#COVID-19

Masked Hot Yoga: 2021

You ever do hot yoga in a mask? I have. I have to be a honest it wasn’t as horrible as I thought it would be. Don’t get me wrong it was horrible. But on the inside I was still doing a happy dance that I could be doing hot yoga again. I finally was warm. 101 degrees warm with 58% humidity.

I also got into this pose recently that I have never been able to do. It’s called Bird of Paradise. You have to start either in Lizard or Warrior II and then you take a bind with one arm looping under the bent leg and one arm going behind your back. You hold your hands now looped under a bent leg. Take a big step forward with your straight back leg. Then keeping the bind you stand up and raise the leg that was bent and still bound.

Bird of Paradise

The thing about yoga is that no one knew the first time I did it in a class. Because I’m often in class with different people. This year I’ve been in Zoom class in my living room and I can barely see any one else in their little rectangle on my iPad.

So as I first bound my hands together I was surprised I could actually bind them because I never could before. Then when I clumsily stepped forward and attempted to stand I was so excited that I could do it I almost fell over and then I did sort of fall over but I had this stupid grin on my face because fuck yeah. Year three of yoga and I finally nailed Bird of Paradise.

I think there were a lot of contributions to this success. One- my perseverance. Every time we would go into extended side angle I attempted the bind. For three years. I could feel my hands getting closer and closer and then touching my fingertips was a small victory. Two- I lost fifty pounds in the last two and a half years. I don’t know how having a small stomach helped me bind my arms behind my back but I know it did. Three- Fuck COVID.

I wasn’t going to let the pandemic stop my yoga practice. It was the one thing I have engaged in during my thirty’s that I loved. I felt so connected to hot yoga. I felt empowered. I felt warm; literally. I felt challenged physically and mentally and finally an hour of intense physical work out that also let me zone out of all my stress. I don’t have my phone during yoga. I am completely disconnected.

In March 2020 when my studios closed I moped and pouted and found the Zoom classes. I kept practicing. With my cats. With my sons. Through a separation. Through possibly the most stressful year of my life. I kept practicing. While other people were expanding their waistlines (I say that with love because no shame in an expanding waist line I’m just not a stress eater. I’m a stress non-eater) I was reducing mine.

Then my studios were open. Then I was vaccinated. I attended cold yoga first with my sister-in-law. That was actually where I first got into Bird of Paradise. With multiple layers, feeling chilly, I smiled as I took the bind and had to stop myself laughing from joy as I stood and attempted to extend my leg.

Then I stepped back into a hot studio. There’s not really a way I can describe it other than a sort of coming home. The first class kicked my ass. So did the fourth one. I’ve clumsily still been getting into Bird of Paradise trying not to grin like an idiot as I’m doing it.

I’m proud that 2020 was not lost. I’m so relieved that I can see the actual growth in my practice over the last year.

I videotaped myself getting into it. I asked my son to hold my phone to “videotape” me and he asked me what a videotape is. I didn’t really know what to say. I said just hold the phone and record me. He did. I felt old. But I also felt cool. Because I got into a pose that I wasn’t sure I would ever grow and fold and bind into.

Post-COVID life will never be the same. People have died. People were born. People divorced. Married. Loved. Hated. And for me, I’ve been through a lot. My therapist validates that it’s been a little extra. But through it I’m grateful for my constant practice of yoga. The poses don’t change but every time I get into one or out of one I change. Yoga has helped me understand that change will happen. That sometimes it’s scary but ultimately through change we grow.

#COVID-19

The Reason I Stopped Treating Teenage Mental Health. (It’s not because of the teens)

It’s good to know your strengths and weaknesses. I am brutally honest with myself so I am generally aware of my own. Strength- baking. Weakness- brownies. I can never get them right. I’ve tried. So I don’t try anymore. Ask my sons. They didn’t even know what a brownie was recently when my Mom brought them some. Banana bread, yeast breads, cakes, frostings, ganache, chocolate chip muffins, etc. I can nail anything else. Not brownies.

