I discovered that I could make a butt with my stomach when I was in the third grade, catapulting my belly up the list of favorite body parts, right up there with my armpits and any area that could generate a fart sound.
“Mom, check it out! A BUTT!” I would say, squeezing together the fat around my belly button and dancing a little, sometimes a shoulder shimmy, sometimes a rolling motion like a sexy extra in the director’s cut of Aladdin. My younger sister would try to mimic me, but she took after my mother’s side, small-framed, skinny women whose very bones seemed like they might be hollow, like the sun-bleached ones found in the sand on the shore. My sister had her own unique talent: she could suck in her stomach to look like a human skeleton, pronouncing her ribs like a Save the Children PSA, usually accompanied by a low moan. This came in handy when we needed to illustrate that we were in desperate need of a dollar for the ice cream man. Her trick was utilitarian, but mine was sort of for the greater good: if my mom was chain-smoking over a pile of
I don’t cry anymore. And I hate that I don’t. I have always attributed this weird fucking paralysis to the emotional lockdown I developed years ago when I was diagnosed with cancer and given only a few months to live. A survival mechanism I designed to keep my eyes fixated only on reaching the living Me at the other side of the brushfire. And it has served me well. Or so I have told myself.
This morning I cried in a way I haven’t since I was kid. The guttural kind of sobbing that only comes from a body purging a pain too large to fit the human-shaped frame that holds it in place. I know a lot of people experience this kind of sadness breach as a catharsis, a necessary release long overdue. But for me it wasn’t. At all.
It was the overflow of the cumulative ache that comes from trying to live every day waiting for the other shoe to drop. The shoe that is the slow-burning ember everyone who’s ever survived a body in betrayal can’t fully scrape off their windshield. The one that never stops reminding you that you’re always just a slight breeze away
How I Navigated Higher Education with a Disability and How You Can Help Your Child Do the Same
Dr. Shirag Shemmassian
Attending Armenian schools in Los Angeles throughout my childhood was rough. Sure, I was distractible in class and sometimes spoke out of turn, but that’s not why peers and teachers kept their eyes on me. That attention came from my facial and vocal tics, which led to a Tourette Syndrome (TS) diagnosis around age 9 that I carry to this day.
TS is interesting because tics are so obvious; you can manage them for so long before people literally see your disability. And once you tic, people often ask why you’re “making that face” or “humming so much.” I’ve rarely minded those questions because I see them as opportunities to teach others about my disability, and I especially love seeing the shock on their faces when they learn that not all people with TS curse constantly. The difficult part of growing up with TS was the associated stigma, especially within the Armenian community. Of course, peers made fun of me, but what surprised me was that my school’s faculty didn’t believe that I had a disability despite several doctors’
It’s Nothing But a Neuron! Exploring How to Re-train the Brain and Heal from Sexual Abuse
Have you ever walked by a pie shop and, upon smelling a fresh backed pumpkin pie, been transported back in time to a fond memory of Thanksgiving? Or maybe caught a glimpse of a stranger with certain features and found yourself thinking about that girl or guy from way back when? How about a significant other who one day playfully wrestles with you, and all of a sudden you find yourself lashing out at him without really understanding why? What exactly is occurring neurologically and what are the implications for the recovery from abuse?
According to Daniel Siegel in The Developing Mind: How Relationships and the Brain Interact to Shape Who We Are (1999, Guilford Press), “understanding how trauma affects the developing brain can yield insights into the subsequent impairments of memory processing and the ability to cope with stress.” Before exploring the impairments and coping he refers to, let’s take a quick look at how memories are created and recalled in the first place.
There is a saying – neurons that fire together, wire together. When we have an experience, neuronal pathways
In the dregs of a typical Midwest winter, in the year 1986, I was a ten year old girl with a Bipolar, Antisocially disordered mother. Every winter, my mother’s cycles became even more extreme than they were in the more temperate seasons, her highs were higher and the lows were so low I marvel at my ability to survive. My mother’s highs included a succession of days of activity, grandiose distortions that were later replaced with a paranoia that only increased with each successive day of sleep deprivation. Mother ran from the snow, ran from the inevitable solitude winter brings, ran from responsibility; ultimately, she ran from herself. I, her youngest and only child still at home, was often a favored travel companion. I was easy to manipulate, never questioning her distortions and I wanted her love so much that I never dared to argue with her edicts.
It was in the midst of this frigid, sloppy, grey winter that my mother simply did not send me to school one day, so we could run away again. That year’s destination was Miami, FL. The flight was booked, with only a few hours to spare while my Dad worked. We hurriedly
Since I was a small child I have periodically felt a longing so deep and so wide it consumes all of me. Until recently, I’ve never been able to identify the source of this longing or what it would take to fulfill it. I’ve never been able to put words to it, other than repeating over again as I weep the non-sensical phrase, “I want to go home.”
I remember clearly when I moved from Pensacola, Florida to Birmingham, Alabama with my mom and dad when I was 11. I was laying on the fold out couch in our temporary apartment while my mom anxiously attempted to quiet me. I was crying so hard and wailing the phrase to her, “I want to go hooooome!” She thought I meant back to Pensacola and she tried to reassure me that Birmingham was my home now and in no time it would begin to feel like it. But, that wasn’t what I meant. I didn’t know what I did mean but I knew that wasn’t it. I knew wanted home but I had no clue how to define it.
Now, after years of therapy and life experience, I have a better understanding.
There’s a place I call the Pit of Despair, and sometimes I end up at the bottom of it. It’s not a geographic place of course, though that might make it easier to avoid. I could tell my GPS to avoid routes that lead to the Pit of Despair, but I’m working on training my Emotional GPS to avoid those routes, and how to recognize when I’m starting to slip to the bottom of the Pit. Only recently have I named the Pit, been able to talk to other people about it, and learned what I need to do when I’m at the bottom of the Pit: reach out for help.
But that’s easier said than done. I’ve dealt with depression and disordered eating for about half my life (and the anxiety those bring), I cut as a teenager and I still battle self-destructive impulses. I’m lucky to have many loving, supportive friends and family members, I see a therapist, and I still struggle with reaching out for help. I worry about whether I’m inconveniencing someone by asking for support, if it will send me further down if they aren’t available to help, if they’ll get mad at me for what
In 1989, I was a sixteen year old with a mother who was a very heavy sleeper. Nights meant I could finally “dress” in the outfit I’d collected by sometimes unsavory means. Mostly from shoplifting sometimes at the mall down the road. A black skirt, high heels, and a simple blouse weren’t something I could just carry to the cash register and buy. I knew stealing was wrong, but I could finally soothe that nagging feeling. The purr that quickly turned into a roar, and me into a monster who yelled at my friends incoherently. Maybe because they all seemed so comfortable in their skin, and the eyes of society. I was angry, and dejected from a night of not fitting in, so I began dressing up as soon as I was home for the night. It was very late, and I was as drunk as I had ever been.
Up to that point I was buying cigarettes to share with my friends when they came over really desperate. In my cloudy haze I began to think I should go get a pack for myself. This was something I was absolutely mortified of normally, but right then I was feeling