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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So don’t fuck it up.

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

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

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Seeking Hope

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

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

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

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

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

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

“So what’s the story?”

“I’m trans.”

“Got it. You out to them?”

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

“They never use the right pronoun or name?”

“Nope.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***Parents****IT’S NOT A PHASE.

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COVID-19 Journal Entry- Six Months In.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Suicide Hotline: 1-800-273-8255

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COVID-19 & Kittens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Intermittent Fasting and My Endometriosis-Eating Journey

We left off with me living on smoothies and protein. Still do for the most part. Not yesterday on Thanksgiving. I definitely ate turkey and stuffing. But we will get to that.

Let’s back up. Start here.

I would have continued that way forever but the weight loss slowed down and sometimes seemed to plateau. Losing one pound only every week or two was disheartening considering how strict I was being with my diet.

I lost fifteen pounds by August of this year, I haven’t weighed myself since then, but I know I’ve lost a little more since- so maybe a total of twenty so far, and am still roughly twenty pounds away from my desired weight. So back to my books I went.

I didn’t want to cut calories any further. If anything I wanted to be able to add some in knowing the holidays were coming up. In my research I kept coming across intermittent fasting. At first I dismissed it. I could never do that I thought. I need breakfast. I also do hot yoga three times a week and need calories when I practice.

But it kept niggling at my brain. I looked in the library I have access to through the University I work for. There was actual scientific evidence that intermittent fasting lowered insulin levels and blood pressure. I read a lot. Everywhere. I read people’s blog posts. I read scientific literature. I read articles in Women’s Health and on every other platform I could find. Then I decided to take the plunge.

The idea of intermittent fasting is to eat for a certain time period every day, and not eat at another time period. I chose to do 8 hours on, 16 hours off, 11 AM-7 PM being the time period when I could eat.

Day 1: not eating until 11 AM made me slightly grumpy, but I was still cheerful because I was excited to be trying something new. I made it until 11 no problem. Then I had my first smoothie and a protein bar. I think I probably had some fruit, then home for dinner. I realized the timing of me being home for dinner would be an issue.

I generally work until 6 or 7 and making it home by 6:30 PM at the earliest. There have been more than a few nights of me hastily eating a meal and gulping down a glass of wine between 6:30 pm- 7:00 PM.

Day 2: I was grouchy as hell. I wanted to eat damnit. When I made my smoothie I didn’t put peanut butter in it because I was scared if I opened the peanut butter and spooned some out I would reflexively lick the spoon. It also just smells sooo good.

Since that first “day 2” I’ve had other day 2’s and I have sat breathing in the scent of peanut butter.

Day 3: Still starving before 11 AM. But oddly less grumpy. Feeling lighter. Well rested. Less bloated in general.

I’ve never done more than three days in a row. I do four days a week like this. The three days I practice hot yoga I don’t fast.

In the weeks since that first week of hell I’ve learned how to curb myself. Today was bad. I realized I was being very short with the boys because I was starving. I’ve learned that on a day after I’ve had carbs (aka Thanksgiving and a lot of carbs) the wait until 11 AM is worse. I try extra hard not to have carb overload on non-fasting days to avoid the carb-under-load grouchiness on the fasting days. But alas. Not yesterday.

I have to remind myself that this is my choice, and that I can’t be irritable with my kids because I am choosing to not eat in that moment. It’s hard.

Why do I keep doing this? Well the benefits I’ve found far outweigh the negatives. For instance my endometriosis is far less triggered. All the time. I still tend to avoid gluten/wheat/dairy, but I’ve found that if I have some form of gluten on a non-fasting day, I’m not in debilitating pain the next fasting day.

I have no idea why. I thought it was a fluke at first. But it’s not. I’ve tested it a lot.

For some reason the fasting, even though it’s not every day, and not all day, seems to calm down my endometriosis.

I can’t have a ton of carbs the three days a week I’m not fasting. I still maintain low carb, no gluten/wheat/dairy for the most part most weeks. But when there is a holiday and I want stuffing, I can have some and not fear that I will be in pain for the next week.

