#COVID-19 · Nursing

Why America Cried At Steve Burns

I can’t be the only one who wiped at tears at the end of Steve from Blue’s Clues recent video that was posted to Twitter…? In every FB group I’m in from medical based, to illness based, to therapist based, to even a Harry Potter fans group….they erupted with Steve memes, with hearts linked to Steve’s video, and many many of my individual friends posted a tribute to Steve and his video.

Let’s break this down.

America literally lost its shit when a former childhood show star posted a vulnerable, truthful, completely unremarkable video.

It is quiet. He is soft spoken. There is no tension build-up. There is no comedy and no time when he is purposely trying to make us feel angry or sad or anything. So why? Why did an unremarkable video hit our hearts in a way that makes it completely remarkable?

I have some guesses and because I feel like I’m smart and Steve told me I look great I’m going to go a step further and say it’s an educated guess. Below is a rough quote of the video that I re-watched three times and typed while listening to it in order to get the words down.

“We were younger and we used to run around and find clues and do all the fun stuff…and we didn’t see each other for like a really long time. Can we just talk about that? (Pause) Great. I realize that was kind of abrupt. I just kind of got up and went to college. And that was really challenging by the way but great. Because I got to use my mind and take one step at a time. And now I’m doing many of the things I wanted to do. And then look at you, and look at all you have done, and all you have accomplished in all of that time. And it’s just so amazing. I mean we started out with clues and now it’s what? Now it’s what student loans and jobs and families. And some of it has been kind of hard. You know? I know you know. (Pause) And I wanted to tell you, I really could not have done all of that without your help…and in fact all the help that you helped me with when you were younger is still helping me today, and that’s super cool. I guess that I just wanted to say after all these years I never forgot you. Ever. And I’m super glad we are still friends. You look great by the way. Whatever it is your doing. It’s working.”

Reading the words does not have the same impact as watching the video. They fall somewhat flat with Steve’s vulnerable and honest voice and earnest eyes slicing through the horrible bouncy background music.

When I do therapy, as in when I am in the therapist chair, there are moments when I can see I hit the vulnerable spot in a client’s defensive armor. It’s in the moment when I say something that to me can feel like a shot in the dark but I know I hit it when their eyes well up as we maintain eye contact and they nod without speaking and I just named something that let them know, “I see you.”

Steve Burns literally just did that to every kid who grew up watching Blue’s Clues. Even if you hated the show. That two minute video he said, “I see you, and it’s hard, and you’re great.” In a way that we yearn for every day but often lack in receiving. Steve saw us. He let us know with sincerity that he sees us because he is us. He has student loans too. He went to college and gets to use his mind and do all the things every day he wanted to do. And he did it with us, for us, because of us. He says you helped me accomplish things and you still do and I’m grateful for you.

He called us friends still. And told us we look great.

Why did America lose it’s mind? Why did this bring tears to our eyes? Because we lack validation in our every day lives. Especially in the last year and a half. Our lives have been thrust into complete uncertainty. As a parent we don’t know if our children are safe anywhere. We don’t know if we are remote or in person for work, appointments, and school. We don’t know if we should go to the grocery store. We can’t see our families and our friends. We are isolated. Nothing feels right. Everything feels scary.

Steve came in and in two minutes let us know that he gets it. He gets that things are scary. But look at all we’ve done already. Look what we are capable of! Look! Because I am looking and I SEE YOU! Why is Steve Burns the first and only person who has been able to penetrate the “scary” of the last 18 months and provide validation, acceptance, and reassurance in ways that brought us all to tears?

Because he gave us what we yearn for. He gave us non-judgmental acceptance of our choices.

He gave us positive feedback.

He bolstered us to be able to keep moving forward with the same greatness with which we had arrived in the moment to watch his video. Why do we not get this validation from our jobs? Partners? Families? Friends? Some of us, probably do. Some of us have supportive and positive people surrounding us. But so many of us, clearly, are lacking in this area because it was painfully obvious we had not received any of this for a long time by our extra reactions to his video.

His voice was calming, unifying, and his message was of appreciation and hope. Hope. We all are craving the elusive ray of hope that crept out of his video. Are there other people who didn’t forget me? Do I really look great? Other people struggle with student loans too? He spoke directly to the viewer. It felt like sitting down with an old friend. He paused at the right time and the inflection in his voice was always to add calm not uncertainty. It was the least anxious two minute video I’ve ever seen. And if there is anything over the last 18 months it has been a steady influx of anxiety.

This is important because it shows what America lacks. Empathy, validation, and understanding from authority figures- employers, family, friends, etc. It’s important because it shouldn’t take one video to unravel us and that it did shows that we all need to be in therapy if we are not already because we are all raw, so raw. You cried because your emotions are bubbling so close to the surface it took one person to say- I see you. Your feelings are valid. I’ve felt them too. I see you.- to have you in tears. He did that therapy move that I do. He took a shot in the dark to say what we all needed to hear and he landed acutely on our weak spot in our defenses.

Why did we cry? Because we felt seen. Because we felt connected in a time of isolation. Because an old friend greeted us warmly without judgement and told us we are good enough as we are and that he is proud of us. It seems so simple yet we cannot find this validation, connections, and positive reinforcement in our every day life. We cried because we needed to cry; we needed a release valve.

I am grateful to Steve for his video. I am grateful it brought catharsis and relief to so many people. I am saddened that so much of America feels unseen. I can tell you as a healthcare provider and as a mental health provider for many other healthcare providers the most important unvalidated person walking America is the healthcare worker. We are tired. We are dying- from suicide, substance use, and damnit from COVID. We are sick of the horrific deaths. We are sick of the ignorance. We are burned out in a way that no one else outside of healthcare can even begin to comprehend. It’s making us resent the patients. It’s making ICU nurses refuse to turn their unconscious unvaccinated COVID vented patients, leading to more pressure ulcers, more black eyes from being prone and not having their cheeks turned. It’s making the fifteen respiratory therapists who can do ECMO in one hospital system think about quitting. All 15. If all 15 quit ECMO can’t function. I don’t think Americans grasp the devastating consequences COVID-19’s ongoing toll it taking on our healthcare workers. We are going to lose them all. There will be none left to care for us if we don’t get our shit together.

Get your shit together America. That moment that made you feel tears when Steve Burns breached your defenses…make healthcare workers feel that moment. Make them know that you see them. That you hear them. Get the freaking vaccine. Wear freaking masks. Stop saying science isn’t real. Because science doesn’t give a shit when you are drowning in the fluid in your unvaccinated lungs. Your going to die regardless.

