No Good Deed…

A few weeks ago, we were waiting outside a Little Caesars for our pizza to be ready when Curtis and I were approached by a homeless man.

(And of course, the bundles we had just made were at my place instead of in our cars 🤦‍♀️ )

He asked if we had any money, but we didn’t have any cash on us. I gave him the 41 cents in my wallet and we told him to wait with us for our pizza so we could give him some.

He was cold and asked if we had a blanket, and Curtis gave him one out of his car. When our order was finally ready, we gave him a piece of pizza, bought him some crazy bread, and then I went back to buy him some water to make sure he was hydrated.

The water was TWO DOLLARS AND NINETEEN CENTS. That’s more than a two liter of name brand soda from the grocery store! And this was just one little bottle! I was so annoyed! But I put my penny pincher mind on pause because this wasn’t about me. I took the water out to him, but since we had given him so much stuff (pizza slice, blanket, bread, water bottle) he couldn’t carry it all and was using the trash can lid to balance everything when… the water bottle fell in the trash can!!!!

For reference, the trashcan looked like:

photo courtesy of the Google images

The man told me to forget about it, but that bottle was $2.19! I wasn’t letting that go to the trash! So I piled everything in Curtis’s arms to hold while I tipped over the trash can to go trash crawling for the water bottle. Of course, as I did that, I looked down and my loose glasses, aided by the fabric from my mask, slid off my face and onto the ground. As I stepped back to look for them, trash can still in hand, I stepped on my glasses. And they broke in three pieces. Then Curtis showed me that I could’ve just… taken the lid off the trashcan instead of immediately becoming a rabid racoon.

nice eh?

I told the story to my roommate when I got back to my apartment and she laughed and said “no good deed goes unpunished.” I figured that was a pretty fitting moral of the story.

I’m learning that if you really want to help people, it’s going to be inconvenient. You’re going to have to be a little selfless sometimes and part with things that you don’t want to lose, like the spare blanket you keep in your car, or a piece of the hot and READY pizza that took 20 minutes for the staff to make, or TWO WHOLE DOLLARS and nineteen cents. It’s sometimes going to come at the cost of your pride, as you learn that the ways you help maybe aren’t best for the needs of those you’re helping. It’s going to come at the cost of knowing that you will never be able to do enough to help everyone who needs it. But, in my experience, it will also come with the feeling that it’s a worthwhile fight.

I think Elphaba had some merit when she said that no good deed goes unpunished, but I don’t think I share the same bitterness about the sentiment. The superglued glasses that I now wear daily help me see “good deeds” in a different way. It’s no longer about warm fuzzies that happen after I give someone something — it’s about the way my heart breaks for people who can’t catch a break. And how it’s not “nice” of me to give what I can, it’s literally my responsibility as a neighbor, a friend, and a Christian. And responsibilities are not always easy. Or fun. Or convenient. Or rewarded.

Maybe not all good deeds go unpunished… but I’m willing to take the risk.

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Down With Diet Culture

My diet does not start today.

Or tomorrow.

Or Monday.

Or EVER again.

Because not only is there a wealth of evidence proving that diets don’t work (and actually lead to weight gain in the long term) but the diet industry especially profits off of convincing you to feel bad about yourself so that you get “better”. And somehow, they’ve managed to convince everyone that better = thinner.

Which is funny because thinner =/= healthier.

dietculturewtf.png

It’s funny because thinner =/= more willpower.

It’s funny because thinner =/= kinder.

thinner =/= smarter

thinner =/= more athletic

thinner =/= saner

thinner =/= happier

And yet, losing weight is the number one resolution that people share.

I don’t judge people for falling victim to the diet culture. I understand why they do. For my entire life, I did too. And when I say my entire life, I mean from the time I was probably 7 or 8 years old, I hated myself because I was fat. I was convinced that everything in my life would be better if I was thinner.

I remember that I would read “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books about people developing anorexia to lose tons of weight and while the message was “don’t do this! it’s dangerous!” all I took from it was “starve yourself! you’ll lose weight!” And so I did.

When not eating didn’t work out for me (because holla, food is GOOD), I tried the bulimia approach. But I’m not very good at throwing up either. So for years, I either starved and binged or got myself on a regular schedule of “self-disciplined eating” which was essentially me just starving myself.

