[Health Rx] The Current State of COVID: mRNA, Masks and Mental Health

In the blink of an eye, it feels like we’ve all teleported a year ahead; like the universe’s proverbial cat sat on the fast forward button of our “cosmic remote”. One second, it was February of 2020 and we were all discovering what the hell a novel Coronavirus was and how to navigate a “new normal” around it – and now it’s May 2021, and we’re one again wrapping our heads around how to re-navigate the world now that the vaccine has been rolling out to a larger proportion of the population. What can and can’t we do? How much longer will there be a mask mandate and where do we need to wear a mask still? Lots of questions with varying degrees of answers, depending on the source and what date you ask them! For references made in this post, please be aware I’m referring to what’s happening in the United States.

The Best Vaccine Memes And Jokes - Grazia

One of the issues that we’re dealing with on a global level, is the rollout of a vaccine where humankind is essentially the beta testers. We’re lucky in one respect, that the technology used to create our vaccines, whether Pfizer or Moderna, has been around longer than COVID-19 has. For decades, scientists have been intrigued by the advances of mRNA – or for the laymen, ‘Messenger RNA’. To wrap our heads around this, let’s walk backwards just a bit to understand the biology of our situation.

Our bodies are built on the backbone of DNA – deoxyribonucleic acid. DNA is a double stranded chain of polynucleotides that twist around each other to form a double helix, and hold the entire genetic code for instructions on the development, growth, function and reproduction of both all known organisms – as well as a lot of viruses. DNA is coded together with G, A, T and C coding. Think back to the movie Gattaca about the evolution of the human race when we’re not only allowed to, but inspired to, genetically enhance our children. The movie’s name is made of the genetic material in DNA (G-A-T-T-A-C-A).

Now, where DNA and RNA are similar, is that they’re both types of nucleic acids. Where they differ, is that RNA is a single strand of genetic data with one nucleobase; there are many types of RNA in he body – and mRNA’s main gig within the body is to be a messenger – carrying a specific set of instructions to our DNA that dictates the production of proteins, and sometimes even carrying genetic information.

Image Source: Genome.Gov

Created in the nucleus of a cell, then moving into the main body of the cell (or, cytoplasm), the protein materials that the body creates actually bind to the mRNA molecule and translates their code to inside of the mRNA. Eventually, it distills down to the ability of the DNA for a single gene to be translated into mRNA, to create a specific protein. Still with me? Good! Slightly confused? Don’t even worry about it – well, unless you’re a biologist. Now, why does this matter? Because this is how the vaccine for COVID was both created, and distributed.

For decades, scientists have been playing with the idea of using genetic material to attack and dismantle the genetic code of viruses – starting in the 1990’s with Katalin Karikó, now a Senior VP and BioNTech who is part of their mRNA program. Much of her research was shelved, she was even demoted during the time of her research. The scientific controversy that surrounded mRNA vaccines? The cells used for the mRNA research were fraught with ethical questions because they were from discarded embryos. It wasn’t until almost two decades later in 2007 when Derrick Rossi built on the findings during his time at Harvard Medical School. Why is Derrick Rossi important? He’s one of the original founders of Moderna. .

And now, we’re a bit full circle – Moderna, BioNTech – and Pfizer, who are working with BioNTech, all are using mRNA based vaccines to combat COVID with genetic information that targets the virus specifically, Ah, yes – it seems like to combat a new virus, we’re having to use new methods of genetic self defense; and synthetic mRNA is the key to it.


There are a lot of people who want to get into discussions of “keep the government out of my body”, or “it isn’t safe” – and they would probably be riddled with anxiety if they actually took their own words to heart. There are many things that our 2021 selves habitually engage in that they don’t care about the effects of: refined sugars in foods, caffeine, nicotine, heavy drinking, social media – or simply just media – addition, etc. I would love to hear their opinions on those after reading some reports, so for now, we’re just going to ignore that part of the conversation.

I did get vaccinated – I’m now three weeks out of my second dose of the Pfizer vaccine. I didn’t have any side effects, except being exceptionally happy to finally get it. So, for those like me, or others in the process of being fully vaccinated: now what?

Firstly, make sure you keep your vaccine records in a safe location – chances are high that you’ll need to display them in the future. Secondly, I know it’s really fucking exciting to get your shots – but try your best and don’t share personal information on social media.

Whether its for travel abroad or domestic, college education or a Summer concert series, vaccine passports will most likely be coming to the United States whether we’re ready or not. The EU has just announced vaccinated Americans may visit by the beginning of the Summer; meanwhile Universities like Duke and Oregon State are all requiring returning students to be vaccinated when campus re-opens for in person instruction this fall. Two moves that I am perfectly happy with. When I went to UCSB in 2003, we were required to prove we had several vaccinations before living in incredibly close quarters with others – it’s a smart, health conscious decision. If you want a digital way to display them, you can keep track of your vaccine with V Safe – you can also track your weekly health after your vaccination.

