10/2-10/8

Holy shit, this post is almost 2 weeks late (entry for 10/2 – 10/8).  I’m so far behind it’s not even funny.  I’m seriously considering hiring an undergraduate student to be my personal assistant.  I need help keeping my life in order with all of the things that it’s overwhelming and stressful to keep on track.  That’s just the easy way out though, to have someone else basically do the hard work for you.  It’s nice to fantasize about, yet still it takes a fuck ton of effort to persistently rise up to the challenge of being a grown human person and doing the work myself.

I’m just complaining that it’s hard to do that all the time.  I mean, I really shouldn’t be complaining because my life is pretty privilege and blessed.  Know that I’m not comparing myself to anyone else, I’m simply being a citizen of a 1st world country.  I have “champagne problems,” which doesn’t compare to the magnitude of hardship and suffering happening in other parts of the world including our own country.  Still, that doesn’t take away the subjective experiences of struggle and resilience, no matter what the context or content.  And for me, at this moment, all I’m sayin’ is that I bit more off than I could chew.

I try to write when I can, and I’m remembering to translate my thoughts by speaking into my iPhone Notes app, but after using it for 5 minutes the phone gets hot and glitches out.  I won’t be able to afford a new cell phone for a couple more months at least, so I’m dealing with what I’ve got while trying to maintain gratitude and appreciation for what I do have.  And just like that, my brain reminds me that I’ve been disappointing myself through self-sabotage, which feeds my sense of imposter syndrome.

I’m afraid of being vulnerable and putting my voice out there only to get dismissed or ignored.  I’m burning out from the busy-ness and I’m losing my grip of keeping things together.  I need a moment to pause right at the time when I need to keep going.  It’s tortuous sometimes.  For the past few months, I’ve been intentionally leaning into the discomfort of the unknown, both in life and in my own psyche, and it’s opened the door to a variety of growth-promoting experiences that I truly am thankful for.

So, yea.. I need to give myself permission.  I give myself permission to struggle through the chaos of life.  I give myself permission to be anxious about the unknown.  I give myself permission not to meet my own expectations.  I give myself permission to fuck up and try again.  

I also need to give myself some loving-kindness.  May I learn to forgive myself for my mistakes.  May I wholeheartedly accept myself for who I am.  May I love myself through the unknown and chaos.  May I be free from unnecessary suffering and may I live with peace and ease.


Monday (10/2)

I did a lot today but I don’t remember much of it.  I’m sorta in a daze it feels like.  Probably ever since I had that smoke session last Thursday.  I haven’t smoked to my head like that since maybe 3-4 years ago, with some family members no less.

That’s one interesting manifestation of my depression and anxiety: I feel fatigued and I’m forgetful, or just have difficulty concentrating to remember very well.  I can’t tell where my mind is going, probably just internal dialogue to amuse me while I pass the time.  That probably doesn’t make sense.  Well, allow me to elaborate.

Loneliness and creativity can be an interesting mix for a child.  Spending the time alone made room for my imagination to grow, so that no matter the circumstances or who’s there or not, I’d be just fine here in this fantasy.  This is embarrassing to share, but I’m gonna share it anyway.  I was a big fan of N’Sync.  I used to pretend to be JT’s girlfriend who was being interviewed on a talk show or documentary of some kind.  It was very detailed.. well, it was thought through because I had the time.

Also, it’s the day after one of the worst massacres in American history.  It’s unbelievable how backwards this country is.  Like why are we still debating about the issue of gun control?  Australia has banned automatic rifles and imposed stricter regulations, and they haven’t had a mass shooting since the mid 90s.

It seems like there’s been at least one mass shooting every year here.  It’s heartbreaking and despicable.  I remember learning about Columbine when I was in school and feeling terrified because of the chances it could happen at my school.  I would sit near the door for an easy exit.  I would even fantasize of ducking to the floor and crawling my way to safety.  I’ve even fantasized about reaching out to talk to the gunman and hope to reason with them with love and convince them that they didn’t have to inflict this kind of pain on others and that they can choose to create a different legacy.

I don’t know how to wrap my head around it because I don’t believe our system is designed to protect the people from mass shootings.  I’m angry about it and I feel helpless about being able to do anything because I believe all the changes need to occur at the legislative and systemic level, but also there needs to be an attitude or mentality shift that guns are not more important than people’s lives.  I’m getting all worked up over this topic, so I’m going to let it be for now.

the snapchat video isn’t loading so there’s no visual for today, sorry!


Tuesday (10/3)

Today is my dad’s birthday.  He was born in 1954, so whatever age that is is the age he is.  He and my mom had a small birthday party in their new home, which is pretty much like a “bachelor pad” in that it’s designed for parties.  My folks love hosting, too.  It was lovely to see my dad enjoy his time with friends.  He works so hard; he deserves to have some fun and relaxation.  I wish nothing but the best for my father, and I am so incredibly grateful and blessed to have him as my father.

He’s given the family many privileges but also has instilled in me important values and attitudes about life that I don’t know how I’d live without them.  I bought some edible arrangements for him because he loves sweets and food is the way to his heart.  I used to write little love notes or cards for his birthday but recently I haven’t had the time to and that sorta annoys me because I’m not making the time.

Work Werk Wurq

I added maybe 6 new clients to my caseload, and some of whom have personally asked to work with me.  It’s reassuring for me to know that I’ve got colleagues in this community who think of me for referrals.

Dissociation

I failed to mention one very important aspect of trauma from last week’s blog post (So this is 32 under the section “My Two Cents”)…

Dissociation is another extreme reaction when folks are forced to survive traumatic experiences.  It’s quite interesting how dissociation works in the brains of traumatized individuals.  If something terrible happens, especially at a young age, the child is forced to adapt to the situation the only way they automatically know how to.  Given that children are generally smaller (more vulnerable) than their abusers, there is passivity from feeling powerless and helpless.

When enduring extreme distress, it is no wonder that the system just shuts down- it goes into outer space, so to speak. Survival mode.  It’s as if the mind and the awareness of self lifts out of the body like a balloon filled with helium, as if we’re watching everything from a distance, or being removed from one’s body and disconnected from one’s emotional experiences and bodily sensations.  As if it’s not really real and that it can’t really hurt or affect us anymore.