See, when I look back on my life I can clearly divide it into the times I was dieting and the times I was not. The times I was dieting were times that I was genuinely proud of myself for being malnourished. I survived on a diet of fruit and granola bars (sometimes >200 calories a day) and ran 3-5 miles a day. I would drop about 40 pounds in 3 months and you know the response I got? Praise.

People thought I was making “healthier” decisions just because the way my body looked was conforming more toward what society said was acceptable.

My worth was the number on the scale and the reflection in the mirror. My feelings about myself revolved around whether or not I was proud or ashamed of what I ate and if I had worked out that day. So no matter if I was in a dieting phase or not, I was always punishing myself. Punishing my body by starving it, or punishing my mind by believing I was worthless.

But then in 2019, I found Tiffany Roe on Instagram (@heytiffanyroe) and, honestly I am not exaggerating when I say that my life changed. Not only is she a therapist, but she’s also in recovery from an eating disorder and a major advocate of intuitive eating. She taught me some invaluable truths.

  1. Mental health is greatly impacted by one’s relationship with their bodies and with food. Think about it–you can’t survive without food. You have to eat several times a day to remain properly nourished, and yet a complicated relationship with your body affects what foods you put in it, and your thoughts about those foods affect how you feel about ingesting them. Say you really like the taste of chips but your mind has classified chips as bad. Now, when you eat chips, you feel ashamed, because you have established that complicated relationship. Then you get caught in a shame spiral every time you don’t have the “self-control” to avoid foods that your body likes and your mind doesn’t. It’s a damaging cycle.
  2. Foods only have the moral value that we assign them. She used the example of french fries. A lot of people will say “oh, well fries are obviously bad because they’re unhealthy,” but she says that to her, fries are good because they were something she couldn’t eat when she had an eating disorder. No food is inherently good or bad and labeling them as such just fosters a poor relationship with food.
  3. You do not have to have an eating disorder to engage in disordered eating. Just because you don’t have a diagnosable eating disorder doesn’t mean your eating habits aren’t disordered. Many, if not all, diets are examples of disordered eating.
  4. Unconditional permission to eat is crucial to healing your relationship with food. Restricting leads to binging. Binging leads to shame. Shame leads to restricting. The cycle continues. In order to break the cycle, you must lift the restriction and heal your relationship with food.

Now, when I get on my diet culture soapbox and talk to people about my experiences, they sometimes accuse me of using an anecdotal fallacy. That my experiences, while unfortunate, do not “prove” that there is a problem with diet culture. But my experiences are not isolated to me and a few other people with personal testimonials about how diet culture is deceptive and dangerous. And if you’re unsatisfied with the links I’ve provided and want to fight, let’s fight. Because I’m sick and tired of people justifying thin supremacy in the name of “health.” People do not exist to aesthetically please you and you cannot tell just by looking at someone if they are healthy.

And it’s just sad, yknow? How we have these bodies that are capable of climbing mountains and making music and building cities and creating human life and here we are concerned about how they look. Not about how they serve us. Not about how we can use them to serve others. But about how. they. look.

This is the first time in over a decade that I am not putting weight loss on my list of new year’s resolutions, because every time I’ve lost weight, I have not gotten healthier because of it (lol one time I had to get my gallbladder removed because losing weight so fast gave me gall stones so try telling me that’s healthy). So I commit to getting healthier in 2020. I commit to getting therapy. I commit to getting outdoors more as part of (half of) the 52 hikes challenge. I commit to training for and running a marathon (!!!!!) and I commit to taking CARE of myself. But I’m not committing to losing weight, and I’m not praising anyone else for their weight loss, and I’m not encouraging anyone’s weight loss. Ever again.

Because what are you really saying when you praise someone for their weight loss? Congratulations on taking up less space? Thank you for being easier to objectify? Your body was a problem to be solved and now you’ve solved it so good job? Whatever illness you had that got you here was worth it because now you look better?

Come on. How about we look a little deeper and comment on things that matter going forward?

The best compliments I’ve received have had to do with my abilities or my personality. I love it when someone can tell me that they think I’m funny, or that I’m talented, that I have a way of making people feel comfortable around me, that I’m intelligent, that the way I write has the ability to make them feel understood.

In fact, my least favorite compliments are those that comment on the way I look. It’s lazy and says nothing about the value I contribute to your life or the world.

beauty

What’s really rich, though, is the people who can agree with everything I’ve written here and then say “well, if you’re not thin, people (men) won’t find you attractive and that’s just the way it is.”

