What I Learned in 2020. Yes There are Lessons.

I have so many thoughts about 2020. Recently some one said to me that 2021 can’t possibly be worse. I responded that is what I thought about 2020 as we left 2019. So I do not think 2021 can’t possibly be worse. In fact I think it can be worse. I hope it won’t be. But I am taking it day by day at this point.

I read an op-ed recently entitled “There are no lessons to learn from 2020”. It was essentially a diatribe about how there is nothing to learn, no overarching theme, and no benefit to society from this year.

I strongly and vehemently disagree.

Personally in my own little bubble I have learned about business, divorce, loneliness, the power of friendship, and how I was actually prepared to live through a pandemic. I mean nothing could have actually prepared me. But I am not a hugger so I don’t miss that. I generally wore masks every flu season anyway. I refused to see clients who were coughing and I always maintained at least six feet distance with the window open behind me if anyone even sniffled.

I also had a stockpile of purell and toilet paper because I buy those items in bulk at baseline.

Seriously. I was made for this. I learned how to make the best and safest mask for myself and my two now five year old sons. Their teacher tested positive and was in the classroom with them symptomatic and they didn’t get COVID. Neither did we. I have full faith in my masks.

Professionally my practice flourished and though the work has been harder this year than ever before I think we rose to the task. We have provided mental health services for over five hundred patients this year. It’s a good feeling knowing I can help people. I learned why I take Medicaid. I knew why before but this year provided me more insight. So many people lost their commercial plans. My own clients and clients of other practices who don’t take Medicaid. It was humbling for me to have people be so thankful that we take state insurance. I would never want my established clients to have to try and find a new provider in the midst of a pandemic because I don’t take Medicaid. It always felt like the right thing to do but this year brought it into sharp perspective for me.

Nationally I saw a horrid administration crash and burn and while I am devastated that we continue to lose thousands of lives a day because of their inept handling of an international pandemic…I also find myself saying internally ‘told ya so.’ Back when he was elected I said to only my wife at the time, that at some point in some way the nation and the world would see the true lunacy we elected. I remember saying all we need to do is sit back and wait for some national disaster or something. I could not have predicted a pandemic unrivaled since 1918. But when it started here in March I remember thinking. Well here it is. His test that he will fail dismally.

I was not wrong. Sadly. Back in 2016 I knew there would be tests that he would fail. I did not think so many lives would be lost because of his failure.

I did not think so many Americans lack a basic science education. Germs can be transmitted in the air. Masks block germs from going in and out. Seems like a simple concept to me. Two sentences. Masks could have saved lives if they were normalized. Instead they were vilified and here we are.

2020 should teach us that some people are not meant to lead. That a celebrity with histories of debt and sexual assaults is not meant to lead our country. 2020 should teach us that science is real whether you believe in it or not- germs spread and basic use of masks and social distancing help stop the spread of germs.

2020 should teach us what I’ve been preaching since 2007 when I got my first paycheck as a nurse. Stop paying pro football players millions and invest that money into educating, building up, and rewarding our healthcare workers and teachers. Instead of investing billions into “defense” (because guns/tanks/submarines were super helpful against COVID) maybe invest in educating, building up, and rewarding our healthcare workers and teachers.

2020 should teach us that we need to make education attainable and affordable in order to have an educated society of people who will nurse us, doctor us, make vaccines, and understand basic scientific concepts so wearing a mask isn’t seen as an infringement on civil liberties but as a life saving preventative measure that could have saved thousands of lives already.

2020 should teach us that racism is alive and well in our country. That POC have reason to fear our police forces. That white people center themselves in discussions of racism and we need to stop doing that. 2020 should teach us that being “colorblind” is not the solution.

2020 should teach us that our young people are amazing.

There are so many lessons from 2020 these are just a few. That an op-ed was published in a reputable newspaper stating anything else is appalling to me.

These lessons are not silver linings. They are not the rainbow through the clouds. These are hard lessons that have been learned at the expense of human lives. 2020 was not kind to me. But I will take the lessons I have learned with me and I will not forget them. I will learn from them. I will learn from my mistakes and the mistakes of others. I only can hope that we all will learn from 2020.

My intention for 2021 is to meet it as I have 2020 and 2019. I could not have imagined what 2020 had in store for me back in 2019. Just as I could not have possibly imagined what 2019 held for me in 2018. So I will meet 2021 as I have the last two trying years. I meet 2021 carrying with me some grief, some hope, the lessons I have learned & a bottle of Purell. Literally.

