How to Take Care of Yourself After Finishing a Book or Any Major Project

When I started writing – like, seriously committing myself to getting the blasted thing done – I was armed with all the knowledge required to get from point A to point B. I spent hours researching the best times of day to work, how to craft a good hook for chapters, when to start each new draft, and how many words are deemed acceptable for each genre. In fact, I feel quite confident that I could write my own “how to” manifesto for first timers based on all of the tips and tricks I’ve acquired over the last year of my life. It was a wonderful experience, however time-intensive, and I’ve learned a great deal about not only the art of writing, but myself. I am in the debt of helpful authors who go out of their way to explain how lost souls like yours truly can arrive at the end of their manuscript with the hair on their heads intact.

However, the one thing no one thought to share with me was just how beaten up my body and mind would feel after completing the job. Most of the information I received went something like this:

“Write every day without rest, don’t over-think the first draft, and be sure to let someone you trust read through and give you notes before you dream of giving it to an editor. Oh, and once it’s done you’re going to feel wonderful! But don’t wait too long to start the next one.”

That’s a lot of information, right? But what’s missing is the piece that has got me bent out of shape, quite literally. You see, no one told me that after finishing my novel I would feel like someone took a baseball bat to my hips, or that I would feel as though a part of me was painfully exposed to the world. Those wonderfully helpful authors conveniently forget to inform me that I would be exhausted like never before – and I ran cross country! I suspect they knew I would back out of the endeavor if I knew what awaited me at the end. How many of us would do the thing if we knew said thing would make us cry? Luckily for you, I’m going to tell you what you need to know to bounce back from the writing, or any kind of major project, without going mad.

Stretch. Seriously!

We might have spent years at desks in school, but nothing can prepare you for sitting still for hours on end typing away with your eyes trained on a computer screen. Sure, I used to devote an unhealthy amount of time to chatting on AOL with my internet friends back in the day, but my post-20’s body isn’t as resilient as it used to be. My greatest physical complaints after finishing my book was how badly my back ached and the strain I felt in my wrists and fingers. I even had aches in my hip flexors and calves! It makes sense: your body is bent in one way for a long period of time that is unnatural for it. Your joints long for stretching and your muscles need a break. If I could do anything differently, it would be taking a rest every hour to two hours to stretch. I wouldn’t have needed to invest in massages and pain relief like I do now. Save yourself some money in the long run and go smell some flowers!

Isolation, like fear, is the mind killer.

Thanks to Henry David Thoreau, I thought it was mandatory for a writer, or serious artists (TM), to be cut-off from the world with only coffee and the agony of creation to keep one company. If I were to let people into my writing space surely I would be too distracted to complete my precious book. Well… that isn’t necessarily true. In fact, going to a writing workshop in Sacramento smack-dab  in the middle of finishing my final draft was exactly what I needed to keep me going and finish long before I would have on my own. Sometimes people suck, but sometimes people are what we need. By speaking with other writers I learned to put my process in perspective. A bonus: I learned how to take new chances with my writing.

You’re gonna need some TLC at the end.

I used to roll my eyes when people referred to their art as their children. I mean, there’s nothing like a living, breathing, crying, human coming out of you, right? Boy was I shocked when I was hit with a bout of depression that was unlike any previous episode I have hitherto experienced. Now, childbirth and writing are wildly different, but it made me rethink what people mean when they get defensive and protective of their creations. I went from joyous to fearful, then to resigned and grief-stricken. I felt like I had created a new piece of me only to put it into the hands of strangers with the power to destroy what I shared. I had several panic attacks as I inched closer to the final pages, even contemplating deleting the whole thing from my computer. It would be better, the shadow in my mind said, if no one ever got their hands on it. Thankfully, I didn’t listen.

You’re going to be all over the place once you’re done, so take care of your mind and body. Get in to see a therapist or counselor if you can afford it, speak with a beloved confidante, or write in your journal all those thoughts you dare not speak, because doing something of this magnitude is bound to have you discombobulated. You don’t have to fake joy when you might be feeling terror; this is a major step and major steps are difficult on the mind! Whatever you’re feeling, know that it will come in waves and eventually pass.

Embrace laziness!