Strength- Fighting and working hard for underserved communities. Weakness- general annoyance sometimes developing into anger toward entitled non-underserved individuals.

My friends and many of the therapists I work and collaborate with know this about me. The white cis-het male APRN who works for me knows this about me. Because as I’m passing him all the cis-white-het males who call for intakes I am…maybe complaining about them. I do apologize for dissing “him” in a general vague sort of way. He laughs it off and keeps working for me. I dunno; I give good bonuses.

The last year has highlighted the strengths and weaknesses (great chasms) of our healthcare system. Strength- Our healthcare workers. We rock. Weakness- Our infrastructure, our costs, insurers, and the lack of support financially, emotionally, and every way you can possibly imagine for our healthcare workers, and the complete inadequacy of our mental health services and systems.

I receive upward of five calls a day for adolescent referrals. I’m closed to adolescent referrals.

Strength- Love the teens and they usually love me or hate me initially then grow to respect/fear/love me. Weakness- Fucking parents. I generally rub them the wrong way eventually. For my trans teens I tell their parents to stop being transphobic. God forbid. For my teens depressed because their parents scream at each other daily- I tell their parents to stop screaming at each other daily and to maybe recognize the impact they are having on their teen’s mental health. Strength- Honesty. Weakness- Honesty.

I had a parent tell me that if they started using their child’s preferred pronoun and gender “they win”. I’ve had parents tell me, “I know you think it’s all because of the stupid sexual abuse. You think I haven’t heard that! I’m not getting a divorce. They are going to have to learn to live together.” If you are thinking the worst case scenario you are correct. That is not the first nor the last parent treated who has forced their child to continue to endure close contact with a known perpetrator (yes investigations were done etc. etc. this was always reported to the appropriate authorities).

I recognized in 2020 that the parents were burning me out. Not the teens.

I saw too many teenagers over my career destroyed by their parents physically, emotionally, and in so many other ways. After I became a parent I became more horrified than I used to be at parental behavior.

I’m no angel as a parent. I yell sometimes. I talk loudly and firmly when we are in public if they are misbehaving. I have no shame in reprimanding them in front of other people because if they can act the fool publicly they can be corrected publicly. I also have spent more time with my kids in the last twelve months then I imagined I ever would. I have to be honest though I never got too sick of them. We keep busy and those little buggers know how to get to my heart with their hugs and snuggles and dimples. I unashamedly mushy gushy love my kids.

I would never knowingly harm my child though physically or emotionally or otherwise. I also would not invalidate them by not respecting their preferred gender/pronoun/name and I hope I would never invalidate them by not believing them or ignoring them if they disclose something to me. And if I knew some one was harming my child; well I would go for the throat.

Strength- Fierce love and loyalty for my family and few close friends Weakness- I would totally land in jail if some one messes with some one I love.

I found in 2020 so many things about myself. Strength I didn’t know I had. Weakness and empathy I didn’t know I could still access. I also recognized that treating teenagers, and in turn their parents, as a parent, was burning me out. Because I could not ever imagine treating my children the way I have seen so many children treated. Literally right in front of me. There are no filters in the psych world.

When people ask why there is such a shortage of pediatric providers it’s not because there is a dearth of actual providers who can treat children. There is a shortage of providers who have the stomach and heart to stick with it for years, through their own parenting journeys, because the transference and counter-transference is real and it’s not helpful or healthy.

One of my greatest strengths has always been recognizing my limitations. This was a hard one because I so enjoy working with teenagers. But I needed to distance myself from parents. Because they were breaking my faith in humanity.

Hearing accounts of sexual abuse and physical abuse from children and teens is heart wrenching. Hearing that they have told their parent and their parent confirms this, and that their parent doesn’t believe them makes me ill. I’ve had to tell grown adults that children generally don’t make up sexual assault and rape stories. The number of kids who have not been believed by their parents is staggering.

