All of the Feels

It always happens that right after I tell my therapist how great I’m doing I have a shit storm of a week. This time I felt so confident in how life was going I didn’t even schedule another appointment!

My life is a roller coaster and this week has been riding though loops. I feel both amazing and terrible all at once. I’m feeling joyous, excited, motivated, energized, while also feeling terrified, shameful, sad, hurt, and anxious. I have all my plans and all my doubts all wrapped up into one little me.

I know a big part of it was going on thyroid medication.

I’ve spent the last two years basically feeling like crap all the time. Very low energy, slow metabolism, anxiety, depression, nonspecific pain, and just feeling down for no apparent reason. A few months ago my new doctor finally helped me find an explanation, Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, a not uncommon disease, and especially not surprising considering my family history of autoimmune disease. I knew someday one of them would catch me. My thyroid function isn’t actually all that terrible (according to the labs), but being the sensitive person I am, just it being a little off has affected me in big ways. So my doctor put me on a very low dose of synthetic thyroid hormone.

After a few weeks of being on my new daily pill I started feeling amazing! I was calm and comfortable in my own skin. I was motivated and energized. I felt like a new me! But a few weeks later, as the hormone built up in my body, it was too much. I started having anxiety again, but it felt different, it was more like hyper active anxiety instead of depressive anxiety. For several nights I did not sleep well and the days in between were the worst, tired but unable to rest and full of anxious energy. I emailed my doctor and after talking to me she decided to discontinue the meds. I’ve only been off a few days and it takes time for the hormone level to come down, so hopefully in a few more days I’ll start to feel more “normal” again. Whatever that means. Then we will be starting a small dose of “natural” pig thyroid to see how I do on that.

At the same time as all this I’m changing my diet. I’m totally gluten-free at this point and working toward grain free, for the month of January I’m going to attempt to follow the autoimmune protocol. If nothing else I know that will help my blood sugar, gut issues, and overall health. Eating more veggies and less sugar is never a bad thing!

I don’t know what it is about telling my therapist that life is great that always proceeds a rough week. Maybe thats the cycle of life, life is always going to have ups and downs so inevitably a period of a few good weeks will be followed by lower or more difficult period.

I do feel like I need to go in less often regardless. I’ve learned so many tools and I’ve used them well this week. I know the things that help me and ground me. I’ve been doing yoga, skateboarding, reading, writing, breathing, and it helps! Talking to Ace has been really important as well, sometimes I just need to get my thoughts and feelings out into the world and he’s been a fantastic listening ear this past week (not to mention all the great sex).

I don’t feel like I’m done with therapy, its been huge in my personal growth and I never want to stop growing, but its nice to look at my life and see that some of these things are becoming habits. I can see better when I’m anxious and what I need to do to help myself though it. I feel more confident in my own skin and like I’m more often doing the best I can with what I have. Looking at my life and seeing growth is an important step sometimes and right now I’m taking a little breather from therapy and focusing on my physical health.


Safe in this World

There is a little girl, she’s scared, angry, alone.

She’s angry at the world, the world that took away her father. The world that says she needs to be different, needs to be more “like a girl”, needs to like pink, and dresses, and dolls.

She’s drawn to blue, and red, and sports and dinosaurs. She likes cars, and motorcycles, and construction equipment. Tonka trucks and tricycles make the best toys.

More than anything else, she is lost and alone, with feelings bigger than she thought were possible. Feelings that are too big for her and for anyone else. Feelings that make her family upset, feelings she must learn to control and hide, now.

There is no where safe in this world.

As she grows she becomes better at pretending everything is ok, while feelings of rage and despair bubble just out of view. Feelings that are still too big for her small body and worried soul. There is nowhere safe to take these feelings, so she continues to control them the best she can.

There are some places that help her feel right, but these things aren’t for girls. Sports. Big strong movements like pedaling a bicycle, throwing a ball with all her strength, kicking a bag or a board, pushing a skateboard. These things calm the storm that is always hiding just out of view, at least for a few sweet moments.

The girl is the only one at the school father’s day event attending with an uncle. The only one at the childhood support group with a dead parent. The only kid pulled from class to see a consoler.

She doesn’t care about dresses, or make up, or hair, or dolls. But she does start to care about boys. The boys she finds special don’t find her special back. They always prefer the girls with the cool clothes and the done up hair and make up and skirts. So she keeps doing the things that bring fleeting peace, until there is only one thing that matters. Skateboarding. It is all consuming. Nothing else matters. Not school, not family, not even kicking things, only skateboarding.

The girl starts to find people she can trust in this new world, but the boys she likes, still don’t like her back.