We protect ourselves this way because we learned that it’s not safe in our bodies.  It’s not safe with those people in that environment.  Now suddenly many things become associated with the trauma and it becomes even more complex to work through.  As a hypothetical example: because I can’t control my environment nor the people who occupy the same space as me, there’s a stronger likelihood that I might be revictimized or retraumatized in similar circumstances that would remind me of my unresolved and damaging past.  If I don’t eventually work through that initial or most salient memory, then I’m destined to be haunted and plagued by all of the associations that trigger my trauma response.

No one said it was easy to do all that work.  It takes years to undo the damage done from early developmental experiences.  Because it’s a time-consuming process that requires patience, understanding, and being grounded, even trauma therapists need a break from working with all that trauma.  There is such a thing called vicarious trauma, and it’s been legitimized as a major stressor for experiencing symptoms PTSD.  There’s also been increased research specializing in this and dissociative trauma to suggest that it’s more common than we think and it can be manageable.

Still, dissociation serves a very unique purpose.  Imagine, I have no control or power in my situation, so I’m just gonna check out, as if I weren’t even here.  So whatever happens to that body or whatever happens in that environment, I’m not really all that affected because I’m safer outside where no one and nothing can hurt me.  The mind detaching from its body can bring some sense of power and control when in a terribly shitty life event that one cannot actually escape.

Now, whatever other experience slightly resembles what’s already been difficult to live through can bring us back to that pain.  When we don’t have the confidence to master our skills, we consequently endure that pain for longer periods of time.  This could result in coping with that pain the best way that our minds/body knows how.  Sometimes that’s through numbing out or distraction, either way it’s avoidance of the thing that caused the pain.

The brain can literally change from enduring repeated traumas, whether actual or perceived, because of the dense neuronal pathways and clusters formed after reinforcement and affirmation of the earliest core beliefs that once kept us safe from harms way..  even if that means acting out and pushing others away so that they can’t hurt you because no attachment or bond had really been formed, let alone maintained.

It’s no surprise then that when we survive a trauma we’d be extra weary of our surroundings, and especially other people.  Depending on the level of distrust of others or the world, dissociative trauma can become part of the person’s identity.  They’ve experienced safety in the part of their minds that can escape from the pain/reality, so it develops into an attachment.

Why am I writing about this?  Well because I happen to work in a field where dissociation is a common clinical concern, and it just so happens to be the same kind of experiences I’m having as a result of my own traumas.  Relational betrayal through benign neglect is enough to cause long-standing psychological damage.  Doing therapy for trauma is bringing up a lot of my own shit in the room, and I have to sit there and hold it for what it is while focusing on my client and keeping them in the most forefront of my mind.  There’s a level of dissociation I have to take in that setting because the trigger of my own trauma is enough to dysregulate my ability to concentrate, so dissociating is actually the wisest strategy to employ at a time like this.

I’ve noticed that I dissociation quite a bit.  I didn’t notice it before 2013 though.  I only noticed it when I was taking a trauma course in my doctoral program and it happened to be the same semester I quit smoking weed and started Wellbutrin for the first time after a suicidal gesture the semester before.  I was dissociating in that class because I was heavily triggered when talking about car accidents, natural disasters (tornadoes), and relational betrayals (benign neglect, nonconsensual sexual activities).  I didn’t have the coping skills to regulate my system, so I would leave class triggered and in a daze.  I needed to numb out, so I’d escape through dissociation.

Dissociation gives me an out from the thing I don’t wanna have to deal with.  It works both ways.  If I’m in a shitty situation and I wanna check out, boom, bye!  I’m in my own fantasy world up in my head and I don’t really give a shit what happens here on Earth.  But if I’m tryna do shit in my life and my thoughts become consumed by memories or I just become flooded with emotion, then I have to dissociate from my dissociation where I’m almost completely numbed out and vacant (or unavailable) from absorbing any more trauma.

Dissociation is a protective mechanism that was adaptive and effective to get us out of situations that wasn’t in our control.  It served us so well, but it can also get in the way of what we want.  Recognizing what our things are that we want to change or be different is half the battle.  Just being aware, conscious.  When I dissociate, I lose track of time and space.  Mindfulness teaches me to stay grounded and present within my own body and in the environment.  It’s teaching me to breathe when my mind flutters with anxious thoughts so that I can ground my trunk into the roots of resilience, hope, and faith.  From there, no matter what happens, I can trust that I’ll be ok.

Essentially, my work becomes practicing mindfulness and grounding, and then I intentionally check in with my inner child who felt neglected and alone all of these years.  I try to give this inner child all the love, acceptance, and care, and I aim to provide a safe and secure foundation for her to ground and anchor herself to.  With the help of therapy, I’ve had to work through my dissociation by establishing a safe relationship within my self, to be able to trust that I’ll be there for me when I need me the most (at least I’m no longer abandoning myself), and then to trust other people’s love and allow myself to feel safe in that attachment bond as well.


Wednesday (10/4)

Today I worked a full day, which was idk interesting?  I’m just sorta working to work right now.  The passion isn’t like how it used to be.  Now, that doesn’t mean I care any less, no.  It means that I’m not giving as much as before my life changed back in June.  Ever since I’ve been intentional about practicing mindfulness self-compassion, and courageously living my truth by diving into the world of creativity (e.g., podcast, improv, drag), I have no choice but to reserve my precious energy and resources.

I try to be as present as possible in the room, but I’ll admit that there are sometimes I’ll get distracted by either environmental changes or intrusive thoughts of other shit and it seems like I’ll miss a really important detail of their narrative.  Then I’m like shit, what’d they say?? what were we talking about??  I go into fleeting panic mode and then readjust to the present and tune in to their energy and voice and then we’re all good.

Anyway, next Wednesday I’m booked literally back to back for 8 hours straight.  Idk why I did that to myself, but it’s kinda overwhelming already and it’s a whole week away.  I’m gonna do my best to prepare for it by getting enough sleep and bringing enough heathy food options to sustain me throughout the day.  I think I’m also gonna have to get some coffee to keep me alert, too.  We’ll see how it goes, mtbr..

