Browsing Tag

mental-health

Guest Posts, Mental Health

On Having “Issues”

March 30, 2017
issues

By Laura Romain

Last night I dreamed about my ex-fiancé’s new girlfriend. In real life, I know nothing except her name, but my dream turned her into everything I wish I could be: radiant, smiling, lighthearted.

I dreamed that I shouted at her. I cursed her relationship with my ex. I seethed with jealousy that I would never acknowledge in my waking life. Why did this woman—the product of my own imagination—trigger such animosity in me, such envy?

Here’s the truth: the worst part wasn’t that she was beautiful. It wasn’t the bright sweep of her hair, the perfect gleam of her teeth. It wasn’t even that she’d entered into a relationship with my ex.

The worst part was that she was happy. In other words: not anxious, not depressed. It wasn’t her looks or her relationship status that truly made me jealous. It was her mental health.

Somewhere deep in my subconscious, I believe that life is easy for people who don’t have fears and anxieties and merciless self-criticism strapped to them like sandbags. I believe that their work comes naturally to them, whereas my negative self-talk makes sitting at my computer feel like hurling myself in front of a firing squad. I believe that mentally healthy people are guaranteed fulfilling, successful relationships, whereas I second-guess myself to the point that I have no idea what I even think of the men I date. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Medication, Mental Health, Surviving

Lexapro: A Love Story

August 4, 2016
medication

By Kenna Conway

“Don’t drink. Continue taking your medicine,” my friend repeats in my ear as I throw bikinis into my carry on.

I half lift my head, slightly acknowledging her words of wisdom.

“Are you listening to me?” she asks, taking my silence as a worrisome sign.

“Sort of,” I reply, before turning my attention to a crop top.

I have this pattern- some call it subconscious self sabotage. I find myself in Italy, tempted by the tastes of fine wine. I know before I leave U.S soil that I will have some after a year of purity. The first glass tastes strange. It is airplane cabernet. I sip it very slowly, checking to see who is around me. I feel like I am doing something wrong. Sneaky. I don’t finish it. The second time I drink, I am at dinner. The pizza is much better than the wine. I do it again the next night, but with gluten free pasta instead. After a month, I leave Florence feeling like I am not in love with booze.

Weaning off medication comes gradually as well. My supply is running low, so I begin to cut the dose. At first it seems like a fine idea. My sex drive returns and I feel a heightened sense of creativity. As I move through the streets, I am turned on by life and the multitude of emotions passing through me. And then slowly I begin to slip. My Montmartre apartment becoming more and more appealing than an unexplored city. I am crying a lot, for no reason at all. I want to believe that I am releasing something, that the tears serve a purpose. But I am afraid it is just the same familiar sadness that has been haunting me since childhood. Before heading home, I start swallowing my pills again. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Mental Health

Small Deaths and Small Magic

March 28, 2016
suicide

Trigger warning: This essay discusses suicidal ideation.

By Summer Krafft

He stood there, the oddness of a boy turned statue, at the end of the hallway. The light filtering through the window outlined his silhouette as he stared through the glass. It was the only window in the place.

Sometimes I say I don’t remember getting there, but it’s not true. What is true is that sometimes I cannot bear to tell it. The doctors said what they could to make it plain: suicidal ideations. They wanted it to seem as if I could explain my being there in two words, as if it were simple.

I think a better way of saying it is that I dreamt of making a blood masterpiece with the sharp kiss of knives against my snow skin. Which is another way of saying I already knew how to dry-swallow a handful of little chemical marbles. Which is another way of saying I was not afraid of drowning; it seemed just like the returning to a before-birth, to a time of not being.

I guess that’s how I got there, to Heritage Oaks Adolescent Psychiatric Facility. The place with the stark white walls and impossibly long hallway lined with doorways –no actual doors– two patients inside each of them, a large window overlooking a dumpster at the end. The place that smelled of Lysol, Jello, unwashed teens, and dried blood. The place where there was always someone crying or screaming or begging to go home, echoing like childhood lost. A place where I ended and began.