I’ve tried to figure it out. I’ve wondered if it’s generational. Most parents of teens are now born between the 70’s-80’s. I try and figure out what the hell happened to those people. Then I wonder if it’s a white suburbia thing. Most parents center themselves and is that a symptom of white entitlement? But I treat minorities also and this issue is not confined to white families. By September of last year I stopped trying to figure out why and stopped taking teenagers. The why doesn’t matter. The result of me being burned out mattered.

My days are less interesting with fewer teenagers in my schedule because they are fun. I can’t be as sarcastic with any other age range than the teens. I also love that little smirk they try and hide when they hear me call their parent out on bad behavior. It’s like they finally are being seen and heard and justice has come. It’s tough work getting to that moment with the parent and the kid. They both have to be comfortable enough with me that they won’t get mad when I call them out. They have to be open enough to change to really hear me. It’s a labor of love because the reimbursement will just never cover the emotional energy that goes into treating teens and their families.

But I’ve selectively only taken adult LGBTQ clients for intakes which makes me happy. Some day I’ll circle back to the teens but for now I need a break. I need to stop trying to figure out a generation of parents and focus on my own kids. Who I love. Who will never know how good they have it thank God. Because I would never want them to have it so bad.

If you are reading this as a parent I hope you do not identify with any invalidating behaviors I’ve mentioned. If you do I’d encourage you to explore that part of you. Is it shame that is coming up? Fear? Avoidance? Don’t turn away from that dark part of yourself. Be honest with yourself. Be honest with your teen.

If you are reading this as a teenager or former teenager and you identify with this; I’m deep from my gut sorry. But I promise you that your life can go on even with an experience of emotionally abusive or unavailable parents. Watch “Hanging Up” with Meg Ryan. It’s from the 90’s; obviously so out of date. But there’s this scene where she’s talking about her messed up alcoholic father and she says, “This! This is what I’ve got as my Father! This is it! This mess!” It’s a beautifully done scene and movie about acceptance of our parents faults and about not letting our parents faults define us or break us.

I feel like I’ve spent the better part of seven years helping teenagers see that they may have a mess as parents but they are still valuable and worthy and deserving of love. It is hard to let that go but I know it will only be for a while. In the mean time. Parents let’s get our shit together. Our kids deserve the best parents we can be. Play to your strengths. Acknowledge your weaknesses. And be nice to their therapists otherwise there won’t be any of us left.

#COVID-19 · Mental Health Stigma Suicide

Call Your People

I did a data collection at the hospital I used to work at when I was still there. I examined the medical records from nineteen suicides that occurred over the course of three years. They were all completed within three months of discharge from an inpatient unit. This was perhaps six years ago. So no pandemic. No cheeto as President yet. Life was supposedly good.

I found some patterns. 18 out of 19 completed suicides were white people. I remember asking a Black nurse manager if she was surprised by that. She laughed and said “Oh no, we take care of each other. We know the meaning and value of community. White people are more isolated. Make no mistake we have mental illness in the Black community and so much stigma. But we take care of each other.”

The rates of completed suicide from 2009-2018 nationally were double for white people than Black people- the following link shows a nice graph. https://sprc.org/scope/racial-ethnic-disparities

It is no surprise then that in the midst of a pandemic when white people, who suck at community on a good day, are killing themselves more frequently. And I’m sure we will see an increase in suicides in the Black community also during this time because there is less “together” and more isolation.

When I think about the last year I think immediately of the isolation. I am grateful to have my kids. But I know so many who don’t have kids or who can’t see their kids because of exposure risks both ways. I know people who received chemotherapy during COVID and couldn’t see any one. I know people who have given birth and they couldn’t see any one when they were pregnant, and couldn’t see any one after they gave birth.

My own life personally and professionally has been touched far too intimately with suicide in my extended family, among former co-workers, and in my work in mental health.

I don’t go into my therapist groups online anymore because at least weekly there is a post about a client who committed suicide. There used to be posts like that maybe twice a year.

The news and politicians keep talking about the economy- which sucks yes. People are jobless. Homeless. Without medical insurance. But the most pressing, distressing, and completely devastating issue that we are not talking about enough is the ever present unrelenting alone-ness. I have felt it too in shades. Sundays are my dreaded days without my kids because they are now with my ex.