I stayed at work till about 6pm, which was a bad idea because I didn’t have time to get dinner before meeting new friends at trivia 30 minutes away.  Luckily the brewery had food, albeit mediocre.  I grabbed myself a pint of beer called Euchre and ordered some mediterranean pizza.  I had only met these new friends a few times before, some only once before and others never before.  It’s always nice to meet new people and see how the vibe goes when I’m in the picture.  I know that I have a large influence on the way the energy feels in the room, that’s just something I needed to learn and eventually accept about myself.

Also, it was so weird, I thought I saw an old high school friend there.  I went up to see and realized that it wasn’t him, but by that time I had already initiated a conversation and it became awkward quickly.  I went back to my friends telling them what just happened, and one had suggested to find a picture of my old high school friend to show him, so I did.  The guy was so shocked at how similarly the two looked that he took a picture on his phone.  We then took a couple minutes talking about Minnesota (that’s where I grew up and where he’s also spent some time).

Trivia night was fun, although I didn’t know anything so I just drew some abstract looking genitals on my to-go box. I did enjoy learning about different things, I mean, nothing I remember really, except for that Gwen Stafani is older than Fergie.  Tbh, I may or may not return to trivia.  Mainly because it’s right after a very heavy clinical day, and because it’s over 30 minutes away from home.  It may be a once in a while kind of thing but I can already see myself feeling too exhausted to go.  Plus, it’s too loud to carry a conversation and I’m not that great at trivia, and it’s just gonna get colder and less convenient in the winter.  Idk why I need to keep going but I do appreciate the invitation.

 


Thursday (10/5)

Thursday had another full clinical day. I switched offices so now I’m in three different rooms each week. I don’t mind it honestly because it keeps it interesting.  The only annoyance is that I’m having difficulty connecting to all three of our printers via blue tooth.  Also, sometimes the light bulbs are very harsh white and I’ve gotten requests to keep them off.  Oh, and, it can get really stuffy, so I’ve been using a fan small fan to circulate the air.  If I could, I’d have a window, plants, a white board, and a TV hooked up to my laptop.  I think it’s important to utilize technology when trying to problem-solve or work through something challenging.

Colorful Conceptualization

Sometimes therapy doesn’t have to be sitting across from each other and openly talking.  Sometimes people need things to do with their hands, or need to be doing something with their body or in nature while they process whatever’s on their heart or mind.  I’ve thought about bringing a white board with me to work, but that’s a lot of physical labor to carry one with me between the three offices.  Still, I really could use something to write out my colorful conceptualization of “the problem.”

This whiteboard demonstration of what’s going on and how to fix it has consistently been well-received for a comprehensive, validating, and practical tool for taking life by the horns and being intentional about doing things differently, no matter how small.  A lot of times my clients only come in for this colorful conceptualization and that’s all they really needed so then I don’t see them again because they feel that they have enough of a blueprint to navigate life off of.  It’s my version of tarot card readings, I guess.  Everyone’s story is unique, just like everyone’s strategy to get through life.

These pictures are examples of what I’ve done.  Now, before you get into a huff and say hey, do you have permission to use those?  Well I say to you, “thank you for your concern, Hellen, but I’ve received verbal consent from my former clients to anonymously use their colorful conceptualizations for education purposes.  This here plogcast is academic in nature because I am a scholar (i.e., I describe psychological concepts related to my life), so therefore it is being used appropriately.”  But really, if you do have a concern please do not go and report it without first talking with me about it. I’d greatly appreciate that respect.

I use a multi-theoretical approach that’s evidence-based, which means that it works.  The first part of this colorful conceptualization is influenced by CBT that helps to explain the multi-directional relationship between cognition (stinkin’thinkin’), emotion (I am not), behavior (approach and avoid), and bodily sensations. associated with certain situations (triggers) and negative core beliefs (NCBs: an internalized message of unworthiness holding us back from living our best life).

I start in the center and identify the triggers, the things that set them off.  We identify the automatic thoughts of the self, others, life, the world, and the future, and we pull out themes of misperception (i.e., negative core beliefs; NBCs).  We dive into multi-layered emotional experiences that each convey different messages indicating that an emotional need is unmet.  We then notice the pattern of behaviors that they either avoid or approach.  We move into how our body is reacting to our triggers for increasing our awareness of when we need to pause, breathe, and practice some skills of regulation.

I then move to the top left of the board and highlight how these NCBs interfere with our values and goals.  We identify the associated negative consequences of life outcomes as a result of living this negative loop cycle, and I normalize that it becomes self-reinforcing because of the associated negative consequences.  I then validate the frustration or learned helplessness when experiencing stuckness or trapped in a dysfunctional or destructive life pattern.  We identify the factors that increased their sensitivity to certain triggers (stimuli is triggering because it’s pushing on a NBC that is too painful to bare and thus sets off the negative loop cycle).  We identify what happened in the past and the the present that makes them more vulnerable and prone to react ineffectively (what was once adaptive and protective no longer serves a purpose and in fact worsens the experience).

The thing is, everyone has their own negative loop cycle and life pattern because these triggers and NCBs come from our developmental experiences (from infancy to now).  This cycle and life pattern was not something we were born with but that was learned, and automatically that suggests that the problem is workable (what can be learned can be unlearned; we can relearn).  That’s enough to provide hope and relief, and it’s a good motivator for purposefully operating from our strengths, skillsets, and positive core beliefs to cultivate and increase the chances of favorable life outcomes and consequences.

We both take a step back from the wall and reflect on the journey across the whiteboard.  We appreciate how the human mind only focuses on the negative aspects of life because that’s all it knows until it knows otherwise, and that’s a point of no return for many because that’s enough for a seed to be planted (even easier if the soil is ready for fertilization – meaning, people have to be ready to do the work in treatment and in their lives).  At the end of it all, I heavily emphasize that we must wrap compassion around this lived experience, especially when considering the origins of our NCBs from our vulnerability factors.  This gives us permission to do what we do with less judgment/expectation and more kindness and gentleness as we struggle to improve ourselves.  We give ourselves space between us and “the problem,” and we reduce unnecessary suffering by accepting what is and we empower ourselves by operating from “the solution” one small step at a time.

