packing. moving. healing.

A start

So if you follow me on any of my social media accounts (handy-dandy buttons are right over there on your right if you don’t), or if you know me in 3D life, you know we’re in the middle of moving.

Moving. Is. Exhausting. The kind of exhausting that you feel in every pore of your body.

But I’ll get back to that.

This move is one that’s been a long time coming.  For those who don’t want the story, and want the quick little primer:  We bought this house in 2006 as an investment.  It was never meant to be a long term home, or really a home at all.  We were going to completely remodel it (which we did), live in it temporarily (temporarily is such a relative term!), and then flip it.  But… because this is life, and because we’re us, this is when the market completely tanked, home values dropped into the toilet, and we went upside down in our mortgage almost overnight.   Now, in 2018, we’re finally able to sell.  Our little short term investment lasted us 12 years.

Now, I’m convinced that there’s never actually a good time to move.  It’s a massively huge, stressful undertaking, no matter when you do it.  But doing it right now??  While it was a good time when it came to the real estate market, it was decidedly NOT a good time otherwise.  We’re in the final stages of planning our conference, which has had far more than its normal share of hiccups; I just finished another semester of school last week; I’m dealing with the changes and side effects that come with adjusting 27 medications (Not really 27.  But it might as well be)  Oh. And.  We’re leaving on an 11 day road trip TOMORROW, less than one month before we close… just because Mike happened to have a work thing, and we happened to think it’d be a good idea to tag along and see the sights.  All the stress, all the emotions, all the fatigue, wrapped in a neatly labeled banker’s box and tied with a bow.

And let me just say right here, before I go any further?  There is a reason that moving consistently shows up on top five lists of most stressful life events.  Right up there with losing a job, getting a divorce, and even having a death in the family.  It’s no joke.

Because here’s the thing.  Packing up a house you’ve lived in for 12 years is really, really hard.  It’s hard in the sense that it’s physically demanding, gross, sweaty, dusty work (which I realize does not reflect well on our house-keeping skills), but even more than that, it’s emotionally hard.  It’s mentally hard.  It’s like…. it’s like therapy, on speed, in Disneyland, on the fourth of July.  It hurts down to the center of your bones.  It’s conflicting work too, because at the same time that you’re having to tell yourself that it’s all just unnecessary “stuff” – and let it be known that we threw out dozens, DOZENS, of bags of old junk – you’re also brutally reminded that it’s not just stuff.  It’s memories.  It’s nostalgia.  It’s happiness.  It’s sadness.  It’s regret.  It’s touching these little pieces of your past that brings you back to the time at the place with the person with a visceral energy that’s so real it almost makes it hard to breathe.   Over.  And over.  And over again.  It hurts.  Moving hurts.

It’s about healing.  And it’s about finally letting go.  It’s about forcing yourself to finally let it go.

It’s painful.  The gifts from the people you’re no longer friends with.  The photos of the relatives that are no longer on this earth.

It’s puzzling.  WHY do I still have this coupon for Honey Bunches of Oats from 2007?

It’s exhausting.  It’s bittersweet.  The tiny shoes.  The baby blankets.  The little hats.  The photos. The early drawings.  The handmade Mothers’ Day cards.

It hurts.

Every single thing you lay your hands on, whether it gets lovingly packed, passed on to someone else, or is destined for the land fill… it’s all part of your story.  Every single bit of it.  For better or worse it all went into the elaborate tapestry that is today.  It all had meaning, no matter how vague, no matter how obscure.  Yes, it’s just stuff.  But it’s stuff with a history.   A rich one.  One that you must revisit, bit by bit by bit.

We had a big box that was tucked away in one of our lower kitchen cabinets.   It was affectionately referred to as… well, “the box”.  Whenever we had unexpected company coming, or otherwise had to pick up in a hurry, any sort of paperwork, mail, etc, got tossed in the box.  I don’t know how long it was there, but it was long enough to be falling apart.  One whole side had fallen away under the weight of its contents, the entire thing was sagging, and it had somehow expanded to include the space inside the box, as well as all the area surrounding it.

A couple of weeks ago, we dumped the box out on the table and started sorting.  We came across a Christmas card, and in it was a picture of one of the boys’ friends from what seems like a lifetime ago.  I’m not sure of the exact date, but it was at least 9 or 10 years old.  It’s a bittersweet picture, because we have not been friends with that family since probably very shortly after the photo was taken.   I don’t know what happened.  It was one of those weird life things in which we never found closure.  We were friends – good friends even – and then one day they left Paxton’s birthday party without saying goodbye, and never spoke to us again.  They just stopped being our friends.  I wondered for a long time what had happened at that party;  I wondered for a long time what could have been so egregious that she couldn’t answer an email, that we couldn’t have talked it out.  But I still don’t know.

And fast forward to today, and here’s this smiling face of a little boy who is now very likely in college.

We pinned it up on my bulletin board, because we thought it would be funny, and because we wanted to see how long it would take Mike to notice it.  It’s not unusual for us to pin pictures up there, though usually they’re the random headshots of people from political advertisements or real estate fliers.  (Is that weird?)  It amuses us, in any case.  This picture though… while not painful exactly, it made me… uncomfortable.  It made me think of the past.  Not just of them, but of every lost friendship I’d ever had ever.

And I’m so glad we put it up there.

I’ve walked by that photo every day for weeks now, and it’s come to stand for something important.  It stands for healing.  It stands for letting go.  It stands as a reminder that I can make it through the icky parts of life.  It stands as a reminder that I can do hard things.  It stands for one chapter ending, and another chapter (a good one!  an exciting one!) beginning.   A chapter that – no matter how very stressful it is to get there – I’m very much looking forward to.

New beginnings.  It stands for new beginnings.

And for a handful of really big reasons, and about a hundred and twenty seven little ones, I really need a new beginning.

When I finally get rid of that picture… that picture of the boy that was once lovingly sent in a Christmas card… When I get rid of that picture?  I’ll finally be ready.

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Filed under about me, life, memories, Uncategorized

What If You’re Wrong About Depression?

Depression is a mind game. If you stop thinking about it then it will eventually go away.

I read that on Instagram this morning, but I see the same comment in various iterations on a daily basis.

Just think positively!

Look at all you have to be thankful for!

Step out of the darkness and into the light!

Well meaning, to be sure, but it’s not as simple as that.  It’s just not.

And we could debate all day about the causes and treatments of depression, and whether or not it’s even a real thing.  It’s a chemical imbalance.  No, it’s all in your head (side note, I saw a cute meme that retorted with something along the lines of, “Well where do you expect it to be, in my kidney?”)  It’s all just a state of mind.  It can be fixed with diet.  You just need more sunshine.  You just need drugs.  Drugs make it worse.  You need therapy.  Psychiatry is just a bunch of pseudo-science quackery.  Just stop thinking about it.

