Browsing Tag

survival

Guest Posts, Marriage

Finding Forgiveness in the Cheating

September 27, 2019
slept

By Anonymous

My husband made me a martini. He had taken a red-eye from Las Vegas where he spoke at a tech conference some days before and returned home early this morning. All day I watched him deliberately move about the room, organizing his desk and paperwork, a glint dancing in his eye, a sneaking smile at the corner of his lips. He was keeping something from me. Every cell in my body sensed it, suspicious gestures aside, since I pulled into the driveway two hours in his wake. I had been away myself, putting the last touches on a collection of essays up in Seabrook.

We were sitting on the couch when I swallowed the last drop of my drink. It was 7 p.m. Talking heads on the TV were yammering on about the Pats, but the words all ran together. Whatever he was concealing seemed an impromptu triumph between us, formless and muted, nonetheless an unfamiliar presence.

He placed his hand on my thigh. His touch was subtle, loving, foreboding. I gazed into my glass, lamenting its emptiness. His eyes penetrated my cheek and he said: “I slept with a twenty-six-year-old girl in Vegas.”

He had a reason for waiting to tell me; the vodka would lessen the blow. I’m not argumentative when I drink. Just pickled. But I wasn’t entirely drowned in it, not too far removed to do the math. That’s what my mind jumped to first. Twenty-six. Half my age.

I sat unmoving, gazing into the glass, the reality in its fullness seeping into the coils of my pickled brain. Did he just say what he said?

Thing is, Chris and I have this gentlemen’s agreement.

When Chris and I met I was having a sporadic fling as a fit and invincible forty-two-year old with a married billionaire, Max Litoris. Once a quarter or so, Max would fly into Logan to attend a meeting at a startup he had poured venture capital into and we continued to hook up. Chris was okay with the situation. We’re big on a relationship that values honesty, full disclosure and “being adults.”

Out of fairness, sparked in the aftermath of evenings spent with Max (featuring preliminary Tanqueray and tonic, then hot sex in his Four Seasons’ suite), Chris and I spoke of his taking advantage of an opportunity – if it presented itself.

Incidentally, the last time I saw Max, five years ago, I later received an email from him accusing me of making his dick itchy. For the first time in years of cheating, the guy had Guilty Dick. His kids had recently flown from the nest and he and his wife bought a new home, embarking on a new and exciting life together. To quote Howard Hughes at this point is not only fitting, it’s irresistible: “I’m not a paranoid deranged millionaire. Goddammit, I’m a billionaire.”

I replied, what the hell is chlamydia? And Chris and I checked into Mass General’s STD unit. Imagine this: a couple devoted to one another go to a clinic because one has taken liberties outside the relationship and there’s talk of an itchy dick.

It’s a grueling experience, right?

Wrong.

Chris and I were in this together. And we checked out clean.

What about Max?

I can’t tell you what his reaction was to my report of cleanliness because I deleted every email he’s ever sent to me. Including, the dirty ones.

As for the twenty-six-year old…

The opportunity presented itself to Chris eleven years after we made our Gentlemen’s Agreement.

Despite the agreement and amid his depiction of the endeavor, words enunciated with the softness of goose feathers, I held up the empty martini glass and asked for another.

He had listened to the girl’s sad story. Bought her nachos. Paid her. Kissed her, his lips to hers, his fingers to her hoo-hoo. Let her ride his willy, perched on top of him. 

After the second martini, two glasses of wine and a shot of ginger Cognac, Chris got me into bed and held my hand. I took my hand away.

The next morning, I woke with I slept with a twenty-six-year old slithering through the coils of my aching brain. Before asking Chris to recount his confession, I asked him how I did in the reaction department the night before. He told me I handled it well. I hadn’t gone, as he expected, “ape shit.”

His acts were uninhibited because, he stressed, I granted him that freedom beforehand. He showed me the things he did with her; the same hot and sexy way he is with me.

Remember, it’s about being fair.

I had stepped out on him; doesn’t matter how long ago, how hot I was, how fat and gray I am now.

But this is a testament to our relationship. For as the minutes and the hours passed, my feeling offended lifted just like my hangover. I grew happy for him. Checkmark on the bucket list. At 65, Chris scored with a twenty-six-year-old.

Hell, he wasn’t looking for it. She came into the bar in Dick’s Last Resort and sat her young and sweet ass down, donning faded denim cutoffs, next to the only classy guy in the joint who was dressed in a suit and tie. She laid down a calculated bet and won.

I love Chris. Love that he’s already been to the clinic. I love our honesty and trust. I love how no one knows about the intimate facets of our relationship.

And the gentlemen’s agreement?

