schoolpsychnerd: (Default)
2017-06-22 06:50 pm


I don't talk a lot about being Bi-sexual (for me that means I'm attracted to two genders, mine and not mine. I know that technically that may be more pan but I've been using bi since high school and it feels more comfortable to me) lately, particularly with it being pride month. I've always wanted to go to Pride, like since I was old enough to know what Pride was, and yet I've never been. Some of it I say is that the idea of being in the sun surrounded by a bunch of people, and that's certainly true. However, a big part of it is that I've never felt like I belonged in the LGBTQIA community until recently.

I'd had crushes on girls about the same age I had crushes on boys. I didn't realize you could have a crush on girls so I tended to read it as "I would have a crush on them if they were a boy" or "I want to be like them" or "I admire them". I realized my freshman year of high school that I was, in fact, probably bi and definitely liked girls like I liked boys. I came out to one of my best friends, who was gay. His response "It's a phase. Everyone gets crushes on people of the same gender. You haven't ever dated a woman so you're not bi. You're just horny". I mean, I figured he was the expert. And I heard a lot of bi-bashing from him. The idea that a bi-person would always leave you for a straight passing relationship, that bi folks are permisuous, that we are doing it for attention, that we are defined by who we are dating, that if we are dating someone of our gender it's still not real because we still identify as bi. I don't hold any anger or resentment towards this person. But I took that biphobia and made it mine. Plus it was kind of widely thought that I was a lesbian anyway by a certain portion of my high school in spite of the fact I exclusively dated boys in high school. My experiences with other women, when I did tell Holden Caufield Guy, he turned it into the selacious story for his titlation and like, got really weird about it and in retrospect displayed Abuser Red Flags around it. But I didn't have a community or the internet. I didn't know that this treatment was shitty.

I went to Knox and felt a bit freer to also like girls. This is back when girls kissing at a party was A Thing That Was For Entertainment and there was a lot of pressure to prove that you weren't "just kissing girls for attention". I didn't use the word bi because again, I tended to date men even though I had sexual experiences with other women (not while dating the men). I started saying I was heteroflexible, or a Kinsey 3. I thought I couldn't really be bi because clearly I didn't like men and women exactly equal. I eventually stopped talking about it all together. I got married and at that point talking about my sexual identity seemed moot. I mean, I married a man so what did it matter if I was also attracted to women? I thought of coming out to my family at some point, but figured it would be met with at best a "so?"

I did come out to my brother and aunt. feels like so much less of a high stakes thing. I was in my 20s, in Japan, married. And my brother, who tried to start a GSA in our town and did start one in college, said "it doesn't matter who you're with. it's your identity." My brother has always spoken from a place of his truth. I was out in grad school, at one point my professor pointed out to me that I may have been the lone LGBTQIA person in our program and I joked "Well I'm married to a man so I barely count" and he said emphatically "you count". It was easier for me on like, day 2 of grad school to tell a bunch of strangers that I was bi than it was for me to put on facebook on national coming out day (up until this year I either didn't comment or said I was an ally.)

I know there are so many experiences I didn't have because I am bi and have been in straight-passing relationships. And I often feel like there isn't space for me. Like being a Jewish kid with a Christian mom, I feel like I have to prove my ability to belong. I have to show people that I am queer enough to be able to go to pride and not have people think I'm a tourist.

I make sure my bi-students feel affirmed. Some of my students know I'm bi because I've accidentally used "we" when talking about bi-phobia. When they ask, I don't deny it. I affirm their identity no matter who they are dating. A lot of them have said that family members or friends would be ok with them being gay or lesbian but cannot deal with the fact that they are attracted to more than one gender. And yes, friends who are a part of the LGBTQIA community too. It breaks my heart when my students hear the same things I heard from a community I was supposed to be a part of. I know in that community I have a lot of privileged. I'm white, upper SES, cis, and in a straight-passing relationship. And bi-phobia still hurts. Maybe someday I'll go to Pride and not be pre-occupied with people figuring I don't belong.
schoolpsychnerd: (Black Widow)
2017-05-29 10:08 am

LARP thoughts and coping

I'm still getting comfortable using the label CPTSD, I'm worried often about people thinking that I'm being melodramatic or playing the victim or trying to get everyone to feel sorry for me or that did I just like swallow the DSM (even though my psychologist brain says "things like depression and eating disorders can stem from trauma or may co-occur. So not uncommon and yet I feel like a diagnostic hot mess). I did notice that I tend to be particularly symptomatic at the Dresden LARP. Before someone brought up the CPTSD possiblity, I legit throught it was me being a bad LARPer, me being crazy, or just like a complete mystery that left me feeling drainded and frustrated as much as I also enjoy game. I realized that my current character has me engaging in a lot more situations that can trigger me and her reactions often run counter to what mine would be. I thought I'd take a bit of a look at what symtoms look like for me at game and how I'm going to work to take care of myself when they happen.

Re-experiencing the past: I don't have what people think of as classic flashbacks. I don't think when smeone yells at me that I'm literally back in a situation, but I do experience emotioanl flashbacks. Those feelings of intense shame, fear, humiliation, sadness, and powerlessness come on super strong and it can be from something as simple as someone IC critizing my character or yelling at her. Raised voices are a trigger for me and because I'm not perfect at preventing bleed, can lead me to retreat emotionally to protect myself where Vanessa would act like Yurio and probably tell the yelling party to fuck off. Vanessa also deals with PTSD but hers looks different from mine. I think stepping out of the situation and going to the OC room to listen to music and say a mauntra like "This is a game, not a reflection of how people OC feel and you are safe here" may be helpful.

Sense of Threat: Oh my gosh, I used to literally think I was just like a sensitive person. Loud noises, yelling, or even like, someone going very quiet while talking hypes up my sense of threat. Suddenly I start walking on egg shells and apologzing for everything. I get overwhelmed really easily when this happens and my brain is so busy looking for threats, where the punishment is going to come from and preparing for how bad it's going to be that I can't focus on what's in front of me. At game this looks like Vanessa getting really quiet or me jumping at everything. Here is where I've found 5 senses grounding to be really helpful. Also pressure can really help if I can overcome how scared I am to ask people for help in these moments. I feel overwhelmed so I think that I am overwhelming. Maybe a sensory kit would also be helpful. I tend to do things like hit myself or dig my nails into me or pinch myself when I'm like this.

Avoidance: This one maybe a bit less because I tend to go more for "Throw myself away" in the name of Flooding (hahahaha, the psychologist in me laughs). I do notice that I will engage with situations that bring up trauma responses but it's with great anxiety and at personal cost. I'll sit through a game of someone saying my character is useless and a child killer but that's like most of my spoons for game and out of game. I think again here, learning to tag out and that it doesn't make me a bad RPer is important.

Emotional Regulation: I am really proud overall at how far I've come in this and when I am triggered, it is usually suddenly me trying to hold 20 pounds of crap in a 5 pound bag. It starts coming out sideways and while I'm not bursting into tears or screaming at people or cowering in the corner (Ok that happened before last game. But I did it away from everyone!) I will try to put up a good front of it but again, it's often at a personal cost and a lot of people who really know me at game notice things like my eyes going wide or that my eye contact shifts (I do wear glasses at game so it makes it more difficult to notice). Here giving myself some space, maybe going and listening to music in the OC room, and doing some self-soothing may be helpful. Again this can be when I do self-injury things so having a sensory kit could be helpful.

Negative Self-Concept: What, you mean it's not that I didn't get enough participation trophies as a kid?! Yeah, while I have moments of feeling ok with myself, self-graitutde or even good about me, I do tend to have a negative self-concept and react from there. It comes out in how I describe Vanessa "mean" "Awful" "cold" etc. or that I'll have a hard time thinking of good things about Vanessa. Even positive traits like "is organized" becomes "is an uptight bitch". As such being mean to Vanessa can feel like a socially acceptable way to be mean to me. I did a little on this by making a list of positive things about Vanessa and i am going to try and write vignettes for them! Also doing things like having Vanessa be a good teacher, and be good with kids help. I also like it when people have a positive thing to say about my character because it can feel like I did something good too.

Interpersonal Problems: This one is a bit hard for me, my way of not getting close to people looks different. I go into Therapist Mode because I learned that doing that was what people wanted and would help people like me. It minimized damage or chances for hurt. I play LARP characters that let me do this as well. Vanessa came in with only one person she was close to, Ben, and has a hard time engaging with others. In game I feel that isolation and the tendancy to cut myself off from others because I can't interact on Safety mode. I think here, identifying characters that connect with Vanessa and seeking out 1:1 interactions with them at game if possible could be helpful. Also letting people OC tag in and support me to remind me that even if their character is angry with Vanessa, they still like Rachel.