Trust me, friend, you have earned a few extra hours of sleep and a blank mind. Our culture has a tendency to promote working ourselves to death like it’s an admirable quality, but your trusty aunt LaKase is here to put that misconception to rest. You have the right to put your mind to sleep. I’ve found that when I am immobile and without a pressing project the creativity naturally begins to spark. If you don’t give yourself space to just be a human without a plan you’re going to find yourself riddled with something worse than ulcers. Don’t believe me? Watch this video from the School of Life (my fave channel ever!) and see what you think.

That’s all from me this Monday, kids! Next week I will be back with more information about how to approach the creative process and media that is getting me excited about being a writer. Have a great week and don’t forget to take care of yourself!

Akira and the Evolution of Pain

Hi there my friends! Today I posted a new video to my YouTube channel exploring themes of pain, trauma, and healing in Katsuhiro Otomo’s anime masterpiece Akira. It’s no secret around these parts that my life has been forever changed and improved through the arts, and this is one film that came up for me just when I needed it most. Below is the video, and below that is a transcript of the video for you to read through. I hope you enjoy it!

Part I: Introduction

If you don’t know the story of Akira, let me break it down for you as quickly and succinctly as possible. On July 16 of 1988, Tokyo is destroyed by a superpowered psychic named Akira in a, for lack of a better word, big ass explosion. 31 years later in 2019, the city has been rebuilt into Neo-Tokyo, and it is a society of extremes: poverty, civil unrest, and glamorous, technicolor violence. A place where despite the constant battling they are going to host the 2020 summer Olympic Games. This is where we meet Tetsuo. He’s a member of a motorcycle gang comprised solely of angsty youths led by his best friend Kaneda.

 

Our introduction to the group is on a wild, and probably standard, night. They take off to start a battle with a rival motorcycle gang and get more than they bargained for. And while that is going on, we the viewers witness the city police murder a man as he is attempting to flee with a small child. That child continues to run from the city until he collides with Tetsuo, throwing young man from his motorcycle with psychokinetic power. Tetsuo and the child are apprehended by an appropriately shady government agency and whisked away to a facility to be poked and prodded. That’s where Tetsuo discovers he possesses terrifying powers.

 

Kaneda and the rest of the gang are apprehended when they witness Tetsuo being taken. At the police station Kaneda meets Kei, a young girl who is an activist and member of the resistance of Neo-Tokyo. From there, Kaneda begins to work with Kei to infiltrate the government facility in order to rescue Tetsuo and find out what kind of horrors are being enacted. 

Part II : The World Around Tetsuo and Kaneda

Katsuhiro Otomo,the writer and director of the film as well as the writer and artist of the manga, stated that he wanted to capture the feel and nature of Tokyo in vivid detail on screen in a way he couldn’t on the pages of a manga. He said:

“There were so many interesting people… Student demonstrations, bikers, political movements, gangsters, homeless youth… All part of the Tokyo scene that surrounded me. In Akira, I projected these elements into the future, as science-fiction.”

 

While Otomo expertly captured the grit and wonderment associated with our modern world, he also projected a depiction of pain and trauma that places Akira squarely at the forefront of cinema. Tetsuo and Kaneda exist in a world of contradictions: isolation but expansion, oppression but freedom, knowledge but ignorance. It’s a world on the cusp of two eternal transformations: destruction and rebirth. The film feels so prescient today, because we ourselves are struggling to make sense of very similar parameters. The film was at the forefront of exploring the insidiousness and truthfully vague nature of pain. In following Tetsuo and Kaneda we learn that trauma isn’t always clear-cut. It’s abandonment, cruel living conditions, verbal abuse, profiling, and poverty in addition to sexual and physical violence. Through Tetsuo we discover how the pain we carry in our minds can last long after the external wounds have healed.

 

Part III: The Evolution of Pain

 

When I talk about pain, it encompasses the physical way Tetsuo’s body bends and bloats to transform into a techno-flesh monstrosity, yes. But I also mean pain in the emotional, some would say abstract sense. It’s a feeling that changes with us, adapting, growing, and bursting forth when we least expect it. Pain changes while remaining the same. We humans may create technicolor dreamlands that have the power to descend into darkness, but we are never far removed from the curious apes we once were. Similarly, pain changes while remaining true to its nature. And each character is forced to adapt to the ever-evolving pain in our own way. Where Kaneda turns the pain into apathy – except were Kei and his friends are concerned – Tetsuo is a proxy for the rage associated with trauma and the pain that accompanies survival.

