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

 

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

Our Own Best Ally

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

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

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

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

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

I then got up and puked.

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

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

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

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

A[wo]men

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

Shannon Robinson- Love Can Survive Fear

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Yes.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I couldn’t agree more- Be Kinder.  

A[wo]men & Shannon Robinson

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

 

 Black History Month’s featured Black Artist:

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

-Alicia Keys, Underdog (2020)

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

 

 

 

 

Winter Appreciation Post

Happy Hump day my fellow readers. I hope you are all bundled up in warmth on these frightfully chilly days, or enjoying your heat if you are from a place that is warm during these months.

Let’s see.. over the last week I have done a lot of self-care. The burnout I was experiencing was a bit overwhelming, but I knew I had to keep fighting and pulling myself out before I went far too low. It’s interesting, as I become more aware of my emotions and my coping skills, the less I get buried under them. Fascinating how that works, huh? Over this past week I started running again, colored in a coloring book, went to bed early, set boundaries, and cooked at home. It is amazing how all these simple tasks, when combined, become a haven of healing for myself. All that is to say I am feeling back to a stable human being and super excited about it.

I spent my whole C train ride to this Starbucks wondering what I shall write about today. A few things crossed my mind as I simultaneously wondered who else’s bum sat on this subway seat *crosses fingers ‘I hope that Lin Manuel has sat where I sat’.  Then I started to think about the season. The season of cold, of holidays, of peppermint mocha lattes *decaf, of so many layers you melt when you get inside, of seasonal affective disorder, oh how the list could go on. This season gets a bad reputation, predominantly because it is cold and dark AF. I get it. I’m tired by 5:30 and most days I can’t feel my nose. The thing is, I love this season. I’m a Sagittarius, if you couldn’t tell, so winter IS my season. Often when I say this, I am met with faces of disgust and sometimes real harsh words. We all have our opinions, I suppose. Even though I am right and you are wrong (BIG Sagittarius energy).

Usually what I hear when people talk about cold weather is that of pessimism and dreams of being rich and famous and in the Caribbean. As someone who used to be a full-time pessimist (now identifying as part-time) it totally makes sense. To dream up an alternative life somewhere else that doesn’t involve the cold, but then I think wait… weren’t you the same bloke that was crying about the heat and wanting to be in A/C all day? Yeah, I see you Karen. Nothin’ makes ya happy.

All of this is to say that for today’s post I wanted to make something light-hearted and fun and perhaps heart-warming for all you cold folx, whether that is your soul or physical temp. So, here is my list of reasons why I/we should all love winter:

  1. People are so much more generous during the ‘holiday season’. One time someone bought my coffee and they were just like ‘Tis the season!” That sweet, sweet coffee angel. I’ll never forget you.
  2. Dogs. In. Jackets.
  3. Snuggly sweaters- both the object and the candle you can buy from Target.
  4. Throwing snowballs at people and things you don’t like. I once threw a snowball at Trump Tower and that was cool. Some ideas for all you in case you need them: Throw them at people that are bad at parking. Throw them at your evil ex or throw them at pictures of your evil ex in case you don’t want to actually see them. Throw them at Donald Trump. Throw them at yourself when you’re near someone rich and then blame them and maybe they will give you money because they feel bad and because “Tis the season!”.
  5. Running in the snow. It’s like regular running except slower and I often pause to stick my tongue out and I get significantly less sweaty. I also sometimes pause to stick my arms and tongue out while spinning in a circle because I believe I am the lead in a rom-com.
  6. Hats/gloves/scarves are cheap to buy and also v. cute.
  7. Did I mention all of the layers you get to pile over any insecurities you might have? I could have anywhere between A-DDD breasts under all of this, you may never know. (DD, if you were curious though.)
  8. Getting to use the excuse “I’m eating more to stay warm for the winter months.”
  9. Sparkly lights all the time, everywhere.
  10. People are more understanding of you going to bed early because the sun is no longer out and that seems more acceptable of a reason to people than ‘it’s good for my mental health’.
  11. It is perfectly acceptable to cancel plans because it is too cold.
  12. Since my birthday is in the winter I get to find out who my true friends are because they risk their lives in the cold to meet me at some dive bar. Thats real friendship, y’all.
  13. Makeup stays on really well because it freezes to your face.
  14. Dogs. In. Jackets.
  15. Boots elevate any outfit
  16. People want to cuddle up next to you a lot more. Fact, my first close contact with a boy was in high school. I’ll set the scene: It’s the annual Grafton High School outdoor, haunted corn maze. In Wisconsin winter starts in October. As a cool kid, I was on the student council and volunteered to be a ‘scarer’. Fake spider webs are everywhere as we wait to scare the next poor child that walks past. “It’s so cold” says the group I’m with “perhaps we should all congregate together for warmth.” My crush, a year older than me, just happens to be in this group. He put his arm around me and I think I blacked out from there. Thank you, cold weather. We never spoke again, but I’ll always have the memories.
  17. Seasonal Affective Disorder. This may seem strange to be thankful for, but recently my roommate told me that her old therapist said that blaming your emotions on the weather can be the number one way to invalidate how you are feeling. And ya know, sometimes I would rather not realize that I’m actually sad for a valid reason. Sometimes I want to blame the weather or mercury in retrograde, k? *This is not to discredit SAD. I fully believe this is real and if you do experience this and are looking for some tips/tricks/referrals feel free to shoot me a message on my contact page.
  18. The subway is significantly less stinky. Less sweaty people=less stinky. It’s called science.
  19. People like to read more in the winter because they are at home and curled up by the fire or candle that they imagine is a fire and also feel they are in their own rom-com. People always read by the fire in rom-coms. In turn, my blog is read more in the winter. I do not have data to back this up.
  20. Clumsy people have more of a reason to fall. They can blame the snow and ice instead of blaming their inability to walk properly.
  21. Blankets.
  22. I do my hair much more in winter. It typically last longer and looks better because again science. Less sweat=better hair.
  23. I am lucky enough to live in a warm home with electricity. I get to feel blessed everyday when I walk in from the cold into the warm. Even if my heater sounds like snakes and demons are in my walls.
  24. Winter rom-coms are better than other rom-coms.
  25. Dogs. In. Jackets.
  26. Ice skating is romantic as hell. Even on your own. #self-partnered
  27. People love to commiserate together. Winter haters love to congregate and shake their fists in the air discussing how cold it is and dreaming of a cruise somewhere warm. They are the cutest grumps out there too because they in all their layers. All you can see is the hatred in their eyes. People that hate together, stay together.

