Kitty Sopow: The Wish

Imagine you’re a child sitting in a field of grass; you see a dandelion and your eyes perk up. As you pluck it from the base of the earth, you think of the one thing you wish for most in the world. What was that young you thinking of? What did you whisper to yourself as you blew the seeds into space to take on a new life? 

For Kitty Sopow it was always the dream of her parents getting back together.

This week we will be exploring the brave and honest story from my dear friend, Kitty.

I met Kitty in a Target in Anchorage, which is strange because neither of us lived in Anchorage and neither of us lived in a Target, although it sometimes feels like it. Kitty had known my then boyfriend through Skype calls as they worked together on a project. As we were strolling down the aisle I remember him squinting his eyes and saying to me ‘I think I know her’. Then he said it to her, “I think I know you”. I remember looking at Kitty and thinking ‘damn… she’s cool.’ She had punk rock hair, 70’s fashion glasses, with printed leggings and an oversized sweatshirt on. She had a huge grin on her face as she finally got to meet her friend outside of the screen. I lingered back from the conversation, as shy people often do, trying to not embarrass myself in front of the cool kid.

“Kitty, what were your first impressions of me?”

“I could tell.. you were like ‘something is wrong with this bitch!’”

“HA All I kept thinking is… this girl is a badass!”

“WHAT?!?”

This is where I like to begin because this is where Kitty and I began. And, as I’ve learned many times in my life, first impressions are often *pardon my language* total shit. She said she thought I didn’t like her. She thought I was assessing her, trying to figure out if she was into my boyfriend or not. She shared that when she first moved to the island in Alaska for the summer, which is how we became closer than a Target meet and greet, she thought I was a “wet blanket”. RUDE. To be fair, she only knew me for five seconds and thought I was scared she was into my boyfriend- I can’t hold that against her. We all do it. Another commonality among the human race. And so, this was where our story began: Through thoughts not discussed, but impacting the relationship regardless.

As we continued on the with the interview, agreeing that we were closer friends by overcoming our preconceived ideas, I started to find a common theme- often the things we don’t talk about are creating the biggest impact in our relationships.

“Why do you want to tell your story? 

“Well, ya know, I want to support you. And I’m always the one recording stories, so [I thought] it would be kinda nice to reverse the rolls…”

Kitty just graduated with a Masters of Science in Applied Anthropology in August of 2019. This degree is what brought her to Klawock, Alaska and into my life. For her thesis she wrote about subsistence on Prince of Wales. She interviewed people about the role subsistence plays in their lives. I spent many nights with Kitty hearing her talk about her interviews and would see the way she lit up when she became a part of someones story. In a way, I think she influenced me to start this project of telling other peoples stories. Seeing the way she became so involved and immeshed in each persons way of life was intoxicating.

“What do you like about your role as the interviewer?” I asked. 

“You know, you just sit in silence and people just tell you what’s important to them and I think that’s really cool.” 

Kitty, still airing that ‘cool girl’ vibe even today, is sitting on her bed, morning hair falling every which way, as she paints her toenails a merlot red. Oversized boxer shorts and a fitted tank top sets the tone for an ‘I woke up like this’ conversation.

“So [Kitty] the other part of today, obviously, is talking about a story that you have that you feel like might connect with other people… Do you have a story in mind?”

This is where I started to see a different side of Kitty. Her words became a little more rushed than normal and I could feel her energy shift from confident to unsure. The cool-girl vibe still lingered but mixed with a story that she has been holding in for some time. 

“Can I cry while I tell you.. I think I know a story I want to tell…” 

Her eyes were watering and her voice began to shake. She took a deep breath in.

“When I was a kid, there were dandelions all over the place, obviously in the spring. And uh, and my Aunt told me if I picked one up and blew, when all the whispers went away in one blow your dream/wish would come true. And they would always say that stupid wish would come true, like, if you wish on the first star that you saw or, or like, *sniffles* you blew all your birthday cake candles out in one blow your wish would come true, but I never could… and for years all I did was wish my parents would get back together. And yeah… sometimes I sit here and I forget that for years I would just oh, I would wish so hard every night when I’d see a star, every year on my birthday, or every f****ing single breath in the spring I would wish that. And they never got back together and so… I would go from like being at my dads house with my step-mom who hated me, to going to my moms house with my step-dad who we hated.”

