Caught in Black and White

Last night, a friend of mine sent me a folder of photos from a portrait shoot we did last week. I needed a new headshot for LinkedIn and asked my good friend, who happens to be a great photographer, to take them for me. Normally I hate being on the other side of the camera, but my previous LinkedIn photo was taken back in 2016 and I looked quite a bit different then. I let myself have fun during the shoot; I focused on my friend and allowed my weirdness to take over.

When I saw the photos last night, I cringed. Not because the photos themselves were bad—they were beautiful, in fact—but because I immediately saw the flaws in myself. I couldn’t even look at them longer than a few seconds because I didn’t see myself as a whole, I saw myself as small pieces to be picked apart.

I immediately began judging myself for judging myself. All I kept thinking was that I had made so much progress in the realm of body positivity, yet had failed epically in a crucial opportunity for self-love. Suddenly, I saw this small struggle as the demise of my capability to love myself. Yikes!

Not long after, I was able to pull away from the situation and look at it from a different angle. Not even a week ago, my therapist and I discussed my penchant for All or Nothing thinking. This mindset, also known as Black and White thinking, falls under the “Cognitive Distortion” category, and can trap you into feeling like things are either staunchly one way or the other, without anything existing in between. Examples include, but are not limited to, “If I don’t finish this task by tonight, I am a failure,” “I tried something new and made a mistake, so I will never be good at it,” and “I’m feeling frustrated with the people I work with, but they did a task correctly today, so everything is fine.” Double yikes!

Aha, but this is when dialectics come into play!

Thinking dialectically means acknowledging two things being true at the same time. For people who struggle with mental illness and/or eating disorders, this can be difficult. It’s easy to think that if you relapse it hurtles you backwards in your recovery, or even worse, it negates any and all of your progress. Let me set things straight: hiccups in recovery do not erase the progress you’ve made.

I’ll say it again, just to drive it home…You can struggle and be making progress. These two things can (and will) exist at the same time.

Last night, I experienced struggle. I looked at my 2-D face on the screen and couldn’t see the amazing qualities I’ve been discovering about myself lately. Picking apart my looks is my default mode right now. But I know now that it won’t always be. I am learning and growing and coming into my power. And part of that growth and stepping into who I was always meant to be means that I will stumble now and again.

I can stumble and be strong.

Embodied Intimacy

In a homework assignment for a class I took recently, I had to practice abhyanga, or self-message, as a form of embodied intimacy.

You’ve probably heard of intimacy in the context of sex or romance, but intimacy isn’t just another word for sex. If we’re using the latin roots to provide our definition—intimus: innermost; intimare: to make known/familiar—we can understand intimacy to mean “making the innermost aspect of oneself known or familiar.” This can happen in a romantic relationship, yes, but also in friendships or familial relationships as you connect and share with one another.

But rarely do we show ourselves this same level of intimacy. One of the core principles of this course’s curriculum (designed to help those struggling with mental health challenges and eating disorder recovery) is Embodied Intimacy, which is the capacity to appreciate and use the body as a gateway to intimacy.

When I first heard this I was very confused. I could grasp the idea of emotional intimacy, since being an HSP makes me naturally predisposed to self-reflection and personal growth, but my understanding stopped there. As someone with an eating disorder and plenty of body image issues, my mind is historically disconnected from my body. The notion that I could use my body as a vehicle for connecting with myself seemed absurd.

When I was assigned this abhyanga exercise, I was honestly a little embarrassed. I mean, c’mon, I was supposed to undress in a room alone and use oil to massage myself for a significant amount of time?! The instructors of the class mentioned that when they assign this exercise they’re lucky if even a few people actually do it. There’s no denying that being intimate with ourselves is hard! I was proof of that.

I waited until the last possible moment to do the abhyanga, approaching it as something to check off my to-do list. At first, I even turned the TV on in the background. Bob’s Burgers was the perfect way to continue my trend of distracting and avoiding discomfort. I was instructed to use oil and pay special attention to my feet, so, after thoroughly washing my stinky feet, and feeling thoroughly ridiculous, I began.