Etc

Etc

Etc

But the thing is, for the purposes of my point here, none of the above really matters.  It doesn’t.  Because just pretend for a second, just for a second, that you’re wrong, and that the person in question truly CAN’T just positively think their way out of depression.  Do you know what comments like yours do to a person with depression?  They minimize them.  They invalidate them.  They make them feel – when they are already at their most desperately lowest point – that they’re doing something wrong.  They make them feel worthless, and they make them even less likely to seek help.

At best, comments like these are annoyances… thinly veiled insults wrapped in a pretty bow of concern.

But at their worst?  They can be the very last thread on someone’s already rapidly fraying rope.   This is going to sound harsh, but your comment could literally mean the difference between a person’s choosing to tread water another day, or letting the rope slip through their fingers.

I think that of all the ways we hurt each other as human beings (and boy howdy, are we good at hurting one another), one of the worst is simply when we don’t see each other.  When we don’t listen.  When we tell each other, through actions and inactions both that we don’t matter.  That our feelings and experiences are not valid.  Are not real.

IT HURTS TO BE MINIMIZED.

In fact, at this moment in time, I can think of few things that hurt more.  I’ve always known that I was more sensitive to this feeling than most people, and I only recently learned why.  In a lovely twist of irony (because what is life if not a giant example of irony?) deciding to open up about this painful facet of my life earned me nothing more than more flippant dismissal.  “Pfft. Oh, that.  We all feel like that.  That’s just being a human.”  So now?  Once again, I feel unsafe sharing.

IT HURTS TO BE MINIMIZED.

Be kind.

If you’re wrong about this (and hell, even if you’re right), you need to know your words matter.  Your words hurt, not help.  Because even IF you’re right?  Even if the depressed person CAN just think they’re way to happiness?  At that moment, that moment that they’re choosing to invite you in… they’re not okay.  What they feel is real.  They need your friendship, they need your love, they need your support.  What they do not need is for you to tell them that they’re wrong to feel what they feel, that they’re wrong to not have pulled themselves up by the bootstraps and fixed it already.

If someone had (fill in the blank with a physical illness – cancer, diabetes, meningitis, asthma) would you tell them it would go away if they would just hurry up and stop thinking about it already?  I’m guessing you probably wouldn’t.  You know that illnesses, from the common cold to leukemia, are complex.  That they’re unique and multi-faceted and require different approaches for each individual person.  You realize this.  You respect this.

It’s 2018.  Can we please start giving mental illnesses the same consideration?

I have written a lot about mental health, especially over the past two years, but this issue is one of the most important, and one of the most personal.  Ironically (see above comment about irony), I’m doing well at the moment.  I’m in balance.  Which is… unexpected, given everything that I have going on right now.  I feel good.  But when that changes – and it will change, because that’s the beautiful cyclical nature of mental illness – please don’t tell me I just need to stop thinking about it.  Please don’t minimize me.  Please don’t tell me what I’m feeling isn’t real.

As anyone with depression can tell you, it’s real.  If nothing else, it starts and ends with being REAL.

P.S.  I just posted an update over on Patreon if you want to know what’s going on in my 3D life at the moment.  🙂  It is set to public, so you don’t need to be a Patron to read it.

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Filed under bipolar, depression, kindness, life, mania, mental health, rant

After The Wiping Days Are Over

Too many years ago

“I’m all done!”

It came from inside one of the bathroom stalls…. a sweet, tiny, sing-song voice that made my uterus hurt just to hear it.

It wasn’t one of mine.  We’re many many years removed from requiring any bathroom help.  But as I stood there, taking my time as the warm water washed the soap off my hands, I couldn’t help but smile.  The mom of the owner of the little voice was momentarily distracted with a sibling, so after a beat the voice rang out again, this time with a little more urgency.

“I’m all dooo-ne!”

For a minute, I just hung there, suspended somewhere between my nostalgia and the truth.  Hadn’t my kids just been that tiny?  The truth is, at 21, nearly 18, 14, and 10, my kids are far beyond any descriptions of tiny.  A full half of them are no longer technically kids at all.  Two are taller than me, one’s on his way, and my “baby” just turned double-digits 4 months ago.

It’s perhaps one of the biggest parenting cliches.  “It goes so fast.  Enjoy every minute!”

Except, it’s true.  It’s really really true.  And the nostalgia that hit me in the bathroom, the unlikeliest of places, nearly took my breath away.  It really does go that fast.  

And it’s so dang filled with beauty.  And pain.  And memories of times that you sometimes wish you could freeze, and sometimes wish you could skip over.  Parenting is like life, but…. condensed.  Until the good times and beautiful times and times that bring you to your knees come rushing back to your consciousness one day in the bathroom of your daughter’s theater.

It goes so fast. 

And don’t get me wrong.  Having older kids is its own kind of wonderful.  There are a host of new things to look forward to,  and exciting things to enjoy to be sure.  But my kids…. my sweet, funny, intelligent, fierce kids just don’t need me in the same way that they used to.  And that’s really its own kind of bittersweet mourning.

So today I’m thinking of that mom.  The mom of the sweet little bathroom singer who needed help wiping.  Are you stressed?  Had you been running around crazy all morning worrying about lack of sleep and diaper bags and sippy cups and getting everyone into their car seats? Mom to mom, I get it.  I do.  It’s tiring!  Some days, it’s downright, to your very bones, exhausting.

And my humble advice, summed up to the very best of my ability:  Soak in those good days, breathe on the shitty ones, and know – really truly, deeply know – that it really does go by in the blink of an eye.

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Faking It

So, the other day I was complaining to a friend about my statistics class.  The class hadn’t even started yet now that I think about it, but I’d read the syllabus and the individual modules and learning objectives and I was…. overwhelmed.  Overwhelmed before I’d even started.  (This is my second go-around with Statistics, by the by.  I’d taken it a hundred years ago in my first foray at college, and I ended up taking it pass/fail so it wouldn’t bring down my GPA.)

Anyway.

I complained to my friend, and she said:  “You can do it!”

Me:  “I’m not so sure.”

Friend:  “Fake it till you make it?”

Me:  ::Sigh::  “Sometimes it feels like that’s my whole life.”

Just last week, a mom I’d recently met through Tegan’s play was chatting with me while we washed our hands at the bathroom sink.  “You have four kids?  How do you do it?  You’re so calm!”

I don’t even remember what I said in response, but what I did not say was the truth:  That whatever calmness she saw was through the aid of pharmaceuticals and faking, in equal measure.