Earlier, I mentioned that Tetsuo was apprehended and imprisoned with a small boy. Well, that small boy is one of three beings with psychic abilities that Tetsuo meets while imprisoned. Known as The Espers, they are actually adults trapped in the bodies of the children they were 31 years ago. They were the contemporaries of Akira and witnessed first-hand what his power could do. And they know the weight of pain better than most.

Kiyoko, number 25 (girl) Takashi, number 26 (boy who was escaping) and Masaru, number 27 (floating wheelchair) represent the adult effects of pain and trauma. Literally stunted in growth as many of us are emotionally, they creak and whisper as though the act of living were a marathon. They are what Tetsuo will become in time if he remains trapped in his cycle of suffering.

But where the Espers were unable to escape the cycle of abuse, Tetsuo adopts a very modern approach: burning shit down. He seeks out Akira for help after being told by Kiyoko that he is still alive and hidden underground. Tetsuo becomes so consumed by the power – his rage – that he is destroyed then remade into the mass I referenced earlier. He is twisted until he crushes and murders those around him. When he finally succumbs to the suffering, Akira appears.

 

The boy Akira (or number 28) represents inherited, generational trauma. He is Tetsuo’s past, as well as his potential future. When we try to contain and bury the trauma, it explodes. In that regard Tetsuo is a natural progression. Tetsuo didn’t find relief from the agony until someone who understood the weight manifested to aid him : Akira himself. And that’s often what it takes to survive the ever-changing nature of pain and trauma – the empathy of others, especially those who have themselves seen it.

Part IV: Closing

Who are we when we find relief? Who can we become? Free. Things go differently in the manga, which I highly recommend, but the film itself ends with Tetsuo’s transcendence. He goes to another plane, another Universe, perhaps another dimension to begin again. Perfect or not, Akira helps him to escape.

 

I’ve stated again and again that pain is an ever-changing force, adapting to us as we attempt to outrun it. It is messy as hell, unfair, and eventually forces us to make an impossible choice. Do we fight back to go forward or do we remain wrapped in that warm embrace of sorrow? Who can we become when we find relief, and at what cost? That, it seems, is up to us.

 

 

Here’s What You Need For Comic Con, You Nerds!

What’s up my friends?! In just one (1 !!) week I will be joining thousands of people from around the world to celebrate nerd culture in all its glory at San Diego Comic Con. There are panels, parties, discussions, and lots and lots of artwork. In honor of that event, I want to share some of my tips for surviving at Comic Con, or any large event where you’re going to be on your feet, running around and living your best life. From water to floss, I’ve got all the tips you might not have thought of – I sure didn’t until I had to go without them – that have saved me over the years. I hope they’re helpful! After the video, there are five MORE tips I think you should know. Enjoy!

 

 

 

Comfy shoes

You might not realize it in the moment, with all of the excitement and whatnot, but you are going to be wreaking HAVOC on your feet. Whether you’re standing in line, running from table to table, or even dancing at a party, the event is a real toe-buster. My first year at Comic Con I tried to wear cute sandals and flats, which was a huge mistake! I had so many blisters it wasn’t even funny. The health of your feet can directly affect the fun you’re having, so be good to them!

Jonas Mosesson loop run gym shoes GIF

 

Business card (why not?)

If you’re an artist, YouTuber, writer, chef, or a even an undergrad with no idea what you want to do once you graduate, but want to get an internship, this is your time to shine! You’ll be meeting people from all around the world. You’ll be talking to creatives and making friends who might take an interest in what you do, so why not have a way to put yourself out there? You don’t always have to do it in a serious business manner; sometimes it’s nice to not have to be on your phone in the moment! I’m looking forward to using this tip myself for the first time at comic con, and I’ll be reporting back on how it goes.

back and forth illustration GIF

 

A hoodie

Yes, it’s summer, BUT you’re going to be inside where that AC is blasting like the arctic. If you run cold like I do, it’s not a bad idea to have a back-up for when the day turns cool and you want to stay comfortable. A plus: when you have to inevitably sit down to wait for a panel you’ve got some cushion to use for your bootie.