She finds a family that treats her as their own, a man she trusts like a father. Until one night, when he treats her like an object. She is frozen in fear as his hands move up her legs.

Again she is reminded, there is no one and no where safe in this world.

Years later, she has found another family that again treats her like she is a loved member of their own family, until she starts thinking too much, too differently. Once the difference is too much, it cannot be overcome. She is no longer worthy, becuase of the way that she is, the way she acts, the way she thinks. What was once acceptable is no longer.

Again she is reminded there is no one and no where safe in this world.

I want to hug that girl. I want to tell her, there are safe people, and you’ve already found one. He’s still learning how to be good at it, but he will learn, and he will be there. He can handle all of you, even the dark parts, even the sad parts, even the broken parts. He will be there by your side while you dig into the feelings left buried for all those, he’ll love you as the skeletons come out of the closet. He’ll help you make the family you’ve so often hoped for. The one that can handle and love you exactly as you are.

You, will get through this. There are safe people in this world. You will find them.

Writing Practice Works

I want to share with you a piece I just wrote in my journal as an example of how powerful writing practice can be. I sat down thinking “I have no clue what I’m going to write about, so I’ll start with that.” Somehow it took me deep down to the depths of my soul and back up. I’ll let you read it for yourself.

Disclaimer: Dear “friends” that may read this, this is not about you specifically, it is about no one specifically. It is an exploration of my raw exhausted self. Feel free to PM me if you want to talk. 

I am still struggling deeply with knowing what to write and feeling like a failure for writing so little yesterday after setting such a lofty goal. Yet, I am determined to stretch and flex and build this writing muscle. It is an important exercise that I value. I believe it will help me be better and I value myself. I want to be better. I always feel behind on everything and why would it be any different here? I look around my yard, my house, my life, my business, my finances, nothing is where I want it to be. Everything is behind.

The laundry and dishes are chronically behind. I rarely meet my self-imposed goals and lately that crushing feeling of knowing I will always be behind has gotten me down. I’m tired before I begin. I have no idea what to do about it. I am merely observing it. I do know the part I value most though, life. When the apple tree was on the brink of falling I was there to prop it up. When the sequoias were brown and nearly dead I got the hose to them. When the “elm”, which we now know is a mulberry, was about to loose a massive branch, I got it fixed. I do whats needed in a crisis. But I don’t prevent those crises with daily care. I’m too busy caring for Mark, Ace, the dogs, and myself. Its a fucking lot. Then I have friends that constantly want to be social and thats draining. I feel like I’m not a good friend. I can’t fucking keep up. I have too many of them and my friendships feel shallow.

I feel shallow.

What depth do I have that makes me me? Why should someone want to be with me as opposed to any other clump of conscious cells? My good looks? My deep philosophies? My attitude? I just don’t understand who I am. I guess this is a classic dilemma. It is the thing that makes science so interesting to me. Just as it made theology once so irresistible. Maybe it can give me some insight into who I am and how to be better at being me.

I want to love harder, “friend” better, be more productive. I want my house and my yard to serve my life instead me feeling like a slave to all the stuff and responsibility. I feel like there is no way I can maintain my house without becoming a slave to that and having no time left to enjoy said house and yard. I guess thats why I’m so apathetic to its forever half finished state. I know. I know I want to enjoy it. If I make it what some part of my mind thinks of as perfect I won’t be able to do that [enjoy it] anymore. So I must live in the tension of done and not yet done so I can have those moments of enjoyment with my friends.

I really do love this place even with its constant rough around the edges unfinished look. I fucking love my yard. It is the perfect place for my son to grow up. Its so perfect it gives me hope that God is real and he game me this one thing. I’ve lost so much else and the struggle to pay bills is so fucking real, like I’ve never known. But I have this. I have [****] Ogden St. And even though I could rent out the yard or the garage for a decent amount of money I hope it never comes to that. I want this little escape in the city be for me, and for Mark, and for Ace. Not for money. Its too wonderful to be turned into a thing designed to extract a profit. I’ve buried two dogs here. I saw a solar eclipse here. I had my vow renewal here. This property chose us as much as we chose it. And its a perfect fit. I would be happy to stay here forever.

Again, I’m not sharing this for the content in and of itself, but as a personal example of how valuable writing practice can be. These thoughts were all just passing thoughts. I love my friends DEEPLY and appreciate my time with them. The point of sharing this is to say, just sit down and write. Even if you feel like you have nothing left to give. Even if you are so tired you should be in bed. You just might start your session feeling like failure and walk away crying in happiness because you love your yard so much, with maybe a little bit of nihilism in between.  You don’t know where you will go until you sit down and go. Just move the pen across the page. 

