#COVID-19

Making Space for Anti-Racist Work in 2020

Have you seen Hamilton? ***SPOILER ahead***** I listen to the soundtrack a lot, however I deleted certain songs from my playlist. AKA I deleted the one really long song where his son is killed in a dual.

But for real, if you’ve done any US History you would know his son is killed in a dual. In the same place Hamilton is killed in a dual.

But I digress. I deleted that song because I literally couldn’t emotionally handle it. I also fast forward that entire scene if I watch it on Disney+.

This is another aside- I read “Never Caught- The Washingtons’ Relentless Pursuit of Their Runaway Slave Ona Judge- by Erica Dunbar. Fast read. Non-fiction. Very well researched and as a bibliography fiend I promise it’s also well cited. Essentially made me disgusted with GW and I can’t imagine knowing my ancestors were treated this way for over a century, and not at a minimum riot in the streets.

We will come back to that later.

I can’t listen to that song because I don’t have the emotional bandwidth to listen to a song entirely devoted to the death of a couple’s son. Hi. Welcome to 2020.

I’ve medicated a lot of people this year. More than normal. I have medicated people and teens and kids aggressively; mostly all through a screen. People are struggling. Job loss. School. Parenting. Relationships. When I have seen a token person or two in person at my office it’s the loveliest feeling but also still horrible. Because through the screen there is a dissonance in my entire being. I’m trying to hold emotional space for some one when I can’t even see below their shoulders. I can’t see body language. I also am literally not in a physical space with them. It makes a difference.

Then when I am in a physical space with people I have to do this whole rewind and remind my brain and body what it’s like to hold people’s pain in the room with me while wearing a mask and praying they don’t have COVID. It’s all bizarre. The physical and emotional dissonance of telehealth and then the added stressors of in person appointments.

I was added to a therapy group on FB- it’s private so I won’t name it- but it’s essentially for burned out mental health professionals and was started in response to the pandemic.

It makes me feel good that I’m not as burned out as a lot of individuals on there. It also makes me incredibly sad but also fist pump of solidarity because yeah. I’m feeling it too. The burn of 2020.

Why then would I continue reading anti-racist works you ask? Doesn’t that take emotional energy? Yes. Yes it does. But guess what. As burned out as I feel sometimes, and as scared and vulnerable as I feel I never have to worry about racism. Because I’m a white female who can pass as hetero if I choose to. I continue anti-racist work in my readings and writings because People of Color do not get to take a rain check on their minority status during 2020. In fact they have higher rates of infection and higher rates of death from COVID. Racism doesn’t end because of a pandemic. It’s brought even more to the surface.

I choose to not listen to certain songs that will make me break down because I can control that. I choose to continue reading emotionally heavy books because I think it’s important to continue my education on US History from the perspective of Black people. Because in all my Honors and AP classes I was not taught US History as I should have been.

I never once read a novel from the perspective of Black male or female. I was never told Thomas Jefferson repeatedly raped a young girl starting when she was only 15 or 16 acting as the chaperone for his daughter from the US to France. They would go on to have several children and she was not granted her freedom. She was his property because of his late wife- Jefferson’s slave was the half sister to his late wife. A product from the rape of his late wife’s father of one of his female slaves. She was given to Jefferson’s wife. Jefferson’s wife died, and then she was Jefferson’s property.

I was not taught that England abolished slavery in 1708 and part of the Revolutionary War’s cause was fear that England would force the colonies to abolish slavery. I was not taught that England did not abolish slavery in the colonies because England itself was profiting heavily from slave labor in the South. They were complicit.

I was not taught that Washington’s adopted son (Martha Washington’s grandson) would go on to father at least two children by two slaves on their plantation. In the archives it does not say rape. That doesn’t make it any less than rape though.

I was not taught the significance of the Fugitive Slave Act of 1850- that it was meant to preserve the union but all it did was further cement the polarization of the North and South. I was not taught the number of brave Black men and women who lived in the North as runaway slaves with no rights, sometimes no identities, often were refused marriage licenses, but they carried on. They persisted. They also often had passive and overt support by their white neighbors. Ona Judge was one such incredible woman.

She lived bravely in New Hampshire. She was found eventually. Her story is inspiring. She lived in abject poverty and when interviewed very late in her life she was asked why she would leave such a “comfortable” household as the Washingtons’ to live in poverty often going hungry. She said she would rather die than be anything but free.

These are the heroes of our country. These are the founding spirits who ran, bled, cried, and died for freedom. I continue to learn from them because they are so worth learning from. Even when I feel burned out and like I can’t hold space for anything or any one else. I hold space for their stories because they are profound and incredible.

Their stories provide light in a time of darkness. They fought a conservative Supreme Court continuously passing act after act to keep them in shackles. They persisted. They had laws passed state by state meant to assuage their desire for freedom; still they persisted. The fight for freedom from enslavement should be taught not from the vantage of the white people but from the vantage of people who were enslaved. They are the true heroes. Their stories are epic and their perseverance shaped our nation.

homophobia · Mental Health Stigma Suicide

To the white Hetero’s,

Our neighbor put up Trump flags. Our neighbors behind us clearly are also supporters they just don’t have the flags up. Our neighbors to our left are on the Blue team. Our neighbors to our right have never spoken to us…so assuming they are on the Red team. We’ve literally waved, run over to greet them, and our kids have tried engaging them, and nada. So we are assuming it’s homophobia and conservatism.

I’ve had to start turning away referrals lately because I’m booked; specifically teenage and kid referrals. I like to keep them at half or less of my caseload as they are more labor intensive (aka their parents are more labor intensive), and I’m finding the younger kids struggle with the telehealth. I also would rather invest my time and energy into the Queer folk.