I could tell this was something she didn’t talk about often. This was a story that came through with most of her relationships, both platonic and not, but was never said out loud. It felt as though Baby Kitty was sitting across from me, still just wishing on her flowers, candles, stars and now blog posts for the miracle of a family that didn’t know the word ‘divorce’. I know she isn’t alone. I’ve sat with friends, clients, partners, you name it, who all dreamed of different family dynamics. My parents never got divorced, but I remember when things would get bad, using some of my own wishes on a desire to feel like the Brady Bunch. I didn’t talk about it for a long time though. Blood is thicker than water, therefore, it is easier to drown in. As Kitty took her deep breaths between sentences, it felt like she was working her way up to the surface. With each word that left her lips, the heaviness seemed to start lifting. She was no longer holding in the story that held her under for so long.

Kitty was coming up for air in front of my eyes. 

Kitty went on with how this whole situation impacted her choices moving forward. She, like a lot of kids that have difficult relationships with their families, learned to be independent. She knew as soon as she could leave their care she would; her ambitions fueled by the desire to be done with needing her family. That mentality, however, started to feel a bit bit blurry when she got the news that takes over much of the space in her mind today. 

“I was just like thinking you know, wow, like I spent years just thinking about that one wish, ya know? Now it’s just weird because well my moms got breast cancer… and I had to call my dad and tell him. And it was like, I’ve know for a long time that my moms had cancer like at first she had skin cancer, then had cervical cancer, and now its in her breasts and lymph nodes and my dad didn’t know any of this… and he was like ‘Oh, thanks for telling me.’ And I just thought that was, like, just weird. It’s so weird. What’s really weird, okay, is so my dad’s mom also has cancer. Everyone else knew that my mom had cancer but my dad didn’t and it was just weird. ‘Oh yeah dad, sorry, you’re the last one to know my moms had cancer for like a year… And its like, you know, I know my dad at one point had to have feelings for my mom… so, like, I wonder what he is thinking?… his mom has cancer, his ex wife now has cancer, I wonder if he’s thinking ‘oh my daughter is going to get cancer.’

As she said this sentence I could feel my body start to heat up, because all I could hear in that sentence was ‘oh, is my friend going to get cancer?’ My friend, that was so rawly telling me about the difficult childhood she had and her family’s battle with cancer, and the person that was there for me in some of my darkest times, would I see the day that she get’s sick? I tried to let the thought pass through, not letting it derail the conversation. 

She continued on about this strange dynamic that now existed and then it hit me, was my friend sitting there also wondering if she was going to get cancer? 

“You know [Kitty] you mentioned your dad wondering if you were going to get cancer, but is that something you’re thinking about?”

“I think so. I always thought I was going to die from suicide or cancer,” she shared as she was laughing through her nose.

Kitty uses laughter as a way to cope with the dark things in her life. It is something that I love the most about her. She continued to make jokes throughout the interview, saying things like “my mom is the one-percenter of breast cancer, so bow down, she is a one-percenter.” When I lived with Kitty we would spend hours laughing at everything we could. We would talk about our suicidal ideations like it was going to be the kickstart for our stand-up shows. No matter the topic we find a way to laugh together. But the good thing about knowing Kitty, even more after this interview, is that I know that between the laughs there are deep, deep pains that spill out with hard crying. This interview was no different, oscillating between laughter and tears. I could feel her pain and I could feel her trying to cope with that pain. 

She went on to talk about her two siblings who have gone through the same events, but how they handled it much differently. 

Kitty talks about her family through a lens of empathy, wanting to have a deeper understanding of the choices that were made as to lessen the pain and the way it impacts her daily life. She told me about her brothers and how much it affects them. She recalled the disconnect from her older brother as he pushed away from any sort of connection, which they have now started to rebuild. Then to her younger brother, who is still working on finding himself. As she then laughs and throws in “So, yes I am the middle, obviously.” Needing to interject some more comedy to help protect herself. 

All of this disconnect and hurt with her family kept her on the move. She winded up in Alaska in August of 2012. If there is one thing that Kitty has always made clear to me, it’s that Alaska held one of the most special places in her heart. 

“And so, do you think you’ll be in Alaska forever?”

“You know, I used to think that, until my mom got sick again. I’m gonna go home for a little bit. It’s not healthy for me to be there for a long time. I haven’t been home for more than 5 days in like 7 years. Yeah, I was thinking about going home for a month.” She was quick to note that she wouldn’t be staying at her families homes, she would be renting a place, still finding ways to keep herself safe. 

It felt as though Kitty was letting go of something as the interview came to an end. She was recognizing that as we get older we can take our history and rather than let it define us we can let it inform us. Kitty still cares deeply for her family, regardless of the unfulfilled wishes from her childhood. She is there for her mom and they are all working together to get through all the ways cancer derails their lives. Her wish now transforming into one of keeping her mother alive, healthy, and married to anyone, so long as she can stick around.

