21 December 2016



If there's anything I learned recently, it's that withholding sharing your partner's positive qualities (the "say") or affection (the "do") with your partner themselves can make or break a relationship.

Having Matt hold them back from me broke ours, in a way that led not to an explosive end, but a quiet fizzle and a whimper of defeat.

It wasn't just that the "say" or the "do" were withheld; they were replaced with sarcasm, tear-downs, and critical eyes, done because he was "uncomfortable" with sharing any sort of praise or affection. While sex itself was never an issue, there was no warmth, there were no hugs, there was no hand-holding or kisses. There was little appreciation for accomplishments big and small, just wondering what more I could have done.

There was no trusting environment, no place to find solace within the four walls of our townhouse, and after a while, the walls inside my head started to become a less safe place, too.

For the longest time, I thought I had failed. I felt rejected, unworthy, dismissed. After a while, I had little integrity and self-respect. The life was sucked from me despite a fa├žade showing a happy face to the world; I didn't mean anything to my partner, so how could I mean anything to anyone else.

After a while, I started withholding, too. Not to the same extent, but whether because I didn't feel like sharing his positive qualities when none of mine were acknowledged or because I was actually starting to feel less like he even had any positive qualities, I had already started building my fortress, walled myself against the painful lack of affection and sealing my own away.

Talking didn't help. Fighting didn't help. We're three weeks away from being able to file for divorce (thanks, Maryland), and while that's been good for us in many ways, for this, it still hasn't helped.

Worse, I started to wonder if every relationship would have the same foundation: Lacking clear and kind communication, denying romance or sweetness or affection, feeling complacency instead of love, refusing to share good and bad because you certainly could and should have done more, squelching that part of yourself because why bother when your partner will never return it.

A month or two ago, Tycho was throwing a tantrum in the kitchen over wanting cookies and milk despite not finishing his dinner. While I didn't give in to his demand, I did sit on the floor, at his level, and wait for him to compose himself. After a few minutes, through hiccups and tears, he asked again if he could have cookies, and again I said no; the next question he asked:

"Can I have a hug?"

When Tycho is upset, one of the first things I'll offer him is just that: a hug. It's his reset button, and it assures him I'm there for him no matter what. In my arms, he feels safe, calm, and open, and he's more willing to give me his all. My hugs are his judgment-free zone.

I'm much older than he is, obviously, but I still sometimes feel like I need the same: A safe, calm, and open environment where I can truly be myself and know I'll be readily accepted, no matter what. I didn't have that in my marriage; if anything, I had the opposite, and it affected how I cared for myself or what I thought I was worthy of.

I held back so many emotions because I felt unsafe.

But now... now I share myself with someone emotionally intelligent, open, empathetic, caring, and yes... safe. It goes both ways, too; despite still occasionally feeling inadequate or fake (because, after so long denying you feel this way at all, actually expressing it is akin to acting), my emotions and sentiments toward him are entirely real, and I am so goddamn thankful to have that space to share my entire self with someone I love with every fiber of my being, and for him to feel the same.

I sometimes wish I had this in my marriage. It would have made for a freeing and rewarding experience, being able to share yourself fully with someone, for that someone to celebrate you fully, and to return the favor with zeal.

But... while I never it there, I'm lucky to have had the opportunity to experience it at all, share my all, and celebrate him, too.  And damn right, I'll be sure to point out every last amazing thing about him. ♥

09 November 2016

Why I will not abandon the United States... and why you shouldn't, either. (Even if you really fucking want to!)

via (and a great related article)

I am fortunate to have so many wonderful friends around the world, some of whom I've never met in real life. They are in places like Australia, Germany, Sweden, Canada, South Africa... literally scattered across different continents, each as beautiful as the next.

At one point or another during the presidential primaries, they have all offered me and my son safe haven where they are, with no time limit and with every intention to make us staying there a permanent thing.

On Tuesday, the United States made history by electing a man entirely unfit to run for any political (or other) office, much less the presidency. We did a complete about-face from President Obama by electing someone so heinous, so unbelievably crass, so lacking moral fiber... but white. And male, I may add, considering his running mate was white, too. The racism and misogyny from this election is almost impossible to comprehend... how could we do this.