I never want to have to turn away a Queer referral, so I have to turn away the hetero’s to keep some space.

Some people get salty. I get it. They want what they want, they’ve often been referred to me by some one they know, and have heard from some one that I know what I’m doing. All good things. But I have to set my own boundaries as a practitioner. I won’t be a good practitioner if I take on too many clients who require too much of my time and energy. New teens always require a lot of my time and energy. I need to reserve it for the Queer people.

I know that being very up front about who I’m reserving my time and emotional space for, especially when they don’t fit that criteria, rubs some people the wrong way. It rubs practitioners who want me to take referrals and patients the wrong way. Especially when they are white and straight.

I say this with love. Because I used to be white and straight. I get it.

What I’ve learned is that if a practitioner has basic training and skills they can treat any one who is white and straight. I’ve also learned that it takes more training, more empathy, and more skills to treat niche and minority populations. I reserve my time for Queer people because I know they are mistreated by the general medical and psychiatric community. I know this because I am a Queer person who has been mistreated and discriminated against by the general medical and psychiatric community in my area.

Some one asked me recently if I treat any #45 supporters. I responded that to my knowledge only 1 out of 500. They didn’t really believe me. I said it used to be more before I made clear my priorities to myself.

Let’s talk statistics.

Queers have up to 6-8 times more likelihood of committing suicide. I can cite about a dozen studies. Gay men have 3 times higher risk of suicide. Trans individuals up to 8 times higher liklihood of suicide attempts and completed suicide.

Gays, lesbians, and trans folk have 3-6 times higher rates of depression than the general heterosexual population. Again this is in multiple studies. I have a bibliography from a presentation I have on Queer mental health that I am happy to provide.

13 states do not recognize crimes perpetrated against the LGBTQ population as hate crimes and they all have actively voted down legislation to say otherwise.

5 states have “Don’t say gay” education laws and policies

2 states do not allow changing your gender on your birth certificate. Period.

About 50% of the LGBTQ population is protected by current laws. Meaning 50% of the Queer population have NO legal protections related to discrimination.

Make no mistake the Queer population faces violence, murders, rape, and many other overt and covert aggressions on a daily basis no matter where we are located geographically.

So when I say I keep room open for my Queer folk this is why. Because we are put down, we are killed for being who we are. Why would I not prioritize the mental healthcare of my own minority status community?

Knowing three out of my four neighbors support our current administration makes me feel unsafe and unsupported. Every Queer person living with a Red flag next door is feeling unsafe and unsupported. My Queer clients are cutting off family members or being cut off by family members during this election year. My Queer clients are cutting themselves with self loathing and abusing substances at higher rates, and are homeless at higher rates than their heterosexual peers.

I shouldn’t have to justify prioritizing a minority population that is suffering. But I find myself doing just that.

Recognize your privilege and stop. Stop and think. Do you need specialized care? Are you a minority? Do you have minority stress on top of baseline mental health issues?

I’m not trying to minimize the plight of the white heterosexual who suffers from mental illness. I’m pointing out that your needs may be met at any number of practices and with any number of practitioners. If you try to insist on seeing a practitioner who specializes in any minority when they have explicitly said no, just stop. Ask for referrals to other providers. Recognize that you do not need a specialty provider.

If this makes you uncomfortable it’s because you have not examined your privilege and are guilty of acting out with entitlement.

I’d suggest you examine your privilege and stop acting out of entitlement.

#COVID-19 · lesbian mom · mom of boys

To All the Moms.

When I started in private practice I didn’t think much about specializing. I thought clients would come see me. They did. But, as I’ve said before, I’m not everyone’s cup of tea. And that’s fine. Over the years I’ve learned that there are certain groups of people who like me and do well in treatment with me, and there are others who really don’t like me which gets in the way of their treatment.

Lesbians…oddly enough don’t always like me. I shouldn’t say all, but probably 3 out of 4 don’t stick with me. Transmasculine lesbians tend to stick with me longer than others. Trans people obviously stick with me as they make up a significant portion of my practice and I love treating them. Non-binary individuals are also my jam. I love a good non-binary autistic person. They are some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met.

There are a few specialties that developed with me kicking and screaming- like postpartum and peri-natal mental health care. When I started I had a number of 20’s females…they all eventually got pregnant…and when I insisted I refer them to some one with actual peri-natal experience they 1. refused to leave and 2. I couldn’t find any one with peri-natal specialization. So yeah. I did a lot of research and got supervision and tips from the old school psychiatrists I worked with inpatient at the time. They saved me. Now I see a significant number of pregnant women and post-partum mood disorders. I begrudgingly admit it’s a specialty of mine that I am now rather good at.

The one specialty area I didn’t see coming were Moms. Because until 4.5 years ago I wasn’t a mom. Then I became a Mom and still felt I didn’t know what the hell I was doing. But I have a lot of Moms on my caseload. Moms of young kids, under the age of ten are the most common. I mean a lot. Out of 500 clients at least a 1/3.

I hear a lot about Mom-ing. It’s taught me a lot. Now that I have my own kids I often hear myself reflected in their moments of vulnerability. Fears that they are not loving enough, that they are too short with their kids. I’ve heard the worst parenting moments from people who are too scared some times to even tell their own spouse for fear of judgment. But I hear it through hitched voices as tears stream and I often feel my stomach clench with empathy.

This past weekend I had probably one of my worst parenting moments not in terms of my behavior, because I was quite proud at how calm I stayed, but one of my sons had to be dragged off a playground literally kicking and screaming in front of far too many people. All while he and I were wearing masks. Nothing like a screaming child, me sweating dragging him, through a hot mask that in that moment makes it feel 10 degrees hotter and 100% more claustrophobic.

