Tiny Ways My Life Has Changed During COVID-19 Isolation

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Photo by Tim Mossholder on Unsplash

Obviously, big things are happening right now. We’re in the midst of a global health crisis. People are scared.

Lives have changed in big ways, but they’ve also changed in small ways. Sometimes the small things feel weirder than the big things.

I’m now in my third week of working from home full time.

I wash my hands a lot. I disinfect my phone a lot. I always knew phones were gross, but now a gross phone is a scary phone.

I’m going to the grocery store about once a week, but I think I stocked up enough to go two weeks this time. I keep having an urge to bake, and I needed to get ingredients. I continue eating the meal groceries I bought two and a half weeks ago, because that was practical Caitlin shopping. This is stress baking Caitlin, who is also learning to do cool eyeshadow and make cocktails.

It’s my birthday in two weeks. I was planning a party at my favorite local bar. My birthday has been postponed until further notice. I Venmo someone on the staff a $10 tip every time I get drunk in my house.

My sister is a teacher and school is out for the next month. She’s video chatting students to check in.

I’m still estranged from my parents, even though my dad reached out to “see if I was okay.” I had to evaluate if my boundaries still made sense in the face of a global health crisis. I decided they were. The boundary didn’t change, but the guilt feels a little worse.

I finally, after six months on a wait list, got to download Brene Brown’s “Daring Greatly” on the Libby app.

I haven’t had a commute in two weeks and won’t for at least four more. I try to make time to sit at my kitchen table and listen to Brene for about twenty minutes before the need to stand up and do something else consumes me.

I am so used to being in the car to start and end my day.

I woke up on the first Saturday at 10:17am and was sure I was late for work. It’s hard to know what day it is. My coworker called in for our Thursday conference call on Wednesday.

My friend had to order yoga pants and tee shirts from Target because she didn’t own non-work clothes.

I hired an employee at work. I will onboard and train her remotely.

I shaved off the back of my hair because when it gets too long and shaggy that’s my cue to go to the salon.

My eating disorder (I call it Carl) has gotten really weird about worrying that I will run out of food, so sometimes I am hungry for a while before I remember I am allowed to eat and there is plenty of food and I will not go hungry if I eat two servings of something. I am not rationing. Did I mention the pie?

I celebrated one month of dating my boyfriend via text. I write him letters and mail him watercolor paintings (I managed to keep them a surprise!), and we do video calls to see each other’s face. It’s a lesson in realizing I bring value to a relationship even when I am not physically with my partner to do things for them. That is comforting.

I miss sex.

It feels like my roommate and I have spent more time in the same place over the past two weeks than we did in the previous two months.

Dining room chairs are not ergonomic.

I tip generously – at least 25%.

I spend more time with my coworkers hanging out on Skype after work hours than we ever used to spend together when we worked in the office. I feel more like friends with them than I ever have.

I’m not using this time to become the most productive, self-improved version of myself just because there’s nothing else to do.

This is trauma. It’s big trauma, and I think it will affect us for the rest of our lives.

Some days I am productive. Some days I am not. Both of these are okay.

You can just survive right now. You can notice the tiny little ways this has changed your life.

You can be frustrated that you finally got off the Libby wait list and inexplicably have no commute anymore. (I really want to finish this book).

In what little ways has your life changed?

PS. If you’re looking for reading material, my book is available for Kindle and Audible, even if you don’t have a commute.

 

 

 

 

Staying Estranged in a Global Pandemic

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Photo by Korhan Erdol from Pexels

When Coronavirus made it to the United States, I worried about my dad. He’s a lifelong smoker over 60. But I haven’t checked on him, because my sister and I haven’t spoken to him in over a year.

That time has been uneventful, besides us each getting a message from him on Thanksgiving. I thought leaving him on read would be a clear indicator that I was serious about not being in touch.

But it happened again.

Last night I received a message from him on my author Facebook page that simply stated “I hope you’re doing okay.”

These are uncertain times, when we’re all worried about survival and loved ones. But I had a decision to make. Would I let my fear of a worst case scenario make me reach back out? Or would I maintain my no-contact rule?

If  it was just reassurance that I’m okay, I would give it to him.

I would tell him I’m okay. I would tell him I’m happy. I would tell him I’m in love. I would tell him I hope he’s okay too.

But I can’t, because it’s not just reassurance that I’m okay, it’s giving him a response just because he wants me to.

It’s access to be in my life in a way I can’t allow. It’s guilt trips and being held to double standards and being forced to hang out in bars and smoke-filled rooms while I drown in either silence or small talk because there’s nothing to say and the words that do come out fall straight to the floor, flat and toneless.

The memory of him makes my clothes smell like stale hotel rooms and ashtrays. My face itches. My chest is tight. The compulsion to smell my hair and check for smoke is stifling.

“I hope you’re doing okay.”

Being estranged doesn’t mean I don’t worry about him or that I wish him ill. I simply cannot be in touch with someone who disrespects and disregards my boundaries.

After decades of silent treatment when I didn’t live up to his standards or expectations for my behavior, I went dark.

After being forced into managing a home at age 12, I’m being an adult.

After years of being told I’m difficult, I am making it easy.

You don’t get access to me just because you want it.

I hope you’re doing okay, dad, but I can’t talk to you.