Kitty, who I see as a strong, bad-ass, presented me with very real vulnerability. I felt so connected to someone I already call a close friend. Hearing her story, I was humbled by the ways I didn’t know this part of my friend. It reminded me that whether you are sitting with a complete stranger or your best friend, there are always new stories to discover, so long as you leave space for people to tell you what’s important to them.

“Okay last question for you, Kitty. Is there anything you want to recommend to people hearing your story and have experienced or are experiencing the things you have experienced?”

“Uhm, probably just self-care and mindfulness and sometimes self-care isn’t a bubble bath it’s actually getting a f****ing therapist and talking about some shit. In order to have productive self-care I think you need to know a lot about yourself… Self-care doesn’t necessarily feel good. It can honestly be the most painful thing you ever do.”

Blunt enters the screen, another coping skill she has acquired over time.  

She continues, as she exhales from a deep drag, “my mom consumes every thought of mine right now. I’ve been crying a lot lately… Here I go crying again.”

“I wish I could hug you.”

Through the tears, “I just want to say that if my mom were here she would say ‘google how to do your own breast exam. And don’t forget to get your mammogram at dat 40’ and then she would cross her arms and give you the look.” 

Sound advice, I would say.

And I would like to add, never stop wishing on anything you can. As Kitty so perfectly demonstrated, sometimes hope is all that we have to get us through a difficult time.

A[wo]men & Kitty Sopow

* Featured image gathered from story-teller (From left bottom to right bottom: Joe, Terry-mom, Kitty, Pearce-dad, Bobby)

Vows, schmows. I don’t care.

Is it hereditary?

I really don’t know.

-Divorce by Kitty Sopow

If you or someone you know is interested in having their story told please fill out the contact form located on this website.

***For more information on the story-teller, follow her on instagram @sopowart

The Inevitable Connection

Hello folx. So, this weeks post is going to be a bit shorter because I am gearing up to do my first post on the most recent interview I did! I am so excited with how it is turning out and *Alert* you are not going to want to miss next week’s post. It will bring all the feels. Of course, I can’t bring all the feels without some serious dedication to transcribing and really getting deep into the work, hence the shorter post this week.

So, here goes the quick snapshot:

Tears flowing, ice cream in one hand, hitting the ‘continue watching  button’ on Netflix in the other, and on-again, off-again napping throughout the day. That was my Sunday- a ‘straight out of a rom-com’ scene. My body was on empty and I tried all day to refuel it with anything that I thought would make it happy.

‘You wanna go on a walk, girl? How ’bout a nap? Is she hungry?’

Turns out, I was exhausted from dating.

I called some friends to tell them how I was feeling. I told them how I feel empty, how I can’t believe I am still thinking about my ex, and how I keep meeting these really great guys and I can’t seem to move forward with any of them. They all responded with the same exact words: “You’re trying too hard.” Okay, rude, but like… so real. Thank goodness for friends and therapists, amiright?

So, I deleted the apps. I erased the accounts. I’ve called off the search for now.

I’ll be honest, the sense of relief that came from that small act was unreal. I couldn’t believe how much pressure I was putting on myself and how easily I could take that pressure off. I don’t know if you’ve ever done this, but sometimes I feel like I am going a million miles an hour and I can’t slow down because if I do I will fall apart. Of course, I always do slow down and I do fall apart and that breakdown is the catalyst for me moving on. A lesson I seem to keep forgetting.

I think that’s why I was putting all my energy into dating. I didn’t want to spend time thinking about all the hurt and change I experienced in a months time. I was recently reminded of everything I’ve gone through. In one month, I left a job and started a new one, I moved across the country and then moved again across Brooklyn, I quit drinking coffee, I went through a major and minor break-up. It almost feels unreal because I blew right past all of it. So, I am finally slowing down. I am sitting in all the change that I have endured and letting it wash over me.

The beauty is that we have all experienced some change in our lives and I am sure you can attest to the grieving process it can evoke. Just remember, that change is inevitable and that’s a beautiful thing because it’s just another way we can all connect to one another.

And as a sneak peak into next weeks post: The story-teller went through some big changes of her own at a young age and it has impacted the major changes she is going through today. I hope to connect more with you all next week through this brave and honest story.

A[wo]men

Fire and ice burn up through her throat,

a tornado inside.

“I can feel it,”

Water flows from her eyes,

sinking into the creases of her smile.

“I’m human.”

 

Life Imitating Art

Yesterday, I gathered my belongings, googled the best spot to get work done in Brooklyn, and took two trains to reach the Brooklyn Roasting Company. I got a delicious peach iced tea and sat in a spot that could only be described as the most ideal place for writing. I waited till I stopped sweating, opened my laptop… and nothing.