I am really fortunate to have a great LARP community that includes my friends who are supportive and caring. I know my struggle is to let them support me instead of thinking I am so much of a bother that they wish I would just get my shit together. Just because I don't want to be around me doesn't mean others don't. Also others don't need to modify their play style for me. I'm going try and have Vanessa leave situations more gracefully than she has been and actually go to the OC room rather than brooding by a window.
schoolpsychnerd: (Default)
2017-05-14 08:10 am

In Every Generation

Last week, in addition to getting strep, a psychologist friend had asked if I had ever considered that Complex PTSD might be something that is there for me. I laughed because at this point I kind of feel like I ate the DSM (eating disoder, maybe Seasonal Affective Disorder? Like I already feel like pathology alphabet soup) and while I mentioned that CPTSD wasn't a thing. She, by virtue of having a PhD in the area, could poke holes in that argument and when I get to therapy again it's something I'm open to exploring. In a way, it feels silly for me to think about having CPTSD. I'm not in a warzone, I'm a white upper middle class educated ciswoman whose disability is invisible and has straight passing privledge. Wasn't I just a whiner? Or crazy? However, as I've thought more about it, it makes more and more sense. And on Mother's day, as I cope with the baggage the day brings for me, I started thinking about inter-generational trauma.

Transgenerational trauma is the idea that trauma is passed down (from a behavioral POV and possibly from an epigenetic POV which is fascinating). Some very rudamentary research I did showed that inital questions about it came from noticing increased mental health needs in children of holocaust survivors. It's the idea that the trauma and oppression experienced by great-grandparents and grandparents affect our parents and us. It was an idea I took some comfort in today.

I have a complex relationship with my parents. Well one of them, my dad is dead but my image of him and how I relate to him in my life changes. My mom and I rarely speak. I know both of them had incredibly difficult lives with physical, verbal, and emotional abuse. If they had been my students, I would have called DCFS. I knew many of my mother's trauma narratives by the time I had started elementary school. I knew my dad's by middle school. Both of them also were deeply committed that my brother and I would not know the fear and pain they had known as kids. And they never hit my brother and I the way they hit. We got spanked and I have some thoughts about that but it doesn't compare to what my parents endured. They were determined they would not get angry at us as their parents got angry at them. And they didn't...they didn't get angry like that. People who love each other don't fight. People who love each other don't get angry. So if you get angry you don't love someone. At least that was how it looked until I took out the trauma lense.

My dad's family is Russian Jews from the shtettle and tenaments to becoming famous doctors and lawyers. While not Holocaust survivors, the progroms and institutionalized antisemtism don't leave us just because my Dad moves to Kentucky and can join a Country Club. I learned from my Aunt about the abuse and beatings my grandfather endured, the way my great grandparents treated my Grandma (oh the shit they said but she was an unflappable Swede from a family without trauma. Grandma Megibow did not fuck around). I don't know a lot about my mom's family but when I did the Life Story Model with my Granny, I can imagine there's a lot of trauma and abuse disguised as discipline. She was the oldest of a large poor southern family and no one thought she'd ever amount to anything. My parents hated anger because anger was a trigger for them. Strong emotions were a trigger for them. People not being happy triggered them and they needed to be soothed.

It doesn't make it ok. I see the same impulses in me and I'm trying to work on them. Like my parents, if I have a kid, I would like them to have the space to feel their strong emotions, be emotional creatures. I would like to not panic when someone tells me something i said upset them. I would like to be able to sit with discomfort of beign near an angry person. I want to not run when someone raises a voice. I would like to the fear of rejection to not drive me. I would like the transgenerational trauma to end with me. I love my parents, they did the best they could, and it doesn't mean I have to be ok with them and all that happened. It explains, it doesn't excuse.
schoolpsychnerd: (Eowyn)
2017-04-30 09:49 am
Entry tags:

Calories, Dysmorphia, and Recovery

Eating Disorder recovery has a lot of moving parts to it for many people, I think. In keeping it personal, immediate, and local, I'm going to speak to my experience and recognize that I have may privileges that make my recovery journey smoother than they are for other members of the ED community. Prior to C2E2, I was incredibly stressed. There was a fair amount of personal issues going on, I'm still figuring out when to use my sun lamp and wasn't making time for that, and add in the anxiety of making costumes and the pressure of time and I just stopped taking care of myself. Depression and stress are soul sucking and even if I'm not active in my ED, basic self-care like making sure I have enough food and shower consistently become more of a struggle. I also saw this Glamour article (TW; contains talk of calories and exercise)

I go through phases of being aware that I'm not eating enough in terms of my caloric needs. In a move that is kind of a 180 from where I was as a kid (I ignored satiety signals and struggled with binge eating as a kid) I struggle with hunger signals. I used to go from 0 to hangry in .5 seconds because I wouldn't feel hungry until it was so overwhelming I would yell at [personal profile] dorchadas over text or in person. When I started recovery and started eating more regularly, I started to feel those hunger signals again but I had a hard time honoring them. I had a schedule, wait 4 hours between every meal and snack. If I felt hungry less than 4 hours after eating it felt like some kind of moral failure and I was more afraid of being the kid everyone made fun of for overeating than being the hangry drained asshole I can be. I am a huge proponent of intuitive eating and health at every size, yet struggle to apply that to me. I may say I am "eating intuitively" but I am judging and weighing every food choice. No, I can't have that cookie even though I want it. It will ruin me and I clearly just want something sweet and should have a banana. And if it's outside of my schedule it kind of consumes my thoughts. Most of our culture around meal prepping is centered around weight loss. I make a lunch that touts its low calorie count, me convincing myself that I am not a recovering anorexic but someone who needs to have every calorie reduced and policed. In my disorder, my calories were often in the triple digits because [personal profile] dorchadas made me eat dinner. In my recovery, on good days it was about 1,200. That is not adequate for my needs and yet if I get to that number, I will feel guilt for eating less than I should and guilt for eating more than I "should".

So this week I used my app to track if I was getting enough and made an effort to get enough food to eat. It was both easier and harder than I thought. I bought more food and ate all the snacks. I feel a bit less run down during cardio and less pain after lifting. Overall it feels like I'm doing a good thing for myself. There have been a few challenges.

One, I'm almost always snacking. I get full fairly quickly so "large" looking meals feel intimidating. I experimented with having a larger lunch this weekend and it went pretty well. The hard part with always snacking is that when I was a kid my mom always said I was grazing like a cow. I mean, she wasn't wrong and I know I tended to eat past the point of being full because I was bored or sad or angry. However, there are nicer ways to say that to a person. I eat snacks and if I feel like I'm eating them too close together I'm worried everyone thinks I'm a cow. I also think that my body lies to me about hunger signals so I'll ignore them, telling myself "You're not hungry you're bored." or "You're not hungry, you're just a fatass with no self control" Neither of these are true and I'm getting more comfortable snacking.

Two, physical effects of eating and refeeding. This is the part of recovery that feels a bit gross. My body is overall happy to have more food but it's also figuring out what the hell to do with that. I've had a few days where I've been bloated and I usually noticeably (at least to me) Look bigger after I eat. My entire digestive system is in the process of sorting itself out in all sorts of fun ways. I'm trying to stay hydrated and wear comfortable clothes. Keeping up my exercise has also been helpful.

Three body dysmorphia. This is often a hard one to explain to people because most people don't get that literally a part of my disorder is that what I see does not match reality. I know that to all of you, I look healthy and lovely but that is not what I see when Iook in the mirror. That normal stomach bump is the first thing I think everyone's eye goes to and that mine is so large and that it is AWFUL. I will worry that people will see me dressed in a certain way and think I don't know I'm too fat to wear that or don't realize I look disgusting or don't know how to dress for my body so others eyes don't bleed. Yet I will also champion everyone else wearing whatever the fuck they want! Crop tops for everyone! Except me! It's the frustrating thing of having an eating disorder. I am both so special that the positive rules don't apply to me and I need special negative ones because I'm The Worst.

The last thing is money. I have a hard time just letting myself spend money on food for me or take up more of the food budget. It's not like money is a problem for us but buying food that is just mine feels selfish and bad. Like, couldn't [personal profile] dorchadas buy more videogames if I didn't need to eat? It's bullshit and a relic of a time when I couldn't really afford to feed myself and hearing complaints about how expensive it was to feed me.

I'm starting on week two and I know eventually I'll have a nice repertoire of things I can mix and match to get my needs met. I'm looking to try more things like oatmeal too. I mean, I can now eat my big fear foods like oatmeal and pizza and pasta and Chipotle but like...I still kind of avoid them because they make me a bit panic-y.
schoolpsychnerd: (freud)
2017-01-23 07:15 pm

Antisemitism and gaslighting

I was not born with internalized anti-antisemitism. I was not always so certain that anything short of being murdered by a Nazi constituted antisemitism. I did not always make excuses and apologies and say that my fellow Ashkenazim complaining about antisemitism were a bunch of whiny white people pretending to still be oppressed. What happened? What changed? My dear readers, that's how gaslighting works.

I always felt accepted in elementary school for my faith. I got to talk about Hannukah around that time, people thought it was cool. I got bullied for my size and my perceived lack of intelligence (fun fact: They thought I had an intellectual disability for a bit in late elementary school!), but never did me being Jewish become a part of it. Then middle school happened. Suddenly not only was it about my size or my weird interest in Shakespeare or my like kind of stupid kind of smartness. Nope, suddenly me being Jewish (or half-Jewish as I identified until 8th grade) became a well worn part of the taunts. I have a theory that it correlates with when most kids start attending youth groups and in a lot of Evangelical circles in my town, not being their brand of Christian, let alone not being Christian at all, meant you were going to hell and that you killed Jesus. Being the astute observers they were, my peers quickly learned that watching videos about the holocaust upset me, that yelling "heil Hitler" and saluting really upset me, that Holocaust denial, saying I killed Jesus, that Hitler was right, saying that I would burn in hell and suffer eternal fire, asking me to really explain what the phrase "Jew you down" meant, etc. were all "how to make Rachel cry, easy mode". I did what I had been told to do, I let adults know.

