I Was A Promiscuous Teen: An Open Letter to All the Men From My Past

From the time I was 13 on, I was a promiscuous teen. 

I’d like to say that at some point I learned from my mistakes, but after listening to Dr. Christine Blasey Ford's testimony during the Kavanaugh hearings, my past came barreling back into the forefront of my brain and it is clear to me that the behaviors I learned in my teens never really ended.  They went with me into my 20s, 30s, my marriage, how I parented my daughter.  It’s all right there in front of me now.  Like a glaring light that I just realized has been on and blinding me my whole life. 

 

Dear All the Men from My Past,

 

Before your instinct to defend yourself kicks in, it is important for you to know that I don’t blame all of you.  I have no desire to live in anger or point fingers.  That is not the purpose of this letter. 

 

Please read the above sentences twice…a few times maybe.  It’s 100% true.  However, do not confuse my desire to live at peace free from anger as my saying that you are negate of any responsibility…there are many of you who I do blame and hold responsible. 

 

Some of you took advantage of a young girl with a substance abuse problem.  Some of you were older and thought because I looked and acted older than I was, that it was ok to have sex with me.  At least that’s what you said to me:  “You’re so mature.”  Is that how you justified yourself?  Truth is I’m not too sure what would make an 18-year-old have sex with a 13-year-old, or a 19-year-old with a 14-year-old, or a 24-year-old with a 15-year-old.  Does it matter to you what the age differences are?

 

Or those of you who took advantage of me when I was completely inebriated.  Mornings when I woke up in an empty bed without pants on, not even really sure who had been in the bed with me.  Those of you who took me out and drank with me to excess and then thought it ok to have sex with me, leading up to moments of my coming to, alone in a room at a party, not really sure what had happened at all. 

 

Some of you I cared for and was desperate for you to care for me.  Some of you, with whom I shared a mutual sexual desire (or at least as much of one that a young teen can have and understand), I had fun with, only to realize that was all it would ever be.  And some of you actually cared about me. Whatever the case may be, past sexual traumas have been shoved in all of our faces these past few weeks, and many of us are reeling from things that we haven’t thought about in years or maybe just swept under the carpet and thought that it wasn’t a big deal, unaware of the daily emotional strife that has been caused from it.  I’ve heard situations described that I have experienced in my past, now talked about as violations…and it never occurred to me that they were…until now.

 

What I want you all to know is that it is a big deal.  It has had long lasting ramifications on my self-esteem, my decision making, and my sexual and mental health as an adult.  I may not blame all of you for the past, but if another generation of men are raised thinking that this type of sexual behavior is ok, that’s a problem, and one that I do put directly on you.  And if another generation of women are raised not knowing how to use their voices, that’s an issue as well and one that you also have a responsibility to rectify.

 

I was a very confused girl who wanted attention and love.  Rarely did I say no.  Rarely did I push you away.  If I started to say no, I was easily swayed once a bit of pressure was applied.  The fact is, I didn’t feel like I could say no.  That saying no meant never having love.  That it was better to just let you do what you wanted rather than say no.  That the way to get love was to be amenable.  The way to make you stay was to put out.  But none of you ever stayed.

 

The reason I don’t blame all of you is that we live in a society where I unknowingly was taught to please men and where men (perhaps at times unknowingly as well) have an expectation of women being agreeable to meeting all of their needs without argument.  Were my parents direct messengers of this?  No.  But it was all around me.  In magazine images, TV shows and movies.  The realization that one of my favorite John Hughes movies portrays date rape never occurred to me until someone wrote a blog post about it last week. 

 

We are being told about blatant attacks, horrendous sexual violations where women feel their lives are in danger, and this type of behavior is obviously abhorrent in a black and white sort of way.  However, there is also a huge gray area that needs to be discussed, where women may be confused and not communicating what they feel deeply because of social and sexual pressures.  I wanted you to like me.  I wanted you to love me.  I wanted you to be there and “no” just didn’t seem like an option to get to that outcome.  It is important for you to know that I was a terrified girl looking for approval.  Is that sexy for you?  To know that I was most likely full of doubt, self-loathing, and terror when we had sex? I sure hope not.  In your defense, I will say that I never let you know.  I never learned that it was ok to use my voice, and it’s something that as a 42-year-old woman I am now having to deal with. 

 

What you did has had a long-term effect on my life.  I have had to fight back from a debilitating alcohol problem that increased greatly during my teen years and didn’t stop until I was having suicidal thoughts in my mid-thirties.  I still live with daily anxiety battles and grapple with depression at times.  We are now learning that these are all issues that women who live with past sexual trauma are more likely to have.  And think about this: we are also more likely to pass these horrible behaviors down to our own children.