It’s quite powerful stuff, actually.  It’s moved people to tears when we start talking about strengths and skillsets.  A lot of people need help in this area because we’re not really taught to think of ourselves with praise or high regard because it’s seen as arrogant or cocky.  While we don’t want to be seen as pompous, we also still need to give ourselves credit where credit is due – we wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for inherent, natural born gifts, talents, and resiliency factors that we posses, that no one can take away from us, that define our character and how we operate through life.  When asking them to make room for their strengths and to be intentional about operating from them (e.g., “the solution” to “the problem”), it’s like a lightbulb goes off and they have a way out of this stuckness.  I can see the relief and hope in their eyes, and that feels overwhelmingly rewarding.

We talk about different skillful strategies to consistently use for regulating the system and redirecting the cycle to spin more positively.  One would argue that the goal should be neutrality rather than positivity, and I don’t disagree!  In fact, I’d rather operate from the belief of “I’m enough,” rather than “I’m good enough,” because the good emphasizes judgment that one is still being compared to something that is bad (shameful).  The neutrality takes away judgment and allows for acceptance and approval of what is, which is liberating and empowering to then be more aligned with one’s values and goals.  Either way, these beliefs have a more effective influence and positive impact on the way we relate to ourselves, others, the world, life, and future.  It helps us anchor ourselves to what life is worth living for.

I suppose I could get one of those large sticky note pads, so these colorful conceptualizations can still be done.  It’s not the same as using a white board tho… I’ve always dreamed of having a TV on the wall that’s hooked up to my laptop.  I want to be able for me and my client to both see the screen for using the internet to expand our knowledge, connecting to a resource, drafting out a narrative, recording videos for feedback, or watching and listening to meditative nature videos (see examples of what I use for myself and my clients below):

I did have a cancellation tho, which I’m grateful for! I wanted to take a nap but I wasn’t able to get very comfortable. I accepted seven new client on my caseload so now I’m up to 22 people!  speaking seen in just three days three days a week which is really a lot and it’s cool like how word-of-mouth spreads and certain people request to work with me or I may or may not have worked with them in the past and they found treatment helpful and affective aunts want to continue working with me I had to take a small nap and I was working on a potential podcast episode because Wednesday night or Tuesday night I talked with my brother on the phone and recorded the conversation and the more that I think about it there’s been some interesting things happening

Group Be Nimble

Today was interesting because we learned that one of our members might not come back after being gone for maybe two months.  We realize that our group has experienced many disruptions of people being absent for various reasons, but that also there’s some resistance of going deep or being vulnerable in the therapy room together.  But somehow today we were able to express some love towards one another.  We did it last week too, but this time the attention was on me and another member.

It felt good to be able to give and receive love from one member who I really relate to about painful feelings of loneliness, worthlessness, and emptiness.  It felt good to know that I was making her feel deserving of that love, which made her feel worthy, connected, and whole.  Our interaction helped us both feel as if we were saying I see you, you matter and I’m here for you, I feel a connection with you, you’re worthy just as you are.   It’s been hard for both of us to receive love from other another.  She was the person who gave me permission not to hustle for her approval/attention, and that was absolutely healing.

After knowing her for over a year now, it was very cool to finally be able to see her grow and transform as well.  She was finally able to receive the love I had for her, and she was able to then reciprocate that love to me.   I recognize that I also had to be open to receiving her love.  Luckily, I very much felt her love, so there’s been a significant amount of healing from these intimate interactions with other group members.  I love this group space because we’ve built genuine, caring, healthy, and secure relationships with each other.  We know what are the things that get under our skin, hurt us, or are holding us back.  We get help debunking the stinkin’ thinkin of how we define ourselves through realistic feedback from our group members to either validate or challenge what we believe or don’t believe about ourselves.  This feedback is valuable in a safe space because it is a more accurate representation of the community at large.

Sometimes we believe that our worst fears will happen if we express ourselves or if we’re our true selves, and then group therapy helps to repair and reframe that perception and reaction through acceptance and compassion.  So, despite some of our flaws, we are still worthy to be loved.  That’s where the healing is, which can be incredibly transformative and reciprocated so then the whole group is learning and growing together.  While I’m grateful and appreciative for these perks of group work, I’m also insanely tired and I need a break, so I’m going to skip next week. I’ve learned not to feel guilty about that because I need to do what’s best for me and I don’t need to explain that to anyone.

Side Note: I did notice feeling a little bit jealous or envious that the group seemed to be so understanding and accommodating when one member said that they may have to leave the group for undisclosed reasons.  I remember feeling as though I’m not getting the same kind of treatment, which was really annoying and reminded me of the way my parents would respond to my siblings when they were sick.  They never had to go to school but I could never take a sick day growing up.  So, next week I think I’m gonna take off of group and instead rehearse for nerd night.  I also have to work on this damn blog and publish another podcast episode, so I just don’t have the time to do anything else.  We also don’t have group the following week after next, so the two week break will be welcomed.

Dance Like No One Cares

Tonight was my first go-around at the new dance studio I’m renting for $20 for an hour a week.  I didn’t have anything planned.  I just wanted to move my body.  I wanted to feel sassy and sexy and strong.  I danced to songs that Madame Kiki would want to dance to, which is “Dance Pop” station on Pandora.  I’ve gotta build my stamina up because I’m severely out of shape.  I was wheezing by the end of my hour dance sesh.

Eventually, I need to start practicing while wearing heels.  I’ve got these killer heels coming in for Madame Kiki’s photo shoot next Friday.  I’ll really need to feel comfortable in them because I’ll be moving around a bit, I think.  From what I gathered during today’s movement, I seem to like to use the entire space, so practice in heels is critical.

It was getting very hot, and I’m not a fan of feeling sweaty because it makes me irritable.  To cool off, I took my shirt off so that I could free my stomach and let it hang out.  I liked the feeling of letting my body jiggle.  I was truly feeling myself when looking in the mirror, which was unexpected.  I was anticipating having like a mini emotional episode from really seeing my body size for what it is.