This is a plea. One human to another. Think. Feel. Change. Because if you don’t we are looking at devastating consequences for our healthcare workers.

To my nurses I see you. I am you. I feel you. I understand if you leave. I truly do. I thank you from the bottom of my heart for the blood, sweat, tears you’ve already given. I can’t ask you to give more than you’ve given. We all hit our walls at different moments. If you’ve hit yours. Step away. Know it doesn’t make you less. I know you are not abandoning us. I know you have to take care of you in this moment and I will never fault you for that and if any one does- tune them out. They don’t know what we’ve seen and been through.

If you are still fighting the fight- rock on, stay strong, and take care of yourself in a way that no one else will. “You look great by the way. Whatever you’re doing. Keep doing it.”

#COVID-19 · Nursing

Therapist Friends

My sons started kindergarten. I have minimal pictures because I’m generally bad at taking pictures. I like to think it’s because I’m being present in the moment and just soaking up the emotion of it all. But it’s also because I forget. The first day the school and aftercare program lost them. They were never lost. They just didn’t get off the bus at the aftercare stop. So I thought they were lost. I had epic Mama bear panic ten minutes of tearing out of my office while picturing just pulling over every bus I pass and going up them aisle by aisle until I found them. But then the school secretary verified with Dattco the boys were still on the bus with a sleeping child who also missed their stop.

Nothing like a good adrenaline rush after a morning of blubbering for my week to start on the right foot.

The highlights I get from the boys are the bus rides, hot lunch, and yeah. That’s all they really talk about. I’m assuming there is some learning that occurs but who knows.

The great thing about being friends with therapists are moments. My friend and I were hiking in the woods. We had already dissected the boys being lost on the bus where I received validation that I was within my rights to have epic crazy town ten minutes.

There was a road within a half mile of where we were hiking. We just couldn’t seem to get there from the paths we kept choosing. There was a lovely orange circle that looked really easy and was 2.1 miles. Perfect. Then we were on blue. Then we were on blue/yellow. Then we were on orange/yellow. Then I don’t know how but we ended up in an unmarked section where another person emerged looking confused.

We kept walking. I was sweaty, hot, and cranky by this time. Meanwhile my friend who is a therapist says, “Maybe we are just supposed to be lost in the woods right now. Maybe this is exactly what we both need right now.” She literally says this smiling and if she could have been skipping I feel like she would have been. There I am the nurse. The nurse is like oh hell the fuck no fucking way are we supposed to be fucking lost and sweaty…and I’m not skipping. I keep that all inside though as I mentally handslap my forehead and look at her smiling positive attitude and try to channel the therapist side of me.

I gotta be honest. I couldn’t find it. But I did smile because how therapist-y was that moment? And literally. I just pictured her skipping.

(She sometimes reads my blog…I say this with love my friend)

I’m not sure the plus side of friends with nurses. We swear a lot. We are blunt. And you send us pictures of random skin conditions and expect diagnosis and treatment. Literally happened the same day from another friend and is not uncommon; not even a trigger warning usually just a random picture of a body part with a rash. (She never reads my blog but on the off chance: with love also my friend)

My therapist friends and I are careful to never do therapy on one another. And if some one starts to sound to therapist-y we will say, “Stop therapizing” at which point there will be denial they are therapizing but also a general backing off and trying to approach differently. The pro’s of therapist friends are we can get into deep analytical discussions that other people would find boring. They also say things when we are lost in the woods that are annoyingly positive but also hilarious because it’s beyond comprehension to me how some one can be that positively existential while hot sweaty and lost.

When I went into psychiatric nursing I never thought of a by product being a cache of therapist friends that would develop over time. But here we are. It’s been interesting evolving from emergency department co-workers to psychiatry. They are all a little messed up but in very diverse and special ways. I vibe with both sets. Definitely my people.

What’s nice is that I can be therapist-y and a nurse. Typical intake with a nurse goes something like this, “So you were a nurse?” “Yeah, but I’m still a nurse, I’m just an NP now.” “Yes but in psych.” “Yeah….okay. I worked in the pedi-ED”. “Aw shit. Okay so you’ve been in it.” “Yeah, you?” “ICU. (or ED. or MICU. etc.)” “Nice, you see other psych providers?” “yeah they don’t know shit.” “Yeah, it’s hard to describe what it’s like seeing some one’s insides or holding their brains in your hands.” “Yeah. I like you. I’m so glad I found you.”

Ver batim I’ve had that conversation more times than I can count. Nurse’s have seen some shit. It’s different sitting with a nurse as a provider than sitting with a therapist who has never worked as a nurse. I usually have to reference seeing guts and brains (which is not a lie or exaggeration) in order for them to relax and open up about what’s going on. Their reason for seeing me does not even have to be about nursing but them just knowing I get what they see relaxes them.

I’ve never regretted going into psychiatry. I’ve never regretted declining intakes to save spots for nurses and the LGBTQ community. I’ve never regretted forging the friendships I have with therapists, in fact they have seen me through some of the hardest couple years of my life starting back in 2019 with the death of my Dad.

I am a firm believer in fate and people showing up in your life when you need them. I worked in the ED when I needed ED friends. I still have them as friends, but not seeing each other every day like we did means we naturally grew apart. What’s nice about the ED though is I know I could reach out to any of them at any time for anything and they’d have my back. Just as so many have reached out to me for family members and friends since I went into psychiatry for help connecting to services.

I honestly feel blessed for the people who have been in my life since going into psychiatry. I’ve met such good people who work hard, are smart, compassionate, and are just good role models for me professionally and personally. And I’m still surrounded by nurses too; they are just psych nurses so haven’t necessarily held guts and brains- still cool but different than ED nurses.

I’ll take the annoying positivity while lost in the woods because that’s what I need. I need people who see the best in others, therapists seem far less cynical than nurses, because it’s something I need to practice. Since March 2020 mental health providers have been stretched beyond what you can even imagine.

I see it, I hear it, and I feel it.

We hold pain, secrets, love, and loss. I started my day today with a person calling and bursting into tears when I said we could not take her daughter as we are closed to adolescent referrals. Then I heard her story of calling fifteen offices and I was the first person who even answered the phone. Not even my client. That’s how the days go now though. Long, hard, and with a lot of tears.

