Ravenclaw Coffee

I’m Good.

We had a great visit with Wes’s Pediatrician yesterday about his anger issues, we have a plan in place for some evaluations, and I’m just happy to be on a path again. I had forgotten how good it feels to just be doing something. I also got an 8-mile run in yesterday, ate pretty well, and got to meet with my accidental book club (It’s what I call the group of women who have welcomed me since Fate led me to their group 6 years ago at Barnes & Noble) to discuss Homegoing and it was a great talk as usual. Yesterday was all around a good day. Which means feeling like poop for getting about 4 hours sleep is not so terrible.

Ravenclaw CoffeeI’m also drinking coffee this morning out of my favorite mug, AND it’s just a tiny bit chilly outside so I’m excited about that and we have no soccer tonight so I can be home and maybe cook an actual meal for my actual family.

Who am I kidding? It will be cereal while we watch this week’s This Is Us in our pajamas.

I just wanted to check in and let you all know it’s a good day. Monday was rough but your messages/comments/emails reaching out and patting me on the back telling me it will be okay…really made me feel like it was actually going to be okay. So while I don’t have anything profound to discuss today (I am working on things in my noggin’) I wanted to check in and say, “I’m good. Thanks in large part to you.”

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Parade Of One.

I sat down this morning to write with tears in my eyes about a bad night with Wes that just sucked me in and chewed me up and spit me out into a million depressed little pieces. But it’s really no longer a story I can share in detail in this kind of forum. With E and Nikki I just knew when it was time to stop telling the details of their stories without discussing it with them first, and this is one of those days.

But the point? I will be starting the long and painful process – AGAIN – of finding him a therapist. We did this a couple of years ago but the clinic he went to shut down without warning and I just kept putting it off since he was doing better.

This time though, I’ll call the Pediatrician first. If you’ll recall the last time, you all questioned why I didn’t make that my first step and I felt dumb because that NEVER OCCURRED to me as I had spent a years suffering with a Pediatrician with a not-so-great bedside manner. He mocked me for concern with Nikki’s stomach issues and Wes’s leg cramps because I kept coming back even though it was “just stress” and “just growing pains.” So the thought of him as a trustworthy consult never crossed my mind.

But it’s different now! We have a Pediatrician I trust. I’m going to call and I’m going to try not to cry on the phone (Which I did at every step of the way last time) and we’re going to get some help because the bad days/moments may be more spread out, but their severity have increased and I am no longer strong enough to control his destruction. Both physically and emotionally.

So I’m sitting her at my laptop in the dark, in front of Donnie’s computer which has a stock imagery background of a beautiful beach and I look at the blue sky and limitless horizon and I tell myself: TODAY WILL BE A GOOD DAY.

I have talked before about how – some days – I hate the suggestion that we can so easily simply Choose Joy. Because many MANY days it’s not that easy. And honestly? Today is one of those days. I feel burdened with the weight of problems I can’t control. I worry about the damage that my child – a product of my body and my parenting – can inflict and I carry the blame for all of that like I’m the one screaming the words and causing the pain. I haven’t slept well in a while and while therapy has helped me give up my season pass to Depression World – I still have these days where it’s like I’m purchasing a Single Day Use pass ans the rides make me cry and the food is terrible. There is no laughter in Depression World and the mascot is me…walking in a One Woman Parade and carrying a sign that says, “I give up.”

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But that damn picture somehow gives me hope. There are places untainted by my anxiety and sadness. I’m not darkening the world with my depression. So I just need to remember those places exist. Those moments exist. This One Woman Parade Of Sadness is just temporary. I have a plan. I’m getting us all help. There’s always coffee. And I’m going to run tonight if it kills me. I’m going to try to find a running buddy to hold me accountable because I need that run like I need oxygen. I’m going to color awhile in my bullet journal.

I can’t necessarily Choose Joy when I’m marching the the World’s Most Depressing Parade, but I can at least put down the “I Give Up” sign. I can recall memories of brighter parades with balloons and candy. There are always blue skies and endless horizons somewhere. As much as I like to think the world revolves around me, it does not. I can make it through this. I may not Choose Joy today, as it will never be that easy. But today I Choose Survival. I Choose Action. I Choose Coffee. I Choose Coloring Books. I Choose To Run.