Well, that’s ok. Because being shallow isn’t attractive either.

The Ace of Straights

hello friends and welcome to my coming out party.

I’m an asexual.
And I’m sure you have some questions about what that means because I sure did for the several years before I researched it and the bells went off in my head saying, “wow tyf, this is you af.”
So I want to just get a few FAQs out of the way. Asexuality is so misunderstood that I feel like many aces don’t even really get it, so this is based on research and personal experience. And I’m 99% sure I’m right about everything (as with all else in my life, of course.)
1. What does it mean when I say I’m asexual?
It means I reproduce by dividing myself in two. Simple.
No, it just means that I don’t experience sexual attraction. Heterosexuals are sexually attracted to the opposite sex, bisexuals are attracted to two sexes, homosexuals are attracted to the same sex, you get it, right? Asexual means I am sexually attracted to no one. Ever. Out of here with that nonsense.
Think of it this way: have you ever had a physical response to the way someone looks? I have not. Not ever. I just don’t see people that way. Men, women, anybody.
Also, celebrity crushes? Not a thing. I don’t even know them, how can I possibly have a crush on them? I don’t understand.
2. So does that mean you never want to have sex?
yikes
3. Why are you just taking a word that already meant something and making it apply to your sexual orientation?
I don’t understand why this is a big deal to people. A word can mean more than one thing. Several words in the English language have several definitions. For example, the word contraction can mean both a) taking two words and making them one and b) what a woman has when she’s going into labor–and no one blinks an eye that those definitions are so different. But if I use a word related to reproduction and use it to describe sexual orientation? Suddenly it’s not ok with the conservatives. And I just… don’t understand where the problem is and why it even affects them at all.
*megaphone* other people’s sexual orientation doesn’t affect you! probably ever!
4. Why do you need a label?
Alright, I hear you, labels are dumb. I especially hate how pretentious I sound when I define myself as a “heteroromantic asexual.” Like, come on, who needs a label like that?
But, as I’m sure many of you understand, labels are very helpful in helping you understand yourself and find a community of people who experience life in some of the same ways. It can be incredibly validating to find that you’re not alone in going through what you’re going through.
It’s like a diagnosis–you have this pain coming from somewhere, and then someone (a doctor, in this metaphor) is able to tell you why. And then things make sense. “Oh, that’s why I behave this way. That’s why I hurt when I do that. Oh, that’s what I can do to make it better.” And there are support groups for stuff like that (cancer patients) and therapy (both for physical and mentally ill people). We can agree that finding community and assistance is helpful, yeah?
So, though nothing is wrong with people who aren’t cis-gender heterosexuals, it’s nice to have a community! It’s relieving to find out that you’re not a defect, you’re just different. ((And that’s why pride is such a big deal–it’s people finally being able to be proud of who they are despite living in a heteronormative world for so long believing that something is wrong with them.))
5. Do you really need to “come out” as ace?
Uh, no, not really, it’s just weird when people are talking about things that you can’t relate to. Also weird when people are objectifying other people based on bodies and I have nothing but horror to contribute to the conversation. I also really like to have deep conversations about anything, and when it comes to people’s favorite topic of ~love~ and ~who do you find attractive?~ it’s just easier to say “yeah, can’t relate because I’m ace.”
And then they don’t understand, but at least there’s a term for it. And then I also get to have really fun conversations where I answer deeply personal questions about my hypothetical future sex life. So you can imagine that it’s a wildly good time.
6. So are you a part of the LGBTQ+ community?
Technically, yes. LGBTQIA+ where the A is for Asexual. (And agender, which I am not.)
However, and I don’t speak for all aces because many have different feelings about it, but I don’t feel like I really fit into that community. Like, I’m an ally for sure, but I’m not going to be ostracized from society, or my religion, or my strict conservative friends/family members for being ace. It’s not something that someone is going to hate me for. Sure, they won’t understand, but there aren’t hate groups against us, yknow?
It also helps that I’m a heteroromantic ace. If I were homoromantic or aromantic, it would be different.
Also, in relationships, I could see how being with an asexual would be really hard for a partner. So really, the LGBTQ+ community is for all people who don’t really feel like they fit into a heteronormative world. And in that sense, yeah, I belong.
7. How is that experience of being ace for you?
Some aces feel a little sad and left out because having sexual attraction is so normalized in society.
But me? I freaking love it. I honestly believe that so much of how I am as a person and how I see other people is never clouded or influenced by how attractive I find them. I can see people as people. And I really appreciate that ability in myself. It makes me value people so much more for all the other qualities they possess.