I started on my left foot, keeping my ears on Bob’s Burgers and my eyes on my massage. When I moved up to my left leg, I noticed that I was using deep pressure, more than I thought I could handle, and my leg felt a lot stronger than I thought it was. I was so used to criticizing my muscles for being weaker than most, I hadn’t even noticed how strong they actually were. Suddenly, I realized there might be something to this exercise, and I turned off the TV.

By the time I reached my right foot, I was having an epiphany. The sole of my foot was calloused and tough, and I couldn’t remember ever intentionally giving my feet any love before doing this exercise. I found myself steeped in gratitude…my feet and legs are so much more capable than I ever give them credit for. They carry me, and have carried me, to so many places without faltering, and usually without my noticing. They have been through so much—from strolling on the beach, to dancing at concerts, to walking into dream jobs—and I never thank them for any of it.

I finally understood: this massage was a gift, my gift to my body.

My love language has always been giving gifts, so why don’t I ever give my body the gifts it so deserves? Despite all of the pain and illness I have faced, my body has continued to keep me alive and protect me. My sensitive nervous system provides my mind with this amazing intuition and empathy…my own superpowers. My hands have allowed me to do the things I am passionate about, like hold a camera or learn a language. My stretch marks are proof of the challenges I have overcome. My eyes help me to read and create and observe the beauty around me. My body is so incredible, always has been and always will be, and it deserves more gifts than I can ever give it. My body is my home.

My two biggest takeaways from my abhyanga practice that I want to make sure I never forget are 1) my body is far more strong and capable than I ever realized, and 2) my body deserves so much more gratitude than it currently receives. I am dedicating, right now, to the internet and to myself that I will spend more time thanking and loving my body. I will spend more time embracing embodied intimacy.

Gratitude is a powerful thing. Love is a powerful thing. It’s time I accept and respect that I am powerful, too.

ARFID, Defined

CW: discussion of eating disorders

I had an appointment with a new dietician recently, and when I mentioned my eating disorder, she immediately assumed it was anorexia. When I began explaining that no, it wasn’t anorexia, she cut me off and asked “Bulimia?” Trying to contain my exasperation I said, “No, I have ARFID.” Her response was, “What’s ARFID?”

This isn’t the first time I’ve been asked this by a medical professional, or even a mental health professional. My eating disorder is far less common than the ones you grow up hearing about, and rarer still because I am an adult. I figured I would take this opportunity to explain what ARFID is, and how it has manifested in my own life.

ARFID stands for Avoidant/Restrictive Food Intake Disorder. The first, important factor that separates ARFID from more common eating disorders, like anorexia and bulimia, is that it does not show evidence of body image issues as the cause of the lack of eating. While I do suffer from body image distortions (I do live in western society, after all), I do not restrict food in order to reach an “ideal” body type. Instead, ARFID is associated with a lack of interest in food or a low appetite, avoidance based on sensory sensitivity to certain foods, or fear of food/eating due to a traumatic experience (like choking or vomiting).

Personally, I grew up a picky eater, like many children who develop ARFID. (In fact, the average age ARFID patients seek treatment is 12 years old, according to research done by the American Psychological Association.) In addition to the picky eating, I also began having nightly spells of nausea at an early age, which we think was caused by my chronic illness (though it could have been undiagnosed anxiety). I would fall asleep night after night on the bathroom floor, convinced I was going to be sick. I never was. But my brain convinced me that nausea was something to fear. Soon I got nervous about certain foods, sure that they would cause me to vomit, so I avoided them altogether.

This childhood avoidance of certain fear foods started small—I was still receiving appropriate nutrition—but adulthood became a breeding ground for uncertainty and anxiety. Far from the meals I trusted, the meals my mother made, I grew more and more fearful of food. Though I had not experienced food poisoning since well before the chronic nausea set in, I was certain that if I wasn’t careful enough I would wind up sick.

