Listing our Healthy Coping Tools

*Content warning: discussion of anxiety, panic, and how Seasonal Affective Disorder can present itself in my life.
**This post may contain affiliate links.

So, lately, I’ve become more and more aware of the end of summer. Today in the town where I live, school is back in session. That means that the grocery store will get really busy at around 3:30 again and soon I’ll have to slow down through some of the best routes around town. Maybe it means that I’ll be able to get coffee with some of my mom friends more often?

It also means the end of summer.

And, look, summer isn’t my favorite season by any means. I’m not the kind of kid who deals well with heat at all—though I’m dealing with it better in the past few years. But soon the sun will start going down at around 4:00 pm and I’m not ready for it.

I have Seasonal Affective Disorder and winters can be so hard on me that even in August, I’m starting to stress out about knowing that the darkness is coming and there’s really not much we can do to stop it.

Last week Ryan came in the house and I was stuck on the couch. I wanted to get up and go outside but my limbs wouldn’t work for me. I was lying there holding a pillow in front of my face to hide that I was crying.

The panic kind of sweeps in out of nowhere like that. One minute it’s a sunny August day and your dog wants you to take her outside and the next minute, you’re pinned to the sofa and all I could verbalize to Ryan was, “It’s. Getting. Bad. It’s. Getting. Bad.” He sits by me and rubs my back until I yank away from him because he’s making me hot but I don’t have the words to explain—so then there’s another thing that gets added on. Sure, we’re already drowning in panic out of the blue let’s take on a bunch of guilt too, why not.

Ryan’s amazing when I’m in a space like that. He gets this really calm voice and tells me true things. He exaggerates his breathing to encourage me to match him. This particular time, it didn’t get so bad. I wasn’t completely swallowed and I felt really good about it. I’ve worked for years on dealing with panic attacks and sometimes it feels like you’re not getting anywhere. But those times when it doesn’t ruin your entire day is such a massive victory and it deserves to be celebrated. Any time you live through a panic attack, though, to be honest, it deserves to be celebrated.

After I calmed down, I explained to him about my worry. That I’ll get depressed when the sun starts to go down and I’m scared of it. I’m scared that this year it’ll get really, really bad because I don’t know if I have enough energy to fight it off this year.

We decided to not waste a summer night. So we went for a drive to Coronado Heights. I took a lot of photographs.

He’s so beautiful.

He had a birthday on Sunday, you know? He’s worth celebrating.


I was reminded, today, of the importance of not only having a list of healthy coping tools handy but also keeping a schedule. I have the best friends who remind me of what I need and remind me to remember what has helped in the past.

What has helped me in the past (items in bold are usually reliable quick fixes, the others are more long-term solutions):
Riding my stationary bike often.
Painting regularly.
Cooking and eating meals that do good things to my body.
Watching game shows on television.
Taking a shower.
Wearing clothes that feel good on my body.
Cooking meals that we only get to eat when it’s cold outside.
Visiting with friends and checking in.

New things that I want to try:
Getting a “happy lamp”.
Taking a Vitamin D3 supplement.
Keeping the house cleaner than usual.
Learn about Hygge and lean more on that vibe.

Another thing that I want to remember is that it’s okay to not be okay and trying to fit a square peg into a round hole only makes things worse.

Please, I would love it if you’d share your list of coping mechanisms or other things you use to get through the hardest seasons for you. I’m going to keep a list in my planner, next to my bed, and in my phone. I never want to be without it. Let’s help hold one another up as the days get shorter.


A Week Without a Phone

Last week I was having coffee with my friends and their kids. It’s one of my most favorite things to do because I feel like a lot of the time, we forget how important face-to-face interaction is in our relationships.  When we were talking, I mentioned to my friend Kellory that every time she doesn’t respond to a text message, I feel jealous. Like, I wish that I could be so untethered from my phone that I could go let more than 90 seconds go by without responding to a text. I can barely even go 90 seconds without checking my phone to see if I’ve received a new update. I don’t like that about me.

We finished our coffee and I drove over to the library to get a new book. On my way back out to my car, I pulled out my phone to send a text to Ryan. Just then, I dropped it on the concrete. Now, look, I’ve dropped my phone approximately four bazillion times since I’ve owned it and never ever has it ever cracked. I knew it was a matter of time. I picked up my phone off the ground and to my horror, this thing was utterly and completely shattered. Just… like… obliterated.