I hope it’s never enacted again.

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Guest Posts, suicide, Surviving

Depression is Still A Duplicitous Asshole

August 12, 2018

CW: This essay discusses suicide. If you or someone you know needs immediate help, please call 911. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741. The world needs you.

By Angela M Giles

This weekend marks the four year anniversary of Robin Willam’s suicide. I still cannot watch anything with him in it, it makes my heart hurt too much. I know this is irrational. But it is real. Perhaps it is my fear of seeing a flicker of darkness cross his face, or perhaps it is hearing him say something that hits too close to his end that prevents me. I know how his story finishes, I want to remember enjoying his work.

Suicide is a complicated act, its shroud is depression and it is often accompanied by something else, another disease that really gives ideation heft. In the case of Robin Williams it was Parkinson’s disease, in the case of my father it was alcoholism. In my case it was a combination of diagnosed issues, packed in trauma, tied up in emotional abuse, both at the hands of a lover. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Mental Health

When Death Keeps You Alive

October 4, 2017
life

CW: This essay discusses suicide. If you or someone you know needs immediate help, please call 911. You can also call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at: 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting CONNECT to 74174. The world need you.

By Lisbeth Welsh

“Adrian died yesterday.”

I was 11.

“Adrian died yesterday.”

Adrian was 20.

He seemed like such a grown up to me then.  Now I’m staring 40 square in the eye. I realize how short his twenty years actually were. My last memory of him is the top of his legs.  I stood looking out of my parents upstairs landing window. His gold Ford Sierra was parked outside.  I looked down from above, his torso and face obscured by the sun visor.

“Lets go see Adrian.” My friend Sara said.

“No not tonight.”

I was 11. He was 20. How would I know ‘not tonight’ would turn into ‘not ever again?’ How could I know that I was staring at him in the exact seat he would die in the next day? I will spend the rest of my life wishing I’d run out to that car.  But I was 11. It wouldn’t have re-written history. I know that.  I know that because I have spent years battling my own monsters.  Twenty years. No more than the amount he survived.  From eating disorders to self-harm to depression and anxiety.  With no self-respect and little self worth. Continue Reading…

Converse-Station, Guest Posts, poetry

The Converse-Station: Laurie Easter Interviews Alice Anderson

August 28, 2017
poetry

Jen Pastiloff here. I’m the founder of The Manifest-Station. Welcome to The Converse-Station: A place where writers interview writers. With the site getting so much traffic, I can think of no better way to utilize that traffic than to introduce the readers to writers I love. The dialogues created within this series have stayed with me long after I’ve read them on the page. Today’s is no different. It’s between Laurie Easter and the amazing Alice Anderson. 

By Laurie Easter

Alice Anderson is an award-winning poet and author of the new memoir Some Bright Morning, I’ll Fly Away: A Memoir, published by St. Martin’s Press on August 29, 2017. I met Alice at the AWP conference in Washington DC last February, where I picked up a copy of her breathtaking poetry collection The Watermark. Alice’s writing reflects the spirit and charm of her personality. Honest, straight-forward, and intensely beautiful. Some Bright Morning, I’ll Fly Away is a book that sucks you in and doesn’t let go. Both harrowing and full of love, it is a story of survival, resilience, and redemption that will resonate for a long time to come. It has received rave reviews, including starred reviews from both Kirkus and Booklist.  An excerpt from Alice’s memoir Some Bright Morning, I’ll Fly Away can be found online at Good Housekeeping. http://www.goodhousekeeping.com/life/relationships/a45620/some-bright-morning-ill-fly-away-alice-anderson/

 Laurie Easter: There is a tendency to classify works of literature. And while some writers may resist labeling their work, taxonomy allows publishers to target a desired audience. For example, some of the sub-genres of memoir include travel memoirs, divorce memoirs, coming-of-age memoirs, etc. One thing I find interesting about your memoir, Some Bright Morning, I’ll Fly Away, is that the book occupies space within many sub-genres. As readers, we get glimpses of the narrator coming of age in scenes from her childhood and young adult life. We witness her in varying locations: Sacramento, Paris, New York, and Mississippi. We experience the multitude of traumas she lives through and observe how she deals with the devastation of childhood sexual abuse, physical pain and suffering from accidents, Hurricane Katrina, mental and emotional abuse by her husband, domestic violence, and the ultimate threat of losing her children. Each one of these narrative threads could categorize the book as a particular type of story—a trauma and redemption story, a navigating the chaos story, a mother’s fierce love story. To me, the one key element that stands out is Resilience. The book is many things, but above all else, I see it as a story of the resilience of not only this one woman and her children, but of human nature and the body. And that resilience gives me hope.