jacket goodbye GIF by Caroline Director

Headphones

I warred internally over sharing this tip, because I didn’t want to seem like I was advocating for us to shut out the world. However, sometimes it’s nice to turn your mind off. Being surrounded by strangers in a loud and overwhelming environment can be an anxious person’s nightmare, so I think having a backup plan for when you start to feel the swell is a good thing. Going out into the world like this is a massive step and you deserve to have a break when you need it.

kim ye-rim whatever GIF

 

Pain relief

Remember what I said about your feet? Well, even if you do take my advice and wear comfortable footwear you’re still going to have aches and pains. With great fun comes body aches, so pack accordingly! By the time night time comes around, you’ll be thanking me.

ouch cringe GIF by Madelaine Petsch

 

That’s all for today, my friends! What are your tips for surviving a big event like comic con? I’d love to learn some in the comments.

Self-Care 101: Sleep

There is a time for many words, and there is also a time for sleep.

Homer, The Odyssey 

I spend most mornings burrowing under my blankets, desperate for a few more hours of shut eye no matter how much rest I got the previous night. My days aren’t particularly strenuous in a physical sense; in fact, most of my time is spent talking to myself as I play out dialogue and pacing from room to room until I arrive at the “perfect” solution to a narrative issue. Still, I collapse into bed at around 9:00 PM ready to be transported to my own version of slumberland. It usually involves flowers and candy.

Tired GIF
Giphy

Though I’m not spending my days engaged in super intense activities, I’m still exerting a lot of mental effort. It all builds until I’m too tired to stand, let alone make it through an episode of “Killing Eve”. We all have to push ourselves during the day, regardless of the tools of our trade. From writers to welders, we’re all better off after a good night of rest. However, in the United States, we worship at the alter of tired. Sleepless nights are a status symbol, an indicator that we are taking our lives too seriously to ever give into the Sandman. Last week, Steve Harvey went off on a tirade about the superiority of the wealthy, equating it to their not needing to sleep.

Hopefully, this all sounds batshit insane to you.

Drunk GIF
Giphy

We are ticking time bombs without sleep. Studies have shown that going without the recommended 7 to 9 hours of sleep can result in high blood pressure, weakened immunity, mood changes and increased likelihood of accidents. Throw in mental illnesses like depression or bipolar disorder, and you’re going to have a bad time – to put it mildly. Think of it like this: your body isn’t invincible. Unless you’ve got some super soldier serum laying around, you’re gonna have to sleep like the rest of us normies. I find that I’m not just more creative after sleep, I’m also able to finish tasks faster and with fewer mistakes. Sleep makes the difference between hours of trying to focus on work and a few minutes of targeted focus. Sounds legit, amiright?

So take care of your body, get some rest, drink water, and – for the love of God – moisturize! (More on that to come.)

 

 

Let’s Avoid A Holiday Implosion, Shall We?

It’s that time of year again: Snow! (depending on your location) Time off! (depending on your vocation) Love and Cheer! (depending on… you get the point).

I’ve been singing the praises of this month loud enough for you to get the hint – I really and truly love December. When I was growing up, my parents infused our winter with magic and information. I didn’t just learn the Christian stuff, but also got to hear about the traditions of other religions. Their stories, mixed in with my own imagination, transformed how I see the changing of the season. It became more than a time for presents – which I love – instead morphing into a time when anything at all is possible if your spirit is willing.

On the flip side, this is also a time when joy fails. With the influx of family cards, lovey-dovey Hallmark movies (that always seem to be set in the same advent calendar- type towns) , and people portraying perfect lives, comes the onset of despair. Not to mention, the grey and unforgiving frosting of the Northern hemisphere can nix any hope for the healing quality of daylight.

Seasonal depression, dear reader, is real and alive.

I come from a place of extreme privilege. I was raised by two loving, while admittedly flawed, parents, who worked themselves to the bone for my brother and I. Our home was warm, our bellies were full, and we woke every Christmas to find toys, no matter how bad *I* had been that year. That is incredibly rare. A home life like that would set anyone with more than five brain cells onto a path of success. Even as a survivor of sexual abuse, I knew happier days than a lot of people. To say that is not to negate the gravity of my pain, but an acknowledgement of my reality.