However–representation? It so matters. I get that the lesbians want Elsa to be one of them, but please let Elsa be my ace queen. There are hardly any well-known characters in anything, adult or children’s publications, who are asexual. And for years before I knew I was ace, I just kinda saw all these fabricated relationships in movies and shows and thought “it’s a bummer that a happy ending always equates to love/sex.” Why can’t a happy ending include an apartment and a kitten? A promotion at work? Finding the perfect therapist?
Not that any ace finding love invalidates their asexuality, but it’s nice to know that it’s not everything. And aces can definitely experience other types of attraction that make relationships desirable and fulfilling. Sexual attraction isn’t the ultimate form of attraction! And I’d further argue that it’s not even the best type of attraction. (I understand it’s probably essential for population growth, but otherwise, trash.)
8. There are other types of attraction? How do they differ from sexual attraction?
Remember earlier when I identified as a heteroromantic asexual? That means I experience romantic attraction but not sexual attraction. Because of this, I think it’s been more difficult for me to have enough interest in men to get to know them well enough to the point that I become romantically attracted to them. But let’s go through the different types of attraction:
People will sometimes refer to a “physical” attraction. That doesn’t make a lot of sense because there are a few types of physical attraction–sexual, sensual, and aesthetic. (probably more, but I’m only going to cover these three).
Sexual: an attraction to someone based on how strong their sexual appeal is (according to you). Do they have particular features that are “hot”? A body that is “arousing” in some way? I don’t know, I don’t experience this, I don’t want to talk about it anymore.
Sensual: An attraction based on wanting to touch someone. I don’t know how to word that better, but yes. Many forms of touch are not sexual. Cuddling, kissing, hugging, etc. These are types of attractions that you can feel for someone that you don’t necessarily feel attracted to sexually. You know those people who give really good hugs? Or really good back rubs? Or their skin is always really soft? These aren’t sexual things, but they are sensual. It’s like a fuzzy blanket, y’know? Or bags of rice at the store? Ya just gotta touch em. Sometimes you feel that toward people. You’re not sexually attracted to the rice bags, you just gotta slap ’em.
Aesthetic: An attraction to someone based on how they look. You might be saying to yourself “but Tyffani, how is that different than sexual attraction? it’s physical!” Well, yes, but it’s like art. I look at some art and marvel at how beautiful it is. I look at other art and I think “wow how is that good enough to belong in a museum?” But regardless, I am not sexually attracted to art. The same goes for people. People are like art to me.
Then there are types of attraction that don’t have too much to do with anything physical, and those are:
Platonic: You ever like someone but you don’t have any “feelings” for them? Some people call this the “friend zone.” You can connect emotionally or intellectually with them, you enjoy being around them, you share common interests and opinions, but you just don’t have any romantic feeling toward them. Without platonic attraction, we wouldn’t have friends.
Romantic: Romantic attraction is where the “feelings” are. It’s “love.” It’s like platonic attraction but… with the feels. You feel?
It’s hard to articulate the difference between platonic and romantic attraction while also distinguishing the difference between romantic and sexual attraction, but there is a distinct difference between all three. Platonic and/or sexual attraction can definitely evolve into romantic (in certain circumstances), but they are three separate forms of attraction.
It’s funny because so many sources on the internet have them all kind of mingled together. If I search the difference between sexual and romantic attraction, it combines sexual attraction and sexual desire. If I search the difference between romantic and platonic attraction, it combines romantic and sexual attraction. It gets really messy, but my guidepost through it all was theasexual.com. I followed them and their blog posts on twitter and they made it all really clear to me.
There are more types of attraction than what I listed, but I differentiate it like this: sexual attraction sees the body and romantic attraction sees the mind/heart/soul.
9. Ok but really about question #2.
Simply put, sexual attraction has nothing to do with sexual desire nor feelings about sex. But let’s speak generally about aces.
So attraction and desire are not the same. Therefore, just because you don’t have a physical response to the way someone looks doesn’t mean you don’t experience a sexual desire or drive in some way. Attraction is matched to a particular person–desire is not necessarily matched to a person (for example, someone who desires the sensation but not necessarily with any particular person). If you don’t experience desire/drive, that’s probably (according to my own understanding) more of a mental condition (depression, ptsd, etc.) that can be addressed. If you don’t experience attraction, that’s just… what it is.
So my answer is this: while attraction (sexual orientationcan’t be changed, attitudes and feelings toward sex can be.