Like many depressed people I know, I’ve gotten really good at “smiling depression.”  Smiling on the outside, crying on the inside.  Putting on a (if I do say so myself), reasonable or even impressive display of happy.  Of friendly.  Of normal.  I smiled a lot last week.  I also went to sleep crying at least two or three nights, and woke up crying just as many.

I write so much about gentle parenting.  I dismantle all the common mainstream ways of doing things, and I wax poetic about how we can do things better.  I don’t write about the fact that as of late my patience and emotional reserve have been so shot that it is taking all of my energy not to snap at my kids just for … talking, or for making any sort of noise, or for being in my space.  I don’t write about the fact that I’m currently so completely flummoxed about an issue I’m having with one of my children that I’m immobilized.  That I haven’t the slightest CLUE how to handle it.

I’m good at faking.

Some days are hard.

Some days are really, really hard.

I am, as I write, and as I stand before you, the proverbial man behind the curtain.  Pay no attention to him.  Listen to my booming, confident voice!  Listen to my authority!  Listen to my wisdom!

And know, that sometimes, I am faking it.  That I am broken.  That I am scared.  That I, like so many of the rest of us, struggle with not knowing what the hell I’m doing on any given day of the week.  That sometimes, I feel like an impostor in my own life.

I’m good at faking.

My one consolation is in knowing that all of us, at one time or another, at least a little, have faked it.  Faked the happy, the confidence, the friendliness, the conversation.  Faked the fact that we were completely capable of interacting like a normal person when we really just wanted to be home, in bed, with the covers pulled over our head.  Just like my friend suggested, we fake it until we make it.

Today I have things to do.  I have people to see.  I have to put on pants.  I have to have conversations.  I have to be okay. I have to smile and make the right faces and say the right things. And I’ll do it!

And I’ll be faking it.

Because between you and me, right now, in this moment?  I’m tired.  Deep, deep in my bones exhausted.  Mentally, physically, emotionally spent.  At the present time, I am not okay.

But you know what?  Sometimes being not okay is okay too. Sometimes the answer lies not in faking it, but in raw, brutal honesty.  Right now, I’m not okay.

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Filed under about me, anxiety, bipolar, depression, life

What Do Your Kids Own?

With one of his all-time favorite possessions. Photo credit: Angela Morgan

We are currently in the middle of getting our house ready to sell.  Which means a lot of different things, but mostly means a whole heck of a lot of sorting, culling, packing, and organizing 12 years worth of accumulated… stuff.  And if you’ve ever sold a house, or moved in general, you know that this is hard work.  Not just hard, but exhausting.  Physically, mentally, deep-in-your-bones exhausting.  There is a reason that moving is so often cited as one of the top most stressful life events.

But I digress.

So we’re packing and sorting and throwing out bags upon bags upon bags full of trash. The kids have all helped out with assorted general projects around the house. but they’ve mostly been tasked with dealing with their own rooms:  decluttering, tidying up, getting rid of what they no longer want or need, and packing anything that they don’t need at the moment but still want to keep and move to the new house. Their father and I offer opinions or help when it’s asked for or relevant… but far and away, the decisions are ultimately theirs.  Because, well, because it’s their stuff.  Everything in their rooms, from clothes, to games, to books, to phones, to electronics belongs to them.  And that holds true whether it was purchased by us, gifted by someone else, or bought with their own money.

There’s a very strange dichotomy that exists amidst the conventional parenting world that goes something like this:

“My kids don’t own anything.  *I pay for the house, *I pay the bills, *I buy their things.  Therefore, it all belongs to me.”  (Which, by the same token, would also mean that myself and all my fellow stay-at-home moms also technically own nothing.)

AND, at the same time:

“This house belongs to them too.  They need to help keep it clean.  They need to show pride of ownership.  They have to take better care of their things.”

So… which one is it?  (Hold that thought. I’ll get back to that)

There is a ubiquitous need by most of society to view children as lesser humans.  If they’re treated like people at all, they’re treated as people with less rights, less of a voice, less importance.  They’re treated like they are ours to own, and ours to control.  This is evident in a myriad of ways, but for the sake of the conversation at hand:  It always makes me shake my head a little (or a lot) when I see parents posting about the contracts that they make their teens sign when they “give” them cell phones (give, by the way, is in quotes because it’s not really giving if it’s so damn conditional.  At best, it’s a loan, with a whole hell of a lot of strings attached). Our interactions with our kids should not be transactions, but beyond that…. how is a kid to learn how 1) take pride of ownership and 2) make responsible decisions with a phone that is not even theirs?  How do you learn to trust them if you do not give them the space to show you that they can be trusted?  Not because of a fear that you’re going to punish them and take their phone away if you don’t… but because of a genuine, intrinsic desire to act from a place of their own personal sense of right and wrong.  How do they learn about privacy, about healthy boundaries, and about autonomy if they’re literally not given the opportunity to do so?  Not to mention the fact that demanding passwords, reading texts, and checking history is a pretty surefire way to ensure that your kids learn to get really good at hiding things, and really unlikely to share when or if they do run into trouble.

DISCLAIMER (If you’re just skimming, please stop and read this)

A few complaints that I get a lot, particularly when it comes to things like cell phones:

Kids need guidance!  Yes.  Absolutely.  They do.  Which is why I’ve never said, in this or any other post, that they do not.  Further, different ages need different amounts of guidance.  As kids get older, they are going to need less and less interference.  JUST AS MUCH COMMUNICATION, but less interference.  There are age appropriate ways to help ANY aged child navigate the line of responsible ownership while still giving them the guidance they need.

But the internet is DANGEROUS!  Well, sure.  The internet can be dangerous.  So can the public school yard.  So can the work place.  So can a night club.  All the more reason to work WITH your children when it comes to things like technology.  Not against them.

Kids have to prove they’re responsible before they can own anything!  Tegan, who’s ten, really wanted a hedgehog.  She talked about it for a year, she researched, and she followed a whole bunch of YouTube channels and Instagram accounts to learn about their personalities, their quirks, and their care.   She saved up her money.  I helped her find a reputable breeder. Last year, around her birthday, we bought her the hedgehog (a baby girl she named Oreo), and she bought the habitat and supplies.   Because I’m just as much as an advocate for animals as I am for kids, I don’t believe that any pet should be brought into the house, no matter whose it is, unless there is an adult who is willing to be the Backup Person… the one who will take responsibility for the pet (which, make no mistake, is a new member of the family).  should there ever be a need.  I appointed myself as Oreo’s Backup Person, but she is Tegan’s.  Tegan feeds her.  She changes her cage.  She gets her out to play.  She gives her baths.  Does she need reminders on some of the above occasionally?  Yes.  Does that mean that she’s not responsible enough to own a pet? No!  It means she is young, still learning, and sometimes needs a partner to help.