I wrote and erased and wrote and erased until I became so frustrated I was crying in the coffee shop. I closed the computer screen and thought maybe I just need to take a walk. I walked to the water, my usual happy place, and, in all honesty, I berated myself. ‘Why can’t you just write something? What is wrong with you? Are you stupid? Poor depressed Sarah, can’t even write about her own life.’ I then came to the conclusion that Tuesday was not my day to write. I felt defeated, low on energy, and pretty worthless.

I went to go eat lunch because I thought maybe that would help. As I sat in the crowded restaurant staring at the people eating lunch together, watching their conversations flow- symbiotic and mesmerizing- I felt alone, alone and sad. I got up at one point to go to the bathroom and my ass hit my neighbors cup as I tried to squeeze between the two tables. I heard the two people laugh and saw their eyes glance at one another. I was already feeling like shit, let’s pile on more. I could feel my face turning red as I sped to the bathroom. The bathroom, single stall, was where I tried to slow my breathing, hoping my red would dull. Of course, I was so embarrassed from the ass-cup incident I forgot to lock the door and my breathing exercise was not only interrupted, but my red face turned even more scarlet. “Someone’s in here” I managed to say in a high whisper. And then I began to cry again. Knowing I had to return to my booth where I had to shove my ass in between the tables again gave me anxiety. So I returned to my breathe, splashed cold water on my face, and avoided the mirror before returning to the table. I finished my lunch slowly, attempting to avoid judgment from my neighboring tables. I had this voice in my head that said ‘if a fat girl eats too fast while she is alone at lunch that won’t look good.’ Literally, no logic to this sentiment, but that’s where my head was at. As the table on my left (not the ass-cup table) was leaving they knocked their entire wine bottle of water into my lap. I smiled and said it was “no problem at all” adding in my head ‘this is just how my day is going.’ I looked at my phone and realized it was time to head to therapy. Thank yeezy.

I thought about how glad I was that I had therapy and how badly I wanted to cancel. I already knew that it was going to be tough one. Yet, I pushed myself to go. I knew it was what I needed. I hopped on the train to uptown Manhattan and arrived 40 minutes early, as someone with anxiety often does, and laid down in Central Park until it was actually time for me to be there. As I laid down it started to drizzle and I thought about how the sky is crying because I am crying. It felt like I was symbiotic with nature in that moment. Both of us rinsing our pain with water. I may not have had a lunch pal but I can always rely on nature to sit and engage with me.

It was then time for my appointment.

I went inside, sat on the couch, and burst into tears. “What’s coming up for you, Sarah?” My therapist often asks me this and I have to think about what is triggering my responses. “I feel empty. I’ve felt empty. I went to write, which is how I usually let things go, and nothing came out.” The session went on like this for about 60 minutes. Crying, exploring, crying, breathing, exploring, crying. Towards the end of the session my therapist said “Sarah, I’m scared for you. Are you scared for you? It feels to me like you are drowning.”

“Yeah, I feel like I am drowning.”

“Have you felt like this before.”

“Yeah, every few months or so. It’s just a cycle I am on. I know this will pass.”

“That’s bullshit.”

Damn, she said that. I was taken aback, but also grateful to hear it.

“I’m sorry,” she continued “but I don’t play games in here. We tell ourselves stories and we start to believe those stories. You have trauma and yes, I am sure it feels like you are ‘stuck on a cycle’ but you are not stuck. It is up to you to end it, Sarah. You have to fight for yourself; everyday you have to fight. It’s not easy, but you have to do this for yourself.”

And with those final words she gave me a hug and whispered again ‘you have to fight’.

I left that room and felt her words echoing in my ears- “You have to fight for yourself.”

I hopped back on the train towards Brooklyn with my next destination in mind. I wasn’t headed home, I was headed to CKO Kickboxing. Why? Well, for one I had made a promise last week to try new things. Two- I walk past this place everyday and think ‘I should really try that’ so I figured today would be the day I do. Three- I am watching Riverdale still and Archie is doing boxing and it looks badass. Four- They have a 29.99 special for three classes. Five- I have to fight for myself.

It was hard. It was painful. It was exactly what I needed. Every hit, kick, run, and jump I felt myself fighting to be alive. Fighting to break a cycle, or a story rather, that doesn’t need to be my story. I sent my therapist a message thanking her and informing her of the class. She told me she was happy for me and that I can do this and to “KICK ASS”.

