End-of-Summer As Growth Metaphor

Someone sent me an image the other day that said something like, “If you’re not breaking toxic cycles, you’re perpetuating them.”

I love it when shit is direct and clear like that.

That sentiment is also factually accurate; if we’re not doing one, we are indisputably doing the other.

It’s important to remember that cyclebreaking, like all things, works its way through us in waves. We can’t and won’t and shouldn’t and aren’t built to be in Active + Alert + Engaged CycleBreaking-At-All-Times mode. Hypervigilance isn’t healthy long-term, and the quiet times are an essential growth period for many of us who are engaged in the often-grueling minute-by-minute process that is cyclebreaking.

What I’m saying here is: you’re not not cyclebreaking if you’re taking time to enjoy yourself. Or if you decide you simply don’t have the emotional reserves to engage with your family again about that same thing again right now. Keeping yourself going is an essential part of breaking intergenerational trauma long-term; we can’t break cycles that took generations to build by driving ourselves into the ground.

This pep talk is brought to you by someone who forgets the above approximately every single summer. The lack of structure, the inconsistent schedule, the desire to provide constant fun and memories while needing to also have money to buy groceries – all of these things toss me into a sea of internal turmoil every June-August, and this one has been no different.

In an effort to control and manage my experience of the world this summer have, at varying intervals: unfollowed every single person I followed on Instagram, started a secret account so I can follow people I’m confused about being intrigued by (see: beauty accounts and God-loving Southern women who say “y’all” a lot and make me dream of being a preppy gal in gingham and sensible designer flip flops), come this close to deleting my Insta profile all together and “starting over”, decided I should abandon my ever-growing coaching business because I’m not independently wealthy and working from a beach yet, consumed a fresh-squeezed carrot/ginger/orange/turmeric juice and assumed it would fix everything, said, “No, just hear me out…” to my bestie as she smiled and tolerated listening to my sound and (I thought) convincing plan to “rebrand” myself as an Emotional Health Lifestyle Blogger a la those Southern belles who seem to have it all figured out.

Loves, I’m a dumpster fire when it comes to willingly accepting that not every season is the season of Extreme Action in Cyclebreaking – that some seasons are the Mellow + Restorative ones. This could be my forever work – who can really say. Good thing I’ll have this essay to reference next summer when I feel compelled to blow up my whole life in an effort to feel like I’m doing something, dammit.

x.

How I Talk To My Kids About My Depression

Growing up, I was just as intuitive as I am now; I could feel when something was up with my parents. But when I’d ask what was wrong, “Nothing,” was always the answer.

This was confusing. And it taught me: 1). Not to trust myself, and 2). That certain things were not okay to talk about.

I’m changing this with my kids.

Here’s how I talk to my kids about my episodes of depression.

1). I tell them the truth, using accurate language.

When I’m depressed — which is roughly three times a year — I tell them. I say something like, “I want to let you both know that I’m not feeling like my usual, weird self — I’m depressed. I’m tell you because I’m sure you can feel and see that my energy is different, and I want you to know that it’s not you, and that everything’s okay — I’m just depressed.”

2). I answer their questions.

“Does that mean you’re really sad and want to kill yourself?” was the question my daughter asked me during my most recent depression.

“Depression is a spectrum,” I said. “It can be really intense — where people want to kill themselves — and less intense, which is how I experience it. I don’t want to kill myself. And I don’t feel sad — I just kind of feel nothing.”

“Will it go away?”

“I think it will, yes. It always does. I’m working hard to just let the feelings happen until they change.”

3). I do what I can.

When I’m depressed, I have a hard time being as active and productive as I typically am. I don’t feel fun or goofy. Getting up and putting on a fresh outfit can feel both like a task and an accomplishment.

I’m not the mom they’re used to.

Instead of spiraling into The Land of Never Ending Mom Guilt, I do what I can. I pull them into bed with me to snuggle. We share a blanket on the couch and watch TV, even if I’m not laughing at the things I normally laugh at. I tell them again and again that I’m okay, that this will shift, and that they are the perfect babies for me.

