March month-in-review Post

March month-in-review Post

Reflections on fear, vulnerability, and persistence.

Mid-March, I set up a spreadsheet to track my content and make these month-in-review posts easier to generate. Scrolling through March’s spreadsheet, I see “persistence” tagged in post after post.

In this post about how to respond when someone hits you square in your most vulnerable spots.

In this post about self-care when you’re totally overwhelmed.

In this blog post about self-care in post-secondary and professional environments.

In this post about celebrating small successes, and in this post about the drudgery of self-care.

In March, I was trying to survive.

In all these posts about persistence there is a stubborn refusal to give in to the exhaustion and hopelessness of the last (long) while. And there is a recognition that self-care is not always about getting to happy, or about thriving, or about living your best life. Sometimes self-care is just about living this life, despite the fact that you can’t even picture your “best life” at the moment. Sometimes self-care is just about persistence.

Persist.

Keep going.

Do what you need to do to get to tomorrow.

I felt a lot of hopelessness in March – some of the “plot twist” transitions that inspired me to start this work have gotten heavy. Stepparenting is so challenging. Trying to navigate the learning curve, and trying to also integrate my new parental identity (one that does not sit easily or comfortably within my previous narratives).

Our theme week for March was Fear and Vulnerability, inspired by the Ides of March and by my own mental state. I’ll be compiling those seven posts into a longer post later this week, but for now you can read up on them here:

Day 1: Let yourself love what you love. (Yikes!)

Day 2: Trust your gut. (Yiiiiikes!)

Day 3: Sometimes you really are as vulnerable as you feel. How to get through those moments of vulnerability and pain.

Day 4: Invisibility and hypervisibility, and how to hold onto the complex true stories of yourself.

Day 5: Let yourself fail.

Day 6: Recognizing how fear feels in your body, and knowing when fear is disguised as other emotions.

Day 7: Allowing yourself to feel and process fear even when you can’t move past it.

At the end of Fear and Vulnerability week, I did something that felt very vulnerable – I finally announced a seasonal theme (despite having developed themes for every season and totally failing to announce the Winter theme!)

∞ Sharpening the double-edged sword.” The second quarter, from the Spring Equinox to the Summer Solstice in June, will focus on the mental self, and the element of air. Inspiration for this campaign comes from the Tarot suit of swords, particularly the Queen of Swords, with her self-awareness, focus, and melancholy. Posts will explore narratives of mental health and neurodivergence, with a series of posts on cognitive traps and maladaptive thought patterns, and how to shift them. This campaign will also focus on healthier approaches to the “positive thinking” trap, and on skills that help us become aware of how our thoughts shape our interpretation of reality.

I’ve shared the first couple posts that fit directly into the theme, in this post about “double-edged sword” traits and accepting both sides, and in announcing the Spring online course (the first in a series of online courses that will follow the seasonal themes for the rest of this year).

If you would like to register for the Spring course – a 6-week course on the topic of expressive writing for mental self-care, at a cost of $60 with sliding scale available, send me an email!

Looking back over the posts for the month of March, I’m struck by how often I talked about persistence, and survival.

This time of year is often challenging – even though the new growth of full spring is on the horizon, we’re still slogging through the mud. Those of us in post-secondary settings (or with kids in school) are struggling with end of term. Papers are due, grades are coming in, everything seems to critical and so final and so urgent.

Many of us are still struggling with the sticky tentacles of seasonal affective disorder, and although the sun returning brings some relief, we’re tired.

And, this year more than most, we are continuing to watch the world dissolve into chaos.

It is overwhelming.

I see the impact of that in my self-care content, and in all the content that I started to write and never finished – the darker posts written on the darker days.

I hinted at some of the darkness and overwhelm in my own life in this post about taking up space. This continues to be a challenging theme in my own personal life, and although I am not really enjoying the challenge presented by constantly having my identity invalidated and erased, I am using it as an opportunity to expand my self-care repertoire and my understanding of how identity threat, and stereotype threat, influences the resources we have available for self-care.

