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

 

 

 

 

A Different Experience for a Different Person

c/w suicidal ideations, depression

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A[wo]men

put down the shame,

pick up the pen.

write.

feel your pain

write.

paint the pages

write.

-more than one kind of medicine

Strength is Found in Awareness & Help

C/W suicide, depression

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A[wo]men

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

tap. tap. tap.

you are here 

in this space.

you are breathing

in this space.

you are living 

in this space.

you are

in this space.

-grounding

 

The Opinion of Others in the Context of Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A[wo]men

boom. boom. boom. boom. boom.

it helps to know your heart beats,

only for yourself.

-where to start when changing the narrative

A different side of anxiety

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I recommend Seinfeld, but whatever works for you.

A[wo]men

*Featured photo from said photoshoot*

think of your first time falling in love

hands trembling

unable to eat

breathe

sleep.

why should our standards

be any less

for any other passions

we deem fit?

-a different side of anxiety

 

What goes down, must come up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A[wo]men

*Featured image from a stoop session*

look up;

close your eyes;

embrace 

-the known;

accept 

-the unknown.

inhale,

4,5.

exhale,

4,5.

repeat.

-how to find your ups.

 

A little less alone and a little bit more seen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A[wo]men

can you hear me?

can you hear me?

can you hear me?

my brain,

screaming this;

from the top

-of the lungs,

to the depths

-of the belly.

just listen.

-processing

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