Thursday night, as soon as midnight struck on the east coast, I was listening to Billie Eilish’s newest album, Happier Than Ever.
If you had told me a year ago that I would be staying up late anxiously awaiting music from Billie Eilish, I probably would’ve laughed. I never thought I would like her or her music, largely because I had veered away from mainstream pop music and held judgments towards myself for liking that music for so many reasons that I won’t get into here. I didn’t realize Billie’s music would relate to me. Thank god I stumbled upon her documentary and fell deeply in love with who she is, what she represents, and the music she creates.
This album definitely lived up the hype…I love when artists are excited about the work they’ve created. It makes me more excited to listen to it, to know it was a really personal project that they’re proud of and held a lot of meaning for them. This is what I held onto as I began listening.
Listening to the titular song—the second to last track on the album—I had a very strong emotional reaction. As the music transformed and built in power, I realized that my body was covered in goosebumps and started crying and laughing at the same time. I was so happy to be having that reaction, honestly…I haven’t had such a visceral reaction to art, especially music, in quite a while.
I have been conditioned to feel ashamed of my high sensitivity. Highly sensitive people make up 20% of the population, and in Western culture (especially in the US), we are taught to stuff our feelings down, to “stop being so sensitive”, to multitask, push ourselves through discomfort, and ignore or numb ourselves to challenging emotions. Growing up, I didn’t feel validated for the intense emotional experiences I had, especially when it came to art in any form. When I experienced art that impacted me, I just couldn’t multitask, or move on to the next thing once it was over. I had to bathe in the experience, to let the inspiration wash over me, to figure out how I could make others feel the ways I was feeling. It took me a long time to meet others who experienced that feeling, too.
When I noticed my reaction to “Happier Than Ever”, my shame remembered what it was like to feel alone in those powerful emotions, and wanted me to stuff them down, to stay quiet about them, to not share the feelings with anyone. But listening to the song felt so good to be so moved by a single piece of music. I immediately thought Fuck the shame! I am so tired of twisting myself into a more socially acceptable being…this music changed me, and that matters!!
I am allowed to be moved by art. I am worthy of experiencing profound feelings and sharing them with the world. I matter.
Sometimes I feel sorry for those who don’t feel what us sensitive folks feel when we listen to powerful music, watch a moving film, see exquisite art…My sensitivity allows me to transcend myself. To see what others see. To feel what others feel. To feel the weight of why an artist creates what they create. To see myself in others’ stories. To process my own feelings.
Thank you, Billie Eilish, for reminding me how beautiful my high sensitivity is. Thank you for creating an album that holds so much raw, emotional truth. Thank you for helping me process my own trauma. Thank you for your vulnerability. Above all, thank you for inspiring me to be brave, authentic, and free.
I started a new job (hooray!) and I realized that I might need to press pause on the blog. I wasn’t sure if I could protect my privacy enough to continue writing so personally, when my job is working with patients in eating disorder treatment. I need to create some essential boundaries between the professional and the personal, and I didn’t know how this site factored into those boundaries.
So, for now, while I figure it out, I’ve removed my blog from any identifying social media sites. Because today I needed to write.
I’ve started this new job that I absolutely love and I’m finally working my extroverted muscle that had atrophied significantly in quarantine. But suddenly, my weekends have become difficult. Around the same time on Saturdays and Sundays since I started working, I sink into this depressively low mood. It only lasts a few hours each weekend evening, and it’s completely miserable. It doesn’t matter how great my week was, or even how great that morning had been…suddenly I lose interest in everything, and feel hopeless, unmotivated, and extremely bored. And it confuses the hell out of me.
But if you think about it, it makes perfect sense.
Isolation sucks when you’re an extrovert. This is what I’ve learned in quarantine, being immunocompromised and therefore at a much higher risk to be able to fight off this deadly virus. I’ve been stuck in the same house with the same person for almost a year now. I rarely leave the house. We get our groceries delivered. It’s winter, so we can no longer hang out safely with our few friends in town. It is so lonely.
When I have a week filled with meetings and fulfilling, meaningful work that energizes me and distracts me from quarantine, weekends throw me back into that isolation that I’ve been stuck in since March of last year. And now that my mind has been reminded that it’s an extrovert, when I reach the weekend where I can’t work that muscle, my mind gets confused and sad that it’s still alone at home.