My memory of this place is anchored in the people: Maddy, who was fifteen and hospitalized there for her fourth suicide attempt. Elaine, the biggest and meanest twelve-year-old I’ve ever seen who just kept singing ‘This is the Song that Never Ends.” Xenia, who was both the prettiest and the saddest of all of us, who would sneak into the room of the boy who liked to punch holes in the walls. Stacey, my roommate, who stared at me while I tried to sleep and did not speak and had the habit of ripping off her bra and flinging it across the room when she got upset. Jason, who was there because his mother thought he was going to kill his sister. When I asked him if she was right, he gritted his teeth, jaw flexing like a small murder, averted his eyes, and shook his head no. I couldn’t tell if he was about to cry. I didn’t have the energy to be scared of him. I was there for my own momentum hurling me towards death. I was there because no one who loved me could trust me to be alone with my own hands. Continue Reading…

Anonymous, Eating Disorders/Healing, Guest Posts

Hello, Dessert

June 29, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88By Anonymous

Meeting my friend at a coffee shop I’ve never been to, I do a double take on the pastry case. Oh my god. It’s them. I’ve seen them a few times recently at middling mom and pop places in LA and it sends a shiver up my spine. I see the bars, lemon, pecan, brownie, all uniform, the size of a deck of cards and I taste ipecac in my mouth. It was twenty years ago but I can still remember timing it so that I would take the medicine right after closing so that I could throw up in the store’s sink when I locked the door. Then I could go home. I didn’t like working with other people because then I’d have to suffer through sharing a cookie with them (normal people liked to share cookies) and having to properly digest it, with only a six mile run the next day to combat the half an oatmeal. The normal girls I worked with shrugging as they chewed. My anxiety ratching up to an eleven.  Trying to figure out how to undo the crime while still committing it. I didn’t like working with other people, but I faked it.

I remember how it was my job to sign for the deliveries, the big chilled boxes from the corporate dessert provider, aptly named, La Dessert. Each box, like a cold record player in my arms, as I lined them up in the back refrigerator, writing the date with my sharpie the day they arrived so we could keep them ‘fresh’ (read a month). I was in an in between time. I had returned to my parents home in La Jolla from Colorado where I was a sophomore in college and the school shrink had coolly one interview with me and  said, you need to leave school, you have a severe eating disorder. My mother was not happy about it. The only eating disorder she understood was a fear of running out of things to eat. (Same coin. Different side. You learn stuff. You transmute it.)

I had dropped out of college because despite trying to stay and ‘fix myself’, as my mother had suggested (good plan- always have a nineteen year in crisis ‘fix themselves’) things had gotten worse.  I tried to explain that I had lost my ability to do the normal things to be a normal person she told me I needed to stay and finish the quarter because leaving would be too costly. I am not sure if I used words to explain that I couldn’t stop exercising every time I ate half a cup of broccoli, that my period had stopped and I no longer talked to actual people because I was sure they were thinking how fat and disgusting all ninety pounds of me was, but I do know that I asked for help. I was too ashamed to say the other things plus, now I only wanted to be ninety pounds forever but it was untenable to just sweat, eat, and record, so it was confusing.  But I did ask for help. Continue Reading…

Binders, Guest Posts, Mental Health, motherhood

My Son of the South

June 20, 2015

By T Hudson

Ben—whose name in Hebrew means the Son of the South—has thick chestnut wavy hair, hazel eyes like mine, and a strong prominent nose. He believes that his friends are not his friends at all, but rather members of the Mafia or the CIA or the FBI out to imprison him, harm him, or poison him, that helicopters and motorbikes are instruments of surveillance, dispatched to spy on us all, and that our computers and telephones are bugged.

He is nineteen when it starts. The doctors call it a psychotic break, but the words seem all wrong, because for something to split or tear apart, it should be brittle or weak at the seams in the first place. My son is whole. He takes a surfboard into the ocean each weekend, heaves his lithe body onto it and glistens with the elements. My son writes. He plays Rachmaninov’s piano concerto by ear, and he has a scholarship to one of the most prestigious public universities in California. That’s why it can’t be right that he has schizophrenia. Can it? Can it really?