 

So, men, here is what I am asking from you:

 

Talk to your children.  Talk to them about sex. Awkward as it may be, it’s only awkward because we make it that way.  If they are old enough to ask the questions, they are old enough to get honest answers.  Tell them the ways you got it right and the ways you got it wrong. Admit to your mistakes so they know it’s ok to admit to their own. 

 

Tell your boys that if they see a girl drinking heavily throughout the night, it’s not ok to have sex with her, period, even if they’re drinking with her.  Tell them that if she’s under 18 and he is over 18, no matter how mature she is, it’s rape.  Teach them about what actual consent is and how consent can be sexy because it creates trust.

 

Teach your boys that cornering girls in parties and trying to forcibly kiss and/or touch them is wrong…yes, even if the girl has a reputation for being "easy".  Tell them that if a girl says no and then yes, or yes and then no, that there is conflict brewing inside her and that if there is conflict, sex is not an option. There must be clarity in consent before sex.  And please tell them that a proper response to a girl saying yes and then no is NEVER, “can I just finish?”

 

Teach them that it is not ok to expose themselves to anyone unsolicited, EVER.  I didn’t grow up with cell phones but in this case, I am also talking about sending unsolicited photos.  Teach them that while engaged in sexual activity, consent needs to be ask for again before trying new things.  Teach them about healthy sexual trust and that the real way to please a woman sexually from the beginning is by building that healthy foundation.

 

All of these things happened to me, most of them more than once.  I was a troubled girl and that led to me being a troubled woman for a very long time. I drank and didn’t say no, but that doesn’t mean that any of this was ok…and I am slowly learning that it doesn’t mean it was all my fault.  I was a child when I learned these behaviors and they carried into my adulthood.

 

I also want you to talk to your daughters. Tell them that no matter what, having sex, allowing touching, kissing, oral sex, whatever it may be, none of it will lead to love.  None of it will ever make boys stay. That love and trust leads to sex, not the other way around.  Tell them that having sex while inebriated can cause feelings of shame, guilt, and confusion, and to make it a rule for themselves that when they are drinking, sex is not an option. 

 

Tell your daughters that if they ever feel pressure to do something that they are not comfortable with, to use their voice because they hold more power than they may think.  Teach them that they should be as loud as they want when saying no.  That if they feel discomfort in a situation, even if they can’t pinpoint exactly where the discomfort is coming from, that it means something is not right, and therefore it is not the right time to engage in sexual activity.  It is ok for them to leave the situation.  It is ok for them to defend themselves.  That the fact that they “put themselves in that situation” does NOT make it all their fault. 

 

And make sure you are clear that whatever boy makes her feel pressured or uncomfortable is NOT a good person and will never make a good partner because in reality, he doesn't care about her, he only cares about finding sexual release.  And it is of the utmost importance that your daughters hear this from YOU, their fathers.  They can have these conversations with their mothers as well, but hearing it from the most important man in their life will make a huge impression.

 

In my case, having sex never made one of you stay, it just meant that you would tell your friends that I was an easy lay.  I would be so happy when one of you would call and ask to hang out, and I can still feel the desperate humiliation of that translating to being brought to a remote place to have sex in your car.  Time after time I allowed this to happen.  I was frozen in fear.  Is that what you find sexy?  A young girl too scared to move? 

 

The thought of my daughter having to go through what I am now going through makes me want to vomit.  It should upset us all, including you. I pray that you see the problem and talk to your kids.  I hope that you, the young man who took advantage of a much younger and troubled girl, look at your own daughters or nieces or cousins or step-daughters when they are 13, 14, and 15-years-old and think to yourself, “That’s how old she was when I fed her drinks and slept with her”.   Is that sexy now?

 

We all have to take responsibility for our own part.  I have been dismantling my past behaviors for the 5 years that alcohol has no longer been in my life.  But now, over the past couple of weeks, I have relived all of it including an intense deluge of the shame, guilt and humiliation which I have unknowingly been living with every single day since I lost my virginity, drunk at 13, to an 18-year-old. I feel this. EVERY. SINGLE. DAY.  Have you felt any of that?  Have you thought back on your own behaviors and felt a crushing sense of pain?  I’d like to think that some of you have, but I have a feeling that you have not thought twice about it or me, and that has to change.

 

It is time for you to see what this behavior does to women.  It is time for a change to be made.  I have to find a way past the shame, guilt, and humiliation, which has now turned into anger, sadness and exhaustion.  It is time for you to pitch in and do your part.  So, will you?