I have such immense respect for mental health professionals, my friends included, because this work is hard and my friends in particular can still hold onto such positive outlooks in the face of such darkness. They also are woke and call themselves out on privilege. They make me a better person. I know my psych APRN friends right now are going, hmmm, am I a therapist friend or a nurse friend? More on the therapist friend side but with the cynicism of a nurse. Good people.

Take this for what you will. An ode to my friends- therapists and nurses- who helped me survive the last couple years. I can’t remember a time in my life I needed friends more and of course it was the hardest time to see anyone. I am grateful for the people who keep showing up for me and who I am happy to show up for.

This is also a call to examine the people you surround yourself with and what they contribute to your life. As I get older, as my kids get older, they see my friends. They know them. I surround myself with people I want my children to know. There should be equal parts giving and taking with one person perhaps taking more at different points in life and vice versa.

This is also a thank-you to all the mental health professionals still standing in the wake of COVID-19. I see you, and I thank you from the bottom of my heart for all you are and do.

And if you’re friends with a nurse…two words: Trigger. Warning.

#COVID-19 · Uncategorized

How I Sew My 5 yr Old Sons Favorite Masks

I taught myself to sew when I was in high school and college. During a lonely Summer when I was doing an internship in nursing I spent my days with my cats sewing curtains for my apartment. I’ve sewn scrub tops when I worked in the emergency department and fleece tops and bottoms. Never did I think I would be sewing masks.

Obviously March 2020 threw me for a loop. I hauled out my sewing machine and every scrap of fabric I’d saved over the last ten years suddenly made sense. Perfect sizes for masks. I also started saving Joann Fabric coupons and buying kid friendly fabric with Frozen themes, Spiderman, Paw Patrol, etc. I ordered a lot of elastic. Some from sketchy places. I have to say though the sketchiest order I placed is the one that pulled through and delivered a large spool of elastic six weeks later.

I watched a lot of YouTube videos and read a lot of articles. I tried multiple patterns and had multiple failures. When I perfected the cotton with elastic mask I watched videos on how the filtration effectiveness of rayon blends aka chiffon are significantly higher than cotton and the closest to an N95 that fabric can make.

I bought more fabric. I had one lovely cashier who gave me 60% off my entire purchase. So much fabric.

I struggled with the chiffon. I had many failures. I actually stopped trying with two particular fabric patterns because I think they are bad luck. I literally could never make a functional mask from them. Eventually I got it though. I watched a youtube video on making a single layer chiffon mask and looked all over the craft passion website at the many mask patterns. I found that my way works best for my now 5 year olds, then 4 year olds which is a combination of many instructional videos and patterns.

The pattern is the Olsen pattern found on craft passion website.

Outside of Mask after long edges are sewn

The wire is roughly 10 or 12 gauge framing wire. About 4-6″ pieces. I cut scraps of fabric into 4-6″ rectangular strips. Then I iron them in a trifold pattern. Then I sew the piece of wire into the trifold cotton strip. If you angle the pouch correctly you can do the whole thing in one go, you kind of curve around the wire. Make sure both ends are solidly sealed because you don’t want the wire poking out. (pictures are below)

I like to sew several wire pouches at once so I have a nice stash of them. It is more efficient in the long run.

I do a double sided mask. One layer is a chiffon (rayon blend) and one layer is a character cotton fabric such as Spiderman or Frozen. For Halloween I used a pumpkin/witch fabric on top with a brown chiffon/jersey type fabric on the back.

I cut a bunch at once. I fold the fabric twice so I can cut four pieces at once- right side together. (picture below)

Then I sew along the curve of the mask pieces- 2 right sides together (pic below).

Then I take two of the sewn pieces and put right sides together, make sure center seams are aligned, and I sew the top and bottoms together. When I sew the top pieces I hold a wire pouch on and sew it onto the two pieces.

Then I turn it right side out, and fold over the edges to cover the raw edge, and form a channel that the straps will go through. Make the channel wide enough to get a safety pin through. I sew it so the “inside” of the mask is the jersey fabric, as that will be softest against the face.

The nice part about these is they are very forgiving. You don’t have to sew a perfect seam in a perfectly straight line. The more you do the faster you will be able to go, and the straighter the lines become.

So I take a safety pin, pin it through some of the chiffon/jersey fabric that I cut in thin strips along the edge of the fabric and run it through the now sewn channel. Up from the bottom for both ends. Then you should have a neck strap, and two ends at the top that can be tied around the head or I use the black buttons so kids don’t have to tie a bow they can just tighten or loosen as needed.

I’ll add a video to this. If you have questions just ask.

Below you can see finished products- I make them for me and my family and I wear mine as a double mask/top layer when I work at the hospital. Declan is running in the arcade with it hanging around his neck- that’s one of the nice parts is it doesn’t fall off. Declan as Batman has his on inside out so you can see the under seam where I lace in the fabric for around the head. My sister prefers the ear piece be around the ear with an adjuster there, so I do that kind for her and my niece and sister-in-law. My son’s and I like it around our head so it doesn’t bother our ears. You can see in yoga class I have mine tied on the back of my head, as I said the boys I use a button.

#COVID-19 · Divorce and Separation

When Life Feels Good (During COVID and Divorce)

There are certain moments in life that feel right. The last few years those moments felt few and far between. Some one asked me recently if I missed my ex. Some one else asked me specifically what ended our relationship. Those are some loaded questions. People who know me know I am uncomfortably direct and honest with myself and others. I did some introspection and answered honestly.

I miss feeling not alone. I miss having some one who gives a shit as to why I’m running late at work or having some one who even knows when I work. I miss getting a checking in text from some one who cares how my day is going. The little things that people in pairs take for granted. That’s what I miss.

Do I miss our marriage and relationship? No. I don’t. Because toward the end we were both miserable. I would never go back to that. I do miss having some one. Between being a mom to twins and running a mental health practice I deal with a lot on a day to day basis. I essentially hold it all. I feel like I hold up everyone else and I have to just keep on holding myself up too. Because there’s no time or space to fall. I miss having some one who could catch me if I felt like I was falling. But somewhere in our relationship we lost that. So no. I do not miss the last year of our marriage.

What ended it? I answered “What ends a 13 year relationship? It wasn’t just one thing. It can’t be pared down to a pretty one liner. And honestly now it doesn’t matter. Because the end result is that it is over.”