How do you see this story? What kind of narrative is it for you? If you were to distill it down to one key element to label it, what would that look like? Continue Reading…

Forgiveness, Guest Posts

Not Quite Forgiveness, a Yoga Story

July 21, 2017
forgiveness

“I have lost friends, some by death…others by sheer inability to cross the street.”
― Virginia Woolf

By Nina Gaby

It was with the best of intentions that I shut down my old life as a Clinical Nurse Specialist in upstate New York and packed up my family and got a quick prescription for Paxil and clonazepam and became an innkeeper in a small village in Vermont. Let it now be known that if you need two prescriptions to convince yourself that what you’re doing is right you might want to take another glance at it. Instead I went to a psychic in a strip mall and interpreted her words as confirmation (what she really said was light some white candles, take a bath with herbs, and think on it.) And while I fully understand I’m using this as a seductive hook here–after all who hasn’t at one time considered the cliché of running away to a simpler life of baking scones and turning down crisp bed sheets and not only smelling the roses but actually having time to grow them–that isn’t really the story.

The story is that for the past fifteen years I have been angry that the story fell apart. As it unraveled into petty interpersonal and not so petty financial conflicts, the small community we had moved to took sides. Think wrong table in junior high school cafeteria. We were not only collateral damage from 911 and eventually lost the inn, our life savings in one of the tech industry debacles, my mom, my dog and the old friend who lived across the road in our new village dismissed me in a way that felt cruel and confuses me to this day. I still feel shame for sounding like such a victim, as it was likely the victimhood that put us at disadvantage in our community in the first place.

Forgiveness has never been a consideration, anger being my stronger suit. Sometimes forgiveness is not even an option, even though we want to believe it is, as if we have more control than we really do. And that’s the real story. Continue Reading…

Current Events, feminism, Guest Posts

The Good Girls Guide to Survival in Trumpland

December 20, 2016
survival

By Amy Reardon

“You are blocking everyone’s progress!” I screamed. It was 8am and the construction worker was backing his pickup truck onto the sidewalk, blocking my running path and making it impossible for cars to pass on the street next to us. Rush hour in Denver, the morning after Election Day, and he was everything that was wrong with the world. The air was thick and still with smog.

I had my next line ready and waiting for his response.

“The women of this country are pissed, and you had better get used to it!” I planned to say, but I didn’t get the chance because after my first salvo, he stepped out of the truck in jeans and work boots. He lifted up his hands.

“I’m really sorry, ma’am, I just have to unload the drywall,” he said, and I could see from his face he was not out to bury the women of this country after all.

The day before, on Election Day, I awoke absolutely 100% sure we would be electing our first female president. That morning I floated outside for my run and looked up at the blue sky and white puffy clouds. Today everything changes, I thought. Today begins a new conversation on the global stage, one in which the President of the United States calls out anyone in her path who dismisses, interrupts, overrules, condescends, mansplains*, excludes, objectifies, usurps, negates, demeans, shoots down, shuts down, steals from, shames women for their biology or otherwise bangs on with the same old tired tags, emotional and weak. The leader of the free world will systematically reject the devaluation of women and give birth to a new model of behavior that will slowly permeate our homes, schools and institutions, like water runs under a door and slowly floods a room.

I imagined dinner tables, office water coolers and Starbucks coffee shops across America, where it would become commonplace to quote our president’s candid responses to pompous windbags who publicly dismissed her ideas. This would open the door for all of us to do the same. As I ran along listening to Sia’s voice sing “Titanium” on repeat – I’m bulletproof, nothing to lose. Fire away, fire away – I jumped up and punched a fist into the air.

All day Election Day, I walked around in this magical new world. My back was straighter, my head higher, my shoulders open. I made eye contact and grinned at the people in the elevator. I felt empowered to take up space because I knew, KNEW, our new president would have our backs. When a tall, broad shouldered man in a suit and tie barreled down the sidewalk outside my office in my path and refused to move his line, I held mine. His shoulder slammed into me as he passed, and I smiled at my feet and thought, no dude, we share the sidewalk now.

See that’s precisely what I had wrong. I was waiting for our first female president to give me permission to take up my own space. Girlfriends, we are never going to be treated as equals while we expect someone else to do it for us. HRC has never waited for anyone to give her permission to do anything. Do you think the dictators and despots of the world wanted to meet with a female Secretary of State? No. But she got off her airplane in whatever crazy corner of the world she had business, walked her pantsuit into his golden palace or high-security bunker or mountainside retreat and took a seat at the table. Every day of her life.