I do what I can do, which is me doing my best to model how to be an honest, loving mother even when things feel hard.

4). I let them love me.

My depression tells me I don’t deserve the life I have. It tells me I’m ruining m children. But I have proof I’m not, and it recently showed up in the form of a text my daughter sent me in the midst of my most recent depression, “Goodnight, my sweet mama. I’m sorry you don’t feel like yourself today. I love you.”

That child is not ruined.

5). I remember that honesty is the way.

I truly, madly, deeply, fervently believe that honesty is the way through and toward every single good and important thing. And I believe we owe it to our kids not to burden them with self-mistrust. Telling them the truth is the way we do that.

Please Don't Tell Me I'm Not Broken

I was broken by a lack of healthy attachment and inherited relational trauma and an unhealthy blended family situation that forever-changed the make up of my heart.

I learned that love looks like a thing love doesn’t actually look like. I will never be who I could have been if things had been different.

That doesn’t make my life a waste or make me unworthy of good things.

It doesn’t mean I have to hate the people who broke me (though I used to, and if you hate someone right now that’s okay.)

But it also doesn’t mean I need to pretend my emotions weren’t dropped on the floor a thousand times and walked on and accidentally kicked around and into corners.

I was broken. Telling people like me — and maybe like you - that we’re not is denying a major part of who we are. It slows our healing because it adds a layer of needing to process the shame we feel for feeling broken when everyone tells us that, actually, we’re not.

I’m broken.

I’m still putting my pieces back together.

And that’s okay.

I Refuse To Become "Professional" When it Costs Me Authenticity

Recently, on ye ol’ Instagram, I shared a Story with a picture of me with tears in my eyes. I talked about my confusion about the contradictions of being a person. About the very real emotion that is simply present inside my human body and mind.

I got some messages in my inbox questioning the ethics of me sharing in that way considering that I am in the process of becoming a licensed therapist.

Let me first speak to the obvious elephant in the room, which is that this is something about which I have historically felt insecure, and therefore defensive. I have told myself countless stories about how this is just another part of me being too much, too big, too emotional. I’ve told myself I’m a fraud for wanting to become a psychotherapist; only people who have figured it all out can do this work and have it count, right?

NO. NOPE. No. Not right.

I need you to listen to me for a second: the field of psychotherapy is one that was developed by white men. The same white men that constructed systems of patriarchal and colonial oppression. The same white men that continue to tell us to sit down and keep quiet or they’ll rape us or grab our pussies. The same white men who raise other white men to be toxically  unemotional and self-serving.

Me experiencing being a full, emotional, confused, confident, unsure, completely sure, ragged, docile, volatile, apologetic, righteous womxn — TERRIFIES these men, and therefore also terrifies those who worship them.

If a board of so-called emotional health professionals decides someday that I don’t deserve a license because I share too much of my human experience with other humans?

That’s just fine.

I refuse to become palatable and “professional” when it costs me true authenticity.

I simply cannot live inside of the insidious illusion that some of us get what’s acceptable and some of us don’t and that the ones who question the validity of these made up rules created for the comfort of some are strange or untrustworthy or unprofessional or not okay in some other falsely constructed way.

That is all.

I Needed To Be The Good One -- Did You, Too?

I saw a quote the other day that read, “Some of y’all never had to be the “good child” in hopes of lessening your parent’s problems which ultimately lead to buried feelings, inability to express emotions, wanting to please everyone, inability to handle the tiniest bit of confrontation and criticism, and it really shows.”

I spent the first 20 or so years of my life trying to be the good child, the responsible one, the one she could be proud of.

I remember being scared that she would kill herself if I upset her.

I remember feeling ashamed for having feelings that were different than hers.

My whole orientation to life used to be making sure I wasn’t the one who made her kill herself.

Every day of my life is a battle to heal what I can and live with what I can’t.

If that’s your story, too, I’m with you and you’re magic.

 Quote via @witchdoctorpoet on Instagram