#COVID-19 · politics

White Privilege Explained. Again.

There are still people I talk to who do not understand white privilege. So I’ll keep writing blog posts trying to define it for y’all. I also will comment on “skinny” privilege. Because as a person who has been fat and skinny I can attest: that’s a thing.

In a previous blog post I wrote about my COVID vaccine. What I didn’t mention is what I was thinking as the security guard blabbered politely and practically tripped over himself to escort me to the correct building. I was thinking, ‘would he be doing this if I were a Black woman?’ ‘Would he be doing this if I were 50 lbs heavier like I was two years ago?’

I didn’t have men tripping over themselves to escort me places when I was two months post partum with twins. Since I lost weight (and this has happened in my 20’s when I lost a significant amount of weight also) men are more apt to hold doors for me. They are more likely to ask if I need help in a store. They are more apt to smile and say hi to me when I’m hiking.

Today I went grocery shopping. I parked far away because I don’t have depth perception, and I have a big car so I usually park far away to avoid hitting a car or guardrail. My eye doctor tells me I am eligible for a handicap sticker but for real. I can just park far away and walk. Anyway, I am loading my groceries in my car and I hear some one say, “Ma’am may I take your cart for you? I just wanted to check.” A young man from the grocery store who was out collecting carts walked, pretty far out of his way, to collect my cart.

Again I wondered if he would have done this for a Black woman.

My guess would be no. Because I am white and thinner than I was two years ago and people open doors (literally not figuratively), follow me to get my cart, ask if I need help, and NEVER suspect I am going to commit a crime. EVER.

I literally have been pulled over for speeding, using my cell, speeding again, and again…and not gotten a ticket. Because even when I am actually breaking the law they see my whiteness. My apologetic smile. My thinness. My profession. And they let me go.

This is all white privilege.

My favorite is “But I never owned slaves.” I didn’t either. But I can clearly see how I benefitted from a system based on ideals that whiteness is superior. I was raised in a white town with some of the top public schools in the state which allowed me entrance into some of the top colleges in the country. I was instantly approved for loans when I needed them to pay for school. I was instantly approved for car loans, mortgages, etc.

I was hired into two of the top hospital systems in the country. Because I had a stellar white education. Because I worked hard, but I had the advantage of generations of white people before me who also worked hard and were never enslaved. Wealth was not passed down to me in money, but it was passed in my intelligence, my skin color, and my geographical location. My ancestors moved out of the Bronx to New Haven then out of New Haven to the suburbs.

To be descended from generations of slaves leaves a scar emotionally, financially; and in so many ways that white people can only begin to comprehend. While our ancestors moved here for religious freedoms the ancestors of Black people were enslaved here and stripped of their culture, religion, and freedom.

I think of slavery like I think of suicide. It leaves a scar so pervasive and painful that unless you have experienced it you cannot begin to imagine it.

White people- we have not experienced it. We cannot begin to imagine it. THAT is a privilege.

I’ve had men tell me I should smile more, talk less, be less direct, be more polite, be less assertive…I’ve had men call me fat and I’ve had men call me skinny/sexy/beautiful/gorgeous and I’ve had my ass slapped by two men I did not even know. One of them was subsequently kicked out of the bar. The other was not. There are pro’s and con’s to being thin. Pro- my blood pressure rocks. Con- Men think they can tell me how to look/feel/act. Men & women have felt entitled to touch me without my consent.

Overall I have absolutely benefitted from white supremacy in my thirty-five years. So has every other white person who exists. Hopefully no white person in America today has owned slaves. That doesn’t mean you haven’t benefitted from a country built on the backs of slaves. You don’t have to own the history of our nation but you have to at least acknowledge that it exists and that it shapes our society today. It allows the murderers of George Floyd & Breonna Taylor to walk free. It allows the murders of people that were video taped to not only walk free but be defended and protected by the system that defines our country.

If a police officer walked into my house and shot me then my face with my blue eyes, white skin, pretty smile, and two adorable kids would be plastered on news channels. My family members would be shown crying in all their whiteness. The police officer would be charged. I have no doubt. But I also have no doubt that no police officer is going to walk into my home and shoot me by mistake. That’s white privilege. If you’ve never been scared of the police you have privilege. Accept it. Own it. Do something about it.


My First COVID Vaccine & 2020

There’s been a lot happening in a time when seemingly nothing can actually happen. But even during a pandemic with estimates of one person dying a minute, life goes on.