Still, even with all the stuff and things that make childhood a fond memory instead of a nightmare, I have experienced less than stellar holidays. Those unfortunate times took place mainly in adulthood, and I shudder to think of them. But, that’s what fosters growth, right? After looking back on the times when my Yule celebrations were rough, I’ve come up with some tips to help you navigate the stress without a spontaneous combustion.

Let’s hop to it!

saturday night live christmas GIF

Be with those you love, if possible. If impossible, why is being alone so bad?

Most of the points on this list operate under the assumption you will be going home to be with your family, however I want to acknowledge that oftentimes that isn’t a possibility. Whether it be estrangement, death, or how expensive it is to fly or drive, you might not be with your family over the break, and that is ok. I know that isolation is one of the greatest tools of depression, because in the solitude of your room you can weave all kinds of tales of your inadequacies. Yet, I’m starting to wonder whether being alone in itself is the problem. There are lots of things we can do for ourselves in the quiet of an empty home. What if you were to treat yourself to beautiful things like compliments, a good meal, some you time? Besides, how often do we really get to be paid to stay home and take care of ourselves? This might be an opportunity in disguise. If you can, I say run wild with the possibilities.

 

snow drifts and chimbley nymphs GIF by Yule Log 2.015

 

Not every battle is worth fighting.

Yes, I know the drill. We’re supposed to go home for the holidays, set aside our differences, and sing songs at the end of the night with everyone coming to an understanding of the meaning family.  *eye roll*

That’s a movie. In fact, it’s a movie I wrote in one of my journals when I was 13. We’re not all going to get along just because our religious text told us to. Politics (that dirty word) is the fastest, most sure-fire way to watch things go left at Nana’s house. If you want to enjoy your time you are going to have to learn when to fight, and when to bow out. In addition to that, you’re going to have to look out for when your relatives are just looking for a sparring match, rather than an honest and respectful discussion. No, you shouldn’t let your auntie say wild things about the world, or sit idly by when your great-uncle on your father’s side tells a rape joke, but the little digs from people who don’t care about you might not be worth your time every single time. Ya dig?

Speak up when you can, and in the meantime just radicalize your cousins and siblings.

happy living single GIF by Bounce_TV

 

Take care of your body.

This one is simple: eat smart, drink water, don’t blow your stomach to smithereens on pie. You deserve to indulge, but know your limits. As a recovering bulimic, I have to give myself permission not only to eat what I want, but to step away before I spiral. So, mind your body and how it affects your brain chemistry. Take care at the parties, at your family home, or in your own home!

 

hanukkah GIF

 

Remember your successes

When I go to holiday functions, I always start to sweat when I think of the dreaded “So, what do you do?” question. Which is usually followed by the devastating “Is that really a job?” As a writer, I get this ALL. THE. TIME. These questions are accompanied by a smirk, silence, and me slinking away to think of good comebacks in the bathroom.  I’m often reminded of this Tumblr post:

It’s true on a lot of levels, even among family.  Some people don’t know how to respect others based on – oh, I don’t know – being able to happily survive this cruel, heartless wasteland we call Earth . Your mere existence might not be enough for them, but it’s sure as hell good enough for me and the people who aren’t d-bags. Try to remember that while they’re looking down on you, you’re making a life for yourself the way YOU choose to. That’s powerful. Not many people are brave enough to be who they want to be, rather than what will get them shallow accolades. The world needs you just as much as anyone else, regardless of your job. Take stock of your triumphs – whether they be emotional or monetary – and keep it moving.