This work is starting to show up in other spaces, and has informed my approach to the duoethnography I’m co-authoring with Mel Carroll, on the topic of non-binary identity formation and expression in relational contexts (both personal relationships – partnering, parenting, befriending – and professional relationships – service providers, colleagues, employers).

In April, starting this coming week, I will be launching Thinking Through Thursdays, a series of posts that focus on “healthier approaches to the ‘positive thinking’ trap, and on skills that help us become aware of our thoughts shape our interpretation of reality.” This series will run until the end of the season. If there’s a cognitive trap or bias that you’d really like to see on addressed on a Thursday, let me know (and give me a week’s notice). Patreon patron requests will be given priority.

I also shared a bunch of links in March. They’re rounded up below.

Resources for expanding your self-care repertoire, from this post about trying something new:

Keaira LaShae’s workout videos are fun and energizing (and a favourite of my best friend) and this video is multigenerational.

Exercises for chronic pain

Resources on decolonizing yoga

Accessible fitness (this is less “how-to at home” and more “how-to as an instructor” but there is such a pervasive notion that fitness is about losing weight and is primarily for bodies that fit the norm – I like how this article challenges all of that

Writing prompts

Writing prompts focused on healing

Videogames for self-care

At home spa treatments to help with stress

The Awkward Activist on cooking and self-care

This excellent article on how the author is using self-care to survive while waiting to get into a therapy program. The advice is practical, achievable, and specific.

“But self-care is important – especially for those of us whose mental health isn’t 100%.

It’s basically just committing to look after yourself, treat yourself kindly, and make your wellbeing priority.

Self-care is not a substitute for professional help. But for now, it’s the best thing I can do.” – Ellen Scott

This post, titled “Despair is Not a Strategy: 15 principles of hope,” hit me hard in the feels the day I shared it.

“If you’re out there trying to change your neighborhood, community, city, country, or the world then this is for you. In moments when everything seems hopeless, read this to get your hope on.” – Abby Brockman

And this set of links, shared on Trans Day of Visibility, about self-care for trans and non-binary folks.

This post from the Audre Lorde Project includes further resources and a worksheet. This is not trans-specific, but is trans-inclusive.

Teen Vogue’s article is specifically for trans and non-binary students, but the tips are broadly applicable for non-students.

This list of four resources from Colorlines is excellent, and I included the Colorlines link rather than a link to each resource individually because Colorlines is, itself, such a valuable resource. Only one of the listed resources is trans-specific, but because trans people of colour face experience visibility in such a heightened and vulnerable way, each of these resources is worthwhile if that’s the intersection you’re standing at.

This post from Everyday Feminism is specifically about self-caring through dysphoria, which can be triggered hugely by in/visibility.

This is one person’s list of self-care tools as a non-binary trans person.

Onward, through April!

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January 2017 Favourites and Further Thoughts

January 2017 Favourites and Further Thoughts

This post was available early to my Patreon patrons. If you want to read posts right away, check the Patreon!

Earlier this month, I asked my patrons whether they would appreciate recap posts. Most of the feedback I got was that recaps are most beneficial when they don’t come too frequently, and they offer additional insight. There were also requests to archive and make past content searchable, and I’m working on that. Tagging is one option, if I cross-posted everything from facebook onto this blog. Daily blog updates feel excessive in a way that daily facebook posts don’t, so I’m still working on that.

This is my first recap post. It’s a look back at the posts and topics that came up in January, focusing on themes that emerged frequently, and highlighting the organizations, activists, and bloggers whose work was helpful to me in January. I’m not including links to everything posted, just the ones that really stuck.

My first post of the year was one that I’ve come back repeatedly to over the last six weeks. This post from No Prehensilizing, on the topic of quests vs. resolutions, has changed my own approach to resolutions, both in my personal life and as a coach. When I shared it on Jan 1, I said, “If you want to design a quest for yourself, get in touch with me. That’s a thing I can help with! Side quest or central quest, we can set the intention and make the journey.” That’s still true.

I used this approach when I designed my personal quest for this year.

One of the undercurrents this month was permission – especially permission to be struggling and to give time and energy to self-care. It was a difficult month, with a lot of pressure to up our activism and our involvement.

