This is the story of a girl who doubted herself.

Who didn’t trust him at age six. Who compared him to a rattlesnake once.

Who can still pull up the memory of that shocked face–the way she turned around in the car, while driving no less, and the look of horror when that eight year old voiced the comparison…one she’d mulled over saying for weeks.

Who had panic attacks on planes, because something had to be broken to feel that distant about a family that never did anything well, bad.

Who is an adult now.

Who feels too adult.

But adults get praised for having boundaries. For being so perceptive, for handling it so well. Even as they think, what’s changed? 

And it’s that adult woman with boundaries and understanding and maturity, who sometimes hates that word, because she was used to be mature enough to use big words, but not mature enough to talk about who belonged in the circle of people who knew about her life.  It’s that woman who wants to find the six year old, the eight year old, the ten year old girl who thought she was wrong, who doubted her feelings. Who thought something was wrong in her. And she wants to just hold her.

To say that yes, you’re doing the right thing. That you can create an entire persona, that you can protect yourself and feel numb and cold and someday it’ll be as if the happiness dial suddenly turned all the way up.

That it won’t feel like having a home, but it will feel like freedom. And that in a decade, in three thousand, six hundred and fifty two days, there will be friends who become family, who ask how therapy went, who wrap blankets around you when you’re anxious and wrap you in hugs because they know you. Who ask if you want company when they see the caller ID, who will let you show up on the doorstep.

And that when things start to be okay, when it starts being brave and not mean to say ‘He didn’t care. He doesn’t want to know me.’ the adult woman will be angry on behalf of the eight year old who knew.

Intake Ramblings

The ramblings part of the title is veeeery accurate here! This is about my experience with intake and therapy and (1) I most certainly do not want to discourage you from seeking therapy if you have access to it! Intake may suck, but it is (usually) worth it. (2) I wrote this last night and refused to let myself do anything fun until I’d sent in my therapist request. So these are Thoughts and Feelings, but they are also out of date. 

It’s 2 a.m. and I can’t sleep. It feels a little like the insomnia is coming back. 2:30 am last night. Probably even later tonight. And awake at six, disoriented, but not exhausted.

There’s no AC, and a hot day turned into a warm and sticky night. So I’m on the couch, and I can’t sleep, with a mug of tea that won’t help.

I need to send in a request for assignment to a school therapist. I’ve been delaying. Again. I was late last year, too. My file will get a little bit longer, and a small and silly part of me thinks that’s worse than the feelings.

Eating disorder. Then, eating disorder again, with a new year and a new therapist, and a footnote–obsessive tendencies?
This year: anxiety.  Maybe. Probably.

I’m going to have to do intake again and auuuuugh. I will sit in a room and cross my legs and quietly spell out the last few years. I will ramble a little, because you’re speaking into silence and getting nods in return and I want to sound functional, but I need them to help me, and that means finding the worst parts.

“I believed I had the tendencies under control when I left for college.”
“And by the end of that year I was unable to keep from swinging between bingeing and depriving.”
“Invasive thoughts…trouble leaving my house once or twice.”

There will be a series of questions when I stop talking. I’ve sat on the other side and asked them myself, ticking boxes and nodding. I know what they are, and I know why they’re asked and I will still feel weird and shift uncomfortably, even as I answer honestly.

Have you ever felt suicidal?

Have you ever been sexually assaulted? Raped?

And then they will nod and smile and thank me for sharing, as though I’d set pretty cupcakes on the table between us, instead of my insides.

They’ll let me know when they have a therapist for me, they say as we shake hands. I’ll go sit in the campus garden for a bit when I leave. It’s become a ritual, this. The story, the niceties, the third bench on the right, behind the tulips, letting the feelings crash down.

And then, in a week or so, I’ll get an email from my new therapist. She’ll have my file, but she’ll ask me to explain why I’m there, and I will retell the story again. And then, finally, the work will begin.


In Which I Accidentally Test My Previous Post

Yesterday I posted about reducing a somatic symptom of anxiety. Today, I accidentally gashed myself with a knife and found myself quite panicky at the injury and blood and in the emergency room….retesting all that advice I was handing out*. Empiricism!