We live in a prized home with sought after views in the oldest and quaintest part of Hollywood. Ben is going to be a doctor and I will proudly join the ranks of British immigrant Yiddisher mamas. I’m just waiting for it to happen, so when it doesn’t I blame myself. Maybe I haven’t loved him enough or maybe I’ve loved him too much. Either way it is my fault.

 

It begins in the laundry room in the early hours of the morning. I find Ben cold and alone tracing the wires of the telephone circuit board.

“This is how they are monitoring us,” he whispers, his face stricken, his breath sour.  “We have to cut some stuff out, change the receiver, I can do it.”

“Who?” I ask. “Who is monitoring us? And why.”

Ben puts a finger to his lips, and quiets me. His eyes look a shade darker with him framed as he is against the white plaster walls. He begins rifling through the tool kit, although he doesn’t seem quite sure of what he is looking for.

“Don’t do anything yet,” I say, my voice barely audible.

I look at my bike hanging from the rafters, the spokes still muddy from my off-road ride. The room contains everything we want to hide away from the neat order of the rest of our lives, eight years worth of clutter, and a washing basket of damp smelling clothes. It is frigid, especially at this late hour. Built into the hillside, carved out of the bedrock, we are underground. I need to sweep the floor as if to make room for us. It is imperative.

I take the broom and work it around Ben’s size nine feet, buying us time—time to hope he has a fever-induced delirium, something that might pass with a couple of Advil and a good night’s sleep.

Ben has never rerouted wires before in his life and, besides that, we have suspended our landline in favor of cellular phones. These wires that my child is obsessing over are part of a defunct apparatus from a bygone age.

“Let’s go upstairs,” I offer, swishing the last dust motes across the grain of the old hardwood floor.

Ben agrees albeit reluctantly, and walks behind me with a languid gait, one I hardly recognize. Once seated at the dining room table I take his temperature, smooth my palm across his forehead as I have countless times before.

“98.6,” I say. “Normal.”

The dining room boasts large sash windows that open to a hefty forty-foot drop. Ben stands against the pane and with the first light I see how thin and pale he has grown in recent weeks. I feel my throat tighten as denial gives way to fear.  “Did you take drugs?” I ask him. “Hard drugs?”

He stares at me and shakes his head as if I am the one who is suffering from delusions.

Continue Reading…

Anxiety, Guest Posts, healing

Coney Island.

November 13, 2014

By Gila Lyons.

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black

A plastic palm tree spurting water, a dried peach pit on the concrete sidewalk, white- capped waves, a man jogging in an orange Speedo, a woman in white scarves setting a flower boat out to sea, a man photographing his girlfriend drawing, a barge moving slowly on the ocean, a girl wrapped in a towel eating cheese fries, a hip-hop performance by eight-year-old Romanian Americans, Shoot the Freak, Snake Girl, a four-foot rat, blue cotton candy in a clear plastic bag, a boardwalk dance party, an empty bag of Bamba, a man pulling a suitcase on wheels across the sand, an American flag blowing in the wind, planes taking off, planes landing, seagulls diving.

I was living in New York City, pursuing and MFA in creative writing. A sensitive, tightly-wound, quiet-seeking creature, I was an unlikely candidate for life in the city, but I felt ravenous for New York’s flash and pop. I thrilled at the exotic dinginess of the subway, the soft hiss of its doors, its smells of burned rubber and re-circulated air. I lavished in colors of each neighborhood – Chelsea, Chinatown, Soho, Tribeca – their very names like sugar on my tongue. That was the first year.

The second year my mental health crumbled like the apartment across the hall from mine, gutted from the inside out, plaster and fiberglass swirling the air. A life-long anxiety disorder flared and surged through me, leaving me sweating, shaking, breathless, and terrified during class, while teaching, at restaurants, in my own bed. I felt claustrophobic in Manhattan, carving out my path through packed sidewalks. The streetlights and late-night revelers kept me awake all night, even through earplugs and a sleeping mask.

Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, healing, Inspiration

Out To Sea by Ally Hamilton.

December 24, 2013

By Ally Hamilton.

 

When I was seventeen I began dating a man who was twenty-one years older than me. My parents tried to stop me, but they have nineteen years between them, and even though they divorced when I was four, I was positive my relationship was different. Because I was seventeen and I thought I had all the answers. My previous boyfriend, who had been kind and sweet and awesome in every way, also tried to stop me. But he had moved across the country to go to college, and the truth was, I was heartbroken. I felt abandoned, even though he was talking about Christmas break, and calling every day. No matter; he’d left, and it stirred in me something old and raw and completely unhealed. So I let this guy who was so much older come at me with his cars and his boats and his private plane to his house in the Hamptons. He had a terrible reputation for cheating on everyone he dated. And I signed myself up for the task like I’d be able to fix that. Also, something inside me was believing the idea that I was the kind of person someone could leave. So who cared, really.

The first time we were together it was strange and sad. We flew out to his house, and went directly to the beach where we got in his speedboat. He drove us out to the middle of a secluded bay area. I knew he’d done it before, all of it. It was like some kind of ritual. Something to get out of the way. I knew he didn’t love me. That came a few years later, after he’d broken me and it was too late. But I let him have me, even though I felt nothing. I mean, I was hooked in, I was playing out all kinds of ancient history. But I wasn’t in love with him, and I certainly wasn’t loving myself. Not even a little. When it was over and I was swimming in the ocean, tears came streaming down my face, unexpectedly, without permission. I dove underwater, trying to wash them away, trying to wash the whole thing away. I don’t remember much else about that day, or that night. I think he spent most of the rest of the afternoon working, and I curled up in front of the fire with a book. I felt dead to myself, and also strangely satisfied that I’d done something so unlike me.

I stayed with him for three years. Once he had me, he kept a tight leash on me. It’s funny how people without integrity assume other people also have none. He was threatened by the guys at Columbia who were my age. He’d drop me off on campus sometimes and get upset if I was wearing lipstick, or tight jeans, or short skirts, or pretty much anything that wasn’t a sack. But he cheated on me regularly. He was good at it, I could never prove it, but I always knew when he was with someone else because it hurt. It hurt in the way that sends you under the kitchen table, holding onto yourself as you sob and wonder what the hell you’re doing in this situation, and why you don’t get out. But getting out wasn’t even possible at that point, because I was so attached to getting my happy ending. If I could just be perfect enough to get him to love me. If I could just hang in there long enough he’d finally realize I really did love him. Because after awhile, I did.

I began to see this insecure guy who felt he wasn’t enough, regardless of how many women he took to bed, or how much money he had, or how many sparkly, shiny toys. Nothing did it for him, not even the unwavering love of a good girl. I can’t call myself a woman when I think about this experience, because I wasn’t yet. I had a lot of healing to do, and a lot of growing, but I was very kind to him. And the longer I stayed, the more he gave me reasons to leave. For his fortieth birthday, I planned an elaborate surprise party. I rented a pool hall, had it catered from his favorite sushi place, and ordered dessert from an amazing pastry chef. I sent invitations to all his friends. I made a reservation at a new restaurant that had opened downtown that he was dying to try, and planned to take him to the pool hall from there. I ordered a bottle of champagne to be waiting at the table. It took me months to save up the money to pull it off.

A week before the party he confronted me in the kitchen in East Hampton. He told me he knew about the party, and he wanted to see the guest list to make sure I hadn’t forgotten anyone. At first I tried to deny there was a party, but he kept coming. He laughed at me. He knew it was at a pool hall. He wanted to know if I’d ordered food, and all the other details. He didn’t want to be embarrassed. I stood there in that kitchen and I felt everything fall away from me. I felt like I was made of bones that could disintegrate into a pile of dust on the floor, that his housekeeper could just come along and sweep away, out the door, into the ocean, to meet up with those tears I’d cried the first day. I told him every last detail. He took away any shred of joy I might have felt at having been able to give him something. Three days before the party, he went to the restaurant I’d made reservations at a few months before. So that the night of the party, the only surprise was that sad bottle of champagne, waiting at the table.