Support My Writing

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Understanding and Living with a Loved One Who Has Mental Illness

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Photo by nikko macaspac on Unsplash

Mental Health is a Critical Issue

Nearly half (46.4%) of the American population will experience a mental illness throughout their lifetime. And only 41% of those people are receiving care for their mental health needs. I’ve written before about the need for access to affordable therapy, and the sobering statistics on mental health in the Millennial generation was a huge reason I wrote my book.

Mental health is a critical issue in today’s world, which is why I was interested when I received a pitch for a guest post from a writer who lives with a neurotic husband and wanted to share her tips for living with a loved one who has mental illness. Her words are an important reminder to treat our loved ones with compassion, especially when they are fighting battles we can’t always see or understand.


People who have a mental illness may have difficulty dealing with daily stresses and may be in depressed moods. These types of individuals will usually feel a lot of guilt, anxiety, and anger at different times. Here are some ways to help you deal with a loved one going through mental illness. 

Identifying Mentally Ill Behavior

Symptoms will vary depending on the type of disorder the person has. The important thing to know with most mental illnesses is, the person is usually connected to reality. There may be signs of the following symptoms:

  • Constant anxiety
  • Sadness or depression
  • Anger in the face of stress
  • Low self-worth
  • Avoiding situations
  • Perfectionism
  • Negative attitude
  • Compulsive behavior

Whereas if they have a psychotic disorder, they may exhibit hallucinations or delusions.

How to Respond

The first thing to do is realize that many triggered mental health responses stem from fear. Anxiety can be a massive part of the life of a person with mental health challenges. They may believe that people will always leave them or that they must do things perfectly to stay safe. That means their behavior revolves around avoiding getting hurt.

As per Mike Hudson, a psychology writer at OXEssays and Paper Fellows, “this person might be cold or distant but in reality what they need is reassurance and a feeling of personal connection. It’s important to reassure the person that you’re fully committed.”

Give Them Time to Open Up

You’ll want to give this person the necessary time to open up to you. Whether they seem shy at first or fun and outgoing, they’re probably keeping all their thoughts to themselves. The reason they’re keeping things inside isn’t because they don’t trust you but because they have not opened up before, or they were not well-met when opening up in the past. For them to open up, stay with them and show that they can trust you. 

Be Patient

When living with someone who has a mental illness, it can take practice to be patient when learning how exactly your partner’s mental illness affects their communication and behavior, especially during conflict.  There is a lot going on inside their mind and sometimes it can be a struggle to maintain a mentally well state of mind while dealing with a conflict or stressful situation in your relationship. Getting to a place of acceptance that your partner’s mental health issue is part of them as a person will reward you both. 

Caitlin’s Note: Don’t be afraid to establish boundaries like pausing a conversation that feels too heated or stressful, or communicating via email to help collect your thoughts if in-person conversation is too stressful or leads to high anxiety symptoms. Remember: If a partner is abusive, mental illness is no excuse. Be sure to establish healthy boundaries to avoid codependency and see the next topic in this blog to make sure you are both supported in navigating life with mental illness. 

Encourage Your Partner to Seek Help

Encourage your partner to seek treatment. Someone who is has a mental illness will do really well with therapy to move past the negative beliefs they have about themselves, such as the idea that they are unlovable. Options include psychotherapy, cognitive-behavioral therapy, art or music therapy, medication, and even relaxation exercises or meditation. 

Be direct with your partner, if they aren’t taking their mental health management seriously. Share your valid concerns and your expectations that they manage their health. Offer what help you can, such as helping to make phone calls if they have phone anxiety, driving them to appointments if you can, etc.

You may also want to speak to a therapist yourself. It will give you a good place where you can vent about your frustrations and you can get advice on how to handle each situation specifically. Jeanette Peterson, a relationship blogger at Academic Writing Service and Assignment Help, says, “you should be patient with your loved one, and offer to go with them or share that you’re also seeing a therapist. It may make them feel better about going to therapy themselves and it’s not a solution for sick people but just a way to handle life’s challenges.”

Understand Diagnoses

Get more familiar with the diagnosis process. Diagnosing a mental illness means that you need a professional assessment from a mental health professional according to specific diagnostic criteria from the DSM. 

It’s not always easy to live with a loved one who is struggling with their mental health, but there’s no reason to go through it alone. It’s important to have open communication and to let them know that it’s okay to seek help. Be patient with your loved one but also with yourself, it’s a difficult process for everyone involved.


Beatrix Potter is married to a neurotic husband and they have lived happily together for over 4 years now. She enjoys helping people navigate difficulties with marriage and mental health. Bea writes for Assignment Writing Service and Professional Writing Service as well as creating writing programs for Essayroo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to create a healthy work-life balance

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Photo by Victoria Heath on Unsplash

Finding the right balance between work, rest, and play can be difficult to master. While success at work is important, so is your mental and physical health. Here are some tips to help you maximize your personal time so you can be your best self in and out of the workplace.

Work smarter, not harder

Your time is a precious resource, and making sure that you are always making the best use of it can be tricky. One of the ways that many people do this is by delegating tasks when appropriate. Knowing when and how to delegate is a very difficult skill, but when done correctly, it not only helps give you some time back, but also shows others that you trust them. Delegating work can help bring a team together, and in the end, create a better overall product.

Some companies have even started delegating tasks to robots. These robots help companies remove repetitive tasks, and make sure that the employees can spend their time on more interesting and important jobs.

If it’s within your means, you can also find a way to delegate housekeeping and home tasks as well, such as using a grocery delivery service (tip well, and in cash!) or hiring an occasional housekeeper so you can maximize your home time.