There are so many stories we tell ourselves yet, we forget that we wrote them and we can erase and rewrite and erase and rewrite until the very end. Yesterday, I felt defeated that I couldn’t write; my pattern of writing and erasing felt exhausting. Today, I realized that was an exercise and reminder for me- the epitome of ‘life imitating art’.  Every time we write we can erase and every time we erase we can rewrite. Today, I woke up- sore from my workout- excited to rewrite.

Everyday I wake up is a chance to keep fighting and writing. I hope you all keep fighting and writing with me.

A[wo]men

*Note: I found my new, amazing therapist from My Wellbeing – a website dedicated to finding the right therapist for you. If you’re in the 5 boroughs area and on the search for a therapist you can truly connect with, follow the link and fill out your profile today*

 

Heavy Lifting

In the name of honesty and bravery, I am beginning today’s post with some realness. I don’t want to write this. I didn’t even want to open my eyes this morning or even fall asleep last night. I ate this morning out of necessity, not out of hunger. I brushed my teeth with the will of 100 men in battle. I’m still, of course, going to write this; just as I powered through the other tasks of my morning, because I know that fresh air is coming.

It has been a tough week for me. Nothing in particular to note, but just a feeling of longing. I’ve spent a lot of time alone this week, mostly watching TV and lounging. For some, this can be a refreshing activity, but for me it often creates feelings of isolation. The more I feel disconnected the more I disconnect. I think I am currently in the dun dun dun ‘suck zone’. For those of you wondering what exactly the ‘suck zone’ is let me quote the great 1996 film Twister: “‘The Suck Zone’…when the twister… sucks you up. That’s not the technical term for it, obviously.” Obviously… but it is just the term I needed, Dusty. See I’ve been sucked up into the twister of loneliness.

There are a few things that I have noticed that may be playing into these feelings:

Number 1. I still don’t have a good schedule down. I keep having random appointments, odd trips, weird bed times, and strange work hours which I let take over any semblance of a routine.

Number 2. As I try to increase the reach of my blog, I have become a little too intense about social media. I went from taking a two week hiatus, to checking my stats every 20 minutes. It is too much.

Number 3. I still think about my breakup much more than I care to admit. This is a hard one to be honest about because I get embarrassed by this fact. I know, I know. I keep hearing it over and over… “It’s a process. Don’t feel bad and don’t try to rush it. This will pass.” And I get that. I know they are right and breakups are hard, but, like, I do feel bad and I want to rush it and could it just pass already?

Number 4. It’s Amazon Prime day and I don’t have enough money to buy unnecessary things for the sake of sales. Sometimes, I just want to be frivolous. I want to throw hundo’s around like I’m in a cool music video.

Number 5. I want coffee. Hi, I’m Sarah, and I’m an addict. I’ve been coffee free for one month and it’s been harder to resist the sweet bean of life, now, more than ever.

Number 6. I am still not Lizzo and that’s all I really want in this life.

So, as you can see, I’m not really setting myself up for great success. The good news is that I recognize this and I am being really gentle with myself. I am ensuring that I still do things that keeps the war at bay.

How, might you ask? Let me count the ways:

Number 1. I am requiring myself to spend time outside for at least one hour per day.

Number 2. I am still going to my therapist! This is the longest standing therapeutic relationship I have ever had. (Aside from my dog Brandy, who was my therapist growing up. RIP. [And yes, she was named after singer/song writer/actress Brandy. I really loved the show Moesha and her amazing rendition of Cinderella.]) In fact, I will be seeing her (my therapist, not Brandy) in about 2 hours. I always feel lighter after therapy.

Number 3. I am not really scrolling on social media. At this point I am just checking my own page, so the comparing is still down to a minimum. Baby steps = baby wins.

Number 4. I am planning a solo camping trip. Which means I have to buy a sleeping bag and, oh would you look at that, there is a sleeping bag on sale on prime day. How convenient. May not be throwin’ hundo’s, but I am getting turned up with nature. [That was the most embarrassing thing I have ever typed out loud. Sorry, not sorry.] Also, may not be a cool music video, but it is like a Henry David Thoreau story. So that’s pretty cool.

Number 5. I’m rewatching Riverdale to be reminded of the love I truly want… #bughead #Bettyandjughead4ever #iSHIPit

Number 6. I continue to sing Lizzo songs daily and even if I can’t be her, I am her in my head for at least 20 minutes a day.

Number 7. Exactly what I am doing right now; I am writing.

All in all, I would say my coping skills are pretty successful. I even had an extra coping skill compared to the aforementioned list of hold-ups. Sure, tasks feel heavy right now, but they don’t feel so heavy that I can’t lift them. I’m just becoming a pretty toned heavy weight lifter. “The beach is that way.”