My friends have reached out again to offer the same safe haven, this time with a sense of urgency for what America had done to itself. I've joked about (and... erm, researched) seeking asylum in another country several times during this election season, especially when Trump won the Republican primary. I knew he would get it, and knowing how zealously marginalized white men (and some other individuals!) have felt with a black president in office, I knew Trump would be our president-elect.

That same night, Canada's immigration site crashed as like-minded Americans sought to get the fuck out of what they never signed up for in the first place. I've done the same, and when my friends have reached out saying they have space for me and Tycho, no doubt... I considered it. I'm still considering it.

You know what, though? I can't leave.

Not because I physically or logistically or even eligibly can't. I can, and I have ample opportunity, as well as some fantastic people willing to help me and my son create a new homeland and start a new life.

But this election is now so much bigger than me and what I want to do. It's turned instead into what I, and others on the same side, need to do to protect our women, our LGBTQ+, our Muslims, our disabled, our blacks, our immigrants, our people. Our Americans who, because of their minority status, will be treated like second-class citizens by at least half the country and, equally horrifying, their leadership.

Even if their policies never materialize, both the rhetoric from the primaries and how Trump emboldened a group of people to outwardly express their hatred for minority groups have already done their damage. In fact, that is probably the more dangerous part than any policy Trump could ever dream up or attempt to implement: outright bigotry is now normalized.

But it's not too late. Now is our time to work towards reversing that damage.

Republicans (or conservatives) against Trump, I know this will be reminiscent of watching your best friend completely blow it on the dance floor (that is, awkwarrrrd)... but you're in a particularly excellent place to change the establishment from the inside out. I implore you to become active in and even employed by your local, state, and federal government to directly change rule of law that will come from your own party or wing.

Democrats (or liberals, or progressives -- holla!) need to hold Trump accountable to the law, to the Constitution, and to the truth. The real truth, not Trump's warped, narcissistic, self-serving version of that truth. Write in to and call your government officials at all levels, assemble grassroots efforts to protect those who need it most, and make your voices LOUD and CLEAR. You make up half this country, and your voice will help those who cannot speak for themselves.

And everyone: We have the power of dissent, we have the power to be advocates. A group of Americans are already using that power to protest the election in several major metropolitan areas across the United States, and even if this inevitable inauguration happens, the fire needs to keep burning.

It will be a long, busy, exhausting four years, and they will almost absolutely bring some awful policies, broken families, personal struggle... but if we all work together, we will do our part to ensure we don't free-fall into the worst situation fathomable.

America: I love you. I truly do. I love every last one of your citizens, for all their flaws and convictions. And despite wanting so badly to leave as the writing on the wall surrounds us... I stand with you, and I will stand for all your citizens.

Plan. Mobilize. Listen. Empathize. Stand up. Be heard. Work fast. Care for yourself.

And don't leave... FIGHT.




28 October 2016

Telling myself the truth.


I've often been accused of being able to "get over" something quickly like it's a bad thing, or act as if the feeling associated with a bad situation doesn't exist, or move on and "discard" things I see as negative influences in my life with seemingly no consequence. Most recently (and frequently), I've been accused of compartmentalizing.

Samhain is when I typically reflect on the past year, what all has transpired, and what I may learn for the coming turn of the wheel. This one brings with it some interesting challenges: Moving out, custody agreements (and disagreements), making a life on my own, graduate school, breakups and makeups and breakups again... this year really ran the gamut of life-changing, sometimes sucky experiences.

And yes, for the most part, I've been able to separate the feeling from the fact, accomplish what I needed without a lot of fuss or muss. I initially found that ability not at all detrimental; in fact, I found it beneficial, as I could disentangle myself from the emotional bullshit that comes from the situation.

I explored this more when prompted this week to write a poem using Dorianne Laux's Heart as the example. Choose a word, reflect on it, then write a poem of metaphors.