As for your masks? You’re going to want to keep that around – and most likely, somehow, around your neck. The mask rule has been updated recently, and yes…it’s often hard to keep track of when you’ll need a mask; so I just err on the idea that at some point I could need it and would rather be safe than sorry.

If you’re vaccinated – you can still be an asymptomatic carrier, without presenting with any sort sickness; the benefit of the vaccination! So to minimize the risk of you (a non sick, fully vaccinated) person giving it to an unvaccinated person – you’ll only need it when you’re inside, it’s crowded and can’t stay six feet away. You’re at a full go to get back to the “new normal” we’re trying to navigate.

Conversely, if you’re unvaccinated or only have one Moderna or Pfizer shot – the only way you get to be maskless is if you’re with members of your household or if you’re with fully vaccinated people. Whenever you have a chance of being around anyone unvaccinated, indoors or out, you will want to wear it.

The CDC released updated guidance on outdoor mask usage.

As of the morning of May 4th, it was estimated that roughly one third of the country has been vaccinated – which is a good push, but not enough for the United States to be anywhere near levels necessary for herd immunity. I am thrilled that people are getting vaccinated, and at the same time equally nervous about the implications if we don’t vaccinate enough of the global population.

For the last year, my family unit has done their due diligence to keep ourselves and others safe; we’ve limited visiting with others, reduced our local footprint, always had a mask and disinfectant on us and drastically adjusted how much we were spending time in social settings. I’d be remiss to think it didn’t take a psychological toll on me, or anyone else – regardless of how restricted your universe became or not. A year later and two vaccines in, I do feel more confident being outside and around strangers since the second vaccine shot. Admittedly, I still get a bit claustrophobic in large crowds and agoraphobic to be outside at times when I’m anticipating a crowd; but, from the sound of it, these aren’t uncommon feelings . The more I interact and engage within the new normal, the more my anxieties have fallen by the wayside.

How are you and yours How are you handling things re-opening where you are? Are you vaccinated – or do you intend to be? Let me know in the comments below – I’m interested to hear where everyone stands.

Stay safe, and stay sane, my friends!


Distracted Boyfriend Meme - Imgflip

Thanks, Pfizer
Covid-Vaccine-Jokes

[Self Discovery] Holding Space for Grief

For the most part, I consider myself an upbeat rationalist, a positive pragmatist of sorts. I try and take the world as it comes: framing things in a true and positive light, holding myself accountable for understanding uncomfortable feelings and holding space for my emotions. But it’s not always rainbows and butterflies; from time to time – life can get my down and out and the grey cloud that lives in the corner of my mental state overrides the good feelings I try and project. Depression and anxiety start getting in the way – and whisperings of pessimism start to rain on my parade. In moments like those, I turn to my support system.

Half due to my childhood and my parents having split custody right when the internet was coming into being, half due to moving across a thousand miles over the course of the last three years – my life has evolved me into someone adept at processing emotions with a distant support system. It’s not exactly a skill set that’s wanted, or typically needed – but I’ve found that in quarantine this past year, it’s a skill set worth sharing.

I’ve feel – a lot. I feel deeply, often uncontrollably, and am affected often for days by sensitive information. Growing up in therapy, I realized that I simply feel the underpinnings of depression and grief in differing, unique and novel ways than most – and I’ve learned the best way to cope with them when you feel out of touch, physically, mentally and emotionally. In all, it’s also taught me better tools for how to deal with, hold space for, and transition out of emotional states which no longer serve me. I should preface this by saying that no, I’m not a therapist, I’m not a licensed psychologist and am in no way a professional grief counselor; however, I have been through my fare share of trials and tribulations, and sincerely others on their journey to brighter days and simply hope I can do the same for others.


From unshakable life experiences to minor disturbances, grief is an unavoidable truth that knocks us off our personal paths and often into uncharted, or at the very least – chaotic, emotional territory. An unfortunate tenant of living, grief afflicts us all at some point – no matter who your status, friends, family, or vocation. It’s essential that we have a mental tool kit that allows others, as well as ourselves, to hold space for important emotions.

Quarantine has done a number on many people, from the loss of family, friends and significant others down to the loss of their jobs, or semblances of normalcy. We’re all distant from each other, and it’s human nature to pine for human connection – especially under duress; being able to hold space for grief is an important facet in our relationships, and to discover new ways to do so in our “new” normal seems doubly important.

