Strength is Found in Awareness & Help

C/W suicide, depression

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A[wo]men

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

tap. tap. tap.

you are here 

in this space.

you are breathing

in this space.

you are living 

in this space.

you are

in this space.

-grounding

 

The Opinion of Others in the Context of Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A[wo]men

boom. boom. boom. boom. boom.

it helps to know your heart beats,

only for yourself.

-where to start when changing the narrative

What goes down, must come up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A[wo]men

*Featured image from a stoop session*

look up;

close your eyes;

embrace 

-the known;

accept 

-the unknown.

inhale,

4,5.

exhale,

4,5.

repeat.

-how to find your ups.

 

A little less alone and a little bit more seen.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A[wo]men

can you hear me?

can you hear me?

can you hear me?

my brain,

screaming this;

from the top

-of the lungs,

to the depths

-of the belly.

just listen.

-processing

An Exercise in Grounding

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

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

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

Gratitude.

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

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

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

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

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

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

A[wo]men

i

love

you

-simplicity

 

 

Best Case Scenario

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

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

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

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

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

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

You’d really be helping an empath out.

A[wo]men

i

can’t predict,

can’t guess,

can’t know-

how

exciting.

-what’s next?

Dream a big dream of me.

Hello fellow readers! Did you miss me? Because I sure missed you. Can hardly believe it’s been a month since we last connected. It was a much needed break with time for reflection and connecting to the real world. I laughed, cried, and watched a lot of Gossip Girl. There was also a lot of ‘oh perhaps I will blog about that’ moments. So many in-fact, that I have several pieces of paper floating around that say things like “7 hours in the airport” and “girl skipping”.  Today though, I don’t want to discuss my travel woahs or how sometimes simple things give me the most joy; today I want to write about dreams. I’ve been having a lot of them lately. Some while I sleep and some while I am awake. There is a thread to them all though, the future.

My last blog post was about my goals for the new year and we are officially in it. 2020 has begun and just as any new year, I have started out strong. THE FUTURE IS NOW. This topic of the future though is a big deal to me. In a previous blog post  I discussed this new possibility of living without suicidal ideations. Since that post, I have absolutely had suicidal thoughts, but not in the same way. They are more fleeting and I am able to breeze past them like I am on a boat just passing by a sea creature and waving goodbye instead of it swallowing me whole. Which, of course, makes the future so much more exciting. I have all of these ideas constantly swirling around my brain. Making plans to travel the world. To turn 30, 40, 50, 60. Thinking about how and when I will get published one day.

When you feel suicidal for most of your life the future is this vague idea that, in all honesty, you don’t think will ever really come. I would speak of the future because I had to not because I believed it was real thing. It just seems to be a common topic amongst humans. What do you think your future partner looks like? What do you think you’ll be doing in the future? What kind of house are you going to live in? My head would yell IT’S BLANK and then I would spit out things I had seen in movies. Now, I want to tell everyone my plans. My partner will be kind, I will be a social worker and/or politician, I’ll have an apartment in Brooklyn with exposed brick! Ask me more!

And you know what else, feeling less suicidal has also allowed me to live more in the present. I have all this free’d up space to really witness the hustle and bustle around me. Instead of spending all of this time trying not to feel like I dying, I can now sit in an airport for several hours and observe the beautifully mundane world around me. Airport people are fascinating, btw. The bar was FULL at 6am and there were several kids on leashes. It is just a whole different place, almost felt like I was dreaming.

Speaking of dreams, I would also like to share changes my asleep dreams. Some of them have been seriously mundane. For example, I had one where I just went and got coffee and then walked to the park and sat in the sun and I met this super cute dog. It was simple and beautiful. I rarely dreamt before and if I did it was always a nightmare. I would wake up in panic with visions of me nearing death, often by way of murder. There are a lot of different theories on dreams. Who knows if any are correct or not, but I do know that something within me has changed. It can’t be a coincidence that when my mental health starts to feel more stable I stop dreaming of my imminent death. I must say, it has been one of the many perks of getting valuable help and really diving deep into my own psyche.