I originally had "compartment" at the top of my assignment, thinking that would be its direction. The more I researched the word's meaning, though, the less I thought it applied:
Compartmentalization (in psychology) is an unconscious psychological defense mechanism used to avoid cognitive dissonance, or the mental discomfort and anxiety caused by a person's having conflicting values, cognitions, emotions, beliefs, etc. within themselves.
So it did end up being inappropriate; while I do have my coping mechanisms, there's no cognitive dissonance experienced by removing the feeling. It's just... removing the feeling in the first place.

Freudian psychoanalysis provides more appropriate ego defense mechanisms:
Isolation occurs when an individual separates ideas or feelings from thoughts or situations, notably those producing anxiety or stress, and often replaces them with purposeful happiness.
Intellectualization, a form of isolation, concentrates on the intellectual components of a situation in particular so as to distance oneself from the associated anxiety-provoking emotions (that is, thinking to avoid feeling).
Third perceptual position is a way to "achieve" intellectualization, where the individual adopts an independent observer role to gain new perspective and simultaneously removes their own emotion from the situation.
They're not great coping mechanisms by any means; in fact, after finding these, I readily see why someone would say I'm stoic or avoiding or, more positively, able to "see the silver lining" in everything.

This especially comes to light when I think about the last year and the biggest change therein: Deciding to divorce. Even here, I waxed poetic about getting my best friend back when, all defense mechanisms aside, I was destroyed and thought myself a failure. I hated asking for a divorce, I hated feeling like I didn't do enough, and honestly... I hated Matt, too, for his part in why I asked.

I refused to deal with the emotions as they came up, instead trying to find some reason for being and a glimmer of hope when all I wanted to do was collapse in my new kitchen, alone and dejected, and sob. It does eventually rear its ugly head, resulting in a depression lasting for days or even weeks at a time, but in an effort to get the shit over with, I emotionally isolate.

... I don't really know what I'm doing with this post. Maybe, by virtue of finding and internalizing my findings, I can do a better job feeling emotions as they come up rather than subconsciously positioning myself as a third party. Maybe this is just a way of recognizing and there's no real need to change.

Maybe... maybe this is a big fat fuck you to anyone who thinks I'm without emotion because frankly, how many people are open about hearing others' struggles? Who really wants to hear that my divorce is killing me? Who asks "how are you" with true intentions of wanting to know, rather than doing it out of social convention?

And after almost 32 years, who wants to believe I'm anything but happy?

I suppose this is me telling myself, it's okay to feel shitty sometimes, even in the moment. It's okay to acknowledge it, to feel it, to express it. It's okay for others to think you have no emotions, but it's reasonable to expect them to take those emotions seriously when you do feel them and express them to others, as they do exist and are felt and are often experienced deeply.

If they're not okay with that? Well. There's their big fat fuck you.

If they are? Then thank you... thanks for helping me acknowledge and feel and express, even if it's difficult for both or all of us. Especially if I struggle.

... I really don't have much more to say on this. But it feels good to finally tell myself the truth.

12 October 2016

Why my divorce is a good thing.

via (and a great article to boot!)

It's been about a year now since we informed the world of our impending divorce, and it'll be another three months or so before we can file.

Before anyone says "sorry" again, this has been a good thing for both me and Matt. We are, by and large, far happier apart than we were together, and our happiness cultivates better parents for our son, who remains the most important thing in our relationship (and will likely bind us for the rest of our lives).

I just happen to reflect on this now, as the wheel turns again and I find myself pondering loss, death, and ends. The American Divorce Story is so laden with such things, it's difficult to imagine it being anything but. This past year, though -- as I struggle to find my footing, carve my path, and stand straight as a soon-divorcee facing the 32nd turn of her own wheel -- I discovered it is anything but.

I've learned who I am and what I want out of life, and it's not stuck in something that drags both me and my partner down. This past year, I've become me: The badass, independent goddess with an inner rock star who doesn't take anything less than the absolute best from herself and her partners. I'm no longer compromising, and whether I feel the first pang of rejection or if I (gasp!) fall head over heels in love, I will still have myself and my dreams.