The way kids learn – the way any of us learn – is by DOING.  And the only way they can learn to be responsible owners is for them to, well. own things.  It’s our job as parents to model appropriate behavior, to partner with them, to keep open lines of communication… and to help them when they’ve made a mistake.  Not punish them.  And that is true whether we are talking about a cell phone, a hedgehog or anything in between.

When kids are acting up in some way, there seems to be a common knee-jerk reaction to take things away from them.  And after all, that’s your right, because you bought them, right?   Well, there are a few problems with that strategy.  1)  It’s not particularly nice.  I don’t take my husband’s things when he behaves in a way that I don’t like.  2)  It doesn’t address the problem at hand.  Sure, it’s easy, but what does it ultimately accomplish?  Not a whole lot besides making your child (rightfully) resentful.  If you find out what the actual issue behind the behavior, you can deal with it directly, rather than applying the quick and arbitrary band-aid of taking things away.  3) It sends an incredibly mixed message, especially if you fall into the trap I mentioned above.  If I were a child, I would be incredibly frustrated, or even straight-up pissed off, if I was told through words and/or actions that I can’t possibly own anything, AND that I somehow also own a little bit of everything?

Adults need help with taking care of their things all the time.  Why should kids be any different?

As so often happens, I just (literally, just a few minutes ago) had a real-life example of the responsibility of ownership.  I recently bought these noise cancelling headphones, which – it needs to be said – are one of the greatest inventions ever.  They have a switch on them that does something to cancel the noise even more, and I always turn it on…. but then have the hardest time remembering to turn it off.  As a result, I’m burning through batteries like crazy.  I just had to put in another new battery, which I’ve had to do far more than I care to admit in the past few weeks.  Is the solution to take them away from me?  Well, no.  The solution is to realize that I’m a human who is thinking about 57 things at once, sometimes forgets things, and needs a reminder of some sort.  So today, I’m trying this:

If that doesn’t work?  I still won’t make myself get rid of them.  I’ll brainstorm, I’ll try something else, I’ll figure it out….. the same way I’d brainstorm, and try something else, and figure it out with my child should a need ever arise.

So.  To get back to the original question:  Which is it?  Do they own nothing, or do they own everything?  Well, because those are two black and white extremes, and life is shades of grey, I actually believe the answer lies somewhere in the middle.  They are members of the family, and as such we all work together when it comes to keeping up with the house.  They do – like all the rest of us – need to learn pride of ownership, and are encouraged to take care of their things.  But their things are just that:  THEIRS.  And the younger they are, or the more assistance they need, the more involved we are when it comes to care and responsibility.  But we do this by helping, guiding, watching, talking, listening, modeling….

Not by taking away the very thing that they need help learning to manage.

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Filed under gentle parenting, parenting

Katy Perry, We Need To Talk About Consent

ABC/Mark Levine

My daughter is 10 at the time of this writing.  Like me, she is a lover of all things pop culture.  She loves music, she lives for her TV shows, and she is always on top of the latest Next Big Thing.  Along with this comes a lot of admiration for her favorite stars, whether they be from TV, movies, music, or YouTube.  Now, I can’t – and don’t – tell her who she can and cannot look up to.  That’s her choice.  But you can rest assured that I do keep up a continual dialogue about what makes a good role model, what integrity means, and what we can learn from the people in the public eye (for both good and bad.)

Right now, her very favorite is P!nk.  I adore P!nk.  She’s awesome.  She’s all about empowerment.  She’s strong, she stands up for what she believes in, and she’s by all accounts a devoted mother.  She’s also all about being yourself, and not what society says you need to be.  And you guys?  We just saw her in concert a few weeks ago (AMAZING concert, by the way).  She’s almost 40, and she still straps herself to a harness, and flies and does acrobatics – while singing, no less! – way over a crowd of 10’s of thousands of people.  She is a BADASS.

And now here’s Katy Perry.  Up until a couple of weeks ago, I didn’t have a particularly strong opinion about Katy Perry either way.  I have to admit some of her songs are catchy.  And I saw a documentary about her once – I am a total sucker for behind-the-scenes, musician documentaries – and it stirred up some compassion, for sure.  There was one scene where she was in tears, total panic attack mode, right before she had to go onstage and make this grand entrance.  Her marriage was ending, she was emotionally spent, and she didn’t know if she’d be able to do the show.  But she gathered herself, put on a smile, and went out to give a killer performance.  No one knew what had just been taking place backstage, until/unless they saw it on the documentary months later.  It made me gain new respect.

But Katy.

You did something really, really wrong.

In case you missed it, she is a new judge for American Idol.  There was a young man (still a teenager at the time of the audition) who said he’d never had a girlfriend, and therefore had never kissed a girl.  Katy called him up to the judge’s table, inviting him to kiss her on the cheek.  He was embarrassed, clearly, but did he want to kiss her cheek?  I don’t know.  But he obliged, kissed her on the cheek, and she immediately complained, “No, you didn’t even make the smoosh sound!” And then she held out her cheek a second time.  This time, when he went in to kiss her (again, on the cheek), she turned her head at the last second, kissing him on the mouth.  He was so shocked he literally fell over.  Katy threw her arms up in victory like she’d just scored a goal in soccer, the other two judges laughed and whooped it up, and the poor kid was so shaken that he had to ask for a glass of water before he could even perform his audition.  His performance, by the way, was greatly influenced by the whole thing, and his nerves got the better of him.  The judges found this funny; one of them commenting, “He’s still trying to recover from that kiss!”

Shame on Katy Perry.

Shame on the other judges for laughing and encouraging.

Shame on ABC for using this footage as advertisement, again and again and again.

Because let’s be clear on a couple of things here:

1) If the situation had been reversed, and it had been one of the male judges kissing a young female contestant… we all would have seen in for what it was:  sexual harassment.  He likely would not have had a job the next day.

2) She abused her power and her celebrity to take advantage of someone in a sexual way, which is never okay.

3) Despite those who argue “chill, it was just a kiss!”, kisses are intimate.  Yes, there are different kinds of kisses, that connote different things:  The kiss between a parent and child; the kiss between friends and relatives; the kiss between lovers.  But no matter the kiss in question, it is intimate.  It is personal.  It requires and demands consent from both parties.  Katy Perry kissed someone on the lips (someone who, it should be noted, was barely a legal adult) without his consent.  That is the very definition of sexual harassment – at a minimum.  Some would say sexual assault.   And it was applauded!