Some Sunday’s I’m okay. But then it snowed. The snow is still here. Feet of it. I can’t go hiking anymore. I can’t go to a bar for a drink with a friend. Because we can’t just go to bars anymore. I can’t go to hot yoga. Because my one studio is closed and my other studio doesn’t make people wear masks.

There have been hours spent binging Hulu. There have been hours spent catching up on my accounting and billing for work. There have been minutes of true despair that come from a deep loneliness that can be intolerable.

Divorce on a good day sucks. Divorce and splitting custody mid-pandemic, mid-snowy Winter just blows.

I yelled at my therapist one day. He told me that it would be good for me to have time alone to do self care. I said through angry tears, “I’ve done that. I’ve been alone. I was twenty-one in a city after a break up getting through nursing school seven hours from my family and friends. I’ve been alone. It sucked. I know how to live alone and be by myself. I don’t want to do it again. I want my kids. I want to be able to see my friends without masks. I want to hug my friends. I have two friends over sixty I haven’t seen in a year! I want to see them! I want to tell every one who tells me it will be good for me to be alone to go fuck themselves.”

After I cried a bit he said, “I think you just told me to go fuck myself.”

I laughed and agreed. I said, “Well this is what you get when you agree to treat a nurse;)”

I have coping skills. I have a therapist. I have family I can see (many who I cannot). I have a couple friends I can see (many who I cannot). I am now fully vaccinated. I know rationally I am blessed. But I can see how any one with fragile mental health, with no treatment, no friends, or no family can dive down the rabbit hole of isolation and see no light through the darkness.

We never thought this would go on for a year. Life after will never be the same as life before. That is fully sinking in for those of us who have known births, deaths, divorces, marriages, loss, and life. Because even though it seems stagnant life has gone on through this year of stagnation.

I grieve all those we have lost to COVID-19. The ones with the virus. And the ones with the terrible diseases of Depression. Bipolar Disorder. PTSD. Grief. I grieve the lives lost due to the devastating isolation this illness created.

I hope the one thing on the other side of this that changes is our community; or lack thereof. I hope we never take for granted that we can have each other for support and love. If only the people dying by their own hand could feel connected to some one, anyone, it might save them.

To put it in perspective I know of four suicides completed in the last week. Four. Two were teenagers. In a week. I personally and professionally pre-Covid would hear of four maybe within eighteen months to two years. Four suicides in a week. This cannot continue. So many more lives will be lost.

If you haven’t talked to a friend in a while who you know is single or doesn’t have family or doesn’t have kids or is fresh post divorce or who you know just may not have any connections outside of you…please give them a call.

My cousin called me on Valentines Day. It meant the world to me. I think most people don’t know what to say to some one freshly separated on a holiday about love. Valentine’s Day was never a thing with my ex. It was more a thing with my Dad. He would always get me a card and a gift. Usually chocolates that I despised, which is hard to do, because I generally love chocolate. But it was the thought that counts.

No horrible heart shaped chocolate this year. No card that looked like it had been beaten up and thrown around his truck. I can’t think of a day recently where I’ve missed him so much.

Laughing and talking with my cousin on my ear buds while I braved the mall was just what I needed. She coached me through Sephora and we laughed through the Disney store.

Any connection is so needed right now. People are dying. People are depressed. People miss people. You are people. You have these people in your lives. Call them.

Some of my clients are stable in terms of medication. But they beg me to be seen sooner when I try and push them out three months. They are often the single people with few friends and few family and no one they can see in person. I’ve been seeing patients monthly and doing nothing with their medications. It feels better to them I think to know they have a commitment in a month. Some one cares to see them in a month. I have a number of these clients. I have some who insist on being seen every two or three weeks right now.

I never fight them on it. Because I see them. I feel it too sometimes; the loneliness. If they feel better knowing they have to see me in two weeks. Fine with me.