Find interests outside of the office

We are a society of tired people. To help break that working for the weekend mentality, finding ways to bring downtime and fun into your regular routine can make a big difference. Making sure that you have something to focus on outside of the office can help you mentally de-stress from all the pressures a workday brings.

Personal activities and hobbies can range from anything like learning how to knit, reading a book, or even just binge-watching a new series of your favorite TV show. While the main purpose of these activities is to get your mind off of work, having a hobby can actually help you in the office too.

Taking a little vacation time is also a great way to stop worrying about work. A nice change of scenery can do wonders, and it doesn’t even have to be across the country. Go explore anything within driving distance, make a day out of it. Get out of the office and go find something fun to do.

Pay attention to you

Many people get overwhelmed with stress and forget to take the time to check on themselves. If you’re starting to feel a little too much pressure at work, saying “no” to people isn’t something you should feel badly about

Make sure your self care routine is solid. This isn’t all about bubble baths — make sure you schedule time to shower and wash your hair, go to bed on time, and prepare meals that make you feel good. When we’re overwhelmed, these basics are often easy to overlook. Living off granola bars and dry shampoo is okay in a pinch but you’ll feel better if you can get the basics handled.

Physical exercise is also a great way to reduce stress. This doesn’t mean you have to spend 3 hours in the gym every day, but find a good way to get out and get moving in a joyful way that feels good. There’s always an interesting way to get your body moving, and you’ll find that it helps deal with some of that mental stress.

Use your time effectively

One of the best ways to make sure that you are staying on track is by setting goals. Similar to New Year’s resolutions, goals are very easy to set and then simply forget about. When creating goals, try and create SMART goals:

  • Specific
  • Measurable
  • Achievable
  • Relevant
  • Time-Bound

SMART goals can greatly help with your time management skills, and make sure that you always have something to strive for. Break down your long-term goals into 90 day goals with monthly or even weekly tasks to keep moving forward.

Utilizing your workday hours to prioritize and focus your work means you can leave work at work and not be glued to your email or computer after-hours. Bringing your job into your personal time is never good for your mental health.

Take a break from technology (every now and then)

Avoiding technology can feel like an impossible feat, but making sure that you aren’t surrounded by it at all times is important, especially before going to sleep. Technology can affect the way you sleep, so try and have at least 30 minutes of technology-free time before going to bed. It will help you get a better night’s sleep and wake up feeling refreshed and ready to go.

 According to a study by Udemy, 36% of millennial and Gen Z say they spend 2 or more hours per workday looking at their phones for personal activities. While this isn’t always a bad thing, make sure that you are aware of how much time you spend on technology at work, and make sure that you’re getting enough work done at the same time.

Work-life balance is often a mystery to most people, and it’s ok to not have all the answers. Trying a few of these tips might be able to help you or someone else, and as long as you’re always trying to move forward personally or at your job, that’s progress in itself.

Can You Change Your Life for Only $12?

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“This book validates everything that myself and other millennials have been through. The advice is solid and will definitely help anyone with surviving what the world has to offer.”

“This is a book for modern PEOPLE, not just millennials. Understanding humanity is a great and daunting process. This book provided me deep understanding on multiple levels and subjects, a priceless commodity.”

“This book is a poignant look at what it’s actually like to be a millennial. We’re blamed for everything when in reality everything we’ve inherited is imploding or has already imploded. Mx. Fisher is an excellent writer making points that you may not have thought of and giving tips to potentially improve your situation. I’d recommend this book to people of all generations, not just millennials – perspective is helpful for everyone!”

These are a few of the humbling book reviews I’ve received on Amazon.

And I have a favor to ask you.

Would you take a $11.59 chance on my book and see if the advice within helps change the way you look at the world?


I got my book deal in the same ten day span that I left my abusive marriage and lost my stepdad to lung cancer. I was not in a mental space to be selling and promoting my book.

Now that I am two years out, and coming up on one year since it was published, I am finally in the mindset to really focus on getting my book into the hands of people that need it.

If you haven’t read it, I am asking you to buy it. It’s less than $12 on Amazon, even cheaper if you get the Kindle version. It’s available on Audible so you can use a credit. bit.ly/GaslightingMillennials

If you have read it, I am asking you to leave a five star review on Amazon so more people can find it. If you’re not a wordsmith, just leave a rating without a review.

If you have read and reviewed, please ask your local library and bookstore if they can stock it.

Buy a copy for a friend who crossed your mind while you read it.

Buy a copy for your parents to give them some context on how you navigate the world.

Buy a copy for your friend who needs resume and cover letter help (there’s a really really good how-to guide in the chapter about the workplace).

If you have a blog or social media following, please recommend it by title and share what you love about it and why your readers will love it too. I can send you a review excerpt packet or a review copy if you aren’t able to buy one.

If you know someone with a blog, social following, podcast, etc. who might want to interview me or receive a review copy, please put me in touch.

Share this blog post and add your own thoughts about why you loved the book.

One million people read the original blog post when it went viral. That is one million people who resonated with the message that millennials aren’t to blame for the state of society. Help me get this book into the hands and ears of people who need to hear that they’re not screwups.

The 9 Books That Defined My 2019

Part of being a good writer is being a good reader

After what can only be described as voracious reading of fiction and fantasy as a child, I lost reading for pleasure as an adult and switched only to “productive” reading. Self help. Motivation. Business building. Personal development.