I don’t care that it was “all in good fun.”  I don’t care that it was Katy Perry.  Does she just assume that anyone should be happy to receive a kiss from her??  I don’t want a kiss from Katy Perry.  And this young man didn’t want one either.  Which should bother us.  A LOT.  And it’s backwards and disturbing that we need to reverse the roles in order to understand the severity and the ramifications of what she did.  If it had been a male judge?  We would have been horrified.  We would have had an immediate, visceral, angry reaction.

It’s intensely disturbing that I need to say this, but consent matters, no matter your gender.

What Katy Perry did was wrong.  The fact that people are laughing about it, applauding it, thinking that this young man should consider himself lucky: that’s wrong too.  Full stop.

I find it sad and ironic that in today’s current climate, when we are finally calling out all the men for their actions, that we’re not doing the same for women.

Consent goes in both directions.

Every time, in every situation.

If there is ever to be any change, we at the very least need to have some consistency.  It really does nothing for our cause if we (rightly) chastise men for their crimes, but somehow excuse women… because, what?  Because they’re Katy Perry?  Because this boy should be counting his lucky stars that this famous pop star gave him his first kiss on the lips?  It doesn’t work that way.  We need to be standing up, again and again, and saying “no more” to sexual harassment, no matter the gender of the person doing the harassing.

 

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Therapy Ends. Chapter Two Begins.

 

The beauty is I’m learning how to face my beast
Starting now to find some peace
Set myself free

Today, I don’t have to fall apart
I don’t have to be afraid
I don’t have to let the damage consume me,
My shadow see through me

Fear in itself
Will reel you in
And spit you out over and over again
Believe in yourself and you will walk

Fear in itself
Will use you up and break you down
like you were never enough

I used to fall but now I get back up

~Fear, Blue October

On May 23rd, 2016, I walked into therapy for the first time.  I’d seen a doctor, been diagnosed, and started meds  just a few weeks before that, but it’s that first day of therapy that I really remember.  Partly because I’d spent the better part of my adult life actively hating the very idea of therapy (I thought therapy was WEIRD.  I still think therapy’s weird.  My mind reels at the fact that there’s this human just walking around out there knowing my deepest darkest secrets, the ugliest parts of my psyche, my biggest fears, and my greatest aspirations.  All the big things, and all the little things, and everything in between.)  But even more than that was just the fact that, well, I was terrified.  Like, more terrified than I’d ever been of anything.  Ever.  The end.

I wore my “Coffee is My Spirit Animal” t-shirt that day, because it was a favorite, and it made me less nervous.  I also had on pretty much every beaded bracelet I owned, for the same reason.  They gave me as much confidence and courage as possible on a day when I was having trouble mustering either one.  My fingernails were painted a very dark brown, a new favorite color (aptly) called Espresso.

I was scared.  So, so scared.

And now, I’m remembering.  Remembering it all with a detail and acuity that is making it hard to breathe.  You know how people say their life flashes before their eyes right before they die?  Well, it’s kind of like that, but … the opposite.  I’m not about to die.  I’m about to live.

Therapy obviously wasn’t my whole life, but it was a very big part of it, at least for the past 21 months.

And I hated it.  I did.  I hated therapy.  And I don’t feel bad saying that, because I never exactly made it a secret (to anyone, but least of all to my therapist).  Therapy was hard.  It hurt.  It brought me to my knees.  I spent more time being mad at my therapist than I think I’ve ever been at anyone that I wasn’t related to in my entire life.  Usually just because he was right, and said what I needed to hear but didn’t want to hear… but very occasionally for reasons that I felt were justified.  I got my feelings hurt.  I got my toes stepped on.  I constantly feared I was doing it “wrong”… that I’d say the wrong thing, or do the wrong thing, and that I’d screw up this professional relationship just as adeptly as I’d screwed up my personal relationships.  I wanted to quit so badly.  I wanted to quit all the time.  I fantasized about just not showing up one day, and sometimes accompanied said fantasy with a scathing letter just for good measure.  Some weeks, making myself drive to therapy took every single ounce of willpower in my body.  And some weeks?  Some weeks I had no willpower left.  I had nothing left.

Because it had broken me.  Make no mistake: therapy broke me.

But.

It also put me back together.  It healed me.  It made me stronger.  It taught me things (about myself, about the people around me, about life) that no self-help book in the world ever could.   And it was cyclical, in that it made me filled with gratitude – SO VERY MUCH GRATITUDE – and then frustration, and then stubbornness, and then anger, and then gratitude some more.

Last summer was my first try at leaving, but it didn’t take.  The timing was …. off,  I was spiraling into a deep depression even as we were trying to pick an end date, and my whole life just crashed and burned in what very nearly culminated in a hospital stay.

And I’m glad it happened.

I am.  I’m glad for it, and I’m glad for the hard, and for the very very hard, sessions that followed.  I just had more things to learn.  And I needed that time, and I needed those lessons.  It was all part of my story.

Because the thing is, I’m not afraid of the darkness anymore. Therapy taught me not to be afraid anymore (Full disclosure:  Certain things do still touch on that fear.  When a celebrity dies by suicide?  It breaks that most tender part of my heart like none other.) But I’m stronger now.  I have tools now.  I know – like really, truly, deeply in my soul know – that even when the darkness comes, that I’ll eventually see the light again.  That I can keep putting one foot in front of the other.  That I can keep breathing.  That I can keep myself grounded in the moment.  That I can ignore and question and re-frame all the negative thoughts in my head.  That I am NOT those thoughts…. no matter how much my brain or the world or the other people in my life try to make me believe otherwise.  That those are just old stories, and that I can choose not to listen to them.  I can choose not to give them power.

I’m okay now.  But you know what? I’m better than okay.  Because for the first time in my life, in my whole life, I accept me.  I like me, warts and bruised broken bits and all.  And really, those warts and bruised broken bits?  They’re beautiful, because they’ve made me “me”.  They’ve brought me here.  They’ve made me strong.

I believe I can do the thing now.  And it doesn’t even matter what the “thing” is.  I believe I can do it.

I believe in me.

I believe I’m enough.

I’ve learned about the importance of self-compassion in these past 21 months.  And of the importance of self-forgiveness (sweet baby Jesus, that’s a big one for me.)  I’ve learned what awareness looks like, and what a huge step that is in and of itself.  I’ve learned to take responsibility for me, and for MY issues, and leave everyone else to deal with their own.  I’ve learned to say, “no”, and I’ve learned to stop trying to please everyone else. I’ve learned to respond with curiosity, openness, acceptance, and love (or C.O.A.L., just one of many such tidy little acronyms that I used to decry as cheesy, but now turn to again and again.)  I’ve learned practical steps for panic attacks, for those negative voices that just. won’t. shut. up., and for taking care of myself even when I really really really don’t want to.  I’ve learned to question the validity of what my brain is trying to tell me at any given time, I’ve learned to stop taking everything so seriously, and I’ve learned that no matter how many times my brain fights me on this:  IT IS NOT ALWAYS MY FAULT.