When looking in the mirror, I saw a body that I used to be ashamed of.  I’ve always tried to hide my stomach, and even my double chin with certain hairstyles.  I’d see a body with rolls, cellulite, acne, hair, stretch marks.  A body that’s stiff, heavy, and chubby.  A body that’s undeserving of love and attention.  Somewhere between then and now, I can finally look in the mirror and accept what I see.  It took a lot of painful work to get here, and the most transformational shift of me relating to my body with love happened in June of this year.  Madame Kiki is helping me fully embrace my body and move it with freedom and confidence.

Ya know what?  I think I’m gonna incorporate a belly jiggle into my routines.  I purchased a belly dancing belt to excentuate my hips and make some noise.  I want to get anklets too.  I love the belt because it celebrates my curves and protects me from feeling too fat to dance.  I used to think that when I was a kid, pretty much all the way up until college when I was performing on competitive dance teams.  Then in 2007, I got back surgery, which completely changed my life.  I had lost my freedom and my mobility, and I lost my connection with my body.

For about 10 years, I was totally dead inside.  That is, until I went to that mindfulness self-compassion retreat in June.  My relationship with my body changed when I danced to “The Five Rhythms” dance.  Basically, we move our body according to the different elements (e.g., air, water, earth, fire, and ether).  There are no guidelines or rules other than freely moving your body without judgment or expectation.  Not only did I have a lot of fun, but I also felt like I connected with my body for the first time in 10 years.

I reclaimed my body and the word “fat.”  I started feeling alive!  I was even more excited and motivated to do something with this newfound acceptance and love for my body, so I’m excited for what’s to come with Madame Kiki.  This creative endeavor is definitely pushing me outside of my comfort zone.  I want to feel grounded in my body, which is why I am doing improv.  As I’m getting older, I’m listening to my intuition, saying yes to new opportunities and challenges, and courageously carrying out my destiny.  When reflecting on how much growth there’s been in these 10 years, I’m humbled by how much I actually love and accept myself.  It’s an old societal belief that says fat and hairy bodies aren’t desirable.  Well, fuck that.  That’s not how I want our society to treat different bodies.  I’m here to break that stigma as a big, beautiful, and bold queer femme of color.

I went to Ann Arbor’s Drag Wars.  I had some time before hand, so I dressed up a little bit.  I wore my blue colored contacts, false eyelashes, and some glittery ass lipstick that looked like the goddamn galaxy.   I also wore this really sexy but classy outfit that made me feel fierce and fabulous.  I was crafty and used an earring as a broach for the pussycat bow on my sheer polka doted shirt.  I wanted to be a show stopper, and I was.  It felt good to have that kind of power.

I went to Drag Wars by myself, which I didn’t mind.  However, I do wish that I went to the launch party that my friend Kasian was co-hosting last Friday because then I would’ve met the DJ of Drag Wars.  It wouldn’t have been as awkward just standing there, drinking down bourbon’s and diets and looking around the somewhat empty club.

While I was waiting for the competition to start, I ended up getting drunk faster than I thought because I realized that I didn’t have dinner and because I was taking sips from my pretty little flask full of cold, cold bourbon.  It’s harder to monitor my drinking when sipping outta this tiny flask.  Thank god I wasn’t driving!  I took a Lyft to and from home.  Anyway!

The competition was marvelous.  There were a handful or so different kinds of queens with unique aesthetics.  I enjoyed learning by observing.  The makeup, the costuming, the choreography, the wigs, the jewelry, the songs.  I paid attention to everything and took mental notes.  After the competition, I bumped into the queen who won.  I complemented her makeup application and said “Condragulations!” for winning.  We chit chatted briefly about how inspired I was by her message in her performance (i.e., breaking free from oppression and societal expectations).  I was then able to reveal my aspirations for being a bio queen.  I showed her a picture of Madame Kiki and suddenly she was telling me to compete in drag wars.

She was incredibly welcoming, which I honestly was surprised for because of some rumors or misperceptions that bio queens entering into the drag community are looked down upon.  That scares me because I don’t want to disrespect the drag community.  I appreciate how much work is involved to create a drag persona and entertainment.  I take it very seriously because it’s representing me and what I stand for, plus it’s expensive af and, if I’m good enough, I could make the money to sustain the craft.

Later while I was at the bar, a weird man came to me and told me I had a nice face.  He then asked if I had competed in the show, if I was a “transvestite,” and if I had a penis or a vagina “down there.”  Oh yea.  This person was real..ly drunk.  Honestly, I was shocked and just kinda looked at him like bitch wtf did you say?!?  Before I could respond, a woman he apparently came with yanked him away from me.  I was relieved that I didn’t have to worry about him anymore.

Meanwhile, the winner of drag wars met me at the bar where we then exchanged contact information and followed each other on social media.  Another queen (Kittie Couture) from the show came up to us and suddenly I was part of the group.  These queens were so incredibly supportive and encouraging.  Both queens were saying that the Ann Arbor drag community needs more bio queens.  They told me that there needs to be more representation, more equality, more access to people.  Their warm reception felt really, really good.  We’re gonna hang out tomorrow night to see Trixie Matel, a very famous drag queen from RuPaul’s Drag Race.

Before I left, one of the queens introduced me to the host of the competition who’s apparently a major performer in Toledo, Ohio.  I showed her a picture of Madame Kiki, and because I was drunk at this point, my sassy diva queen persona was in full effect. I decided to reveal that I am also a podcaster and a therapist, which surprised and impressed her enough to want to adopt me as a bio queen in the community.  We exchanged numbers so that we can stay in touch with events and just hanging out behind the scenes, so mtbr!

I left the club at like 2 AM, drunk as hell, feeling connected af to these queens and my aspirations to be Madame Kiki.  I got home and took my makeup off, which is a whole other ordeal btw.  Takes me about 20 minutes to do it properly.  It sucks when you’re drunk and are a sloppy mess.  All I knew was that I’m not supposed to sleep in the makeup because it’s bad for the skin, so you better believe I baby-wiped it up before rubbing this moisturizing oil to break down the makeup on my skin.  While this is a tedious process that I may not always have the energy to do when I’m cross faded, it still leaves my face feeling clean, soft, and hydrated.