Apparently Presidents don’t move on though. They sit, pout, rant, lie, and think of more outlandish ways to disrupt democracy and NOT address the one citizen a minute dying.

But I digress.

Grappling through a separation and divorce in the COVID era comes with its own particular hell. I can’t see my friends who I would normally lean on. I can’t really even leave my house. I can’t do any dating- even online- because well eventually we would have to meet in person…do we get COVID tests? How do you social distance when it is thirty degrees and snowy outside? The entire idea of trying to date right now is daunting. So yeah. I’m not.

So what do I do on those Saturday nights and Sundays that are now kid free? I pick up shifts. Work. Bake Christmas cookies. And the last two Saturday nights kid-free I flipped on Outlander and let myself have a good cry.

On the plus side I drove through snow, parked in the wrong parking garage, and walked through more snow to the correct building next door…and received my COVID vaccine. I have a history of anaphylaxis with injections so I nervously gripped my epi-pen…but I am here alive and well. My arm hurt the next two days and I had chills and fatigue on day two. But then by that night I all the sudden felt better. My arm stopped throbbing and I felt back to normal. Seemed like a standard reaction to a vaccine.

While covering a shift inpatient I, for the first time since March, felt thankful for my telehealth days during the week with my outpatient practice. The double mask/face shield combination is hot, hard to hear through and hard to be heard through. I was also frequently made fun (by staff mostly) for my face shield being lopsided, my hair looking wild, and one patient told me my sweater that I wore over my scrubs was “wrinkly”.

Nothing like some solid mania for a dose of wicked truth. There should be a warning for people going into mental health “Must have thick skin”.

My crooked facemask and wrinkly sweater:)

Co-workers in healthcare are brutal but in a loving way. I was told I lost a lot of weight, which was accurate. What’s funny is that had I gained weight I would also have been informed of this. Again not malicious-it’s happened before. Just surrounded with folks who deal in brutal honesty. I fit right in.

I had to explain to other staff who knew I normally come in professional attire that I wore scrubs because I do not have dress pants at the moment that fit me due to the weight loss and COVID…I’ve been sporting mostly yoga pants since March. I explained about my separation and then we were pretty much all caught up.

They also agreed with the patient who said my sweater is wrinkly.

I smiled and nodded. It was wrinkly. My best friend shipped it to me from Florida this week along with several other sweaters and shirts. I was comforted and happy to wear her sweater because I miss her so damn much.

I later stripped in my garage. It was snowing outside and freezing.

My family worries that by working at the hospital I’ll be increasing my exposure risk. I don’t disagree. But I am taking every safety measure I possibly can. And the idea of sitting home alone in my house every Sunday is daunting. Plus now I am vaccinated!

But yes, in a strange turn of events, I’d rather risk increasing my exposure risk to COVID, be told my clothes are wrinkly and that my face shield is crooked than sit by myself ruminating on what my kids are doing, what has been, and what will be.

2020 will do that to a person. Turn what I thought I knew upside down and have me face decisions I was not expecting to be making.

We sent out our family Christmas cards. I already had them. Again. No divorce handbook. But we are still a family. We are still amicable. And damnit I had 75 Christmas cards with envelopes. So off they went.

As 2020 winds to a close, I’d like to say 2021 couldn’t possible be worse. But then 2020 showed me up when I thought nothing could be worse than 2019. God forbid 2021 says, “Hold my beer.”

To all the healthcare workers working front lines, especially those of us so often forgotten in psychiatry. I see you. You are heroes. You deserve so much more than you will ever receive. The pandemic will not end soon. The next two months I fear will be worse than anything we have experienced yet. But we have vaccines. We are in better shape with PPE and testing and we have each other. Lean on each other. No where else is there such camaraderie laced with sarcasm and brutal truths…but underlying is a fierce dedication to one another that only comes from working and seeing some shit together. Stay safe & stick together.


Ten Months In…Pandemics Suck for Mental Health

Our governor finally acknowledged what any one working in mental health has known since March. The pandemic caused a mental health crisis that our system is unable to manage.

The first few months of the pandemic I saw an influx of healthcare providers as clients. The next few months were more teenagers, mom’s, and postpartum illness. Since September it’s the teachers. Teachers are being asked to be infectious disease specialists, technology wizards, and still teach overnight. Their classrooms are ever changing due to quarantines and their fear and anxiety is palpable.

