The Food and I

Howdy, pals! I am not quite sure why I went with howdy, but here we are. It’s been an interesting week to say the least. Most importantly, the weather has changed and you KNOW I cleaned out my closet and brought out all my snuggly sweaters. I am basic and proud. Even bought a pair of ugg boots from Goodwill. Really embracing who I am deep down.

Something else has been brewing deep, down inside of me. It’s gas. I’m gassy and sick and it’s more commonly known as gastritis. Basically, there is too much acid in my stomach and it’s caused some inflammation of the stomach lining. I’ll be honest… it’s not very fun. I’m sure you probably assumed that, but it’s not fun for more than just the stomach pains.

This is not the first time I’ve dealt with acid in my stomach. I was diagnosed with GERD last summer and they were also worried I had cysts. (Luckily, no cysts, just acid.) Whenever there is a stomach issue I get the same advice from medical professionals- lose weight. I know they are saying it because it honestly does help things like that. Usually I would say let’s explore other things that could help the issue, but after being diagnosed with GERD I lost some weight and I didn’t have any heartburn again, until I started gaining the weight back. Yet, when I hear someone say I should lose weight I roll my eyes so hard that they could probably knock over a building.

It’s because of the fat phobia that permeates our everyday lives. I can’t look on the internet without someone selling a get thin fast diet. It’s near impossible to shop in a store, I must shop online to avoid people seeing a fatty actually shopping in a store. You know, they don’t want to ruin their brand or anything. If they do happen to carry plus size clothes take note that it’s conveniently tucked into the back of the store to still hide fat people. I roll my eyes because it cuts through me like a knife cuts through butter- it’s a swift, clean cut that happens again and again.

I have carried the weight (pun intended) of binge eating disorder for most of my life. Food and I haven’t had the best relationship, but in the last few months I have felt myself getting more comfortable. The idea of eating before I feel like I am going to burst at the seems has been easier. I no longer feel the need to hide snacks throughout my living space, or sneak food behind my roommates backs. I’m open about my love of food. We are in a good place, food and I.

Yet, when I heard the doctor say “losing weight will help this go away”. All that work and progress disappeared for a moment and I wanted to stop eating forever. I wanted to breakup with food while simultaneously wanting to go binge eat McDonalds behind closed doors. All the pain and anguish from the last 20 years came flooding back in me and I wanted to cry. It felt as though time had stopped for a moment when he said it and a loop of all the self-hate I had ever experienced jumped to the front of my mind. In that brief moment I felt more than just the pain that was in my stomach.

Time stopped it’s because those feelings all happened in slow motion but when time resumed it went away fast. I sat for a minute in my office before returning to work and I thought about how far I have come and all the ways I can help my stomach without using a scale to figure it out. I googled good foods to eat for gastritis and did some deep breathing exercises. Of course, a visit from baby Sarah was also warranted.

Closing my eyes, she came to me crying, putting her hand on her stomach she called herself ugly. We held hands and we put our hands on our stomachs and together we talked about being gentle with ourselves, with our words, and with our bodies, and particularly with our stomachs. Wiping her tears, I told her the real meaning of beauty; that no matter our appearance on the outside, true beauty comes from within. Fat doesn’t make you less than, it doesn’t make you unworthy, and it definitely doesn’t make you ugly.

All of this happened last week Friday and since that day, I’ve had to visit with baby Sarah a few times. I’ve found myself more hesitant with food, brief moments of wanting to restrict and binge. I am being gentle with myself because I know that day I was triggered and it brought up a lot of feelings I haven’t seen in awhile. This doesn’t mean I haven’t healed or done the work, in fact without that work I wouldn’t have been able to work through all of those feelings so quickly. And quite frankly, that is what life is made up of- unpredictable moments that catch you off guard; sometimes those moments are happy ones and sometimes they are heartbreaking ones. Both make us stronger.

If you are having a hard time because you just so happened to have a heartbreaking moment catch you off guard, please try to be gentle with yourself. If you are grieving, if you are triggered, if you are just hurting the most important thing you can do is let yourself feel it and work with it, not around it. You are stronger today than you were yesterday. And as always, if you are not in a place to work with it, that’s okay. What you need is what you need and there is no shame in any of that.