While I am starting to grow emotional muscles, there have definitely been points in my life where I felt too weak to lift anything. In the past my coping skills list consisted of 1. binge eating and 2. self-hatred. Look at that growth. I guess this is how strength builds though. One day you’re lifting a 5 pounder and the next you are lifting in the hundo’s. +I think hundo’s is my new favorite word, BTW. Again, like a break-up, it takes time. You don’t just jump into it because then you will break your back, or is it your mothers back? Oh, wait, that’s only if you step on a crack. Either way, pain is involved.

But the real problem is we don’t talk about it; we don’t talk about any of it. We expect the quick turnaround because we don’t see all the hard work that we put in day in and day out. We see the end results, not the grueling work. The first time I opened up about any of my feelings outside of joy was in a chat room, on the Post Secret Website. If you have not heard about Post Secret, it is a brilliant site and I encourage you to follow the link. Essentially, complete strangers from around the world send secrets to another stranger who then posts them weekly to his blog. The reason I felt safe to open up there is because of the honesty and bravery shown by everyone else. I learned in those moments that feeling this way was meant to be secret. We tend to not open up about feelings outside of happiness, unless it is to complete strangers.

While I loved and continue to be thankful for the opportunity that chat room gave me, I also think it’s important we give space to those we love to hear how we are feeling. I’ve been trying to correct my way of thinking because for a large part of my life only telling strangers held me back from feeling okay. I had to be a different person depending on where I was sitting. Quiet Sarah at home, happy Sarah at cheer, sad Sarah on the computer, sassysarah600 on aim… When all I really wanted to be was Sarah Lorraine Robinson. *Gasp* THAT’S THE URL NAME.

This blog allows me to open up to strangers, but also to those closest to me, with my name right there in the website address. I am no longer hiding my identity, I am shouting it from the tops of webpages. Earlier, when I said I am still going to write and do my normal activities because I know there is fresh air on the other side, this is what I meant. I feel like I held my thoughts in for so long it was like holding my breathe under water. When I write, when I tell people the truth, just out in the open like this, it’s like I am able to exhale. In fact, breath work, i.e., the inhale and exhale, are some of the greatest coping skills we have.

I suppose I have a number 8 to add to the list: Breathing.

A[wo]men

PS- My hope is to continue the #honestyrevolution #braveryrevolution on social media. Please join me in showing your own journeys, not just the results, and all the emotions that go along with that. For more information on this social media campaign read my previous post- The Social Media Revolution

xxoo

Alaska, My Love

Woah, y’all. Life has been crazy. I am talking “can you believe?” crazy! The kind of crazy that makes you want to dance and smile and be all kinds of happy. The thing I find most interesting about this happy dance time of mine is that I find it more difficult to write when I am feeling good. I believe it is similar to the idea that ‘therapy is only necessary when you aren’t feeling good’. It is supposed to fix the problems and there can’t possibly be problems when you are happy, right? *Momentary pause as I try to control my laughter* So, my life is the good kind of crazy right now, complete with all emotions coursing through my body, but joy is leading the way. This shift in emotional leaders all started when I got to leave the island.

I am sure you all would like to hear a little bit more about my trip to Anchorage because I really left y’all hanging. IT WAS MAGICAL. Anchorage is absolutely beautiful. It is the type of city that is surrounded by mountains and water and so. many. stars. Which reminds me, I had my first Northern Lights spotting. I would like to beg anyone to go see the Northern Lights and then try to argue with me about how life isn’t just a big magic show. THEY ARE LIGHTS THAT DANCE ACROSS THE SKY. Need I say more? On top of that, there is food that is to die for, hiking that is out of this world, a mall with an ice skating rink and a bowling alley… and my favorite part, Target. Yes, I am basic and yes, I did go to Target twice in the five days I was there. Not sorry.

As always on my trips I got to meet some wonderful people. That is always my favorite part of traveling. I am revived by the stories l hear from the people I will probably never see again and they still manage leave this impression on me that lasts forever. In case you forgot from my previous post, I was in Anchorage for a work training. It really sets the tone for meeting a lot of people doing some pretty bad-ass work in Alaska. I met a woman from Wisconsin *represent* who vacationed in Alaska and her vacations would get longer and longer until she just decided to stay. Since moving here she has been dedicated to building strong families across Alaska. We also talked about the Packers making it to the Super Bowl this year and her desire to never birth her own children. She was fantastic. I also met a woman from the FBI who works on fighting sex-trafficking and we talked about what self-care looks like for her in her line of work. In case you are wondering, it involves a lot of talking. There was also our fantastic bartender at the hotel who whipped out a knife to demonstrate that ‘Lucy can take care of herself!’ Oh, and the ice cream shop owners that were both packing heat as we ate our ice cream. Plus, out of all these great people, I also got to know my coworkers better! Couldn’t have asked for a better trip.