 

 

Sincerely,

A Promiscuous Teen

Pictured above at 16-Years-Old

 

*UPDATE*

Thank you for your emails, DMs and comments.  You have all made me realize that I'm not alone and, sadly, that my story is not unique. In reaction to the incredible response that I have received from all of the world, I created a series of paintings called Reclaimed Hearts. These paintings are dedicated to you.  It's never too late to take your power back and love yourself.  Click here to see the series.

 

Thank you to Geoffrey Riley and the JPR team for interviewing me on this topic. You can listen to that interview by clicking here.   

 

Thank you to Paul Gilmartin for having me on his podcast, The Mental Illness Happy Hour.  An interview on the popular podcast with host, Paul Gilmartin, where I read my essay discussing gray area issues like consent, alcohol, objectification and trading sex for love, attention or to avoid abandonment. You can listen by downloading the podcast app or going to: https://mentalpod.com/archives/5168.   

 

I am an artist and writer, living in Talent, Oregon with my husband and daughter. I use creativity to break through anxiety paralysis, I play in the ocean to stay strong and inspired, and I often visit my hometown of New Orleans, where the rhythm of my heartbeat is renewed. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram where I post stuff sometimes.  To hear from me more regularly, join me on this crazy, beautiful Artventure.

Comments (112):

MAn_1975 on

Hi. I found your text by coincidence. I don’t know where this tendency woman have to think that their experiences are exclusively related to their gender. Look. I’m a man and I look back at my promiscuous teenage years, from the age of 14 when I was raped but soon discovered that I wanted more of that where it came from, to hook ups, old men, Arab asylum seekers, to finally finding some stability in a father figure, forgetting myself in the process of surviving. Then I read your text, which reminds me of myself, only to find that you exclude me from your narrative because I’m a man and apparently a potential abuser. Reality is far far more complex than that. I’m sorry that your life story hasn’t brought you to that insight, yet.

ConcernedMamaInCA on

I was very touched by this. Have discovered my 18 y.o. daughter (now freshman away at college) has been promiscuous since age 15, as well as indulged in vaping and alcohol. I struggle with the best way to help her as she is far away at university, I don’t want to control her but help her to not continue making poor choices. She is smart, talented and very beautiful, but has weak boundaries and low self-esteem. What can I do to help her? Some of her rebellious behavior is acting out—-as her father and I have had a troubled marriage. While she is legally adult, she has a long way to go before she is an adult making responsible choices.
I pray for her to get to a place of understanding that sex and drugs are not a way to gain personal self-esteem.
Note that she has mild ADHD, and some anxiety/derealization.

Vermithrax on

Your list of suggestions has one important mistake: You should teach your sons and daughter the same. i.E. your sons have the right to no as well and girls must understand that not means no as well. And no girls aren’t allowed to take advantage of a drunk boy as well.

Luke on

Let me get this out of the way—yes, BigTea, a 24-year-old man shouldn’t have been messing around with a teen girl. If he knew (we aren’t clear whether he did) then he was very scuzzy for what he did. But the author isn’t just complaining about being taken advantage of by older men—she seems to believe that even the boys her own age who engaged in consensual sexual relationships with her were somehow victimizing her.

To the author; I’m sorry—Mr. 24-year—old notwithstanding—I didn’t read a story about a victim. I read about an agent—a girl who dished it out as well as she took it. A girl who may have been used at times but who also used and then tossed aside her share of guys. A girl who was ultimately the author of her own world who now as a 42-year-old woman denies that she made choices and instead wants to play the put-upon damsel.

You say that you’ve suffered low self-esteem. Well I have good news—and this is sincere—I hope that will improve and it can. Self-esteem is far more fluid and dynamic, less deeply entrenched than we’ve often been taught. Self-esteem is basically just the reputation you have with yourself, with your own internal audience, and your internal audience can’t be fooled. Your internal audience knows you made your own choices. By facing that and taking responsibility for it I will submit that you’ll be on the path to a better reputation with yourself and a better self-esteem.

Bigtea on

To all the YouTube people. Honeybadger Allison is a nutcase. Expecting a 13 to 15 year old to have the experience to stand up for herself when confronted by adult (remember these men are 18 to 24) is unfair. These men are completely in the wrong.

Allyson on

I’m not alone in this painful nightmare anymore.🙏

Erin on

Thank you, thank you for this. You wrote the piece I wanted to write, but much better and more powerfully.