You cannot save anyone. All the love in the world won’t get the job done. You can’t make someone faithful or kind or compassionate or sensitive. You can’t make another person happy. They are, or they are not. You can harm yourself. You can allow yourself to be abused, mistreated, neglected and betrayed. But I don’t recommend it. A healthy, happy, secure person wouldn’t have been on that boat with him in the first place. Of course, he preyed on a seventeen year old, and when I look back on it I have all kinds of compassion for myself. But it took me years to get there. And a lot of yoga, and a lot of therapy, and a lot of weeping and writing and reading. Anything you repress, or run from, or deny, owns you. It owns you. And if you don’t turn and face that stuff down, you’ll call it into your life in other ways. The truth wants out. Your heart wants to heal so it can open for you again. Whatever is in your past does not have to define your future. But it probably will if you don’t do the work to liberate yourself. We have such fear. We think these things will overwhelm us, that we won’t survive. But what you won’t survive is the not facing it. That’s the part that kills you. That’s the part that makes you feel you could be swept away in the wind. Looking at your stuff hurts. It’s painful and deeply uncomfortable, but if you trust yourself enough to lean into all that pain, you’ll find it loses its grip over you. If you let yourself weep out the searing heat from those wounds, your whole being can take a real, deep breath, maybe for the first time in ages.

You can forgive those who let you down, who didn’t or couldn’t show up for you the way you would have liked or the way you deserved. You can forgive yourself for choices you might have made that were harmful to you or others. When we’re in pain, we don’t tend to treat ourselves well, and sometimes that also spills onto the people with whom we’re closest. But life can be beautiful. You can close the book on the old, painful story that was just a replaying of your past. And you can start working on this new creation that gets to be your life after you’ve healed. Not that the old pain won’t show up from time to time when you’re feeling triggered or tested or vulnerable, but it won’t grab you and knock you off your feet and show you who’s boss. Because it won’t be boss anymore, it won’t rule your life. You’ll just see it for what it is, an echo of a very old story that came to completion. It can’t be rewritten, it is what it is. But you get to decide where to place your energy and your attention. And I highly recommend you direct it toward love. That’s your happy ending, although it doesn’t end. You get to keep choosing it every day. If you do that, you’ll never find yourself sailing out to sea with someone who doesn’t know how to do anything but hurt you. Your own ship will have sailed. And maybe someday you’ll pass your seventeen year old self, weeping in the ocean next to your ship and you’ll pull her on board and show her your future. Which holds so much joy and gratitude and meaning and fulfillment, maybe she’ll weep there on the deck with you, not in sadness, but in relief.

If you’re allowing yourself to be mistreated and you need help, feel free to message me. Sending you love. Ally

allyeyesopen

 

Bio: Ally Hamilton is a Santa Monica-based yoga teacher and writer who streams online yoga classes all over the world. She’s the co-creator of YogisAnonymous.com, which has been featured in The New York Times, Yoga Journal, Self Magazine, Shape Magazine and The Wall Street Journal. She’s a regular contributor for The Huffington Post, a wellness expert at MindBodyGreen, and writes an almost-daily blog at blog.yogisanonymous.com. She’s the mama of two amazing kids and one energetic Labradoodle. She believes everyone can benefit from some regular time on a yoga mat.

**Jen Pastiloff has over 30 online classes at Ally’s studio Yogis Anonymous. Click here.

Join Jen and Emily Rapp at a writing and the body retreat in Stowe, Vermont Oct 2015. This will be their 3rd one together in Stowe. Click the photo to book.

Join Jen and Emily Rapp at a writing and the body retreat in Stowe, Vermont Oct 2015. This will be their 3rd one together in Stowe. Click the photo to book.

bryant-jenni-simplereminders-slide

Click poster to order book!