Let’s do this thing.

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Don’t Let Me Fool You.

There are women in my life who handle a lot more stress with work, family, hobbies etc, than I do – yet never seem to need therapy or medication to cope with anxiety or depression. And whenever they say things that remind me of that, I curl up in the corner and hide in my shame.

I talk a lot of talk and use a lot of hashtags about the importance of understanding that poor mental health is not a sign of weakness, that getting help is an act of BRAVERY, and yet…YET…I still battle my own demons of shame every day.

I thought of that this morning when I was reminded again of friends who seem to have a better grasp on life than I do and I felt embarrassed that I have made it so known that I seek therapy. I found myself thinking, Ug. I wish I didn’t talk so much about therapy now. She handles so much more and doesn’t need it or medication and here I am crumbling under the weight of half of her load and WHY DO I HAVE TO BE SO OPEN ABOUT EVERYTHING?

And I’m embarrassed and ashamed that I seek therapy. I’m that girl who talks about her therapist all the time. I’m hiding in the corner again.

But then I stop for a moment and think about my wings. The wings on my back that are tattered and worn. We all have them, you know. Mine were so tattered and worn though for so long – just falling apart after my Dad died – that I hadn’t flown in years. I hadn’t spread them in so long, I forgot they were there.

But lately, my therapist and I have been working together to mend the holes of the beautiful wings and I’ve taken them out a few times and soared over my anxiety and depression and felt the weight of the world fall to the side as I took a deep breath and remembered what it was like to FLY.

I think about how my husband told someone recently about how much better all of our lives are since I started getting help. Not just because I’m getting better, but because I’m sharing my lessons and my vulnerabilities with them and now we all feel more connected. I’m not carrying the weight on my own anymore and so now we can all fly as a family, helping each other along the way.

But, I still fight the voices of shame and embarrassment every day. So I actively try to keep preaching the lines of openness. Sometimes I fly because I’m feeling better equipped to handle the challenges of life, but other times I refuse to even show my wings.

So for all of you who sometimes vocalize your own struggles to remind me I’m not alone? Thank you. Because some days I still fight the demons of shame, I sit on the ground and watch the people above me soar with such ease and I’m embarrassed that I struggle so much to even get off the ground. So I thank those of you who have shown me the holes in your wings and have sat with me on the ground, sometimes even helping me repair mine, so we can fly together.

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I Can’t Protect The Feelings Of White People Any More.

(Since you haven’t read this post yet, you won’t fully appreciate this. But please know, the hardest thing to write was the title because I was TERRIFIED that I would lose a reader who MIGHT have been changed by my words but wouldn’t even read the post because of the title, and so I almost didn’t use that title.)

It should come as a surprise to NO ONE that I’m a total people-pleaser. I’m sure that it’s partly because of my newly discovered abandonment issues, but the idea of someone not liking me is upsetting on a VERY VERY VERY deep level. Obviously, I know there are people who don’t like me. I’ve been unfriended on Facebook twice and blocked once, so those are very concrete moments where I can say, “Welp. That person doesn’t like me.” AND THOSE THINGS STAY WITH ME. It’s terrible.

But I’m working on it.

(Drink!)

This plays into the political season quite a bit because I’m very VERY careful about how I present messages of support for people or ideas. I rarely (if ever) post things criticizing people/ideas and more often post support of people/ideas. I do this partly because of the abandonment issues and partly because I truly believe in changing minds with steady logic and kindness instead of bullying.

I once saw someone refer to Laverne Cox as a “he/she” on Facebook and I saw RED. That is SO INSULTING to a transgender person. They have openly claimed their gender identity and we respect that by using it. I wanted to RAGE and maybe even MOCK. But then I stepped back and remembered the girl who took the time to explain to me once why using the word “retarded” casually was insulting and – instead – I shared out a helpful media guide about how to refer to transgender people.