I was told that it wasn't antisemitism. That they were just bullying me and they only said those things because they knew they bothered me. If I didn't react, if I didn't give them what they wanted then they would stop. My guidance counselor told me I just had to have a thicker skin if I was going to volunteer that information about myself (My family and I had been in the paper a few times lighting Hannukah candles when I was in elementary school, clearly a poor choice.) Really, this was just me making a mountain out of a mole hill and again, it's not like the kids were actually Nazis. I even had a teacher witness it and say "if you had Jesus in your heart, they wouldn't do that". My parents were pretty silent on it, most notably my dad. I know Dad had to balance being a small business owner and as I got older I saw how much micro and macro aggression hurt him but because of the nature of his work, he couldn't push back to defend himself. I took it in and believed it. Antisemitism wasn't a thing, especially not for Ashkenazim (yes we need to examine the intersection of white privledge, conditional acceptance, and antisemitism but that is another entry).

I was speaking these thoughts aloud when I said under the new administration, I had a duty to be tanking on the front lines because I am not a target. One of my friends brought up me being Jewish and I instantly dismissed the many flagrant displays of antisemitism I have seen. I brought it back to how it was like bullying to which my friend pointed out "They would not have said those things if you weren't Jewish. That is anti-antisemitism" One of the most insidious things about oppression is that it teaches you that your narrative is invalid, that your perceptions aren't real. I still have a hard time feeling legitimized in my experiences with antisemitism or that it's a form of oppression I experience (particularly living in a city). It's one of the reasons why I feel very strongly about making sure marginalized folks can share their experiences without me coming in and trying to tell them what they really feel or make meaning of it for them. Listen, legitimize/validate feelings, and act on what you hear.
schoolpsychnerd: (freud)
2017-01-04 06:56 pm

Things to try in 2017

Framing resolutions or goals as things I wanted to do this pst year was really helpful to me. For one, it let me look at what experiences I wanted to have. Secondly, it let me test out things without feeling beholden to them. There were things I didn't try this past year that were on my list but I didn't feel any shame around it. So now this year, things to try/do in 2017

Go to an adult ballet class. I've got one picked out, I like ballet. I want to learn more and I want to improve my skills. I love dance and have been out of a studio for too long. Following recs from my friends, Joel Hall looks like a great option.

Keep up my fiction blog. I started it last year, not thinking that I could do it. I did a really good job about updating and got lots of wonderful feedback on my writing and great support from my friends. However, after Japan I got out of my routine and then my SAD really soulsucked me. I think I am going to shoot for one longer story a month and then like a drabble or two at the end of the month. Amelia gave me excellent advice about "Writing the islands" instead of feeling like I have to start writing at the beginning and keep writing until I finish. I can write the moments that speak to me and write to connect them. I may consider taking a writing class which Amelia also speaks very highly of!

Try out a martial art. Robin and one of my students go to a badass awesome dojo and I've been wanting to try learning martial arts since I was a kid. I'd probably start during the summer, after my student graduates. I liked doing judo in Japan but it didn't fit with Brian and I's life then. It could be really cool and I feel like learning it would help give me focus. Plus training with Robin would be awesome!

Get a tattoo; I've been talking about wanting to get my tattoo for a while. I have this idea based on a pottery technique I saw in Japan and was reminded of when I started recovery. It would be a gold crack (or an approximation of gold) along my shoulder blade. The practice of kintsugi has a lot of meaning for me, in highlight breaks as part of the history of an object. Plus it has the dual meaning of one the quotes that got me through my really hard first few months of recovery "The crack in the place where the light enters you". So even if I don't do gold because tying it directly to kintsugi feels too appropriative, some way to represent that phrase in tattoo form would be great.

Get more office art/deocrate: I'm slowly starting to make my office my own but I need to keep going with that. I don't personalize it as much as I could because I think I"m afraid to move in. In 2016 I added a scent diffuser, the Phil Noto picture, a piece of Firefly art, and my Gene Ha picture. Plus I now have a hot water maker and tea station. It's getting to be my space, and I would like to make it more me. So more office art! Some lamps! And maybe hot cocoa and coffee too!

Resist: I want to go to protests, I want to tell asshole bigots on the train "No You Move". I may not be much of a social justice tank, but I have my moments where I can me. To quote Princess the Hopeful, I am a Mender of Hearts and I want to use my Mender skills to fight for justice. Everything from calling my congress people to standing in the cold saying "Never again". Be the badass punk high shouting about how crazy the system was that I was when I was a sophomore in high school. Be the person who took petitions aroudn the school informing people about the violations of women's rights under the Teliban pre-9/11. Be the person who would not shut up about feminism (but be waaaaaaaaaaaaay more intersectional) and who didn't care if someone disagreed with her or if someone was hurt by her speaking her truth.
schoolpsychnerd: (del)
2016-12-31 01:46 pm

16 things I did in 2016

1. Went to Japan: This year probably the biggest thing that happened was our Japan trip with a group of 5 amazing people. The trip itself had its stress of planning, but overall it all came together really well. We got to share the place we lived for 3 years with our friends, spend time in places we didn't always spend a lot of time in, and have all sorts of adventures. I turned 31 in Japan! The coolest part is that we all got along. There were no major fights or even really any small ones. How we set up the trip let people have space or be together. Everyone had a fair amount of freedom. A smile I particularly have is traveling with Aaron. If you had told either of us on the first day of grad school that we'd go to Japan together, we both would have probably looked at you funny. Numerous school psych trips and now one for fun, Aaron remains a great travel buddy.

2. Celebrated 9 years of marriage: [ profile] dorchadas and I have been together for 11 years and married for 9 of them! It's hard to believe that this year is our 10 year anniversary. He is a wonderful partner and it's been an honor to grow with him over the years.

3. Tried Air classes: I have been wanting to take a class here for a while but didn't want to go alone and wasn't really sure who to ask. One of the best gifts this year has been the amazing adventuring buddy that is Topher! It hit me like a bolt out of the blue that he was exactly the person to do this with. His response was an enthusiastic yes! We hit a basic Air fitness class and were sweat buckets (between Air and Bikram and running, Sweat and Breath became a theme for our dynamic). We tried the much cheaper 6 dollar Air community yoga class and both fell in love with that space. Hanging upside down and pushing myself in a different way has been so fun. More Air in 2017!

4. Started a fiction blog: I developed a new understanding of writers from having this blog. I was very consistent up until I went to Japan and then I got off schedule and had a hard time getting back on. I got in my own head about what I was writing, needing every story to be GREAT. I also hit a depression spike just as I started to get back on track that robbed me of my motivation and will to do things anyway. Some people can just write and solider through it but I struggled here. I loved writing and I loved getting to hear how my writing affected people. I looked at bringing it back this year, instead of doing 2 big stories a month having one big one and then some short stories or drabbles. I learned I really like writing drabbles.

5. Went to a con alone: I went to C2E2 alone, admittedly I met up with people when I got there, but I was not part of a group or traveling with someone until I met up with Travis and Keeley. And I had a lot of fun! I got my picture taken and took some great pictures! I got to meet Phil Noto who said he loved my Widow costume! I stood up to people who took my picture without asking. And it gave me the chance to see and connect with people I don't see very often. I'm looking to go with people this year, but it was a good reminder that I can go somewhere alone and not be stranded.

6. Ended therapy: I have been working the same therapist for 3.5 years. She has seen me through a lot of life changes and personal growth. But the world doesn't stop changing and I'm so happy she got the promotion she did, even if it meant we would no longer be working together. She improved me as a person and as a therapist. Having her tell me that she thought I was "ready" meant a lot to me. I'm seeing where I'm at now, if therapy is something I need at this moment or how often that might be. We'll see and I'm so grateful for my therapist and who she helped me grow into being.

7. Became the facilitator for my EDA group: Less than a week after my therapist said we were going to be ending our helping relationship, I also found out there were no interns to lead the EDA group and they asked me to do it. It took me a while to find who I was as a facilitator in the meetings and I worried that attendance would die. I also sometimes struggle to balance "rachel the participant" with "Rachel the facilitator". I am profoundly grateful for all the people who have made this role easier: From the friend who gives me a ride there every week, the friends who are regulars and let the group basically run itself, and the friends who aren't in group but provide me with encouragement.

8. Got my story published in the EDA big book: I started writing it this year and also got it published. One of the biggest things is that while I initially let a friend take the first pass at editing it, we both realized this was not a work that it was appropriate to have a friend edit. I re-wrote a lot of it and sent it in. They made no changes to the original work and accepted it for publication. When you get to the non-founder stories, mine is the first one. In a way, writing the story keeps me honest with myself. I want to be the person in the story and live up to the standard I set for myself.