Writing Practice

I’ve been slacking off on writing the last few weeks, both here and in my various notebooks. In an effort to revive my writing practice I’ve committed to filling an entire notebook in one month. I found this challenge on reddit and it immediately resonated with me. It was presented as an alternative to NaNoRiMo (National Novel Writing Month) for those of us with no aspirations to write long form fiction.

I’m using my current journal as my notebook to fill, I’ve only been using it for a month and only have a handful of pages filled. I counted 133 remaining blank pages yesterday, which means if I shoot for 5 pages per day I will have a little wiggle room for the days I don’t quite meet this goal.

In order to meet the goal I’m starting up timed writings again. I set a timer for 10, 20, 30 minutes, and I go. No set idea about what I’m going to write about, I just move my pen and try my best to not stop moving until the time period is up. This has already generated some writing that is of a higher quality than I expected. A peice on some special times I shared with my Grandmother and a peice about the significance of my son turning seven.

I plan to take a few of my timed writings, type them up and edit them so I can share them here.

Writing really keeps me centered and sane like almost nothing else. Its the one habit I’ve returned to throughout my life in times of stress and times of happiness. So for the next month I’m really going to lean into it. I have until my my son’s birthday, September 18th, to fill a whole lot of pages!

I Don’t Believe in God Today

I wrote that in my journal about a week ago. Its been true every day since.

I had a lot of panic at church Sunday evening. I felt like a fraud just being there. It was especially hard that there were some very churchy people there using language about God that I’ve mostly abandoned. My anxiety was high. I spent a lot of time in the bathroom. I couldn’t eat. I wanted to say something but I couldn’t. I hoped to be able to sit down with our pastor this week, but she’s busy. Such is life. I haven’t even talked to Ace about it. Maybe this will pass. Maybe it won’t.

I do know cognitively that my life is safe. I believe now that my friends are my friends regardless of my spiritual beliefs. I could tell them tomorrow that I’m hindu now and most of them would say “Tell me more about that” and that’s what I need. Thats what we all need. I believe the same thing about my spiritual community. I would still be welcomed no matter what I believed as long as I’m open to listening to everyone else at the table. My amygdala isn’t so sure though, its terrified. My brain remembers last time I shifted my faith, just a little bit, and I lost almost everyone. I didn’t just loose them, but they hurt me in the process.

Right now Christianity (even “good” Christianity) is making me uncomfortable. I just don’t believe in a God as personal as the Christian God. I don’t believe in a God that speaks real words directly to me.

Yet, I still believe in something. I believe in energy and oneness. I am solidly not an atheist. But yet, its hard to consider myself a theist, thats too concrete. If I had to peg myself down in the moment I could call myself a mystic. I feel comfortable with that. But tomorrow is a new day and tomorrow that may not fit quite right anymore. And I’m ok with that.

I also feel as if maybe I’ve finally completely deconstructed. Deconstruction is a popular term among progressive Christians. It is the disassembling of your former (often evangelical or fundamentalist) theology over time. I spent years studying and building that theology, but I started on a foundation handed to me by someone else. Heck, the whole house was handed to me and I just spent all that time replacing the windows and remodeling the kitchen. I kept the parts I liked and changed what I didn’t. It was an important part of my life. But I didn’t build that house and more recently I’ve been taking it apart and now there is really nothing left. Just the ground beneath my bare feet.

So here I am with my theology gone, dust in the wind, standing on the bare ground wondering what is next. Wondering if I even need a house at all. I’m not even sure how I got here. I didn’t consciously do this. I just looked around and noticed it was all gone. And honestly it scares me. I’m very used to having a theology. Yes, its changed drastically over the years from biblical fundamentalism in high school, via a slow shift to more progressive Christianity, but this is new territory. I’ve had times when I’ve doubted. This doesn’t feel the same, this is true and complete deconstruction. Its all torn down.

What’s left for me right now is seeing something more in all that is.

I love the night sky. I love learning the names of the planets and the stars. I love telling random people “See that bright star, its actually Jupiter!” Kids especially are receptive to this. They love watching the International Space Station pass over as much as I do. Many of my adult friends just don’t care what that speck of light is called or how far away it is. I do. And in those billions of tiny specks I see something bigger than myself. There is something more, something spiritual. Looking into the stars stirs it inside me. Every night I go outside and its cloudy (which is a lot, I live in Portland) I am disappointed that I don’t get to have that moment of true awe before I lay down to sleep. Even here in the city where I can only see two dozen stars I’m given an overwhelming sense of wonder each and every time. The moments I get out to a truly dark sky are utterly overwhelming.