It’s kinda nice.

I’ve also lost more weight. My skin at first broke out like I was fourteen. But now seems to be clearing up.

Overall it’s been a nice addition to my endometriosis friendly life. It’s also enabled me to truly feel my hunger cues. When I’ve been trying to eat a lot between 6:30 and 7 PM on my fasting days, I find that I can’t. Because I am much more in tune with my “full” signal.

Today I had hot yoga. I ate a bun this morning that I made yesterday. For lunch I had turkey. Later I had a smoothie.

Tomorrow I will fast. Sunday yoga. It’s taken me some time to get my groove down. It’s hard when I don’t pack enough for work and end up staying late, and not getting home until 7:30 or 8 PM on a fasting day. I don’t want to mess it up, but I don’t want to starve either. I mean I do starve a little during the fasting time, but I don’t want to actually starve myself. There is a difference.

What’s been helpful was that I had been eating healthy before I started fasting, so my meals are still the same as before just condensed into eight hours a day. This sometimes leads to me only eating two meals a day if I run out of time.

I drink coffee in the mornings before 11 AM. I checked on many sources and they all ok’d coffee, tea, and water. Nothing with sugar. Nothing that would trigger your body to start metabolizing anything.

Intermittent fasting has led to mindful eating. When I am sipping my coffee in the morning I truly savor each sip because it’s the only item with flavor on the menu until 11 AM. I also enjoy that first bite or sip of whatever’s first on the menu when I can break my fast.

I can’t tell you why or how intermittent fasting has helped decrease my endometriosis pain. But I can tell you that it has and I am grateful.

The negatives to fasting: the urge to binge when you can eat. But like I said, being more in tune with my “full” cues means this hasn’t been a problem for me. Being grumpy in the morning. I try to be cognizant of this. That’s about it for me.

 

****I got the wolf/fox cuddled together tattoo in September on my left calf. I have a different Celtic knot on my right calf, now they match. The wolf and fox signals transitions to me and the wolf is wisdom and moon based, while the fox is sly and cunning. Both powerful creatures in their own right. In the Celtic tradition fox is associated with seeking alternative healing such as herbalism and diet. When I’m fasting I remember the 3.5 hours that it took for this tattoo and the two hours it took for the one on my other calf. Then I think waiting another hour to eat really isn’t that bad.

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How I Mom Like My Dad…Reflections as the Boys Turn Four!

The boys turn four tomorrow. We brought cupcakes to tumbling this weekend. Had my family and a few friends over on Sunday and cupcakes to daycare today. Forty-eight cupcakes. Two birthday cakes (one with Spiderman on it that I made I felt like a pinterest Mom!).

I’ve learned a few things about how I Mom. I’d like to think I’m okay at it. I mean they are alive and happy and generally potty trained. They ask to snuggle with me all the time and they seem to enjoy my company even though I put them in timeout when they break the rules.

I basically Mom how I live. For example, I’ll make it to hot yoga class before they lock the door. But I’ll roll in dropping my towel that I just pulled out of the dryer and as I billow it out over my mat inevitably a pair of my underwear falls out. Not the plain black ones. The lacey thong that I wear once a month or less that I only wear when I literally have no underwear left.

It’s happened. Twice.

Considering I don’t wear the lacey thong more than four times a year. I’m mildly cursed.

Same thing with how I Mom. I’ll get to daycare on time before the Halloween parade starts. I may forget their sheets/blankets and they never have extra clothes there that fit. Which means today Declan had an accident and came home in his bathing suit bottoms. Because it was the only change of clothes he had there.

I’ll remember the check to pay for them to be there. But I’ll fill it out in the parking lot.

I iron their pants and shorts and our cloth napkins. And sometimes my sheets. But I am up until midnight every year on Christmas Eve and their birthday and Easter. They don’t have Easter baskets. I forget. Yes I forget major holidays that fall on the same day every year. Maybe not the actual holiday. I just don’t realize how quickly it comes. Then it’s the 24th and I’m like holy MF I am screwed.

