDAY. I’ve been in consistent therapy for 2 years with therapists that did body work every time we met, and that was the first time I wasn’t feeling where the pain was in my body. It was the biggest moment of growth I’ve ever felt.

So, yes, things are out of control and my head is spinning, and I’ve never felt stronger or more powerful than I do in this current moment of my life. I just watched this episode of Buffy where she had to fight this Uber-vampire and it seemed so hopeless, like it couldn’t die. To quote Giles “the vampire that other vampires are afraid of” and then she was just like, “we win. we always win.” and ripped his head off till he turned to dust. **Both gruesome and awesome.** Right now, I feel as strong as a Vampire Slayer. Throw whatever big, bad you want to send my way, cuz honey, I’m fighting and I will win.

A[wo]men

i am

no longer looking for

the rainbow in the storm

i am

the rainbow in the storm

-when therapy works

**PS no new blog post next week. I’ll be moving.**

Change Leads to Growth

Hi friends, welcome to another week in the revolution and a very, very happy Pride Month. I hope you are all taking care of yourselves in whatever way works for you right now. Cuz times they are a changin’ and we all know that change is hard. I would argue change is one of the hardest things we go through, yet one of the most inevitable and necessary parts of life. It is, in my opinion, that with change comes growth.

This post today is not going to be a long post because honestly I am going through some of my own changes. And even more honest- I am sad, really sad. See, while the world was going through these really intense changes, I also decided to put my heart out there and, long story short, it didn’t work out. **Note to self: starting a new relationship during a pandemic is not the best idea. That growth though, that growth that I don’t necessarily want to be going through right now, is important.

Each time a relationship doesn’t work out I immediately begin to wonder what is wrong with me. Why can’t I find someone that I love and loves me back and we just fit? Why am I so alone? Why does it seem so easy for other people? What is wrong with me? What am I doing wrong? I know these old friends are just protectors that are trying to help. I know that there is nothing wrong with me and I know that things often don’t work out because they are not supposed to. I know that it is not easy for other people and that the story I see on social media is a blip on the radar of an actual relationship.

Still, is leaves me feeling empty for a moment.

Then, my lovely friend, anxiety, has this really cool way of blowing things out of proportion. So, when a relationship doesn’t work out, it somehow jumps from ‘what is wrong with me?’ to ‘I am going to be alone forever and I will never have the family that I want.’ Old me would’ve sat with those feelings and believed them for a very long time. Oh, and by old me I literally mean Sarah from a year ago. My last big relationship melted me down to the core when it ended. I sat with those notions for a long time. In fact, those fears kept me going back over and over again, even though I knew it wasn’t right. The thing is, I am glad it melted me down to the core, because I rebuilt that part of me. That ending brought me to therapy and to healing and to understanding myself better. Not to sound cliche, but that ending truly was a new beginning. Without that rebuilding, I wouldn’t understand that those thoughts are normal, but not true. Without that rebuilding, I’d still be putting other peoples feelings and needs ahead of my own.

I talked to one of my friends yesterday who paused with me as I cried and in the silence she whispered ‘I am really proud of you.’ I don’t think I realized how much I needed to hear those words. I cried harder, like a mix of happy and sad tears all in one. She reflected back to me all of this growth I’ve had of putting myself first and understanding what I deserve.

I’ve been in some pretty toxic relationships before, both platonic and not, and the toxicity only flourished because of my insesent need to please people. I just wanted everyone around me to feel good at the expense of my own feelings; my boundaries were non-existent. In the last year I have done a lot of work at expressing my needs and putting up boundaries. It is the scariest, most freeing work I have done with myself. I say it is scary because it means that not everyone is going to stay in my life. It means that sometimes I will say what I need and it won’t be met and I will have to walk away. Letting go is scary. I say it is freeing because I am building a family of people that love me so much and want a balanced relationship. It is freeing because I am no longer held down by needing others to like me. Letting go is freeing.

All of this is to say that right now I am really sad and I am really proud of myself and those feelings can coexist. So, I am going to sit with those two things and eat my Oreos and cry and laugh and watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer and remind myself that love wins, especially when it is directed towards ourselves.