I’ve had clients attempt suicide more since March than in my six years outpatient. I was talking to my friend, another psychiatric APRN who works inpatient, and she told me they’ve been seeing the most severe mental illness since she started working inpatient almost seven years ago. I replied that she’s not seeing the five hundred people each outpatient provider is struggling to keep out of the hospital.

There are groups now on social media for burned out therapists and mental health providers. The posts are heart-wrenching and show the battles we are mounting in mental health. A forever up hill battle with what feels like avalanches raining down on us. Because we who work in mental health also have kids, families, friends, and responsibilities. We are feeling the isolation of COVID. We are missing seeing our patients in person. We are hearing and feeling the pain and isolation our clients feel.

The week before and after Thanksgiving were horrible sessions. Clients hitting rock bottom as they realized that they would be truly alone for this holiday season. Restaurant workers are scared they will be unemployed again and they don’t want to expose their family members. I heard about FaceTimes with relatives that ended in tears for everyone because videos widen the dissonance. So close but so far.

Never have I heard people yearn for human touch as I have since March. The grief of missing grandparents and parents from their adult children and also the grief of the parents and grandparents who feel they are missing out on large pieces of their kids and grandchildren’s lives.

Our Governor encouraged people to call 211 to “get connected to services”. Get connected where? To who? For what? I can tell you to get any of my clients in with a therapist right now I have to call in favors. Every one has a waitlist. I myself am booking into January and I’m not taking on any new teenage/pediatric clients right now at all as my panel is full. Parents have cried on the phone when I’ve told them I’m not taking any new pediatric clients. Cried.

I am human. We all are. I am a parent. It feels awful down to my bones to hold this boundary. I not only treat upward of fourteen or fifteen clients a day who are hitting rock bottom but I also take calls from parents and potential clients looking to schedule intakes who are frustrated and scared that they cannot find any one taking patients. I have people calling in favors to me too. I have taken people on and seen them at 8:00 at night after bedtime with my kids because I know it was the right thing to do.

I am just one provider. This is happening to everyone. There is not a mental health provider in my state that is not swarmed with calls, referrals, new patients, old patients, and every one is in crisis.

I have clients who cannot pay for food. I have clients who have lost housing, health insurance, family members and friends to COVID-19. But most of all COVID-19 has taken security, predictability, and cast in a massive light, how much we as humans depend on human to human connection to survive and thrive.

I booked some one who is very stable a May appointment recently for six month follow up. Their eyes welled as they said softly, “Maybe by then I’ll be able to see you in person!” We can only hope I replied.

There are not enough providers. The insurance companies are making life hell. Audit after audit. Medical record request after medical record request. So in response to my Governor saying call 211. I mean sure. Call 211. Then recognize that this is a broken system. Instead of directing people to the overrun providers maybe focus your attention on insurers who are breaking the backs of providers including state Medicaid with audits during a pandemic when we are overrun with sick patients and we do not have time to deal with insurer bullshit. We are not committing fraud. Well at least I’m not. Let me do the work. Because the work is so needed.

Give psychiatric providers resources like funds to purchase PPE, air purifiers, and plexiglass so we can resume seeing people in person who need to be. Reimburse us fairly. Not at half the rate of every other commercial insurer (eh hem Anthem and Medicaid). Treat us as allies and partners in this pandemic not as outsiders, in the wings, sweeping up the mess with wet mops.

Mental health providers are the unsung heroes in this pandemic. We are the front lines providers for front lines workers. We are burning out. We need help. Acknowledging the mental health crisis without acknowledging the lags and chasms in our system is just…painful.

To my fellow mental health workers: I see you. I feel you. You are not alone. I admire the professionalism and class in the people I collaborate with am honored to share a space in the field with you.

lesbian mom · mom of boys · Uncategorized

The “D” word. No not #$@%.

No one posts on social media when they get a divorce or have a break-up. Eventually pictures of the person and a new person start popping up. At least that’s how it’s been on my feeds. I only have about three hundred FB friends so it’s definitely a skewed sample size.

There is no divorce rule book and there is such shame and stigma and pain around it that we cannot discuss it openly. It’s funny because most people would think that divorce is the opposite of wedding. Whereas for me divorce provided the same hope that a wedding does.

We were both unhappy and ironically she moved out the night before our thirteen year anniversary. Also ironically I have COVID to thank for a few things. COVID delayed and solidified my decision and actually helped bring me a lot of peace around my decision.