**** To all the health care providers reading this. I am so honored to be among your ranks. Whether you are front lines or working remotely we are all carrying the burdens of 2020 so close to our hearts. I have never regretted becoming a nurse. There have been hard days for us all and harder ones ahead. Please reach out for help. We all need support right now. Please call for help when you need it. Please go into 2021 knowing that there will be a light at the end of this dark tunnel. Your bravery and tenacity and commitment to providing quality care are beautiful and heart wrenching. You are the true heroes in this country yesterday, today, and tomorrow. We will never be paid enough. We will never be appreciated enough and for that I am sorry. We deserve better. Know that I see you. I am you and I feel the burdens of 2020 with you. Fist pump from six feet away and a toast to 2021. To you and to the lives we save and those we can’t.******

“What’s coming will come. And we’ll meet it when it does.” Rubeus Hagrid.

#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.


2020: The Antagonist to my Life and Why I Finally Learned to Listen

I’ve started and stopped writing a blog post many times recently. Some times the grief from losing my Dad still catches me unaware and I start writing about something funny that happened on my son’s birthday and end up devolving into a sobbing mess writing about missing my Dad. I trash those posts. But it’s like a train wreck. I can’t stop writing them once I start them; it all pours out at warp speed.

Then I step away for a few days and come back. 2020 brought a lot. You know that because you’ve been through a lot too. Most of what I’ve been through has taught me life lessons and I’ll be better off having gone through most of 2020 than not. Up until November I kept thinking 2020 still wasn’t as bad as 2019 when my Dad died. But I hit my wall in November and have decided now that it’s as bad as 2019.

But I’m not going into the train wreck today. I have to reframe and remember that much of 2020 experiences will be so much better for me personally and professionally in the long run. They are painful experiences. Hurtful and I feel raw. But I feel hopeful. I don’t feel like I’m starting over because I’m not. I’m starting from the middle of my story and I’m at that part when the protagonist feels lost, beat, and hopeless because all the stuff they were trying to prevent through the whole first half of the book happened anyway. Thank-you 2020.

The protagonists of my favorite stories come out the other side a little darker, a little stronger, and ready to kick some ass.

That’s about where I waffle between….deep dark loss of hope and looking ahead ready to kick some ass.

It doesn’t go well when I try to write blog posts in the dark moments.

I have to take my own advice though and listen to what I tell my clients going through major life stressors.

I never say, “This too shall pass” because that saying generally irritates me. Everything passes. Even super constipated people eventually poop. Still can hurt like hell.

I do say things to clients like, “You are strong. You are resilient. Look at what you are surviving and thriving through. You have an inner strength that impacts people around you. You are empathic and that’s not a weakness when you learn how to harness it. It’s okay to let go of toxic people and relationships. Learn from your relationships. Learn what needs of yours were being met even if it was toxic or abusive. You stayed for a reason, and this isn’t meant to shame you at all, it’s meant to allow yourself to examine it more objectively so you don’t repeat the same pattern. Allow yourself time to heal. Allow yourself to define and examine what your needs are….”

Not all of these apply to my 2020 but a lot of them do.

When you have kids and twins it was easy to lose sight of my needs and my feelings because I became so entangled with theirs. But they turned five this November. We survived five years of twin boys. My practice survived three years. I’ve survived one year and seven months without my Dad.

I think what’s important as I reflect back on the events of this year is that I conducted myself with poise. I never disparaged any one, as I sorely and dearly wanted to in multiple instances, and I like to think that I acted in a way that will be a good example to my sons. They will encounter hard times with hard people and I want them to act in a way that maintains their integrity. I swear a lot. But I’m honest as fuck. Swearing is my one vice. I don’t even smoke pot. I’m that person.

I certainly won’t come out of 2020 unscathed. But I have learned so much about my friendships and placing my trust in the right people. I’ve learned how important the professional relationships I’ve built over the years are to maintain a successful practice. I’ve appreciated more than once this year how I’ve never burned a bridge before when leaving an employer. I’ve learned that I have a tendency to ignore red flags and it’s something I need to work on. It sounds so easy and stupid. But it’s impacted me in many ways.

I think most important of all is that I have learned to listen. I work in a listening profession but even in my own work I have to remind myself to shut up and listen (I say this to myself internally during sessions not externally). It’s easy to want to immediately respond either with an affirmation or a question to further clarify….or whatever; it’s harder to sit in silence and truly hear another person and swallow my initial response to try and answer more thoughtfully.

I’ve been listening more to my friends, to therapists I work with, and to clients. I’ve also been trying to listen to my kids more. One of my sons was having epic anger outbursts and instead of going head to head I’ve been trying to listen and not immediately respond. It’s been mostly working. We’ve had one epic meltdown since I started this new tactic but one in a few months is better than the almost weekly that were happening.

I think we all want to be heard. I don’t think I was listening enough to others and to myself.

I’ve worked on listening to myself. Listening to my gut. Listening to my basic emotional responses. It’s led to a lot of very heart wrenching decisions. But decisions that will be better for me in the long run.

