I took tiny bites of the salty, fiery veggie pho spiked with Sriracha and lime juice, normally my go-to hangover cure for its stomach-settling and head-clearing powers. My head hung low over the bowl as I struggled to look presentable, appear sharp and interested in the informational interview in which I was engaged. I was four paychecks away from unemployment, a terrifying prospect given the utter instability of my personal life. Deeply in credit card debt, new marriage scraping the rocks, interpersonal dramas playing out every other day, emotionally enmeshed with a long-distance boyfriend, drinking spiraling out of control, I had gone to this networking interview to try and save myself from total crisis. I seemed unable to reduce or stop my alcohol use, to clear the confusion and panic from my mind, to not act on my almost constant outrageous and high-risk impulses. I wanted so much to engage in pleasurable activities that I ignored the risks or consequences. My life was blowing up in my face, my behavior hurting, offending and scaring my friends. I was a runaway train, pedal to the metal, going right off the rails. Continue reading
…continued from Tuesday
When I was nineteen and in the middle of a major depressive episode that made me numb, restless and irritable for an entire summer, my therapist told me, you’re rather an inside out person, aren’t you? At the time I wasn’t quite able to grasp her meaning, and like many of her words, they’ve stuck in my head and evolved in meaning over time. She was good at her work. What she meant was that while I felt entirely disconnected from my feelings, it was readily apparent to others what they were. I was wearing my emotions on the outside, without experiencing them on the inside. I was an inside out person. Continue reading
Does the title resonate? Have you felt this before, wanted to offer this act of service to a loved one? Done it, even? No?
Congratulations, you’re not codependent.
Must be nice. The earliest I can remember wishing I could experience someone’s pain for them was when I was fourteen, and my first boyfriend was suicidally depressed. This was Seattle in 1994, people. Our God of Grunge had killed himself that very spring, extinguishing a voice that made art from the collective angst, gathering and expressing the feel of the cultural moment to exquisite perfection. Oh, had I not told you before that Nirvana is my favorite band, Kurt Cobain my personal deity? In killing himself he destroyed some of the stigma surrounding suicide, and suddenly in the adolescent subculture it was ok to feel crushingly low and talk about it. Continue reading
(Continued from Tuesday)
When our teen patient showed up for her counseling appointment the day after we cancelled her abortion procedure (after a battle of wills between her mother and I over her attempt to force her daughter into the appointment to terminate her pregnancy), I wondered why she had returned. I had left our previous session feeling like a total amateur (which I was) and bully. Nevertheless, she was coming back in, and I resolved to listen and respond to her needs, rather than my own this time.
“I don’t know what to do next,” she told me upon her arrival. “I mean, I know I’m going to have a baby, but, like, what do I do?” We both knew she meant that she hadn’t secured the support of her mother around her decision to become a teen parent, and that she needed resources. Naturally, the first resource that came to mind was having a medically accurate, clinical discussion of sex and birth control methods. Unlike some of our teen patients, she had a correct understanding of sex–the definition and mechanics. Like most of our patients, regardless of age, she didn’t understand how she became pregnant using the withdrawal method, after receiving basic sex education at school, but never discussing the subject in detail with her parents. I began my explanation of pre-ejaculate, survey of available birth control methods and assessment of which would work best for her in the future, given her lifestyle and needs (as she described them). She had been having sex with her boyfriend, another young teen, for a period of several months and this was her first time being pregnant. She needed adult support and guidance desperately, and I racked my brain to figure out how to help her on that front, given her mother’s disregard and stubbornness. “Do you have a relationship with your father?” I asked, clutching at straws. Continue reading
We sent GirlTalkHQ a post written for you about choosing to be grateful on a micro level and watching your life change as a result. Since they consider themselves a blog devoted to female empowerment and inspiration, they chose to publish us: http://girltalkhq.com/i-chose-gratitude-and-watched-my-entire-life-change-before-my-eyes/.
Talk about feeling grateful!
When I got to the final question of the medical history portion of the appointment, our patient reluctantly replied, “well…my mom told me I have to.” I had just asked her if she was comfortable with her decision to have an abortion, and whether she was being threatened, forced or coerced. If the answer was anything other than “yes, I’m comfortable” and “no, I am not being threatened, forced or coerced”, or if a strong emotional response was provoked by the question, we hit the brakes on the appointment. Often my colleagues would pull me into the room when patient broke into sobs at the question, or mentioned someone in the waiting room insisting on the appointment. We did not perform abortion procedures on women who weren’t at our clinic of their own volition. We did not perform abortion procedures on women who weren’t in an emotionally safe place the day of their appointment. In this case the patient was a young teenager, and when I pressed for more information she told me that while she wanted to keep her pregnancy, her mom was forcing her to have an abortion. I immediately notified my colleagues to remove the patient’s name from our treatment roster, and stepped out into the lobby to bring the patient’s mother into our counseling office. Continue reading
(Continued from Tuesday)
The Initiative was going to work this time, I decided. The organization was small, the mission statement clear (and don’t get me started on the drama and trauma caused by lack of a clear mission statement in the workplace), and the work worth doing, the cause worth believing in. I looked around the table and told my colleagues, “together, we represent thirty-five percent of the office. If we want to make changes, we have the numbers to support them.” We all looked at each other, realizing suddenly that we did indeed represent a rather critical mass, and in that moment I felt a flicker of hope that maybe things could be different. I asked the group if we could agree that we had defined the problems at work down to the tiniest nuance, and that process had become its own problem. Yes. I asked the group if they wanted to try an experiment with me to see if we could influence others in the office with the hope of changing the culture. Yes. I laid out my simple plan: keep it positive, don’t feed the negative, keep it on the level. Continue reading
We’re happy to report another of our pieces exploring the use of the word “bitch” has been published by Skirt Collective. Check out the full post here.
A friend asked how we can “upend this perpetual-negativity-as-social-glue phenomena” in response to my “Sexy Negative” post, where I explored that very trend. I realized I owe an answer to that, and perhaps a how-to guide to go along with it. In fact, it feels more like a karmic debt I must pay, since I’ve perpetuated negativity to the point of poisoning whole group cultures (at work, at school, in friend circles, god I’ve been gross). I resolved, in that New Years way, that when I moved to Phoenix I wouldn’t take my bad attitude with me, and I haven’t. For me, it’s easier to live with a sense of optimism, gratitude and positivity in a sunny climate. But I digress. I want to tell you about The Initiative, a surreptitious, exploratory movement I started at a job where the office culture was putrid with negativity, paranoia, gossip and mistrust. The Initiative was an experiment in social learning, specifically the power of modeling certain behaviors in an attempt to shift the culture. Continue reading