We women did not invent this mindset, the idea that someone else was going to protect us and fight our battles: it’s called a patriarchal society. Now, this is the point in the conversation where I always lose my male friends. They immediately move into fight-or-flight mode, assuming I’m accusing them of something, and I am not. We built this society together, in farm houses and covered wagons and log cabins and bedrooms and boardrooms, for better or for worse, generation after generation after generation.

Anthropologists suggest the roots of the patriarchy began about 6,000 years ago, when humankind moved from the egalitarian hunter-gatherer societies into agriculture and domestication. In a patriarchy, the male steps in as head of the house, providing for and protecting the women and children. Is this beginning to sound familiar?

It took the defeat of my long-time hero to realize my mistake: when I wanted my president to fight for my station in life and then turn around and hand it to me, I was doing it again. The day we lost the election was the day I formally withdrew my participation in the patriarchy. Today I ask you to join me.

As such, I present the Good Girls Guide to Survival in Trumpland. Think this plan might not be for you? Read on, sisters.

Raise your hand if like me, you crave approval. Remember when kind old grandpa patted you on the head and said run along and be a good girl, and you beamed up at his wrinkled face and wanted to please him so bad you seriously asked yourself, how can I be a better girl?

How many times have I started to pitch an idea at work and been interrupted by a boss who thought he knew more so I deferred and left a great plan unexecuted because I didn’t have the nerve to push back and take the floor again? A million.

A million times I have handed over my voice and my authority to the men around me. It was so easy. I was busy. I had more important things to do, like the serious work of getting my family through the day. Having an opinion amidst the blowhards and one-uppers just didn’t feel like my job. They can have the floor, I thought, how arrogant. And in this silent negotiation, I handed over my leadership, my authority and my voice to the men around me.

Look at how boys are raised: they are pushed out on sports fields and jostled and told to be tough, argue and compete.  Girls are still, to a certain extent, raised to be nice, to get along, to smile, to be the helpers. The boys are told they will have to steer the ship, and they may be thrown into the cold water without a lifejacket so they better figure it out. Girls are offered the choice to opt out.

Ladies, I’m here to suggest we can do better. My favorite author Cheryl Strayed says you only have until you’re 30 years old to blame your parents for what is wrong with your lives, after that it’s on us. So if you’re 30 and you’re not like my friend KB who is president of a global company … if you’re not like my friend Tiffany who just survived a mortal illness to come back and be a mommy again and inspire her entire community with jokes and goodwill … if you don’t identify with the term nasty woman or you’re not sure you need to be a feminist … or if you just really want to be liked, then you might be like me, and sister, I suggest you read on.

Five years ago, I was reading the book, “The Next 100 Years” by George Friedman, and I encountered a sentence that moved me to stop writing about other people’s ideas and start writing about my own. He predicted that because women’s lives have changed so much over the last 200 years, the era in which we live is one in which “new institutions, moral systems and practices will begin their first tentative emergence.”

Previously, women had no choice but to spend 100 percent of their lives bearing and raising children, then they died. Then came the industrial revolution, food become plentiful, medical care saved lives and birth control allowed us to step off the baby treadmill. As a result today’s woman now spends only 10 percent of her life bearing and raising children. It is not an exaggeration to say that women’s lives have been transformed. Add to this the good work of the feminists, and we find ourselves in a Consolidation Generation. It’s our job to sort out the new role of women after two centuries of change.

Today I ask you, are we going to allow the patriarchy to define these new institutions, moral systems and practices, or are we going to define them ourselves? It’s time for us to stop being complicit in giving away our own voices, our own authority and our own place in the world.

Now let’s be smart about this. I’m not suggesting an outright revolt against the patriarchy, but what if we simply outgrew it?

Goodness knows the men we love are in consolidation too. They’re expected hold up their own end of our twisted social bargain while at the same time being emotionally intelligent, politically correct co-parents, and somewhere in between getting down on one knee to spring diamonds from their pockets. Our little boys are being medicated because they don’t act more like girls and warned if they’re not careful, they might just become a rapist.

I’m done being nice and keeping my mouth shut. It’s not working. So as American society tilts back toward its patriarchal roots, I present the Good Girls Guide, six simple steps for survival in our new status quo.

Step 1: Find fulfillment.

Whatever interests you, whatever you love, whatever you are good at: get better at it. Practice, read books, listen to podcasts. Find experts to follow who excite you and fill your mind with ideas that move you to closer to mastery. Know more about these ideas than anyone else in the room.

Step 2: Use your voice.

Win arguments on these topics, every time.  Fight to the end because when you assert your opinion, you claim your place on the leadership committee, and that is where we need to be. Have one or two or three or four topics in which you are the master – be they mergers & acquisitions or global warming or potty training or neighborhood building codes or software development kits. Speak up every time. The world needs your voice.