Marigny Goodyear on

Hi everyone. Thank you all for your comments. I am unable to reply to anyone individually due to the way my blog is formatted but I so appreciate all of your comments and support. Love and light to you all.

Paula on

Wow very powerful words. I’m pleased that your’re now starting to find your feet and your voice. Sexual abuse generally occurs at an age where the child is very young and is craving love and attention and is therefore easily swayed to believe that their abuser (normally a relative or close family friend) is actually providing love, attention and is appreciating them. However, as the child matures and gains some understanding as to what actually occurred – the toxic shame and self blame has the propensity to settle in deep to the core, due to the social taboos and ettiuette our culture has had in place. This in turn, for the most part is likely to be transmuted into teenage promiscuity, but really it is most likely to be what is called “revictimisation”. It is the subconscious minds’ attempt to recreate it’s connection of love and feeling wanted – even though this connection is untrue but it has already been conditioned and connected.

On a conscious level we know in our heart and soul that this is not the case and definitely not the outcome we desire or want. This is where drugs and alcohol step in to drown out the nagging conscious thoughts and feelings. Unfortunately, it’s purpose is a double edged sword – upon quietening our conscious thoughts and feelings it gives the subconscious mind the upper more benevolent hand and it will twist and distort our conscious view of ourselves once sober. This ensures the continuation of the downward spiralling effect of substance abuse and dependancy, until our soul has had enough and the suicidal ideation creeps in. It is this point where we decide to exit or to expose and fight our demons. This is when we grow and blossom and we need to find a way to reach this point sooner rather than later.

You are not alone in your quest. There is probably more like you and I then there is not, unfortunately. Hopefully in the not too distant future it will be the other way around. It is fortunate that the social taboo surrounding sexual abuse and unwanted sexual acts/attention is changing, but the onus of proof still falls upon the victim. One wrong date, time and/or place and the abuser walks free. Thank you for sharing and helping to give others the opportunity to self reflect and to grow from your story.

Kennedy on

That was a hard read. Much of it was exactly my story. Thank you for having the guts to put it out there. I see you have already gotten the standard loser dude comments. So predictable.

A on

You are so brave. This is a huge issue for boys and girls all lost without proper, caring, honest, guidance and lack of connections or even understanding when faced with making poor decisions or the resultant deep emotional distress. This article will enable many to open a much needed conversation with their teens. As a teacher and a mother I thank you so much. As a human being with a mixed bag of experiences, I thank you for the most vulnerable parts of my being. You have made your mark on the world with your generosity and honesty. Be proud of that – it should help to lessen the pain of bad memories because you have turned it around. It made you who you are and has helped many no doubt.

Stephen on

Thank you for this eloquent, personal call for action. As a parent and at work I am fortunate enough to be in the position of educating people about what you raise here. To me this is the social issue of our time. For those who may struggle to understand the problem of sex with underage girls / young people, try removing sex from the issue, and see this as a form of bullying /physical assault, and a clear example of someone abusing their power over someone who is weaker. To understand power imbalances, imagine a grouo of adults using fear and violence to get a person to work for them for free. Fundamentally and utterly wrong. That’s why sexual assault with minors is illegal and in my jursisdiction comes with a max. 14 year jail term.

Leann Trowbridge on

Thank you so much for this. I have been unraveling similar experiences and their consequences this season, as well. I was incredibly lucky to stumble into ranks with the riot grrl and punk post-feminist movement in college and became politicized early. Recent events have shown me that I still have lots to learn at 45. I also have two daughters, and will fight as hard as I can for them to find the voice I didn’t have as a teen. Sending love to you and your family.

Stephanie on

Oh how I wish I was as brave and courageous as you are. You have written a story so similar to my own. The shame and guilt for needing love from a man so desperately that I would never say no. Thank you for sharing your story.

A Guy That Made Mistakes Like Yours on

“that whatever boy makes her feel pressured or uncomfortable is NOT a good person and will never make a good partner because in reality, he doesn’t care about her, he only cares about finding sexual release”

This is as damaging as the logic which landed us in these positions. I associate with in more than a few ways, but I was doing it for almost all the same reasons so be careful with that shaming. you do admit and quite a few places that your motivations were off, but that statement doesn’t leave room for anybody else to be guilty of the same, at least not anybody of the male sex and that you would qualify it as a gender issue at all is also a bit shortsighted in this context though I get where you’re coming from and I can’t imagine how hard it was to put this together so thank you for doing it.

sarah on

This article helped me come to terms with my own sexual assault. Thank you for articulating what has been pushed down and never dealt with my entire life. This article has given me so much peace and closure and allowed me to start healing. Thank you.