A[wo]men

in the dips

of your rolling fields

find home

Earlier this week on the island I call my second home, Prince of Wales, Alaska, a tragedy occurred. Copied text from the GoFundMe page: “Herbie Nix Jr. was born to Marvell and Herb Sr. (Big Herb) on September 23, 2002. Lil Herb passed on October 5, 2020.  We are asking for support for the Nix/Edenshaw family during this very difficult time. Thank you in advance for your emotional and financial support. We will update you on the service times. Any cash donations may be given directly to the Nix family. Monetary donations can be made through GoFundMe, Facebook Pay, Cashapp and PayPal.” Please donate by clicking this link if you have the means and send love and healing to the island ❤

Finding the Purpose of Anger

It’s a new day friends and if you’re like me you have an emotional hangover from what some call a presidential debate. I personally like to call it the ‘old white man say/yell things show’™ and you are welcome to use that if you’d like. I had so many emotions just from that hour and a half that I could probably write several blog posts on this viewing alone, but I’ll try to make it brief.

The biggest emotion I felt last night was anger. Anger, for those who have not been following this blog for a long time, is one of the most difficult emotions for me to process, accept, and display. I avoid it all costs and it typically results in me crying (which I did last night) and wanting to run away, trying to do whatever I can to make it stop. So, as someone who is constantly trying to improve and be better, I made it a point to stay; stay in my anger and feel the ways in which this anger is helping me. I was angry for a lot of reasons, and I am not going to sit here and try to explain why it hurts to hear people debate human lives or attack someone who overcame a drug addiction. What I will discuss is how such anger is helping me grow.

Last nights anger was felt in the pit of my stomach. My therapist has taught me to visualize where I feel my emotions so that I can really sit with it and work through it. It been a real game changer with the emotions I find more difficult. In my stomach there was a burning sensation and when I closed my eyes I could see yellows, reds, and oranges- there was a fire burning. My first instinct was to put the fire out, which I attempted to do with ice cream (Ben and Jerry’s half baked, obviously). That sort of worked as a short term solution, but as soon as I stopped the fire grew again. I thought to myself ‘how do I make I stop’ and then I realized I was asking the wrong question. I didn’t need it to stop I needed to listen to it and that is what I did.

I sat in my room after getting ready for bed and reflected for a minute on the heat. I unpacked some of the emotional abuse that occurred on the stage as it brought up memories of my own experiences. I validated the feelings of anger as right and fair, instead of a burden that needed to go away. I put my hand on my stomach and thought about the anger others must be feeling in this moment and what pain people who were literal topics of debate might be feeling. I thought about the kids that were and/or are bullied and how it would feel to watch that debate with the harsh words used. I thought of all of these people as my clients that have and will sit with. Then, with each thought and validation the anger dwindled, not to be mistaken with the anger going away.

Feelings don’t disappear until the job they were created to do is done. There is a good reason for that- we need them to create change. For example, if I got sad and never dealt with the sadness and pretended not be sad, that doesn’t mean that sadness is gone, it just means it’s hanging out somewhere else. Typically, this is a place where we tried to lock it up in, but instead it comes out in anxiety, alcohol use, cutting, unexplained anger, etc.. However, if we keep it where it’s supposed to be and we work with it and do what needs to be done, we get a healthy goodbye. Like when I was really depressed and went to therapy and started medication and sat with my sadness for a long time, not letting it go until I was ready. I want a healthy goodbye like that with this anger, so I am keeping the embers burning to help me remember why it is I do what I do.

What I do as a social worker, involves advocating for people and I care about people a lot. I’m a cancer moon, ya know? Advocacy work is political in nature and this fire is a direct result of who and what I care about. These embers will burn until I see people are given justice, fairness, kindness, and the right to live regardless of health, the color of their skin, their differing abilities, their gender, their sexual orientation, and the list could go on. I’m not sure the embers will ever truly go away, but I am going to keep them with me as a reminder that there is work to do, nitty gritty hard work.

I am currently in a space to do the hard work. I have gone to therapy and processed a lot of my own trauma’s and experiences. I feel safe to do this work right now and that could change. If you are not in that place, please know it is okay to lock those feelings up if that is what feels best for you right now. I am not here to tell you how to process your own reactions/feelings. Do whatever you need to do to make yourself feel safe. Perhaps it’s holding space for it and perhaps it’s watching 6 hours of Real Housewives of New York. I’ve been both people (sometimes in the same day) and that’s okay.