During my second year in California, I was working on a show when my Production Stage Manager (PSM) got food poisoning right before the show. As a result, I was required to step in last minute to help backstage, and also heard excruciating details of the PSM’s sickness. That night I had my very first panic attack. It was also the night that I decided to stop eating entirely.

As you have probably guessed by now, I fall under the “aversion to eating due to a traumatic experience” category. Trauma is defined as any experience that overwhelms your ability to cope. Years of chronic nausea had left me unable to cope, and the experience with my PSM only traumatized me further. A few months later, malnourished and underweight, I was strongly encouraged to seek treatment by my therapist, and was admitted to the University of California San Diego’s highly sought after Eating Disorder Center for Treatment and Research.

ARFID can be an isolating diagnosis when it seems like no one understands your specific experiences. During my first week at UCSD I was a pretty heinous patient. In group therapy (a daily occurence) I spouted on and on about how I didn’t belong there, and no one understood me. I quickly realized I had much more in common with my fellow patients than I first thought. I made lifelong friends, and even though most of them could never fully understand my specific disorder, they knew what it was like to be consumed by the darkness of an eating disorder. I wouldn’t have made it through UCSD without them.

I got incredibly lucky that this international leader in in eating disorder treatment and research was a seven minute drive from my house, and that I had the financial support to afford a partial hospitalization program. (I still firmly believe that the universe brought me to San Diego so that I could have access to such an incredible treatment program.) I spent five months in treatment, learning skills and tools to help me increase my exposure to fear foods, while my treatment team helped me get my weight back up. Before this year’s hospitalization, it was the most difficult experience of my life.

UCSD’s program saved my life. More specifically, it handed me my life back. I started this blog, I learned how to talk back to my fear, and I was given the freedom to work, play, or travel without being limited by accessible food or absence of energy due to weight loss and malnutrition. At UCSD I learned the importance of community, and felt the first real call to become a therapist myself.

ARFID is less common, yes—only 14% of patients seeking treatment have ARFID—but I hope there continues to be education about this disorder. It can feel even more isolating and disorienting for someone struggling with ARFID when their own doctor or outpatient therapist isn’t familiar with the disorder.

If you have any questions that I may be capable to answer, feel free to leave a comment below! I will answer to the best of my abilities, or refer you to someone who can.

For any of my readers who are struggling with ARFID: you are not alone. I know how scary food can feel. Your experiences and your feelings are valid. If you have been diagnosed (or even if you think you may have ARFID), feel free to send me a message on the contact page or drop a comment down below. Your disorder does not define you. You are also stronger and more capable than you may ever believe.

On the Mat: Establishing an Imperfect Yoga Practice

Yoga for Perfectionism

My new yoga practice is both consciously and unconsciously challenging my perfectionism. Especially as a beginner in quarantine, without an instructor to show or help me with proper poses, pretty much everything I do is imperfect. And despite knowing this, I still choose to show up on my mat every day and try…I think that’s what yoga is all about…showing up, even when it’s messy or imperfect.

I’ve been struggling with meditation recently because I found I’m not great at the concept of “noticing your thoughts as clouds passing by, without holding onto or judging them.” In the last week I told a friend that rather than observing my thoughts as clouds, I cause a storm of clouds that hover above me and drench me in rain. I’ve been encouraged to treat meditation like a skill that requires practice, just like photography or writing.

On the mat the other day, I was in the middle of a particularly challenging yoga practice that woke up a lot of muscles I don’t normally use. After I transitioned out of a difficult pose back into downward dog, it took me a few breaths to realize I wasn’t holding proper form of this resting pose and was sort of collapsing in on myself because of my tired muscles. When I became aware of my improper form, I simply readjusted, pushing away from the earth and dropping my shoulders. Upon reflection later that day, I realized I had unconsciously done what I always tell myself I’m so bad at in meditation: I noticed my form was wrong, and, without judging myself for getting it wrong, I just readjusted and moved on with the practice. There wasn’t time to linger on my “mistake,” because I breathed into the next pose and was so grounded that I stayed in the present.