Friday

I’m exhausted from last night. I meant to write up this blog post, at least get some of it done before going out with my friends tonight, but unfortunately, I was so tired that I didn’t have the energy!  Also, I just learned that the new guy I met last week, Mr. DJ, is no longer coming into town for tailgating tomorrow because the weather sucks (he’d be driving out from Chicago).  Honestly, I don’t know if I’ll ever get in contact with him again because I don’t have his phone number and I don’t want Kasian to feel obligated to ask her bumble boy, Mr. AJ, to be the person in the middle of trying to orchestrate all that.  It just seems weird and I’m sorta already over it.  Regardless, I still reached out to Mr. AJ to ask for Mr. DJ’s number.

Today felt kinda useless because I didn’t do anything other than paint a new set of nails to wear tonight.  I could’ve also been working on my nerd night performance or PowerPoint that I’ll be doing again in two weeks.  But again, I was too tired!  Also, I totally forgot about it because other things have been on my mind.  But then I realized that if I’m going to go out with the queen I met from last night, there was a weekly pride night at one of the clubs in downtown Ann Arbor.  Miss Trixie Mattel, who is a very famous drag queen, was performing, so I decided to meet up with my new friend, Miss Kittie, whom I met at drag wars.

Before I met with Kittie, I had dinner and drinks with Quangel and Boldy Locks.  We briefly hit up Bunny Bean’s birthday party.  We swang on the porch swing while drinking wine and bourbon out of my flask because it was hot as hell in that house.  By this time, Quangel left and Boldy Locks was almost passed out.  Meanwhile, Bunny Beans is inside playing games with her friends.  Mr. Funny Bonez gave me a ride to the nightclub where I had to stand by myself in this long ass line.  Miss Kittie, the queen that I met last night at drag wars, was already inside the club and had already seen Trixie Mattel perform.

By this point it was already 11 o’clock, but I knew that Trixie was going to perform a second time, around midnight, so I was hopeful that the line would move and we’d get in to see her.  What’s really coincidental is that I just so happened to be standing behind another drag queen (Perry Dox – she’s on the right in the picture above; Kittie Couture is on the left) in line and we ended up talking and connecting about drag.  They were very excited and inspired by my endeavors (e.g., drag, podcasting, photo shoot).  But what’s more surprising and heartfelt was how welcomed I felt into her drag family and the Ann Arbor drag community.

I wanted them to come to the photo shoot in a couple weeks, but it may be too short of notice.  I told them that I’m trying to create Madame Kiki’s persona as a message of hope and role of the protector, especially our youth who identifies as trans or who are being oppressed for other reasons.  Anyway, me and Perry Dox, along with her other friend who’s into makeup and videography, became new friends and also hung out when inside the club.  I met more drag queens, some who identify as trans, and I had an absolute blast.  This time I didn’t loose a nail or a shoe!  I didn’t leave the club until maybe about 2 o’clock in the morning.  I got a Lyft ride home and had to do the ordeal of taking the makeup off before passing out.


Saturday

Well, it’s no surprise to say that I’m utterly exhausted from going out two nights in a row.  I was supposed to write this blog and work on my nerd night performance, but again, I was so tired.  So, I ate and napped some more before going out to Lyft for the rest of the night.  I didn’t go to the tailgate event that my friend Kasian was hosting with her friends because 1) Mr. DJ wasn’t going to be there, and 2) I used that time to make $$$ lyfting instead.

Before going out on my Lyft shift, I visited a vintage boutique that’s owned by the woman who I was supposed to meet last week at Kasian’s launch party but couldn’t because some drunk girl deleted a bumble convo on my phone and soured my mood.  The ladies at the vintage boutique have heard about me and are willing to help me with costuming and choreography for Madame Kiki.  While at this boutique, the owner wasn’t there but I met another trans-identified woman who has her own podcast about being trans and is willing to be part of Madame Kiki’s tribe.  She helped me find a dress to add to my wardrobe, it’s really cute and you’ll probably get a picture of it in full drag soon.  It’s been very eventful getting people to be involved in my glam squad and overall message.

Lyft Me Baby One More Time

Tonight was a huge game between Michigan State and the University of Michigan, so surge pricing was my friend because I made close to $400 in 8 hours of driving!!!  I didn’t even mind that it thunderstormed like crazy and I was on a heavy-flow period day. I was already irritable while on my period, so lyfting tonight was interesting.  I get really sensitive and emotional when I start my period, and I have extreme lower back pain and really painful gas that just makes it really uncomfortable, so I just had to push through that.

I was a bit overwhelmed at times but I did my best to focus on the here-and-now, one ride at a time.  I did have to stop a couple times to change my pad (I know, tmi, but it’s my true lived experience and it fucking sucked), which makes it difficult only because I have to go into a random public bathroom that I hate doing, and because the Lyft requests were coming in so fast that I barely had any time!  In fact, one ride called me asking why I had been idle for “so long” (i.e., 5 minutes).  I told them that I was using the restroom.

I did lyft one guy who was so drunk that he was pushing on my arm and offered to give me $500 if I pulled over to the side to let him beat some guy up.  I’ve never had a request like that before, so I didn’t respond and just let his friends calm him down.  I also didn’t have anybody throw up in my car, thank God, so it was a good night for that at least.  Then it started raining with an intensity that was scary.  The down pour in the wind also made it difficult to see in the dark.  With hordes of people from the game running away from the stadium back to their cars, it was a cluster fuck for traffic.  Whatever, it was a good night to make money and pay off some of the debt already accumulated because of Madame Kiki.


Sunday

Today I went to a clown workshop with my new friend Mr. Funny Bonez.  The instructor of the workshop, Mr. Bozo, has apparently studied in Europe and he knows all about clowning, miming, and theater, so he hosted this three hour workshop for folks who are in improv or are clowns themselves.  It was about an hour away in a small theater called The Ant.  There was probably about 12 of us, and we each had varying degrees of experience in improv.

I had no idea what to expect.  It was nice that I did go with someone I already knew because a lot of the other students already knew each other from being in improv with each other before.  Mr. Bozo taught us a little bit more about the body and how there is a way that we undulate where our body moves in a smooth, wavelike motion.  For instance, we do this when we’re trying to push something heavy.  So, your knees push out first, then your hips, then your chest, and then your head.  We literally just did this movement for about 10 minutes and Mr. Bozo walked around giving us pointers on how to improve this motion.