The beginning of January was full of posts about permission – to start something (Jan 3), to stop something (Jan 3), to drop the ball on your resolutions without giving up on yourself (Jan 5), to be present in your body even when you’re feeling shame (Jan 6), to not know whether it’s self-care or self-sabotage and to trust yourself (Jan 10), to take care of yourself when you’re sick or tired or worn down (Jan 12), and, one that really sticks for me, to heal for yourself and only for yourself, even if your pain makes others uncomfortable (Jan 7).

January was a tough month. The inauguration and resulting political actions, and the weight of the season. I posted about handling conflict in relationships when people are under pressure and dealing with exhaustion.

In addition to my own writing, I shared links to a bunch of excellent resources.

First, Lauren Marie Fleming, whose Bawdy Love project is inspiring, and whose work with creative writing has pushed me in new and exciting directions (who has an essay almost ready to submit to the New York Times “Modern Love” column? This writer!).

And I highly recommend that you spend some time with The Body Is Not An Apology. They write about weight/size, disability, sexuality, gender, mental health, race, and aging. They are doing some fantastic work. They have a strong social media presence, and offer a wealth of resources, including online workshops and courses and a thriving and diverse community of writers and educators.

Rest for Resistance is another resource that I linked this month, and highly recommend. Run by QTPoC Mental Health, they offer resources that centre the experiences of, and are written by, queer and trans people of colour. I wrote about and shared this particular post about productivity and worth, because it’s something I struggle with in my own personal and professional life. (When I shared this post from Rest for Resistance, I also made a donation to support their work. It is too easy to take advantage of the emotional labour of people who are constantly asked to do work in order to educate and support others. Women, femmes, and people of colour face an unfair expectation of free labour, and I don’t want to contribute to that abusive cycle. When I can, I donate to support the people who’s work I’m benefiting from.)

Ginelle Testa’s post, 50 Ways to Practice Self-Care When Your Mental Health is Crap, is a great resource for when it’s hard to even get started on self-care.

Madison Mahdia Lynn’s post, A Nervous Wreck’s Disabled Guide to Stepping Up, is fantastic and one that I have come back to repeatedly. Five steps to get from overwhelmed to grounded and ready to step up.

Amani Al-Khatahtbeh is the founder of MuslimGirl.com, and this post (with video) on how to be an ally to Muslim women is relevant and needed right now.

I also wrote a four-part series on the Bell Let’s Talk campaign. Part One, Two, Three, Four. I’m working on combining them into a feature post.

And finally, by far my most popular post this month, was this one from Jan 15 –

This one’s for my chronically ill pals.

You know that story about how you got sick because the universe had a lesson for you?

You know the (usually unspoken) parallel story about how once you learn your lesson, you’ll get better?

You know the secondary parallel story about how if you don’t get better it’s because you haven’t learned your lesson?

And you know how these stories loop back around to another story, that we tell everyone, ill or not, about how if you don’t learn lessons there’s something wrong with you?

That whole anthology of stories is ableist and toxic.

We all have lessons to learn, yes. We’re human, and we grow until we die. That’s what we do.

But you are not being punished for your lack of learning.

There is not something wrong with you if you can’t ace the mythical exam that the universe has theoretically put in front of you in the form of chronic illness.

My fibromyalgia is not a test. (Though it absolutely tests my patience and my ability to be compassionate with myself.)

Your chronic illness, mental or physical, is not a test.

Your cancer is not a test.

You are not being punished, you did not bring this on yourself, you do not have the power to make it go away by being a good enough citizen of the universe.

There are lessons in chronic illness. Powerful, beautiful, annoying lessons. Vulnerability. Rest. Compassion for yourself. The art and artifice of navigating an ableist world while disabled. The self-awareness that comes in when months immobilized on the couch erode your busy-work walls. These are valuable lessons.

But they are not the reason for your illness.

And learning them will not magic the illness away.

And, this is the important part, when you are still sick after learning these lessons, it is *not* because you weren’t a good enough student. That was never your job. That story was a lie.

When you are still sick, it is not because you haven’t learned your lesson well enough.

It is not your fault.

You did not make this happen.