I've learned I'm not, in fact, a crazy person. While Matt and I were toxic for each other and I certainly won no Wife of the Year awards, I was still pretty convinced I was a complete failure at everything I attempted. Getting out of a self-destructive relationship and on my own helped me recover from the years of emotional beat-downs. Each bill paid, each good food selected, each piece of furniture or knick-knack meticulously placed, each time I fixed something on my own (with no one looking over my shoulder telling me it was wrong) became a personal testament to how capable I truly am.

I've learned my belief I was "boring" wasn't reflective of me. This really stuck out when I had a difficult time writing my OKC profile; while I consider myself relatively interesting with some pretty cool hobbies and talents (and I'm a writer, so this should be easy, right?!), actually telling strangers about myself was incredibly hard. I kept seeing myself as insipid and never worth anyone's time. From the dates I've been on, though, I may be worth it after all!

I've learned I made the right decision. Of course, no one wants to wake up in their 30s (or ever) with all their shit packed in a corner of the basement just waiting for the house to sell so you can move to a new apartment... alone. No one wants to question if staying would have been better than leaving because your home is suddenly so empty. But then you get that reminder, the cosmic two-by-four across the back of your skull saying, "What a dumbass! And not you... the other guy!" There have been moments even during this separation period where I was reminded how little respect was given to me, and those moments cement my decision every damn day.

There will come a time, I'm sure of it, when I have a life partner by my side who supports and encourages and respects me for who I am, and for whom I will be equally enthusiastic to support and encourage and respect. Until then, I'm happy to continue growing me... to face the darkness head on and emerge on the other side, truly reborn.

18 August 2016

Reach for the stars... you're guaranteed to hit something good along the way.

You guys. YOU GUYS!! I can't believe I haven't written about this sooner, but the overwhelming joy swept me off my feet with such gusto, I didn't even think to say anything here.

I got into grad school!!


Okay, so! After graduating from Florida State in 2007 with my BA in Creative Writing and Music, I applied to a Creative Writing master's program through the University of Central Florida, where I was promptly denied. Too little life experience, they said, and I agreed, tucking my tail between  my legs. My spirit was crushed; all I ever wanted to do was become a writer and flourish in a community of like-minded creative souls, and receiving that rejection letter drove a stake through my heart.

The next several years were spent getting a degree in Legal Studies and doing paralegal work across Orlando and, after moving, around Maryland. The job was great and I learned a whole hell of a lot, but I wasn't fulfilled; it wasn't until one of my best friends, Sam, referred me to a legitimate writer/editor job that I got my "big break" into the professional writing world.

Getting into grad school remained in the back of my mind, though, and after some encouragement and a Graduate Open House that had me literally writhing with excitement, I finally bucked up the courage and applied. Many, if not all, of my writing samples came from this blog, and my Personal Statement (or Statement of Purpose) shirked convention by talking not about how I've "always wanted to be a writer since developing my first short story at the tender age of seven," but about already being a writer and what the grad program, its instructors, and my fellow classroom colleagues could learn from one another.

Two long, agonizing months passed with no word. Once they received my final letter of recommendation and the status on my account changed from "incomplete" to "awaiting decision," I checked nearly every other hour for something, anything. At that point, while my heart would have withstood damage beyond belief, even getting a rejection was better than the waiting game.

And finally, after going three whole days without obsessively checking my account, I received this email:

(Can I say, thank GOD they include "Congratulations!" in the very first line?! Even before opening the email, I was running around the office!)

I am OVER THE MOON!! There are literally no words adequate to describe this level of exuberance and the want to jump out of my own skin. I start this coming semester with a Poetry Workshop, which is awesome on so many levels: (1) I've never done a poetry workshop, and just thinking how it will enhance my writing is daunting and exhilarating all at once; (2) I consider my writing poetic already, so studying actual poetry will only expand those horizons; and (3) my academic advisor and the department head opened up a new section just so I could be in her class. She personally re-reviewed my application and said she thought a poetry workshop would be fantastic for my writing, so she ensured I had a spot so I can study with her.

AMAZING. Amazing!!!

So, in celebration, and considering I'm sure several others are looking for MFA Personal Statement inspiration (because I legit googled the SHIT out of them before drafting my own), here's my submission. May it serve as fodder for your own graduate application packages. :)

Love love LOVE to y'all!!

