All posts filed under: Mind

Depression in the Time of COVID-19 and a Lifetime Before

I’m afraid of my bed. When I landed in a major depressive episode at the end of last October, bed wasn’t exactly a choice. My legs suddenly grew heavy. Bed called as if I were being suctioned toward it. Although there was nowhere in particular I wanted to be, just anywhere else, I felt scared there. Bed was a place my chronically depressed father had always favored. Because I didn’t want to be majorly, chronically depressed like him, bed became a Rubicon. And I crossed it. From bed, I listened to the sounds of life being lived out of bed, beyond my room. Cars, the early morning train at six, runners, kids parading to and from school buses, and sometimes the cacophony my household made while I couldn’t connect with it during those weeks. The autumn air grew thinner and the leaves fell and were swept away. Far outside earshot, I understood people were busy. They were getting book contracts, getting new jobs, going to classes, going to work. I wasn’t. I could barely crawl …

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While Writing a Book About Self Worth, I Had to Learn How to Practice It

Earlier this summer, after learning a writing teacher I wanted to study with in Cape Cod wasn’t available, I asked my literary coach and yoga instructor, Lisa Weinert, to help me put together a personalized writing retreat that I could enjoy at home in New York City. Instead of escaping to spend time writing in some remote bucolic place, I’d find peace in the chaos of Manhattan. I spend a lot of time focusing on fleeing where I live in order to get in touch with — or to reclaim — another part of myself. And although I love a good island or mountain vacation, all too many times I’ve come home and the sense of peace I enjoyed evaporates as I try to shove my suitcases onto the closing doors of the subway after a long flight home.  It was ironic. I spent so much time dreaming about visiting other places, but here I was, planning more time in the thick August heat of New York City while everyone else was dreaming of the …

One Cookie at a Time: Carrying the Weight of My Anxiety

I’ve been anxious for most of my life. I can trace my anxiety back to age six, the year my parents officially separated. Back then, we called my dad an alcoholic. Now, we’d call him what he really was: bipolar, self-medicating with alcohol. I remember sitting on a blue velvet couch in our living room, as a police officer, a friend’s father , came to haul my dad away. Our dog insisted on getting into the squad car with him, so the officer took her too. Just moments before, dad had arrived at our house to find himself locked out due to his volatile behavior. Enraged, he smashed a window trying to get in and cut the phone line ensuring we couldn’t call for help. A retired cop himself, he knew all the tricks. Thanks to our neighbor whose phone line was not cut, that’s as far as he got before the cops arrived.  My father’s violent and erratic behavior continued, several days later, when he arrived at my elementary school, trying to convince my …

I Wish I Could Forget My Memory Lapses

My friends and I have started to lose our memories. Not in a drastic, “Where do I live again?” type of way. Or even in a milder, “Ohhh, my bra goes on the inside of my shirt” type of way. We’ve just started to have a few memory  — lapses. Like when I was telling my friend Jane a story about an old job of mine, and it was making her laugh until I said, “So I asked my boss John… shit, what was his last name again?” and then we had to suffer through a two-minute lull while I looked up at the ceiling and she looked down at her fingernails before I finally huffed, “GAWD, never mind.” Jane didn’t care about this interruption, but I did because trying to remember that guy’s name totally wrecked the flow of my anecdote. And it’d been a good anecdote up until that point. Maybe one of my best. But what I’ve come to realize is that these pauses that happen when women of a certain age try to recall …

Why Healing Touch is Better Than a Grilled Cheese Sandwich

When I tell someone I have a healing touch practitioner, I still have the impulse to apologize — to feel some misplaced, new age shame for saying my magnetic energy fields need realignment, or even to speak of having them at all. It’s silly. You’d think that after 30-odd years at the spiritual salad bar — self-help books, yoga, rosaries, meditation and finally the path of sobriety — that I’d just come out with whatever I’m doing now to keep myself in check with no concern about the possible woo-woo factor. I send my dog to day care, for God’s sake. What kind of shame about my life choices can I possibly have left? A little, it’s true. Deep inside of this post-millennial searcher is the voice of the Greatest Generation that helped to raise me, that says — with love — that a grilled cheese sandwich, a beer and maybe a movie will fix what ails me, so stop my bitching. But that’s been proven disastrously wrong. So I’ve learned that when the magnetic …