As you can now see, winter is not that bad.

A[wo]men

most people think you

suck the life out of a room

I think you are cool.

-winter

a healing journey

Hello all! I am so happy to be back and writing. I had a good break, but I really missed my me time. A lot has happened in the last couple weeks. My friend, Kitty Sopow, who you know a little something, something about from a previous post came to visit. We had a blast exploring the city and being all around basic. This included a photoshoot in Brooklyn Bridge Park, watching Buffy the Vampire Slayer, tons of shopping/eating, and seeing Hamilton. Hamilton was a bucket list item and I can’t believe I got to cross it off the list #blessed.

Lately I have been in a pretty good headspace. I mean Hamilton was really my peak so it may all be down hill from here, but I digress. I am still riding the waves of my human emotions because I am not AI, but overall I feel grounded and it is amazing. As I feel this sense of grounding I find it more difficult to write. Comedians and artists alike often joke about their best work coming from dark places. So, when I am not in a dark place in can be harder to find inspiration. I thought about this as I geared up for another new blog post. “What can I possible write about today” I pondered and then I thought if I can write a whole post about my 5 hours at the DMV, I am pretty sure I can find something meaningful to write today.

In fact, when I first sat down to write, I wrote a ton of different things, but none of them were the story I wanted to tell. I probably could have made them work, but I don’t like to force things. Then this voice kept showing up. There is a story that I was never sure I would be ready to tell, but my head keeps saying today is the day. So, I guess today is the day. This is a story that I have alluded to many times over in previous posts, but never really said outright. I am ready now. Today’s story is about my own experience with sexual assault, so please read only if you feel in the right place to do so.  

C/W Rape, sexual assault, suicidal ideations.

Today I want to talk about the time I was raped. *I originally wrote assaulted here, but I want to name it exactly what it was, it was rape* A moment that really shaped the person I am today. I don’t really want to talk about the details, because I don’t think it is necessary. I think there are enough movies and TV shows that depict the horrific things that can be done to a persons body without their permission. I have no desire to further that aspect. What I do want to talk about is the aftermath- the hardship and confusion I experienced for many, many years.

When I first started writing, like way back during my first blogging days, this was the story I really wanted to tell. It was actually the first story I had ever written about myself, I just never posted it anywhere. I saved it to my desktop and still have it hiding in a documents folder titled ‘extra school work’. Sometimes when I am feeling confused or lost I go back and read it. It reminds me of how far I have come.