A few weeks ago I walked into our new office space and two of my employees were there seeing clients, there was a client in the waiting room and I could hear our office manager on the phone with a client in the back office. We had our yoga music playing on the tv in the waiting area and all my gay books were on the coffee table staring happily at me. I stopped and took a breath and smiled. I thought here are all of these people employed because I built a business. Clients getting mental health treatment because I had a dream. Some times running a mental health practice is the least crazy part of my life. Ironic I know.

It felt right in that moment. Through my dad’s death, through COVID, through a divorce I’ve poured blood, sweat, and tears into that business. I’ve had weeks I couldn’t get paid. I’ve interviewed many, many, clinicians. I’m selective in who I’ve hired and I’ve been burned in many ways. I kept going.

To date we’ve provided services to over seven hundred clients and rough estimate is that half are Queer identifying. I walked down the hallway at our new suite of offices with the noise machines whirring, the music playing, and distant muffled voices of providers and patients. Then the not so distant voice of my admin as I went to shut her door as she now yelled at an insurance company. I felt pride. I did that. I made this happen. I fought through grief, hate, discrimination, a global pandemic that shut down in person visits for a year, and so much more to keep it going.

I take being an employer seriously. I never want my employees feeling like the way I’ve felt working at other agencies and hospital systems. It’s easy to devalue employees. I find it’s harder and more rewarding to support them. I still have hard conversations at times. We don’t always agree. But this weekend, I had them all with families in tow at my house by the pool. It was another one of those moments.

Smiling, laughing, swimming, and genuine enjoyment of each other and our families. It’s a beautiful thing to build a business that serves clients. It’s even more special to build a business that has employees who feel valued and happy to spend a Saturday hanging out with each other and our crazy kids and partners.

It was another moment that felt right. We all know we do hard work. When we walk out our office door it makes a difference to be surrounded by people who you want to work with. Who bring you up instead of pull you down. We have all been in bad work environments. Building a good one was just as much my mission as building a great practice. We are not all cookie cutter. Every one is a little weird and has stories and after seeing us all in swimsuits we mostly all have tattoos. But I like weird and backstories and tattoos. I am all of those things. So it works.

After a lot of bad moments since 2019, it feels good to know that through the bad I can still build good.

Of course I ended the day explaining to my sons at bedtime not to be scared of getting a new parent because all the sudden they realized that I could apparently get married again, give them a new parent, and in Declan’s words, “And it better not be a man Mama!” Wow. Judged by my 5 year old. I said, “No one’s lining up baby so don’t worry.” Then he got into bed muttering, “Well no one better line up, and not a man, Jackson imagine if Mama marries a man?” Those are stick my palms in my eyes moments and try and kiss them goodnight and run out of there.

To all my people who keep showing up for me and for my sons, with wine, sushi, zucchinis, folding laundry, helping me move my office, and continuing to invite me places even though I’m the third wheel now…Thank-you. I would not have survived the last year without you. Life isn’t perfect. Life is change.

#COVID-19 · Divorce and Separation · homophobia

“Yeah It’s Been a Little Rough”. 2021.

I feel like 2021 is just a wicked continuation of 2020. It’s been an emotional roller coaster for me. Watching the Derek Chauvin trial has been horrific. Death doesn’t frighten me. I’m intimately acquainted with death of all kind. Traumatic, planned, old, young…personally and professionally I’ve known death of all kinds. George Floyd’s death gets to me. It was so preventable. It was traumatic.

You ever watch Bad Boys II Marcus- “This has got to be the worst most emotional cop week of my life.” Mike- “Yeah it’s been a lil’ rough”. If you are familiar with Marcus and Mike you know that is the expected reaction of each to a horrible week of people being murdered and trying to crack the biggest case of their career.

I feel that. I feel Marcus’ drama and Mike’s calm acceptance. I feel like a constant mix of those two. I watched a documentary about systemic racism told by a white man who was descended from slave owners. He said, “Doing nothing was not option,” very softly and humbly but looking directly into the camera as he explained why he was making this documentary. It’s his reckoning with his families relationship with slavery and human trafficking. Parallel to his story is the narrative of a Black man who imparts such wisdom about white supremacy and the system that exists. I couldn’t look away when he spoke and I replayed his scenes several times to really hear him.

One of his quotes that hit me is below:

“Something has to happen in your mind for you to look at a person or child and say well that’s gonna be sold to Mr so and so and you never look at them as human and that’s what this country is built on. The Indians were treated that way…we want it and we have a right to take it. So you gotta do something in your mind to treat people; humans that way. You make them heathens, so you can treat them any way you want.”

I never learned about the Tulsa massacre in 1921 and it angers me. I hold a deep anger at the white education I received and I fear the white education my sons will receive and know I will have to provide them extra curriculum. Why didn’t I learn about Thomas Jefferson’s relationship with a young female slave? She was a child. She had his children. Because it doesn’t suit white people to educate white people in a way that paints Black people as victims and survivors. They don’t get to be the heroes of their own stories.

Why did I not learn about the violence that white people have perpetrated against Black people since the days we first landed in America? Has it escaped no one that if perhaps any of these white police officers had any education about systemic racism that maybe they would not have killed innocent Black people? Why did it take until 2021 to hold a white police officer accountable for the death of a Black man?

I treat police officers. I treat young Black men. I treat young Black boys. It’s been a little rough.

Add in some of the toughest most anti-trans legislation in at least 33 states. I treat transgender clients. I am Queer. I can’t possibly describe the disgust, fear, pain, visceral pain that I feel when I see these bills becoming laws. The law in Arkansas targets children. Children with higher risks of suicide. Children across the country are seeing these laws pass. Children with transphobic parents are being pushed further into the closet. Or closer to running away and being homeless.

The mass shootings. Suddenly are rampant. In the town where my practice is located there was an active and armed shooter.

The environmental and cultural stress happening right now is indescribable.

Add in divorce, online dating, mom of twins, and owner of mental health practice during a global pandemic…yeah. 2021. I feel like I’ve been punk’d.

There are moments that make me remember I am just a Mom and life feels chaotic in a normal type of way. Like when I was talking to one of my employees about a rather serious case, and one of my sons started screaming as if he were dying, and came running in, still screaming to the degree that I thought there would be a bone sticking out somewhere…but he showed me his shoulder. Which now sported a bite mark. I had to hang up on my employee because 1. he was screaming 2. I had to deal with one of my sons biting my other son because as I would find out the biter didn’t want the bite-y to take the pair of Spiderman in the Memory game they were playing together.