9. Visited Asheville: I spent most of my summers in NC and it felt good to be back in the mountains. I loved doing all the hiking and taking in slightly warmer climbs outdoors. I had a blast going to dance church and sleeping on the bus with Teresa. She makes a badass bonfire too, and spending that time with my sister felt super important. We went contra dancing and I had so much fun being a beginner and had some wonderful leads. It was also a trip that had its downsides and kind of marks the beginning of the end of my friendship with Bucky. However! Being outside! Animals! Trees! Hiking! Bus Sleepovers! Teresa! All happy things from that visit.

10. LARPed with my husband: [ profile] dorchadas has not LARPed since we were dating at Knox. We both joined the Scion LARP: Terrible Burden of Destiny as Scions of Izanami and Izanagi and it was an absolute blast. Taking about game with him instead of at him, having him at game to play off of, watching him write backstory, oh so much fun! I'm sad he's not in the Dresden LARP and I'm also super grateful/excited to have Topher as my right hand Warden for this game.

11. Became the anime club sponsor: We split the Table Top Games club from the anime club thanks to my awesome co-sponsor and I officially took over anime club! I was worried it was going to stay small but the club exploded! It went from like 7 kids to 35. It's a club that is diverse and full of enthusiastic students who just love having a space to hang out with an episode in the background. They also all think that I am super cool. I got full marks on my evaluation as a club sponsor and I am so happy to be doing it again next year. I'm bringing them on a field trip to A-cen so if you see me with a horde of teenagers, come say hi!

12. Cosplayed with my husband: [ profile] dorchadas and I haven't cosplayed together since before Japan when we did Yoko and Kamina from Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagen. This year we did Ender-kun and Creeper-Tan. I was surprised by how many people wanted to take our pictures. [ profile] dorchadas made his earth cube prop, and while it was a bit stressful it photographed really well! It was so great to have a project to work on together and to walk around A-cen as part of a duo rather than as a solo cosplayer. This year at C2E2 we have Sauron and Morgoth. I'm super excited!!

13. Learned I have SAD: I think for a long time I just thought it was my eating disorder. or that it was just life circumstances. But friends, in October I hit a really objectively awful patch of this that drew my attention to all the small things. The waking up super early, the lack of motivation, the inability to focus, all the symptoms I had put aside. Mornings were the worst, these sucking pits of loneliness and dark thoughts I'd rather not share here. I had been in talk therapy for a while and was using every coping skill I had and still could not shake it. So finally, after a lot of support I talked to my doctor. We both talked about the possibility of a seasonal pattern and he suggested a light box before we try medication. Within 3 days of using it I noticed a major difference in my energy and mood. I've had motivation! I can read more! I can focus! I'm social with my coworkers! And I want to thank everyone for being so validating and supportive. It feels good to be back to me for more than just the short Chicago summers.

14. Stood up for myself: I did this in many ways this year! From setting boundaries with students and parents, yelling at street harassers, badass moments of Keeley and I explaining consent to an asshole photographer, to ending a friendship that had become emotionally abusive. I have learned a lot from where I was in high school and reflecting on the abusive relationship I was in senior year taught me to stop blaming myself for staying, that wasn't what my role in that situation was. My role was that I didn't trust the part of me that said "This hurts and is not good" and didn't think I was worth standing up for myself. Now if I can translate that into standing up more for others, interrupting rather than condoning with my silence.

15. Ran my summer school program: Well, was part of running it. My role changed unexpectedly and I had tons of support from the program veterans as well as my friends and spouse. I don't know what this summer is going to look like but I did learn that doing data collection and management while trying to also run things was much harder than I thought. I don't know what the program is going to look like or if they'll really need a data person but I'm glad to be there!

16. Finished Lord of the Rings: To clarify, I have read LoTR several times before. I have been blessed with a husband who has a gorgeous reading aloud voice and he's been reading it to me over the years. It took a while to find a good time to read it (reading it at nght puts me in danger of going to sleep) but we learned that reading it while I make breakfast on weekends is a good time to start. I got to discover parts of the book that I loved, be reminded of cool moments that had faded, and learn what parts move [ profile] dorchadas. We just started the Silmarillion and it's so much easier to get through now than it was in 8th grade.
schoolpsychnerd: (freud)
2016-12-30 05:39 pm

Update on my Things I want to do in 2016

While 2016 has been a year that has been personally challenging in addition to the state of the world challenging, I wanted to reflect on how I did on my different goals from this post

-Trying new modes of fitness: YES!!! I tried Air, Air Yoga, and Bikram yoga this year. I also changed my weight routine up and now use the weight room. I have found some great fitness buddies, most notably my Odinson-GymBro and the delightful Mdme Aldred. I look forward to trying more things this year!

-Stretching.I was better about stretching than I was in 2015 but it's still not as regular a habit as I would like. I've realized that the biggest difference between my ballerina LARP character and my fitness level is not so much strength or endurance as it is flexibility (and like a lifetime of ballet training)

-Dance. I did do more dancing this year, but still didn't make it to a formal class. I did attend Dance church when I visited Ashville and had a mutual dance lesson exchange with my best friend. This year, I am going to walk up to the Joel Hall studio and do it.

-Try new recipes. I did more baking this year which is really nice. I didn't do anything as ambitious as 50 weeks 50 curries. I got better at making certain things like dashi maki and Singaporean Chicken Rice. I have tried to do more with meal prep so that's also a new thing I suppose.

-Edit my nanowrimo novels. This one hit a major crinkle when the person who played Nehmer, who was going to be my editor, and I ended our friendship. In light of all that I have learned about that dynamic, it's a story I have lost interest in. I had an idea how I might want to overhaul the ending completely, make it a new story. I think I am more interested in getting my fiction blog back on track than I am revisitng those stories. If you want to read the super ultra mega rough drafts, feel free to message me but know that they are like the roughest of drafts.

-I want to try a really long-term cosplay goal. I started my planning earlier. Now that I know there's a fabric store closer to me I think this one will be easier to do next year. This year I've got 2 things for C2E2 and something for A-cen. I think this year the planning and collaborating I do definitely improved.

-More make up experiments! I wear makeup a bit more regularly but I don't know that I necessarily do a lot of experiments. I may have to take Mdme. Aldred up on her offer to come over and play. Maybe I'll try getting a make up monthly box!

New goals for next year coming Jan 1, 2017!
schoolpsychnerd: (del)
2016-12-10 06:13 pm

Ballet and Body Image

There are many things I like about the LARP that I am joining. I love the community I'm playing in. I love the character I've created and how she's linked with other characters. I love the grey cloak I made and going fabric shopping with my best friend. And at the same time, I also recognize that there's a part of me with a lot of apprehension about one aspect of my character in particular; she's a ballerina.

I have loved dance and wanted to be a dancer like a lot of small children. I took ballet until I was 10 when we would have transitioned to pointe, which I had waited my whole life for. I knew I didn't look like the other dancers, I hit puberty early and had the clumsys like no one's business. Plus I was already pretty acutely aware that I had a different body than other dancers. I always wanted to go back, but the attitude was that I was never really going to be good so why devote the time to lessons when I could do things that seemed to come more easily. Thanks you my wonderful Knox friends, my SAI mama in particular, I got back into dancing. I cried when my parents praised a piece I choreographed. I've taken dance on and off because it's still a hard mental space for me. Having the "right" body for dance was really emphasized at the studio I took lessons in. You needed to be the right height (I was on the tall end as a kid...oh those days), be thin, and flat chested (hahahahahahahahha, nah my boobs cannot be contained in my body sometimes). So even when I was in a supportive space, I always compared my body to other dancers.

Thinspiration (or Thinspo in the ED community) are "motivational" images that a person with an eating disorder may look at to inspire them to engage in behaviors. I never got into super models or gymnasts or emo girls with trigger words on their pictures. Nope, up until 2 years ago on every computer I'd owned had a secret folder called Thinspo that was absolutely filled with pictures of ballerinas. The dance history person logically knows that the look I and many laymen associate with ballet originates with Ballanchine in the 1960s. I wrote eating disorder watch words over photos of ballerinas that would have made Balanchine salavate (except their heads may have been to big. No I'm not even kidding). I have not seen The Black Swan, in spite of my love most things Aronofsky does and well ballet. I haven't been to see a dance performance in years. It's a tough thing for me to engage with at all.

I recognize that to a lot of people my worry that I am "too fat to play a ballerina" in a LARP where people are vampires and fae and throw lighting, is utterly silly because from a logical point of view, I'm a white cis woman with thin privledge. And I am also a person who fights with her brain on a regular basis around body dysmorphia. I fixate on percieved flaws and do not see myself the way others might. "But Rachel, if you think you're fat you must think I'm a whale". Stop right there. My body dysmorphia is 1.) not logical by any stretch and 2.) not about you. More often than not these days, I manage it. Hell there are days when I love my body. I no longer spout my dysmorphic thoughts out loud as facts (at least not often). It is also to an extent relatde to social anxiety, I want to control my size and the perception of my appearance as a way to control how others react to me (size related bullying is a hell of a drug). That anxiety coupled with media triggers such as ballet (or even the thought of ballet) can really be a challenge for me.