I see something more in children as well. They are the most amazing complicated fantastic people. They come out of the womb with a sense of wonder unlike anything they will experience again. Everything is new. I wish I could stand the loss of sleep that having a baby involves just to watch those first two years again. They are utterly beautiful. I see something more than just cells at work in young children. There is a spark of something more, something spiritual. Every child I meet has that spark, even the ones who have needed to hide it to keep it safe. Its still down there and I still see it.

I love and study science and the more I do, the more I see something more, so no I’m not an atheist, but right now I don’t believe in God either.

What is Going on in My Head?

The mind is a mind boggling thing. The fact that we use this tool in an attempt to understand itself shows how complex it is, and how far we are from understanding how it works.

I often hear we are in the days Galileo when it come to neuroscience. We finally have imaging devices, but they are crude and showing us things at a macro level, while the micro details still elude us. I’m a little obsessed with neuroscience right now, every other book that I’m reading has “brain” in the title. To the point my friends poke friends at it. (Angie, I’m lovingly looking at you!) I feel like this is both because of my intense curiosity, and becuase of my desire to understand myself. Maybe if I understand the biology at play I can better understand why I have the strengths and weakness I do, and maybe even work on the weaker parts.

Lately I am again being tormented by dreams. At least its not so bad that I am afraid to sleep, as its been in the past. I still vividly remember the period of nightmares I had in high school that left me sleepless at night and falling asleep in class. And more recently, about a year or two ago, I was having dreams of dying and waking up unable to breath. That was another time I was too scared to sleep. Both of those times I would read or watch TV until I was physically unable to stay awake.

This time is a little different. I’m having dreams about specific people in specific scenarios and it seems every time I dream it escalates in intensity.  This is paired with waking up feeling not well rested and tension in my neck and head. I feel like its a window to some unresolved trauma from broken relationships, but what the fuck do I know? I really wish that part of me would speak more clearly to the rest of me so I would know if there is something I can do to resolve this. Until that happens I have writing, yoga, and meditation to try and keep me grounded.

What is going on in my head!?

Carrie & Lowell

Finding words can often be the hardest part of life. And putting words to your deepest feelings in incredibly powerful. A huge focus of my work with the kids this summer is helping them find words. I want to give them examples when I see them struggling and then have them articulate them back to me. Sometimes I need someone to do the same for me. That can come in different forms, friends, family, professionals, but the most powerful place I find words when they don’t come for me is in art.

Carrie & Lowell has been an incredibly important album for me since I first heard the single “No Shade in the Shadow of the Cross.” I had no idea what it was about, but I could feel the heaviness, and the Christian imagery resonated deeply with me. The first time I listened to it straight though, I had to listen to it again. I listened to it daily for weeks, I learned every word and I cried and cried and cried.

There is a hurt deep at the core of who I am. A loss that had defined me since I was 4 years old. The vast majority of my life I’ve lived without my Father. He died in a horrible accident when I was not quite four and half. He was in his late 20s.

I spent my childhood feeling a profound loss and also feeling like I was never allowed to speak of that loss. I had to keep it deep within myself. I was often angry, but I kept it under wraps as best I could expressing it though various sports. You can throw a ball hard or kick your foot though a board and people don’t get too upset. I was never good at finding the words to tell anyone how I really felt. I still kind of suck at it, but I’m getting better. I have a few safe people now, and I write. I write here, and in other more personal places.

But Carrie & Lowell reached something I never was able to reach in myself with lines like

For my prayer has always been love
What did I do to deserve this?


Do I care if I despise this? Nothing else matters, I know
In a veil of great disguises; how do I live with your ghost?

How do I live with your ghost. Thats always been the struggle.

And then there is

Should I tear my eyes out now, before I see too much?
Should I tear my arms out now, I wanna feel your touch

Which so captures the deep visceral physical feeling of loss. To feel a loved person’s touch again. Nothing can actually communicate that feeling. But Sufjan does a damn good job.

Those past two lines are from the track “The only Thing” which resonates most deeply with me of any track on the album. I’ve struggled with feeling this loss so intensely I want to hurt myself. I’ve imagined how easy it would be to escape it all from driving off a bridge or into a tree. Then I realize I would only be passing on this same intense pain to the people who love me that dearly, and there are at least a few. I would never wish this pain on anyone, so I continue to find the best ways I can to cope, I search for healthier ways to deal with my struggles. This album provided one I didn’t know existed. Sufjan’s mourning of the loss of his mother and his reminiscing of his childhood helps me to explore those own intense feelings in myself.

I forgive you, mother, I can hear you
And I long to be near you
But every road leads to an end
Yes every road leads to an end
Your apparition passes through me in the willows
Five red hens – you’ll never see us again
You’ll never see us again