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

 

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?

My Brain Calls the Shots

Hello friends, fam, and trolls! Oh girl, has it been a minute. Life has been somewhat chaotic as of late, so I figured that means it is definitely time for a blog post. You may be wondering what could possibly be so chaotic that I couldn’t write a blog post for a whole month. Great thought. Y’all are so smart.

Well, for starters work has been interesting. As someone who is brand new to the field, my professors were not lying when they said burnout is real. TOO REAL. Most nights I go to bed and I have nightmares about my clients. I am constantly thinking about how they are doing and if I am helping and if I chose the right career and if my left boob is bigger than my right. The rabbit hole goes deep. On top of my big life questions, I sit here thinking about how I am not taking care of myself and how I need to do better at eating healthy and exercising and look thinner and prettier and figure out how to make my right boob bigger. It feels like these loops have been constant as of late.

It’s funny because I spent my whole young adult life thinking, “as long as I find someone to love me, I will be okay. All the bad thoughts about myself will magically disappear.” My worth is only measured by love of a man. What a crock of shit… that I fell for. I won’t lie. Even when I would talk about self love, in the back of my mind that message repeated: get a boyfriend; get happiness. Or as my disordered eating would put it: get skinny; get happiness. Obviously, ridiculous and not true. I know this. I am in a happy relationship with someone who truly loves me and I still spend nights reminding myself of all the worst parts about me. I forget that my self worth comes from me. My thoughts are controlled by me. He doesn’t make my thoughts for me. A thin body also doesn’t make my thoughts. No matter my relationship or size, my brain calls the shots.  So, I had to sit down with myself the other night and have a good talking to. It went a little something like this…

“Hey Sarah, you have to snap out of it. You know that there is no such thing as perfect. I know you know this, so why do you keep expecting yourself to be something that is nonexistent? It makes zero sense. You are doing the best with what you have got and that is all anyone can ask for you. You can be sad, angry, frustrated, upset, or what have you, but don’t you dare be mean to yourself.”

The thing is we find it so easy though, don’t we? I can tell myself I hate me 100 times over and not even blink an eye. I would never tell someone I hated them. I will sit in the mirror, literally pick at my flaws (excoriation disorder), and call myself ugly. You want to know all the times I have called another person ugly, like zero. (I say like zero, because I have 4 sisters and we were pretty mean to each other growing up).  Definitely zero after the age of 18 though. I can’t even count the amount of times I’ve called myself ugly, even starting at the age of 18. It’s likely in the trillions.

All my life I have been told I am too hard on myself and I tend to agree. I politely nod my head, turn around, and tell myself I have to be hard on myself in order to reach the ideal me. Pure fuckery (technical term). I don’t want to be the girl that spends all her kindness on others and forgets about herself. That’s how I burnout. I can only beat myself down for so long, until I know longer get back up.

On top of all my own internal struggles, I continue to have friends and family battling sickness, Trump (no need for further explanation), and homesickness. Life is scary and overwhelming sometimes. These tend to be the moments I am meanest to myself because of the wretched thought that maybe these things are happening because I wasn’t a good person and the female above wants me to suffer. How selfish does that sound? I think that other people are sick because I somehow need to be punished… for what? That time I forged my mom’s signature in kindergarten?

If you are reading this today and you think you are going through something hard because you deserve it I need you to take 5 deep breaths for me.

1…..2…..3…..4…..5

Good. Now, repeat after me “bad things happen all the time. I am not being punished. I do not control the universe, nor do I want to. Right now is hard and that is okay.” Try to show yourself the same compassion that you show others. I know that it is easier said than done. My yeezy, do I know that. I am not trying to perfect it because that is what got me into this problem in the first place. Even if I can battle off one negative thought about myself today, that will be an improvement. I don’t want to reach the point where I can’t get back up.

Honestly, I need to be working on a presentation for work about self-care right now and I couldn’t start it today without writing this post first. I had to remind myself of what it feels like to show myself kindness. I hope to get back to writing more weekly. I love you all, even the trolls.

Brain Exercises

Here’s the deal, if I would’ve decided that my blog days were for Mondays, you might be getting a very different post. Last Monday, I felt jaded and cynical and basically wanted to go live under a rock. It is always interesting to me how quickly our thoughts can change. How, just one sunny day can make a difference. Lucky for all of you, today’s post is the culmination of good ass television (that’s the technical term if you didn’t now), sunshine, MY FIRST WHALE SIGHTING, and youth. There are other things I could sprinkle in there, but those are the main mood changers. Of course, for the purpose of this blog, I am mainly going to focus on that good ass television. As y’all know, I can’t discuss the good without the bad. (This could be the most dramatic blog yet.)