That was only the tip of the iceberg. The car ride. Then we got home and he got sent to his room and it morphed into a couple hours of torture for us all. I did lose my shit at some points during the hours at home.

In the midst of the home debacle my other son- who loves keys- threw his hands up in frustration and said, “I can’t find my freaking keys!” I feel their speech delay is somewhat voluntary. Because I swear they always pronounce the bad words completely correct. And yes I’ve said that while looking for my keys. Many many times.

What I’ve learned as a trusted ear for parents in their darkest moments and as a parent of twin boys is that I never judge parents for even their worst moments. Because it’s hard. It’s hard at baseline. Add in a pandemic, months of homeschooling, working from home, no break from our kids ever…and yeah. It’s been rough for parents. Myself included.

I’ve obviously never had a parent tell me about blatant abuse because I would report that. I have had parents tell me about their yelling, their irritability, their short temper, and their struggles to be a good parent. I have a somewhat standard line that I use when people ask me if they are a horrible Mom.

I say, “Does your kid know you love them? Do you apologize after? Do your kids miss you when they have to go to school? Do you kiss them good-night? Do you tell them you love them? Secure attachment with a parent and child is achieved by the child knowing that you will be there for them. Kids forgive so much because they just want to be loved. Do they know you love them?” At this point if they aren’t crying already they start. And they all say their kids know they love them. They hug after a fight, they apologize. I think saying sorry is important as a parent. I have apologized to my kids before for yelling. I’ve hugged them and kissed them and explained I shouldn’t have done that.

They hear that. They see the example set that I own my mistakes and are more willing to own theirs.

We are all just trying to survive this parenting journey and it’s not okay for Mom’s to feel judged. We all do. We all feel like horrible parents. Because we go on Facebook and Insta and see posts and stories of smiling kids and smiling Moms and we think, yes they have it all together. Why don’t I?

But I promise you that no one has it all together when parenting kids. Especially not during a pandemic. As I dragged my son off the playground with my other son carrying his brother’s shoes that had been kicked off and flung…I wanted to cry, scream, and hide. But I didn’t. I kept dragging him to the car. When he kicked the seat and screamed he would break the car I eventually told him I would call the police unless he stopped. Again, not my finest moment, but he stopped.

It was a horrible day. I actually needed the next day to recover and so did he. Today when we were at a farmer’s market and I told him we had to leave he started to get angry, and I flashed back to the playground and I almost panicked, I felt it building up. But I held his hand and kept talking and reminded him how good he was being and how I knew he didn’t want to leave but we had to go…and on and on…he didn’t escalate. By the time we got to the car he was fine with leaving. I breathed a sigh of relief.

Then tonight we sat cuddling watching Peter Rabbit under an afghan. We laughed and with his head resting on my chest I knew he felt loved and supported. I know we will have hard times with him because he’s a challenge to parent. I know all my clients who are Mom’s have challenging parenting jobs. We all do. I ask instead of judgment spread support. Instead of judgment offer kindness. I’ve told a few people about the playground, and they’ve laughed and told me of their own horrible parenting memory. It made me feel better to know that I’m not the only parent who has been through that. We need to lift each other up instead of putting each other down.

To all the Moms my only advice is to let your kids know you love them. Apologize when you are wrong. Hug and kiss them good-night. And remember that you are not alone.

As an aside…I was on the phone with a friend sitting on the couch, and as we tried to have a serious discussion I watched the pumpkin appear suddenly in the air and then slowly descend from upstairs into the entryway….I had to intervene when one boy came down the stairs and started to try and hit it like a pintata while the other one held the string. #momofboys #thanksGrammafortheHalloweenbaskets

The magical descending pumpkin

#COVID-19 · politics

RIP RBG & WTH Happened Last Night? (We have a lot to unpack)

There’s been a lot to unpack in the last few weeks. First off who knew when I named my kitten Ginsburg back in July her namesake would pass so soon. My wife cried. Granted she cries easily. But not usually about politics. We both have broken down at some point over the last four years of this hell.

My breaking point was the murders this year and my Black clients having the life sucked out of them. My wife’s was Ginsburg. May she rest in peace.

I watched the debate. All 90 soul sucking minutes of it. Then I stayed up until about 1 or 2 AM contemplating.

Then I posted on FB that I was most horrified by his inability to condemn white supremacy. It was one sentence. The follow up sentence stated generally to all people on my feed that if they somehow had snuck through since 2016 now was the time to unfriend me. Because I would not tolerate supporters of #45 on my feed.

Even the quiet ones.

Some one responded…which I love…that I shouldn’t bring emotion into politics.

I’ve been saying it since 2016. I’ll bring my emotion anywhere I freaking want. She tried to shame me for having emotion involved in calling out racism.

First off everyone needs to watch Hamilton and memorize the line he says to Burr, “Stop the niceties I’d rather be called divisive than indecisive!” Because I heard that line and it resonated hard within me. That’s essentially how I live my life. And I’ve been told since I could talk that I’m too opinionated. Too passionate about causes. Well so was Alexander Hamilton.

I feel emotion around white supremacy. I feel emotion around racism. I feel emotion around homophobia and transphobia. I think there is something wrong with you if you do not feel emotion around these issues.

Emotion is not required where complete objectivity is. But if I’m stating I disagree with white supremacy and I’m upset and disgusted that our current president seems incapable of stating the same…then I’m entitled to emotion around that.