Since it was already set up to send a text, it went ahead and sent Ryan some texts. I don’t know how but it did. It was writing random letters that the phone, then, autocorrected into something that made Ryan think I’d had some kind of a stroke. He was truly concerned. I don’t remember exactly what my phone told him but along with the gibberish was definitely the word “bad”? Which… just… that’s not a comfortable text to receive.

So I drove right down to my phone place where everyone is awesome and they were like, “you have excellent insurance on your phone which means that we can repair it for about $30.”
And I was like, “Okay but that kind of falls under the category of ‘okay’ insurance, not exactly ‘excellent’ but semantics I guess.”
And then they were all, “Oh… but you’ll be without your phone for 10 days.”
So, I was like, “Again… ‘excellent’ isn’t exactly a word that I would use to describe this but whatever.” (Full disclosure they did give me other options to get it fixed faster but your girl’s on a budget.)

But I was kind of excited about being forced to be without a phone for ten days. Like, I can still text Ryan via my computer. I can still Instagram on my iPad (which is one of the only ways I market this here blog so I didn’t want to go 10 days without using it). We’ll make do.

I have not missed text messages. I have not missed phone calls. I have not missed being easily accessible to everyone that I know.

I have missed not being able to easily and quickly photograph the beautiful things that I encounter in my day. I didn’t realize what a big part of my life that was until it was gone. I like that. I like celebrating and hoarding the little beautiful things that I see every day. Mostly shadows and reflections or garbage on the ground or leaves or lists or handwriting.

I have noticed that without the immediate gratification of dictating my whole entire day whether by telling a story via text or writing an on-the-go Facebook post, I have more words. I have more words to write. This week without a phone has been one where I feel filled to the brim with words to write and things to tell you about in due time. Isn’t that nice?

I think for that reason and that reason alone, I’d like to give myself more phone time-outs. Because it’s good for my work. Or at least, it’s good for my brain and a good brain does good work.

Who I am, Today.

I started out my summer with goals that I wanted to reach. And to be fair, I really did reach a lot of those goals–you can check out the progress, here. They were very practical and easy to cross off of a list. Did I meet Fiona from the Cincinnati Zoo? No, did I go to the Cincinnati Zoo? I sure did. I met her parents–that counts.

But regardless of what was on my bucket list, this summer has been… full. My summer didn’t care about my expectations. My summer said, “that’s cute–let’s dedicate the next few months to a complete shift in your whole identity, doesn’t that sound fun?” I’m being stretched and pulled in a lot of completely unexpected ways. In ways that I still don’t have words for. I think that’s why I re-started reading and writing poetry this summer–because there’s just not a way to say it without metaphors, and broken up half-thoughts. There’s no way to really describe this beauty and the pain and the confusion and the absolute knowing–the &/Both-ness of life, as it were. I’m holding complete certainty in one hand and a whole dose of “what the fuck” in the other hand and I’m standing out on a ledge like I chased the Roadrunner and I also feel completely held. All at the same time.  I’m sorry this isn’t making sense but hey–I don’t wrap up neatly. I’m a dynamic creature.

I keep picturing myself as a house and I feel like I happened upon a secret room that, despite living in this house for nearly 34 years, I had never noticed before.  One day I’ll tell you about whats inside of this room. Even though everything in my life is for everyone–some things are mine, first. There is a season.

Last night we (the creators of &/Both Magazine) had a photo shoot. I’d kind of been dreading it because I’ve been wrestling with, like I said, identity issues. The idea of taking these photos–specifically to be used as an introduction at this exact moment in my life when I’m feeling not uncomfortably unsettled but unsettled nonetheless was sort of stressing me out.

But like anything I do, I give you who I am right now. Who I am, today. I am in a constant state of transition from one person to another to another to another.


And also, as you can see, that photo shoot was friggin’ awesome. Once I arrived, I felt so at ease. I felt so happy and excited. I’ve never felt so comfortable in front of a camera, before. Driving home, listening to Lemonade, I was riding so high. Talking to Beyonce like she’s in the car with me, “Girl, yes, best revenge is your paper! You better get that paper!” I texted my husband and invited him out to a bar for a drink just because I wasn’t ready to put this look to bed just yet.

In conclusion, things are incredible. And scary. And huge. And simple. And evolving. And I’m here for it–all of it.


A Pep Talk For When You Need One

You’re having feelings. So many feelings. Maybe even too many feelings. And if you’re anything like me, too many feelings feels an awful lot like none at all.