And do you know what someone said to me later? “I didn’t even know that was derogatory until you shared that out.” And that wasn’t even the person I was directing it to! So my instincts to yell would have upset that person, instead, I enlightened them.

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Hank Green posted this on Twitter yesterday and I almost retweeted it, but then I thought about it awhile and didn’t because I don’t always want to change the minds of people I disagree with (like I don’t want to convert my Christian friends to atheism), so I didn’t retweet it. But often, when I do want to change minds? It’s definitely done better with kindness than with anger.

But sometimes y’all? Sometimes I want to get really angry. But will I lose people I could have convinced by doing that? Is there a point where I stop caring if I do because I just want to scream something from the rooftops?

Teachers around here are very respected. Our school system has had some administration that maybe hasn’t made it easy on the teachers and as a result they’re loved and adored even more so than usual. BUT. We all know there are bad apples and that they need to be punished and removed. We’ve had some stories of illegal activities and those teachers are arrested and sent to jail. We don’t lose our respect for the group as a whole by standing up and talking about how horrible it was that this particular teacher deserves punishment. No one thinks I hate teachers when I celebrate the arrest of a teacher who had sex with one of her students.

Yet…YET…no one is allowed (around here in my community anyway) to voice their disgust over crappy police officers without FIRST writing entire paragraphs PROVING how much you love the people in law enforcement. And even then…you STILL get completely trashed for even daring to support the Black Lives Matter group because they are seen as anti-Police.

And I’m angry. I’m angry because #TerenceCrutcher was unarmed and had his arms up and he was shot and yet…YET…I saw a friend act appalled on Facebook and tag something #BlackLivesMatter and suddenly she was lambasted for being anti-police.

And I have the luxury to decide to play nice because it’s not my son. My husband. My brother. It’s not my daughter or even my friend. None of my family is at risk because of the color of their skin, so I can whisper instead of shout.

But the system is never going to change unless the majority wants it to change. And the majority is white. And I want it to change. And I’m starting to feel a fight within myself between playing “nice” and trying to post kind and respectful articles that explain how the marginalized got so angry without placing blame on anyone who is white but you know? It’s our fault. We are white and the system that continues to favor us is at fault. So of course we don’t fight to change it because it favors us, so know what? That means WE are AT FAULT.

And I find myself facing my own truth and looking deep inside myself. I do TRULY believe my method changes hearts and minds, my method of kindness and understanding and empathy, but do my black friends care? If I whisper “black lives matter” and kind of ambiguously support Colin Kaepernick, am I really delivering the message of support to the people of color crushed every day by the system that allows me to go to bed every night not worrying about my 21-year old son getting pulled over by cops? (He has gotten pulled over and ticketed several times and none of those stories scared me.) I am wrapped in a blanket and kept warm by the system of racism that exists around me, so when I only whisper my criticisms while holding onto the blanket at my shoulders, am I really fighting against it?

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Is there a way to shout and still actually change minds of sensitive white people?

The system around us is racist. You remove other factors: Age, Income, Education and you compare two men of different skin color and at EVERY TURN they are treated differently. Black students are suspended more often and that’s even balanced out to a percentage of the race populations as a whole. The race division in jail does not equal the race division in the general population and while some analysis supports poverty over race for these numbers, The U.S. Sentencing Commission reported in March 2010 that in the federal system black offenders receive sentences that are 10% longer than white offenders for the same crimes. And even if you support the “it’s poverty” argument, then we can look back at other factors in the racist system that cause the poverty divide. Like the fact that up until fair housing in 1968, the system supported refusing to give home loans to black applicants, even those who had come back from war.

If you’re willing to open your eyes and really dig into our history you can see the vein of racism that still shapes everything today. It’s painful. I’ve been open to these ideas since Michael Brown and it hurts. Some days I fight against it because I’m ashamed and embarrassed by how ignorant I’ve been. But if you’re willing to face the ugly truth you can accept that people of color have a different relationship with law enforcement than we do. That doesn’t mean we don’t have non-White cops, that doesn’t mean there aren’t people of color who disagree with that statement. But in general, it’s a much different relationship and if you’re willing to read words that make you feel uncomfortable, brave people are putting their stories out there to help the blind see.