People are entitled to feel emotion around the mishandling of Breonna Taylor’s case. We actually don’t need permission from any one to feel angry, betrayed, or gut-wrenchingly grieved because of a justice system that is incredibly flawed and favors white people.

I don’t need permission to feel scared for our future. I don’t need permission and I don’t need advice telling me to take emotion out of my political beliefs. Because today, here and now, political beliefs have taken the form of basic human rights.

Being Queer is not safe. Being Black is not safe. Being an immigrant is not safe. Because we have an administration who says it’s okay for us to be marginalized and criminalized and assaulted and fired and tossed aside.

I’m going to feel fear, anger, betrayal, grief, fear, and so much more; and to those people who are not minorities you have no right to dictate how we are allowed to feel right now. You also are not allowed to dictate how we react. As the white supremacists in this country so frequently point out…it’s a free country. If I want to say I’m angry that there are white supremacists enabled by our administration I’m going to say it and I’m going to feel it.

I’m in a few of therapy/mental health professional groups on FB. People are freaking out because therapists are talking politics. Therapists are all shaming each other for talking about politics and then other therapists are like how can we not be talking politics? Then one accused me of “letting your underwear show” if I was making my political beliefs known to clients.

I’m still unclear where the underwear reference came from. I mean I understand it was an analogy but poor taste. She was a white woman who posted “Why can’t we just stick to talking about Mommy and therapist issues?” In a group of mom/mental health professionals. I, of course, mentioned my cat Ginsburg and made a lovely analogy without mentioning body parts. Essentially pointing our her privilege. She got a little salty that’s when the underwear comment came out.

My point was that I do not tell people who I vote for. I do not tell people I am a Democrat. I do not tolerate racism, homophobia, or transphobia in my office. And I don’t have the speech impediment that impedes our president. I can actually state that I don’t agree with white supremacists or their beliefs. It flows quite easily from my lips. If it didn’t…then I’d likely be a white supremacist.

I had an issue with a client. They were treated horribly at a local hospital because of their race. I pursued the medical director for two weeks and got him on the phone. He pulled up the chart and I explained the situation and he agreed it was absolutely inappropriate care based out of racism.

He was going to actually do something about it. My client was grateful that I was an ally. I didn’t want the gratitude though. I want our system to do better. I told the medical director I never wanted to make a call like this again. Fix this. Stop this.

If you don’t believe that white supremacy is a problem then you likely have no exposure to the African American community. That’s on you my friend. Fix it.

My point to this post is to stop telling people not to feel emotion in politics. When politics revolve around race and discrimination; people are allowed to feel. If you feel nothing then I’d question your humanity.

My other point is that politics is invading every aspect of our lives. If you work in mental health during a pandemic during the worst election ever and you work with minorities or anyone with compassion and empathy…you will have to hear about politics. You will have to decide how you respond. I’m not here to tell you how. I think it’s case by case, minute by minute, client by client. Definitely not a one size fits all approach.

But to just shut it down and say we shouldn’t talk about it and we shouldn’t feel about it…that’s messed up. That’s your privilege showing and you’ve likely got a lot you need to start unpacking.

****In the midst of the loss of RBG we had family pics taken, and my sons went to the closet and took out my Dad’s ties. We didn’t mention them wearing ties at all. But they seemed to instinctively remember that we had the ties and that they should wear them for pictures. It was a touching tribute that grounded me. Throughout the pandemic the grief for the loss of my Dad has ebbed and flowed as grief does. That day and those photos are bittersweet. Bitter for the loss of him, and sweet for the remembrance.****

#COVID-19

Anti-Hugger Missing Warm Hugs

I was driving to work today and dropping off my sons at preschool with their masks on. I hugged them good-bye and attempted to kiss them through my mask.

I am not a hugger. Ask my friends. The pandemic has been great for one thing for me. No one tries to hug me except my kids and wife. During cold and flu season normally I also would not even shake hands with new patients or their parents. “No touch-ey” is my motto.

(This is not the case for my kids. We are all snuggly in our house, so don’t worry my sons get a ton of hugs. They are very tactile and are always on top of one of us.)

In 1993 on on September 23rd, my Grandfather died. It was very sudden and unexpected. He was in his early 70’s and in good health. It was devastating to our family.

I was in third grade at the time (I’m 35 in case you are trying to do the math). My teacher was Mrs. Gulliford. She was likely in my top three favorite teachers. She had the right mix of nurturing and boundaries to make our entire class moderately afraid of her without her ever yelling or raising her voice while also fully admiring her and wanting to impress her and be in her good graces. She was middle age when I had her, maybe 50’s. So she also had a matronly quality to her and clearly she had been teaching for a few decades at that point so she was rarely ruffled.

In fact looking back I acknowledge that we had a tough class. At least three kids with severe ADHD and then myself and two other “smart” kids, and a myriad of in between kids. It must have been challenging to meet everyone’s needs but as I recall she always had extra work for me to do so I never got bored. She was one of the only teachers until I got to high school who didn’t try and force me to stay with the class. She saw that I was done with the lesson much faster than other kids and instead of yelling at me for reading a chapter book she started giving me extra work and tasks to keep me busy.

She never made a big deal about it. She would just slip it onto my desk whenever she saw that I was completing an assignment.

September 23rd was not far into our school year. Maybe three weeks. Long enough for me to understand that Mrs. Gulliford was a force not to be reckoned with who was kind but also firm.

It took me completely by surprise when I returned from being absent for three days after my Grandfather died and she called me up to her desk. Everyone was still getting settled so kids were talking and not paying attention to me walking up. I was nervous because I thought I was in trouble as every kid does when we are called out by an adult unexpectedly.