Personal Statement

Stephanie Fox, prospective graduate student

UBalt MFA: Creative Writing and Publishing Arts

Concentration in Non-Fiction

I’m a veritable unicorn of the literary world, a writer lucky enough to actually do what she loves for a living.

… well, okay, the work isn’t exactly what I want to do, but I get a steady (and livable) paycheck every two weeks to write and edit a plethora of different materials every single day. The rub? I’m a government contractor, so what I end up writing is limited to technical documents, the security workforce, professional certifications, and the Department of Defense. Not quite what I’d call riveting, though I try to write in a way that’s not drier than a well-done filet. You know, something palatable.

My work is certainly challenging, though; not a day goes by when I’m not genuinely thankful to pursue my passion, push the boundaries to write creatively and develop intriguing imagery for an otherwise mild industry and audience, and—let’s face it—put the exorbitant amount of money I already put into my undergraduate education to good use. However, between this career and the preceding six years as a paralegal (since, as implied, actually getting a job related to your undergraduate degree is easier said than done), I’ve noticed my own personal writing pursuits trending towards a distinct flatness and, eventually, a rather boring voice.

I had an incredible undergraduate experience. My first two years were spent as a Music Performance major, an up-and-coming professional violinist playing in full orchestras, smaller chamber ensembles, and solo works. The equally (or exceedingly) creative people around me were nothing short of inspiring, and I drew on a lot of that creativity and talent as I progressed through my degree.

Halfway through my junior year, I decided to double major in Creative Writing and instantly found an equally (or exceedingly!) creative group of aspiring novelists and essayists, all working together to hone their individual talents and foster a community that encouraged others to pave their own destiny paths. For the remaining year and a half of my college experience, my writing improved dramatically, my portfolio increased exponentially, and my voice sang from the rooftops (on key, of course, considering my musical training). I loved reading my classmates’ work and getting their comments back on mine, critically examining every line for intent and purpose while appreciating the work as a whole and how each line played its part. I ultimately discovered a fondness for creative non-fiction, learning to see my life as a narrative and turning ordinary life and any little experience within it into an introspective work of art.

Nowadays, I’m paid to write and edit for a major government organization under the DoD umbrella. The love for critical examination cultivated during my undergraduate career and its writing community gave way to becoming a subject matter expert in my field, offering editorial expertise and constructive criticism when nitpicking my colleagues’ writing. But it’s a lonely life, being the only writer and editor in my division and one of two in my entire directorate, with no ability to have others review my work with the same fervent desire to find meaning as I did in the writing community from years ago.

I recently attended a Graduate Open House for the University of Baltimore’s Creative Writing and Publishing Arts MFA Program, where I had the pleasure of meeting potential future classmates guided by a similar passion and love for the written word. Simply listening to them discuss their experiences, desires, and dreams was inspirational; I heard the hunger in their voices, the craving for experiencing and influencing others’ writing while developing their own voices as those around them experience and influence them.

I practically wriggled in my seat when Dr. Kendra Kopelke, with her devotion not only for poetry but for helping her students “plork” (or finding play in your work, if any of my colleagues—stuffed to the gills with overcooked, unseasoned meat—could ever imagine such a thing!), danced and gesticulated and took my imagination to new heights as she described the program and her students’ accomplishments. In her own right, and if she is any indication of how other professors in the MFA Program approach the written word, Dr. Kopelke was the one who truly inspired me to file my graduate studies application with UBalt.

I’ve obviously overcome one major hurdle in every aspiring writer’s narrative: “I want to be a writer when I grow up,” and I’ve managed to do just that by firmly establishing a career where I write every day for a modest living. No mean feat, but this achievement comes almost at the cost of my personal expression. In researching MFA programs around Maryland, I discovered one that pushed creative limits and nurtured each student’s individual energy and spirit while offering that work-life balance. More than anything, being an MFA student at UBalt would provide the opportunity to commune with other fervent and talented writers, foster a new creative community where I could both develop myself and help develop others, grow as a writer while finding balance between my professional work and personal “plork,” and bring that passion back into my voice.