I did meet that challenge instead of giving in to behaviors or running away. I am so fortunate to have [ profile] dorchadas, my amazing Eating Disorder Nakama, a best friend LARP buddy, and an incredible support network. I've also started to look at how ballet's "look" is changing and realizing just how little my idea was based in logic or reality. The feeling came in, and then left like a wave. I'm still not going to be watching Black Swan any time soon, but the Joffery's Nutcracker does seem pretty cool.
schoolpsychnerd: (freud)
2016-11-11 07:35 pm

Conditional Acceptance

I don't have a clear timeline on how my Grandfather's parents ended up in America. I know some of it but it's a hard history to trace. My grandfather's side is made up of Russian/Ukranian Jews. The entire Megibow family (that we know of) relocated to America to avoid pogroms and the Tsar's army. A cool thing about this is that if you see someone with the last name Megibow, I am by blood or marriage related to them! Through a combination of genetics, I don't "look" Jewish, like my Dad and Uncle and Grandpa Megibow. This grants me a fair amount of conditional acceptance (otherwise known as passing privilege). Back when my Grandmother was still alive, she shared this story and it really stuck with me about my Grandpa.

Grandpa was a doctor, from how my Grandma framed it he loved the research end but couldn't support a family on it so he went the surgical route. Early in his career, he was studying under this renowned pathologist who would hold special, invite only, lunch lectures. He did not invite Jews or med students of color...except my grandfather. Megibow, while a weird name, doesn't always read at first blush as Jewish. My great-grandfather changed it from Megibowski to Megibow for just that reason. Add to that the lack of stereotypical features (surprise, we don't all look alike!), the bigoted pathology lecturer didn't know that my grandfather was Jewish. The other Jewish med students didn't say anything and my grandfather felt really uncomfortable but he also didn't want to come forward because those lectures and the connections of the pathologist could help his career. According to my grandmother he was really torn on what to do.

One day, the pathologist comes up to him while he is working and says to my grandfather "Megibow. That's an interesting name. What nationality is that?" My Grandfather did not miss a beat and said "I'm a Russian Jew". Like that, he was never invited to the lectures again. I admired that, he could have said "Russian" and just left it at that. My Grandfather chose not to accept that his conditional acceptance was more important than his identity.

Kitty Pryde in X-Men talks about the importance of identifying as Jewish even if we don't look like the stereotype, because bigotry against one of us, is bigotry against all of us. Complacency and conditional acceptance will not protect us. Ivanka Trump is a great example. She's listed as a Jew by the Nazis who support her father. Your blonde hair and blue eyes mean fuck all to them.
schoolpsychnerd: (freud)
2016-06-08 08:44 am

Remember this pain

"The Psalmist said that in his affliction, he learned the law of G-d. And in truth, grief is a great teacher, when it sends us back to serve and bless the living. We learn how to counsel and comfort those who, like ourselves, are bowed with sorrow. We learn when to keep silent in their presence, and when a word will assure them of our love and concern."

I didn't want to learn this lesson in the year after it happened. I didn't want to grieve. I didn't want to learn from it. I didn't want to have been affected by this experience. And my father and his actions, all of them, are a part of who I have become. Grieving for me is in part a process of learning how to give up control. It's learning to radically accept that this is where I am at when I feel it. Some days it's easier to do that than others. Some days I can make space for it, listen to songs that remind me of him, and speak about my grief to others. Other days it's harder. I can feel the tightness in my chest and shove it away, telling myself it was too much. It happened 4 years ago now. Statute of limitations expired! Then I smile wryly to myself and say like I would to a student "You said the statute of limitations had expired after a week. It's ok". 4 years seems both not that long ago and forever ago.

And yet this year I saw vividly laid out for me some purpose in this pain, that I had learned to counsel and comfort those who, like me, were bowed with sorrow. A student had their parent's partner who had been with them for most of their life leave suddenly towards then end of the school year. A day or two after it happened, the student had group with me and another student who had lost their father before the school year started. I felt my own comfort with silence and speaking, my student who had lost their father said "This is probably the best room to be in, Ms. Pitt and I know something about losing someone suddenly." and I was able to respond when asked appropriately and say "I really identified with what you said about how weird it feels to laugh or do "normal" things. It's like we want it but when we get it, it feels so different than it used to feel that we can't deal". Kid who hadn't eaten much in a week then proceeded to eat at least 4 cookies and smile and laugh with us. We also sat quietly when we needed.

My dad's death continues to teach me when to be silent and when to speak. My comfort with silence can actually freak some of my students out, but I've learned that when anyone has big feelings, sometimes the best course of action is to sit with them, in silence, and let them start the conversation. Thank you to all of you who have offered me comfort and support in a multitude of forms. If I am as put together as people have been telling me, it is due in no small part to the incredible love that I'm surrounded with, the way you all share your sparks of what I may call something divine with me and the world.
schoolpsychnerd: (del)
2016-06-02 09:00 pm

I'm not standing still, I am lying wait

The theme at last night's meeting was trust, and I spoke about learning to trust myself. Well apparently I'm getting a crash course in that...

First off, our EDA meeting is usually chaired by an intern at The Awakening Center. We've had an amazing chairperson this past year who really helped make the meeting into something incredible. Her internship ended last night. Last week she approached me to chair the meeting. Chairing the meeting is overall WAY less complicated than the groups I run at school. I'm mostly responsible for opening the space and letting people in. We have an amazing group of regulars and there's a ton of trust in that meeting. I think if I felt super ready and like "well duh, of course I should" then it would mean I am the last person who should chair that meeting. I feel humbled, honored, somewhat ready, and nervous. It's all natural.

Then today during therapy my therapist lets me know that she is changing jobs at the practice. She'll still be in the practice but she won't be seeing clients anymore. She an incredible therapist and I am happy for her, but I'm also freaked out. I've been working with her for three years now, she has seen me through so much. There are a lot of options here, transitioning to a new therapist, going to a new therapist who I may see less frequently, discontinuing therapy for a bit, and all the shades in between. She expressed that she feels so confident that I am ready, that I can be ok and that I now hold the hope that I will be ok on my own instead of having her hold it for me. Again, a part of me knows this is true and a part of me is screaming internally that this is not true at all. I am a Monet painting where from far away I look totally together but am a total hot mess up close. Yet there are not many people who know me up close better than my therapist.

It's all scary. It's all somewhat terrifying. And I would be lying if I said I didn't feel like a huge impostor. Who am I to chair a meeting? Who am I to discontinue therapy entirely? Who am I to act like I am healthy and not a mess know, I don't feel like a hot mess inside. I can feel the fear sitting in my throat. I can feel the tears behind my eyes. But it all feels...not larger than me. It all feels mention-able and therefore has the potential to be manageable. I'm so afraid to acknowledge progress or how much I've made because I'm more afraid of being wrong than anything else.

When I listen to Hamilton, I always find myself really identifying with Burr on some level. I think I'm overall a bit more proactive than Burr, but the part where I am keeping my plans close to my chest, the part where I am waiting for it, is to say that I've made progress.
schoolpsychnerd: (Chu)
2016-04-20 06:32 pm

Jewish Dietary laws and recovery

I had originally wanted to write this article to complain about how hard it is to navigate religous dietary restrictions with an eating disorder. I wanted to vent my frustration and hope that someone in a comment would give me a rule to follow that would absolve me of having to deal with it. However, while pursuing a friend’s facebook page, I felt inspired by a perspective that they shared of finding gratitude for things like missing far away loved one or sore muscles. That got me thinking about ways I’m grateful for the interaction of my religious dietary rules and my eating disorder.

I didn’t grow up keeping anything close to kosher or Passover kosher (bacon sandwiches were my favorite growing up). My Dad fasted during Yom Kippur when I was younger but by the time I was in high school his health didn’t allow it. Fasting on Yom Kippur didn’t give me an eating disorder, it did give me a window into the endorphin releasing effects of starving myself (thanks genetics!). I started keeping Passover kosher in college, not long after I’d admitted to having an eating disorder. I was making an attempt at recovery, which I try not to judge as half-hearted. Compassionately, I wasn’t ready yet and didn’t know how to give myself the space to recover at 18. I learned about kitniyot at that time, I was eating a crunch bar and another Jewish friend pointed out that I couldn’t eat that, it had rice in it (I knew HFC wasn’t kosher for Passover but I had no idea why). I took this and ran with it, wrapping myself in piety as an excuse to go back to eating iceberg lettuce salads. I started observing fast days outside of Yom Kippur during my last year of grad school/internship (though what wasn’t a fast day at that point?). [ profile] dorchadas and I have slowly been phasing in parts of kashrut into our lives and we feel good about our current observances (no pork, no shellfish or bottom feeders) at this time. In educating myself about eating disorders, I’ve read a lot of stories about Orthodox or Hassidic people in treatment for eating disorders and how difficult it is. A core of eating disorder recovery is learning to be flexible with food, eat without rules. I don’t know if you know, but my religion has a ton of dietary rules. Some of them are from the Torah, others are ways in which we have built a wall around the Torah to keep from breaking the big rules.