I walked over to the side of her desk and next thing I knew I was enveloped into a big warm hug.

I remember fighting back tears and after my initial shock wore off burying my face in her shoulder trying not to sob. She held me long enough for me to feel that I was going to sob, choke back tears, and then realize by now that half the class was staring at me.

I learned that about grief later on in life. That even when you think you’ve cried all that you possibly can…at the most unexpected moments you can still produce tears.

I don’t remember if she said anything or if I did. I just know I walked back to my desk and went through the rest of my day in third grade. I don’t remember her hugging me the rest of the school year. I do remember seeing her hug a few of the other kids in my class at varying times during the year and I remember thinking something bad must have happened because she reserved her hugs for those moments they were truly needed.

At some point the girl sitting next to me turned and told me about her dead grandparents. That’s when I learned people say weird shit to you when a family member dies.

Of all the memories to pop into my head thinking about my Grandfather that’s the one I thought of today. Mrs. Gulliford’s warm hug. Then I thought of my kids in their masks and all the kids in all the schools who can’t give or receive a warm hug this year.

Teachers are supposed to teach. That’s the nature of their job. But we all know they do so much more for children. They comfort. They nurture. They create safe spaces. They forge connections with the smart kids, the challenged kids, the kids who struggle, and all of that is challenged this year because they are either behind screens or masks or both.

Families are not able to have funerals. And there have been at least two hundred thousand families who have lost family members in the last six months.

I’m incredibly grateful to all the teachers who touched my life and fostered a love of learning that continues today. I’m grateful for the teachers who provided hugs in times of acute grief and comfort because she didn’t have to. But I’ll always remember that she did.

I thought of this memory today because I acknowledge that there is a global pandemic causing acute isolation for many people. There are people on my caseload who haven’t been touched with comfort or love since March. We all took hugs and touch for granted. One lesson I’ve learned from COVID, among many, is that I’m not a hugger. But sometimes a hug is the only adequate form of communication.

And our children are all deprived of these small but monumental moments with the adults in their lives for the foreseeable future. Keep that in mind as we parent our kids. They are deprived of basic human touch in spaces that they never have been before. It’s taxing on them. I see it in my sessions. This pandemic feels like it has only begun. As we gear up for a long dark Winter I hold onto memories of warm hugs and hope in a way that I never thought I would ever hope; for warm hugs to be safe again.

RIP RBG.

VOTE. Black Lives Still Matter. Breonna Taylor…you deserve better.

To my bestie, if you made it this far,…who is the ultimate hugger…yes I even miss your hugs even though you always end up making it weird. I’d give anything for a hug from you! Florida needs to get it’s shit together so I can visit.

#COVID-19

Wishing on a Star

One of my son’s wanted to make a wish on a start last night. He was adamant he stand at the door and wish on the first star he saw. I was working on some masks sitting off to the side and I heard him say, “I wish for ice skates, and coffee cups for my Mama and Mommy, and I wish for all the germs to go away.”

Now I don’t know how he thought of ice skates or where he would go ice skating. I also know my wife has threatened to start throwing out mugs if I buy any more. I am somewhat obsessed with mugs. Apparently we need more though…

When he got to the germs it broke me a little. Followed today by an email from daycare that all kids over 3 are now going to be expected to wear masks at daycare per our lovely state’s Office of Early Childhood Development mandate. Anyone with kids right now is feeling me. You know the pandemic sucks for everyone. But for adults with children between the ages of 0 and twenty it totally blows.

Having kids generally is rough. Having twins also rough. Having twin four year old boys during a pandemic who have to now wear masks at daycare…yeah life is a little much for me right now.

We now can see the smoke from the wildfires across the country. Our sun is orange tinged. We’ve been hit by a hurricane and tornadoes. Race riots. Because yes we are racist in this country. Without the pandemic at a macro level this year has been intense to say the least.

My Dad died a year ago. I legitimately feel age 4 is the worst and most challenging year of parenting for us yet. My sons are high maintenance and even without the pandemic we would have felt isolated this year because it’s very hard to bring them places right now. On a micro level this year has been incredibly stressful on our family.

My business is doing great, but since July I’ve been dealing with a lot of stress related to my business as anyone working in mental health will tell you it’s been a wild ride since March.

All of those things by themselves would be hard for any one to cope with. All of those things and three months of strict stay at home orders, and the constant fear of new stay at home orders, because of a pandemic…that’s a lot.

I’m not including the kittens as a stressor because while they have provided their own stress they are fluffy and playful and cuddly stress relievers for me.

So when Declan wished for all the germs to go away in his innocent little voice I thought, me too kid. In so many ways and for so many reasons me too.

I graduated undergrad in 2007. I started working a nurse that year. I didn’t get a raise for several years and I was told it was because of the 2008 crash. The first three years of my work history was defined by a massive economic downturn. I didn’t grasp it the way I do now. I remember it. I also treat a lot of people now who bring it up as a significant time in their lives because they lost everything. I treat the kids of the parents who lost everything in 2008. They are young adults now. I know in about ten years I’ll be treating the kids of COVID. The kids with memories of losing everything. Parents unemployed. No health insurance. Foreclosures. Divorce. Because people are losing everything.

It’s a bleak post started because of a wish on a star. I know a wish won’t end a pandemic. Science will. Social distancing. Masks. More isolation and more stressors.

I think it’s important to remember those moments though. Those moments when Dec wanted to do something as normal as wishing on a star. I find relief in yoga which I still do regularly thanks to an instructor who started a Zoom yoga class schedule. I find relief in my work and helping others. I feel relief when tonight my son walked up to me and hugged me and spontaneously said, “I love you Mama.” I relished the moment when for a few minutes the boys sat together on the couch with Jackson wrapping his arm around his brother.