A[wo]men

“what is wrong with me,”

she screams.

“i love you,”

she whispers.

-conversations in the mirror

 

 

 

 

The Long Game

c/w violence

Hello all. It’s been quite the last couple of weeks. I started taking anti-depressants, the weather has officially changed to take-two-showers-a-day weather, and the world finally woke up to the injustices of Black people and People of Color. As you may have noticed, I skipped writing a post last week. Not because I didn’t have things I could write (note: I always have things I can write), but because it wasn’t my time or place. I used my social media this past week to #amplifymelanatedvoices. I posted blogs other than my own that were written by Black artists (thefriendineverwantedsexwithashleysassy_latteMaya.esthetic) and only shared content from Black, Indigenous, People of Color (BIPOC). I started with the voices that I already followed and then went on my own journey to find others. I recommend that you read these blogs and pay BIPOC artists if you have the means to! I went to protests and had some great conversations and some not-so-great conversations, both of which needed to be had. I read a lot and watched a lot and listened even more.

Through all of this I learned a lot about myself and even more about BIPOC experiences and even more about my role in relation to the injustices happening. I find myself wanting to note here, so badly, that I have done this work for a long time. That I have had these conversations with many people who deemed me “too sensitive” when I would beg people to look at the language they use. Why do I want to share this so badly? Why do I want people to recognize this? I think it’s because I have this desire to come off as the long time ally; as someone who has always tried to work through her own prejudices and inherent biases. I want to look like a “hero”, when in reality I am part of the system of racism. I have helped to uphold the pain of BIPOC. I have done and said things that were blatantly racist. I often stopped short when it came to being a good ally. When someone called me too sensitive, I didn’t push back, I usually just shut up. So, it doesn’t matter if I have done the work in the past because I didn’t do it hard enough. I sat in the comfort of my own privilege and allowed injustices to continue; it felt safer.

Though, my biggest takeaway from 2020 is my ability to do things regardless of how I am feeling. Is it nice to feel safe? Yes. The thing is, just because I don’t feel safe, doesn’t mean I am not safe. Let me say that again, just because I don’t feel safe, does not mean I. am. not. safe. When a white person crosses the street because there is a Black man walking towards them, they are not unsafe in that situation, but a part of them, a racist part of them believes that they are. When Amy Cooper threatened to call the police on a Black man in Central Park, she believed she was unsafe, and she knew the ways in which she held power and control over that person. She knew that a 911 call would get a police officer that would be on her side, that could potentially murder that Black man. What if these people took a deep breath though? What if instead of reacting they said to themselves why do I feel unsafe? What if they unpacked their internal racism and said ‘damn, that was a racist thought. I should really unpack that.’ (Don’t know how to unpack it? Might I recommend therapy??)

Over the last week I’ve said “I wish people were better at listening” A LOT. This is a sentiment I have always expressed, but is pertinent to the conversations we are having now. I am not just talking about the conversations with others, but those conversations we have with ourselves. When we feel uncomfortable, we try our hardest to be comfortable. So, having a thought like “that was racist of me” is really uncomfortable for someone who believes themselves to be “not racist”. What do they do then? They try to justify their actions, to themselves, because they are uncomfortable with themself. How do I know this? Because I know I have done it before. I have done things and pushed away feelings just to feel safer, to feel more comfortable. At the beginning of 2020 I started to pushback on this notion that things always have to feel right for them to be right.

One of the most thought provoking videos I watched this week was by Sonya Renee Taylor. If you have yet to see it, please take a moment to go watch it. Essentially, the video expresses that white bodies are much less in danger of being killed by police officers. I.e. if I as a white person see a Black person in front of an officer and a gun, the best way to help would be to put myself between that person and the danger. My palms sweat while I watched that video. Guns terrify me and the thought of purposefully putting myself in front of one sent my anxiety blasting. So, after watching it I processed those feelings. I thought about how Black people must feel everyday, not even being in front of police officer, but just knowing that one is near. I thought about the privilege I have to consider if this is something I could or couldn’t do. I decided that no matter how scared I am, no matter how terrified I am, Sonya is right. That evening I went to a protest and I put my body directly in front of an officer. I could feel my mouth get very dry thinking about the fact that this person had a gun, and, historically, had issues with rage.