After several years, I let myself read fiction again. I read Outlander for a book club and consumed the rest of the series, my childhood appetite for fantasy rushing back.

I switch back and forth now in a relatively 50/50 split between stuff to make my brain smarter and stuff to make my brain relax and have fun.

They’re both necessary for me to be the best writer I can.

These are the books that defined my 2019

  1. The F*ck It Diet by Caroline Dooner 

This book was the single most important book of the year for me, and honestly for every single person in the world. Go read this book. Caroline’s work changed me. I finally stopped hurting myself in the name of weight loss and thinness. I understood fatphobia and diet culture in a way I never had before. This book may have literally saved my life.

The F*ck It Diet provided the paradigm shift I needed to see the truth about my body and the fact that it’s okay to exist in it.

2. Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon, Ph.D.

Before and after TFID arrived at my doorstep, I decided to read up on other body positive books. Health at Every Size helped solidify what Caroline Dooner had already begun to teach me: my body isn’t inherently unhealthy because it’s fat. I remember calling my sister in a rage while I was listening to it, angry at the lies that had been told to me as fact about my body for 30 years. Everyone should read this book.

3. Dietland by Sarai Walker

I heard about Dietland on the Unladylike podcast and felt compelled to read it right away. This fiction novel follows the life of Plum, a lifelong dieter who is saving up for weight loss surgery. She goes on a whirlwind adventure and makes a bunch of new feminist friends, while the narrative weaves back and forth between Plum and a series of murders that appear to implicate a new friend. It was a delightful read (even with the murdery bits) that has stuck with me all year. Highly recommend.

4. Getting Past Your Past by Francine Shapiro, Ph.D.

Like TFID helped me see the ways I was stuck in diet culture self-talk, Getting Past Your Past helped me see the ways my trauma manifests in repeated patterns linked through a lifetime of unprocessed memories. Francine Shapiro, who died in June this year, developed the EMDR method of trauma processing therapy. Just reading the book helped me start viewing my trauma in a new light, and entering EMDR therapy has helped me process my eating disorder, my abusive marriage, and traumatic memories from childhood emotional abuse.

5. The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation by Caitlin Fisher 

In 2016, I wrote a blog post about an idea I couldn’t get out of my head: The idea that millennials as a whole were being systematically gaslit by older generations and the capitalist systems at play in our country. In 2019, I published my debut book of the same title. Each chapter highlights an aspect of society that our generation has supposedly undermined and destroyed, with advice on how to keep killin’ it on a regular basis.

Maybe some parts of society suck and deserve to be dismantled.

6. The Body Keeps the Score by Bessel Van Der Kolk 

Shockingly, this book is also about trauma processing. In The Body Keeps the Score, the author discusses the physical ways that trauma manifests in the body as chronic pain and illness. It turns out that neglect, emotional abuse, and other traumas can have lasting effects not only on the brain but on the entire human body. It was eye opening to learn about and helped me get a diagnosis for my fibromyalgia this year when I acknowledged the physical pain I had been ignoring in my body.

7. Cibola Burn by James S. A. Corey 

When I was married, I read the first three books of a great sci-fi series, The Expanse. And then I didn’t read any books or watch any television that I had ever associated with him for eighteen months. No Expanse. No superhero shows. Not even the shows I had enjoyed by myself when I was with him. I was on media lockdown.

But in 2019 I met a friend who also loved The Expanse and he encouraged me to get back into the series. Reading Cibola Burn, the fourth novel in the series, was my first contact with husband-related media in a year and a half, and despite my fears it felt safe. I’ve continued to work through the rest of the books in the series this year and I’m all caught up on the TV adaptation as well.

8. The Gifts of Imperfection by Brené Brown

I have a list of things I’m going to do with my life, and they are: foster kids, rescue dogs, buy a house, and hug Brené Brown. Her work on vulnerability and shame helped me realize that I’m worthy of love and belonging right now. Brené Brown also taught me to play and have fun (which helps me read fiction and schedule socializing with friends). Whatever way you can get your hands on any of her content, you should do so immediately.

9. The Animorphs Series by K. A. Applegate 

Re-reading this series that I adored as a child is doing some kind of healing in me that I don’t fully understand. I am amazed that I still remember major plot points and even lines of dialogue decades after reading them once or twice each in elementary school between fourth and sixth grade.

As an added bonus, reading them has strengthened my resolve to start a young adult science fiction series. I’ve allowed myself to return to the parts of YA sci-fi that I loved as a kid, and my brain just tossed a fully formed idea at me in the shower, like it was the most obvious thing in the world.

My 2020 reading list

Looking over my 2019 list, I realize that I need to start branching out. Last year was about survival, this year was about laying the groundwork to heal, and next year is about becoming an improved version of myself. This will mean some of the same type of reading (and writing!) as 2019, but I also feel a deep need to read from more diverse authors.

I want to help all people, not just people who look like me and have similar experiences. And I am aware that I haven’t always examined my privilege closely and critically. In 2020 I want to open myself up to listen to the experiences of others so that I can be more aware.

Simply put: It’s time for me to stop focusing on reading work from white people.

Rather than continue to ask people of color to educate us about how we can better understand their experiences and be allies, we have to do our own work. Here are some excellent titles I’ve started researching that are on my 2020 reading list for a start:

  • So You Want to Talk About Race by Ijeoma Oluo
  • Eloquent Rage by Brittney Cooper
  • Why Are All the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria? by Beverly Daniel Tatum, Ph.D.
  • The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas

How do you measure a year?