Therapy didn’t cure me, this much is true.  There’s no cure for bipolar.  But there’s also no cure for… life.  It’s going to have its hard moments, and it’s going to have its REALLY hard moments.  It’s going to have its “No.  Screw you.  I’m not getting out of my bed/putting on my pants/stopping feeling sorry for myself”  moments. But my God, it’s also going to have its beautiful moments! Its exquisitely perfect-in-all-their-imperfectly-gloriousness moments.  I think of those moments sometimes.  Of those perfectly beautiful moments of the past two years that I quite literally could have missed had I not kept going to therapy.  I’m still here.  I’m still here on the planet.  Which is a multifaceted accomplishment to be sure, but therapy played such a big role in that puzzle.  A role so big, that fills me with a gratitude so great that I almost don’t know what to do with it.  What are the words?  There can’t possibly be the right words, can there?

My life tends to be one big example of irony, so now, right at the moment of the end of therapy, I’m finding myself in a bit of a downward rather than upward swing.  But unlike last summer, I’m not afraid of it.  I’m not.  I know that I’m strong. I know that I will see the light again.  And if I have to come back to that sentence a million times to remind me, I will.  I’ll see the light again.

I’m excited for it.

I’m hopeful.

I’m optimistic (which, by the way, is a word that was not in my vocabulary for.. oh, 44 years)

I owe that, and so very much more, to therapy.  And while I’ve consciously used the general term “therapy” rather than the more personal, and more accurate, “my therapist”, I can’t close this out without correcting that.  I mainly kept things generic because I didn’t feel like crying just yet, and there was zero chance at all that I could write this without crying.

Tony.  My therapist’s name is Tony.  He taught me more than anyone’s ever taught me.  And he taught me the most important things, because, I mean…. what’s more important than LIFE?  I was a slow study sometimes too, and a stubborn one, and a… well, did you get the part about how angry I was all the time?  It must be noted though, that despite all the hard work, and the frustration, and the yuck factor, that there were days I actually enjoyed.  A lot of them in fact.  It feels important that I note that, lest you get the idea that it was 21 months of utter misery.  It wasn’t.  There were days we laughed, often at ourselves.  Days we bonded over silly things like Seinfeld.  Days I was allowed to see little bits of Human Tony instead of just Therapist Tony (those were some of my favorites).  Days we celebrated one of my small victories.  Days we celebrated my really big victories.  Days that I truly felt and knew and believed that he believed in me, that he believed I could do it, and that he believed that I could do it well.  Not because it was his job, and not because I was paying him to be there, but because human to human, he just DID.  I told him not too long ago that I wished that privacy laws didn’t preclude him from having a wall of success stories… because I really wanna see my face up there.  I want him to be able to tell people (again, in a vague way because… laws):  here was this girl who didn’t think she could do the thing …. BUT SHE DID.

It was a Very. Big. Deal.  It was all a big deal. It was a big deal that I did it, and it is a very, very big deal that it has ended.  Because the whole point has always been to get me to a place where I didn’t feel I needed therapy anymore.

And we did that.  I’m there.

Today, on March 6th, 2018, I walked out of that therapy office for the last time.

And I got in my car, turned on my music (which is always on shuffle), and in one final, serendipitous, post-therapy gift from the universe, the song that started playing was, “I’m Not Broken Anymore.”  I was fully prepared to cry… but all I could do was smile.

And now?  Now I take what I learned – and what I worked so hard at; and will continue to work so hard at – and I move forward.  Move on to the next chapter of my life, and whatever that may bring.  And I’ll do it with the deepest and sincerest and most life-long gratitude to Tony, who not only helped me learn how to have a good quality of life, but who quite literally also saved it.

____________________________________________

 

If your mental health isn’t what it should be please know when to seek professional help

If you’re having thoughts of suicide, call the crisis helpline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

You can also text START to 741-741 if you’d rather text than speak with someone on the phone

If you’re in imminent danger to yourself, PLEASE go to the ER.

You’re loved, and you’re worth it.

 

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Filed under about me, anxiety, bipolar, depression, gratitude, health, mania, mental health

The Conversation About Mental Illness

People have often asked me how I can stand writing about controversial things, and/or how I can handle the negative comments when I write something that’s widely read … especially the people who know how very sensitive I am (which is anyone who’s known me longer than about 90 seconds).   The truth is, sometimes I do get my feelings a little – or a lot – hurt.  And sometimes I wonder why I keep doing it.  And sometimes I want to just take my ball and go home.

But in many ways, it is far easier to be brave on my blog, where it has the potential to reach many people, than it is on a smaller forum.  Or than it is with people I know – even if you’re using the word “know” in the loose, Facebook-era kind of way.  I like to keep my own little personal Facebook bubble generally light and happy and controversy-free.  Partly because that’s just who I am when I’m not railing about my various causes, but also because I can’t handle the heat.  I can’t.  Every time, EVERY TIME, I think I’m brave enough to post something that’s going to garner mixed opinions … I regret it, I end up crying, or both.  That’s just the way I’m wired, for better or worse.  My blog is different, because even though there’s the potential for a much larger group of people to be much meaner to me, there’s also anonymity.  There’s safety behind the curtain.  There’s the “imagine everyone in their underwear” mind-tricks to keep things in perspective.  In small groups though, there’s just so much raw vulnerability. For a person whose greatest blessing and biggest curse happens to be vulnerability, it can be a lot to handle.

Sometimes I forget, though.  And sometimes I post something controversial.  And then I regret it.  And then I delete it.

I did that very thing tonight in fact.  I posted the thing, a respectful conversation followed, and still I panicked and deleted. I felt an immediate sense of relief …. promptly followed by whatever the opposite of relief is, promptly followed by bawling in the bathtub (the kind of crying where you feel like you’re never going to stop), and texting my friend to talk me down.

The thing is, I wish I hadn’t deleted it.  Because I think it’s an important conversation to be had.  I think it’s one of the MOST important conversations we should have.  So I’m bringing it over here where I feel brave.  Where I won’t feel the need to delete.

Like all of you, I was horrified by the news of another school shooting.  Like most of you, I have strong opinions on what I believe should and should not be done to hopefully help solve the problem.  Like a lot of you, I’ve been saddened and frustrated and angered by many of the memes I saw floating through my Facebook feed.