I still don’t know how to prevent this dip in mood. Are any of you feeling this, too? How are you navigating your 11th month in quarantine? Thoughts are welcome in the comments below.
I hope you’re all hanging in there. Hopefully this ends soon.
For those who didn’t read my last post, my insurance company gave me breast reduction surgery for Christmas! Recovery hasn’t been as tough as I expected, though it still has its ups and downs. Gravity is not my friend at the moment, but my bathroom mirror finally is!
First, I’m not going to gloss over the difficult moments. The first time I looked down at my new chest I cried. They still looked too big and they hurt like the devil. Yes, I could breathe easier (strange, but true) and my breasts were finally sitting where they were supposed to on my chest, but I still wasn’t excited yet. It wasn’t until yesterday—a full week post-op—that I looked at my bare chest in the mirror. And when I did, I couldn’t stop laughing.
I love my new boobs! They’re still swollen and bruised and taped up, and they will be for a while, but damn they look good. They finally match the image of myself in my head. It’s such a good feeling that I’ve felt high ever since. I already feel more confident, and more in love with my body.
That last part I didn’t expect. But I’m finally seeing my body in a brand new way. Some of my body dysmorphia has begun to fade, as well. When I look in the mirror, I can see a tall, thin girl. Before, I considered myself one of those “big-boned” tall girls. My breasts took up most of my abdomen and made me feel generally large. I don’t see that girl in the mirror as much anymore.
I was hesitant writing this down, but I’m gonna say it: my body is beautiful. I am so happy that I’m starting to see that.
If anyone has considered having this procedure done and has questions I might be able to answer, feel free to contact me. I couldn’t have done this without the r/Reduction subreddit, and I can’t imagine going through this alone.
I’m sure I’ll continue mentioning my recovery in the year to come, but for now I am just giddy and in love with my new boobs. I am ringing in the new year with a body I now enjoy looking at in the mirror. And that’s a big friggin’ deal.
I’m gonna get super real in this one. Are you ready?
Ever since puberty hit and my boobs just kept growing I’ve felt as though they didn’t belong to me. The image of myself in my mind didn’t match with what I saw in the mirror. For roughly 10 years, I’ve wanted a reduction. In fact, when I was in high school, I wrote my parents a letter that I left on their bed asking for surgery, too ashamed to even ask them face-to-face. (This followed my initial diagnosis of my autoimmune disease, so my parents rightly decided that surgery wasn’t the best option for me then.) I’ve always strived to be honest on my blog, plus it’s often where I do my processing. It felt important to write this post. So here goes:
My insurance company has approved my breast reduction surgery, and my surgeon is fitting me in next week. I’m about to have smaller boobs!
A lot of thought, time and energy went into this decision, but so did many years of feeling detached from a part of myself. For most of my life I’ve gotten the comments “I had no idea your boobs were so big!” and “I would kill for your rack!” and “If it’s any consolation, you hide them really well,” from roommates and friends and even some medical professionals. But here’s the thing: I don’t want to hide my boobs! I want to be proud of them, to wear clothes that make me feel sexy and confident and like me. And now I’m finally getting that chance.
No more needing to bind my breasts to access certain styles or comfort. Besides, binding my breasts has been SO uncomfortable and never gives me what I really want. I have multiple Pinterest boards full of clothes/styles I never thought I’d be able to wear because of my breasts. It feels incredible knowing that I’m actually going to have the chance to find a style that is truly authentic and fits who I am and how I want to express myself. Not only that, but this surgery will alleviate chronic pain I’ve dealt with my entire life, and hopefully improve my posture. But the biggest, most important part of all this is that I am getting the chance to feel like a part of my body that I’ve felt shame for my entire life actually belongs to me.
This feels scary to write here largely because it still feels too good to be true. I still have to take a COVID test and hope that my surgeon doesn’t get called into an emergency before my scheduled procedure. Plus, because of insurance, I can only make this work if I do it before the end of the year. So in a way, I don’t want to get my hopes up too high. But on the other end of that spectrum, I need to keep reminding myself of the positives in order to speak into the fear that I’m also feeling. My therapist had me make a list of reminders to post around my house to look at before surgery (while I’m still super anxious) and post-op (when pain or limited mobility might make things tough), and the list is already a full page long (and still growing!). I’m getting the chance to change so many things that I’ve been unhappy with for most of my life, and I am so grateful.