Step 3: Take up space.

DO NOT ASK PERMISSION. DO NOT ANNOUNCE YOUR INTENTION. DO NOT GET MAD. DO NOT EXPECT SOMEONE ELSE TO GIVE IT TO YOU. Just take your space: it was yours the whole time. It was never someone else’s to give. Does this scenario sound familiar? You sit down in an airplane seat and the guy next to you has his whole arm on the armrest, and even though you wanted some armrest, you put your hands in your lap, and you sit there and fume. Stop doing that immediately. Put your arm on the armrest. Hold it there, right against his arm. I’ve tried it, and I assure you, he will share. No talking, no blaming, no asking, no apologizing. JUST TAKE IT. You had it all along.

Step 4: Ask for what you need.

Boys are raised to go out and get what they need. They don’t feel bad and they don’t apologize. If there are five Popsicles and five people, and you are one of the five people, don’t wait until everyone has had one to see if they might want a second. Have a Popsicle. It’s more fun when we all enjoy Popsicles together. If we don’t show our families and co-workers how to treat us, then they get to decide what we deserve.

Step 5. Do not ask for permission.

It is not theirs to give you. If women are going to be treated equally we have to stop asking the world for permission. The power was yours all along. Eleanor Roosevelt is famous for saying, “No one can make you inferior without your consent.” Today, we stop giving our consent. In 1992, Gloria Steinem wrote a book in which she called upon women to take all the freedoms they had been given from the feminist movement and step into their own power. Girlfriends, this was 25 years ago. What are we waiting for?

Step 6: Elevate other women.

Sheryl Sandberg and Sallie Krawcheck and the ladies of the White House staff are right when they challenge us to make simple choices every day to support each other, like “amplifying,” the act of repeating other women’s ideas to recognize their contribution. Recently a friend told me a female executive officer at her company came to her to inquire about the leadership bios posted on their website. She wanted to know, shouldn’t the new male officer joining the firm be featured ahead of her? The answer to this question is no. We must also help each other claim our space.

If you’re still wondering whether the Good Girls Guide is for you, here’s a test. Has a father, boyfriend, husband or boss ever called you sweet? If your answer is yes, I suggest it’s time to have a look in the mirror. Sweet is dessert. Dessert is optional, full of empty calories. If people are calling you sweet, I ask you to consider whether you may have handed over your power.

I know what you’re going to say now. We’re tired. And what’s wrong with wanting to be liked? We have to do everything and walk the dog and clean up after the sick child and bring home the bacon and fry it up in a pan. Do we really do have to collaborate and make equal contributions and take our rightful share of the armrest too?

And to this I say yes, we do. When the Good Girls of America stop choosing to be dessert, I do believe we will never, ever again have to watch the world’s champion for human rights concede an election. We will never have to sit by and sob while she assures our daughters that they are valuable, powerful and deserving. Our daughters will already know that. Good Girls of Trumpland, let’s get started.

*Credit: Rebecca Solnit, “Men Explain Things to Me”

ar-photo

 Amy Reardon is a writer in Denver, CO. She is at work on a novel about how women interact with each other via the Stanford University School of Continuing Studies Online Writing Certificate Program. Amy can be found on Facebook.

 

Join Ally and Jen Pastiloff for an intimate online course about what it means to be a woman at this time. Space is very limited. Course runs Jan 12-Feb 9, 2017. Click the picture to sign up or to get more info on the course and its perks!

Join Ally and Jen Pastiloff for an intimate online course about what it means to be a woman at this time. Space is very limited. Course runs Jan 12-Feb 9, 2017. Click the picture to sign up or to get more info on the course and its perks!

 

 

Join The Manifestation Retreat: Manifesting Under The Tuscan Sun. June 17-24 OR Sep 9-16. Email retreats@jenniferpastiloff.com or click the picture above.

Join The Manifestation Retreat: Manifesting Under The Tuscan Sun. June 17-24 OR Sep 9-16. Email retreats@jenniferpastiloff.com or click the picture above.

Abuse, Guest Posts

My Last Halloween

October 31, 2016

By D. Michael Whelan

When I was younger, I loved Halloween. I think it was getting to play dress up, pretending to be something else, something of your choosing. Every day of my life I was pretending to be something else just to stay safe. I was pretending not to be gay, because my parents knew, but warned me what would happen if I told anyone else. I was pretending everything was okay at home. That home wasn’t actually a warzone, where I had to match wits with a mad woman, just to be allowed to eat, sleep or stay inside. Beatings were unavoidable, but I became a master at figuring out how to work with them, so they inflicted minimal damage. I learned how to figure out my mother’s moods and what made her tick. I was strategic, sometimes making sure the beatings weren’t big, but when she was on the edge I knew she would have to blow completely in order for me to be safer as the night wore on.