For reasons that are obvious to any of my regular readers, I’ve felt particularly stung every time I saw a meme screaming, “Mental illness!  MENTAL!  ILLNESS!”

I finally saw one that flipped a switch in me that turned off all reason, and I posted this:

I have a mental illness. It is currently well-managed. When it is not well-managed, the only person – THE ONLY PERSON – I’ve ever thought of harming is myself.

As I said up above, what followed was a respectful conversation.  No one was mean, no one called me names.  The comments were, even from the people who disagreed and/or didn’t understand the point I was trying to make, pretty benign.  “There are lots of different kinds of mental illness.”  “Different people are affected differently.”  “There are many factors at play.”

Yes.  Sure.  All true.

I feel like I shouldn’t have to say this, but for the sake of clarity:  I am not at all suggesting that the shooter was not mentally ill.  People who are of sound mind don’t typically go on shooting sprees.  The fact that people are suggesting he’s mentally ill isn’t actually my problem.

My problem is that we’re perpetuating a stereotype.  My problem is that we’re feeding a stigma.  My problem is that we’re taking this tiny percentage of those with mental illnesses (you guys, this is a TINY percentage) and using it as a scapegoat.  As a way to explain something away.  As a way to make ourselves more comfortable with a situation in which there IS no comfort.  “Oh, well he was MENTALLY ILL.  Of course.” My problem is that we’re holding this one, extreme, violent person and saying:  This.  This is what mental illness looks like.

I hate to break it to you, but mental illness FAR MORE OFTEN looks like the guy sitting next to you on the bus minding his own business.  Like the co-worker you’re joking with next to the water cooler. Like the person who sold you your house, or cut your hair, or did your taxes.  Like the girl in the bare feet and the owl pajamas.  The who falls and keeps getting back up again.  The one who isn’t going to bed until she hits “publish” on her blog post.

A few fast facts about mental illness and violence:

People with mental illnesses are far more likely to be victims of crimes than perpetrators. (source)

The absolute risk of violence among the mentally ill as a group is very small. (source)

The public is largely misinformed about any links between mental illness and violence.   (source)

These inaccurate beliefs lead to widespread stigma and discrimination. (source)

Someone in my since-deleted Facebook post asked me, “Are you saying that you think talking about mental illness is harmful?”  And what I think is very much the opposite.  I think we need to be talking about mental illness.  I think we need to know what mental illness is (and is not!). I think we need to have more compassion.  I think we need to harbor less judgement.  I think we need to demand true information, and real awareness.   I think this conversation needs to happen openly, honestly, and in an ongoing fashion.  Because what’s happening in the media right now?  That’s not a conversation about mental illness.  It’s fear-mongering.  It’s sensationalism.  It’s perpetuating a stereotype, it’s increasing stigma, and it is HARMFUL.

Let me say that again:  Make no mistake.  What’s happening right now is harmful to those with mental illnesses, and making those who suffer even less likely to seek help when it’s needed.

I’m going to close with something I wrote on the thread on my Facebook page before I deleted.   It was responses to this comment that were what eventually led me to delete the post.  Because it was so, so deeply personal.  And if you don’t feel heard when you write something so personal … I don’t know.  I think it’s one of the most painful things we can experience.  This is what I wrote, and the kernel from which this whole post was born.

There are so many people, so so many people, who’ve had or currently have suicidal ideation, who are afraid to get help for various reasons. I think the stigma is a huge one, as well as the fact that there is so much judgment attached (ie: How could anyone do something so *selfish*?, etc). But I also think that talking about it just makes people so damn uncomfortable that they’d do anything to avoid it. I get it. It’s uncomfortable. No one’s even mentioned it in this entire thread, despite my having led with it. But my life is valuable too, as is everyone’s who suffers from a mental illness. The problem is, it seems like no one wants to talk about mental illness until someone commits some horrific crime. This tiny, tiny segment of mentally ill people is literally the only exposure that people are getting. And by sensationalizing it, and using it to explain something away (something that is obviously multi-faceted) so many people are hurt. The feeling that one gets, from this side of it, is that your average, run-of-the-mill person who has a mental illness – which is SO many more people than most are aware of – is unimportant. If they take their *own* lives, oh well, as long as they’re not violent towards others. So sure, let’s have a conversation about mental illness, but that conversation needs to include the vast vast majority of people who live/work/exist without ever harboring violent tendencies. Otherwise, it’s just propagating stereotypes and increasing stigmas.

Let’s do better.  Please.

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An Open Letter to Kelly Clarkson

In a January 10th interview, Kelly Clarkson defended her decision to spank her kids, saying in part: “My parents spanked me, and I did fine in life, and I feel fine about it, and I do that as well.  That’s a tricky thing, when you’re out in public, because then people are like, they think that’s wrong or something, but I find nothing wrong with a spanking.”  The following is my response to those remarks.

You love your kids.  I don’t doubt this.  You would give your life for them.  Like the rest of us, you’re doing the best you can with the information you have, and you have the added pressure of having your every decision critiqued by the general public.  I can’t pretend to know what that’s like.

I understand what you are saying here.  I do.  You are simply doing what your parents did, and probably their parents too. Those patterns run deep, and they require a lot of effort, self-reflection, and often painful realizations to break.  Your parents loved you after all, so why would they do something that hurt you?  The fact is, they just did the best they knew how to do, with the information that they had at the time.  But we’re not our parents.  And we have more information now.

You say you’re “fine”, which is one of the most common refrains that I hear from those who spank their kids.  But – and I say this in the most gentle way I know how – you’re believing a lie.  You’re not fine if you think it’s okay to hit children.  That’s what spanking is.  It’s hitting.  And it’s hitting someone smaller and weaker than yourself.

The great thing about the passage of time is that we can learn from the generations before us.  Our parents did (and didn’t) do all kinds of the things that we now know more about, and can ideally learn from and do differently.  We didn’t wear seat belts.  Or bike helmets.  People smoked through their pregnancies. They were encouraged to wean after just a few months, or even weeks.  Just the other day I was thinking about piercings (I’m currently in the process of healing my latest one), and how the old school of thought told us to twist the jewelry every day.  Now, of course, we know that this actually impedes the healing process, and that the best thing to do is to just keep them clean and leave them alone.

When we know better, we do better.

There is a big movement right now admonishing moms to stop judging each other, and instead just recognize that people do things differently.  To a large extent, I agree!  I don’t care if you make your kids a homemade balanced breakfast, or if they eat a Pop-Tart in the car on the way to school.  I don’t care if their bedtime is at 7:00 or 11:00.  I don’t care if they spend their free time watching SpongeBob or reading Moby Dick.