In books, in words, in reconnecting with characters you thought you left behind a long time ago.

Practicing Boundaries After Trauma

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Photo by Kai Pilger on Unsplash

Boundaries take practice, especially when you have a history of trauma. Being a survivor of abuse can make the inner alarm bells malfunction — they either don’t go off at all because mistreatment has been normalized, or they go off at the slightest whiff of something that reminds you of a past traumatic experience.

This can make it extremely difficult to establish and maintain healthy boundaries.

Examples of healthy boundaries include:

  • Saying no to something without explaining your reasons why
  • Asking someone to stop doing something that bothers you
  • Canceling plans when you are too tired or overwhelmed to socialize
  • Taking a step back from intimacy in a relationship

These seem like they’re easy, but a history of abuse can make them seem insurmountably difficult. Complex PTSD, anxiety, and other mental illnesses can turn simple boundary setting into an exercise in self-loathing and self-sabotage.

You feel like you’re being difficult for no reason and that by saying no, you’re going to make everyone hate you and it will be all your fault.

It sucks. It is hard. It is painful.

And you have to keep practicing. 

I got a message over the weekend asking me out for lunch. It was a perfectly polite message, very complimentary, and I felt warmly about being asked out. But I wasn’t feeling a dating vibe with this particular person and I confess that I panicked for a moment. How do I say no? There’s no real “reason” to say no!

Not feeling enthusiastic about something is enough of a reason to say no.

The idea of a date wasn’t sparking joy for me, and it took me a moment to breathe and realize that this was just a conversation with an acquaintance and not a life and death situation. I wrote back to her and said thank you but I am not interested in a date. And she said that was totally fine and then we talked about a party she was throwing. It was a complete non-issue.

You’re allowed to say no when you’re just not feeling something. It doesn’t make you a bad person, and you don’t owe people a yes when you’d rather say no.

The fear: Saying no will make them hate you.

The reality: If it does, that’s pretty messed up and definitely not your problem.

I also canceled a date over the weekend because I just wanted to lay in bed and be lazy. That was totally okay too. (Side note: dating is exhausting, and my energy to do it waxes and wanes faster than the moon).

You are in charge of who is around you and how you spend your time.

What about when you do want to spend time with someone and your anxiety tells you THEY don’t want to hang out with YOU? 

Recently, the little voice in my brain decided that I needed to put some boundaries in place with a friend because he didn’t actually care about me and it was all a game. I was being toyed with. I was a punchline. Ha ha, who wants to be friends with sad traumatized Caitlin?

When someone is important to you, anxious traumatic patterns will convince you that they’re not safe (just like before!), so you protect yourself from future heartbreak by ending things ASAP. Constant self-sabotage is the name of the game when you’ve been raised with love and abuse as two sides of the same coin.

I wrote a very polite message to my friend, explaining that I needed to take a step back from our relationship because I felt like my mental health was at risk.

He responded by telling me that my mental health came first and he would respect what I needed to do. He asked if I would like to talk about it and we talked out what the little chattering weasels in my brain were saying. He gave me the safe space to get out all of my anxieties and fears. He responded with reassurance and kindness.

Oh. I guess it wasn’t as bad as I thought it was. Thanks a lot, brain weasels. 

The huge, glaring, neon sign of difference between my relationship with this friend and my relationship with my abuser: My abuser told me that I was responding to an imaginary villain version of him in my head and that he’d never do something to make me feel that way — completely invalidating my fears and telling me they were made up. It’s not safe to express discomfort to a person who tells you your discomfort isn’t real.

My friend took my concerns seriously, let me talk openly about my fears, validated my feelings, and worked through the anxious spiral with me. We came out the other side of the experience feeling closer to each other, and I felt safe and seen and valued.

The fear: Talking about my trauma will make people think I’m too much work and I should just stay quiet and never be open about it.

The truth: The only way for me to keep learning that it’s safe to talk about my fears with people is to talk about my fears with people.

Moral of the story: Boundaries (and healing) take work. But it’s worth it. 

Read more from me!

If you enjoyed this post, you might also like my book, The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation. I’d love for you to let me know what you think of the book, so please give it a read and leave a five star review on Amazon. If you’re morally opposed to Amazon, I have some other links here.

I’ve also set up a Patreon page which will get sneak peeks of upcoming topics, an opportunity for you to suggest topics, and additional Patron-only bonus content. Check it out, Patron levels start at just $1 per month to help support my writing.

 

 

Find your shortcuts to healthier boundaries and love

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Photo by Wyron A on Unsplash

A couple weeks ago I attended a queer geek convention in Cleveland in its second year – Flaming River Con. On a complete whim, I messaged the admins of the con on Facebook with a week to go before the event and offered to host a workshop on figuring out how to communicate your boundaries and love languages, especially when you’re also navigating past trauma. They said they were booked but would keep my information on backup in case of a cancellation. It was a long shot, but I would have regretted not asking.

With only a few days before the con, I happened to roll over to check my phone one last time before sleep, and found a message asking me to fill in for a panel that had to cancel. Suddenly wide awake, I wrote the outline of my presentation along with a quick bio about myself and sent it to the team that night.