See, I was always pretending. I was always lying. I was always someone else. I was the bright and lazy student, because not doing your homework because you were playing one of your mother’s psychological games did not fly. I was the student who didn’t appreciate his parents, because whenever the police were contacted about said abuse, it just made things worse. I was defiant, but only because I intended to survive. I was a liar, but never a liar about the things people thought I lied about. I was too crafty, too good at lying – people never knew what I was lying about. They never did either. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Surviving, Young Voices

The Aftermath Of Assault Leads To A Call For Help

October 4, 2016
assault

TW: This piece discusses sexual assault and its aftermath.

By Ashley N. Doonan 

I am a doctoral student in Rhetoric and Writing at Bowling Green State University. I teach Freshmen English as well as take courses within my program. I come from New England, and I have only been in the Midwest for about a month and a half. Unfortunately, my experience here has already been tarnished.

On September 1st, 2016 I was robbed of a vital piece of myself. The violation—the shrieks, the moans, the blood—all as I was forced down and pressed into the carpet rhythmically against my will for what seemed like hours. After that day, I resorted an old coping mechanism of mine—that is, not eating. That numbness, that lapse back into my eating disorder sucked me in almost instantaneously.

Things started to decline quickly, and there’s no doubt that one cannot maintain an eating disorder while simultaneously succeeding in a Ph.D. program. Therefore, I have sought out a dietician who is highly supportive and specializes in the treatment of eating disorders. However, she does not accept insurance and the standing rate for the comprehensive six-month package costs $3,250. “Begin WELL” was the program suggested to me based on my assessment (more information on that can be found here).

As a graduate student, I simply don’t have that type of money nor do I have any financial support from my family. As of today, I have a second job, however, my university limits the amount of hours that graduate students can work. I am extremely uncomfortable asking others for assistance but I know how much I need to be seeing this dietician in order to stay in school and avoid a higher level of care. My dietician is willing to work with me via monthly payments versus paying for the entire package at once.

During my eating disorder in past (you can read more about that here) I found that hunger stole my voice. The year wherein I was too afraid to go to class, when I’d come up with any and every excuse not to go out with friends—I refer to that period of time as “the silent years.” Little did I know, my sexual assault and subsequent relapse into my eating disorder would pull me back into the realm of silence. The work that I do currently involves discussing the rhetoric of mental health—a topic that will likely become my dissertation. I believe that advocacy for mental health issues is one of the most vital things one can do; for me at the current moment, that means vocalizing my story because I know that I need assistance to make it through this. Moreover, I hope to reclaim my voice because I refuse to let my trauma and eating disorder rid me of it.

Even the smallest of donations would be appreciated, as I am doing everything that I can to stay out of the hospital. My GoFundMe page can be found here.

Warmest wishes,
Ashley N. Doonan

 

Join founder Jen Pastiloff for a weekend retreat at Kripalu Center in Western Massachusetts Feb 19-21, 2016. Get ready to connect to your joy, manifest the life of your dreams, and tell the truth about who you are. This program is an excavation of the self, a deep and fun journey into questions such as: If I wasn’t afraid, what would I do? Who would I be if no one told me who I was? Jennifer Pastiloff, creator of Manifestation Yoga and author of the forthcoming Girl Power: You Are Enough, invites you beyond your comfort zone to explore what it means to be creative, human, and free—through writing, asana, and maybe a dance party or two! Jennifer’s focus is less on yoga postures and more on diving into life in all its unpredictable, messy beauty. Note Bring a journal, an open heart, and a sense of humor. Click the photo to sign up.

Join Jen Pastiloff at her Manifestation Workshop: On Being Human in Dallas Oct 22. Click the link above to book. No yoga experience needed- just be a human being! Bring a journal and a sense of humor. See why People Magazine did a whole feature on Jen.

 

Check out Jen Pastiloff in People Magazine!

Check out Jen in People Magazine!

courage, depression, Guest Posts

I Fought For You

July 3, 2016
love

By Robin Rivera

I’m lucky lately when I don’t go immediately back to bed after giving a morning stroll through the kitchen wondering aimlessly.  My hormones are raging, I’m exhausted, and my bed is the safest place for me. I’m a month and a half pregnant, scared, insecure, and experiencing chronic depression, which I previously thought would never happen to me. I thought my darkest days had been left long ago in the beautifully deceptive streets of Beverly Hills. Oh, my glamorous alcoholic porn star days were hellish tainted with sex trafficking, corruption, and spirit crushers. I thought those were my darkest days.