Another day I was on the phone with a therapist collaborating on a different tough case and I ran around the house trying to get the boys ready to leave for school, and I’d intermittently hit the mute button so I could yell, “GET YOUR SOCKS ON” Son- “WHY ARE YOU YELLING???” Me-“BECAUSE I ASKED YOU NICELY FIVE TIMES AND NOW I’M ANNOYED!!!!” un-mute, “uh huh, yes I totally agree” in my most professional voice.

I literally should be a reality show.

I was crying watching the phone call with Biden with George Floyd’s family. Because he sounded sincere and because it took their son being publicly murdered for the President to speak with them. It just all sucks.

I hug my sons. I try and teach them right from wrong. I try and teach them not to be colorblind but to see color because diversity is a strength. I mean right now we are working on not biting and handling losing at Memory…so baby steps.

Don’t look away. Don’t bury your head. It’s so hard. So painful. But we can’t pretend it’s not happening. Racism. Transphobia. It’s all happening. Don’t look away. And 2021…just keep bringing it. I’m still here.

#COVID-19 · homophobia · Mental Health Stigma Suicide · Nursing

Ten Things I’ve Learned as a Mental Health Provider During COVID-19

  1. People can only handle stress for just so long. When I explain chronic anxiety and depression to patients I often use the analogy of a teapot. When you are walking around filled up with stress/anxiety/trauma/depression for years eventually you do not have room for normal every day stressors. This leads to epic breakdowns over seemingly innocuous things. Did you ever cry when you couldn’t open a jar of sauce? Or start screaming when you can’t find your keys? We all have a boiling over point. February 2021, about eleven months in, seemed to be most peoples boiling point. In the Northeast we had a lot of snowstorms which I think compounded things for many of us. My practice received upwards of ten-fifteen calls a day just from new referrals, not counting our five hundred plus current patients who also all started to melt. These calls were desperate. Crying into voicemails. There were suicides in our communities. There were drug overdoses and relapses. February 2021 honestly was one of my hardest months as a mental health provider.
  2. Women bear the brunt of childcare and homeschooling responsibilities. This is a gross generalization. Please note I know that there are many wonderful Fathers and husbands who have supported their families during the pandemic in every way imaginable. But in my own practice I have seen my female clients taking responsibility for the organizing of homeschooling. They have described screaming matches with their partners about who has to sacrifice work time. I’ve had women clients leave their full time jobs, drop to part-time, and/or change positions in order to accommodate their children suddenly being home full or part time. I have seen women making sacrifices and publicly smiling but privately falling apart with grief, anger, and sadness.
  3. Minorities are under more minority stress. From the LGBTQ community to POC to children to the elderly. All vulnerable populations have been made more vulnerable. The death rates of COVID-19 are disproportionately higher in the African American communities. https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/community/health-equity/racial-ethnic-disparities/disparities-deaths.html Does a nice job of objectively presenting this evidence. The LGBTQ individuals who have lost jobs and been forced to move back in with homophobic and transphobic families are real. LGBTQ children, teenagers, and college aged individuals who have to live with homophobic and transphobic families is real. Suicide risk is high in this population already. The social isolation and inability to be “out” due to COVID-19 has added to these already significant issues for minorities. I literally have had telehealth sessions with a client crouched in a dark closet (and the irony of them being in a closet is not lost on us) in order to obtain privacy in order to cry in despair at not being able to be “out” and to have to experience homophobia and/or transphobia in every day life with their family. These sessions are gut-wrenching.
  4. Postpartum Moms and Dads have stress you can’t understand. I’ve often said the most unsolicited advice I ever received was during my pregnancy and in the first year of my twin boy’s lives. People who have been parents or not have opinions and stories and think everyone should hear them. Being postpartum regularly is hard. Being post partum during a pandemic when so little is known about the impact on newborn health is terrifying. Newborns can’t wear masks. Babies in daycares crawl and touch each other’s boogers. Parents have delayed putting their children in daycare because there is no true protection against exposure for infants. They are told that they are right, wrong, stupid, smart, and everything in between by people around them. I have never treated as many postpartum women as I have in the last year. SO much of it is providing reassurance that they are doing everything right. That there is no one right decision. That they know their baby and their lives best and they have to make the best decision for themselves. I offer validation and objectivity and I have seen them cry when I’ve told them they are doing everything right. Because no one has validated them since they gave birth. Unless you sit with people who have newborns day in and day out and see the agonizing choices they have to make; you don’t understand. And you shouldn’t be offering anything except validation and support.
  5. People NEED people. I’ve also said before I’m not a hugger. But the first time my friend and I hung out after we were both vaccinated and she asked if she could give me a hug and I enthusiastically consented. We weren’t big huggers before COVID-19 but after a year of isolation we unashamedly and laughingly embraced. One of the most poignant sessions in the last year, that has consistently stuck with me, was a young adult who lived alone and who did a Zoom with her family for Thanksgiving. Through tears she said, “I had to do a Zoom with my family. I just. want. to. hug. them.” Her breath hitched with each word and the tears turned to sobs and we sat for several minutes with her sobbing and me watching; neither of us speaking. I held back tears of my own as I wanted to reach through the screen and pat her shoulder and tell her it would all be okay. I heard so many of these stories but her vulnerable and raw pain in that moment touched my core. I had clients tell me their parents cried during their Zoom Christmas’ and they couldn’t stand to see their Mom cry. I sat with them through that pain. I offered nothing but space and understanding to feel pain. I have never known with such certainty after the holiday season of 2020 that we need physical touch to survive. We need our families. We need connection. Of all the long term sequelae that COVID caused, the isolation and desolation of being alone is by far the worst.
  6. Never underestimate the power of pets. I don’t have to explain much about this. If you have animals then you know what I am referencing. The isolation of this past year has made people get new pets and appreciate the ones they have. Pets are some of my clients purpose in getting out of bed every morning. They have truly saved lives this past year just by existing and offering unconditional love. To all our four legged friends, you have my true admiration and thanks.
  7. People who treated their mental illness before COVID faired better. One of my clients who was extremely ill a few years ago, but has since stabilized, greeted me smiling at our six month check in. She was doing great, and felt validated in her own experience of mental illness. “People know now how it feels to live with anxiety. I can now explain to people mental illness and they get it. Because their anxieties about COVID are exactly how I felt about everything all the time.” She wasn’t my only client who had severe mental illness in the past and stabilized with medication and therapy who have done excellent during the pandemic. They had coping skills, we knew what medications work for them, and they were connected to providers. My takeaway from them is to deal with your mental illness before you boil over.
  8. After people boil over Desperation sets in. I think it’s hard for some one to truly understand desperation until they have experienced it. Desperation is finding cuts on your childs arms or legs and bringing them to a hospital and being told they are not sick enough to be admitted and to connect to outpatient care, then calling forty providers and being told no one is accepting patients. Desperation is watching your loved one suffer and struggle and slip away and not be able to find them help. The mental health system’s flaws are fully exposed now. There are not enough providers. The providers that are in practice are un-paneling from insurance because insurers have made the last year so much worse than it needed to be for small practice owners. I have been screamed at on the phone more times than ever in my career when I call to tell people I am full or not accepting their insurance or not taking pediatric referrals. I have been threatened. I have been told through tears that they are desperate. I have been begged and pleaded with. I have been offered twice my normal rate just to fit some one in. I had to not return every phone call because I became fearful of what would be said to me when I told them I was not accepting patients. I had to hold my own boundaries and not take new patients in reaction to other people’s desperation. Because I was becoming burned out. I grew as a clinician and a business owner in the last year in more ways than I ever imagined. I also heard and saw desperation in ways I never imagined I would.
  9. I will always accept Medicaid. So many of my clients have been on and off Medicaid and commercial plans this year. Medicaid’s rates of reimbursement in my state are disgustingly low. But I will always have it as a plan I accept because my patients who lost commercial plans this year with job loss needed to have continuity with their mental health provider. I do not want my practice to be fully medicaid as that’s not sustainable revenue wise for a small practice. However, it will always make up a stream of our revenue because it has to be an option when clients lose jobs.
  10. Everyone has it bad. In the past year I’ve heard why the people in their 50’s and 60’s have it the worst. I have also heard why kids in high school, college, in their twenties, single people, married people, parents and non-parents all have it the worst. Every one thinks their lot is the worst. Young people are missing out on proms, college admission is being delayed in some cases, parents are overly burdened with childcare duties, single people are the most isolated, etc. I’m just throwing this out here; it’s been a shit year for everyone. There have been highs and lows for all ages all social statuses and in every way imaginable everyone has undergone stress, loss, and an understanding that things will never be like before. There is a before and there is a now and there will be an after but life will never be the same.