All emotions deserve equal mental weight, and there simply ‘bad’ emotions – the idea of a bad emotion is a personal pejorative we place on a moment in time; what can in one second be viewed as a ‘negative’ can easily be transmuted over time to be a ‘positive’. For example: you were unhappy in your vocation and have had to re-evaluate your job, maybe quitting – possibly being let go; in the moment, it’s stressful to find a new position – but months later, after you’ve found a new gig that you truly care about – you view the transition in a positive light.

Sure, one could just dismiss bad feelings and move on from them, but that means you’re choosing to avoid further knowledge of self and spring load your evolution. The fear is that by ignoring, passing over or not holding space for important emotions will create a negative feedback loop where you’re eventually out of sync with your mental space, potentially re-creating the same problems for yourself because you haven’t chosen to reconcile those very emotions.

One holds space for grief, so that they can rebuild emotionally – remember the lessons, accept their new truths and move forward with the mind, heart and soul in tact. In it’s most basic sense, to “hold space” for anything means that your intention as an outside influence is simply to exist with the other person, and let whoever is going through the emotions flow through them at their own pace. As the old adage goes, ‘one does not drown by falling in the water – one drowns by staying there’ and that can be extrapolated onto holding space for emotions that seem to get in our way of daily life. By holding space for others, we accept them for everything they are, for their humanity, their brilliance in handling life, and their beauty in wishing to transmute through their emotions. We actively build a more open and honest relationship, built with integrity and without judgement – and through those relationships, we evolve into better versions of ourselves.


While negotiating our own grief is one thing, it’s important to acknowledge that helping someone else with theirs is a bird of a completely different color and no two people are identical in the way they need to process their individual traumas and truths. Helping others in times of need instinctually reminds us of our own needs, for comfort, for closeness, and for community; and while learning the love languages of others, we can be reminded of what our own needs are in times of trial and tribulation.

First and foremost, the best way to be there for someone is by – well – being there. Being available, and being authentic and asking questions without judgement. Sometimes, just being in their ether and letting one know that they’re simply not alone can be the most helpful thing you can do. Here are a other few ways we can ‘hold space’ for others

  • Ask without prying; let them explore their emotions on their own accord and at their own speed
  • Give permission to others to explore their own innate wisdom and intuition without guiding or steering them through yours
  • Empower others to create their own reality, don’t take that power away by applying your own judgements or opinions
  • Reserve judgement and opinions, even if explicitly asked. What works for you on an emotional, mental and spiritual level doesn’t always translate into the life of others.
  • Remove your ego from their situation; this is not about you, it’s about them
  • Create a safe space to explore difficult emotions
  • Remind them that it’s okay to feel, and fail at moving forward from feelings, what’s important is understanding the feelings – not the speed at which we get over them, but the value of getting through them
  • Don’t force anyone down your own rabbit holes. It’s human nature to believe that we have the ‘best’ of all possible ways, mechanisms, etc to get through this life – what’s good for us, isn’t necessarily the best for others. Allow space for others to explore their unique paths and truths.

Now, back to love languages for a moment – there are essentially five types of love languages: sharing emotions and words of affirmation, sharing physical space and quality time, human touch, gifting and acts of service. So, how does this translate to a digital world? Thanks to quarantine and COVID, three of those five are a bit harder to do than before. Those who desire to be held and physically loved, or who need to be physically surrounded by others are feeling the hit much more than others. It’s important to acknowledge when that love language is being ignored. Thankfully, our current technology has allowed us to reach out to others and keep in touch – more or less; sure, the digital world we’re living in leaves a lot to be desired when it comes to holding space for our emotions and mental space but lately I’ve found it to be more helpful than hurtful.

Helping someone who needs physical touch? Send a written note, a stuffed animal, stress ball, or even some of their favorite snacks. If you’re assisting someone who could use quality time, set up a Zoom or a FaceTime call to check in – smiling is contagious, and we could really all use a dose of actual connection every now and again!


The human condition is a complex web, it would be remiss to say that grief isn’t part of it – but it’s only a part, it’s not the whole. As my mom used to and still tells me, ‘This, too, shall pass.’ The totality of the human condition, the complete nature of it, is one of love, one of perseverance, one of beauty – however ephemeral that might be. Emotionally, we are not islands – our human nature means that we thrive on communication, culture and connection. It’s in our human nature to reach out, to feel down to our core and to explore every facet of ourselves. If we’ve disconnected from our authentic selves, disallowing ourselves to marinate within our mental space and avoiding our emotional truths – that human connection becomes impossible, because our self connection has disintegrated. How could we possibly be kind to others, love others, and hold space for others – when we’ve declined to do so for ourselves? Having others around to remind you that you are enough the way you are, you are accepted the way you are, and that you will get through whatever you’re facing is an incredible feeling, a formidable bond, and tantamount to our experience on this Earth.