In closing: BREATHE

Whether it be Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, Christmas, Yule, or just another day off, you can survive this. When I’m on the verge of a panic attack (which I’ll be writing about soon) my husband gets me to settle into my breathing and by the end I’m much better. You’d be amazed what our bodies can do when we let it run on autopilot. I’d like to encourage you to give it a test drive this season by just breathing in, then, funnily enough, out again. The rest will flow from there. So, be well this holiday season. Be strong when you can and forgiving when you can’t, and never doubt your right to the warmth of the sun.

the proud family GIF

 

 

 

 

 

The Most Important Lessons I’ve Learned In 32 Years

Care to spare a moment for a lady on her birthday?

its my birthday GIF

When I was a kid – I’m talking Barbie dolls and no crust on sandwiches young – I couldn’t wait to grow up. Despite the ease of youth (something we never appreciate until it’s gone) I thought getting older would afford me the kind of freedom I craved growing up in a small town in Kansas. I could do the things I wanted to do ( stay up late), I could go anywhere I wanted to go (Narnia), and above all else I would be far removed from the trauma of abuse. In my youthful naivete, getting older wouldn’t just be another state of being me, I would be completely and marvelously transformed into a new person. There was nothing I wanted more than to be the distant, powerful me of the future.

Fast-forward to today, and in some ways I’m still chasing that elusive LaKase with all the answers and none of the world’s weight. What’s changed is how I look at the woman I am in the present and the way I appreciate the skin I occupy. There are days that I wish I could be someone – anyone – else. Preferably someone with a little more money and wings. Yet, more often than in the past, I’ve learned to appreciate the fact that there never has been, and never will be, anyone like me on this Earth. Every freckle, every step, every dream, and every trauma I’ve survived is unique to me. There’s nothing anyone can do to rob me of my right to take pride in my journey – and what a journey it has been. I might not literally be a superhero running around slaying dragons, but I’ve come to see myself as someone who is just as formidable as an caped-crusader.

Today, I want to share just a few lessons that have made my journey to 32 more fruitful than that little kid I was could have imagined. I hope each piece of knowledge helps you as go off into the wilds of the world, and steadies your resolve to be who you’re meant to be. Enjoy!

  1. You’re not for everyone. This was a tough lesson for me to learn. I couldn’t understand why I wasn’t beloved by those I desperately wanted to impress and often went home dejected. Eventually, I learned to be thankful for the ones who made me feel at home in their presence and in my own skin
  2. It’s never too late to change your life. Change is terrifying , I readily admit it. There are few things in this world more frightening than starting over later in life, especially in a culture that rewards youth at every turn. Throw in the responsibilities of adulthood, and it becomes nigh impossible to hit the reset button.  I’ll be writing about this more, but trust me when I say that you’re never too old, too far behind, or too weak to change the path you’re on. It takes time – and funds – but you deserve it if it’s what you want.
  3. Stop punishing yourself for past mistakes. This point goes hand -in – hand with point 2. For the longest time I believed that all the things I did wrong in the past –  the times I was a bully, the times I lied, the moments I came up short of human decency – meant that I had no right to claim a good future for myself. Now, I think about it like this: I apologize where I can, I look into why I did the things I did and vow to do everything I can to avoid falling into the ugliness of those mistakes again. We’re all people wearing different brands of weighted shoes, trying to figure out how to untie the laces, so go easy on yourself. You don’t have to be who you were if it hurts you or others.
  4. You will encounter people who like to harm and destroy. It’s not your fault if they fix their sights on you. There’s a part of our victim-blaming culture that likes to, obviously, shift blame away from assholes. Rather than looking at a snake for what it is, we often find ways to blame ourselves for being slithered upon. You don’t have to do that. It’s not your fault when cruelty is visited upon you. I’ve finally accepted the reality that sometimes people just like to inflict pain. Now, I no longer feel obligated to make excuses for them and blame myself.
  5. You, my dear, are perfectly made.  Trauma operates insidiously. It creeps into your nooks and crannies, altering the fundamental structures of your psyche. For years, I couldn’t figure out why I hated looking in the mirror, why I felt sick in my skin. After years of work, the answer is quite clear: being abused messed with my ability to see myself beyond the pain. Looking in the mirror was a reminder of the hurt, and of the fact that my body was “damaged”. I’m so thankful to be in a place of relative peace with myself. I was, am, and always will be, just right.

And so are you.

 

When The World Brings You Down

I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out why I was so sick. One day I was fine, then the next I was blindsided by a sore throat, migraine, and stomach ache. I would get better, only to be right back at square one a few days later. For weeks, I’ve been in limbo without a clue of what to blame. The new environment? Allergies? Diet? I tried it all, but nothing seemed to work beyond taking enough medicine to put down a blue whale.