Through this past year of COVID-19 I have lived history. I am a front lines provider during a global pandemic. I have been through more personally and professionally than I could have imagined. My biggest and best takeaway from this past year though is to be grateful. I am grateful for my children. I am grateful for our health. I am grateful that I have been able to see my mom and sister, sister-in-law and niece, throughout the last year. I have known loss. I have grieved. I have cried. I have hoped.

About a month ago, I went to the office. I saw a long term therapy client for the first time in person for several months. He sat down, and I sat down. We both removed our masks. And we smiled. We were both vaccinated. The window was open. We sat eight feet apart. And then we had a therapy session in person without masks. It was possibly the most beautiful moment of the last twelve months.

#COVID-19 · mom of boys

Single Mom-ing it…COVID style

I’ve been slowly moving into single mom life as a business owner and mental health nurse practitioner. I gotta be honest it’s a bit of a roller coaster. I treat single mom’s. I am friends with single mom’s. I thought I had some understanding of life as a single mom. I sorta did. But there’s nothing that can prepare you for the utter exhaustion. The compromise of never having laundry folded unless my mom comes and folds it because I would never have any time snuggling the boys on the couch if I did all the things that needed to be done every day all the time. (And my mom can fold laundry way better than I can. It’s not one of my strengths.)

Single mom life is depending on grocery delivery services and being brought to tears when they don’t have something I ordered that I need for a recipe knowing there will be no time or space for me to hit a grocery store between now and said event requiring the baked item. There’s no running out to the store at 8 PM after bed time. Missing one item from a grocery order seems so stupid. I should get over it. But it’s always the little things that push me right over the edge I feel teetering on some days.

Single mom-ing it is making medical appointments and oil change appointments for myself. Then rescheduling them three times because daycare closed, one of them is sick, etc. I forgot a work conference recently. It was a day the daycare was closed. It was a rather horrendous day with them. I was never this person who reschedules appointments three times, misses a work call, and doesn’t have all the ingredients I need which leads me to buying a baked good item instead of making it.

I recognize how silly those things sound. What I haven’t mentioned yet are the nights of bad dreams, the nights of asking why their parents are separated, and the 24-48 hours a week without them when they are with my ex. It’s like a roller coaster of emotion every week. I love them. I don’t want to be angry or irritable because I’m overwhelmed. I get so tired if they have bad dreams or bad nights and crawl into my bed and then stick both their feet in my back. Then add on COVID and the random daycare closures, COVID tests, and general isolation etc. Super fun.

One of my good friends has also been through a divorce and single parenting adventure within the last year or two and it is validating when I text a minimal sentence about life sucking and she responds yup. Because I know she gets it. Because I know she knows that I know life doesn’t suck. It’s just hard. And it’s hard to act strong all the time. Because I can’t not be strong for my kids, and my employees, and my clients. I have a wall of strength up 100% of the time including at 2 AM wake-ups and it’s freaking exhausting.

I think the most frustrating part is that society puts these expectations on single mom’s to be Superwoman. It’s the expectation and if you don’t live up to it then you are lazy, dumb, sad, etc. If I don’t show up with a smile saying everything’s fine then people wouldn’t know what to do or say and they’d be uncomfortable. Because we as a society are uncomfortable with other people’s pain.

We have isolated ourselves to the point where we lack community unless we forge it ourselves.

I am grateful for my own community of friends I have forged over the years. I feel lonely, but I know I can pick up the phone and call any one of my friends or family and I could have somewhere to go, some one to talk to, and if I wanted it, some one to grab a drink with. I have friends I share my location with if I meet some one from the horrible land of online dating. That’s a whole other blog post. Or several. I think so far though the best line at a first meet was, “We should be in a motel room fucking right now.” Because honestly. What woman doesn’t want to hear that on a first date? From some one with more degrees than I have. Awesome. I told him he was on the wrong app; He should have used Tindr or paid for a hooker. (There was not a second date and no I did not join him in a motel room and this is not a judgement against people who go to a motel room on the first date. You do you boo).