What are some ways that others have held space for you that have been beneficial? How have you held space for the grief of others?

Leave some helpful hints for other readers in the comments below.


Resources

For those looking for a bit more assistance, knowledge or both – I’ve put together a small list of resources to expand your emotional repertoire.

Reads:

Websites and Hotlines

One thing about living in 2021: the internet provides – there are ample support groups on every corner of the internet, if you know where to look. Here are a few that I recommend:

[Health Rx] How to Handle a Bartholin’s Cyst Pt 2 – Marsupialization

🦘I am more Kangaroo than you 🦘

Georgia O'Keeffe, "Mother of Modernism"

Not even a week and a half after I saw my OB/GYN to get my Bartholin’s Cyst lanced, my Bartholin’s Cyst procedure not only reversed itself – but became worse. For the record, with this type of issue – a recurrence is more common than you would hope. In my support group, some women have had 30+ lanced, or dozens of surgeries; it is depressing and isolating, and feels hopeless. There are no clear answers for us and there is no common fix; no one understands how they’re caused or how to truly treat them…but pretty sure if we were men someone would have made a one time pill for this shit – ANYWAYS.

Admittedly, I’ve been a bit bummed and borderline depressed every since my Bartholin’s Cyst Abscess came back after getting it lanced the first time. So, I figured it couldn’t hurt to finally go through the gauntlet of the recommended homeopathic remedies.

What I tried:

Best Organic Sitz Bath Soak For Postpartum Care Recovery & Natural Hemorrhoid Treatment, Soothes Relieves Pain Reduces Discomfort, 100% Pure Epsom & Dead Sea Salts Witch Hazel Lavender Essential Oil
  • Sitz Baths 2-3x a day with Epsom salts
  • Hot showers with a wash rag of Witch Hazel
  • Hot water bottles CONSTANTLY (but PLZ be careful, I definitely passed out with it one night and got a second degree burn on my leg…)
  • Apple Cider Vinegar – applied to a warm wash rag; though, I really do NOT prefer how that makes me smell!
  • PRID – A homeopathic drying salve, this is supposed to assist in relief from the cyst. Thankfully, my husband used to play baseball and said it reminds him of that; so, guess that’s a win? Either way, it made my nether regions officially smell like a farmer’s market.

Though the swelling and constant discomfort went down initially, eventually after a week of the homeopathic treatments the entire Bartholin’s Gland became inflamed and as hard as a rock. I was excited to try the at home methods because I didn’t feel I do not feel nearly as rushed into it as before – however, it wasn’t long after that I came to the conclusion I had to go through a more invasive surgery to get the issue truly handled.

Fast forward to the next Monday, and I’d spent all morning trying to track down a doctor in the Pacific Northwest that not only understood the issues I was dealing with, but was more or less an expert on the Bartholin’s Glands considered with how little is truly known. I scoured the internet for OB/GYN surgeons in the area, and specialty OB/GYN; even trying out of the box ideas, like finding a Urogynecologist in the area and seeing if they could refer me to another clinic.

Being relatively new still to the area, I simply don’t have the bandwidth for that type of medical knowledge up here – but finally realized, that I’ve made friends, colleagues and coworkers with a handful of fantastic fems in the area and decided to hit them up to see if they had a good recommendation; and I’m infinitely grateful they did. When Danny and I moved into our current home last year, I became instant friends with one of the people that used to live here, she still comes around to hang out with our neighbor and the three of us have had some socially distant wine dates over the Summer; being sick of my own body shaming, and my ego, I spilled the beans to both of them and they didn’t skip a beat with recommending an amazing doctor at the University of Washington’s OB/GYN clinic.

Calling last Monday, I was told that the doctor they were pushing wasn’t available for a few months, but -as it turns out – there was a doctor available the day, and she just so happens to be an Associate Professor at UW and she is their resident surgeon on staff, and only comes in on Mondays. After reviewing my files, as well as a thorough examination – we determined we needed to do a more invasive type of surgery, this time – we would be going for a marsupialization.


 • ↠ Marsupialization ↞ •

Management of Bartholin's Duct Cyst and Gland Abscess - American Family  Physician

What does it mean to get a Marsupialization?

Well, besides being a really neat word that makes you feel like a hybrid human-kangaroo; Marsupializations are performed both if drainage isn’t effective, or the cyst is too large or infected for a Word Catheter to make sense. This can happen either in an OR using general anesthesia, or as I found out – it can also be done within your OB/GYN’s office using local anesthesia like lidocaine shots. Word to the wise – if you have a quick metabolism: you will burn through the anesthesia quickly and need more; let your doctor know! Besides the initial series of shots, I had to get about 15 more during the course of the procedure because my body ate through each shot within minutes.