So I find myself wondering, am I doing more harm than good by tenderfooting around the messages so that I can MAYBE convert a few white people to see the side of the Black Lives Matter efforts? Am I supporting the racist system by not shouting about it’s racism from the rooftops? Is it time to take off the kid gloves?

This has been on my mind a lot lately, but especially after that tweet yesterday. Especially after being told to quit whispering and SHOUT.

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This was another one that hit home. I can tell you times I’ve heard friends and family say things and my first thought is, Wait. I think that might have been racist. And I don’t say anything (#PeoplePleasing) and even find myself justifying their words or framing them in a non-racist way so I feel better about not saying anything. And sometimes I use the old standby, “What’s the point?”

Well. I guess that’s where I’m at now. The point is? Maybe to truly change the system it’s time for those of us benefitting from it to quit worrying about the feelings of other people also benefitting from it. Oh? I might upset this white person by pointing out their racism? We are at a point where black skin is seen as a weapon. Where an unarmed scared man with his hands in the air gets shot and his friends and family have to provide some sort of PROOF that he was a good guy because the other side can’t wait to find out that he might have had drugs in his car, or a criminal record. WHEN NONE OF THAT MATTERS.

And the people of color are rising up and screaming from the rooftops of the burning buildings, “WE ARE DYING. HELP US!” And I’m down here saying, “Okay!” And then I’m still worrying about the feelings of the white people around me as I look for support. I’m yelling, “I’ll catch you!” to the rooftop but I’m refusing get my white friends and family to help me because it might hurt their feelings. I can’t catch them alone. They need our help. ALL of us. Even those of us scared to face the truth of our own unintentional racism.

That’s how the system just keeps surviving. And I think I’m at a crossroads and I need to worry less about the feelings of the people perpetuating the system and worry more about the feelings of the people being stomped by it every day.

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Perspective.

I talk a lot about mental health care as a way to normalize it. I check in to my therapist on Facebook some days and type, “YAY! Therapy Day!” I reference self care and mental health at every turn. I do everything I can, as someone who struggles every day, to normalize that for others. And I do it because I’ve seen people before me do it. I’ve seen people before me proudly referencing their own mental healthcare protocol. People who need mental healthcare are becoming more and more open about it at every turn and it’s a beautiful thing. We are learning to love ourselves, and to not think of us as any “less” just because we need to actually address our mental health in the same way that some people need to address their cholesterol or allergies. We all are exposed to similar things in life, but not all of our bodies and brains are built the same to handle it.

We are normalizing ourselves. We’re learning to no longer feel shame.

But it occurred to me the other day, it’s not just us that needed to shift perspective.

I do not really suffer from Fall allergies. I know a lot of people who do and they’re starting to feel bad right now and they’re bracing for the full impact of the season. The other day I found myself thinking, “Thank GOD I don’t have to deal with that. I’m so lucky that my body doesn’t react that way to those allergens.”

You know what I didn’t say to myself?

“Oh, man. I’m glad I’m strong enough to deal with allergy without sneezing. It’s too bad my friends aren’t as strong as me and that they need medicine to help them.”

It occurred to me that we who suffer have been working on recognizing we’re not weak and we’re letting go of our shame. But, people who don’t need therapy or medication to prevent the crippling weight of mental illness, some of them still think that is somehow a testament of their own strength. If someone copes with challenges in life without therapy or medications, they think they’re just stronger than the ones who can’t. Many take ownership of the success like it is 100% in their control. And by doing that it inherently puts the failure of other’s in a different light. If you are successful because of your own strength then I’m a failure because I’m weak, and that’s the toxic connection that makes people scared to seek out help.

And I’m not saying everyone has this idea, but I still too often hear snark from people who make remarks when a celebrity comes out as suffering with mental illness. “Oh, really? They’re depressed? That must be a tough life…” Or even in my own casual acquaintances before I’ve heard people kinda joke about a family member’s depression, “She doesn’t even work. I’m working full time and I don’t need anti-depressants.”

Those of us who are sick are trying our best to undo the shame, but those who are well haven’t all gotten the memo.