My experience was my first time, I was 20 years old and it was with someone I liked… well if I am being honest, who I thought I loved.  I spent a long time confused about the entire situation which in turn made my whole understanding of sex and relationships confusing. When I told a previous therapist about my ‘first time’ I told her a lie. I talked about how sweet he was and recited a scene that could have been placed in any romantic comedy. That lie morphed over time and depending on the person asking I would share different versions of what happened. I was disappointed in myself and scared to tell the truth. Alcohol was involved and so for a long time I blamed myself. Actually for a long time I didn’t even consider it rape; it was just sex that I didn’t remember. Throughout my early twenties I would sometimes close my eyes really tight and just whisper “remember, remember” over and over to myself, hoping that I could get one glimpse of what happened that night. What I do remember is that next morning. Every single part of it. I know what I was wearing, what we talked about. The exact words exchanged. When I would close my eyes and try to remember that is what I would see.

After that, I spent most of my early 20’s drinking a lot. It wan’t too unusual to people though because it is so embedded in college life. I was exhibiting normal early 20’s behavior, which now that I am a bit older is entirely alarming. I would drink to the point of blacking out, more often than I would care to admit and still this was pretty mainstream in the college scene. The thing is I didn’t want to remember things anymore. After that first time blacking out and with everything that happened I wanted to be this alternate universe Sarah who, in my head, was promiscuous and confident and attractive to others. I didn’t know who showed up when I was blacked out of course, but I remember she would make my friends laugh and they would give me stories that I didn’t know about my own life. I couldn’t be intimate with people unless I was drunk. I didn’t know how to feel safe any other way. My vulnerability was stripped with alcohol and I could hide behind her and block out the truths that would shout at me in the daytime.

Many weekends would be filled with alternate universe Sarah, but as time moved, the more I drank the less I would black out and the higher my tolerance became. Instead of becoming alternate universe Sarah, I became sad Sarah. I would drink and I would cry and my friends would take care of me. And then next time we drank I would begin the nights with promises that I wouldn’t cry this time and of course I would and the cycle would continue. My only saving grace was school. Just as school saved me as a child, it saved me as a young adult. The more immersed I became in school the less I could drink and the more head space it would take up. School has always been my safe space.

The first time I really talked about it to a professional was at the counseling center in my college, junior year. I was 23 at the time- 3 years after it happened. I was extremely depressed, suicidal, and my binge eating was at it’s worst. My best friend said ‘I think you need to go talk to someone. I’ve never seen you this bad’. So I did and I told her everything. I told her about my first time, my real first time. After I let it all out she said “Sarah, what you are telling me is rape”. I remember feeling taken aback. My first thought was that ‘that can’t be right. I don’t even remember it. I don’t know if I said no or fought back.’ She went on and said she experienced the same thing with her ex-husband. She broke down the stigma’s that I carried around like they were a part of me. She lifted each one off by saying what I needed to hear- “It wasn’t your fault. It doesn’t matter if you were drinking. He had no right to do that to you.” I connected with her in a way I never had with my previous therapist. I never went back after that first session. It was too much to process, too much that happened. I wish I could remember her name  or send her a thank you card though because she was my first step in a long healing journey.

The assault happened when I was 20 years old. It has now been 8 years and for the first time in those 8 years I truly feel at peace. I think this is why I couldn’t write about it before. It was too raw and I hadn’t done the appropriate healing to write about it in a way that felt healthy. I didn’t want to write this story and not be able to end it with a sense of hope because I needed the hope when I was in the beginning of my journey. I didn’t need the detailed stories or even what the healing was supposed to look like, I just needed to know it was possible. I get to now say that it is possible. I went through this really awful thing and there is no erasing it. However, I also got to do some pretty amazing things through that. It drove me into my career choice. The older I got the more I wanted to help people that had similar experiences. I now get to sit with people who have experienced similar situations and I am able to be that therapist that is sometimes their first step in healing.

Over and over again I have read from all the brave and honest people who said #metoo and told their stories. I read poems that stuck cords with me. I listened to stories that I played on repeat sometimes. I want to continue the movement of shedding the stigma, breaking down barriers, and keeping the conversation going. To know I wasn’t alone was another part of my healing journey. Most friends I disclosed to shared their own stories. Little by little I let go of that pain. Today I write this with a scar that will never fade, but one that I look at with gentle love rather than pain. It marks the beginning of journey I never expected to be on.

If you are on a healing journey or don’t know how to start a healing journey you can reach out to me for support on my contact page or you can go to RAINN the largest anti-sexual violence organization that has a 24/7 hotline 800.656.HOPE (4673).

A[wo]men

i had a dream last night that you apologized for all the ways you hurt me.

you listened to what I had to say and you heard all the bad you had done.

you owned up to it. you accepted it. you cried.

it was only a dream, yet it was the closest i felt to closure.

we swam in the moonlight.

you kissed me like I deserved to be kissed when i thought i loved you.

it was a goodbye kiss.

goodbye, forever.

-healing