If I’ve learned anything from this year it’s that the light and lovely moments are still here we just have to work harder to see them.

“Happiness can be found in the darkest of times if one only remembers to turn on the light.” Albus Dumbledore

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30 Second (or 8 minute) Moments That Make a Family

In case you missed it we got kittens. This morning I didn’t have clients scheduled so I wanted to take my time and do a 9 AM yoga class. About 8:50 AM I was sipping my coffee enjoying the peace as the boys sat in the other room watching cartoons. I heard a growl. The growl of Ginsburg when she is guarding food. I turn around and there she is with a huge piece of chicken tender in her mouth that recently had been on one of my son’s plates. Yes. He wanted chicken tender for breakfast and I didn’t want to battle him on it. There are worse things for breakfast.

So her sister Scooby was sitting close by waiting for a stray piece of chicken and Ginsburg was trying to figure out how to eat the monstrous piece of chicken without dropping it from her mouth.

I sprang up and started yelling at her to put the damn chicken down. The next eight minutes are minutes of my life that I wish had been filmed by a secret camera simultaneously grateful there is no camera in our house. It involved me chasing a tiny kitten with a huge piece of chicken tender behind the couch, under the table, intermittently yelling at the boys to get away from her because she was now full on growling and I was afraid she would hurt one of them trying to guard her food.

The boys of course could not help but be completely in the way the entire time, now also yelling, about how they were scared and Ginsburg has my chicken…and so much more but I was just focused on getting to the damn cat.

I cornered her under the sink in the laundry room which was perfect for her, because she could just claw me when I tried reaching for her still yelling at her to drop the chicken and still with the boys yelling and literally running in circles in the background.

I have a lot of vacuums. Don’t judge me. I’m a clean freak and I love vacuums like I love psychiatry. (A lot). There was a long extender of one my vacuums handy (again don’t judge they are all over my house) and I grabbed it and found myself yelling at the cat while trying to get the chicken and the cat with the vacuum extender. Eventually a large portion of the chicken tender fell on the floor and I was able to get it with the vacuum arm. Ginsburg ate the rest of the piece. I was also pushing Scooby back this entire time as she wanted to get in the corner with the snarling Ginsburg and her chicken.

I got the chicken. I put it in the trash. The boys ran from Ginsburg screaming. I grabbed Ginsburg by the scruff and held her up and spoke to her about not growling at me. Ever. And not going on the table and not eating chicken…and everything else I could think of.

She was looking properly shamed as I threw out my yoga mat and connected via Zoom to my class.

I laughed to myself sitting there on my yoga mat. Because to anyone on Zoom they would see me sitting calmly on my mat with my mug of coffee. A kitten or two sitting close by. The boys intermittently walking by. No one knew the chaos of the chicken and the kitten only moments before I connected.

Gins eventually joined me on my mat for the class and has been much better behaved the rest of the day.

Later in the day I gave myself my monthly shot for my asthma and the boys watched and screamed and ran in and out of the room. I mean. I was overdue. I had to do it. Jackson eventually mustered a “Poor Mama”.

These are the moments though. These are those thirty second (or eight minute) moments that make the fabric of our family. I’ll always remember Ginsburg running around with the chicken hanging out of her mouth as the boys screamed and ran in circles. I’ll do many more shots. I usually time them after bedtime so the boys don’t see. But they have seen me struggle to breathe. They know what I deal with.

I was talking with a client recently about the time they came out to their parents as trans. There is about 5-10 seconds after some one comes out when we sit in complete terror of the reaction. It’s in the parents court. This parent in particular failed. Many do.

Mine didn’t. It’s one of my favorite memories of my parents. My Dad didn’t have Dementia. It was normal. He putzed around in the kitchen and my Mom and I sat on the couch and my Mom basically told me she had already done this with my sister so what’s the big deal. My dad asked me “So, does this mean you’re bisexual?” I cringed and laughed and said “Dad I’m not putting a label on it.” He did this thing with his hands like okay, okay, I’m just asking.

To this day I’m confident my Dad got a kick out of having two daughters married to two women and wouldn’t have wanted it any other way.

It was a quick visit that night. Just an in person coming out to my parents, then I went back home to my apartment at the time. Many of my patients, friends, and my own wife don’t have this same experience. There is violence. Hate. Failure. Failure on the parents end to provide unconditional love and acceptance. Even if in future years you come around and accept your kid, I promise you, they remember your first reaction to the first time they came out.

It’s probably the most important and defining thirty seconds of your relationship with your child.

So don’t fuck it up.

What’s the right reaction you ask? What’s the right moment that makes a family? It’s me bringing Ginsburg over to my sons for them to pet her so they aren’t scared of her after seeing her growl and act totally insane over a piece of chicken. It’s them watching me do my injection. It’s me dropping what I’m doing, no matter what, when they ask me for bedtime kisses. It’s one of my best friends telling me, “You know we are going to have cis-het kids and they will be wasted on us!” because she knows that if any of our kids ever come out as anything we would hug them and tell them we love them no matter what because that’s what you’re supposed to do.

***The pic is Ginsburg staring fixedly at my yoga instructor: the picture of innocence.

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Seeking Hope

Six months is a long time to be isolated. I am on a biologic agent for my asthma which puts me in an at risk category for COVID. While I tried to reassure my pulmonologist and allergist that I only get bacterial infections and viral infections seem to skip over me they both made it clear that I am at risk and not to see clients in person. For some clients this is not okay.