However, the most interesting aspect of leaving was missing my small town of Craig. If you go and read some of my previous posts, never did I ever think I would say those words. I really did though. I missed not having so many options. I oddly enjoy knowing I have basically one store to get my groceries. I also enjoy not having a Dave and Busters because that really messed with my head. I will never re-enter that hell pit again. I missed no traffic. I missed the air in Craig. Anchorage is exceptionally dry. (That tundra life tho.) I missed my friends and my job and my views and my car. It has been a little less than 5 months since I have moved here and I finally feel like I am starting to put down some roots and this odd little island is starting to feel more and more like home.

The thing I truly love about Prince of Wales Island, is the rich history that seeps into the way of life here. I spent yesterday out in Kasaan which is the Tlingit word translating to beautiful town. Kasaan 100% lives up to it’s name. It was flush with deep green trees and water that extended out to kiss the base of mountains. I have a jacket pocket filled deep with seashells and stones. I helped harvest devils club which could potentially be one of my cool, new hobbies? Though jam making is still a top contender. I felt extremely calm as I peeled the bright green root from the branch which helped make devils club tea. In that moment I understood why people come to vacation here and sometimes never leave. This island can transport you to a different time. I got chills as I sat in the Chief Son-i-Hat Whale House after just listening to the history and recent restoration of the ‘house with no nails’. MAGIC. I learned so much yesterday that I feel like I could write a whole book. As a person that loves school it was my favorite thing to be able to sit quietly and inhale all the knowledge that people on this island not only know, but live and breath by.

As is evident by my previous blog posts, I have bad days… sometimes bad weeks. Heck, high school was like four bad years. Yet, the more I am here the less I find myself trapped in that negative space. As I referenced in the beginning I feel happy and it is not because I don’t feel those other emotions, but because those other emotions pale in comparison to a clear sky in Alaska. I talk to families day in and day out about trauma and when I come home I take just a moment to look up. It makes the pain and heartache feel manageable. Witnessing nature is the best medicine I have found thus far and Alaska is abundant in it. Alaska, slowly, but surely, I am falling for you.

*Featured image was taken yesterday from the Kasaan beach. For more pictures from my Alaskan adventures follow me on Instagram: sarahlorrainerobinson *

Stories are Awareness

I would like to start this post with a follow-up from last week, as promised. I went to yoga AND I went snowshoeing with a friend. Unfortunately, I did not meet someone new in the community and talk to them about anything other than the weather. I’m sorry, y’all, but it was sunny ALL weekend on Prince of Wales and that is rare and therefore that is what you talk about. I’ll keep working on that one. This weather may also be why I have a pep in my step, or it could be from all the oxygen I consumed on my hike yesterday. Jury is still out. No matter where it came from I am welcoming it with open arms.

**Trigger warning: Discussion of bulimia, anorexia, and binge eating**

As I welcome the renewed sense of self, there is something I think I need to talk about today. Something that I promised I wouldn’t talk about, but seeing as it’s National Eating Disorder Awareness Week, I only find it appropriate. I think part of the reason I didn’t want to write about binge eating was because I felt like I was relapsing, the other part was as I said; I am obsessive even when I am eating right and the more I blog about it the more it becomes my world. That’s why I am allowing myself to write about it today; stories are awareness. As Jordan Peele best stated “I think it builds empathy… story is the most powerful weapon for change… I think of story as a weapon against violence, against the bigotry, against hatred, against the policies.” Now, here is my story:

The first time I can remember really feeling fat was in the fifth grade. I was 10 years old and I took a picture with my best friend. I remember looking at the picture and thinking about how terrible I looked. It was one of those Polaroid pictures that printed out right away… I wanted to tear it up and never see it again. Unfortunately, the picture got to hang in the hallway of our school, so every day I would walk past it and think about how ugly I was. I saw my friend who was thin and blonde and perfect, standing next to an ogre. Reminder, I was 10. 10 years old. I just have to keep repeating it because sometimes I can barely believe it. I shouldn’t have been holding beauty standards like this against myself. Honestly, this is my first memory of it, but it doesn’t mean it was the first time I felt fat or ugly.