I’ve actually had dreams of shopping on Christmas Eve. Maybe nightmares.

But they know if I say I’m going to do something we do it. When I say we are going to bake cupcakes it happens. When I say they will get to go to the store the next day it happens. Follow through is important in parenting. Both positive and negative. They know if I say they will go to bed early if the nonsense doesn’t end now…they stop the nonsense.

As I threw my towel out tonight at yoga and the freaking underwear flew out, and I fell leaping to grab it before the full class of people looked and saw- half of them did. I thought, wow, I’m a Mom. I’m responsible for two other humans and there’s my thong on the yoga mat.

It’s how I roll.

My Mom is very organized. She would never have been up wrapping presents the night before Christmas. She still has our Easter baskets from our childhood. Actually I think maybe mine’s in my basement.

She decorates for every season. I was looking through birthday pics from last year and saw our pumpkin candelabra from the mantle that we got last year and yelled at my wife asking where the hell it was this year and why she didn’t grab it when I asked her to grab our one Halloween decoration that I remembered.

She looked at me like I was nuts with no recollection of ever grabbing the witch/cat candle thing. She did. I swear it. Because it’s on the mantle. And I didn’t grab it and I know we did put it away last year.

Anyway. I’m that kind of Mom. My Mom often says she doesn’t know where I came from. With my last minute planning yet OCD ironing. I appreciate my Mom. A lot. She went and dealt with a birthday gift return/exchange when I realized I bought boots a month ago two sizes big- but they grew three sizes in a month. So I needed two sizes bigger than I got.

Anyway. She dealt with all of that. When I have a specific task my mom is good for the follow through. I appreciate that about her because I know that is not at all part of who I am.

I would have kept the wrong sized boots in the car for about three months with the intention of returning them, then met a mom of twins (because I swear to God they drop in front of me ALL the time- not kidding! It’s like I have a magnet for twin moms) who was in need of boots for her kids and would have just given them to her. Leaving my sons still bootless and me without a birthday present for them.

I met a twin mom. She did my pedicure. I brought her our stroller used maybe twice. Because my wife left ours in a parking lot right on the cusp of us not needing one…yeah long story. Anyway almost new stroller and pac-n-play delivered to her the next day. It just feels right sometimes to pay it forward.

I know how much being a twin Mom drains you. Physically, emotionally and especially financially. It would have been nice to sell the stroller for a hundred dollars or something. But it was nicer to have her hug me with two kids in her belly and thank me and tell me how she raved about me to her husband.

Some day someone will pay forward a free babysitter for a night to me. Just throwing out there to the universe.

So I’m not perfect. I forget some stuff and obsess about other stuff that other people feel is not important to obsess about. I walk around naked sometimes and the boys are getting to an age where they tell me to get dressed. I do. Get dressed I mean. But I’ve also put them in time out holding up my towel because they hit each other while I was in the shower. It happens.

I procrastinate. I make a fool of myself. But mostly I love those boys.

I may look like my Mom. But I’m my Dad all the way. When I forget stuff. When I lose my temper. When I bake with them. Even when I’m ironing. I picture him standing at the ironing board. Talking to me. Sometimes yelling at me. Likely deserved. And I feel okay about it. Because I loved my Dad so much. I miss him. And if I parent like him. I’m good with that.

I miss him on my son’s birthday. Because he should be here with us. He should see his grandkids turn four. And I know he is from somewhere else. But I wish he was here. When I’m ironing of all things…I feel like he is.

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The White/Straight/Cis world of Psychiatry

I went to a conference last weekend. It was a psychopharmacology conference in New York City. I hadn’t been to a conference overnight since I was seven weeks pregnant. I have done my continuing education credits online or as one day trainings. I was excited to get away, excited to stay in Manhattan kidless and wifeless, and excited to be going to a conference. Because I can totally geek out on psychopharmacology and neurobiology.