Yeah, I’m terrified of having this surgery. And it’s a little scary writing about it here. But, as a dear friend reminded me, all of this is bringing me more in alignment with my authentic self and that can only bring positives. I’m choosing to do a scary and difficult thing in service of who I truly am. My outside will finally match my inside.
My job is to disappoint as many people as it takes to avoid disappointing myself. This (paraphrased) quote from Untamed has been helping me a lot through this process. Especially because I tend to care too much about what others think, so much so that I can derail my own life to make others feel more comfortable. But I’ve spent the last 10 years praying that this day would come. I’ve researched, talked to my doctors and surgeon, processed with my therapist, and even had conversations with my boobs in the mirror. It felt as though the universe handed me this gift just in time for Christmas. I know I’ve made the right decision.
I’m ready to feel more confident in my body, more aligned with my femininity, and be more expressive with the androgyny I’ve been waiting to fully explore. Let this post serve as my reminder, for when the fear tries to creep in or recovery gets tough, that I’m ready for this. I’ve always been ready.
CW: eating disorders, phobias, post-traumatic stress disorder This post discusses season 4 of The Legend of Korra; spoiler alert to those who care!
Quarantine has introduced me to both Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, and I couldn’t believe I had gone so many years without seeing either of these hit shows!
While I’m completely obsessed with both shows (after taking many Buzzfeed and personality quizzes, it turns out I’m a Firebender!) and their complex characters (Katara, Asami, Zuko, Jinora, Uncle Iroh!!!! The list goes on and on…), what stood out to me was how Korra dealt with a significant trauma at the end of season 3 and into season 4 of The Legend of Korra. I’ve never seen a more realistic portrayal of anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder on screen before, and I found myself relating to Korra more than I ever expected to. What I appreciated about this series is that season 4 doesn’t offer us a new villain for Korra to battle right off the bat. Instead, she battles with herself.
In the post I shared about my specific eating disorder, I mentioned a long period of nightly nausea spells as a child that morphed into a full-blown phobia of getting sick. In that post I wrote that my eating disorder is defined as an “aversion to eating due to a traumatic experience.” Trauma (as my therapist defines it) is a real or perceived threat of serious harm or death, with perception being the key word. While some may have dealt with chronic nausea and grown up without any fears around it, my experience was different. Real or not, as a child I continued to think “This is scary and keeps happening, and no one is explaining it to me.” What my current therapist has helped me understand is that due to the constant spells of nausea in my childhood that left me more and more terrified each night I spent on the bathroom floor, I now experience CPTSD, or complex post-traumatic stress disorder. (The difference between CPTSD and PTSD is that complex post-traumatic stress disorder results from repeated trauma over months or years, rather than from a single traumatic event.) I can feel intense, physical anxiety when it comes to certain smells, bodily sensations, and even some bathrooms.
At the end of season 3, Korra is tortured, suffocated, and poisoned by villain Zaheer and though she survives, the experience leaves her traumatized, physically and mentally. When season 4 begins, we see flashbacks of Korra’s early recovery period, with symptoms of PTSD leaving her unable to stand, eat, or sleep. When Korra goes to see Katara, a healing waterbender, for help in her recovery process, Katara says she can help guide her healing process, but whether she gets better or not is up to Korra. She proceeds to show Korra how involved her mind is in her recovery, eventually helping her to walk again.
During a particularly frustrating healing session, Katara tells Korra “the mind can be a powerful ally or your greatest enemy,” and assures her that she’s safe even though her body thinks she’s still in danger. I perked up when I heard this, as my therapist often tells me that my anxiety is responding to a false alarm in the body, trying to protect me from a threat that doesn’t actually exist.
This is something Korra continues to struggle with, particularly as she experiences flashbacks and hallucinations from her trauma. It’s difficult to think you’re safe when your body feels as though it’s reliving your traumatic experience over and over again. (I’ve been told I need to read the book The Body Keeps the Score, and I look forward to reflecting on this post once I’ve done so.)
Eventually, haunted by her trauma and feeling isolated and misunderstood, Korra disconnects from her loved ones and leaves to travel the world alone. Though everywhere she goes, she is followed by an eerie hallucination of herself bound in chains. This was a beautiful (albeit spooky) representation of how it feels to be bound to your trauma, particularly during the scene in which Korra’s projected Avatar-State-self uses the chains to start “dragging her down with her” into sinking mud during an intense hallucination.