If you’re reading this and angered (or any other emotions) by any of the words I have said here, perhaps reflect on where in your body you’re feeling it and why these emotions are coming up for you. And please, please, please use the contact link to chat with me further about this or any other post.

I love you all, including my anger.

A[wo]men

flames dance

across the lining of my stomach

and i pray for rain

that only comes when

the embers are ready for it

-finding the purpose of anger

Attachment Style Renovations

c/w self-harm, anxiety, violence

Hello, my loves! What a week it has been. Apparently, COVID-19 is over because everyone decided it is and the rules no longer matter and fires are dominating our land and TikTok is where I get the most news. Oh, and people are getting sterilized WITHOUT THEIR CONSENT because that’s a thing we do here in the great ol’ U.S. of A. It is a lot. I hope as you are reading this you are doing something to take care of yourselves in these unprecidented *rolls eyes* times.

I legitimately had a moment yesterday where I was convinced the world was ending. I started to get sweaty palms as I looked up into the not quite clear skies in the east coast that have been penetrated by the smoke from the west coast. Isn’t this how all those movies start? The ones where the world is ending? 2020 is like 4 of those end of the world movies all smashed together in one. I hope it gets nominated for some sort of an award because this year has really outdone itself.

My anxiety has been all over the place in the last week. As my depression has essentially been non-existent my mind is like, “well we need some sort of mental health predicament, don’t we?” Kind of rude, but whatever. Hence that whole ‘the world is ending’ thing. My anxiety, unlike my depression, is a ball of energy that needs to escape in some way, and it needs to escape as soon as it decides. Some may say it is too fast, too furious. Not to be confused with the 2003 film, starring Paul Walker, R.I.P. Most often it escapes through picking aka excoriation. If you had seen me this week, perhaps you noticed the welts or scars on my shoulders, chest, and face. This is my anxiety escaping. I don’t tap, I don’t click pens, I don’t bounce my knee. Instead, I turn my energy against myself, which, really, is a form of self harm.

It is sometimes unconscious and subtle and I have to ask people to hit me to get me to stop, while other times it is fully intentional and painful. There are a lot of reasons to be anxious right now re: the world ending. However, the thing that has me most anxious currently is a new relationship. It sounds so ridiculous typing it out. I know, rationally, that there are much bigger things to focus on, but distractions are a great way to get through some of the difficulties in life and I am welcoming this distraction with open arms. Plus, this blog is about my life and this is a big thing in my life.

New relationships often make me anxious, but this time it is in a different way. See, there has been a lot of bad people in the past; harmful, painful, brutal, made-me-suicidal relationships. This person feels different. He makes me feel safe and not in a way that is overbearing, but in the way that I can say I’m upset about x, y, z and he will say “okay, let’s work through it.” Hold up, you’re telling me I can just talk about my feelings and I won’t be made to feel like an insane person? What is this magic?

All of this sounds wonderful and grand. Except for the fact that because I am not used to it my anxious brain is like there is a catch and you need to protect yourself and he is going to destroy your life and we should probably eat everything in the fridge and make your skin bleed… for protection, of course. That part of my brain really is something. She can create the wildest scenarios anytime, anywhere. It is really impressive. The other day she was like “what if he actually is a murderer and is just waiting for the right moment to get you alone.” Like damn, dude… calm down. Next level kind of shit. I know this is all to protect me, so I let the thoughts in and digest them. I just need to work on not letting them take over.

Because the other message that it is sending is an old favorite- I don’t deserve good love. My attachment style- fearful avoidant- isn’t a very healthy one and tends to perpetuate that message. I operate a lot out of attachment theory when it comes to my work with clients, and like to practice what I preach. Attachment theory explores how we relate to others through the way we learned to relate to people as children. It poses that we carry those styles into adulthood and often replicate/perpetuate them. When we know our attachment style, we can better understand how we act in relationships (both platonic and not) and, hopefully, avoid recreating unhealthy attachments. #breakthecycle As someone who is fearful avoidant I typically want to be close to people, but am also terrified of being hurt and therefor try to avoid it. This can result in some really wonderful self-sabotage.