Then, we learned that movement, or the intensity of the muscles, also includes the buoyancy of the bones and the mobility of the joints that allows us to move the way that we do.  Essentially, there’s a way for us to express our emotionality through our physicality.  One of the ways to do that is through clowning.

So then we did some exercises where we loosened up our muscles and we connected to our body in a way that felt silly and goofy.  We did some weird stuff too, like we pounded on our chest, all the way down our arms, down to our diaphragm, back up into our armpit, down towards the sides of our ribs, and back up to the chest.  I don’t know why we did that but we did that. We did some other weird stuff, but honestly, it’s really hard to describe. The thing is, with this weird activity, I ended up being partners with Mr. Funny Bonez, my friend, which made it terribly awkward only because his hands kept accidentally hitting my butt and I was like okaaayy well I can’t help it that my ass sticks out and I don’t think you can help it either cuz my ass is fine.   I guess you’ll have to just check out one of Mr. Bozo’s workshops yourself to find out.

Then, we learned how do to purposely trip ourselves when walking so that it looks real.  This activity was part of the undulation motion we learned earlier.  Tripping is how our body naturally undulates, so we did that while carrying plastic plates.  Mr. Bozo argued that it’s expected and predictable that when someone trips, whatever they’re carrying falls, but that it’s funnier when the person recovers from the trip and how they manage to keep the object in hand. We did this for like another 15 minutes walking back-and-forth across the stage.

Then, we had to partner up again for another activity that he called “slap stick.”  Once I learned what the activity was, I switched partners so that I didn’t have to be paired with Mr. Funny Bonez, only because it’s awkward and we have to see each other as friends after this.  Mr. Bozo shared that we were going to learn how to purposely kick each other in the butt, like how a clown does.  We used the softer inside part of our foot to just bounce off of the ass meat.

So I partnered up with Mr. Bozo, and he used me to demonstrate the activity to the class.  He had me facing away from him, with one of his hands on my shoulder, and then he used his other hand to find where my butt was located (???), and then he kicked it.  All the while, my classmates are watching with this look like… wtf

He did this maybe like a handful of times, and then he told the rest of the class to find a partner and kick their butts. He explained that this activity is part of clowning or “slap stick,” which I guess is what it is because like Charlie Chaplin used to do that (btw, he’s one of my all-time favorite entertainers).

Later, Mr. Bozo asked for volunteers to come to center stage and tell a joke or a story.  A handful of people went up, including me.  I told the story of a Lyft driving experience where I picked up a drunk girl who was hungry, so I took her to McDonald’s to get some chicken nuggets.  Then while driving her home on the freeway, she said she wasn’t feeling good, so she rolled the window down, stuck her head out, and threw up.  Once she was done, she proceeded to tell me that mosquitoes are going to ruin the world and kill us all.  I left with a $40 fare and a craving for chicken McNuggets.

Mr. Bozo pointed at those of us to who had volunteered and instructed us to go behind stage and dress up in different props and costumes.  I put on a big black floppy hat where I lifted the front brim to cut all the way back.  I had white sunglasses on, and I think I put a red bowtie in my pants so that it was hanging out like a wiener.  I’m not proud of this.  It’s just what happened and I’d do it all over again if I had the chance.  I’d like for my character to be more thoughtful because then it serves more of a purpose rather than choking in the moment.  It also saves from the embarrassment or humiliation when what you put out there isn’t as well-received as you’d hoped.

The other condition was that we had to wear a red clown nose, and we had to put gauze in between our lips and gums so that we spoke with obscurity.  By the end of my time on stage (which was probably a good 30-35 minutes), my cheeks hurt from the elastic string holding my nose on, and it was dripping with nose sweat.  Also, I had cotton all up in my mouth after I took the gauze out and it lingered in pieces for the rest of the class.  I was honestly so distracted by that and somewhat mortified by what I had just done that I couldn’t really take in Mr. Bozo’s feedback.

I didn’t mind that there was no guidance or instruction other than to dress up, but I was a bit annoyed that I didn’t have the thought to be intentional about my clown persona.  I can’t beat myself up over it, because it’s not helpful and also because I did learn something valuable from the way things worked out.  All I could do was stay as present as possible in this unknown and trust that I could navigate the uncertainty of performing live.  That’s a terrifying and thrilling feeling!

While eagerly and nervously waiting in the unknown, Mr. Bozo came backstage, pointed at me and said “I want you to go first.”  There was nothing else, no other guidance other than pointing at one of my classmates and assigning him to be my character’s husband who’s going to be called out on stage second.  My partner and I were standing around with huge ass question marks over our heads.  Then the time had come and I had been summoned to the stage.  Of course I had no clue what Mr. Bozo wanted, but as soon as I poked my head out from behind the curtains, I became this character “Sweet Sassy Caroline” who was a married diva with a southern accent.

The class sat and watched as Mr. Bozo engaged in a dialogue with me.  I was instructed to recite the Lyft story from earlier to demonstrate what the difference is with and without gauze in my mouth.  I then had to come up with five different poses for Sweet Sassy Caroline and eventually recite the same story in those five poses.  I later learned that he was instructing me this way because he was trying to get my inner clown out.  

Mr. Bozo asked me where I was from because of my southern accent.  I said “I’m from the south.”  What part of the south, he asked.  I said, “the south of the south.”  Well what direction, he asked.  “The south of the south to the left,” I replied.  He replied, “oh, I think people from down there have a really, really thick southern accent that you can’t understand what they’re saying.”  Apparently, that was cue for me to start doing just that, so I exaggerated my southern drawl and twang.  I channeled my inner Boomhauer from King of the Hill.  The class was finally laughing.

There were certainly many more misses than hits with my performance.  I was out there for like 20 minutes – by myself – in front of the class … !!!  For being completely new to this whole improv thing, it was absolutely torturous!  There’s been times in my life before where I’ve been thrown into some shit that was way too early for me or that I would have wanted someone with more experience to do first so that I could learn through modeling.