During the introductions I looked around. It was a beautiful snooty hotel and the grand ballroom was full. There were a lot of white people. A lot of middle age and older white people. I counted. There were four people of Color out of probably four hundred. There was one person wearing a hijab.

I also distinctly felt out of place as a Queer. I didn’t get the sense there were many of me hanging out there.

I have a love/hate relationship with where I trained. It was with several middle age white ¬†straight men. They made ignorant statements about transgender individuals and they made statements like “she just has ‘Hispanic-itis'”. Yeah. That happened. More than once. However, they were and still are, considered leaders in our field. In fact at this very conference there were at least three papers presented by the team of physicians I trained with.

I learned so much from them but I also learned about sexism hardcore in the workplace. I learned about misogyny and racism and transphobia in healthcare. I learned that these were all things that these physicians would never say they are (sexist and racist and transphobic) yet their actions spoke louder. It was just all overlooked because they were brilliant.

Well apparently that’s universal in psychiatry. Because here I was, in a room full of leaders in our field. None of the presentations mentioned minorities. In the presentation on “Treating the Medically complex with Psychiatric Medications” not once was it broken down to say that maybe treating African Americans with Lithium would be bad as they have a higher risk of kidney disease. Nor was it mentioned about treating transgender individuals and let me tell you, they are some of the most medically complex patients I treat, due to the hormonal and surgical interventions they face. Also they have the highest suicide rates and substance abuse/use of all the minorities I treat.

But yeah, it seemed like every one in the room, the leaders in my field, were focused on treating white straight cisgender middle aged individuals.

I’m not knocking white straight cisgender individuals, I mean, some one has to treat them, and it sure as hell isn’t me.

But they tend to have access to better medical treatment, to more preventative measures, and lower suicide rates and lower substance abuse percentages. Which sort of keeps them off my radar as high risk.

Anyway. So I’m at this conference. Not learning anything about the populations I treat the most. Thinking about all my clients who are people in minorities who have been put down by other psychiatrists. Told they aren’t depressed that they are “transgender which just makes you depressed” or that they weren’t necessarily raped, because “you were bigger than the person who raped you,” that they aren’t starving because “don’t you have a mother who can buy you food?”

And it just hurt me. That my field is so disgustingly and ignorantly privileged. That we as a field put off the minorities and individuals who are most vulnerable to mental illness because of our own privilege and biases.

That conference sent a survey for feedback. I politely stated that I would likely not go back due to a lack of diversity among the presenters (who were all white) and among the topics presented.

I realized that all the trainings I’ve done in the last six years have been targeted toward the Queer population or another minority. Apparently that’s how I roll. And unfortunately the world of psychiatry in general doesn’t.

The world of psychiatry needs to expand it’s boundaries and invest in educating themselves and others about minorities. Because good lord if my work experiences and this weekend with the “leaders” in my field was any indication, we have a long, long way to go.

In the meantime I’m going to keep treating my Queer folk.

I’m grateful for all the therapists I work with who also treat minorities and excel at it. And I’m grateful for my clients. Many of whom have been marginalized by other mental health providers and medical professionals and who have continued to fight and persevere and continued to engage in treatment for their own mental health.

You are the bravest people I know.

For the record individuals can be transgender and depressed- as in separate issues. Sexual assault is sexual assault. And some people have parents who have abused them, so no they can’t call them for grocery money. Ignorance is not bliss. Ignorance is ignorance. Educate yourself.

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Dear White Suburbia. Stop Permitting Sexual Assaults. Thanks. Sincerely, All the girls and boys who have been victims.

Let’s get this out in the open first. No high school student wants to be the victim of a sexual assault. No high school student then wants every one in their school to find out they are the victim of a sexual assault. It’s the kind of notoriety that blows.

I’ve been the person told about a sexual assault more times than I care to count. Comes with the territory of outpatient mental health. Sometimes it’s twenty years later. Some times it’s twenty days. Sometimes it’s twenty hours.