For me it’s been a struggle. I miss the in person contact. There are certain clients I’ve seen in person. What’s stuck out to me is those moments that feel so normal to me but when I step back and think about them they are so messed up.

Therapists across my state know that I specialize in Queer mental health. Most know either from me or through the grapevine that I myself am Queer. So when I get referrals, especially for teenagers, I know that somewhere in there will be some Queer stuff. The parents often have no clue or are pulling the ostrich.

Those are my favorites. Because there’s nothing I love better than calling out the elephant in the room.

A trans teen intake usually goes like this. Both parents and kid are in the room. Parent gives long timeline of depression and/or anxiety. Potentially some self harm. Past trials of medications. Therapy. Maybe a hospitalization. Maybe some family history of mental health. Maybe a divorce or a move, some transition that occurred that could have triggered everything.

The kid sits quietly looking aggrieved and cringey especially whenever their parent pronouns or names them. I can’t ask the kid direct questions because the parent keeps interrupting. I kick the parent out. Me and the kid.

“So what’s the story?”

“I’m trans.”

“Got it. You out to them?”

Sigh. Literally a sigh. “Yeah they don’t believe me.”

“They never use the right pronoun or name?”

“Nope.”

Sigh. Literally a sigh. “You want to be in the room or out?”

It’s that moment. When they realize I’m on their side. When they realize the trans stuff all over my office means they are actually in a space where some one will stand for them. The look I get is hope. I didn’t know how badly I missed that look until I saw it again.

I’ve agreed to do some in person intakes in the last few months, and when I have that moment. That hope. When I do some work with the parents afterward. It feels so right. Educating people not to be transphobic is not my favorite part of the job. But apparently it’s a part I’ve missed. Because the outcome, the hope, touches me. Motivates me to keep doing this work.

It’s hard work. Mental health. I hold a lot of secrets. In between my own patients I receive calls from other providers, former co-workers, former and current friends, relatives, etc. all wanting to tell me a story. All wanting some support, referrals, help. Hope.

One of my mentors always told me that she didn’t know everything but she knew how to be confident and that made people feel better and when people have the illusion they can feel better then eventually they will.

I didn’t get that at the time. But I do now. Prescribing medication is a small part of what I do. Giving hope and instilling confidence in the future is a big part of what I do. That’s been harder and harder to do in a world turned upside down by a pandemic. But I often think of that moment in Armageddon when they are flying away from the asteroid with Bruce Willis left behind. He hasn’t detonated the bomb yet and Ben Affleck says, “Harry doesn’t know how to fail.” It gets me every time. I mean literally sobbing hysterically which begins when Harry pushes Affleck into the glass elevator. Same with Titanic. I start crying during the opening credits. Because why do they show pictures of the freaking ship in the opening credits?

I digress. I like to think I’m like Harry. Not on asteroid willing to die to save my planet. But not knowing how to fail.

I’ve seen it throughout the last six months. Those little looks when Queer people feel hope. Hope for acceptance. Hope for love. Hope for their parents to use the right pronouns. Hope. It’s out there. You just have to know where to look.

***Parents****IT’S NOT A PHASE.

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COVID-19 Journal Entry- Six Months In.

It’s been hard to sit and write a blog post lately. Not for lack of discussion topics. Murders. Shootings. People still thinking BLM is an anti-Blue life movement. The DNC and then the RNC. Michael Moore’s dire warnings to the Democrats to energize the base. To visit freaking Michigan. If there is one thing I will give to #45 it’s that he doesn’t like to lose and he knows how to energize a crowd (racism and white supremacy will energize a white supremacist crowd to be clear).

We reached 6 million cases. 183,000 deaths. To put that in perspective 618,222 soldiers died in the Civil War. Worcester, MA had a population in 2010 of 181K, estimates today are 183K same with Brownsville, TX. So an entire city has died.

2,977 people died in 9/11. We went to war after 9/11. Because of 2,977 deaths. Where is the war for our 183,000 who have died? Where is the fight for those lives we have lost? Who led the war after 9/11? If you don’t remember let me refresh you- the freaking White House did. It was George Bush at the time. He started a war with Iraq (which yes makes no sense because Iraq wasn’t actually responsible for 9/11…but that’s a different story). Our current white house sits back and makes no statements about 183,000 deaths. No outrage. No grief. But he wishes Ghislaine Maxwell well. So that’s nice. Let’s wish the pedophile well while your citizens are dying.

So many things. The suicide rate hasn’t been counted yet. The most recent data available is from 2018 when it was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States. Our suicide rate has risen 35% since 2003. I can tell you from working in mental health that suicides are on the rise. People are suffering. The isolation, the fear, the job loss, the evictions, isolating with homophobic and transphobic families…all the things. Any one who was trying to hold on by a thread is losing it with the pandemic.

I don’t feel the desolation of depression but I feel sad. I miss my best friend who lives in Florida who I do not know when I will be able to see her again. I feel sad for my friend here who has to re-vamp her October wedding into something different and not at all what she hoped for. I miss my extended family members who live out of state who we normally see during the Summer. The boys have gone so long without seeing some of our relatives and it blows. I crave a way of life that I’m not sure we will ever have again. Mental health is hard on a good day. Working in it during a pandemic is honestly unlike anything I ever imagined.

I’ve heard of 5 suicides in the last two months- relatives of friends or relatives of my clients. I can tell you that’s more in such a short time span than I have ever heard of before.

Two members of my extended family committed suicide- both significantly pre-pandemic- and I say this only to point out that I know all too well the scars that suicide leaves on families. Every suicide should be added to the pandemic’s death count and every grieving family member should be just as outraged at their death.