Yoga for Body Positivity

Yoga is helping me see my body differently, more than I’ve ever been able to before, and in an entirely new way. We discussed body positivity in my ED treatment program, but it wasn’t until I continued to show up on my mat that I fully grasped the concept.

When my lungs expand and contract, I am grateful that my body is able to keep me alive, most of the time without me even being conscious of it. When I stand in tadasana, or mountain pose, I am grateful that my bones support me as I stand, sit, walk, and go about my life. When I move through different poses, I am grateful to my muscles for allowing me to do the things I love and even the things I don’t, usually with ease and obliviousness. When I lay in savasana, or corpse pose, I am grateful to my body as a whole, for performing so many simultaneous complex functions that allow me to breathe, walk, talk, and think, let alone feel, emote, create, and do the million other things that make me me.

Yoga has given me the beautiful chance to stop criticizing my body for what I perceive as “faults,” and be grateful for just how many things it can do, that I normally never acknowledge.

Yoga for Willfulness

Listen…I am stubborn. My willpower is sub par. When I have a bad day, it is easy for me to pass on the difficult tasks. Lately, I’ve found that the days when I really don’t want to show up on my mat are the days that I notice the most improvement in my mood from the beginning to the end of my practice. And knowing that helps me push past my stubbornness. To show up, even when I desperately do not want to. Because the feeling at the end always trumps the feeling at the beginning. Feeling proud. Accomplished. Inspired.

Yoga for High Sensitivity

One of the benefits of yoga, I’ve found, is its ability to safely and gently connect the body and the mind. One of the skills I am currently developing is interoception, or the ability to sense what is happening inside the body at any given time, and acting on that awareness.

Lately, my HSP trait has felt like a foghorn, glaringly obvious and isolating me from everyone around me. On a regular basis people point out my self-awareness or my natural ability to self-reflect, and I’m left thinking Does nobody else think about themselves this way? When I asked this question to my therapist this week she smiled and shook her head, “Nope.” It’s funny how much I continue to learn about this trait and how it separates me from everyone else, as I’ve always felt like an outcast, and now I’m finally understanding why.

However, my natural tendency to be self-reflective has helped me in my yoga practice. Yoga is all about inner-awareness and this interoception, so as I allow my breathe to lead my movement on my mat, I feel more attuned to my body and its needs than I’ve ever been before. This practice helped me be honest with myself about my meal plan; being more aware of what my body was telling me helped me recognize hunger cues I may not have otherwise been aware of. With a slight adjustment, I now feel back on track and my body thanks me!

Yoga for Radical Acceptance

I am a highly sensitive person with multiple chronic and mental illnesses. I am in recovery from a painful, consuming eating disorder. I experience PTSD from my chronic illness and subsequent anxiety. All of these facets are a part of what makes me me. Denying them or being angry with them won’t make them any less true. I am in a period of transition and acceptance of the shitty things that have happened to me. I’ve realized that holding onto anger or resentment about these things only cripples me further and keeps me in a place of stuckness. If I can’t embrace my body for all of its intricacies, talents, and flaws, how can I embrace a true yoga practice? Radical Acceptance is a skill I learned in Dialectical Behavioral Therapy, and it’s never made more sense to me than it does when I’m sitting on my yoga mat, grateful for what my body can do for me.

Resources that Helped Me:

  • “I Am Maris” — a documentary on Netflix about a teenager who uses yoga as a part of recovery from an eating disorder
  • Eat Breathe Thrive — a nonprofit founded to prevent and help individuals overcome eating disorders through community, mindfulness, and yoga
    • Eat Breathe Thrive’s “Yoga for Eating Disorder Recovery” course
  • Yoga with Adriene — a YouTube Yogi whose channel offers yoga videos for everyone and everything
  • Perfectly Imperfect: The Art and Soul of Yoga Practice — a book by Baron Baptiste that offers up excellent tools to help yogis show up, both on and off the mat

Confessions from a Perfectionist

It is time for brutal honesty.