So, in the ace community, there are sex-repulsed aces who are not interested in having sex ever, sex-positive aces who actually enjoy sex for various reasons, and plenty of aces in-between. Some reasons aces might consent to sex despite their own repulsion are: wanting to please their partner, wanting to have children, wanting to “see what all the hype is about,” etc.
Some aces might remain sex-repulsed forever. That’s their own preference/predisposition. If they don’t even want to be sex-positive, then they’re probably not going to be. As far as having successful relationships, I’d imagine that’d be hard. In this scenario, I’m sure it’s easier to stay single forever than finding a partner who’d be ok in a sexless relationship. That’s not to say that sex-repulsed aces still wouldn’t like to have a loving partner for non-sexual forms of intimacy, but the pain of having partners leave after they don’t change their attitude toward sex is probably taxing.
If a sex-repulsed ace, however, wants to become sex-positive, I’m sure there are ways of addressing that. I have no personal experience, but I imagine it would take a lot of work and a really supportive partner.
I think that I personally am capable of sex-positivity, but I recognize that not all aces are. And that shouldn’t be pushed on any of them. Some repulsion runs deeper than others for reasons that may or may not be any of your business. All aces deserve respect in their own personal boundaries. Please understand that though sex is “everything” in this world, it is not everything in the ace’s world. And we like it that way.
10. How did you discover you were ace? 
I mentioned how I didn’t really feel like I got it when other people were talking about crushes or “hot” guys, but yeah. I realized I was “different” when I was really young. And it was always weird because my friends were having crushes on different boys all the time and I was constantly either dwelling on the same one for years OR literally not caring at all about boys.
I first remember feeling weird about it when I was in second grade. And I’m not insinuating that eight-year-olds experience sexual attraction, but this just goes to show how engrained both heteronormativity and the idolization of relationships are in this world.
So my friend asked me who I had a crush on. I was eight. So I was like “uh… no one?” because, no, I wasn’t “shy,” I was genuinely of the opinion that boys exist and that’s all there is to them.
But she persisted. “You have to like someone.”
My child brain was stressed because if that was true, I was not measuring up. So in a desperate attempt to be normal, I just picked one of the only guys in the class who was both older and taller than me (because those were my only two requirements as an eight-year-old). Then I talked myself so far into that crush that I was mad in love with that boy for the next five years. (he was actually an excellent kid, 5 stars. I’ve always had high standards, even for spur-of-the-moment crushes.)
The next time I liked a boy, it was because my friends all said: “you would make such a cute couple.” I thought about it and gagged. Legitimately, I remember thinking about kissing him and I was disgusted. But then I talked myself so far into that one that I was in love with that one for years, too. So basically… I’m just now realizing that my friends are responsible for my broken hearts. Thanks, jerks.
I did end up actually liking some guys on my own after that. I mean, asexuality doesn’t mean you don’t experience those other forms of attraction (aesthetic, romantic, etc.), but I feel like sexual attraction is oftentimes the driving force that leads to the other types of attraction. And I just haven’t experienced that initial attraction enough to be interested in developing the other kinds.
There’s a saying in the ace community that “asexual culture is not knowing where your mental illness ends and where your asexuality begins.” My whole life, I thought I didn’t like guys because I didn’t feel worthy of them liking me back. I thought that my self-esteem was just really low and that’s why I didn’t like guys. But after almost four years of not being interested in anyone (but knowing that I was a super fly chick), I started to research asexuality a little bit more, and I realized that I just didn’t experience that attraction.
It took me a month or two to finally adopt that “label,” and now, I don’t care what anyone says, I understand me better. I don’t care what anyone else thinks about labels or me or why we use the term “asexual” to apply to people, I finally understand myself. And it’s liberating.
It took me so long because I kept going back and forth thinking “but I’ve felt ____, that means I can’t be ace, right?” But finally understanding the difference between attraction and desire was really instrumental in me finally “identifying.”
So, in all, I can count the number of guys that I’ve been romantically attracted to on two hands. And I have felt sexual attraction for none of them. And I don’t think there’s a single thing wrong with that.
So anyway, if you’ve read this post, I hope you understand asexuality better. And while it might not apply to you or have any relevance to you ever, I hope you really understand better how to differentiate between different types of attraction. Attraction of any kind has a lot of influence on your feelings, and feelings are confusing. As you understand the source of your feelings and which types of attractions you’re feeling toward different people in your life, it could really help you understand yourself and your relationships better.
peACE out.