Earlier this month I talked about listening to my gut when it came to ending a relationship and I want to do the same in wanting to grow a relationship. Despite my anxious brain, my gut is telling me that this person is a good person. So, whether he is in my life for a month or for a long time, I want to accept that I deserve to have good people in my life. So, how am I working through all these feelings and desires of running away? Mostly by talking about it.

Every time I feel myself pushing him away, I vocalize it. If it is out there, there is no hiding from it. I can’t just melt into the feeling and let it take over. There is no rationalizing with it and justifying it. There is only reality testing it. This is the way we work through the hard things. We release them into the world and let them be heard. My anxiety has taught me this lesson. The feelings that live in our bodies will come out, and if we don’t let them out they will break out in ways we didn’t agree to.

The best part about working on this, is that he is so open to it! *Spoiler alert* he is also a therapist. My gut is telling me that it’s a great (healthy) sign that he is good at communication. My anxious brain probably won’t trust him for a little bit, but we’ll keep talking it out like mature adults do until she feels safe.

So, for this week, maybe we could try voicing how we feel. When you’re sitting with your significant other try letting them know if you are upset or even if you are happy. If you’re roommate just did something that didn’t feel good, let ’em know. If your dog is the goodest baby in the whole world, please, for the love of Beyoncé, tell them that. I think you might find that it will feel good to say how you are feeling and you’re body won’t be holding all of these things that it needs to release.

And as always, if you’re like ‘nah, I like my emotions right where I keep them buried’ you do you, booboo.

A[wo]men

falling in love

is easy,

like lazy afternoons.

being in love

takes work,

like building

your dream home,

from the ground up.

-attachment style renovations

Stability on the Water;

Hi, Friends! I apologize if you missed me last week, because I sure missed y’all. It is funny how off my week can feel when I skip a post (or 2, or 3). Don’t get me wrong I don’t regret taking the time off. I mean if you had the opportunity to go to the beach, wouldn’t you? Especially as summer fades away into fall I figured I should take advantage of any opportunities I can get in the sun and water.

I know I’ve talked a lot about baby Sarah, mostly in the context of hardships, but baby Sarah comes soaring out in all her greatness when I am in the water. As soon as I dip my big toe in I am transported back to that little girl that felt free in the water. There is no pain there, no fear. I am weightless! And for someone that always felt like she was too big, the peace that came with such an escape was indescribable. In fact, I think I could say the water saved my life.

I spent a lot of my childhood hoping to die. Yet, I never felt that way if I was in the water. I found solace lying on my back looking up at the sky or ceiling, the water filling my ears so all that was detectable was faint sounds that didn’t translate. We had a pool in our back yard. I would float or be a mermaid or a shark or a minnow or Marco or Polo and real world problems simply didn’t exist.

This month is Suicide Prevention Month. I’ve spent a lot of my writing talking about moments in time when I felt suicidal. It is not something I am shameful about and, in all honesty, I believe those thoughts are as natural world itself. Some of us feel them stronger than others and some of us believe there is no escape. For a long while, I only believed in escape in the water. However, when my feet would touch solid ground again, I slipped right back into my reality- the reality that I didn’t want to be here.

I am not here to talk about that reality today though. Today, I want to talk about my reality of this moment. In this moment, I doing really well. Well like I could skip down the sidewalk and sing in the store. Well like my heart might burst through my chest. What has caused me to feel so well? Mostly, there is stability in my life, like real stability. I’m not sure if you recall, but that was my news years resolution this year. I have money in my savings account, my credit card balances are finally going down, I have medication that has quite literally stabilized my mood, there is a cute boy I like. And if I am being totally real with y’all.. it’s freaking me out.

Why is it freaking me out? It is a new feeling. New anythings scare the sh*t out of me. New hairstyles, new apartments, new friends, new bedding. It’s unknown and what is scarier than the unknown? My anxious brain loves to think about the unknowns. The current obsession on repeat is “do I deserve to feel this good?” feat. trauma. It’s a classic hit that I’ve heard before. Real catchy, almost like an annoying jingle. Part of it spins out of that depressed girl, that didn’t think she should be alive. The girl that believed nothing could ever feel this good.

