Sensitivity

I cried on my drive home today. 

I knew it was going to happen. 

I picked up the baby from my parents’  house because they have her on Thursdays and I couldn’t believe another Thursday has come and gone, wasn’t I just there yesterday, and my beautiful baby girl will be 5 months old tomorrow and it seems like  just yesterday that I was newly pregnant, and I love each moment with her but am I enjoying it enough? And time is flying and that is so scary and I try to live in the moment but it’s so hard and how long will I have with my loved ones and what if something happens to them, I will not survive it, what ritual or compulsion can I do to protect them, there isn’t any, I know this, and how do I just freeze everything so I don’t have to worry, and am I a good enough mother and wife and daughter and sister and friend and are my coworkers sick of me and is my boss mad at me, and my heart hurts for the world and for everyone else hurting and lately I’ve been feeling it all (again), feeling everyone’s feelings and feeling consumed by what doesn’t even belong to me and every sight has a feeling and every smell has a memory and there was a dead squirrel on the road and that did me in, and I am happy and sad and overwhelmed and stressed and tired and there isn’t room for all of those in my body and it feels like a million pounds weighing on me, and this is me and this is what happens from time to time but it’s a lot and I couldn’t reign it in. 

So I cried. 

This is part of why I used to not eat, or do other not great things around food. Because everything is scary and hard and I’m the epitome of a hypersensitive person and when all of those feelings and worries and questions became too much and the world was too big I could make it smaller by making it about food and calories and my weight. I could have that to focus on instead of gun violence and cancer and dead squirrels and anxiety and worry thoughts about my loved ones. Food and weight I could solve. Food and weight I could manage. The rest? Not so much. 

I remember how, as a young child, I had all of these same worries and fears and moments but I didn’t know what it was. I just knew I felt scared and overwhelmed and heavy and I didn’t know it was because I was so sensitive. I just thought something was really wrong with me. 

Nothing was wrong with me, though. I just didn’t know it. Glennon reminds us, right – “you are not a mess. You’re a feeling person in a messy world”. 

Right. 

But feelings hurt and worries are scary and everything IS hard when you’re wired this way. 

So sometimes you just have to cry, release the pressure valve, wipe your face, take a breath, and wait for the shift. 

Real talk.

Some people thrive on being nonstop at work. That’s how I am. Sure, I like having enough time to get things done, and no, I don’t like the feeling of stress – but I do, and always have, love the feeling of a ton going on, moving nonstop, being constantly challenged and stimulated. Extroverts gain energy in social situations; it’s helpful and necessary for them. I’m no extrovert, but that’s what it’s like for me at work. I thrive off of more more more. It’s like a high, quite honestly.

So the beginning of the year, in the field of education, has always been perfect for someone like me.

Until I had a baby.

Turns out, when you have a 3-month-old and the chaos of the year is beginning, you can’t give 10000%  to work. You can’t stay up late scheduling. You can’t have hour-long phone calls with colleagues trying to problem-solve things each day. You can’t answer every email immediately. You can’t stay at work until 6pm if you need to and you can’t get to work at 6am to get everything done.

Instead, you run around like crazy – crazier than ever – all day long. You desperately try to fit everything in, both job responsibilities and mommy ones. You expend every single possible ounce of energy, answering multiple emails while listening to voicemails and planning for sessions and answering colleague questions. You leave work so depleted you could collapse on the ground, because you are so exhausted, and the amount of energy output has already far surpassed what you started with.

And for a split second you think, Thank heavens the day is over; I am going to pass out on the couch. But then you remember that instead of napping, or running errands, or cooking, or cleaning, or doing more work at home, you need to be 10000% on, because now it’s time to be a mom. You panic a little, because you’re so drained you can’t see straight, and how are you supposed to stay awake until she goes to bed at 8:00, let alone be a good mother in the meantime?

You halfheartedly play and bounce and sing and soothe while trying to do dishes and pack lunches for tomorrow and put away laundry and wash her pooped-all-over clothes. You feel guilty that the kitties are meowing for attention and you literally do not have time or energy to pet them. You question if you’re being a good-enough mother, paying enough attention, giving enough love. You remember you have to eat dinner so you have a bowl of cereal. You try to answer work emails and texts from colleagues. Your husband finally comes home and all you want to do is spend time with him, but now it’s 8pm and she needs to nurse and go to bed, and by the time she’s done you contemplate not even brushing your teeth and instead just passing out. And she wakes up three times in the middle of the night because she’s the best baby ever but not the best sleeper, and then it’s 5am and time to do it all over again.