I am a perfectionist.

Since this blog was created as a way to challenge my perfectionism, you may be a bit confused. I’ve admitted to striving for perfection in previous posts, and even in my “About” section on this site, so how come I’m coming clean as a perfectionist again? To answer this question, let me back up and provide some context:

A couple of weeks ago I was struggling hard with my various mental illnesses. The pandemic has caused a surge in my anxiety, quarantine has created a flourish in my depression, and a combination of anxiety, depression, and a hiccup in my GI recovery has brought thoughts of disordered eating back to the forefront of my mind. All of these things led me to reach out to the Crisis Text Line a couple of weeks ago, a texting service providing free mental health crisis management to those feeling overwhelmed or hopeless. The counselor I was connected with was incredibly helpful, providing me with links and information relating to depression and anxiety that I could use to get unstuck from the place of willfulness I found myself in. My chief complaint was a lack in motivation– I was stir crazy and bored from being stuck in the same house with the same people for so many months now. In response to this, the counselor gave me a resource that has since changed my life and my depression: an app called “Habitica.”

Habitica is a free role-playing/task management app that allows you to treat your life like a game to stay motivated. You can input habits that you want to strengthen (or that you want to be rid of!), daily tasks you want to accomplish (in therapy we call these “activities of daily life” or “ADLs”), and your To-Do list. You create a customer avatar, and the more habits and tasks you check off, the more your avatar benefits! It’s been a really fun way to combat my depression, because who doesn’t want to collect pets to feed and ride simply by doing things like brushing your teeth or going for a walk?! (I am not endorsed by Habitica, I’m just an avid fan who has found that this app really works for me!)

Now I can circle back to why I am admitting to my perfectionism. Lately, I’ve been in denial, lying to myself about my progress and recovery. It’s been very subtle, but I didn’t want to face the consequences of not checking off my daily tasks and habits within Habitica (when you don’t check off your tasks by the end of the day, your avatar loses health and gold coins). Rather than accept my punishment for not finishing a task here or there, I would fib to myself, or even half-ass the tasks that I struggled to complete. I couldn’t even admit to a game that I am imperfect.

Yesterday, I came across a podcast episode about perfectionism. In the episode, the host says “Perfectionism is a shield that isn’t actually protecting us, but preventing us from taking flight.” As soon as she said this, I flashed back to one of my first sessions with my therapist in ED treatment (the very therapist who encouraged me to start this blog). If you’ve read the post that explains the title of this blog, you may have had a similar light bulb go off in your head. My then-therapist explained that if I’m so busy playing tug-of-war with my depression, anxiety, eating disorder, and/or perfectionism, I have no other hands to hold my hobbies, creativity, or relationships. She encouraged me to put down that rope, and see what my life would look like without it.

It was this session that I decided to commit to creating this blog and posting something every single day, as a way to fight off my perfectionism. If I post every day, I won’t have time to mull over every word, wondering if it’s good enough to publish. The host of that podcast said something very similar. She mentioned that perfectionism is an adaptive skill based on fear and worthiness, and a way to gain control when things feel out of control. The episode ended with this call to action: “Take an imperfect step.”

So I did. I came clean to myself and my therapist in session yesterday: “I hate to admit it, but I’ve been half-assing some of my daily tasks so that I can appear perfect, even in this virtual world I’ve created.” I admitted to not completing every Habitica task in its entirety, to the countless drafts I’ve started but never finished or published on this very blog, to shying away from activities I know I’d enjoy for fear of strangers seeing me. These were all very difficult things to say, and admitting to it all lifted a weight off of my shoulders the moment I said it out loud.

Perfectionism is all about perception. Perfectionists want others to see only what we want you to, and never the flaws that make us, let’s face it, human. I realized that even in Habitica, a virtual world where only I can see my specific successes and failures, I was trying to be perfect. The thing is, nobody is perfect. Not you, not your mom or spouse or neighbor or pastor. Everyone has flaws and faults, which is what makes the human race so beautifully connected. If we all embrace these imperfections (harder in practice than in theory, I know), we may see ourselves reflected in so many others, which breeds connection and authenticity.