I Wanna Get Better

How soon after a suicidal period are you allowed to talk about it without people getting weird and worried about you? Is five months long enough?

It’s World Mental Health Day, and heckfest is gonna talk about it.
cuz folx, living every day when you hate living is a heckfest.
I’m a real big advocate for mental health these days. I didn’t really get loud about it until I went public with my struggles back in March, but now that I’m open about it, I feel like I have a responsibility to both a.) be honest about my experience and b.) take the necessary steps to get better.
So I’m gonna do that. Starting with May.
I was at my temp job. Stuffin envelopes, as one does. And I was just thinking about my life.
I felt like I was stuck at a red light. It didn’t matter how many directions I could go or how far I could go because the light was red. And I was stopped. And my car was running, but I was kinda running out of gas because I had been stopped at this red light for SO long. And I was cramping up and getting restless because I was packed up and ready to go places, but I couldn’t go any of those places because, as I have said, the light was red.
Simply put, I felt stuck. And I was crying. While stuffing envelopes. Because I am an excellent multitasker. And I drifted into thinking that maybe I would just shut off my car for good. Because it’s not going anywhere anyway, yknow? And while I was stopped, it’s not like I could do much besides listen to music and whatever else one does in a stopped, yet still running car. So I thought, hmm, ok, if the light doesn’t turn green in x amount of time, the car is going off.  
If I lost you anywhere in this car metaphor, or if you think you might know what I’m talking about but you’re not sure, let me be blunt: I gave God a deadline. And I told him that if I was still jobless and hopeless by then, I was going to kill myself. And for the first time in my life, I actually made a plan.
This time was different than the previous times, though. Not only because I made a plan this time, but in years past, I felt like I maybe didn’t have anyone who cared/could help me. This time, I knew there were people who cared about me. I knew there were people who would listen and care. No amount of people reaching out and loving me was going to change my mind.
In my mind, I was useless. I was unproductive and my existence wasn’t beneficial to anyone, least of all myself. It didn’t matter to me how great of a friend I was or how intelligent I was if I didn’t feel like I had a purpose. It didn’t matter that I could contribute in meaningful ways to anyone else’s life; I couldn’t contribute meaning to my own life. So what was the point?
Now, I know this sounds dramatic when my biggest problem was that I couldn’t get a job, but it’s amazing how much that affects one’s life. Not only with providing the funds to have a life, but also giving you something to do, a way to find fulfillment, a path to success. I know that’s not all there is. But I didn’t have (or feel like I had) any of the other things, either.
By the way, this blog post isn’t for people who want to help their mentally ill friends. It’s for my mentally ill friends who want to help themselves. Because I am the only person that could have helped me back in May/June. And ultimately, I’m the only person who can truly save me from myself. And you are the only person who can do that for yourself, too.
So I realized pretty quickly after my suicide planning sesh that maybe, just maybe, my problem wasn’t the job thing.
And I made a very out of character decision. And it scares the heck outta me to share it publicly but it’s part of the authenticity and advocacy thing that I’m so passionate about. So here it goes.
-deep breaths-
My decision is this: I am going back to therapy. It’s going to be a real thing in my life from now on. It has to be. Because if I have to keep doing this alone, then I’m gonna need a better toolbox. Mine is filled with broken plastic forks that I tried to eat frozen ice cream with. And yeah, there are a lot of problems with that sentence. Which is why I need therapy.
Let me explain why this is out of character for me: I have been shoved in therapy since I was a child. I’m pretty sure I was six years old the first time I had to visit an old white woman who made me uncomfortable with board games and interrogations. I had regular visits to talk to the ladies who played speed with me and asked invasive questions that I don’t even remember answering. And honestly? It didn’t do anything for me. I started wanting to die before I was ten years old. That was after and during mandated therapy visits.