So, what exactly is the Marsupialization Procedure?

After the lidocaine shots, your doctor will use a cold knife to open the gland and drain the cyst. Once the cyst is drained, the area is everted, cleansed and stitched back together using 4-6 stitches to form a small pouch – hence, the term marsuipialization. All in all it takes about 30 to 45 minutes either in the OR or in your doctor’s office.

How to you After Care for it?

Very happy to have taken these last few weeks off work to recover from both surgeries. After the first procedure reversed, I’ve been hesitant to get my hopes up – there’s still a 5-15% failure / return rate. But, after 14 days of doing the least, I’m finally feeling on the mend, minus a little discomfort when I sit thanks to the placement of the gland, and residual inflammation from the incisions and the stitches. I took two weeks off of work, and absolutely recommend that for anyone that gets this procedure done. There is a vast amount of initial discomfort, including issues with going to the bathroom, walking and sitting – and stress does not help; so very glad I’ve taken the time for myself to heal properly. work.


I now have a deeper respect and understanding of my body and mind after feeling the rollercoaster of emotions from the past few weeks. I’m lucky to have such an amazing partner to not only handle this with me, but to handle me going through this. Next time someone says “tough as balls” – please remind them it should REALLLLLY be “tough as a pussy”; between periods, childbirth and poorly researched unique OB/GYN issues- the amount of pain, pressure and discomfort women deal with is phenomenally incredible. Massive respect to all my pretty mommas and badass babes; we run the world.

Georgia O'Keeffe (1887-1986) | Pink Spotted Lillies | 1930s, Paintings |  Christie's

[Health Rx] How to Handle a Bartholin’s Cyst

Georgia O'Keeffe on the Art of Seeing – Brain Pickings

Let’s get awkward for a second, y’all – I’m about to COMPLETELY overshare, and I’m in no way ashamed about it. We’re going to talk about an uncomfortable, yet rarely discussed, medical condition that affects 1 in 5 women. I’m writing this because 20% of women will have to handle living with one at some point, and as we all come from women or know them – it helps having a deeper understanding.

🚨 So yeah, spoiler alert: IT’S ABOUT THE FEMALE ANATOMY 🚨

Five years ago, I was diagnosed with a Bartholin’s Cyst. Yesterday, I finally had surgery to have it drained. If you don’t know what a BC is – I sincerely hope you NEVER have to find out. For those that have had them, lived with them and removed them: I have the UTMOST respect for you.


So, what IS a Bartholin’s Cyst?

On either side of the labia sit two glands – the Bartholin’s Glands. What do they do? They lubricate! Sometimes, women get a fluid build up behind the gland, causing a cyst – complete with swelling, discomfort, pressure in the area and pain. At the most basic level, it’s painful to sit, drive, walk, be intimate, wear tight clothing or exercise.


How do you fix a BC?

Start with what you can personally live with. The gland itself is about the size of a pea; originally, I was still dealing a cyst the size of a walnut, and felt uncomfortable wearing shorts and swimsuits. I decided to live with it, because my first doctor told me I would have to have surgery to remove the ENTIRE gland, and I felt that was too extreme of an action. Fast forward to this week, and now I’m sitting on a plum, or as I have been fondly referring to it: my one ball.

Bartholin's Cyst and Abscess Formation | AMI 2019

💫Homeopathic remedies include the following, but I’ve found very little literature verifying any of the methods are truly effective (except the last one):

  • Sitz Baths (or regular baths!) – fill the tub up just a few inches to cover your pelvis, and add Epsom salt. If you’re pre surgery, adding essential oils can be lovely – like Lavender and Rose. If you’re post surgery, make sure you use unfragranced materials.
  • Tea Tree Oil
  • Witch Hazel
  • Apple Cider Vinegar
  • Music from Marvin Gaye + Al Green

What happens when you can’t live with it?

It depends on how invasive of a procedure you’re willing to go through, and how bad the area is. All procedures are same day, out patient.

💫 Surgical drainage: after making a small cut in the cyst, your doctor inserts a small rubber tube (catheter) into the opening to allow it to drain. It can stay in place for up to 6 weeks. This can be done in your OB’s office and takes less than 20 minutes.

💫 Marsupialization: (TOTALLY A FUN WORD…) If drainage isn’t effective, or the cyst is infected – the doctor cuts the cyst to open it, then stitches the skin around the cyst to form a small pouch. This can take 30 minutes, and needs to be in an OR.