However, this also serves as an announcement that blogging, if it occurs, will be short and possibly typo-prone. My left hand looks a bit like a sewing project, and I’ve just sent my computer into the shop for a few days. The WordPress app on my phone isn’t bad, but the links feature is buggy, and composing is slow.

* I tried all suggestions in sequence and found the most immediate relief from the cool cloth on the back of my neck, but want to compare it to an ice pack in the same location. Even more helpful was the friend who talked cheerfully about her summer without needing much response from me–distracting me for the entire procedure. She’s going to be a brilliant doctor.


Clearing out my drafts–from sometime in May, updated and edited. TW: ED for brief discussion of bingeing and depriving


I’m sitting in the dark again. My bed is big and wide and green and it’s become my landing place. There’s a bowl on the desk to my left –the last remains of a meal I can call balanced. I need to take it to the kitchen. I need to take a shower and pair my socks and call the gas company and turn in the notes I wrote up and organize my planner and plan tomorrow’s meals. I need to nap, to vacuum, to go to the gym. To-do lists became overwhelming this week, so I started making lists of people I owed apologies.

I’m so sorry. I meant to finish it.

I haven’t moved for two hours.

The funny thing is, this is Better. This isn’t wanting to scream because the jeans hugged my hips. It isn’t spending weeks being repulsed by my own skin. It isn’t deciding that two handfuls of granola are lunch, an orange is dinner.

I eat at least two meals every day. I’ve maintained a healthy weight for most of my time at college. I can sit in class and not lose track of an hour, wrapped up in trying to figure out if my lap is bigger than the last time I looked.

But I won’t keep mirrors in my room. If you go walking with me, you’ll notice me turn away as we pass tall store-front windows. I’ll look up at you, engage with conversation more, smile at someone on the street. But I’ll try to avoid my reflection.

This doesn’t feel like Better.

I’m happy and it feels…fragile. I look for all the things that go wrong. A few panic attacks later, I revise fear of the unknown downwards enough to be manageable.

I don’t know how to trust being unhappy. It’s impossible and irrational to think that I will be happy for the rest of my life. But every time I notice boredom, lethargy, sadness, I fear it. What if this is the first sign? What if I can’t stop feeling this way?

I worry when I lose weight. Clothing’s looser than usual and suddenly I’m reviewing every meal. Did I skip last Tuesday’s lunch intentionally? I feel hungry, and I worry it’s the start of bingeing. If I eat, will I be able to stop? It’s a razor edge, this being healthy business.

Burning Out

Burning out is horrid.

Burning out is not wanting to read the comments…or the piece.

It’s sitting in front of your computer for hours, trying to write, and finally concluding that maybe it would be nicer to just put your pajamas back on and sleep.

It’s when taking a walk around the block to clear your mind turns into running every errand you can think of. Having this brilliant idea that gnaws at you….and then sitting at your computer listening to music, because you want nothing less than to cudgel together a coherent post and then watch people react to it.

And burning out is not knowing if it’s the movement or the people or just your own exhausted brain.

This is the part I struggle with most–do I want to step away from the movement because I’ve overworked myself. Or do I need to pick a different cause?

On bad days, it’s the latter.

On the good, I remind myself that I’ve met nearly all my close friends here. That nobody offers me homeopathy in response to illness. That I’ve never been told mental illness just happens for a reason. That the movement means a place to write, speak, think with people I admire, and who challenge me to do it all better. I get to do FtBConscience and talk about mental health. I get to watch people light up while they talk about their passions, and there’s almost nothing better.

So this, you lovely people, is an encouragement to keep doing that. Keep lighting up when you talk about biology and physics and communication and neuroscience and bugs and rocks. Smile when your favorite topic comes up. Write long and impassioned blog posts and give talks and refer us to new books. We’ll have delightfully eclectic reading lists and weird snippets of facts–did you know there are caterpillars that wear old heads as hats?–and I think we’ll all be a little less on the fizzling end of burning out.