Now, I am not saying that all the white people reading this need to go put themselves in front of a gun, but I am saying that looking at why you wouldn’t is really important. There is a lot happening in the world right now and I know we all feel it. I have sat with clients of all identities this past week that, for the first time in their life, have felt anxiety. I talked about collective trauma and collective healing, but most importantly I listened. I listened to the way the world is impacting their daily life. I heard the ways in which they have their own personal struggles on top of all the other things people are dealing with. I heard about confusion and pain and joy. I listened.

As a society we think we need the answer right now. Heck, we are living in the age of fast answers. I can call out to my robot, Alexa, and she’ll shoot me an answer to most all questions I ask in .01 seconds. I feel though, that at this moment in time, not having an answer or a rebuttal or a spewing of emotions in .01 seconds is good. People do not heal if they are not heard. We do not heal if we don’t start to listen to the people around us and to ourselves. Taking in information and giving ourselves time to understand that information is what is going to help us move forward. In fact, our bodies are great at giving us insight of when we need to take a break, we just don’t often listen to it. If, while reading this, you found your stomach hurting, or your palms get sweaty, or a desire to argue a point, that is your body telling you something is coming up and it needs to be explored further. For those of you that are white, try to sit in those feelings and understand what is coming up for you. For those of you that are not white, I am open to any and all feedback, but just know that you don’t not have to.

As sang in the amazing broadway show Hamilton “this is not a moment, it’s the movement.” Meaning, this is a long game and we don’t win a long game by jumping to conclusions. We win the long game by listening, by offering protection, by collectively healing all the pain and injustice that has been brought forth at the hands of white supremacy. What does winning look like? I guess I don’t know, but like I said, now is not the time to have quick answers. I am going to keep listening to BIPOC for what a win looks like. And I am going to continue to have conversations with myself and my white friends and family. I would also like to note that I am writing all of this as a cis-gender, straight, white, fat, women and there is a lot of privilege in that description of myself. Most of you reading this are white and have read this blog weekly and you have listened to me and I feel so grateful for that. I implore you to try and take that same skill into the work to be anti-racist. Listen to people that don’t look like me. Engage in their content. Pay them.

So, what is my call to action this week? If you’re white: F*cking listen. Okay? And do things that scare you, like shielding a Black body from violence or telling your family members that the words they use are racist. Because at the end of the day your white skin protects you from a lot and you should be using that to help amplify the voices that aren’t being heard. If you’re not white: do whatever you need to do right now. The world is listening to you, but it is not your job to speak if you don’t want to. However you want to exist right now is how you should exist.

A[wo]men

**I would also like to just give a brief update on how my experience with anti-depressants has been going because a lot of people reached out after my last post with a lot of concern. That post though was not to worry people, although I do appreciate that people cared enough to check-in. That post was to let people know that I am not the same girl I was and that anti-depressants isn’t a scary thing. It’s a medicine that can be really helpful. In fact, I am happy to report that it has been really helpful for me. It’s only been 2 weeks, but I have noticed a significant change in my energy levels. I have been able to get through my day without feeling exhausted, I wake up feeling like I actually got rest. That slight change in energy levels has made a world of difference. The only small draw back I have noticed is I am a bit flightier, i.e. forgetting what I was talking about in the middle of a sentence. To be fair though, I’ve done that a lot before the medicine too, so who knows. I could just be a flighty person? Either way, I will continue to keep you updated on this journey.

**Also, also this blog is all about mental health and I’ve been encouraging people to donate to The Loveland Foundation an organization that works to “bring opportunity and healing to communities of color, and especially to Black women and girls.”**

as a white child
my ears grew weeds that drowned out the noise
of my BIPOC sisters and brothers
and i worked
to pluck each one out from their roots
so i can hear them better.
and now instead of growing weeds,
i grow understanding
and i work
to make sure i don’t plant weeds
in the ears of our future.
-how to win the long game

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

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