I was wrong. That darkness, that gut wrenching pain, that out of control lost feeling is back, and I am fighting everything and everyone like a cat clawing its way up and out of danger. One day, I literally felt like I was drowning in hell with no one to turn to. While screaming in my car after being turned away from some self-help meeting for being late, I crazily broke my phone hoping the rage would somehow exit my body this way.  I was in overwhelming emotional pain. I was so desperate for relief from the trauma I was reliving somatically. My partner couldn’t support me for whatever reason, and I felt so alone and abandoned. Like what it might feel like to watch your child be murdered in broad day light & your screaming for help and everyone sees you, but no one lifts a finger. Yes, that’s how I felt a couple weeks ago, but about my own self. I’m still recovering from that day with embarrassing scars to prove what I am going through is deep enough to penetrate all layers of my happiness and hope. I’ve been searching for the lesson in this all… feeling paralyzed with fear and exhausted by anxiety. There are people screaming they love me, but it sounds like the faintest pen drop only muffled by my debilitating resentment for this experience.

I have everything good in my life I thought I’d never have. A really handsome, brave man trying to love me, my chance at stopping the cycle of abuse in my family, a prestigious college degree, a magical relationship with my six-year-old daughter…yet my self-destructive patterns have shown their ugly face again. This time with vengeance. Continue Reading…

Awe & Wonder, Guest Posts, The Body

Night Run

May 23, 2016

By Maggie May Ethridge

I always hated running.  Running gave me rabbit ears, pink and tender, and set an ache roaring through my temples that eventually drilled deep into my ear drum, where I could then hear it beating a protest. Running made my thighs break out in large, itchy patches that I tore into, leaving long red scratch marks. Running gave me a side stitch and shin splints, a gash, a rash and purple bumps- yes, I understood Shel Silverstein’s little Peggy Ann McKay perfectly. I would and did dance for hours, lift weights, climb the Stairmaster, do yoga, pilates and hike- but I would not run.

I had birthed my last and fourth child three years ago. I was heartbroken inside my marriage and on the other side of the worst two years of parenting I’d ever experienced. I felt lost inside the needs of my large family. My weight had crept up. I wasn’t weighing myself- with two daughters, I have mostly avoided that dangerous pursuit- but I felt bloated, anchored and exhausted. In the afternoon or evening I would put on a workout DVD and give twenty or thirty minutes to movement. I still had the Kathy Ireland workout VHS from my twenties and a FIRM butt routine, and I enjoyed the ridiculousness of existence while squatting and thrusting in my living room.

One day I sat in my living room and looked at my tennis shoes and suddenly the total simplicity of running was as desirable as dark chocolate cake, orgasm, reading. I can pull on some shoes, step out of my house, and go wherever I want, I thought. Running requires nothing other than a place to run, and the will to do so. In that moment, I had both. Continue Reading…

depression, Guest Posts

The A-Okay Team, Owning My Shit & Mile 4

April 24, 2016
depression

Trigger Warning: This essay discusses suicide

By Regina Hastings

When I was a kid, I had two friends, John and Jared, who lived on the street behind my house. In the summer, we roller skated on Thayer Street and in the winter, we ice skated at Scanlon Playground. Racing around corners, passing each other in the rink, we grew well balanced through practice. But we had our fair share of tumbles. Each time, one of us fell, we would pop back up on our skates and yell to the others: “A – Okay” to show that we were not hurt. We were strong, we were the “A okay” team.

I haven’t thought about this memory in a long time until I started thinking about a strong defense mechanism I acquired over the years. I don’t have words for sadness because I don’t allow myself to feel it. I stumble, I fall, I bounce back up in “A – Okay” style.

That seems great because who wants to feel sad? It’s so uncomfortable.

But here’s what I have learned, there’s this protective coating that shields sadness. It is anger. And it can get ugly. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Self Love

Calculating My Worth

April 13, 2016
worth

By Jennifer Kathleen Gibbons

The Welfare office was depressing. This wasn’t a surprise; welfare offices are not known for their cheeriness or décor. The carpet was worn and tired, so much so I couldn’t tell what the original color was. All the clerks looked worn and tired. There were toys in one corner, with a Disney version of Alice in Wonderland book on the floor. On the wall was a television blasting Family Feud, Louis Anderson yelling “Survey said!” I wished Louis would come on down and do a routine in the office. They needed some jazz hands, some cheer.