The number of teenagers and women I’ve processed sexual assaults with staggers me. Because yes. While sexual assault definitely happens to males; I have a far larger number of female victims in my practice.

The number of times the perpetrator has been prosecuted- out all of the cases I’ve had- maybe twice.

The number of times the victim reported it and the police interviewed them, the DA reviewed the case, their psychiatric and medical records were released to the DA and the police…and then nothing happened…too many times.

The really fun part is when they report it to their high school. I learned this over the last few years having moved my practice to suburbia. The high school does their own investigation. That’s right. Even when the police are involved, DCF, and every one else, the high school, under the guise of Title IX conducts its own interviews. With the victim. The witnesses. And the accused perpetrator.

In the meantime in all of my cases…the victim is expected to change their class schedule, not go to prom (because they can’t actually tell the perpetrator not to go apparently?!), and basically completely invalidate the victim at every turn. All supposedly legally under Title IX.

There is a culture of victim blaming, victim shaming, and “but he’s on the wrestling team!” shock and horror that any one could make “him” uncomfortable by bringing up the fact that he perpetrated a sexual assault.

These cases are in white suburbia. I had SIGNIFICANTLY fewer of these cases I mean significantly fewer, when I worked in a city with a very large high school and a diverse make-up. I spoke with a police officer in one of these small towns and said is it just me or is there a lot of sexual assault here? They told me it wasn’t just me. That it was a problem in their small town.

The victims first have to deal with telling their own parents. Which sucks. Every time. Then had to deal with telling me or another mental health provider. Then they told the police. Then the district attorney. Then the freaking school. Who then in multiple cases told the girls to basically change their class schedule and adjust themselves around the perpetrators schedule because they couldn’t ask the perpetrator to change anything.

I actually received calls from a nearby guidance department who were trying to elicit from me that my client’s behaviors were just that. Behaviors. They were avoiding class because they simply didn’t want to go. I just about lost my mind. I said if the perpetrator who sexually assaulted me was in my class I also would not want to go. I also would act out behaviorally. That particular guidance office doesn’t call me back anymore.

Schools are failing our children. In so many ways. Victims are  gaslighted and perpetrators are let off without even a slap on the wrist. We have created a culture of invalidating our children who are sexually assaulted because we are too scared to stand up to the wealthy white families of the perpetrators. (Eh hem. Kavanaugh. Starts at the freaking top people).

The victims are told to basically shut their mouths, sweep it under the rug, and go be a good girl now.

Fuck that nonsense.

Since I started writing my blog clients now and then will tell me they read it regularly. I don’t hide it, but I don’t promote it.

So to all of you reading. I am angry for you. I am hurt for you. I have called school administrators who left me voicemails back that their guidelines are published online and they will not discuss this further with me.

They obviously haven’t met me.

There will be discussions. If I have to plant myself in a board of education meeting until some one will listen to me every month they have them. Then I will.

I know it’s exhausting for you to constantly be fighting for your rights. I know you want to keep your head down and just make it through high school. I know you don’t want your parents to fight as hard as they want to because you just want things to go back to normal.

If that’s what you need; keep your head down. I got you.

And to anyone else reading this know that we as a society have to do better. We have to empower victims of sexual assault not demoralize them. We have to prosecute perpetrators yes even and especially when they are white and especially when they are wealthy. We can’t let this cycle continue because our children are suffering.

 

 

 

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Why Parents Don’t Sleep…Wetting the Bed and Monsters in the Closets.

It was about 12:36 AM when I stood in the boys room trying not to scream. Not succeeding very well. I had tried to rationalize. I tried cuddling. I was now at the state of speaking loudly, “There are NO MONSTERS in this house! There is just me, you, Mommy, and Jackson and we are all trying to sleep and it’s not fair that you are keeping us ALL awake! I’m tired! Stop.”

With tears brimming in my eyes he finally seemed to realize that I was tired and there were in fact no monsters.