When this greatest hit get’s played, I want to rush to turn it off. As I have learned though, that’s not the way intrusive thoughts get shut down. They get shut down by letting them in, understanding them, respecting them. I’ve mulled over the question the last few nights, trying to understand my brain a little more. I have never questioned when hurtful things happen. Without skipping a beat “I deserve this” also feat. trauma, oddly enough, shoots to the top of the list. So, why, when something good happens, does it become the opposite? Could it be that old central message I worked so hard to get rid of rearing it’s head?

DING. DING. DING. Up until this past year I always thought that I wasn’t good enough. Messages that could validate such a statement were snuggled up under the covers with me and messages that didn’t rolled off my back like water. Now, my new message is that I am good enough, but it’s a new message… and you know how I feel about new things. I know though that it is all about practice. New things don’t always stay new. I thought again about my current #1 hit and how I could get it to fit my new message.

Why do I deserve to feel this good? Because feeling good is what everyone deserves. I am not special in that. If I want my friends and family and patients and strangers to feel that way, and I hope and pray for them to feel that way, I should hope and pray the same for myself. I am a human being with a million different parts and I want to experience all of those parts. We are all worthy of such a life.

Your central message right now might be telling you that you are not worthy. I sat with that message for along time, so I know how that feels. If you are hearing that as you read this, that is totally okay. You don’t have to rush into new feelings. Perhaps though you could think of what you would want your central message to say, or what you would want your best friends central message to say. Close your eyes and think of all the words that could make that statement come true, like a vision board. Now, try to trust that new things, although scary, can be the best things that happen to us. Try taking one little step to flip this unworthy message on its head. Maybe that means brushing your teeth, or getting a therapist, or literally just breathing.

And if all of that sounds like a bunch of bullsh*t, maybe go float in some water and drown it all out. That may be all you need for now.

A[wo]men

**Also, I would be remissed not to note that suicide prevention is not just reaching out. Suicide prevention is loving/supporting the LGBTQ+ community, it’s supportive housing, it’s having enough food, it’s being able to afford medication, it’s undoing racism. It’s a million things that are systemic and need to be fixed. Need resources? Contact me.

from the tears of those before you

fill your ears with their

salt and water

float

-you’re not alone;

And as always, if you are feeling in need of support, whether that be because you are suicidal, sad, happy, want to tell me a funny joke, etc. please reach out to me on my contact page. Love you all ❤

What Does Safety Got to do With Gut?

Alright, I don’t know about y’all, but I am tired as sh*t. Anybody else feel like they could just take a nap for about 2 years? No? Just me? Okay then. Honestly though, I know we are all tired. We are all fighting every day like hell to feel okay. With the state of the world, the state of our mental health, the state of bachelor nation… It’s a lot for one person to handle. 

You ready for the good news? The good news is that we CAN handle it. Our brains enjoy telling us that the weight of the world will one day crush us. We say we are weak and incapable and, wait for it, not enough. To quote the great Tom Selleck and his even greater mustache in the 90’s hit Three Men and a Little Lady – “What a crock!” We, as we are today, are more than enough. We are doing exactly what our brains are telling us we can’t. We are living, breathing, fighting every single day despite what we might be hearing. 

Now that I let you in on my little words of wisdom to kick us off, let’s get into the good stuff. I have been doing a lot of soul searching lately, trying to leave the brain out of it. I mentioned in my previous post that I am working on being more in touch with my gut instincts. Y’all, it’s hard. I don’t like to complain, HAHA just kidding. Yes I do. It is sooo hard. I find myself wanting to quit sometimes. Like, maybe I can just go back to not caring about myself. As they say though, ignorance is bliss, and I can’t unsee what I now know. In order to avoid my number one fear in life [settling] I must keep doing the work. Keep moving forward. 

How am I moving forward? I am so glad you asked. From the outside it may not have looked like I was doing much at all, but that is the cool thing about learning to trust your gut. Nobody can see you doing it. In this instance I am the Wizard of Oz, the woman behind the curtain. And trust me when I say you do not want to remove the curtain because it is mostly just blood and guts. Ew. 