Silencing Your Screaming Mimi: 4 Ways to Quiet Your Inner Critic

Recently, I had a massage with a therapist I’d never met before. After I arranged myself facedown on her table, Denise (who is thankfully a petite woman) climbed aboard, sitting atop my backside with her knees digging into my glutes. Denise read my reaction, which was silence, as permission to push deeper, shifting her weight from side to side to accentuate the pressure on each cheek. “Wow,” she said. “You have a high pain threshold. Most people scream when I do this.” Later, she worked on my neck, shoulders and spine, then pressed her fingers into the top of my skull. It was then that she apparently determined that I was screaming…on the inside. “Hmmm,” she murmured thoughtfully. “You might want to think about stopping all the yelling you’ve got going on inside your body.” Did Denise possess some sort of X-ray hearing? Because while her assessment might seem nutty, she was exactly right: Denise had run smack into my inner banshee who was, as usual, roaring at the top of her lungs. Mimi is …

Why I Was Ungrateful For Those Gratitude Lists

For many years, you could spare me your gratitude lists. I didn’t want any of that manufactured positivity. I didn’t believe in it, couldn’t abide by it. The last thing I needed was your swirly font and numbered reasons to dig life, doubling as a reminder of all of the things I didn’t have. Then, faced with a choice to change everything or die, I quit drinking. The first person who really helped me understand how to live as a sober person asked me to send her a gratitude list as soon as I woke up every day. It wasn’t really negotiable. She told me a grateful person had a better chance of not drinking, and my desire to quit was bigger than my hatred of gratitude lists. l had also opened my big mouth and told her I would try anything to get better, so I shut up and sent her five things (mostly) every morning, in a plain black font text thread. My gratitude lists include being alive and they often include coffee, as some mornings …

I Spy: How a Simple Game Ignited My Senses

When I was a kid, I was sick all of the time and missed many days of school. I almost got held back in first grade because I was absent more days than I attended that year. I don’t remember the actual sickness too much, but I do have memories of spending time in the doctor’s waiting room with my mother. “I spy something yellow,” she’d say. “Is it the chair?” I’d say. “No.” “Is it the doll’s dress?” “No.” “Is it the flowers?” And so went this looking and guessing until what was spied was discovered. On the surface, this simple game helped to pass the time while we waited. But on a deeper level, it cultivated skills of observation and required us to open our senses and notice what was around us. This rooted us to the reality we were in, which, whether my mother knew it or not, is a useful thing to do during moments of stress. The technique is called grounding and I came to know it decades later in …

When Lou Reed (Nearly) Beat Me Up in Tai Chi

Lou Reed does Tai Chi in NYC (Photo: YouTube) So let me tell you about the time Lou Reed roughed me up — a little. It was in 2004 or so. A colleague, who’d worked in the music biz, happened to mention that he took a regular Tai Chi class and that the rock-and-roll superstar was a regular attendee. “Excuse me? Repeat that?” “Yeah, he’s a Tai Chi expert, been taking the class for years. You should try it sometime…” Um, where do I sign up? I feigned interest in the martial art of Tai Chi; I’d seen the older Chinese women practicing in the basketball court near my apartment — it looked way too slow for my impatient monkey mind. But the idea of sweating aside one of my rock and roll heroes seemed like either the coolest or strangest thing in the world. I had to do it. Lou Reed and his first band, the Velvet Underground, were the soundtrack to my college years. My roommate dragging on a cigarette on a “Sunday …