Then, once again, I will sing on-key from the rooftops.

18 July 2016

Medicine Cards: Armadillo

I was writing out a list of personal boundaries (because honestly, I've never done it before, and now being in my 30s and writing them down, I see how important they really are) when the armadillo came across my Facebook feed. I found it interesting, so I did a little investigation on the animal totem and discovered this story. I swear, the Universe sometimes works in strange ways...

Armadillo wears its armor on its back, its medicine a part of its body. Its boundaries of safety are part of its total being. Armadillo can roll into a ball and never be penetrated by enemies.

What a gift it is to set your boundaries so that harmful words or intentions just roll off. Your lesson is in setting up what you are willing to experience. If you do not wish to experience feeling invaded, just call on Armadillo medicine.

If Armadillo has waddled into your cards, it is time to define your space. [...] It may be time to ask yourself the following questions: (1) Am I honoring the time I need for my personal enjoyment? (2) Do others treat me as a doormat? (3) Why do I always get upset when I am taken for granted? (4) Is there a reason for my being a "yes" person?

[...] If you have no boundaries, you are like a sponge. It will seem as if all the feelings in a room full of poeple must be yours. Ask yourself if you are really feeling depressed, or if this feeling actually belongs to the person you are talking to. Then allow Armadillo's armor to slide in between, giving you back your sense of self.


The underside of Armadillo is soft, but its armor will protect this softness if the boundaries are in place. Hiding from your true feelings and fearing failure or rejection will amplify your need for cast-iron protection. You have the power to rid yourself of these doubts and to touch the deepest part of beingness. You will know you are doing the right thing.

Overview: Respect your Sacred Space. Drop hesitations and banish abuse. Use proper boundaries and thrive.