I really did practice a lot though. I practiced not only listening to it, but not judging it. I feel the judgement all the time. “Why didn’t you say this? How did they take that? Am I even good at what I do? Am I good? Am I enough? Should I speak?” This week though, I shut it down. I took every opportunity I got to practice listening to myself. No hesitation, no judgment. With this practice I found myself feeling stronger in my choices, more confident in my decisions. Each time one of those old comments entered my brain I didn’t shut it down, I just reality tested it. I would hear ‘why didn’t you say this?’ and I would break it down. Why didn’t I say it? Perhaps it wasn’t the right time to say it? Maybe they weren’t ready to hear it? Maybe I can bring that up next time? It was validating in a way that I had not felt validation before. I felt safe. 

Safety is hard to conceptualize. In a world where people are being harmed and/or murdered for the color of their skin, and/or their gender identity, and/or their sexual orientation how do we define safety? What does it mean to feel safe? I’ve talked to a lot of people lately, both in my work and my personal life, who just don’t feel safe. Heck, most days I don’t feel “safe”. The world, as was previously stated, is scary right now. 

For me, right now, safety is not about feeling like nothing bad will happen, it’s about feeling like I am making the right choices. That I can trust that when my gut is telling me to run, I run like hell; when my gut is telling me to fight, I fight like hell; when my gut is telling me to freeze, I don’t move a damn thing. On the flip side when my gut is telling me to love, I love deeply; when my gut is telling me to heal, I stitch each part that needs it; when my gut is telling me to stand in solidarity, I take each of the hands beside mine and I hold it and squeeze it and let them know I’m here. 

If you’re finding yourself in a place of fear, you are not alone. If you’re gut is telling you things are scary, it’s probably because they are, but if you listen closely to your gut, I bet it is also telling you to reach out to someone, to get help, to know that fear is not something that must hold us back, but rather it can ignite a passion in us that we didn’t know we had.

Our world scares me in the way that hate and fear sometimes guides people, rather than love and understanding. It scares me in the way that power and control is our goal rather than harmony. Hearing the news of Jacob Blake scared me, just as hearing the names of Eric Garner, Michael Brown, Tamir Rice, Alton Sterling, Philando Castile, Breonna Taylor, George Floyd,  and a million other names scared. It scares me in the way that life is so fragile, so easily stolen. Those fears though only makes me want to fight harder. It makes me want to know that in my life time I did not let the fear take over, that instead I harnessed that energy; that I stood up against injustices because I knew in my gut it is the right thing to do. 

As for now, my gut is trustworthy and that is the “safety” I always needed. 

A[wo]man

a compass blooms

from the gut.

direction bred 

of misdirections.

-soul searching

If you have the means please consider donating to BEAM (Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective). A collective “of advocates, yoga teachers, artists, therapists, lawyers, religious leaders, teachers, psychologists and activists committed to the emotional/mental health and healing of Black communities.”

A Clock is a Clock

Hey all, can you believe it’s been two weeks since I’ve told y’all about my emotions? I know you are all desperately waiting to hear how I’ve been holding up since my last blog. You know, the one where I was an anxious hot mess. Yeah, that one. Well good news, I am doing FABULOUS now. I know that sounded a little sarcastic, but I am being completely truthful with y’all- as always. 

The real question though, is how did I go from an anxious hot mess back to a confident boss babe in a matter of two weeks. Well, I am sure I can attribute it to a lot of things, but I would say the number one contributing factor was *drum roll* LISTENING AND TRUSTING MYSELF.

After my last big relationship, I had a really hard time believing myself. I was convinced that I didn’t know anything and that I could not, under any circumstance, listen to my instincts. That, my friends, is the result of being lied to by people you love and trust. Your internal meter for what is right and real gets twisted and begins to resemble The Persistence of Memory by Salvado Dalí. Reality just melts and it feels near impossible to get it back to its original shape.   

This is the result of trauma. 

Trauma bends our reality and alters our brain and, to be honest, f*cks sh*t up. So, how do we get them back to that original shape? How do we unf*ck sh*t up? Where is that place where a clock is a clock and there is no question about it? If you read my blog, you know what I am about to say… therapyyyy. You’re welcome. That is how we get reality back to its shape. We have a professional person guide us back to the spot where we trust our gut, where a clock looks like a clock and therefore is a clock. 