And nothing feels complete, even when you check it off your to-do list, because for every question you answer there are more and every problem solved there are more and every session planned for there are more.

So you text a friend who is like you in every way possible and you say, “I’m drowning. Tell me it gets easier.”

She says it does. You bitterly smile, and then your eyes well up, because you know she must be right but you just can’t see it.

Blind faith leap of faith drop the rope trust hope breathe.

And it did get better. It’s still hard. It’s hard every single day. Some days I call my mom and panic, “I’m so tired I can’t see straight – how am I supposed to get through the day?” But routines have begun to emerge, and every so often she sleeps better. And most days I enjoy half-caf coffee, and I shower at night instead of in the morning, and the little things help. And my husband is so supportive and my family is so supportive and some people Get It and those are the ones I lean on. And some days I am not fully planned for sessions but I’m a skilled SLP and fully capable of putting a great session together last minute. And that’s okay. And I’ve learned to be even more efficient in the tiny little bit of free time I get throughout the day and somehow, I get done what needs to get done. And I catch up to my life on the weekends and I learn to be okay with the laundry not getting put away until then or the dishwasher not getting emptied until then. And each day I somehow find more energy just when I thought I had none left. Somehow I do become a superwoman and do it all. And my baby is a healthy, and happy, and thriving 4-month-old and really that’s all that matters.

So, real talk:

It’s hard, it’s so hard, and I think I wish I had known how hard it would be. But it gets better. 

The Not Writing explanation

I had a baby in May. Really, that’s all you need to know.

During all of my pregnancy I struggled to write. I think because there were so many pregnancy-related things I wanted to blog about – but we chose to keep our pregnancy offline and off social media, for a myriad of reasons. And so in my head I would think “I really want to blog about x aspect of pregnancy” but I wouldn’t. And beyond that, nothing else seemed important enough to blog about, because I WAS PREGNANT. That kind of topped anything else.

And then our beautiful miracle was born in May, and I could finally write all of those posts! Except the minor facts of recovering from labor and delivery, and, you know, having a newborn. No big deal. And then as motherhood began and we adjusted to our new life, I thought of a million other motherhood/postpartum things I wanted to blog about. But guess what! Even though she’s 7 weeks old, she’s still an infant! And turns out, you don’t really get free time when you have an infant. Especially the kind who doesn’t love taking naps unless they’re on you. And it turns out that when she DOES take a nap lying down, my priorities have become pee-brush teeth-change out of pjs-maybe eat something-try to nap for five seconds. Blogging? Not as necessary for survival.

So that’s why I have very successfully been a Not Writer lately. I miss blogging. I miss it so much. I miss the ability to formulate my thoughts and emotions – however immature or incoherently written – and get them out into the world where I don’t have to hold them anymore. I’d like to make it a secondary priority – so maybe one day when I’ve gone to the bathroom and showered and stuffed some food in my face and done the laundry and cleaned the bathrooms and written all the thank you notes, I’ll get back to it.

Until then…..a Not Writer I remain.

The glitz and glamour of sexual assault

[I wrote this last winter, shortly after the second debate. I don’t remember why I never published it. I also don’t know why I’m publishing it today. Maybe because I can’t seem to write anything else coherent and this is an easy way out – posting something I already wrote. Maybe because this topic is always worth addressing. I suppose the why doesn’t even matter, anyway.]

I posted this on Facebook, following the debate a few weeks ago:

Just a friendly PSA: women don’t come forward for fame. Women come forward to bravely speak their truth so they can survive and be free.

A friend commented [sarcastically], “Nothing like the glitz and glamour of sexual assault.”

Yup – I know that’s what I always wanted. You too, right?

It is infuriating and terrifying to think that people out there still believe that the only reason a woman would share a story is because she made it up while trying to get in the spotlight.

Absent a serious mental condition, women don’t go around making up stories to ruin someone’s life in the interest of fame.

Newsflash: the reason so many of us don’t tell, or didn’t tell for so many years, is because we didn’t want to be in a spotlight.

It’s not a club that anybody wants to be in. But we find ourselves there – and so we find a way to survive. And that often happens by sharing our stories. Not because, “Ooh! This would be so cool to talk about, and maybe I’ll become rich and famous!”