I was only 80% nervous as my workshop approached but found that my 45 minute session went by quickly and I had an amazing time facilitating a discussion about boundaries, trauma, and asking for love in the ways that you need it from friends, partners, and more — in full crop top cosplay, no less.

The room was packed, to my delight and surprise. I had underestimated that people want to learn that it’s okay to say no, to ask for love in different ways, and to establish boundaries.

I realized I could do this.

I could teach this.

I had learned it myself and I can show others how to do it too.

I’m launching a six week online course to do just that: Teach you how to ask for the love you deserve.

Check out the full details on the course page, but here’s a sneak peek of what the course includes (for a one-time membership fee of $199):

  • A private Facebook group to chat with course members (and me!)
  • Weekly video lessons and guided exercises
  • Weekly video chats with the whole group
  • A template to create your own “how to love me” manual

We start class on Monday October 28 and I’m capping the course at the first 20 members, so sign up fast to reserve your spot! If you miss this round I’ll send you a personal invitation to the next time the course opens (in January to make Love and Boundaries a new years resolution you can stick to).

Since the workshop, I’ve gotten feedback from attendees about what they liked from the discussion:

The talk about love languages was key.

Learning about love languages, especially the way people can give and receive them differently.

I loved the talk about love languages and how giving and receiving love can be in different languages. Also the pep talks; I’ve read mine almost every day.

Join me in learning how to ask for love the way you need it — you deserve it.

Sign up for the Course to reserve your spot now!

Why you need to go to therapy, and why you probably can’t

therapy

In theory, every single person would benefit from regular therapy. Just like you get an annual physical to check your blood work for issues you can’t see, like cholesterol, blood sugar, inflammation, and more, a regular check-in with a therapist can help you maintain healthy levels of psychological self care.

When I meet with my psychiatrist, she goes through a depression and anxiety inventory and scores it. From the time I went on medication in December 2017 to my checkup in February 2019 (and quarterly follow-ups between), my scores consistently dropped. It was a quantitative way to check in and realize I was making strides in my mental health that could not have been noticed by just considering if I was feeling “less depressed.”

We developed a plan to wean off meds, and I’ve been off them entirely since May 2019 (the same month my book launched and I broke up with a boyfriend of over a year — it was a great time to go off meds! Sarcasm!) The moral of the meds story is that once I was out of an abusive marriage and actively working through my trauma in therapy, I was managing my mental health without the use of medication. If it turned out that I still needed it, I would have gone back on.

However, even if you don’t see a psychiatrist for a diagnosed mental illness like depression, anxiety, bipolar, borderline, OCD, C-PTSD, etc., and even if you don’t take meds, mental health care helps everyone.

You would benefit from therapy

Yeah, you. Whoever you are and whatever you’ve been through, even if you think you’re fine.

We live in an extremely stressful society that is not set up for our well-being. We are over-worked, minimum wage doesn’t cover rent prices anywhere in the U.S., we’re drowning in student loans, and we have concentration camps. That’s just one country. Globally, there’s genocide and rampant homophobia/transphobia and the Amazon is burning and the ice caps are melting.

Watch the news for five minutes and you could benefit from a therapist.

Some of my readers who attend (or have attended) therapy said:

  • “My health insurance is good about covering therapy and visits to a CNP who can prescribe medication. I absolutely needed therapy almost three years ago and it’s led to me rising high above much of my depression and anxiety, and to just see more of my own worth. All of it was hard. Making appointments. Going to appointments. Having my therapist tell me things that were hard to hear. I don’t regret any of it.”
  • “For an hour I slow down. It isn’t deadlines and juggling, it’s take time, process, feel, reflect. As a single mom, there’s very little time for that. It’s always putting out fires and juggling other people’s needs. My therapy is my one self indulgence, the one thing I completely do for me. It’s like the bare minimum of self care and it still feel selfish for it when I’m doing the schedule shuffling to make our weeks work.”
  • “I have been going to therapy for three years now and it’s the most incredible thing I’ve ever done for myself. I went from being on 7 different medications and still unable to function as a human with C-PTSD and DID and now I take one medication and have a full time job with normal to low anxiety.”
  • “It’s been amazing for me and helped me leave my emotionally/psychologically abusive marriage, start healing the trauma from that and from my childhood, improve lots of areas of myself that also have helped improve my parenting. I recommend it to others every chance I get.”
  • “I go to therapy to find myself again. After so much abuse I’ve gone through I’ve lost the real me. My therapist has helped me so much. I’m so very grateful for him and would recommend therapy to everyone.”
  • “I used to go to therapy. It helped me process some stuff that I desperately needed to work through, like realizing just how abusive my parents truly were. I’m tempted to go again because I’m barely functioning again, but I worry they won’t help, just use me as a lab rat to satisfy their curiosity.”
  • “My therapist is always calling me out, and, don’t tell her, but I like it.”
  • “Finding the right therapist is key and worth being patient.”
  • “Without therapy I would never have identified I was being abused.”
  • “I have been to multiple therapists in the past. The only one I’d say had a real impact was my PTSD specialist (EMDR therapy). The others… by and large, I usually left sessions feeling more confused than I did when I went in.”
  • “I have been in and out of therapy since I was 5. I go because while I have figured out how to process and unpack my trauma on my own, I currently and desperately need to undo some learned behaviors and deal with my most recent bout of abuse and deal with my PTSD. It helps to have a space space to break down or soundboard once a week. I personally think everyone can benefit from therapy. EVERYONE.”