My therapist guides me through my body, eyes closed, with full trust in her and in myself. After my last post the first message that I listened to from myself was that I needed to speak with my therapist. I am not kidding. I posted my blog at 5 and then went to therapy at 6. Before I had a therapist I would convince myself I was fine. I wouldn’t listen when my body was literally pouring out tears uncontrollably or my brain was saying things like “nobody loves you”. I didn’t listen when I would eat until it hurt to avoid feeling anything else. Once I started listening to myself, all the pain I felt was still there, but it was healable. That pain was no longer an abstract, never-ending “this is just how I feel and I can’t change it” part of myself. You can only heal when you know what you are trying to heal. 

So, let’s circle back to that session of healing and how I got back to feeling stable. I fired up my laptop, hit the FaceTime button, and waited for my therapist to answer. I could feel the anxiety coursing through my body as I sat on my floor with my laptop perched on my bed. By the end of the session the anxiety was minimized, near gone. She helped me release the ties I was holding so tightly to. It was a beautiful exercise in release and I encourage you to try it if my description resonates with you.  I closed my eyes and she said “I want you to picture that relationship, the one that hurt you. Where can you feel it?” Without hesitation I saw a tight rope, thick and strong, tied so tightly to my heart it was strangling it. Each time it pumped, I could see the rope tighten. She wanted me to look at the memories that painted the rope. The good, the bad, the ugly; see the rope connected to that person. Then, she wanted me to cut it. 

I hesitated. I couldn’t cut it. I wasn’t ready. I was sobbing, not quite sure that I knew how to be without this part of myself. I was scared that letting go of that pain meant moving on and moving on meant finding someone new; scared because I didn’t know what any of that truly looked like. In the calmest of voices she said “only when you are ready Sarah.” And then the most beautiful healing imagery appeared: 

Baby Sarah. 

She grabbed my hand and whispered ‘we could cut it together.’ That little face of mine, with big dreams, staring up at me just wanting us to be happy. My sobbing slowed as we picked up the pair of golden scissors together. I squeezed her hand as I began to cut into the thick rope. It didn’t budge at first and I looked down at her again and she looked up at me as if to say “keep going” and I did. I cut again and again and again. Each cut made the rope fray ever so slightly. Then it happened, as if I was watching my own cartoon version of what I was doing, the rope slid to the floor, his end back to him and my end back to me and my heart started to glow like the sun. I didn’t realize I had been holding my breath until the rope broke free and I took a huge gasp of air. It almost felt like I had been holding my breath for the last two years. I opened my eyes and saw my therapist looking back at me. She said “I am so proud of you.” Those words again, setting me free. I said I wasn’t sure if I was ready to do it and she interrupted me and said “Sarah, if you weren’t ready to, we wouldn’t have done it.” That was the power of listening to myself- knowing when I’m ready to let go, ready to heal. Just as important as knowing when I am not ready. 

So, I spent the last two weeks remaining in tune with myself. I took a break, I ran away with me for the summer. I did not go upstate though, I went to Wisconsin. (Solid Hamilton reference in case you missed it.) I rented a car, drove 14 hours there and 14 hours back, got a COVID test before and after, and was able to be in tune with myself. My wants and needs were met every inch of the way.  I stopped everything that was giving me anxiety and I just lived. I took a break from this blog (not that this blog gives me anxiety, but I do feel the pressure of deadlines and wanting more people to read, etc.). I had dance parties in my kitchen with my roommate; I watched TV; I read a book; I took my antidepressant every day; I listened to me and trusted what I was hearing. 

So, here I am refreshed. My head is clear and my heart is … free. Of course, it’s all a practice and I’ll forget to listen and/or trust myself again, but that’s what learning is all about. We fail and we try again and again and again until we no longer have to think about. Until listening and trusting myself is as second nature as obnoxiously quoting Hamilton is. And please remember, it is more than okay to fail and forget and to make mistakes. If we didn’t we would be robots and we wouldn’t have feelings and this blog would be meaningless.

Plus, without the mistakes I’ve made along the way, I’m not sure this blog would even exist. Scratch that, I know this blog wouldn’t exist.

A[wo]men

arms spread,

eyes closed.

drop back

into a vast sea of yourself.

deep, powerful, real.

-trust falls

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