Every one who works in mental health is seeing this. This desperation to be seen. We are trying to meet the need but we need help. We need you. People. Call your people. Make a community again. Connect in this age of isolation. Please. Save. A. Life.

#COVID-19 · Nursing

Hope in 2021 & Yoga

I recall saying that 2021 could be worse. Several times. When I said that I have to be honest I was not picturing an insurrection against the capitol caused by #45. But I knew it could be worse.

I don’t have a lot of coherent thoughts about that week because when I think about it I feel this gut wrenching burning anger and fear and a lot of other feelings too. Probably shame too that this was my country. I think about my Dad, turning over in his grave; he would have been the first to volunteer for the National Guard to go protect the Capitol. He would have been furious. I can almost hear him ranting.

It’s hard to put into words what it was like watching the footage of that. So I won’t. Because nothing I say can do it justice.

Sunday my sons were with their other Mom and my sister-in-law was teaching a yoga class. Live. In person. I agreed to go and it wasn’t until I felt my eyes welling up in Lizard pose that I realized why. I hadn’t done a live class since March 2020. So much has changed. So many lives lost. So much upheavel and isolation.

I never appreciated yoga classes until I didn’t have them. I do them on Zoom but it’s different. Dissonance.

I practiced next to my sister. I didn’t know any one else there. It was a huge cold industrial building converted into a gym space. Big enough that we were more than ten feet from any one else. We all kept our masks on the whole time and the ceilings were ridiculously high. It felt as safe as it was going to be in these times.

I had the benefit of being a week out from my second COVID vaccine. So I was less worried than I would have been otherwise.

I was there in lizard pose, with my left foot up next to my left arm. My arms on the floor. Head bowed. I could hear people as we moved through poses. I didn’t have my kids climbing on me or my cats scratching at my mat.

The most visceral aspect that 2020 lacked is connection. We lost our connections with other people. With our humanity. It felt reparative; that moment in Lizard. I was cold. The floor was cold. It was twenty degrees outside. I’m used to hot yoga. This was the opposite.

I had on three layers at one point and my socks.

The acoustics were bad and I could barely hear my sister-in-law as she called the poses.

But that five second moment in Lizard I thought that this was one of the most blissful moments I’d had since March 2020. It was a moment of connection in a time of isolation. It was a moment of light in such dark times. And it gave me hope that we would survive this and things like yoga classes will happen again.

This week I registered with the hospital I work at per diem to administer COVID vaccines as part of their mass vaccination movement that starts this week. Not only do I get to stick people with needles, which after almost a year of telehealth, brings tears of happiness to my eyes, but I get to see other people. Talk to other people. I get to nurse people. In person.

Yes I’ll be masked, face shielded, and jabbing people with a vaccine that has more controversy than any vaccine I’ve encountered in my life. But as a nurse I can’t decline being part of this movement. That line from Hamilton rings, “History has it’s eyes on you,” and I feel super corny saying it but it feels like I’m part of history. Some day when I’m super old and a general annoyance to my children and grandchildren I’ll tell them about COVID and life during a pandemic and how I vaccinated people against it.

I’m sure they will be bored to tears and likely try and escape my presence as soon as possible…and maybe I’ll pretend I can’t hear or like every other old person I’ll pretend I don’t notice the social cues that they are bored and plod on in a boring account of administering injections.

It’s a weird time. A new administration. Fox News doesn’t talk about Trump much these days, or the Capitol insurrection. So that’s cool:/ Yes I check Fox News. I like to know what my fellow Americans are being told so I can counter it. I used to think life would go back to normal after COVID. Now I know there is no normal. There is a before, a now, and a then. The before is gone. The now is here and then is coming. None of it the same as before.

Even my beloved yoga has changed. I can get further into half split then ever before. I can do a one legged stand almost perfectly. I’ve spent the last year continuing to deepen my practice. So when I hit the mat in an actual in person live class it wasn’t the same me as before COVID. But it still felt damn good.

#COVID-19

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.

#COVID-19

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.

#COVID-19

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.

#COVID-19

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.