But I digress. My point to that was I have friends I trust and who are totally there for me. I know there are so many single parents who don’t have that. Who are completely isolated. I feel for them. Hard. My sister-in-law said today she never understood the intensity and importance of parents around nap time until she became a parent. Same for single parenting. I never understood the nuances and the highs and the lows and the dichotomy of feeling like you never get alone-time while feeling incredibly lonely at times.

Don’t go around pitying every single parent you know now. Just connect with them. Be a person to them. Because that’s the one thing I’ve learned. I need people. Friends. Family. Even horrible first dates. Connection is mandatory to survive this life of feeling alone.

Those 24-48 hours a week without my kids are painful. My friend with split custody told me to distract myself. It will still hurt. But it will help. She wasn’t wrong. Distraction is key. Invites to stuff with kids even when I don’t have my kids also help. I still see my sister/sister-in-law/niece on days I don’t have the boys. Don’t stop inviting single parents when they don’t have their kids. On the flip side keep inviting them to couples stuff. I don’t mind being a single person at a couples get together. It would bother me more to be left out by my good friends.

And finally my last word of advice is to be a person they can not be smiling and strong in front of. Not that I feel the need to cry or scream or break down on the daily…because I don’t. But being able to be real and say yeah sometimes I’m not okay has been crucial to my own mental health. I am so incredibly fortunate to have friends who are okay with me not being okay. I know not every one has that. I have never realized the utter gut wrenching importance of having those people until this past year. Be that person for some one else. We need you.

#COVID-19 · Mental Health Stigma Suicide · Nursing

When I’m Called Out by Clients for Swearing, Caring, and Everything Else…With Love. A Day in The Life of a Mental Health Nurse.

An unexpected perk to having a therapist on staff full time with us is hearing from her what my patients think of me. I have referred more than a few of my clients to her though some of them I’ve seen for over three years for medication management and for one reason or another they needed a therapist at this time. Apparently the impressions are hilarious.

Occasionally my clients will directly throw my words back at me. Recently a young adult attending college in state needed to see me urgently. After we processed the current crisis and made decisions about medication I smiled and said, “Isn’t this great that your in state and we can do telehealth?” The client laughed and said, “Well I recall you saying if I went to school in Iowa, one of my top choices, that I’d be in ‘East bum fuck middle of fucking nowhere and there’s no way in hell I’m managing your meds out there'” I have a chagrinned smirk including blushing cheeks that emerge when properly embarrassed and I replied, “Yes well, that does sound like something I’d say…” We were both able to laugh. Now I know that client didn’t go to school in Iowa for a few reasons, including COVID, not just because I wouldn’t manage their meds in east bum fuck nowhere. But it is a humbling reminder to know that I do play into people’s major life decisions.

One of my clients did an imitation of me to the therapist at my practice…who texted me while laughing to tears because it was incredibly accurate and I am funny without meaning to be which usually makes it funnier. The impression was from our intake. Our intake was over three years ago. I was very direct. I warn people I’m direct. I don’t think any one really believes me until they experience it. And again, I was humbled. Because these moments in time are so important to clients. They stick in their brains these intermittent appointments with me. Words are so powerful. Body language. Facial expressions. This client nailed it all.

What I learn over and over is that my clients are paying attention. That I have an hour intake and thirty minute follow-ups maybe once every three or six months if they are stable and those minutes are precious. I try and respect them. I swear a lot. That’s not going to change. But apparently between the swears, the sarcasm, the checking in, I impart an energy and words that stick with people. It’s a privilege to be that person. We in mental health should never take it for granted.

I have a client I have been seeing for a few years, and the parents brought up at our last appointment, “Hey do you remember when you made us leave the room because you had to have a ‘Come to Jesus’ moment with them?” The Dad was cracking up. He said, “We didn’t know if we would see our kid again! But we knew then we were in the right place.” I did that embarrassed smirk as I thought back a couple years, and in fact I did remember telling the parents to leave. I didn’t raise my voice. I got down at the kid’s level though and told them to take their ear buds out when I ask them to take them out. To respect my fucking time because I’ve shown them nothing but respect even when they are acting like a little entitled punk. I may also have told them to undo their wedgie and let’s start again.

Sometimes I remember those moments and do a facepalm. I obviously do not speak to all people this way. It’s my job to read people. I’m good at it. I know who it’s going to be effective for and who it won’t be. And that kid never wore the ear buds again, and honestly has been very respectful to this day in our appointments.

Recently a parent asked me if I thought their educational plan for their child was “crazy”. I didn’t hesitate when I responded nodding, “Yes. I do.” I remember the parent looked at me and laughed a little and said, “Well you’re the first one who’s at least been honest with me.”

Honesty can be a bitter pill for people to swallow. It’s definitely not for everyone. Again, I give myself a disclaimer up front to any prospective clients. “I’m direct. I will call you out. I encourage you to call me out too if there’s anything that needs to be addressed.” But it can open doors to take your head out of the sand. My honest response to that parent opened up an entire conversation about their own self doubts and their strengths and weaknesses as a parent. It allowed a space for them to be vulnerable that wouldn’t have been there if I had just smiled and said “No of course not,”.

I’ve also learned that as long as I’m honest without being judgmental…which is a hard skill to master…it goes over a lot smoother. My clients that I take time to build rapport with and I really get to know and who get to know me, they know when I give them direct feedback it’s not from a place of judgement. It’s from a place of genuine curiosity and caring. I want to know if I’m on target with my assessment. I want to know if they know I’m on target or not. I want them to think and feel things that they haven’t let themselves think and feel. I want them ultimately to get better.

I was asked recently by someone how I felt about “…profiting off the pain and sorrow of others. I mean people have to be suffering in order for you to get work right?!” This was not a friend. And was said with some malice toward mental health professionals. I responded that I think about that a lot. And that should there come a day when my services are no longer needed I will feel such immense joy that it actually brings tears to my eyes to think of that day existing.

I remember resisting the impulse to defend all that I do; all that I give to my work. It doesn’t feel like a profit when a client is hospitalized for suicidal ideation. It doesn’t feel like profit when I end a day sitting on my floor wiping away tears because of all the emotional trauma I’ve held space for in the last eight hours…trying to pull myself together in the five minutes I have before my sons bounce through the door. It doesn’t feel like a success to educate my client about their diagnosis of schizoaffective disorder- how it’s lifelong and they will have more episodes of psychosis and we need to plan for when not if.

Those are all the moments that stick with me. So it’s nice to hear from clients who remember other moments. Who remember me swearing with love. Who remember the limits I set with fond affection and admiration. Some of my clients have done impressions in front of me and they are pretty good. I should be a meme.