I know it’s cliche, but I am writing all of this because it can get better. Maybe right now you are reading this and thinking about wanting to die. Maybe for the last 10 years you have spent most of your days thinking the future isn’t possible. I see you. You’ve been through things and you have extremely valid pain in your life. If your dreams are more nightmares right now, it’s okay. It’s human and it happens. Please, be gentle with yourself. Give yourself the space to unpack the nightmares because they are there for a reason.

If you aren’t sure where to start, try reaching out to someone to talk to- whether that be me, a friend, a family member, a stranger on the subway, or the National Suicide Prevention Hotline (800-273-8255).

I see you and I love you and part of my dreams includes healing for you.

A[wo]men

my thoughts are silent films

the meanings my own-

to create

& feel

& hold

to rewind

& rewatch

& rewrite

-how i see my suicidal ideations

 

The Stranger Friend

Have you ever been in a really crowded place and all you could think was ‘so long as no one talks to me, I’ll be okay.’ I do this often. In New York, basically everywhere is crowded and escaping people is only done in the solace of your bedroom, and some aren’t even that lucky. I often use the tactics of loud headphones, avoiding eye contact, and looking as though I am feeling any emotion but happy. I would say this works fifty percent of the time. Some people really don’t care. Typically, I am polite and make conversation, but the whole time in my head I am screaming “LEAVE ME THE EFF ALONE, damn…” 

Currently, I am writing this from one of the most crowded places one can find in any city: The DMV. *DUN DUN DUN* If you have seen the movie depiction of a DMV- then you know exactly what surrounds me. The wait time is an estimated 4 hours, everyone is grumpy, and it smells of something I can’t quite place. I’m pretty sure this kid next to me did something in his diaper, but who I am to say for sure. It’s an anxious ball of energy just wanting to be, literally, anywhere else. 

I spent two hours here yesterday with no luck of getting what I came for. I had to get to therapy by 4pm, so I had to leave before my number was called. I left angry and on the verge of yelling at a stranger- not in typical Sarah fashion. I was mostly angry because I knew I would have to do it all over again. I would have to wait in the long lines and sit with the smell and “waste” two-three more hours of my life. I was definitely in the ‘nobody talk to me or I’ll scream’ mood. 

I thought about those two hours on my thirty minute train ride to therapy. I thought about how that sucked and how none of it was urgent and I will try again tomorrow. I calmed my nerves by breathing and just felt glad that the moment was over and I was on my way to talk about my feelings. Bonus because if I had any leftover feelings from the moment, I knew someone who could help. (She did help, as always. #ilovetherapy)

So, for my return to the DMV this morning I set a different intention. Instead of wasting time, I wanted to utilize the time that lay ahead of me. I was prepared in my head to be there for 5 hours (better to think it will be much longer than to think it will be much shorter). I then thought about what I would like to get done in 5 hours and what was possible. Hello Sarah, you have a blog to write. Five hours of uninterrupted writing will help the time breeze by.

Right off the bat the line was long and I waited 40 mins just to get a number to be seen. I couldn’t exactly write while I was standing in line, so that 40 mins had a lot of scroll time. Instagram kept telling me I was all caught up… so rude. Then, there was a chatty person in front of me. “Can I ask you a question? Do you have a number? Should I already have one? You were here yesterday? How long was the wait? Do you have a pen?” On and on and on. At first I was back to the “LEAVE ME THE EFF ALONE, damn…” mentality. I smiled politely and answered their questions between scrolls. Then I started thinking about the five hours ahead of me and I wondered why I didn’t want to talk to someone who was just as bored as I was. I then put my phone down and tried to keep the conversation going.