Korra quite literally battles her own mind, despite standing up to her hallucinated self and stating “You’re just in my mind. You’re not real.” Even though anxiety does lie in our minds, it can manifest itself very physically, and for someone struggling with PTSD, it’s difficult to recognize anxiety for what it is.
It doesn’t matter that Korra recognizes that her hallucinations are only in her mind, her physical symptoms are very real. As someone who has grown up struggling with symptoms of fear and anxiety, constantly being told the symptoms were all in my head—that none of what I was experiencing and feeling was real—I could empathize strongly with Korra. It took me a long time to learn that while my anxiety came from my mind, I was still experiencing physical symptoms. I still struggle with validating my own feelings and experiences, but now I know how to soothe both my anxious mind and anxious body.
After Korra does a lot of work in her recovery, she still feels haunted by her trauma. She continues to relive the torture she endured, unable to find peace and live her life as she did before the events of season 3. She decides to face her fears and confront Zaheer (now in prison), hoping that if she sees him chained up she won’t see him as a threat in her mind anymore.
In a scene I initially opposed (why would Korra return to the man who did this to her?!), Korra faces Zaheer and confronts her fears, which turned the scene into one of my favorite of the entire show. It turns out that Zaheer is able to meditate into the Spirit World—something Korra has been unable to do due to her trauma—and offers to help guide her back there himself, to show her she has “all the power in the world and the freedom to use it.”
As she begins meditating with Zaheer, Korra is confronted yet again with a flashback of him torturing her. She begins to panic, her body feeling as though she’s in danger, but Zaheer encourages her to let the scene play out. She doesn’t think she can do it, saying she has no control, yet Zaheer continues to stay with her, telling her not to fear what might have been, but rather to accept what happened to her. Soon, she falls with him into the Spirit World.
When Korra realizes that she’s made it through the most difficult part of her anxiety and landed safely in the Spirit World, she is reconnected with Raava, the spirit of light and peace who lives within the Avatar. After being poisoned by Zaheer, Korra feared her connection with Raava had been severed, but Raava immediately reminds her, “I have always been inside of you.”
When I took Eat Breathe Thrive’s “Yoga for Eating Disorder Recovery” course, I was reconnected to my own Raava. As I learned various skills to restore my connection between my mind and body, I learned that I had the ability to control my anxiety within me all along. With ujjayi breathing that activates my vagus nerve (the one responsible for the “rest and digest” part of my nervous system), and honoring the needs of my body through interoception, I could lower the effects of the CPTSD, if only by a little bit.
I’ve also learned, like Korra, that sitting in my discomfort and letting my fear and anxiety play out won’t kill me (even when it may feel like it will). My therapist taught me that our minds search for patterns, and when I was constantly trying to numb away the anxiety or distract myself from it entirely, I was actually making it worse. I was reinforcing that the anxiety was dangerous by not addressing it, building up the fear in my head more and more. When Zaheer tells Korra not to run from her fear, to sit in the discomfort of her PTSD and accept what happened to her, she finally experiences relief. She relinquishes control, does the uncomfy thing, and it starts a new neural pathway in her brain—a new pattern—that shows her that she is safe.
As my therapist reminds me, my anxiety will always be there, there’s no stopping it entirely. But I can make it more manageable, so it won’t interrupt my life so significantly. Korra reflects on this concept, as well, as she leaves Zaheer’s prison. She acknowledges that she won’t forget the awful experience of being tortured and poisoned, but she is able to accept what happened, and that’s what will make her stronger.
While I have done a lot of work around my fears and anxiety, I’m not at the acceptance stage yet. Honestly, until I saw The Legend of Korra (and talked to my therapist) I didn’t know acceptance was a stage I could reach in my CPTSD. There’s a lot of frustration around the trauma I endured over and over growing up. But I have learned how to manage the anxiety to be able to live my life, and I continue to build on these skills with every passing day, week, month, and year. What’s more, I’m finally at the stage where I can process the trauma itself because I am able to manage my triggers and anxiety. I’m proud of my strength, and how far I’ve come in the last few years.
I’m so grateful to have seen myself in Korra, and I hope that we continue seeing PTSD and anxiety represented realistically on screen.