Clients send me videos of their engagements. Wedding pictures. Newborn baby pics. Those hilarious therapist memes. Some one sent me a Christmas card thanking me for all my help and crediting me with helping them be healthy enough to become a Mom. I cried hardcore when I opened that one. I am allowed into these intimate moments in people’s lives because I know more than anyone the emotional labor they have put in to get to these crucial turning points in life.

The positive feedback is few and far between for healthcare providers, especially mental healthcare providers, but it’s there. Even the impressions. They crack me up. This year more than any I needed the positive feedback. I am beyond grateful for it.

To consumers of the mental health system- I thank you. For trusting me with your mental health. For seeing me for who I am even in moments of tough love. To families of consumers- I thank you. You have trusted me with your most precious cargo. I don’t accept that responsibility lightly. To the therapists who have to endure impressions of me- Enjoy. I’m pretty freaking funny especially when I’m not trying to be and yes. I swear that much.

#COVID-19 · Mental Health Stigma Suicide · Nursing

You Don’t Know Me At All. Me: to every hospital I’ve worked for.

I recently received a heavy metal coin in the mail from the hospital I work at per diem. It was accompanied by a trifold letter thanking me for my hard work during the pandemic and ended with a “we are all in this together” statement. It explained the coin too. Likening it to soldiers being honored with metal coins for acts of bravery.

I didn’t work much at the hospital this past year. I had enough to keep me busy with my practice. I also felt that the hospital left a lot to be desired in terms of infection control measures in the psychiatric hospital. I felt safer working remotely at my practice.

But there were many essential frontline workers working day and night caring for COVID patients. Caring for NICU patients during a pandemic. Caring for maternity patients who had to give birth alone wearing a mask after their partners tested positive.

I opened and read the generic letter, held the coin, and though of the scene in the Office when the CEO of the company, Robert California, looks at the regional manager Andy and says, “Sometimes I think you don’t know me at all,”

If you’ve seen The Office you know it’s satirical. It’s a commentary on how every one lower on the totem pole from management feels that management doesn’t actually know them at all.

I felt this viscerally holding that coin. I felt affirmed with every atom of my being with my decision to leave hospital and agency work full time and venture into the risky world of self employment via private practice. The few times I’ve worked at the hospital I thought I would have lost it if I was working there full time this past year. And the nurses and doctors and respiratory therapists working there full time for the past year deserve more than a worthless coin and generic thank-you letter.

I’m going to give the example of how I treat my employees. Because I’m a big bad boss now. My employees received everything necessary to do telehealth at home. Headphones. Lifted desks. Second monitors. Printers. Scanners. Anything they needed I got them. I screen all their calls and messages and deal with whatever I can on my own without bothering them. If they ask me to intervene and discharge some one I do it. No questions asked. Because I trust their judgement. For Christmas I gave my part time employee a bonus. I gave my full time employee the option of a cash bonus or tax exempt options like insurance premium, HSA contribution, student loan payment, etc.

I ask for their input on what charity to give to locally whenever I make a donation through the business.

I give them positive feedback whenever I get it from clinicians and patients. I pay them an extra hour a week if I know it was heavy on administrative time outside of client time. I say thank-you whenever I ask them to do something and they do it. I have never bought them pizza. I have bought them sushi and nice chocolate and wine and beer. I’ve given gift cards to restaurants and Amazon for nurses week.

One of my friends who is an APRN asked how much money I make from my employees. I told her I don’t make much because I didn’t take on employees to profit from them. I took them on because I wanted other prescribers to practice with me. And when I decided to take on employees I made a conscious decision to never treat them the way I had been treated by my employers and managers in hospital systems and private practice. I want my time that I spend doing their billing and scheduling and call backs to be covered. But aside from that I’d rather invest leftover money back into my business and subsequently back into my employees. Because I know what it feels like to work myself to the bone. Giving literal blood, sweat, and tears to a system that rewards you with pizza and a coin.

My fourth full time employee came on recently and took time to decide to increase to full time. The reason she gave for doing so was because she knew that the first two employees both started at less hours and both have continuously increased their hours in the past three years, one to full time and one to part time. She said that spoke to the business in terms of retention and in terms of them continuing to give more to the business. That moment felt good.

I despise how hospital systems cry poor. All the time. I didn’t get consistent raises my first eight years as a nurse. I felt powerless to fight for them. The systems were designed for us to fail to get increases. These are billion dollar organizations. Not million. Billion. Tell me they can’t give their employees something bigger. Why not cancel all current medical bills being held by their employees? Why not cover their health insurance premiums fully for at least a month? Why not provide free or discounted care for their employees? Why not pay 1000.00 toward every one’s student loans? Why not skip their CEO’s bonuses and give it back to their staff? Why not invest in their front lines essential heroic workers?

Freaking coin.

On the other end are burned out healthcare workers who think they don’t or can’t have better or more.

You can. You just have to work for it and you have to be willing to take risks.

Before the coin. Back before the pandemic back in 2017 when I opened my own practice. I put a 2$ fake paper bill from my hospital system on my wall. It’s still there. Taped over my desk. I treat employees of the system who recognize it and always ask why I have one of them taped on the wall. I encourage them to read the message on it. They lean in and then understanding dawns and they inhale sharply. Then they turn to me in disbelief. I nod. “Thanks for saving the life of a patient.” They always say it out loud. Like they are reading it wrong.

I nod again. “But I mean like you actually saved some one or it was just a close call?” they stammer trying to disbelieve it still.

“The patient was blue. I cleared her airway. I was told by multiple people there that day and after the patient would have died if I was not there.” Then they always nod their head and shrug their shoulders in resignation, “I believe it. 2 bucks. And a fake 2 bucks. That’s all we are worth around there.”

The two fake bucks that can only be used at the cafeteria of that particular system was not the first nor the last time I was let down by an employer in healthcare. But it was the first time I remember feeling resolute in my decision to get the hell out of there. I knew I needed to be somewhere that valued a patient life and my ability to save it. The coin six years later affirmed that decision.

To all my healthcare provider friends reading this. I see you. I know what you give every day. I know what it takes away from you. I’m sorry you are not valued more. But know that you are valued by me. I see you. You are not alone. You deserve more. If you are reading this and you have any say or control over how employees healthcare systems are treated: do better.

If you or someone you know is struggling with suicidal thoughts please call:

1-800-273-8255

#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.