I was prioritizing front line workers like nurses and respiratory therapists but now I find myself prioritizing other mental health professionals. I’ve had more and more reach out for help. I am honored to be trusted with their care and also incredibly saddened that our profession is front lines more than any one can understand.

In many cases we are people’s only lifelines and we are struggling to stay afloat ourselves.

We are six months into a pandemic that has impacted our country far more than it needed to. We are six months in and 183k deaths deep. Our suicides won’t be officially counted for another two years. But I promise you they are here and they are rising.

This is why writing a blog post seems daunting. How do I write about our most recent parenting mishap…many of which exist…and can be broken down into one sentence- we are burned out and I reached a low when I fought with my 4 year old because he wanted broccoli but I made chicken nuggets. Yes. You read that right. I eventually sat on the floor and took some deep breaths and realized that what I thought would be a special treat was not what he wanted and why would I argue with him about wanting vegetables? Especially when we actually had broccoli in the fridge and it took me only ten minutes to cut it and steam it and serve it. I admit. Parenting low. He got the broccoli.

Another day was bad and he slammed his brother’s finger in a door. Long story. But at the end of it I went in as he was falling asleep hugged him, told him I loved him and that I know he is a good boy. He started to cry and said, “Even though I slammed his finger in the door?” And I said yes. Because even good boys do bad things sometimes we just have to learn from our mistakes.

On top of the every day stress of pandemic, election nightmare, mental health crisis related to pandemic, hurricane, tornadoes, etc. we are still trying to parent and be married and I’m trying not to dread the coming Winter. When I’m sure we will see a resurgence, I’m sure we will go on lockdown again, and who knows what else. I’m sure 2020 will come up with something fun though.

To anyone struggling please reach out for help. Things appear bleak and feel heavy but there will be an end to the pandemic. The 1918 flu ran the same timeline as COVID. Look it up. It’s actually almost exactly parallel. And by end of 1919 the restrictions and outbreak eased. We are six months in, likely six months to go. Please vote. Please vote for an administration that will lead us out of a pandemic with science. Let those 183,000 lives not have been in vain. The virus does not discriminate. But our current administration does.

Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

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COVID-19 & Kittens

Quite frankly I’m disgusted with white people. What’s fascinating to me is that my posts about BLM and anti-racism are the least viewed by my Facebook followers. Y’all eat up the posts about homophobia when my family is discriminated against. But BLM seems to be lower on your totem pole.

I had to title this something about kittens to get you to read it. Granted; there will be kittens. But first, to all my white followers, step it up. Just because you have one Black friend does not mean you are not racist and/or benefitting from white supremacy.

Look to your right and your left. Who are your neighbors? Are any of them Black? Look at your text message list. Who in your last ten text conversations is Black?

Back in April I asked a therapist I know professionally how their Black clients were fairing during the heart of the riots because I had seen several of mine just by chance that week and it was heart-wrenching. They responded that they didn’t have any Black clients. I remember being taken aback. Like oh. Okay. Weird. And now awkward. And why don’t you have any Black clients?

I still don’t get it. I can make conjectures but they aren’t pretty.

We adopted two kittens. I submitted applications to four shelters. The websites said it could take weeks to hear back. I heard back in 48 hours. I got a call Saturday morning and was told there are two kittens available. We arrived as our messy family of two lesbian mom’s and twin four year old boys, and walked out an hour later with two kittens.

No one questioned our income. No one asked to do a home visit, though all the applications said that was likely. They saw our zip code, our whiteness, and boom. Two kittens. I received calls back from the other three shelters Monday morning. I am not naive enough to believe the same would happen for a Black family. That is me benefitting from a society based in white supremacy. LEARN. Stop looking away. And if you read my posts about kittens. You should freaking read the ones about racism.

We are many many weeks into COVID. I don’t want to count because it’s depressing. I am dreading Winter with kids as the isolation of COVID mixed with long Winter months of being stuck inside. I dread the inevitable resurgence and the loss of childcare again when our preschool closes. Too many of my clients have lost commercial insurance and are now on Medicaid or are uninsured. We are only five months into this. And we have an administration who doesn’t believe in the USPS or in healthcare for all. So this will be a fun Winter.

But the stock market is good. So we are all fine right?

I needed to do something normal. Something fun. I needed my sons to stop feeling sad after losing Rajha in June. Because it’s a regular discussion about Rajha being up in the sky with Poppy (my dad) and “Banana” (My Nana). The boys are only four and they have known so much loss and witnessed me experiencing significant loss.

They now have Scooby and Ginsburg. Scooby Doo and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. I had to explain to two clients who RBG is. Because Ginsburg likes to sit on my shoulder during sessions…leading to the inevitable introduction.

They were young straight adults. I smiled and said, you’ve never had a Supreme court case impact your life have you? Then I described the day they ruled on gay marriage and how that impacted my life. I told them the Supreme Court rules on LGBTQ rights and how important that Court is to my right to existence.

The least we could do is name a kitten after our favorite judge. I forget sometimes how differently the hetero’s live. Without fear. Without knowledge or awareness of the rights of minorities or the lack thereof. COVID hasn’t changed anything while at the same time has changed everything.

But now we have kittens. Which makes life just a little better.

Do I love Biden and Kamala? No. Do I think they will be better than the current ass sitting in our white house? Yes. Vote like your life depends on it. Because so many do.

I’ve touched on a lot of topics here but the take home message for white people is to do some anti-racist work. Because you need it. Your avoidance of my BLM posts is evidence that you think you know it all or don’t care to know more. Either of which is bad. I don’t know it all. I still do the work. And to any 20 something straight people….google “Supreme Court Justices” and learn something.