Then there was cheerleading. I started cheerleading in the 5th grade and I loved it. I loved that I could yell at the top of my lungs and no one thought it was strange. I was as quiet as a mouse and this was my time to shine. When I was out on the track I really did feel like a star. I didn’t think about my size or my hair or what problem I had that day. I just got to yell and look strong as I held other girls up in the air. I got to be a base for someone and that helped contrast the fact that I always felt like I was floating away. However, the day we got outfits assigned to us was also a day I can’t seem to forget. “This one doesn’t fit either… I need the next size up” I said, after trying on my third skirt and holding back my tears. I was mortified. I loved every other part of cheerleading, except for the day we got our outfits assigned. I did cheerleading for seven more years and every year I dreaded that day.

Then middle school happens and everyone’s body is a hot mess and everyone is a bully. Middle school is a war zone for self-esteem. This is my first memory of binge eating. If I was going to wear the XL cheerleading uniform, I might as well own it. Always seconds on lunch. Bags of chips at sleepovers that disappear mysteriously. Telling my friends I didn’t eat dinner, when I ate dinner at home, but their parents would make us a second dinner. I one time made a bet to date a boy for 3 months for free cookies. That was a low. They were really good cookies though.

Onto high school where my eating really gets disordered. I am 15 and still haven’t had a boyfriend and this seems problematic. “Is it because I eat too much? Maybe I shouldn’t eat at all?” Of course that didn’t last long because I loved food and food loved me. I know that in my lifetime I have said “I am so jealous of people that can be anorexic” more than I care to admit. That sentence makes me shudder. Anorexia is deadly and I was jealous of those killing themselves. In fact, the National Institute of Mental Health states that anorexia is the most fatal mental health diagnosis. I am so sorry to anyone I have said this to. After I realized that I couldn’t starve myself, I moved onto binging and purging, also known as bulimia. I figured this way I could have my McDonald’s and eat it too and then forget that I had McDonald’s. This went on for quite some time, but not consistently. Luckily, my friends were too observant for me to be able to excuse myself after every meal. It would be more like once or twice a week. This was not effective for weight loss, as I so desperately wanted, but definitely upped my cavity count.

This all leads to my binge eating disorder which became most problematic when I moved out on my own for the first time. Since I was alone more than I had ever been before, I could hoard food and go to multiple restaurants and nobody wondered about it. I could lie and say I was at class and it they believed me.  Forget the Freshman 15, hello Freshman 50. I wasn’t in cheerleading anymore and I had free range of a dining hall and groups that pulled people in with “Free Pizza” signs. College is also known for it’s copious amounts of alcohol and since I was sober until I was 18, this was a world of binging I never knew. Of course all of this was coinciding with depression. Talk about the hot mess express. Binging become my constant, my comfort. I would go a very long time binging and then realize I should be healthier and I would work out for a couple months maybe eat some more fruits and veggies, then I would relapse again. This cycle continued over and over and over again. Once I got to my mid-20’s I realized something had to change. Drastically.

Now for the good part, because even I am like woah.. when does this get better? It got better when I started telling people about my story.  I started going to therapy. I told my friends the struggles I’ve had with food. I started a blog about it. I read articles upon articles about girls and boys who have had the same experiences. Even the DSM (diagnostic and statistical manual) recognized binge eating disorder and added it to the most recent update. I now know how and where to reach out for help. When I do feel like I am relapsing I tell people. I yell it from the rooftops “I HAVE A PROBLEM!” Because there is no shame in having a problem. That was the best lesson I ever learned. Problems are natural and when we keep them a secret they will continue to be a problem. Knowing that I can reach out makes my relapses smaller and my comebacks bigger. I am hoping eventually eating will just be something I do when I am hungry instead of having to keep track. For now, I talk about it. I am only strengthened by those who I allow to lift me up. My family, my friends, and my readers lift me up. You all become my base when I feel like I am floating away.

So, as early as age 10 I remember hating my body and this turned into several years of disordered eating. This is not natural. This is a social construct of beauty that we put on people at a very young age. We talk about our negative self-image in front of our daughters and sons and they hear it. We blast weight loss products and chip commercials in the same breath. We write “fat bitch” in the comments. Children begin to internalize that self-hate is the norm… when that should be so far from the truth. The more we talk about the pieces of ourselves we love, the better off the generation after us will be. And honestly, when we start to realize as a society that food is a means to live rather than a money-making business we will all benefit from it. Mind you, I use the term “we” because we are all part of this society whether we want to be or not and it is up to all of us to change it. Oh, and to the media, I see you trying to represent more bodies, and I applaud that, but we can do better. I know we can. Looking at you, The Bachelor.

If you feel like you or someone you know is experiencing disordered eating, please reach out to me, someone you feel comfortable with, or the National Eating Disorder Hotline 800.931.2237 You are not alone.

 

PS I feel like my posts have been a little heavy the past few weeks, so I would like to write something a little more upbeat next week. Let me know if you have any suggestions!