💫 Removal of the entire gland: For extreme, or continually recurring cases – this is the only option; and was the original option I was given 5 years ago. Must be done in the OR, and takes around an hour.


I had the simplest procedure, done in the office of my OB – and thank you to Swedish Health in Seattle for making me feel so comfortable and strong enough to see it through; my husband and MIL for taking care of me and reminding me to sit down and heal; and the support groups I’ve found on Facebook with strong, badass women.

Even though I was in physical discomfort with the recovery:

💫I’m wearing leggings again, and not just dresses and skirts!

💫I can sit without discomfort of any type

💫I cannot WAIT for the scar to heal, because I finally feel confident rocking my bikini bottoms


Day 1: I was able to sit soundly on my sit bone; which is monumental considering how much discomfort a simple act was causing. I no longer have to pitch my legs to one side, or sit on a pillow, or sit on the floor to maintain my comfort levels – it’s amazing how little things can be taken so for granted.

Day 2: I could move around easier – though the Word catheter did pinch a bit and cause some slight itching and irritation around the scar, it was so much easier to deal with than having the cyst. I did my best to stay rested, but admittedly – have a hard time sitting still.

Today, Day 3 – I woke up and found my catheter had already been pushed out; there’s no physical discomfort left and I feel better than I have in years.


I’m writing this because there is a stigma about discussing any of this; HELL, I’m even a bit uncomfortable writing it. I simply hope at least 1 person is thinking: OH MY GOODNESS, I’M NOT ALONE; because – you’re not, and you, too, can get through this.

Georgia O'Keeffe in New Mexico - Critical Read
Art by Georgia O’Keefe

If you have any tips or tricks on living with a BC, or want to lend your story to other women – feel free to leave a comment below; to my female tribe just remember – together, we can get through anything!

[Health Rx] Taking Care of Your Care Takers

Back a few months ago when my parents were visiting for Christmas break, we broke into one of our typically deep dinner-prep conversations that usually span topics like life philosophy, religion, love, politics, and basketball.  Basically, any of those topics that you were always told to steer away from – that’s where we go, immediately. Over Thanksgiving when my family first met Danny, one of the first group discussions we got into was answering my aunt’s question: “What’s your vice?”.  Not that we’ve ever cared about taking turns, but this time it was definitely mine – as we sat around, glasses of wine and beer in hand, I turned to them and whimsically wondered “When did you first realize that you were an adult?” After some bemused chuckles in the room,  we finally got to some answers that ranged from when they paid off their first car loan to when they got the keys for their first apartment.  Up to the end of last year, I can’t say that I felt much like an adult in any way, shape or form but that’s all been flipped on it’s head in the last few months.

One of the biggest psychological issues that we all deal with as we grow up is the idea of mind-body duality: I am a conscious entity, and I’m being expressed through a separate physical body.  Our entire life feels like a reconciliation of these two ideas as we learn to live with both in perpetual symbiosis. As we age past midlife, the crux of our life’s parabolic function, the more our lives revert back to mirroring infancy and the older we get the more the mind body duality tends to re-separate, and their relationship seems to be in revolt: My consciousness feels fine, while my body is anything but.  It’s one thing to recognize this in ourselves, but quite another entirely when it’s happening to a parent, when you have to take care of your care takers

Let’s face it, we’ve been the ones that have had to be cared for…up until now. But somewhere along the way to the rest of our lives, we just had to grow up.  We got older, we evolved, we matured into ourselves and we started figuring out how to be adults. Child, sister, brother, teenager, adult, wife, husband, mother, father, grandparent…of all the roles that we either briefly or permanently assume over the course of our lives, the most inevitable role – the one that we’re least prepared for – is the part of care taker.  All egos included in the scenario are off kilter – more often than not, our parents and peers don’t want to accept care from their children.  We’re the people they looked after with gleeful and conscious delight for our whole lives, they cleaned our scraped knees and wiped away our tears….and now, we’re supposed to be their strength?  In short, yes.

Self Care + Proper Proper Prioritization

Maslow had his hierarchy of needs, and you do, too.  While we stress about taking care of those we love, we often forget to take care of our number one – ourselves, so let’s talk about you and how to best take care of yourself in these difficult times. In order to maintain any semblance of normalcy and or sanity, you’ll want to keep some semblance of your old schedule, at the bare bones minimum you’ll want to focus on maintaining a comfortable routine.When it comes to taking care of loved ones, chances are you’re going to have to rearrange the order of parts your pyramid of priorities.