Sickness isn’t just inconvenient, it’s also a real mind warp. You start to wonder if your body is more than just sick – maybe you’re dying. Maybe you’re finally succumbing to all that cheese and wine. It’s even worse when, like me, you’re waiting for insurance to kick in so that you can get a doctor to tell you to chill out and prescribe something you’ve had in your cupboard all along. Instead, I started to question every single food and exercise decision I’ve made in the last year. But, nothing stuck. I haven’t diverged from my diet in any considerable fashion, I exercise a little less, but not drastically, and my last doctor visit was normal.

Then it hit me: the world is a dumpster fire and I am caving under the stress. When we talk about stress, I think it’s important to acknowledge the insidiousness of it. It creeps in slowly, but it can cause a weakened immune system, a lower blood pressure and heart attacks. I realized I was slowly being taken down by the weight of the world.

If you’ve read my blog for any period of time, you can tell that I’m a liberal Feminist with a soft spot for the inherent goodness of humans. I really and truly believe there is more good out there than bad. However, I’ve realized that I can only take so many hits to my optimism. My body was being affected by the stress of the ugliness in the world. After a little digging it became apparent that each stretch of days that I was sick has coincided with terrible events in the news. If your first thought is ‘Well, terrible things happen daily’, then you have just solidified my theory. The reality is those terrible things ripple out, they infect us all, and make healing more difficult.

So, now what?

On Friday I spoke about shutting down my social media, taking time to unwind and breathe in preparation for the new week. I did all those things and I admittedly feel much better today. But how realistic is that for us all? Not everyone is privileged enough to remove themselves from the world, and even fewer of us have access to mental health advocates and therapy. Funnily enough, thinking about those facts started to overwhelm me. When you have nothing but everything to lose, how do you take care of yourself? For me, it has boiled down to this: if I don’t take that time, if I continue to ram my way through the muck without stopping until my body begins to lose the fight there’s a possibility I could die. My life could end and no one would get to read all the stories I have rolling around. I won’t ever get the chance to meet my future family members, or go to Paris, or try deep-fried crickets. I don’t think that notion is so dramatic once you’ve looked at how stress can kill.

If you’re like me, feeling weighed down and without a therapist, there are some alternatives:

  1. Daily Self-care.: Technically, brushing your teeth and eating three square meals counts, but I suggest taking it further. No phone after 8 PM, saying no to triggering TV shows or movies, listening to music that relaxes you. Anything is better than nothing at all!
  2. Meditation: I’ve written about how hard that is for me to do, but now that I use Tapping to ease into the practice, it’s become much easier. The Headspace App is another great alternative that I was recently introduced to.
  3. Free therapy: Most advocate services for domestic violence, sexual assault, or PTSD offer group therapy or one-on-one therapy sessions. It all depends on the level of funding, but they do their best to have something for everyone. I’m currently going to a weekly group session that has made waves in my mental and physical health.

I must also add that is imperative you speak with your physician and share your health concerns before labeling your struggles as stress-related. It was only after a doctor’s visit that I was able to rule out any physical ailments beyond stress.

I say all of this to remind you that you do not have to suffer and you definitely aren’t required to do it all alone. Since I’ve been working to listen to my body and disconnect here and there, I’ve been feeling healthier and clearer. I really encourage you to take time to figure out what you might be going through and what you need to get better. Good luck!

 

World Mental Health Day: How I’m Working To Empower Myself

When you’re struggling with your mental health, every day becomes a battle to stay afloat. You never know which interaction is going to propel you forward with confidence, or which has the potential to stop you in your tracks. There are days when the smallest of set-backs can become roadblocks to your healing journey. I have learned that by doing a few little things each day to fortify myself for the bad days, getting back up from a fall can be easier than I previously thought possible.  In honor of World Mental Health Day, I want to share the little habits I’ve picked up that are really helping me to redefine my worth and move forward with a new kind of confidence that I have so been missing in my journey.

No more calling myself “crazy”

I think this is an easy habit to fall into, as anyone or anything deemed to be difficult is quickly smacked with this label. In particular, it is usually leveled at women who do not conform to what makes men comfortable.  There have been many times I’ve whispered this to myself with derision after failing to get this whole perfect life thing right. It’s not only unfair, but a particularly cruel way to invalidate the pains and triumphs of living with authentic vulnerability.  No more, I say!