The other night, I was watching the episode of Friends where Rachel goes out on the town for the first time since giving birth. She’s wearing a dress that shows off her (frankly amazing) cleavage, and Ross (of course) takes issue with it. When she’s at the bar and a couple of guys come up to her to chat and eventually ask her for her number, she says she didn’t go out to meet guys, she just wanted to go hang out with her friend and get a drink. I found myself thinking Why did you dress like that if you didn’t want guys’ attention?That is my taming.
Taming is something Glennon Doyle defines in Untamed as the conditioning we receive starting in childhood to make us more acceptable in the eyes of society. She points out that at one point, when we were kids, we were wild, and dreamt of uninhibited futures and expressed emotions freely. But then, society began feeding us its messages that tamed us and put us in cages, and we learned that we were not supposed to be wild. Glennon (yeah, I’m using her first name, because I see her as part of my sisterhood more so than an untouchable author) has opened millions of readers’ eyes by calling bullshit on capitalism and the patriarchy, and teaches us in Untamed how to return to our wild.
I remember one of my first tamings. It involved the school dress code. Girls were not allowed to dress too “provocatively” (how can we dress provocatively at six fucking years old, I ask you?!) because it was too distracting to our male peers. And with no similar rules warning boys not to distract the girls in their class, us girls grew into women who were taught that men can’t help but objectify us. This leads to the body-shaming and blaming of women that I found myself (a 26 year old female feminist) doing to a television character.
This doesn’t mean I’m a bad feminist. This means that I’m still learning how to fight the toxic training and taming I’ve received for most of my life. When that training starts in childhood, unlearning it as an adult is hard work! What’s exciting is that I immediately recognized my Rachel-shaming thought as my taming. A year ago, I think I would have noticed myself making such a comment, but not been curious about it.
I’m equal parts excited and scared to rekindle the wild inside me. But I’m insanely curious what my life can look like outside of the cage I’ve been tamed into.
Some days can feel like I’ve abandoned my cage entirely, when the next feels like I’m right back inside with the door firmly closed. Other days I’m sitting on the edge, questioning whether to leave the cage that’s been my home for ~20 years, or leap into the wild unknown. Being wild is scary, especially in a world that does not accept or appreciate wilderness. But I do know that I’m curious about the wilderness enough to explore.
I’m still not sure if I’m one of those people who believes in astrology or the spirituality of lunar cycles, but I decided to use today’s new moon as an opportunity for change.
I need to reset. A depressive episode a couple of weeks ago left me in some bad habits, and shame has lingered enough to wreak some havoc on my thoughts and behaviors. I want to set some new intentions. I thought it was pretty exciting that I had these thoughts on the same day of a new moon…for those who don’t know, new moons symbolize new beginnings.
I figured I could use the blog as a means of accountability, to hopefully manifest new intentions and habits. So, here we go…
It didn’t sink in until about an hour ago that I actually have hope again. I haven’t felt hope like this in a long time. I can finally imagine a world in which I can safely leave my house, see my friends, run to the store, hug my parents. That is no small thing.
Not to mention, we have a woman of color as our Vice President. Honestly, this was the highlight of this win for me. Not so much Joe, but Kamala. I used to call her office when I lived in CA, when I was afraid of the then-newly elected administration. Hearing her speak tonight made me proud. I think the women of this country, and the parents of daughters across our nation shone a little brighter tonight. Representation is powerful. Hope is powerful.
This weekend, I am celebrating. On Monday, I get back to work to figure out how to be a better American, a better woman, a better human. But for now, I can relax. I can exhale. We did it.
wandering aimless for years i never thought i’d find a home in any one place wondering, hoping will i ever settle, find peace? then this year i learned I am my home beneath my skin wherever my heart beats is where i hang my hat i’ve made it comfortable in here my resting place i am my home base my breath is the key that opens my front door so long as i inhale, exhale i can enter here a space furnished by trust and love mind and body knit together but when depression rings the doorbell i feel its pull and long to leave the home i’ve made out of body of flesh, blood, bone fraying edges of body and mind this cunning mood tricks and deceives and if i’m not careful he will carry me out out out lying through his devil smile that says there is no home after all you’ll have to keep wandering lost, alone, forever soon i forget my breath’s ability to anchor me in what i’ve created here within myself and i wander through the ether a while until depression looms no more and my inhale, exhale returns me to my heart, my hearth, my home within