The thing is though, spanking is not a parenting issue.  It’s a human rights issue. Children, like all humans, have the right to be free from violence, especially in their own home.  They have the right to autonomy, to decide who does and does not touch their bodies, and when, and how, and for what reason.  Hitting your children not only teaches them that it’s okay to solve problems by hitting, but it specifically teaches them to hit people who are smaller and weaker than themselves.  It also seriously blurs the lines of consent, and lets them believe that, well, sometimes it’s okay for people to touch private areas of their bodies, as long as the person doing the hitting is unhappy with their behavior.

Hitting a spouse – or a friend or a neighbor or a stranger in a bar – is assault, and a serious offense.  There are even animal cruelty laws to protect animals.  46 of the 50 states have enacted felony penalties for certain forms of animal abuse.  The fact that there are no such laws to protect children does not make it right.  Your right to parent as you see fit never supersedes your child’s right to be free from harm in his or her own home.  Because make no mistake.  No matter how you frame it, spanking is still hitting.  And hitting in any way, shape, or form (other than in self defense) is violence.  And it’s wrong.

The ironic part?  Parents that spank do so because they think it’ll improve their children’s behavior.  But study after study shows that spanking actually has the opposite effect.   Spanking makes a child less likely to listen, not more.  It also contributes to later aggression, anti-social behavior, and mental health problems.  This is real.  This is not an opinion, nor is it just empty words. Spanking is harmful, on every level, and the best of intentions (and absolutely, I believe that most parents are well-intentioned) doesn’t change that.

Our kids need our protection. They need our support and our guidance.  They need us to be living examples of what it means to be respectful and patient and kind.

More than anything though, they need our love.

And hitting should never, ever be conflated with love.

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It’s Okay To Be Annoyed (Or Angry Or Sad Or Hurt Or….)

The other day I asked a question on Facebook that basically started with, “Does it bother you when…” (The topic is not relevant to this post, and probably deserves its own conversation.) I asked mainly because I was curious, and sometimes I like to be curious out loud.  People’s answers ran the full gamut from, “No, not at all,” to “Sometimes”, to “I absolutely hate it!”  The one comment that is standing out to me though is this one:

I try not to be bothered by things like that. Life is too precious to worry about the little things.

Is it true?  I mean, sure.  Of course.  It’s important to try not to sweat the small stuff.  (And indeed, most of what we tend to stress out about is small stuff.)  I’ve written entire blog posts about it, including one about my then 3 year old throwing her brother’s shoes into a lake, and why I was able to laugh about it.  That was the post that initially led a lot of you to my blog, so I kind of have a soft spot for it.

But … I would write it differently were I to write it today.

The above comment, even in its truth, bothered me.  Largely because it sounds so patronizing, but also because – just like the blog post I wrote all those years ago – it glossed over the fact that we are given a full range of human emotions, and that THEY’RE OKAY.  It’s okay to get annoyed sometimes.  It’s okay to get sad and mad and frustrated and scared.  Because real life?  Real life isn’t always sunshine and rainbows.  It’s just not. In real life, sometimes we do get upset over little things (and big things, and everything in between).  Sometimes we’re cranky and irritable and don’t even know why.  We’re human.  We’re gonna feel stuff, and it’s not always going to be pretty.  And we can have those feelings, and recognize them, and accept them, and allow them to come and go with curiosity and without judgement.  There’s no prize for being perpetually happy.

I’ve been in therapy for the past twenty months  – I totally just counted on my fingers for that number – and not once in those twenty months did he ever tell me, “Don’t feel that.  Don’t think that.”  We’re going to think what we think and feel what we feel.  We can’t help that part.  Our brains do it all by themselves.  We can absolutely change how we respond to those thoughts and feelings, the tools for which therapy has taught me in spades.  Ha.  Tools, spades, see what I did there?  But the feelings themselves?  Sometimes they just come, and they’re okay, no matter how much someone else tries to shame us for having them.

I want my kids to see me dealing with my emotions in a healthy way.  I want them to see me continually doing the work I need to do to interact with myself and with the world around me in the best way I know how.  I also want them to see me being a human.  I want them to know that it’s okay to get annoyed sometimes, even over something that someone else would consider small.  I want them to know that it’s okay to have bad days and cranky days and I’m-going-to-hole-up-and-listen-to-melancholy-music-all-afternoon days.  I want them to know that they can feel whatever it is they feel, and that their feelings don’t make them more or less than the person next to them.  I want them to know that what they feel – whatever they feel – is VALID, and that I won’t try to tell them they shouldn’t feel it.

I think one of the greatest gifts (and rarest gifts, it seems) that we can give each other is the space to just …. be.  No trying to fix, no telling someone that they shouldn’t feel what they’re feeling.  No judgement.  Just space.  Acceptance. Sometimes the best thing we can do – really, the only thing we can do – is to just be there.  To just sit beside someone, literally or figuratively, in the hard and the scary and the uncomfortable and let them feel what they feel.  And it IS hard.  It IS uncomfortable. And oh my gosh, do we want to fix it.  Even I want to fix it, and I’m not generally a fixer. Sometimes though, you Just. Can’t. Fix. It. Sometimes, there are no magic words, and there are no solutions.  There’s just space, and time, and empathy.

I was venting to my go-to person recently (I don’t even remember what it was about anymore), and I was just having a moment of feeling the injustice of the world, and of life, and of circumstances.  And I told her how MAD I was, or SCARED, or SAD, or whatever it was I was feeling at the particular time, and the words were all flying out, and when I was I done she simply said, “I know.”   That response kind of blew me away, and instantly tempered a lot of what I was feeling.  It wasn’t a patronizing, “I know.”  It was a genuine, heartfelt, “I heard you, and I get what you’re feeling.” She didn’t tell me not to feel that way.  She didn’t tell me what I should do about it.  She just … heard me.  She saw me.  And I’ll tell you what:  That kind of response is a million times more helpful than any well-meaning “Look on the bright side; don’t feel that way; just think positively” admonishments could ever hope to be.  Having someone – or I guess more than one someone, if you’re lucky – in your life that can just hear you that way is utterly invaluable.

I spent the good majority of my life trying to be someone and something other than what I was.  “You’re TOO SENSITIVE,” was the refrain I heard – and to be honest, still hear – over and over and over, until it was like the scarlet letter that I wore around my neck.  And oh, it was heavy.  And it hurt.

But now?  Now I own my sensitivity.  I’m proud of my sensitivity.  I’m not “too” anything.  I’m me.  And yep, I feel things deeply.  Yep, my emotions are often always on a hair trigger.  Yep, my feelings are hurt easily.  Yep, I sometimes feel annoyance at something that you deem too small to worry about.

And you know what?

It’s okay.

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