I was grateful the TV was set on Family Feud rather than CNN, which was broadcasting coverage of the Lacy Peterson case all day/night long, along with horrifying images of Iraq being bombed. I tried concentrating on my Nick Hornby novel. I knew it was going to be a depressing experience so I wanted something funny to read. All I could think was what am I doing here? I should not be here. This isn’t me. I’ve worked since I was sixteen years old. Fifteen years later, I was in a welfare office. It made no sense. However, I was having no luck finding a job. An unpaid internship became hellish. I’d been sending resumes out daily, no luck. I’d gone through my skimpy savings. Welfare was the last resort. Continue Reading…

Addiction, Guest Posts

Love From A Distance

February 14, 2016

By Gloria Harrison

Sierra comes over infrequently and only calls when she’s in need.

“Hey.”

That’s what her texts say – like they’re a Bat Symbol in the night sky and I’m supposed to fly to them in my cape, fancy grappling hooks at the ready. These are always pleas for help. They may follow up with, “What are you doing?” They may say, “The people I’m staying with need a pack of cigarettes, can you help?” Even when I reply, which I don’t always do, these texts are often sporadic, spaced out over many hours before they get to the point. And always, what they’re actually saying is: Save me.

Save me. Save me.

Sierra is a meth addict. She’s homeless. She has children she can’t take care of and fertility she won’t tend to either. She’s dynamic. She lights up a room – and she darkens one.

Sierra – my orange-haired, blue-eyed cataclysm. My bright and funny daughter.

I’ll admit it: when she’s out of sight, my mind is relieved to be void of her, the way it feels so good to have a splinter removed. I don’t mean just the relief of the actual removal of the splinter, but the way it feels to know there once used to be a searing, throbbing pain in a part of my body that just isn’t there anymore. The relief of emptiness.

Last spring, Sierra’s “hey” text was followed by, “Can my boyfriend and I come over and take a shower? We have been crashing at a friend’s house for the last few days and we don’t trust our stuff alone with them.”

Sure, I said, readying myself.

Sierra showed up before noon and was amped to full volume. She was animated and moved about the living room chattering at me, talking so fast I could barely understand her. “Are you using again?” I asked. She assured me, as usual, she wasn’t.

“I’m just so excited about this offer for a job I got this morning!” she told me. There was always a job offer, yet, curiously, never any jobs. An alarm bell went off.

I told Sierra she and her boyfriend could take a shower and eat if they did my dishes. She agreed and I left for a day of errands. I’d never left her in my house alone, but I figured if she stole from me, it would be the last time. Continue Reading…

Abuse, courage, Guest Posts, healing

Crying Turned Me Into A Real Girl

October 17, 2015

By Janine Canty

Living with a cruel man for seventeen years teaches you that tears only bring more pain. Tears on habitually bruised and torn skin stings. Tears only feed a fire you can’t control and don’t understand. At first you might try crying in the shower or  over the sound of the washer. He watches in the shower. He’s deaf in one ear, but he hears over the washer.

He knows your hiding places and what your voice sounds like when it’s trying not to cry. He can see your tears before they form. He anticipates them before they fall. They are Mardi gras and Christmas rolled into one for him. Proof that he is right and you are crazy. Your wet eyes and begging give him fuel.. Pass him his manhood with your ravaged face. Slumped shoulders. Downcast eyes. A cup of black coffee. Extra sugar and shaking hands. I hate coffee. I taught this body not to cry in order to survive.

Numb is good. Numb is quiet. Numb is nirvana among the shattered green plates and ripped shirts. I kneel on broken glass with bloody knees. I hold a piece of glass in my palm. I wonder what it would feel like to open my wrist. To see my life flowing out onto the floor. Among the glass and cat hair. Turning the couple of cheerios the dustpan missed, red. My hair is tangled. Dirty and in my eyes. My face is aching  and dry. I wonder what my casket might look like. I wonder if my Mother will cry. I envy her if she still can.

***

I’ve become my own memory at 31. Have I stored up enough numb to end me like a broken sentence?  Pull the glass down my wrist. Let someone else clean my stain and non tears. Wipe the flesh that used to be a girl named Janine, away. The baby coughs once, then again, from a jenny lind crib. He’s had that cough a day too long. The house is chilly.

I touch the back of his head lightly with the hand not still holding a piece of glass. Like an admonishment. A reminder. A warning. I pick up a doll my daughter has kicked out of bed. I chuck it towards a cracked toy box. I’m cradling the glass in my hand gently, the way I once cradled them. I don’t cry when I sweep up the mess. I  wrap the glass carefully so none of the kids cut themselves. I’m not satisfied.

I slip my feet into the monsters slippers. I carry the bag to the shed behind the house. I push the lid down firmly on my non tears. My non-suicide.  My non-self. I get in the shower while he’s not there to see.

I don’t cry. Continue Reading…

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