You might be doing that thing where you’re trying to rush the process. You might be fighting against the waves that are crashing all over you and that’s okay. That’s your impulse to stay alive. That’s okay but it’s important to know that you will get very tired very quickly. Can I make a suggestion? Just get the attention of someone else who is on shore. Sometimes just knowing that someone can see you drowning will revitalize something inside of you to focus, stop flailing, and do what you need to do to get to shore. That person might even have a life vest to throw out to you when you’re close enough to grab it.

And you just barely get up on shore and you flop down in the sand–on your back, spread eagle, vulnerable as all hell but breathing is the only priority right now. Your muscles are weak and your throat is burning but even by the time that you catch your breath, you’re in the process of getting up. Because your impulse is to live. Your body wants to keep itself alive despite the ache. Your spirit wants to keep itself alive. Despite the ache.

Yesterday my friend Sherilyn said, “It’s all part of being human to both resist and embrace it.”

Embrace it.

Let me tell you about the ache: It’s a sacred time. As long as you’re aching, you’re in a rare space and you’re going to want to pretend it’s not there. But lean into it. Learn from it. Rip yourself open in this achey time and gather all the knowledge and self-awareness that you can. Get your pay day. It’s part of it. I won’t walk through it without a payoff. None of this is for free. You can’t pay any kind of money for this sort of an education.

And I’m not going to hide my grief from you or anyone. I don’t–you don’t benefit from pretending that everything is fine. I’m not going to hunker down until I feel all better so that all you’ll see in this space is a well thought out, mature, healed woman. It’s for you. All of this is for you. I’m mining gold and I’m passing it out like candy and beads.

You have moved mountains, before, and you’re going to do it again so why not now?


You Don’t Need More Balance in Your Life

I wrote about this on Instagram a few weeks ago and it’s something I’ve just been thinking about ever since.


I posted this photo with the caption: I don’t often clean the kitchen at night. I usually just put away the leftovers and let things soak overnight. But last night I was hooked on the new S-Town podcast so I cleaned the kitchen while I finished it. And let me tell you–there is nothing that quenches my spirit quite like waking up to a clean kitchen. Days like these I vow a new lifestyle change–I’ll ALWAYS clean the kitchen at night to start tomorrow off on the right foot. But I’m not going to make false promises, today. I’m just going to unload the dishwasher and feel very grateful for this lovely morning. I will apply no guilt or expectations on tomorrow.

We talk all the time about how it’s important to have balance in your life. Like how it’s okay to have a donut because you ate a spinach salad for lunch and: balance. But you know what’s literally impossible to maintain? Balance.

But I guess that’s why it’s so exciting. You can balance something for a long time and the longer you do it, the more impressive it is but the harder it gets. You get tired or you simply don’t have the time to keep devoting to balancing these two very specific things while ignoring the rest. You always have to put it down. We’re not looking for balance. Balance is stressful by nature. There’s really no way to casually stand in tree pose for your whole life. There’s no way to casually keep track of all the “bad things” you do and try to add up enough “good things” to make sure that everything stays in line.

This is a system destined for failure—designed to keep you preoccupied. Designed to keep you down. Drop it, my friends. Drop it with me right now. Don’t give yourself one more ball to hold. You don’t need to keep track of another thing on your mental list. Sit in it when things are good and acknowledge it when things are bad because we get both. All day every day both exist together all the time. Like just this morning within ten minutes, a dear friend of mine was telling me about how her brother, who lives in South Korea, has been asked to pack a bag because they may be ordered to leave. And then she told me about how she signed her girls up for swimming lessons this summer and it’s going to be so cute. You can work hard for balance all you like but it’s just not coming for us. Everything’s co-existing all at once.

We don’t need a balance, we need a blend. There’s a reason that you stir vinegar or lemon juice in at the end of cooking that delicious, rich sauce. There’s a reason that sweet and sour taste so good together. I mean, look, when it comes to a tray of nachos, your favorite chip has a little bit of everything on it. You don’t go out to eat a chip and then balance with a spoonful of sour cream and then a jalapeno. Well, maybe you do. You do you. But the rest of us search out the perfect few chips that have just a little bit of everything on them.

And once I thought of it this way—my life as a tray of nachos, oh such freedom. Because even though the concept of balance is supposed to give us some liberty, the truth is that it’s just another thing to manage. And I’m so tired of managing things, you guys. Let’s drop it and invite in the concept of the blend.

What do you say?