Authenticity is my number one value, I’ve never been shy about sharing that. If I want to live true to this value, I must come clean as a perfectionist, and strive to keep taking these imperfect steps.

What is one imperfect step you can take today? Let me know in the comments below!

If you are struggling or in crisis, I encourage you to reach out to the Crisis Text Line by texting “HOME” to 741-741 for confidential and anonymous support. You are not alone.

2020 Vision

I’m stepping into this new year- into this new decade- feeling a sense of calm and clarity. I’ve realized that I finally have some semblance of a grasp on my health, both physical and mental. I was planning on diving into what led me to this eye-opening moment in my life, but decided to save it for a future post. Got to keep you wanting more, I suppose. Instead, I will say this:

I have never shied away from discussing my mental illnesses on this blog. And I’m not about to start now. 2020 will be the year I embrace the role of advocate, and start being more proactive about trying to help others who struggle with their mental health like I do. I have many goals for the new year. I aim to reclaim my identity as an artist, and embrace my creativity, however messy or even lackluster it may be at times. I aim to allow my individuality to continue to exist while I grow alongside another human, my partner, and recognize that I can do both at the same time. I aim to push myself to be the best version of me that I can be. I aim to pursue my passions, especially the new ones that terrify me. And I aim to work harder, and share more of my journey here with all of you.

When I created this blog during treatment for my eating disorder, I awakened part of myself I never knew I needed. Writing on this website helped me in ways I never imagined, and taught me a lot about myself and the kind of person I want to be. So, here we are in a new year and a new decade, and I’ve decided not to hold myself back. To acknowledge that I am not perfect, nor will I ever be, and that sometimes pursuing my dreams and pushing myself through depression and anxiety will be hard as hell. But I will continue to move forward. I will continue to pursue my dreams, be ambitious, write freely, and try not to judge myself too harshly along the way. I hope you will join me for the adventures.

Happy New Year, all. Congratulations on making it this far. Let’s keep going.

Introducing #DBTDay

Hello everyone!

I’ve fallen off the wagon of my #MentalHealthMonday posts, so I decided to revamp that, and add something new!

Once a week, I will explore a DBT skill on the blog! For those who don’t know, DBT stands for Dialectical Behavioral Therapy and is used by many treatment centers and therapists across the country. It is a cognitive behavior therapy developed by the extraordinary Marsha Linehan, Ph.D.. As its name suggests, DBT is focused on dialectics; balancing opposites, and using “both-and” ways of thinking rather than “either-or.”

There are four sections of DBT: Mindfulness, Distress Tolerance, Emotion Regulation, and Interpersonal Effectiveness. Each section offers unique skills to help you stay in the present moment, tolerate stressful situations (without making things any worse), manage intense emotions, and communicate effectively in relationships.

In an effort to raise awareness about DBT, and increase my own personal use of the skills, I will strive to post about one skill per week. If anyone has heard of DBT and would like to request a particular skill, or if you are interested in any of the four models mentioned above, just send me an email from my Contact page.

I can’t wait to refresh my memory of DBT; these are skills that saved my life. I hope they will have some effect on you, too.

Lowering the Bar

When you have depression, suddenly the world shifts. You have the burning desire to sleep all day, your passions become an afterthought, and small tasks seem unattainable. The number of times I have had to explain to my dentist that I don’t brush my teeth as often as I should because of my depression fills me with shame. Or when I start crying when I get the urge to pee because that means getting out of bed. When I’m at the bottom of a depressive well, the amount of guilt, shame, sadness, and exhaustion cover me so I can’t even see the light at the top. And I’m at the bottom of that well right now.