Then I got to college and was diagnosed as a psycho and I went back to therapy. I thought it might be more helpful or something now that I was older and trying? This time, I didn’t even wait for the invasive questions, I just divulged all the information one could possibly need or want to know. But no amount of talking made it better. I think my thoughts about it can be most accurately summed up in a song I wrote called “Therapy”:
I don’t know what I need, probably therapy
but why would I give money 
to tell somebody my grief
when I can do it for free on your answering machine?
You might feel inclined to laugh, but this is real feels, man. I have plenty of people who will listen to me. That’s not what I needed then and it’s not what I need now.
But I didn’t realize until recently that I had a fundamental misunderstanding about what therapy is and what I’m supposed to be getting from it. And I think that’s way too common with people who don’t really understand what’s wrong with them and just expect therapy to “fix them.” So I’ve resolved to try again and establish expectations this time.
I’ve been feeling for a while that I’m just at the mercy of my life circumstances. I can’t control when I cycle up or down, and after six or seven medications, I can’t just make them fix me. But since making this decision, I feel a lot more confident that I can take control of my life again. But I also know that I’m currently in a manic phase where I’m on top of the world and this roller coaster is going to drop at any moment. And when it does, hoo boy. Yikes amiright? The goal is to still feel as hopeful then as I do now. And the goal is for therapy to help me with that.
Therapy won’t make the light turn green, but it can prepare you for when it does turn green. Sometimes we whine about being stuck at a red light, but do we ask ourselves if we’re truly ready for a green light anyway? If I was being honest with myself back in May, I wasn’t ready for a green light. I thought I was, but what good is a green light if you’re not in any state to be driving?
Besides my experience with making plans, there are two huge factors that pushed me toward this resolution.
One was a certain therapist I follow on Instagram who’s handle is @heytiffanyroe. If you follow her–she’s amazing, right?! If not, you should start. This woman has changed my life. She also has a podcast called Therapy Thoughts that rocks my world.
She is how I learned that not all therapists are created equal. She has taught me what I need to look for as I begin my journey back into therapy. I have learned more about how to take care of myself mentally and emotionally from following her than I ever did in all my previous years of therapy. The tools and validation I feel just from seeing her posts every day have been instrumental in my development this year. It started before May, but she’s the reason I warmed up to therapy enough to consider it at all when worse came to worst.
The second reason is another person–one of my super close friends who has no idea that I’m even thinking of therapy. Maybe I’ll tell that story another time.
But I love that just because these two people were good humans who didn’t know me/know me that well and they inspired me so much just by virtue of who they are and how much better they make me want to be.
I can testify to the power of being a stellar human being and how that affects us other human beings. But I can also testify of the power of being your own stellar human being and using the motivation from those around you to take back control of your own life.
I’m trying to gear this toward my past self and people like my past self, because if I had read this in 2016 and heard myself say “take control of your illness,” I would have thought “there is literally nothing I can do to fix myself.” If you’re the 2016 me, please believe that you are capable. Right now, you’re falling with the avalanche down the mountain, nothing to hold on to and nobody to reach out to. But it will settle. And you’ll find a toolbox. And you’ll dig yourself out. You have to.
Happy Mental Health Day. Do something to take care of your mental health today. Read a book. Do some yoga. Take a bubble bath.
Sidenote: I actually bit into a bath bomb the other day because it looked AND smelled like a cupcake. Yeah, it was hard, but I thought it was just a little crusty on the outside and would get softer when I bit into it. In my defense, I was right. 0/10 did not taste like a cupcake. Pretty excited to use it for its original purpose, though…