There was nothing exhilarating or glamorous about anxiously sitting on a couch in front of a friend, trying not to throw up or panic, trying to look her in the eye, drenched in the shame I thought was mine, as I spoke the words and told her my stories. There was nothing fun and exciting about sitting in therapy and working through the years and the memories.

It was freeing. Liberating. Relieving. Terrifying. Worth it.

But not glitzy. Not glamorous.

That’s not how this works.

Sometimes, a survivor does become famous. But when that happens, they’re not famous because of what happened to them, or because of who hurt them. They’re famous because of their bravery in speaking their truth. Because of the hope and courage they give others. Because of the freedom they then feel, and inspire in others.

The problem is, the people who are going to read this are the ones who agree. The ones who have the same thoughts. The ones who don’t get it, who are still so ignorant, those are the ones who will never see these words. But we write, and we talk, on the off chance that someone reads something, and talks to someone who talks to someone who talks to someone who had a different opinion, and through the grapevine, they are educated and enlightened. 

Lessons learned. Again.

You know how when there’s a leak in your house you usually fix it right away, but sometimes you just ignore it? Because it’s really not doing that much damage and it’s probably only leaking because it’s raining and it’s going to stop raining eventually.

Right. Except.

The thing is, you don’t know when it’s going to stop raining. Or when it’s going to start raining again. And how hard. Because despite your best efforts, and the best predictions and forecasts, sometimes storms just come. And sometimes they come out of nowhere, and you haven’t fixed the leak, and it makes an even bigger mess.

And then you have to figure out how to fix the damage from the leak. There’s no point in wasting time wishing you had fixed it earlier. Hindsight is 20-20 and all you can do is deal with what you have in front of you.

So you get mad at yourself, and you complain, and maybe you cry, but then you do the Next Right Thing. You call the repairman, and tell them that even if their schedule is crazy, you need to be fit in. And you don’t, you can’t, feel bad about it, because that’s their job. And you have to fix the damage to your house. No amount of avoidance or wishing is going to make it go away.

And you remind yourself: next time, for the love of all things holy, don’t ignore the leak. No matter how tempting avoidance is, remember that the likelihood of the leak just stopping is slim to none. Patch it. Fix it. Face it. Call the repairman. Well before the damage occurs.

Body memories

[Ed. note: I wrote this a week ago and immediately got stuck in anxiety about posting it. Vulnerability is hard, and it’s scary to imagine how people might feel or react, even when deep in your heart you know that you’re just telling your story. And even if you’re a person who preaches being brave, it doesn’t mean it’s always easy. It’s terrifying. But here’s the thing: vulnerability brings healing, to yourself and to others. And also, there’s this, that was a perfectly-timed reminder (thank you, Laura):

So with that: press publish. Vulnerability is bravery is healing.]


When people are surrounded by something all the time, they naturally become an expert on it. Sometimes that can cloud their perspective – they forget that not everyone else knows everything that they know.

My brother probably forgets that even the basics of coding are not necessarily common sense. My husband might occasionally have to remind himself that not everyone knows the basics of what our healthcare system involves. I live autism and language/learning disabilities day in and day out, and have for years. Invariably, each year when “Autism Awareness” circulates, I find myself thinking, “really? But we all KNOW about autism.” Well, I do. And my coworkers do. And the colleagues and contacts I follow on social media do. But everyone? No, they don’t.

This is all normal. We live and breathe something and so to us it becomes obvious.

People who don’t deal with anxiety might not know what it’s like for someone to experience it (which is a large part of why I write about it – education, and to reduce stigma, and encourage bravery). The same can be said with trauma. It occurred to me recently that I write a lot, in great detail, about anxiety. And the response is always overwhelmingly positive, from the texts and messages and emails that I receive. But while I’ve certainly acknowledged trauma in posts, I actually haven’t written that much about it. Part of that is I didn’t feel a need. Part of that is I didn’t know where to begin. Part of that was, quite honestly, fear – because while I know most people would have a positive reaction, I also know that not everyone else would. And I talk about facing fears and being real and being brave, but oh, it can be scary and hard.

Anyway. One day last week on my drive home from work, I was thinking about a conversation I had  had with a friend who was experiencing a recurrence of a PTSD symptom. Particularly, I was thinking about how most of us experience(d) symptoms, but they aren’t necessarily talked about. And so, just as with autism or coding or healthcare, other people just don’t know. And how could we expect people to support us, advocate for us, be our cheerleaders, if they don’t know what we experience?