Where does the gratitude come in? In my own inventory, I’ve seen a hyper focus on rules and rigid thinking. I’ve seen ways in which I have built walls with armed sentries posted every 10 paces around the major “sins” I see in my life, the biggest of which was gaining weight. My recovery has given me space to examine my practice of Jewish dietary laws and how I turned those into walls. I get the opportunity (yay?!) to take a deeper look at what these observances actually mean to me. Does my fasting on Yom Kippur help make me feel more connected to G-d or am I more connected with myself and my need to punish myself? Does my Passover kosher observance help me to act for social justice and remind me to continually check my privileged or is it an excuse for me to join in the communal kvetching about all the things I can’t eat? Does not eating kitniyot make me mindful of the injustice in the world or am I going to get lost in the million things I won’t let myself eat because they MAY be kitniyot? Does my fasting on other days help me connect to the suffering of others through the remembered suffering of my people or is it a way for me to act out on my eating disorder? Do I observe these traditions for my own growth and spiritual enrichment or do I do them to “be a good girl”/get praise/avoid shame or judgement from others or myself? Often I know a lot of people, myself certainly included, don’t get the chance to reflect on what a tradition means to us. And it’s hard. For me it’s a huge fight with the rigid rule follower in me and the recovery side of me.

In my reflection, I’ve learned that too often, my observance is totally disconnected from any kind of spirituality. I cling to the rules like a child who isn’t ready to leave their best friend’s house yet even though it is clearly long past time for them to leave. I have gotten the opportunity to reflect on my practice of Judaism and look at what traditions bring me closer to the type of person I want to be, and what practices do not serve that goal. So instead of being mad at my eating disorder because I can't be like other Jews, I can accept that this is where I'm at, be grateful for the chance to examine how I do my faith, and change what I can. All in all, not too shabby as my Grandpa Megibow would say.
schoolpsychnerd: (freud)
2016-02-15 07:14 pm

Gaming while Cis female with a math disability

We all come to the gaming table with a variety of experiences. We don't leave our identities, and the privileges (or lack there of) associated with them, outside our gaming venue. And as we explore new worlds, new groups, or new gaming experiences, it can give us a chance to look at how we show up at the table. The two identities I think a lot about at the table are my gender (cis female) and my disability status. I would really love to hear from other gamers of a variety of identities to hear what their table experiences have been. I know there are other areas where I have privilege (particularly white privilege, cis privledge and SES privilege) that change how my other identities affect me at a particular table.

My disability is a math computation based learning disability. In the age of smartphones with a calculator at my finger tips, and a wider acceptance of calculator use by the world at large, it's impact on my day to day life is minimized. I've been known to add distance up wrong, or time, and baking can be difficult. This usually means that when I have to do math in my head, I will either be fast an inaccurate or slow and accurate. I've come a long way in my math skills from when I was identified in 7th grade and gaming has helped a lot with that. In safe environments where people will let me add things up (and help me out when we need to speed it up), gaming is good practice for me. I've developed strong narrative muscles and often have to social roll because my skills outstrip my characters. Being married to [ profile] dorchadas has also helped me learn to feel safe engaging with mechanics.

However, I haven't always had positive experiences at the table with my disability, particularly as it intersects with my gender. Because Math is Hard Y'all. Often, I became the most conscious of this stereotype when I was the only female identified person at the table. A woman isn't just bad at math on her own, she's confirming gender stereotypes. This adds to the other stereotypes about women in gaming that lead to books like this (note this is by a woman, I know not everyone thinks it's patronizing sexism enforcing gunk but that was my reaction to the book) to sell D&D to women. Women can be pigeon holed into being squishy narrativists, clerics, or the T&A/table sexual harassment object. These roles get really toxic when you add in that I am bad at math. Patience with me goes out the window, I start being told how to play my character, mocked that I'm doing it wrong, and the intelligence and gender are always to great go-to low blows.

I've been very fortunate. 97-98% of my gaming experiences have been inclusive, welcoming, and encouraging. I do pretty tightly control who I game with as a protective measure (I've gotten burned the most in situations where I don't know those I'm gaming with well). As I branch out into other game spaces, I get the chance to confront how I behave in these situations, unpack why I do it, and re-evaluate my old coping strategies.

I used to apologize for being stupid. I used to be quiet. I used to put up with a lot of crap. I used to not ask for assistance from allies. I used to reduce how much I participated in game. I used to just not play D&D (Seriously, 3.5 was a nightmare for me as a person with a computation disability). And those were good strategies at the time, they served their purpose. They are still on the table and I'm not bad if I use them, but they can be part of a tool kit instead of my only tools. I can ask questions of my gm without saying "this may sound stupid". I can tell someone it's not okay. I can be upfront about my disability if I feel safe. I can ask for help. I have so many friends who have demonstrated a willingness to tag in and used their privileged to help my voice be heard. And if I don't like a gaming environment, I don't have to stay. I don't owe an explanation, a second chance, or some guy a get-out-of-being-an-asshole-free card. Assertiveness is a form of self-care, and I think all of us who run and play in games need to ask, are we setting up a table that support this?
schoolpsychnerd: (freud)
2016-01-31 08:18 am

Having Needs vs. Being Needy

In my recovery I've gotten a lot better at identifying feelings. I've also improved in feeling them, or rather letting myself feel them. One area where I have a lot of room for growth is listening to what those feelings are telling me. It's been a interesting insight for me that I reject what I'm feeling the most because it's telling me that I have a need that isn't being met. I struggle with not only identifying my needs but also in asking for them. I have a hard time differentiating between "I have needs" and "I am needy".

I had a realization about how I view needs at a Cuddle Party I attended. At Cuddle Parties the facilitator establishes a safe space to express your boundaries and needs. You do not have to hug or cuddle or touch anyone in any way you don't want to and their response is "Thank you for taking care of you" when someone says no. I asked someone for a hug, they said no, I responded "Thank you for taking care of you" and was really caught off guard by how much shame I felt for asking (guilt is when we legit do something wrong that leads us to better behavior, shame is well, shame. Seriously, Brene Brown, go read her books). I thought this person must have thought I was creepy, I was too much, I had clearly created a bad vibe. Most importantly I had failed to psychically predict someone else (who I had never met's) boundary. Plus boundary setting is important and healthy and I want to be someone who it is safe to say "no" to. And my own fear of being "needy" can get in the way of that. I'll act out, I'll isolate, I'll self-flagellate about how terrible it was that I even asked. And some people who I know very well have seen me just shut down completely and go full "I'm erasing myself from the narrative" (meaning I like avoid them for days and just do not engage because I'm convinced I've hurt them by asking for soemthing they said no to). I want to be someone who helps those around me feel empowered to ask for what they need, even if what they need is to not meet my need and until I really get at why I have this shame reaction to "no", it's going to be a lot harder.

In my digging, I've realized the shame comes from how I view my own needs. As someone with Anorexia, I worry a lot about taking up too much space (emotional, mental, or physical), and even meeting my basic needs like "get enough energy units to not die" get sneered at by me. I've spent many, many years delegitmizing my own needs. I want to take all of this on myself because then it means I have total control of the situation and I don't. I can do something about it now, but there is also space to recognize factors that are beyond my control in how my fear of need developed.

First there's the way we're taught to think about "want vs. need". In spite of knowing Maslow's hierarchy of needs like the back of my hand, I really only view things like "shelter and sanitation" as needs (yeah, still working on seeing food as a personal basic need). I tend to see things like love, affection, self-worth, belonging, acceptance, self-acceptance, as wants. I tell myself I don't need these things to live becuase I biologically won't die if no one hugs me (though I think [ profile] dorchadas would disagree). So I start out already being skeptical of most human needs beyond basic shelter and sanitation.

One of the things I realize is so scary for me about needs is the fear of being needy. Some of it comes from patriarchy, women who have needs at all can easily be labled needy. Some of it is my own lacking self-worth. I grew up ugly and wasn't seen as being too smart for a long time either. Since I wasn't having sex until marriage at the time, the only thing I told myself I could offer in a relationship was to 1.) make sure my partner's needs were always met even if they never said them and 2.) Never be needy. Of course this came out very sideways may times. It did involve me hoping someone would read my mind and know what I need. I do think part of this relates to the beliefe that women want men to read their minds. We're taught that asking for what we want is needy so the only socially acceptable way in our current society is for a person to "just know". I also can imagine growing up and taking on the therapist/ caregiver role in my house played a role. Later after I learned therapist skills I told myself that was why people liked me and decided to mostly be a one-way mirror in my friendships. This led to a lot of resentment on my part towards people who had done nothing wrong.