The boys were never good sleepers. I got to the point where I wanted to throat punch anyone who asked me or stated to me “They still aren’t sleeping through the night?! Did you try….” because the answer was always no. They aren’t sleeping through the night. Yes I tried that. I tried every damn sleep remedy you can imagine.

Three and a half, nearly four years later, the nights are slightly improved.

There are more full night sleeps. Which almost makes the interrupted nights harder. Now it’s not that they want to nurse. It’s that they peed the bed. This week it was one night of peeing the bed and the following night of waking up screaming because there are clearly monsters in our house.

Now if I peed the bed I would want it changed silently and then I would want to immediately crawl back into bed. When one of the boys pees the bed, it’s a freaking scene. There is inevitably some piece of blanket or animal that gets wet that has to be washed which causes the epic meltdown which means we are now all fully awake.

It’s not an easy clean-up and back to sleep. It’s a clean-up of hell followed by more screaming hell. Followed by all of us eventually back in our own beds wide awake. Then the cat who is now frazzled and annoyed starts meowing and making a scene because she was disturbed.

Then the monsters. They literally watch PJMasks and Dino Dana. Nothing scary. No monsters. I mean minus the dinosaurs, but they are generally not scary.

But my son wakes up with complete confidence that there are monsters in our house and it takes me losing my damn mind to convince him otherwise. The lights are already on. The closets are checked. They sleep with the hallway light and the light in the bathroom on. Tonight I added an Elsa nightlight. It actually projects Elsa onto the ceiling. He seems obsessed with it and I told him it will keep all monsters away.

Fingers crossed.

At some point they will sleep through the night. At some point I will sleep through the night. I can’t tell you when that will be. I can tell you that if a parent tells you they were up overnight don’t ask why the kid isn’t sleeping through the night. Trust me if there was a magical cure that didn’t involve us all melting down at 1 AM about pee on the sheets or the freaking cat meowing or the monsters…I’d be all over that.

And yes. We limit fluids before bedtime for two hours. Try keeping that boy away from the faucet though. He steals cups from his toy kitchen and sneaks into the bathroom and drinks water. Then when he pees the bed and is screaming because we have to wash the towel he’s snuggling with- he wants a cup of water because the crying “makes my mouth hurt and I need water!” So yeah. The struggle is real.

I’ve had many people say, “Just enjoy being up with them at night and all the snuggles because these days pass too quickly,” or some equally quaint saying. I also want to throat punch those people. The days may pass quickly but the nights are torturously bad and long. I don’t know what kind of stuff happened with their kids at 1 AM but with mine, we are not quickly and quietly snuggling then drifting back off into a peaceful slumber.

We are more like a massive cat fight where there is chaos, screaming, urine scented, and at the end we all retreat attempting to lick out wounds before passing out.

I will never miss the chaotic middle of the night scenes. Nor will I miss the epic hangover feeling the next morning but without any fun drunken memories just a hazy recall of reasoning with a three year old about there being no monsters in the house. I won’t miss the dread with which I approach sleep the subsequent nights knowing my slumber could be interrupted at any moment by screams from pee and monsters.

Instead at some point, some night, I will realize I have slept through the night. Many nights in a row. And then I will do a fist pump and think sweet. I survived.

 

*** My business partner has twins. She told me when they were newborns that I wouldn’t get any sleep until they hit at least six or seven. She apparently wasn’t wrong. To all the twin mom’s out there. Hang in there. Six or seven years….we got this. I’m almost to year four…

 

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Explaining Death to Three Year Olds.

When I called my wife around 1:30 on Tuesday she knew something was wrong. She knew I was supposed to get my first allergy shot at 1:15 and that I generally don’t call unless something is wrong.

After about sixty seconds from the time of the allergy shots- there were three- my throat started to close. It’s an odd feeling, not totally like my throat was closing, more like it gets tight and so itchy that I want to stick a coat hanger down it.