Mind, Body and Soul

Your well being and the well being of those your caring for now catapult to the top of your list, and a lot of things will fall to the wayside – for now, it’s okay to let it. Your social circle and the social circle of those that you’re helping need to be aware of what you’re going through so they can figure out the best way to be supportive of what you’re experiencing. It’s not the most fun, but be prepared to put-off your less permanent plans while you get some necessary nesting in.

Beyond your metal health and emotional health, your physical health is equally important.  Make sure you’re maintaining your daily meals and getting in the necessary calories, because you can’t take care of those you love if you’re not taking care of yourself.  If you can make it to the gym, go ham – if you can’t, don’t stress!  Try your luck with a local yoga studio, or get up, get out and go for walk around the neighborhood.

The Value of a Support System

Life can be tricky, but having a good support system makes it a hell of a lot easier for everyone. We’re not just talking about those you’re taking care of, but you.  Be honest with yourself on what you need, and between your pride and your ego: don’t be afraid to ask. You have people in your life that love you to the moon and back, and would want to be there for you any way they can – let them. Whether its a quick phone call at lunch, an impromptu dinner date or a little text that just says they’re thinking of you, having people in your life that you can depend on to love you when you need it is everything.

Stay Organized

With any health issue, comes pounds and pounds of paperwork to be sorted.  Some of it can be tossed – though, I emphatically believe that you shred personal information instead. My recommendation is to keep a detailed medical diary – especially if there are multiple medications to deal with.  Create a table with pertinent information, wound changes, medical dosages, etc and be sure to input any changes to their status in the diary. Beyond the health issues at hand, there are a lot of non-medical financial numbers and paperwork to handle when you’re in assist mode, so make sure you stay on top of it with some organizational help.  Draw up a bill calendar and make sure they’re on auto-pay to reduce stress of late payments and shut off fees.

Taking care of the people that have always taken care of you can seem like a daunting task, but know you are beautiful in your selfless sacrifice, in your vulnerability, and in your depth. Do you have any pieces of advice for those out there in care taker mode?  Let me know in the comments below.

Love and light to all of you.

Xx

 

 

[Write On] Writing Is My Therapy, What’s Yours?

Coming off of a whirlwind weekend through the Pacific North West – the last thing that I wanted to do was come home and get all ‘serious’, because I’m in a whimsical mood where I want to flirt with the world and uncover it’s beauty; there’s so much wonder in the world that I’ve uncovered through wanderlust – but I can’t quite into that yet, because there are much more pressing issues at hand.

Growing up, a menagerie of professions floated through my always meandering mind then out through  my fingertips like grains of sand in an hourglass.  Doctor, Firefighter, Astronaut, Model, Engineer, Scientist…the one constant, was that each and every phase was documented in the tattered pages of journals.  These journals fill my closets and overflow dressers, oozing with emotion and filled to the brim with equal parts adventure and awe, delight and despair.   They’re  momentary physical manifestations of my deepest darkest secrets and unexplained feelings that have transformed into coherent thoughts, phrases and paragraphs.  My journals are wishes on stars and inside jokes with myself, thoughts catapulted into tangible words; my catharsis, my hopes, my fears, my therapy. 

Now, there – I said it – the dreaded T word that ironically, we’re unwilling to talk about.

And isn’t that the problem: that we don’t want to talk about therapy.  

therapy

Therapy comes from the Greek word ‘Therapeuein’ and has slowly manifested from medical treatment to something with healing powers; but for me, I like to think of it a little differently. Therapy is what wakes you up in the morning, it’s what makes you come alive, what makes you passionate, what makes you an unapologetic version of yourself ready to tackle each day with vigor and vengeance.  And when you put it that way, therapy is something that we all could use, really.

From a young age, I always felt…well, off.  There wasn’t much of a way to describe it other than I felt different, and was unsure how to quantify the notion. It could have been growing up biracial in a community that lacked any semblance of diversity, or the separation of my parents at age three, or my maligned impression of my own beauty – but somewhere along the way to adolescence, like most all of us, I got lost in the cobwebs in my head and I stayed there….for a while. The sun could be shining, and all was right with the world – but I misplace one little item and I become my own worst enemy, fail a test and the world feels like it’s falling out from under your feet, and most of all, I was afraid of the thoughts that might creep in.

My parents and teachers did as much, if not more, than what they would be expected to do but after a while the job was handed over to professionals.  I refused to put together their pedantic puzzles and instead asked why I couldn’t just talk. Over and over, I heard: We can talk after you draw-paint-x-y-z; but, I didn’t want any of that – I wanted to talk, I wanted to figure out the what’s and why’s for myself. Then, collectively – they suggested writing; so, I wrote.  