There were some instances when I forgot that I was out on stage to be a clown.  I had struggled with not knowing the agenda or purpose of me being out there for that long by myself.  To get through it, I just made eye contact with my instructor and focused on his voice the whole time.  I pretended like my audience was there but that they weren’t there to support me, they were there to judge me.  It literally felt like an arena and Mr. Bozo was the big boss I had to answer to.

I wanted to work with my props and costume as a way of creating an interesting character.  It helps to build a relationship with these objects because you’re already so vulnerable on stage.  It’s not as easy as it sounds, but this is a skill that can be learned with practice.  I also tried to let myself fall into this character because I wanted to respond from her point of view, but I think my nerves were talking whenever I’d stumble or get too random.  That means I’m in my head and I’m not playing with my heart.  I’m learning that I’ve got to trust my intuitive impulses.

The torture was over when Mr. Bozo called out my partner, or my clown husband, to join me on stage.  Upon request, I named my partner “Ol’ Hickory Ham;” he’s a podiatrist but he would rather be a street performer.  My husband emerged from the curtains and immediately played along by using a southern accent (i.e., he “yes and”ed the scene).  His character and my character seemed to click really well because we were feeding off of each other.  We did that by making eye contact with one another – which takes an immense amount of vulnerability – and using emotion to fuel the dynamic in the relationship.

I really enjoyed our banter and play on stage, especially because this was our first time meeting each other and first time clowning.  Hickory Ham also wore a red clown nose and had gauze in his mouth.  He wore a leopard bikini top that was way too small on him, and he had the type of clown nose that looked like a chubby troll.  It was nice that we just sorta clicked on stage.  We had instant chemistry!  We were bantering effortlessly and charmingly, in an unintelligible accent, and we related to each other like a really interesting clown couple.  We even got to have our very own marriage ceremony by Mr. Bozo.

Because I didn’t know what I was doing, I felt really uncomfortable.  I knew that I wasn’t going to be funny as a clown, but I was going to be this weirdo. Mr. Bozo gave me feedback that there are three different kinds of interesting characters that I get to play with.  One is my own unique personality, as he said, which is interesting enough.  Another is this interesting character I brought out to play with on stage Then, there’s the underdeveloped clown persona.  This is what he was trying to get me to access but I knew I was struggling a little bit to get there.

To be honest, it was a little difficult to follow Mr. Bozo’s feedback because I was in an interesting post-performance daze (and I was distracted by the gauze bits in my mouth).  One thing I remember hime saying was that both my personality and my character are interesting enough identities already that I might not even need a clown persona.  He was trying to help me make a distinction between these three identities.  The last thing he said was complimenting that my vulnerability is beautiful to witness.

His feedback was a little too abstract for me, so I checked in with him after the workshop to elaborate on his feedback.  We talked for about 30 minutes because I still couldn’t understand him.  I plugged in my current creative ventures that led me to taking his workshop.  I told him about my clown character being inspired by Madame Kiki.  I commented on how this workshop was helping me with improv but also with Madame Kiki’s character.  I then revealed my podcast, which he expressed excitement about, so I extended an invitation for him to speak about his journey and his craft (mtbr).

I’m genuinely excited about the future prospects with improv or clowning, or just theater in general.  Live performance really stretches my ability to step outside of my comfort zone.  That’s where the magic happens – when I’m not really thinking about it.  I’m simplifying it through body language and I’m using my emotion for being in the scene and relating to my partner.

I learned a lot from observing the other classmates assigned to act like a clown on stage.  I was impressed and inspired by watching their characters unfold.  I could see their emotionality through their physicality.  They were able to create a cohesive character through just movement, they didn’t have to say much at all.  I noticed that their movement was sometimes exaggerated through the subtlety.  Their movements felt very grounded despite feeling intimidated by the unknown.  I admire that they rose to the challenge by trusting their intuitive impulses.  Well, now that I know all of this, I’ll try again for the next workshop challenge.

You’ve Got a Friend In Me

I got home from the workshop and I knew that I had to go grocery shopping but I was too tired.  I was also debating if I should get a few hours of Lyfting in, but then I got a phone call from my new friend, my Drag Mother aka Buffy Adams.  I originally Lyfted her maybe about two months ago and we connected on drag stuff among other things.  Tonight, she called because she needed a friend to talk through a major betrayal in her life.  I’m glad she called because I didn’t want her to feel alone and in emotional pain.  I can totally relate to that and it fucking sucks to endure that suffering alone.  We agreed to hang out tomorrow, so I’m gonna stop by her work at the thrift store and grab some lunch.  I’m gonna buy her lunch because my heart goes out to her for what she’s been through and what unforeseen financial obligations lie ahead.  Plus, the shock decreased her sleeping and eating patterns, so I figured to get some hearty soul food to put her in a food coma.


I’m writing this paragraph two weeks after this post was supposed to be due.  It’s not surprising how far behind I am.  In fact, I’m not as disappointed because I low-key knew that I would struggle with self-discipline in this arena.  Mainly because it’s challenging af and I don’t want to do the work.  So maybe it’s a combo of fear and laziness.  Not a good combo, if ya ask me.

So clearly lots of interesting things are unfolding in my life.  Venturing the unknown has become a full time job for me.  I’ve been trying to use my vulnerability as a strength when leaning into the discomfort.  So far it’s been working well, although this work can get quite exhausting when several domains are demanding attention all at once.  I can’t complain too much, after all, I did put myself into this situation by saying yes to life’s uncertainties and to exploring my psyche.

Oh well, what am I even saying right now.  It’s past midnight and I have work early tomorrow morning.  I haven’t even prepared my lunch or picked out an outfit.  *sigh*  I’m really sick and tired of how I handle things sometimes.  I get angry with myself when a part of me says it’s hard to do all the things I want/need because there’s only so much energy I have to spare when living with chronic depression and anxiety.  This is a compassionate statement that sometimes feels like an unfair free pass for not making a wiser life decision.  All I can do is try my best and then try again tomorrow.

Stay tuned for what’s yet to come on moretoberevealed.org.  Until then, continue exploring the unknown with a curious heart and a funny bone.

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