The point of this is that, much like securing your oxygen mask before you help others, I have to accept my needs before I can really be available for others. I have to accept my own ability to say "no" when someone asks something that I'm not avialable for at that time before I can accept others "no". I have to remove a lot of the shame and baggage I associate with being a human who is trying to more fully partiticpate and engage with the world. "No" doesn't mean I'm needy or bad or awful or selfish automatically. And if someone does say I'm needy I can do what I should do with any feedback, look at it critically, do some self-examination, consider the source, look at my behavior, and determine if it's feedback I need to hold onto. I tend to accept everything someone says as gospel truth because I struggle to trust my own sense of self. I can listen to others without owning their view of my story. And by trying to control who tells my story and how they tell it, I really end up hurting everyone.
schoolpsychnerd: (freud)
2016-01-03 02:23 pm

Things to try in 2016

I'm not really a resolution person. Most of my resolutions, starting at age 9 were to lose weight or to get straight A's. As I've gotten older I've made them less and less. Now that I'm at the point I am in my life I think more about what experiences I want to have in 2016. I was talking with a dear friend about beauty experiments we'd done over the past year. I thought about in what domains I'd like to try something new this year. And here they are:

-I'd like to try some new modes of fitness. I run and lift weights and I'd really like to try some new things. I've been looking at the Aerial fitness classes or taking a barre class.

-Stretching. My IT bands were created by Satan and bother me pretty regularly. This could be avoided if I actually stretched more. Finding videos I like, maybe taking a class or two, and building that habit is something I would like to do this year. Plus if I'm going to do more dance or try new fitness things, I need to really stretch more.

-Dance. I've been out of dance for a while, at least non-ballroom dance. I'd like to get back into it either taking Graham based modern or a basic ballet class. I'd also like to take a class in belly dance or Bollywood dance though I need to think about the cultural appropriation implications of me as The Whitest White Girl taking these classes. Needless today say, more dance.

-Try new recipes. I loved doing 50 weeks, 50 curries because it gave me a chance to work on new skills and expand my culinary repertoire. When I've made some of the early curries again, they've improved a lot now that I have a better sense of what I'm doing. I'd love to do something similar. I may make my way through Plenty or Plenty More since i like being fancy and I like veggies.

-Edit my nanowrimo novels. I've got three of them and I've never gone through and edited a novel before. I've enlisted Bucky's help with the initial read through. Getting an overall handle on a long editing process would be cool. I'm also considering re-starting a fiction blog. I had one in Japan but I've found a lot of joy in sharing my writing and exploring my voice.

-I want to try a really long-term cosplay goal. I'd love to make a Thranduil costume for [ profile] dorchadas. I enjoyed making the Winter Solider costume for Bucky last year and saw that if I let it, I can collaborate with others on costumes instead of hording the experience. I'd like to share that with [ profile] dorchadas

-More make up experiments! Playing with my appearance has been a big part of body acceptance for me and I enjoy it. It's a way for me to own my appearance instead of forgoing make up/ only wearing the faintest of make up so that I can get patriarchy cookies and "not deceive men" or "not look desperate". You can have my so purple it's almost black lipstick when you pry it from my cold dead hands!
schoolpsychnerd: (freud)
2016-01-01 10:43 am

15 Things that Happened in my life in 2015

Not in any particular order:
1.) I turned 30! I'm enjoying my 30's thus far. I threw myself a birthday party for the first time since I was 10! People came! People sang to me! I was surrounded by people I loved playing board games and eating cake. It was awesome.

2.) I took a great trip to Oregon with [ profile] dorchadas, his parents, and sister. We visited so many places and did a ton of hiking. I used to hate hiking as a kid but now that I'm in better shape and taking better care of myself I really love it. The hike on the Paradise trail of Mt. Rainer was my favorite.

3.) Got hired on in a tenure track position at the job I held last year. There was a ton of stress of me about this and in all honesty I don't know if I'll feel totally comfortable until I get tenure. This is expressed by me putting off decorating my office. I should do that.

4.) Cosplayed at conventions. I hadn't cosplayed since before I left for Japan and didn't go out on a super high note. Cosplay has always been an easy excuse for me to act out on a lot of my issues. But I had an overwhelmingly positive experience doing Black Widow at C2E2 and Anime Central as well as doing Princess Celestia at Ponyville Ciderfest. Best part of both cosplays were the little kids who wanted pictures with me.

5.) Ran a 5k race for the first time in a few years. I did this with a group of friends dressed as the Avengers. My time was better than the first race I ran and even though it was cold and raining and my lungs were like "Why did you not get your inhaler?". This year I decided I'm going to try training for a half marathon, and if I don't like that then I'll step it down to a 10k. I don't have a particular race in mind but I feel like my overall fitness goals: more agility and stamina are stagnating. I'm also hoping to try new fitness classes over the summer!

6.) Finished the LARP I was in and it was an incredible 2 year run with a community I love. I wrote a lot about the experience with this LARP, which also was the first closed-ended LARP I played in. It really was a LARP that taught me how to say goodbye (Fifth Star's going hoooooome /is Hamilton Trash this year...also a thing that happened)

7.) Hit 1 year eating disorder behavior free. I regularly attend meetings in person or online, am switching from 1 on 1 dietitian work to group social eating work. I exercise with more of a sense of balance these days. My hair has grown back and is getting fuller all the time. I recently had my story about what it was like, what I did, and how it's different now published on the EDA website and set to be in their Big Book.

8.) Wrote 2 novels in a year. I finished the Shadowstrings Trilogy about Bucky and I's characters from LARP. I wrote the 2nd book for Camp Nanowrimo in June and the final book this past November. I learned a lot writing them but the biggest thing was a sense of closure. After writing the three books about Nehmer and Devorah, I realized that I was done telling their story and ready to move on to what comes next. Now begins the editing process...

9.) Went to Alenia which if you had asked me a few years ago if I would go I would have laughed in your face. I went! It was fun! The food was good and it felt worth the price of the tickets. The company was great and it's definitely something I'd do again at another point in my life. I'm learning to enjoy eating without obsessing and Alenia was a nice nod to that.

10.) Celebrated 8 years of marriage and a decade of coupledom with [ profile] dorchadas. He continues to be a wonderful partner, best friend, GM and all of the other hats he wears in our marriage.

11.) A friend and my best friend moved away. It sucked, though I think the lead up to leaving was harder than when it actually happened. I've been happy that I'm close, or in many ways closer, with both of them and I've got a visit planned for March! Overall it's been a really positive experience that things can change, it's ok, and that I can trust those around me to still love me even if I'm a metaphorical ocean away.

12.) I experimented with makeup. I didn't wear it growing up really or in my adult life because of many reasons that should get their own post. But I realized I needed make up to make my photos look better and I wanted really good Natasha photos. I went from barely being able to get a basic wing to doing a super cool smokey eye with wings and contouring last night. I also fell in love with bright or dark dramatic lipsticks. I bought some super dark lipstick for last night and I will wear it everywhere because I love it.

13.) Took on a practicum student. Typically you don't get one until you've been a psych for three years and I can see why. My student is awesome and is a great addition but teaching someone else during a transitional year in your work place is hard. I worry I'm less purposeful with her than I wanted to be.

14.) Went to Phillidelphia and geeked out about the Constitution a lot. Dad and I read the Federalist Papers when I was in 7th grade and I have always had an interest in that portion of American history (See also me being Hamilton Trash). What I liked a lot was how much most of the exhibits acknowledged and addressed the many forms of racism that existed, including mentioning multiple times that George Washington was a slaver owner. Acknowledging the reality of our past, including our sometimes almost mythical founding fathers, is important (10 dollar founding father without a father got a lot farther... GAH sorry everyone for all the actually not really.)

15.) Read 115 books. I put my goal down lower for 2016 because the pressure of reading 115 books again for the third year in a row was too much. If I read over my goal organically then great, but setting it so high meant I did a lot of reading without really engaging with the books I read. I discovered some amazing authors this year and read a lot of good books and some not so great books.
schoolpsychnerd: (freud)
2015-12-28 11:53 pm

On Writing and editing

I was a prolific storyteller and writer growing up. I told stories at summer camp during rest hour or free time. People would come to listen and I even did voices. Writing hurt my hands, I didn't have good grip strength then and well, my handwriting is appalling at best. I would dictate papers to my mom who would give me some editing help but the words and ideas were mine. Computers changed that and I started writing more. I grew and my grip strength did get better, I started writing poetry in the 7th grade. I filled journal after journal with (what's embarrassing now) poetry. I world built and made myself the mary sue heroine (I was super bullied. I needed to go to a world where I was great at everything.). I wrote fiction about what I wished my life would be like. I remember a person we will call Batman, easily the best writer in my grade, complimenting my poetry and always reading it and giving me encouraging feedback and I soupily looked at him with infatuation in my eyes. Like Alexander Hamilton I wrote like I was running out of time, I wrote like I needed it to survive. My strength grew into personal essays. My essay about my Grandpa Megibow's death moved my stoic Grandma Megibow and she shared it with everyone who knew him, they all wanted me to submit it somewhere. I always imagined myself being a writer on the side. Until 12th grade.

In 12th grade i met a boy, we'll call him Holden. Holden was also a writer, a poet specifically who loved TS Eliot and was inexplicably interested in me. I was so happy that a boy liked me that I wrote a poem to him. When I asked him about it, he said I should leave the writing to him. That I wasn't very good. I wrote one more poem, "Denial's Ballad to Batman" where I imagined all the scenarios in which adult me would meet adult batman (none of which came true by the way.). I was afraid to give it, that it wouldn't be good. My desire to tell Batman how I felt about him as we transitioned out of high school and into college was stronger than the fear that Holden had fed in me. I took a poetry writing class in college and it was tough for me to really emotionally engage with my work or be as excited as I was growing up. I always heard Holden's voice in the back of my head.