The key is that everyone would benefit from a therapist with absolutely no biases that preclude proper supportive care, and that’s not always possible.

When you can’t go to therapy

There is a huge problem with access to therapy. Many people are without insurance, transportation, or income to be able to access a therapist. More, it can be difficult and daunting to find an inclusive therapist who is open and accepting of all gender identities, sexualities, relationship styles, ability levels, etc. or who is informed in a specific need if you have one. As a result, marginalized people face even more hardship because they cannot even access the services and tools to help them cope.

I asked readers to chime in if they go to therapy or not and why. Here are some of the negative responses:

  • “I’ve been told by basically everyone I’m close to that I need to go to therapy, and I want to, but I can’t afford it and I’ll never be able to at this rate.”
  • “Every therapist seemed wholly overwhelmed and some cried”
  • “Not anymore. They spend more time studying me than helping me. ‘Oh you’re nonbinary, I have a lot of questions.’ While some of them never mention ‘the autism’ some brought it up to congratulate me for being so functional. And some were really helpful – that’s the bitter pill.”
  • “No insurance, so no. Probably not once we have insurance, because nothing I can find that we can afford covers it. When I did, I found it largely unhelpful due to the profession being dominated by people who don’t think people with breasts can possibly know their own mind. Never mind trauma-informed, educated on chronic illness, accepting of autism self-diagnosis, etc. When I’m having to educate my therapist constantly, it doesn’t make for a good relationship.”
  • “Even if I had insurance, it would be near impossible to find a non-racist, trans inclusive, queer positive, non Christian therapist with a good praxis on ableism here. When I have had therapy it was not helpful because the therapist could not understand my life experience and was not comprehending of the support I needed, which resulted in me being gaslit and given harmful advice that increased my abuser’s control over me.”
  • “I have insurance but I have phone anxiety and anxiety about not knowing how to set up appointments. I also have some trauma related to bad counseling I’ve had. That’s not getting into being a neurodivergent creative weirdo and also accidentally stunning them with my trauma. It honestly feels like having to translate a deeply personal internal language with other people outside myself for every basic communication.”
  • “No. Because the stigma means that if anyone knew, they would think less of me. Like there’s something wrong with me.”

Others who are able to go to therapy can only do so because of special access programs.

  • “The only way I can afford to go is because I signed up with Open Path. I go because I finally realized last year that I needed to talk to a professional about my past traumas and talk about my depression and anxiety issues that stemmed from them. My therapist has helped me totally reframe the way I think about my past and change the way I talk about it. It’s gonna be a long process, but I feel more optimistic now than I ever have before.
  • “The only reason I’m able to is because of a local organization of therapists who volunteer their time for the uninsured. I chose to go when I was having daily suicidal thoughts, but I should have been going for the last 20 years. I’ve been going for 8 months now and so far it’s been extremely helpful just to be able to talk without fear of judgment and without feedback or bias. The entire experience has been extremely validating and I think absolutely every person on this planet should see a therapist regularly.”

This system is letting people down

People don’t have access to safe, inclusive, reliable, affordable mental health care — and that means that people are not safe. We are letting down trans people, domestic violence survivors, veterans, and everyone else including people who just need a safe space to unload their mental burdens. We are mainlining stress and gating the resources to manage it in a healthy way.

In a new study published in 2018, researchers found that “mental health services in the US are insufficient despite more than half of Americans seeking help. Limited options and long waits are the norm, but some bright spots with 76% of Americans now seeing mental health as important as physical health.”

Barriers cited in this study include:

  • High cost and insufficient insurance coverage
  • Limited options and long waits
  • Lack of awareness (not knowing where to go for service)
  • Social stigma

We’ve created a world that is too stressful to bear, limited the access to mental health care, and stigmatized those who seek or use it. Not to mention we raise boys to avoid emotional expression, thereby ensuring a huge chunk of each generation doesn’t even know how to express that they’re feeling stressed or angry or hurt without violence, lest they be seen as weak.

We need to do better.

Read more from me!

If you enjoyed this post (enjoy is a strong word, it was kind of a downer), you might also like my book, The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation. I’d love for you to let me know what you think of the book, so please give it a read and leave a five star review on Amazon. If you’re morally opposed to Amazon, I have some other links here.

You can also follow me on Medium and clap for this story to support me for the low low cost of your Medium membership.

I’ve also just set up a Patreon page which will get sneak peeks of upcoming topics, an opportunity for you to suggest topics, and additional Patron-only bonus content. Check it out, Patron levels start at just $1 per month to help support my writing.

 

 

 

A breakup doesn’t mean you failed

broken heart string

When you’re deeply committed to someone, the end of that relationship can be devastating. Whether it’s a romantic relationship, friendship, or even removing a family member from your life — breaking up is hard. But it doesn’t mean you’ve failed at anything.

I reject the notion that a relationship that doesn’t last a lifetime is a failure.

Breaking up isn’t failure, it’s acknowledging that something isn’t working for one or more people. I used to believe I had two failed marriages, but really I had two examples of putting myself first and realizing that I wasn’t obligated to stay unhappy for the sake of other people.

People are constantly learning and growing and developing – especially people with mental health struggles. To be able to say, “I can’t be in this relationship because it’s hurting me” is a huge thing. It is something to be proud of. It is not a moral failure, even if there is pain involved. 