There is a lot of bad television I could write about on here. I am basically the queen of bad TV. I watch these TV shows knowing full well how toxic they can be. Case in point, The Bachelor. The Bachelor is drama gold. All you really need for drama is to put a bunch of strangers in a room and boom there will be drama. BUT THEN you have them all start dating the same person. Pure. Gold. Many of you may or may not know that The Bachelor received some heavy backlash at one point because it is super white. Like whiter than an Irish person in the middle of winter (I’m Irish, so it’s okay. PS Happy St. Patty’s Day). Then they got Rachel Lindsay as the bachelorette and she was a queen and, coincidentally (not really), the first black bachelorette… on the 13th season. It took bachelor nation quite some time to own up to their lack of diversity, but once the conversation started they couldn’t put it away. We were then graced with Rachel. Even though, I disagreed with her decision, she made a great bachelorette. #teampeter4life. Now, there is a new conversation I would like to start with bachelor nation.

It may surprise you when I say I want to go on the The Bachelor. I can’t think of anything more exciting than trying to find love in front of the nation. Plus, like bomb-ass dates that you can’t really get anywhere else. I also figured if I can’t find love the good ole’ fashion tinder way, I could try my hand at that. Of course, the thing that plays over and over in my head is that I don’t think there has ever been a bachelorette on the show that is over a size 4. I am sure you can see where this is going. “If I lose weight, I can find love!” Apparently, all really is fair in love and war. I guess it’s fair that I didn’t feel worthy because of my size and wanted to change everything about me. I guess it is fair that only thin girls should get a chance on the bachelor. What guy would pick the bigger girl anyhow? WHAT A CROCK! **Catch that Three Men and a Little Lady reference**

I had these thoughts all last weekend, dancing around in my head. Wondering what the scale would say on my next weigh-in day. Did I lose 100 pounds this weekend? I sure hoped so. “I wish I wasn’t fat.” STOP. “I wish I felt worthy.” STOP. “I wonder what I will look like with less fat.” STOP. “What if I lose the weight and I still feel unworthy?”

STOP.

Then it happens. Tuesday. I wake up with the same thoughts, but end the day with a completely different head. “Why?” you might ask. That’s right, more television. I have cable now, okay? This show, unlike the bachelor, reminded me that I am more than that damn number. In fact, I am a human being. SURPRISE! Not a robot. So, if you aren’t watching This Is Us, I urge you to catch up. They just ended the second season, so you have plenty of time until season 3. You’re welcome. *Minimal spoiler alerts ahead* This last episode was about Kate (played by the ever-so-lovely Chrissy Metz) and her wedding day. Honestly crying just thinking about it. That’s how you know it is some damn good writing. For those of you that don’t know, Kate is plus-size. Here I am ruminating about how I need to lose weight to find love and then I see this beautiful women in this beautiful wedding dress and I started to cry. Representation matters. I know it’s a fictional show and Kate is an actress and she wasn’t really getting married, but it made me hit the breaks. It stopped my toxic bachelor thoughts dead in their tracks. It turned my “I need to lose weight to be on the Bachelor” to “LET FAT WOMEN GET A CHANCE AT LOVE.” Maybe we could start it trending? They had #bachlorsowhite last time, so I’m thinking #bachelorsothin? Open to others though.

On the most recent season of the bachelor, Seinne Fleming, a black woman, shared that as a kid she didn’t see women like her find love and that impacted the way she saw herself. It made me think about the plus-size women I have seen find love on TV. I could only think of one, Sookie St. James, played by Melissa McCarthy, on Gilmore Girls. She wasn’t the leading role, so I tried to think really hard of a main character. Fat women, when I was a kid, weren’t the leading roles. I am happy that we are seeing a change in this category, but it is still nowhere near where it could be. The lead roles need a diversity makeover, IMHO. However, as I was watching Kate get married I thought to myself, some young girl is watching this and is being told that she can find love. That her size does not determine what she deserves in life. What we ingest, not just through food, but through everything we see and/or feel,  shapes how we see ourselves. Our reality is subjective. We are influenced every day, in a million different, little ways. Honestly, I am glad I had those negative thoughts because it is so easy to fall into those patterns of hate and self-loathing. What is not easy is turning on those thoughts. The more I have those thoughts and the more I can interrupt those thoughts, the stronger my brain becomes.

I often remind my clients that we are apt to think of the negative before the positive because back when we were cave women and cave men it saved us. Every day we were on the lookout for danger. Now, these thoughts are the danger. It takes a lot of effort to say STOP to those negative thoughts. It takes even more effort to challenge them. Just like running a marathon, the training is slow and steady. Each time you challenge them your brain muscle does a little “the beach is that way” flex. When TV and books and friends challenge us, it only makes it easier for us to do the same. (Oh, and please note that when I say challenge it is the literal opposite of trolling.)

I also get the pleasure of working with youth, so I can encourage these brain exercises at a younger age. I feel lucky to do that. I also feel lucky because in a time and place where the news creates these negative thoughts, (i.e. will there be a nuclear war?) I get to go into work. I am reminded that the future is sitting in front of me and they make me feel so safe. No matter the terrible political climate we have now, I am so hopeful for a better future.

I encourage all of you to go find those things that challenge your negative thoughts. Find evidence to the contrary. And if you’re anything like me, the best way to suck the venom out is to breath first, think later.