They asked me where was I from, what I do, the usuals from strangers. The not-so-usual from strangers occurs when you tell them you’re a social worker and used to be a child and family therapist. For those of you not in this line of work, it is extremely common for people to hear this and think that they can just get a free therapy session. Often I am stand-offish when this happens and imaginarily cover my ears and say “I can’t hear you, I can’t hear you! Nanananana.” *sticks tongue out* In this moment though, I thought, well sh*t, I’ve got time. Hit me. They proceed to tell me about their son who is 5. He just started kindergarten which was so exciting for the family. His class did a scavenger hunt the first day and it was really nice for the family and their son to orient to a new surrounding. However, the last week or so things have been hard. He has trouble sleeping which in turn causes him to be tired in the morning. They said “it is just a battle. Sometimes I can’t handle it. And then you’ve got these moms who brag about their kid going to bed at 7:30pm and I just wonder why he won’t do the same.”  I was amazed at this person just telling me their struggles, so openly and honestly. At one point they whisper “sometimes I just want to give him ambien… I mean I never would, but gosh it is tempting some days”. I pictured this kid, with assistance from the many pictures they showed me, just laying in bed fighting sleep wondering why his parents get to stay up so late, but he can’t.

“So, do you have any tips? Should I, like, take him to a therapist?” Again, said at a whisper.

I took a deep breathe, wondering how to breach the topic of “yo, I don’t know your kids life” in a graceful way. 

But then they just kept talking. 

They talked about their own troubles with sleep and how their anxiety keeps them up with their racing thoughts. How sometimes they need to listen to sleep stories, and take ambien, and need a warm bath before they can go to bed. “Maybe it just runs in the family,” they sighed.

As they are talking, I am so fascinated by their story. I find myself wanting to know more. Not because I am feeling like their therapist at this point, but because it is two people in this place that feels so rushed and hectic, slowing down. The loud speaker is intrusive in the conversation, continually calling out numbers. “B545 AT COUNTER 14.” And then here we are, two total strangers, connecting and passing the time together. I told them about my own life. How I just moved back after living in Alaska and giving them tips if they ever go there. My reasons for getting into social work and how ‘I don’t have a family yet, but I hope to one day.’

“Would you look at that, we’re almost to the front of the line. Thank you for chatting with me, Sarah, it was a really nice way to pass the time. I really appreciate you listening, I know you do it all day for work, but it was nice to just have someone to talk to. And good luck with everything.”

As we wrapped up our conversation I thought about how nice of a time I had in that line all because I decided to challenge my thoughts of ‘avoid, avoid, avoid’ to ‘lets just see where this conversation goes’. I think back to all the times I avoided people and what they had to say and the many connections I overlook on a daily basis. This is not to say that I am going to start talking to every stranger I meet, heck I may not even change my ways at all; it did remind of how simple it can be to just do one thing differently and how that will impact you in any moment.

I have now since left the DMV and am writing in the comfort of my own home and as I was leaving I thought about how I felt yesterday compared to today. Today I was smiling when I left. I utilized my time there, got what I needed, and was even able to gather a whole post just from a single morning. If I hadn’t talked to them, if I just put my headphones in, I don’t think things would be extremely different. I would’ve written about some other thing I’ve experienced, I would’ve gotten my license, had the same lunch, still gone for a run, taken a shower, picked out the same clothes. It just would’ve been one less connection I made in the world.

Then again, I don’t really know, we never do. Perhaps, if I didn’t talk to them I would have become angry again and then decided to leave and just deal with it a different day, then not to run and so on. We just never know how one thing impacts another. I think that is something I am trying to recognize more of. Perhaps tonight when my stranger friend goes home they think about how I told them I’ve met a lot of kids that have trouble sleeping and how they aren’t alone and this thought makes them feel less anxious for just a moment. See the impacts are invisible most times, but I think they are there and I think they all stem from each connection we make. And again, maybe they don’t do this at all, but isn’t it cool that it’s a possibility? That maybe just maybe I impacted their life, as much as they influenced mine. A whole blog post of material, ya know?

I guess I would like to urge you to maybe take your headphones out one day in a crowded place. Maybe start a conversation or don’t write off the stranger trying to start one with you. I think we are all just a little lonely some days and a stranger is just as good as anyone to listen. Heck, you might even make a stranger friend out of it.

A[wo]men

“Can i ask you a question?”

No-

You can ask me a million questions,

fill my head with a million conversations.

Become a stranger friend.

-How to make connections