Here are some reasons I have had breakups:

  • I was deeply unhappy in the relationship and felt incompatible with my partner
  • I was demanding more respect and consideration than I was giving in return (yeah, this was the time somebody broke up with me — for very good reason)
  • An abusive third party convinced me my partner was toxic to me to isolate me
  • My partner was abusive
  • My partner had a meltdown every time I tried to express a boundary or concern
  • My partner could not support my recovery from an eating disorder and lost sexual interest in me when I gained weight
  • My partner said something negative and judgmental about people who aren’t ready to leave abusive relationships and broke my trust

Love isn’t all you need

Just loving someone does not mean you need to stay with that person. You can love an abuser. You can love your parents when they are unkind and manipulative toward you. You can love someone you’ve spent years with, even though you are no longer in love with them. And you can love someone and not trust them.

It’s important to build relationships on mutual respect, reciprocated intimacy and emotional labor, trust, and safety. You need to be able to talk about hurt feelings without worrying that the conversation will blow up. You need to be able to express your expectations of a relationship without feeling like you’re being “too much.”

If they tell you you’re “too much,” that’s simply not a person for you to be as close with. The answer is less of you in their life, not less of you in yourself.

I have some friends that are “a lot.” I love them so much, but I’m an introvert and their extrovert energy drains me. I still love these people, but I make sure to plan my time accordingly so that I’m not seeing five extrovert friends in the same week one day after another or attending two huge social events in a row. I will end that week miserable!

And I’m not shy about saying “I absolutely want to spend time with you but I am spent right now, can we plan something for next week?” Or even while spending time together, if I feel overwhelmed I know I can say, “I’m feeling really overstimulated, can we spend some time just hanging out on our phones or watching a movie so I can calm down?”

These people love me, yes — but they also respect me and my limits. I can’t give all of myself all of the time. Love is a wonderful, joyful part of life and it can definitely make life better, but it’s not “all you need.”

The point of life is not to find a partner to spend your life with

This is tough, right? The vast majority of media shows us people coupling as a major plot point and even resolution for a happily ever after. But this makes us believe that we need a partner to be fulfilled and nothing is further from the truth.

A partner can be part of a fulfilling life but is not the reason for your fulfillment.

I was describing some upcoming dates with a coworker recently and she said, “Oh, maybe this guy’s the one.” I said, “There is no ‘the one.'” It took the wind out of her sails, but I didn’t mean anything negative about believing there’s a “one” for you — just that there’s no “one” for me. Firstly, I’m polyamorous, so reserving a space for my most special partner is inherently not cool, and secondly, I’m twice divorced and I am well over the idea that another human is a necessary factor in my happiness.

I absolutely adore dating, relationships, and love. I love to love and be loved. It is a huge part of who I am as a person. But it’s not my one and only purpose.

Additionally, the idea that a lifelong romantic relationship is the number one priority leaves out asexual and aromantic people who really may not even care about a long-term love story. It also reduces the importance of friendships, which should hold just as much value in society as romantic relationships. Friendship is intimate and committed and passionate in ways similar and different from romantic relationships, but Western society places romance on a pedestal over an interwoven network of friends.

Why is there no term for breaking up with a friend?

Friendships are valid relationships just like romantic relationships are. Friends should be able to live together, raise their kids together, spend quality time together, without it being weird that they’re doing these things platonically. Our heteronormative monogamy culture makes it seem like we’re not whole until we’ve settled down in a one-man-one-woman long-term relationship with children.

And when a friendship ends, we should be able to grieve it like the loss of any other loving relationship. Breaking up with a friend sucks. But just like love isn’t all you need in a romantic relationship, it’s not all you need in a friend relationship either.

Here are some reasons that I, and friends of mine, have ended friendships:

  • A friend made a disrespectful (homophobic, transphobic, fatphobic, sexist, racist, ableist, etc.) comment and refused to apologize or be educated
  • A friend made judgmental comments about someone’s weight and activity level
  • A friend was a bad tipper
  • A friend was named as an abuser
  • A friend repeatedly tried to sell MLM products after being told no
  • A friend voted for Donald Trump
  • A friend just generally gave off an uncomfortable or unsafe vibe
  • A friend made excuses for someone’s racist “sense of humor”
  • A friend became an emotional vampire and refused to grow, go to therapy, or otherwise deal with their issues
  • A friend constantly one-upped and pointed out how they did everything better
  • A friend was dismissive about a health condition or disability

You get to have boundaries and limits, and no one is entitled to your time except the people you decide to share your time with. You have a reasonable expectations that your friends are respectful (of you and other people), and it is okay to distance yourself or end a friendship if your boundaries are violated.

Regardless of the nature of the relationship, you reserve the right to change or end it to protect yourself. Ending a relationship is not a failure.

Read more from me!

If you enjoyed this post , you’ll be thrilled to know there’s a whole chapter on relationships, including info on polyamory and relationship anarchy, in my book, The Gaslighting of the Millennial Generation. Millennials didn’t invent these relationship types but we are fairly noisy about normalizing them. I’d love for you to let me know what you think of the book, so please give it a read and leave a five star review on Amazon. If you’re morally opposed to Amazon, I have some other links here.

You can also follow me on Medium and clap for this story to support me for the low low cost of your Medium membership.

I’ve also just set up a Patreon page which will get sneak peeks of upcoming topics, an opportunity for you to suggest topics, and additional Patron-only bonus content. Check it out, Patron levels start at just $1 per month to help support my writing.