I feel sad for my sons but I feel relief and hope for myself. Then intermittently I feel this tremendous grief that sits like a pit in my stomach

Our marriage was never abusive or horrific but to live in unhappiness is taxing for everyone.

The why isn’t important though. It’s the how. The how to tell everyone. Who to tell? Who to let just figure it out on FB as we slowly start to separate our lives. When to tell our sons and how. I’ll admit that was the one time I broke down seeing them break down. I think it was confusing for some people I told because I didn’t present my now ex as horrible. I didn’t give details I just said we were separating. I remained very neutral and still do.

It takes me awhile to get somewhere emotionally. By the time I’ve announced it I’ve already been through the anger/hurt/resentment and all that’s left is a sadness that we couldn’t be saved because God knows we tried.

We’ve talked a lot about co-parenting the boys and remaining amicable and it’s hard to trust that we both will keep our word but we don’t have any other choice but to trust each other during a time when we really shouldn’t or perhaps can’t fully.

I’ve treated clients who are divorced. Clients who are divorcing. Clients who are children of divorce. I’ve seen the worst and the best of people through and around divorce. People who knew asked me how I was doing. I didn’t know how to answer. Because I’m deeply terrified of being a single, self-employed Mom. I’m hurt, so deeply hurt that a thirteen year relationship is ending. I’m hopeful because I can start healing and so can she.

I miss my Dad. I wish he was here to give me a big bear hug and tell me it’s going to be okay. I’d have been able to tell my Dad the truth and I’d have been able to cry with him. He was one of the few people I trust.

I miss my best friend because again thank you COVID. Having an out of state friend is rough right now. I miss all my friends near me because with the numbers now I can’t really even see my friends close by.

There is a lightbulb that needs to be replaced, a bathroom faucet that needs to be replaced, and about a 1/4 cord of wood left to be stacked. As I was stacking the first 1 3/4 cords I kept thinking how this all on me now. The lightbulbs. The faucet. I’ve replaced faucets. But I can’t find my stupid wrench piece thingy. No I don’t know what it’s called but I know what it looks like and how to use it and I know that faucet’s going to be a pain to replace because they always are.

Pretty sure my Dad made up names for his tools. So when I go to Lowes and ask for the stupid wrench extender piece thingy I may just start balling. Or laughing. You never know. It’s a complete roller coaster ride one second to the next.

The other one that stumped me was family photos. We have a lot of family photos up. Do I take them down? Do I replace them? Do I leave them up? Do I clump them ALL into the boys room? Is that too morbid? Again. No guidebook. It’s not like I want to erase her from our lives. She still their mom and after the acute horrible pain phase I hope she’s still my friend.

Then people who knew me before her have already asked if I’d date men or women. I’m like, yeah so I’m bringing three cats and two kids to the table…not sure I’m going to have many takers of any gender.

I asked myself many times whether I should write a blog about this. Because my kids will read some day. I didn’t want them to come upon anything painful. I also bought into the stigma around separation and divorce. I felt shame. I felt fear. But then I remembered my clients. I have some of the strongest and most resilient patients who have been through so much worse. I thought if they have the strength and fortitude to face what they face then I should dig deep and find my own.

My cousin said it was good we separated before we got hateful and angry. She wished more couples would recognize when they were done and not try and stick it out and let the hate build. I knew that my friends and family would support me. Without a doubt I knew. Any hesitancy I felt in telling people was simply because I didn’t want to rehash it. Because how do you explain the end of a marriage? It’s not one thing. It’s years of things. Often those things are deeply intimate and really only my wife and I know the full story and we are the only two people who ever will.

There’s something powerful in that but also scary. Our friend who sort of introduced us thirteen years ago came and helped her load the moving truck. Then we all had dinner together. It was this weird full circle moment. We were all older. Hopefully wiser. And still all friends. We ate Indian food. It felt like one of those moments in a movie where you know nothing will ever be the same again.

I’ve listened to Andra Day’s “Rise Up” about a thousand times. Imagine Dragons “Rise” same. I should make a playlist with just those two songs on repeat. I’ll name it “Divorce blows.”

I’m not sure how much I’ll write about divorce. Because it is still raw and painful and intimate. But I felt it was important to write about at least once. Because it’s not a failure. It took incredible strength to end it. It’s not just ending. It’s also a beginning. And more people should know that; feel that. I’ll find my wrench extender thingy or buy a new one. I’ll fix the faucet. Maybe cry. Maybe laugh. My adventure is just beginning.