So I decided to start here, in the mixed-up middle, because that’s always the best place to start.
People hear about PTSD and might think of flashbacks, of a soldier hearing a loud noise and bolting under the table, thinking he’s back in Afghanistan. Flashbacks are real, and they certainly exist for sexual trauma as well. I have heard from many survivors that flashbacks are the hardest symptom. For me? One of the hardest parts was what I call body memories.

The best way I can explain this is, have you heard of phantom limb pain? How someone can have their leg amputated, and cognitively know their leg isn’t there, but they feel it, and it hurts? Body memories for me were like that. I would get a feeling being touched, being invaded, and I would feel it in my body as if it was happening. It wasn’t a flashback. I knew exactly where I was, I wasn’t dissociating or losing time, I was going about my day. But while my brain was very present in the here and now, my body was stuck in the past.

Certain touches, or even smells or places, or memories would trigger it – but sometimes it would happen from nothing at all. Let me tell you – it is a very hard thing to be at work, smiling and confidently working with students, but inside have your skin be crawling with sensation.

I draw attention to body memories because they happen. And they are often invisible. In college sometimes they’d leave me curled up under blankets in bed, but over the years they became quite functional. You’d never know it was happening unless I told you.

Which is why I’m telling you.

(For the record – they happen much less frequently now, fairly rarely. And when they do, they don’t last for days and weeks on end. And they don’t paralyze me the way they used to. (A lot of which I attribute to not hiding my stories as shameful secrets anymore). But as with anything, they could come back. Things come and go in waves. The difference is, as I said to my friend, it’s no longer like falling off a cliff and shattering into a million pieces. It’s more being a strong tree, rooted in the ground, during a storm. You’ll sway and bend, but you won’t break, you won’t uproot, you won’t shatter, you won’t die. You will survive. )

And I’ll end this right here, in the middle, too. Because there will be more to come. There needs to be, you know? Nobody should have to suffer in silence. Nobody should feel that people don’t get it, and so therefore they can’t talk about it.

Next time you’re at work and someone acts “off” – maybe their brain is stuck in a memory. Maybe their skin is crawling. Maybe not, but statistically? It very well could be. So smile at them and send them love and compassion. They will feel that you’re a safe person, and maybe that’s all it’ll take for them to talk, to let it out. That’s how it happened for me and I am grateful every single day for those people who became my safe harbor, who helped me become that tree rooted down in the ground, who helped me know that I. will. not. break.

The intimacy of a panic attack

There was a recent episode of “This is Us” that had people talking (this is not a spoiler, not to worry). It involved Randall coping with anxiety that quickly increased in severity, and eventually showed him in the midst of a full-blown panic/anxiety attack.

It hurt my heart. It was gut-wrenching and painful and beautiful, too, because during his panic attack, his brother came and sat on the floor with him and just held him.

There are few things so vulnerable, so intimate.

I can count on one hand the number of people who I have wanted to see me in the middle of a panic attack. Some people have witnessed it just because it happened when they were around. But usually? I prefer to ride it out on my own, touching base after the wave has passed.

I don’t think there’s a right or wrong way to do it. You get through the hard times however you get through them. Some people want to be physically hugged through a panic attack – others push loved ones away. You do what you need to do.

There have been very, VERY few times in my life that during a panic attack that I have actively sought out someone. It is hard to be that vulnerable. It’s hard to be that intimate. It’s hard to let someone bear witness to your struggle.

What I CAN tell you, is that the times I have sat in front of someone, allowing them to see me at my most vulnerable, as I shook and sweat and gasped and hyperventilated and felt the color draining from my face – those times ended, interestingly, with me feeling more empowered after. I think it’s similar to how being upfront and telling it like it is in a medical setting has a positive result. There’s something very empowering about thinking, I could not be more vulnerable right now – and yet I’m going to let someone bear witness to my struggle. I’m going to trust them to love me through it and I’m not going to tell them what to do or what to say. I’m going to ride out what’s happening right now, and they will figure out how to help or what to do. It’s empowering because it’s allowing me to be me, and not feeling shame or embarrassment about it.

Like I said – it’s rare. I much prefer to handle it on my own. But from time to time, there’s something special about it. There’s something beautifully intimate about experiencing a hard time with someone else, and something powerful about embracing the struggle, and letting it float out there freely, letting it move through you, and not feeling like you need to hide.

You be you. You do you. You embrace you. And the right ones, the loved ones, those special ones that are in your tribe for a reason, will love you for it, and love you through it.

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