High on Shanghai

Ok so long vacations, in theory, rock. You plan on doing everything you’ve ever dreamed of, and then you go, and you have fun, and you spend a lot of money, and then you near the end broke and exhausted. So that feeling hit the group about the same time that we hit Shanghai.

We hit the hostel and then the plaza nearest to us to find some food. We found a little bakery called Paris Baguette and there was one baguette in the entire bakery, so we know now why it isn’t Paris Baguettes. But it was a really good baguette and I might live my entire life in pursuit of another one.

Shanghai has such a western vibe to it and did not remind me of anywhere else that I’d seen in China. Definitely a more progressive city without the historical aspects that the others had. Someone told us that if you want to see 10,000 years of history, it’s in Xi’an, if you want 1000 years, it’s in Beijing, if you want 100 years, it’s in Shanghai. I can see and agree with those (in my very, very, limited knowledge and opinion.)

More Markets

The first day, we went to the Science and Technology Market (to make some more friends, obviously.) It was actually super cool because I asked my dad if he wanted a knock-off Rolex, and he sent me a picture of what he wanted, and so I found people who sold Rolexes and found the exact one from the picture and haggled it down to $30 in no time. These places are magical.

So many previous volunteers had said that the Science and Technology Market of Shanghai is better than the Pearl Market, but our group definitely loved the Pearl Market more. The people there were so much more fun to haggle with. People in Shanghai let us walk away without calling after us. Very unfortunate.

Also, in China, in various places, there will be people who just sit outside with a hot pot of sticky liquid sugar, and they make Chinese zodiac symbols out of it. I got a rooster, which is my Chinese zodiac, Rachel got a bunny, which is hers, and Chelsea got a dragon, because she wanted to see him make one.

That night, we went to Nanjing Road, another bargaining marketplace. You were probably thinking I was done spending money, but I was not. I was on a quest for a rolling suitcase to accommodate all my stuff (the bag I brought was so full and heavy, it was giving me bruises on my shoulders). A man must have sensed my need, because he found us and took us to this place down this back alleyway and though he said he’d never come down to my price, he did. And the lady who was selling with him was not happy. But I – got – wheels, baby.

Nanjing Road ended at the Bund. The Bund is the Shanghai skyline. I was not prepared for all the beautiful buildings along that skyline. They were so tall and they had light up images on them. Some of them had the Chinese flag, it was super cool.

Wow, Animal

The next day, Chelsea, Rachel, Haley and I went to the Wild Animal Park. My feelings can most accurately be summed up by a journal I found at a convenience store in Zhongshan a month or so ago.

It was actually really cool. We went in a safari bus where we passed zebras, wolves, a bear that literally climbed on our cage and stayed there while we drove, several lions and tigers and cheetahs that we (the tour guide) threw some raw meat at, and sun bears and other awesome animals.

There was a kangaroo enclosure where you could go in and feed them and pet them for about $3. I didn’t do it because I’m an idiot who didn’t think it was that cool at the time, but now as I write this, I realize that would have been very cool. Especially because there were some little joeys in the pouches of their mommies.

On the other side, there was a llama enclosure, where Tina the fat lard was finally eating her dinner. (Ok they’re alpacas but full disclosure, idk the difference.)

I fed an elephant in my elephant pants and I got to stroke his trunk and look into it’s majestic eyes and put vegetable chucks in his trunk, so it was a mad success.

They rode the elephants, the camels, and fed the zebras, but my hour was yet to come. I didn’t get to hold a baby tiger, but I PET A BABY CHEETAH. I kissed him, too. I definitely should have picked him up. I mean, it was against the rules, but what were they gonna do, ask me to leave? They would’ve done that anyway. Except it’s probably good I didn’t do that because kitties have sharp claws and who knows what cheetah kitties claws are.

Look at him, workin on that roar. Oh my GOSH I want one so bad. There was also a baby sunbear. He sucked on my finger. Pretty cute.

Then we saw the Pandas, the hippos, the other animals. It got more like a zoo after that but uh… I will never forget that cheetah.

We got back to the hostel and I became really lame. The nightlife in Shanghai was probably poppin, but I didn’t live to see it because sleep is my one true joy. After baby cheetahs.

So No One Told You Life Was Gonna Be This Way…

Sunday was one of the chilliest days ever–we went to the Friends café, Central Perk. Because why wouldn’t it be in China.

It was also fitting because my life is a joke, I am broke, my love life is D.O.A., and it hasn’t been my day, my week, my month, or even my year. So that’s it, who’s going to be there for me? This hot chocolate, I guess.

Spoiler Alert: it was not very good. But it was such a cool joint! There was the orange couch, the wifi password was iloverachel, and there was a TV playing through the episodes of Friends. I could have stayed there all day. Also, their menu was so perfect. And the burgers came topped with a toothpick and piece of paper that said “Joey doesn’t share food” which is kind of my life motto.

Chugga Chugga Choo Choo

Our last train ride was an all night sitting train ride. I had an aisle which was awesome despite the fact that the lady next to me had to get out to pee 17 times. Rach and I actually set out to find the train car that was the restaurant and they had really disappointing food. But we met a dude named Peter who spoke great English and bought us some really expensive bottled water in exchange for out “English tips” (which we didn’t really give that well) but he was way nice. He actually reads the same books I read in my Senior English capstone class, so I’m impressed.

And then we went to school, back to the kids, and spent a week without talking to each other because we got too much of each other on vacation.

Just kidding. Kind of.