The nurse was pretty calm, though she later told me I gave her some gray hairs, as she told me I was having an anaphylactic reaction and they needed to give me epinephrine. The allergist came in, he’s also one of my favorite doctor’s, and also calmly explained what was happening as I was injected with epinephrine. My throat opened up, and then they gave me benardryl and told me to call some one.

I had to get a second shot of epinephrine about thirty minutes later because the whole throat closing thing started again. In the middle of it I was surprised and at first, not anxious. But then as I realized what happened and remembered all of the cases of anaphylaxis in the emergency department I took care of, I started picturing the worst.

Three days earlier I threw out my back. So I was also uncomfortable.

The next day I went to work. My arms hurt from the shots, and I had started wheezing the previous night leading us to wake up at 2 AM to make sure I didn’t miss a Benadryl dose and albuterol. Then I went to work. Being my own boss, knowing I’m taking three days off next week, I don’t get PTO. I saw patients with a sore back and sore arms, wheezing, and hoping the anaphylaxis was going away.

That was last night. I stayed at the office until after seven, catching up on paperwork and billing after seeing thirteen clients.

I came home but eight, to my wife saying the boys wanted to say goodnight. I dragged myself upstairs, and fell into bed with my Jackson. He told me all about his day. Declan chiming in at times from his bed. Then Declan asked about going away on Sunday. “We goin to Hampshire?” “Yes baby, we are going to New Hampshire,” “With Gramma?” “yes baby with Gramma,” “Mama!” “What baby?” “We forgot Poppy!”

I was half asleep, feeling like I got hit by a truck, and my son chooses to bring up my Dad. He died in April. We went to New Hampshire together as a family every year. This will be the first time for us up there without him.

“What do you mean?” I asked.

“Poppy going to come down from the sky to Hampshire?”

At this point I had tears in my eyes, “No baby, he’s not,”

“Aww, Mama, then he won’t give me a hug and a kiss. I wanna hug Poppy,” he said “I want him to meet Hediz and give him a hug too,” (a friend at daycare).

Now I’m openly crying, and I choke out, “I miss his hugs too baby. I wish I could hug him too. But it doesn’t work that way. He’s never coming back from the sky, he’s an angel up there now baby.” He looked disappointed but accepted this. Jackson sat up and gave me a hug. Then I kissed them both goodnight and walked out of their room.

I walked downstairs sobbing and tried to explain to my wife what just happened.

The thing about parenting is that I am never prepared for those moments. I had a shitty week. It was only Wednesday! I was ready to fall into my bed and sleep. Instead I was caught off guard by a random thought from my son about my Dad. They go weeks without mentioning Poppy. Then the night that I am feeling physically and emotionally beat is the night I have to further explain that he is actually permanently gone. It’s the night I have to think about his hugs, and how much I miss them.

It’s been six months since he died. I dread each day because I think about him every day. But I look forward to each day because it’s one more day we make it through since he died. I keep waiting for the day it gets easier. So far it’s not here yet.

Within a twenty four hour period I was recovering with my back, I had an anaphylaxis reaction so bad I required two epi-pen’s, I saw thirteen clients at my practice and saw six patient’s inpatient at the hospital, I fought with Anthem, shocker, and I explained death to my three year old twins. Again.

The whole adulting thing is overrated.

Parenting makes me appreciate and admire all parents. We all have these moments. These five second moments that make up our day that bend us, touch us, torture us, because our kids are innocently enquiring about something that can be incredibly triggering for us.

I don’t get days off or time outs as much as I crave them.

Tonight we made cookies and doughnuts (I bake them) and butternut squash Chile. I did three loads of laundry, and I tried not to think about the packing I haven’t done for New Hampshire yet. But we didn’t talk about my dead Dad and they fell asleep without screaming. I’ve had about an hour to watch The Office, write a blog post, and fold all three loads of laundry.

At some point this week will be over. I likely won’t remember that my back was thrown out or the emotional toll of my clients this week.

But I will remember my son asking me if Poppy can come down from the sky to hug and kiss him. Because it’s something I wish with all my being could be a reality.