Call it what you want – chicken scratch on scrap paper, pages of adolescent poetry, the notes of a novice journalist; but writing soothed my soul.  I could direct all of my energy, regardless of intent, towards a piece of paper and within moments would reach mental clarity. In reality, what I was really doing was creating, jumping on board an eternal pursuit of passion and uncovering that je ne sais q’uoi that we’re all in search of. For the next person, their therapy could very well be painting, or drawing, or beading, or yoga – or running, walking neighborhood dogs, photography, dancing, crafting or music.  But for me, it was writing.

My paper journals were filled too quickly, and besides – I hated  my handwriting.  Growing up in the 90’s meant that there were multitudes of media at my disposal so when I got fed up with keeping physical journals, I turned to the internet. And let me just say right now, the internet might be a black hole for any and all forms of current productivity – but it’s my savior. Even if you feel distant from your physical support system, there’s someone halfway across the world that understands exactly what you’re going through because they’ve just gone through it.

Online there were so many resources that originally, I was beside myself…but I started a Live Journal, and by my Sophomore year of high school added Dead Journal and an onslaught of Xanga’s to the mix.  My junior year of college, I transferred to Tumblr, and within the last two years I’ve found homes on Blogspot and now – WordPress.  The beauty of an online writing culture is beyond the scope of my breath, so let this entire post be a testament to it: from my heart to my head, and then fingertips on plastic -being part of this greater community where we support, stand for and sing each other’s praises has emboldened me to pursue a career I never thought possible.  And because of that, my voice is heard; and because of this, I have to speak up. 

As I grew up, both in the real world around me as well as online – I made friends in chat rooms that I still keep in touch with, and we bonded over being able to discretely spill our souls and be an 110% unabashed, unapologetic version of ourselves. Personally, I had family, friends, neighbors and teachers alike – a solid group of mentors and peers that I could turn to, but my pride got  in the way and the ego is tricky to maneuver.

That’s when the ideas of thinking versus knowing come into play, and so very strongly:

Instead of thinking that the world can pull you out of that hole you’ve been digging,

it feels like they’re going to point, laugh and leave you to your own disillusioned devices.

Mental Health Awareness is about more than just assigning mental conditions to definitions and sending patients home with a goodie bag.  We’re so willing to throw prescriptions at the problem, prescriptions that have been shown statistically to do more harm than good, yet we’re still not willing to treat the real issue at hand.  Putting a band-aid on a festering wound without cleaning it properly can keep a disease in your body, just the same way that adding layers of psychoactive cocktails to your mental state without proper discussion can perpetuate a psychotic episode.

How many people that you know have a physical health condition – do you have a friend with asthma, know a distant relative with MS or Parkinson’s Disease, have a parent with high cholesterol, cancer or a bad heart? I think it’s safe to say that each and every person on this planet knows someone at a personal level who falls into at least category for a physical or bodily ailment, so why – why – why aren’t brain injuries, impairments or diseases held in the same light?  From a young age, we’re scholastically – then medically – required to have physical checkups every year, why aren’t there annual mental health checkups?  When we’re physically injured, doctors prescribe ‘Physical Therapy’ – so why is going into ‘Mental Therapy’ something so frowned upon? We’re given days off of school and work due to physical injury or ailment, so why is it so poorly looked upon to take a “mental health” day?

 It’s all in the stigma and as a society, we need to get rid of it.

It’s the same way that beautiful girl next to you on the bus thinks that her size –whatever- pants make her look like an elephant, or that her face belongs in a paper bag when it’s goddamn naturally beautiful; I know this happens, because I’ve been that girl. It’s the guy at the gym bench pressing 300 think’s he’s a weakling, the straight A student who fumbled on a question that thinks they’re an idiot, the artist who’s been stuck for on a project for three weeks to no avail.

We get so wrapped up in our quests for greatness that I think we often forget that we’re human.  Humble yourself.  Remember that we’re on a giant rock smashing through space at atrocious speeds; things are bound to get chaotic every now and again for all of us.  You’re not alone.  

Therapy comes in all shapes, sizes, colors, creeds and species – I volunteer at cat shelters because it feels good to give back to a species that’s given so much to me, I write  because it calms my nerves and assuages my anxieties, I reach out to acquaintances because I feel better for being part of a community than I do when I’m alone, I talk to strangers because if we talk to strangers they’re now our friends, I smile into the sunlight and dance in the rain because I can and it’s wonderful.

Take a walk around the block and smell every beautiful flower, call your parents because they used to be you, leave post-it’s with happy faces around your office, skip to work, draw, create, craft,take a stand, take a Mental Health Day, call your best friend just to talk because you know that’s exactly what they’re for, start a blog, start a book, start a revolution – there are people waiting for your voice to come alive

Writing is my therapy – what’s yours?

How do you make the world come alive for yourself and those around you?