I carry this experience with me when someone asks me to edit their work. I'm not a harsh editor. I'm going to give you lots of praise and leave tons of good notes. I'm hyper-aware of what is a personal style choice and my comments have lots of uncertainty in their language. This doesn't work for everyone but it's important to me. All of my friends have beautiful voices, gorgeous narratives inside of them and some of the commit them to paper. When someone asks me to edit something, especially if it's a personal narrative, I hold the trust they put in my as sacred. Just like it's a pact when I work with my students, I may push, I may encourage, I may question, but ultimately it is always their story and it's worth telling. There's a difference between asking for critique and wanting to share. And when we give critique, we have a choice in how we give it. There's a spectrum and I tend to fall on the softer end because of what happened with Holden.

And about Batman's reaction to his poem? I still remember it because it showed the kind of compassionate person Batman is (even after like 5 years of me mooning over him and being like...probably more than a little creepy in places). He wrote me a short note in a notebook I had "I can't think of much to say here mostly because there's no way to compete with that poem you left me." Unlike my then boyfriend Holden, he had the opportunity to criticize and instead he praised. I try to emulate that. Thanks Batman, for giving me my first lesson in how to balance being a good editor with being a good friend.
schoolpsychnerd: (freud)
2015-08-02 08:55 am

On Turning 30

I turned 30 on July 24th and yesterday I celebrated this with my amazing friends. I'd been a little afraid of throwing a party a week after my birthday but, as is usual with my anxiety, I think I was the only one who considered it odd. I almost cried when my friends sang Happy Birthday to me, I felt so loved and cared for. I've been meaning to write an entry on the past ten years so I figured I would.

I was (almost) 20 when I met [ profile] dorchadas! I met him at 19 and we were married a little over a month shy of my 22nd birthday. When I had mapped out my Rachel's life plan (tm) as a teenager, I'd thought I'd never marry, let alone marry at 22. I'd kind of figured I'd be living in NYC as a psychologist with Ami while we like hosted parties and complained about boys (and note that Ami and I got married in the same year, about a month apart!). His presence in my life has been nothing short of a blessing. He's my secure base, my steady gentle introverted potato. Having met and married younger, we've been there for so many events and milestones in each other's lives and I can't think of anyone I'd rather have gone through my 20s with. We've supported each other as we learn about not just how we function individually, but as a unit.

A big chunk of my 20s was spent in japan. From 23 (like 2 days of 23) till 26 we lived in Japan. I taught English at 4 (later 3) local high schools. My first year was terrifying and I was afraid to be me and take risks. I wanted to much to be my predicessor that I wasn't really me. Some magic happened when Nakanishi-sensei came in and with the teacher transfer I just bloomed. I discovered my love of schools and working with teachers and students. Apparently when I left, the girls who followed me said people talked about me like I walked on water. I wasn't a great teacher from a content point of view, I would do so many things different knowing what I know now about education, but I cared really deeply. My biggest compliment was being called "Akarui-sensei", which is hard to translate but it's literally a "bright tacher" and often gets used as "warm, caring teacher", by my students and fellow teachers. I worked hard to be a part of my school and my community. There were definately hard times in Japan, family situations, culture shock, language barriers, an eating disorder relapse (plus the usual behaviors), 4 hour commutes for [ profile] dorchadas. I'd always thought I couldn't be super independent or get things done on my own, but Japan taught me I could (and that I could ask for help when I didn't know something).

Another three yeras of my 20s from 26 to 29 were spent in grad school! First I was shocked I got in to one of my top choices (LUC was the reachable one, University of Oregon was the longshot) but after starting I got the sense that I belonged. My cohort was filled with talented, kind, and fun people. I made two of my best friends and many other extremely close friends in grad school. I joined 2 research teams and have 3 publications to my name. I was hired to work on a reserch project where I got paid! I presented solo at a school psychology cofnerence in Canada and met my fravorite researchers. I had incredible practicum and internship experiences that taught me so much about myself and my role in a school. And I'm about to start my second year as a school psychologist at the school where I did my internship! I have a practicum student to teach even! Crazy pants!

Family wise, my 20s presented a lot of changes. A few montsh after I got married my parents announced they were getting divorced. it was finalized just after I left for Japan. My dad died by suicide when I was 26 (about to turn 27!). I recall, and still sometimes feel this way, put off when people comment that I lost my dad at a young age. 26 still doesn't feel young to me but then I calculated that when I turn 53 I'll have had more years without my father than I had with him. There are other family things that go on but I've been lucky to have great moments of support as well. Shout out to my amazing cousins and aunts. Also major shout out to my chosen family!

I was saying yesterday that 30 was starting off better than 29 did. In a lot of ways this has to do with my eating disorder recovery. At 29 I finally accepted that yes, this was still a problem and had been since I was 14 (to varying degrees) and got help. I've found an amazing support network/deepened my existing one. I know that 12 step programs aren't for everyone but it's been helpful to me in a way that none of my other methods had worked.

I'm looking forward to my 30s, I'm incredibly happy with my life and can't wait to see what's next. And hey 20 year old Rachel, you're more awesome than you'll ever even consider. You make mistakes but you're great at admitting it (though you don't need to flagellate yourself when you do!). Diet and weight management isn't going to solve your thinking problems. Feel your feelings, you are entitled to the dignity of them. Cry if you need, yell if you need, don't hold it in and purge/starve/cut/hit yourself. All of your feelings are valid, the thoughts behind them may not be true, but your thoughts and feelings are different. And remember, feelings aren't facts (and no, fat is not a feeling). You are not a problem that needs to be solved and all those things that you say aren't for you, they totally are for you! Try things! Suck at things! Trust us, sucking at something is the first step to being good at something. And I love you. I love you and think you're amazing and resilent and incredibly likeable. ANd you're a work in progress but guess what?! We're still a work in progress! And so are all of our friends, even the ones we think have it ALL together. I love you, however you show up.
schoolpsychnerd: (del)
2015-06-20 04:24 pm

My father in layers.

I don't know if father's day gets easier. I mean, I'm sure it does and a part of me wants to say "it's been three years, why am I not over this?" but then I remember that when it had only been a week I'd been saying "it's been a week, why am I not over this?".

I hold a lot of different versions of my dad in my head. My dad was the man who wrestled with me until he injured his back protecting my younger brother when they both feel down stairs. My dad was the man who would put on plays of Goldielocks and the Three Bears and let me play the Goldielocks who apologizes and makes amends to the Bears, who had a wicked sense of humor. Even into high school dad and I would sit on the bed and watch TV together and talk, commenting on what we were watching. When the commercials came on we'd mute and Dad would dub over the commercials, reducing me to fits of laughter and tears (we'd do this with nature documentaries too). My dad did not know the meaning of the word "overseasoned". My dad recorded my entire bat mitzvah service on a pocket tape recorder so that I could learn it (one dyslexic to another). My dad was the dad who apologized to a crying and terrified me when he'd lost his temper while trying to study for my Bat Mitzvah and bravely without self-pity admitted that he had been wrong. My dad was the guy who stayed home with me on Sunday while Mom and Aaron were at church. We'd do yardwork and I created my first RPG idea with my dad (a game about high school that used rumors as a system of gaining advantage and power). We'd talk about books, about history, about politics. My dad was a proud feminist who supported me in wearing "boys" clothes and cutting my hair short. My dad was the man who told me whenever I felt worthless what has become the watchwords of my ED recovery "G-d don't make no junk". My dad is the dad who held me and sang "who's my shenna tuckus, who'm I dream' of" and then when I was in grad school sang into my voice mail "shenna, shenna punnum, shenna punnum shenna punnum how I love you, how I love you so".

And my Dad was the dad who worked long hours and often wouldn't get home until I was asleep. He'd stay out and drink with the good ole boys because that's what you do when you run a people based business in a small town. My dad was the dad who would get too drunk on Wednesday night dinners and drive my brother and I home. My dad was the dad who once stopped in front of his doctor's office, dropped trow and peed while drunk while my brother and I sat in the car experiencing that event differently (at least I think so, can't speak for my bro). My dad is the dad who convinced me that I'd hallucinated an email from mom that he had cheated on her during their reconciliation. My dad was the dad who had trouble dealing with people being angry at him and would go into self-falgination mode (I come by my character defects honestly). My dad was the dad who wasn't initally happy with my choices like not applying to Washington University, going to Japan or school psychology (he got there, but it still hurt). My dad's the dad who didn't call me a week before he killed himself, who I don't remember the last time I said good bye to him.

There are situations in the bottom that I look at and own my role in, but both of the men in these pictures are my dad. My dad was so many things not just to me but to everyone. It's hard to feel some days like he's just another statistic, another lawyer who killed himself. Someday it's going to get easier, it's going to get easier for me to cry about dad and feel that loss without resisting it. Maybe that's what it really means that it gets easier. We confront the loss, the hurt, the grief on a basis so instead of feeling like a sucking chest wound (hey, Dad and I were/are melodramatic people!) it's more like a tiny shaving nick.