I feel that protagonist in the novel who has lost so much- family, friends, and most importantly the security that she knew what the future would bring- I feel that on a visceral level. 2020 still has roughly forty days left. I’m sure it will be like nothing I have imagined. But I will lean into those last forty days feeling a little darker, a little stronger, and ready to kick some 2020 ass.

I’m breathing a sigh of relief because I didn’t start sobbing during this writing. We are going to talk about the super messy and unpredictable intensity of grief in my next post. Cuz damn.

#COVID-19 · homophobia · politics

Why I’m Grateful for #45

These last few weeks have been turbulent. I went to sleep on election day thinking I would wake to a repeat of 2016. Then I woke up at midnight. 2 AM. 4 AM. 5:30 AM. Nothing was called. What a long week. Waiting to catch COVID. Waiting to see who would be elected President. Never giving up hope on PA and GA.

In that time I saw my small little Republican heavy town voted for Trump by about 100 votes. They did a recount. I found out today my town voted for Biden by 33 votes. 33. Our population is about 7,000. Roughly 5,000 people voted. If my town can go blue it’s possible anywhere.

I cried most of the day Saturday after it was called. Sunday I scrolled through social media and cried seeing the posts about Kamala and the projected appointees to their cabinet. They are Black. Women. Thank God.

I spoke to some one today at work who fears a Biden presidency. I don’t get it. I tried to. But I don’t. I have lived in fear for the past four years. I feel a weight lifted. I’ve been seeing Biden’s appointees for the COVID task force and there are scientists.

Not family members.

Scientists. Not family members.

Scientists on a pandemic task force should not be a novelty. It should be the expectation.

Black women in a cabinet should not be a novelty. It should be an expectation.

I don’t believe there was voter fraud. I believe in our democracy.

I told some one recently I never ended a friendship or relationship because some one voted for Bush. I never felt unsafe around a Republican until this administration. The hate and the lies are overwhelming. I’m not ready to mend those relationships that I have lost. But I’m glad we have elected a President who is a better than I am.

Some one told me we should be grateful for #45. I am grateful. I am grateful to have the most caustic homophobic and transphobic administration come to power in a time when I had the ability to do something to create change. Without #45 I would never have opened my own practice. I would never have decorated my business website in rainbows. I would never have discharged clients for being overtly racist. I would never have started this blog. I would never have taken a stand for what is right.

I am grateful for #45 because his administration showed me how much hatred and discrimination still exists in our country. He made me examine my whiteness in ways I never have before. He made me have hard talks with myself and with my friends and family members. He made me understand white supremacy in ways I never could before. He made me research, read, learn, and grow in ways I never would have been challenged to under a Democratic Presidency.

Could I have done without him? Sure. But the silver lining of his presidency has been the activism, education, and awareness that erupted in response to him.

Except in Florida apparently. Seriously. Parkland and Pulse…you all seriously couldn’t turn blue after being the site of two mass murders??? The work is not done.

But as I scrolled social media and saw all the pictures of all the children of all my friends watching Biden and Kamala’s speeches on Saturday I thought yes. For the first time in four years there are people we can allow our children to watch because they speak with respect and unity.

I am grateful to #45 for showing me exactly the man I don’t want my son’s to become.

I am grateful to see my niece’s face as she watched Kamala’s speech and think that she will grow up in a world where women can Become.

Mostly I am grateful because while I have seen true hatred in the last four years and pure prejudice I have also seen true bravery. True courage. I am grateful because I have the privilege of attending to the mental health of the Queer community in a time when they are most vulnerable.

In the face of hatred and murder transgender individuals still went forward with transitioning. I have seen Queer people come out to their Trump loving family members. They were terrified but they did it anyway because it was more important that they Become who they needed to be than to give in to the fear of hate. I am grateful to bear witness to some of the most courageous quietly stalwart individuals as they took stands for who they are and who they would be.

#45 I am grateful for your hate because it showed me the bravest most loving souls.

#45 I am grateful for your lies because out of them came monumental truths for so many in my life personally and professionally.

#45 I am grateful for your chatter because out of the chatter came a silent majority.

#45 I am grateful for your division because out of it I was able to feel total unity with my Queer community.

#45 I am grateful for your racism because it revealed to me my own engagement with a white supremacist system and allowed me to start taking steps to dismantle it.

#45 I am grateful to all the family members and friends of the 200,000+ lives lost to this pandemic for calling you out. I am grateful for this disease because it showed the lengths you would go, the lives you would sacrifice, to cling to your backward belief system where you come first and the lives of “your” people are disposable.

#45 on a personal note, I’m grateful to your homophobia for showing me the people in my life who understood, without me saying a word, that the Queer community needed allies and that I specifically needed allies. I am grateful for all my friends and family members who not only flipped you the bird in order to stand by my side, but also stood up to their own family members and friends for minorities. If ever I had doubts of how well supported I was the last four years have shown me I am not alone. For that I am eternally humbled and grateful.


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