One of the adjustments I have had to make lately is adjusting the standards I set for myself. I now get rewarded for the smallest things. Things that I’m sure most people have no problem doing every day. I now get congratulated and celebrated when I do something simple, like put a dirty dish in the dishwasher, or take a shower. I have to force myself to go hang out with my friends, or reach out for help when I feel overwhelmed.

Today, I was congratulated for making social plans. At first, I was disheartened. All I did was reply “Sure” to a text from a friend who asked to hang out. Why does that earn celebration? I once read a memoir about a woman with bipolar disorder, and she writes something similar about receiving praise for moving from her bed to the couch.

The thing is, I can’t look at things the way I do when I’m not depressed. Because those are completely different circumstances. When you feel it’s impossible to get out of bed, or keep your eyes open, it is a major celebration when you do those things. Because, in your depressed mind, you have just accomplished the impossible. Which means, you can do anything. It will be hard as hell, sure. And it is doable. That is what I’m holding onto while I’m stuck looking up from the bottom of this hole I’ve found myself in. It’s going to be work. I’m going to have urges to act on maladaptive behaviors. I’m going to want to sleep all day. And I know that I can say no. I can get up and go to work, or see my friends, or buy groceries.

Just because I have to lower the bar now, doesn’t mean it’s forever.

 

when you put down the rope

Good afternoon, readers. Happy Saturday!

So, do you remember when I told you why I named this blog “Putting Down the Rope”? (No shame, if not. Read it here.)

Well, since treatment ended I’ve been feeling much more like myself. I’m sure recovery and the right cocktail of meds is doing the trick, but it’s so relieving to feel more productive, creative, etc. It feels like I’m putting down the rope.

Last night I had the opportunity to attend an art installation at my friends’ art co-op, Holy Unlikely. It was a gathering of some really amazing people, both extremely talented and exceedingly kind. I brought some of my photographs/poems to display in the visual art/gallery-style portion of the evening; something I would have never done a month ago. But now, I wanted to display it. My self-doubt was no longer shrouding my consciousness and I was proud to display the more vulnerable parts of myself. (Recognize the work?)

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My unnamed collection, which I plan on expanding into a series. Keep your eyes peeled.

Later on we arrived at the performance portion of the evening– open mic style–  where anyone and everyone were encouraged to sign up to share music, performance art, poetry, random thoughts, etc. I already knew I was going to abstain from participating in this part of the show; I was perfectly content being invisible in the audience. The last time I said I was going to do an open mic night, I ended up hiding in the bathroom when it was my turn. (I still can’t apologize enough to my friend who took the time to learn the song I planned on singing that night…I owe you one, Skyler.)

But last night was different. I felt safe. I felt comfortable. And I was surrounded by people who were baring their souls, just like I wanted to.

You see, art got me through some of the worst times. If it weren’t for this blog, I don’t know if I would be this far along on the road to recovery. It carries me when I can’t lift a leg to walk, it flies me into the clouds when I’m elated.

The memory of this feeling is what made me decide to share the art that got me through some of the hardest times of my life with a group of mostly strangers. I read three of my poems. I didn’t stutter, choke on nothing, or shake so badly it looked like I was having a seizure. And, most importantly, I didn’t hide in the bathroom when they called my name. I told everyone I have an eating disorder, and got applause when I mentioned I discharged from treatment. I read the poem that helped me realize the staff at clinic knew what they were doing even if I thought they didn’t. I read about love, I read about feeling invisible. You can’t take that away from me. Neither can Sasha.

Afterwards, the strangers, who I suppose weren’t strangers after all, came up to me to thank me or share their opinion. One person came up to me and told me they were proud of me and gave me a hug.

The thing is, I feel like shit most days. I’m warring with that rope most days, unable to believe what I have to say or create makes any difference in the world. But yesterday was not most days.

Yesterday I stood up in front of a crowd and delivered three poems into a microphone. My first public performance.

When you put down the rope you can live your life worth living.

Art is subjective, it’s meant to be shared. Art helps me exist in the world. My wise mind knew this enough to allow me to put down the rope, and walk to the microphone- raw hands and all.