14 July 2016



I'm not going to crack. There's too much in this world that brings me joy, pleasure, excitement, unbridled happiness, and to forsake all that for the darkness that envelops me... I can't crack.
It's so easy to forget all that is good when your perception of the world flatlines. Not really dead, but not really here; hovering just in the middle, where even finding something truly enjoyable is suppressed by the weight of all things heavy and disheartening and depressing.
I've been like this for a couple days now with no real sign of the clouds lifting. Those of you who also suffer depression know it just happens -- one day, you're driving down the road on your way to work and you wonder if it would really be all that bad if one of the two-by-fours in the truck ahead of you dislodged and flew through your windshield. It's not a serious thought, really, but you're struck by how little you believe that matters, or that anything actually matters.
All the energy I have is devoted to mustering even a breath. Writing this? Difficult, considering I can't feel my arms. And the voices in my head telling me "you're worthless, why would anyone want to stay, don't say anything, keep to yourself, you're shitty and no one loves you..." they end up taking away that energy to breathe, to type, to rationalize.
But I'm still here, and at this point, that's really all that counts. I have a beautiful boy and a strong love keeping me afloat, though neither understands what's going on or how to help, if they can at all. Sometimes, all you need is for your son to laugh uncontrollably as you make "tickle bubbles" in the pool, or for your partner to offer their hand... not grab it, not drag it over, but let it be there for when you need that lifeline.
And I have myself. That doesn't feel like much right now -- in fact, having myself feels more like a burden than a blessing, especially as I continue keeping others' feelings in consideration and further neglecting myself by telling myself how undeserving I am. When I return, though? I'll have myself, truly.
Something good has to come out of this. I can't be "gifted" with this ugly, manipulative monster and not see how his existence can actually better my life when he's vanquished (until the next time, at least). I've been dealt a hand containing all these shitty low-value cards, but what if they amount to a royal flush?
In that spirit, and in the interest of finding a bright spot somewhere, here are my Top Eight Good Things About Depression:
1. I have become pretty self-aware.
I mean, I consider myself a pretty "happy" person a majority of the time, which is probably why it shocks others to the core when I fall victim to depression. Those moments, though, when the darkness sets in and your world comes to a standstill while the planet continues revolving, act as a viewfinder into who you are and force you to become introspective.
As a result of this questioning and analyzing, you have a better perspective on how your behavior affects yourself and those around you, and you take active measures to remain cognizant of both. Many great creators -- artists, musicians, poets, writers -- have experienced depression at some point, and it's likely this introspection that leads them to the art they create.
2. I am more empathetic.
Not everyone wears their heart on their sleeve, but I've noticed those who speak little to others actually reach out to me in need. I like to think struggling with your own inner demons leads to a better understanding of what's important to others, and when you share that importance with them, it makes them feel appreciated and valued. I've had some fascinating discussions with people who want only to be heard by someone who truly wants to hear about their passions.
3. Depression helps my thinking.
Okay, not all the time -- see the two-by-four. There are times when the thoughts only serve to hurt you. But those less threatening obsessions and ruminations actually become fodder for analytical thinking. Your brain is constantly on the treadmill, running through its monstrous thoughts ("he hates me, he never loved me, and why would he considering who I am"), then once you realize it's the monster thinking and not you, seeking ways in which that monster is wrong.
4. I don't have a choice about staying physically fit.
Yoga is one of my mainstays for staying sane, so I practice at least twice a week. I'm developing a home practice, too, with the help of some killer podcasts. I've also developed a link between eating well and positive days; perhaps more importantly, there exists the desire to drown myself in carbs and cheese and chocolate and other crap food when I'm feeling down, and that only serves to make me feel even heavier (in more ways than just physically).
I'm by no means disciplined, and sometimes I do give in to those desires -- my lunch today is leftover lasagna, speaking of carbs and cheese -- but eating better and exercising means feeling better, too.
5. I am less judgmental.
You've heard the demand for people to pull themselves "up by their bootstraps," right? Even if they're giving their all, it's never enough for those who believe everyone can do better. Being disabled by a disease that wrecks my life to varying degrees every month or two, I know firsthand just how difficult it is to tear yourself out of bed and brush your teeth, much less the effort someone may need to put in every day to accomplish at least that much. I also know what it's like to be judged by these efforts, and like hell will I ever judge anyone for putting in the most they can, even if it seems very little to those around them.
6. I've cultivated compassion.
When you have experienced the want to cry in the middle of a board room for no reason at all, you become attuned to people who want to do the same. Even listlessly staring into space can be sign enough that someone needs to know they're valued, they're loved, they're important. Now when I see someone tearing up, I instantly tune into my intuition, feeling the weight of their sadness, and offer a hand or a hug if they want. It's nice to know someone recognizes it and cares about you, even if it's a small gesture of kindness.
7. I retreat!
This is a constant work in progress, but I know I get angry and lash out when I fall into a state of depression, and I've learned to say little or to watch my tone when I do speak. It's difficult to keep others' needs in mind when you're not even focusing on your own, but being an asshole when depressed doesn't help the other person, especially since they're likely not the cause. I've even resorted to, "I love you, I just don't love myself right now, and I don't want to say anything I may regret later. I'm going to read for a bit," just to remove myself from situations.
8. Every day -- and every little thing -- counts.
I've truly believed this in the first place, anyway, but when life is so difficult you feel like literal crap, it's so easy to fall into a negativity trap and allow it to consume us. Good days are easy; I can appreciate the warm sun, my favorite shows, satisfying sex. Doing this when you're depressed? Like you're not already running a marathon to get yourself out the door, now I need to appreciate things, too?
Those little things you take for granted when you're happy feel herculean when depressed. Like right now, I am typing, breathing, and listening to music, all the while feeling nothing... so my exercises are to appreciate the ability to read, the clean air mingled with others' lunches cooking up (and their great cooking, if it smells this good!), and the guitar riffs lining up beautifully with the vocals.
Even as I write that, it puts me into the present, and those problems or emptiness I felt moments ago lift temporarily. For people suffering depression, there are these brief windows of respite, and those times lead to really clinging to those positive thoughts until they dominate once again.
"You have a track record of making it through every single day up to today." And I do. While not every day has been sunshine and roses, I'm still here, and I still right. And when mingled with the sun, these tears will only grow my garden.
I like it - I'm not gonna crack
I miss you - I'm not gonna crack
I love you - I'm not gonna crack
I killed you - I'm not gonna crack


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