I’m committed to talking about what I do – and don’t – need

I was raised by two very polite people who instilled in me an almost pathological desire to keep the boat from rocking. I’m thankful to them for the ways they’ve modeled kind and caring behavior, however now I am working to unwind myself ever so slightly from this fear of letting people down. Being a considerate person is a wonderful quality, yet when you’re unwilling to do what’s best for your mental health can anyone really win? Nowadays, I am doing my best to say yes when I mean it, and no even if it might disappoint the one making the request. It seems everyone in my life is better off because of it.

I say my name proudly

Folks with spicy names will get me when I say this: no more watering down my name to make others happy. I can scarcely remember a day that didn’t involve someone stumbling over the schematics of my first name. They get a confused look, turn up their noses, and sometimes even scoff at the ridiculousness of me not being named something easily digestible like Rachel (no shade to girls named Rachel). I used to get so embarrassed that I would quickly encourage people to call me Kasey or Kase, or I would laugh along with them. Can you imagine what that does to a young person, always trying to make others comfortable? It’s a nightmare. I can’t remember the exact moment things changed, but rather the growing rage that made me say enough is enough. My father carefully chose my name to honor his sisters, and I am happy to have it. Just that simple act of wearing my name with pride as changed the way I look at myself in the mornings and how I carry myself. There’s a wonderful kind of joy in reclaiming something so simple.

 

My journey has taught me that a lot of the struggles tied to my mental health involve the way others will perceive me and how those perceptions shape my confidence. It’s truly never too late to shake things up, especially when it comes to how you’re going to take care of yourself. These are just a few of the little ways I’m trying to help myself along each day, but they have made a marked difference in my life. I hope you are able to find ways in your own life to protect and foster your own mental health.

 

 

The Emotional Freedom Technique Is A Great Way To Ease Into Meditation

Keep your heart clear

And transparent,

And you will never be bound.

A single disturbed thought

Creates ten thousand

Distractions.

– Ryokan Taigu

Within the Black community alone, for every one woman who reports a sexual assault there are fifteen that go unreported. Statistics show that 80% of rapes are reported by white women, but women of color are more likely to be victims of sexual assault. Due to low rates of reporting for men, the numbers aren’t clear on how many are truly affected by assault, but it is believed 12% of Black men are survivors of rape. When it comes to healing, the road is long and winding.

Nothing steals peace of mind like trauma. It muddles every thought, each activity, and disrupts one’s ability to take care of the self. The pain makes even the most mundane tasks seem like mountainous undertakings. For most people, meditation is a healthy way to engage with your mind in the pursuit of peace. It offers the kind of self-care you can’t find in a product, or fancy meal. But what if you’re unable to meditate? For some survivors of sexual assault, domestic violence, or other traumas, being left alone with your thoughts can be more terrifying than relaxing. When struggling with symptoms like PTSD or automatic thoughts, it can be difficult to settle into the kind of space that allows meditation.

I was introduced to the Emotional Freedom Technique in a therapy session. As a survivor of sexual assault, I have truly struggled with any form of self-care that involves my thoughts or being still.

When it became apparent to my therapist just how difficult sharing was for me, she suggested we explore the Emotional Freedom Technique. The Emotional Freedom Technique (EFT), or “tapping” was developed in 1993 by Gary Craig, who believed stimulating the meridian points of the body could release energy blockages and perhaps stop negative emotions. Practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine, such as acupuncturists, believe the meridian points are channels the chi will pass through to flow to the vital organs. The tapping process requires using the fingers to gently tap or massage various points on the face and torso while repeating positive affirmations. Ideally, as you continue the tapping you will feel yourself begin to calm. You can repeat the process as many times as you need.

The act of tapping and focusing on her words allowed me to recenter my thoughts, breathe easier and relax. After that, we began all of our sessions using the technique until we were comfortable enough to share and grow together. Now, as I revisit meditation, I use EFT to begin the calming process. Tapping soothes my mental aches from the day and helps me to reclaim the power I thought I lost in assault.

Below is an instructional video on tapping if you would like to give it a try.

*Statistics courtesy of End Rape on Campus