San on

Hi,
I’m also going to have my grands read your article and will have a discussion after.

Thank You,
san

San on

HI, Thank you for sharing your process on this life experience and how you are healing and discovering more about yourself. Our society needs to treat male, female individuals with truth honesty, information about self care – love, sexual safety with ourselves, others. I have male , female grandchildren, and have conversations with them about interactions with individuals , use correct book topic about sexuality, anatomically biological pictures. Talk about addictions, alcohol misuse, along with other interests, coping skills, what makes a person choose the drug of choice to calm the pain, insecurity that they feel. We need both sexes to appreciate and get along discuss, trust , develop friendships to stop the way we stereotype male, female roles that haven’t worked . Teenage years are tumultuous have conversations , get to know their friends, parents of their friends, be the adult they can confide in.
Thank you for sharing, starting this conversation we can change 1 person at a time to make this world a better place to live in.

SB on

My life is a shadow of what it could have been because I was afraid to say “yes” well into adulthood. Women “give”, more specifically, “give up”, and men “get”, and I couldn’t handle being seen as conquered. I lived the much-less-bad, through-the-looking-glass version, and that’s why I believe every word you wrote.

Men are barely trained to take responsibility for their own actions, much less anyone else’s. They really do not understand what it’s like to be held responsible for how people see them or treat them because they haven’t been marinated in it.

Chet’s comment made me glad that I don’t know him, but it was nothing we haven’t heard before. Minimizing and dismissing the chasm that lies between 13 and 18 does nothing to curb naive predators. What you wrote here will actually help. Thank you.

Alice on

Thank you so much for sharing this. I too was a promiscuous teen and was looking for love in any way I could. I have felt tremendous shame about the way I went about it. I never knew that I could say no. It is all coming up again with Kavagnaugh and the #metoo movement. I take responsibility for my choices and try to forgive. It does effect my everyday life in sub conscious ways and I struggle a lot.
Excellent suggestions for men to teach their sons and daughters about consensual sex. I hope more fathers take this into account. Thank you again for having the courage to share this.

Michael Arkin on

Wow, that was powerful! I’m so sorry you have suffered so.

Sex is such a complicated subject. I agree that taking advantage of a girl made vulnerable by alcohol or drugs is wrong. It is damaging and hurtful. It is abusive.

Do you know that young men are also vulnerable. Many think that sex means love and that they can’t get love unless they are bonding through sex? Do you know that some of us never felt love from our parents? Many parents are addicted to substances, have mental illness. Maybe were never bonded to their parents. Maybe sex has been the only bonding a vulnerable Guy has ever had

No matter who I had sex with over six decades, it never stuck. No woman ever stayed with me emotionally forever. After all, I never learned relationship skills from my parents. All I ever had was sex and we know sex is only part of the glue.

I don’t want you to think I’m a great guy. I did some bad things – treated some people wrong ( maybe not as badly as you were treated but badly nonetheless). I regret those bad things but
I can’t go back and change them

So what did I do? I managed to figure out most things by the time my second family came along. I taught my children well. They have shown me they were
Listening by living the lives they do.

Bless you for sharing your story

Michael

Rob on

If you are going to teach out sons the above lessons, also make sure to teach your daughters to fight their instinct to date hypergamously. One of the side effects of the feminist induced breakdown of the family unit, and thus the hookup culture, that the author bemoans above- is that women tend to date high status men. This allows a smaller proportion of alpha males to get sexual access with a lot of women, and then women feel used when those men don’t stick around. Female vanity is the reverse side of the coin of male aggression, and society is better off for keeping both in check.

Dave Bernstein on

Thank you for telling your story. Your guidelines on what to teach my kids are perfect. I encourage you to publish then in other forums for fathers to use. For example — never, ever have drunken sex with a first-time partner is such a specific, easy-to-follow rule to remember.
I wish I’d had them from age 17 to 24 and not have to second-guess if I was pursuing someone too hard or not hard enough. And wish I’d had them 10 years ago when my first daughter went through her teen years.
But now I’ve got detailed examples to give to my next teenage daughter and also for my adolescent son. They’re straight-forward enough to have a conversation that, while inevitably uncomfortable just by the nature of the subject, won’t make it THAT uncomfortable.

Paul on

Thanks so much for writing your story. I’m having a daughter in six weeks and I’ve been unsure what I can and should say to her, so it’s really helpful to read your words about exactly what you think should be said from a father to a daughter!
And I’m sorry for Chet’s comment, I think they’ve missed the main message of the piece.

65 and they're all gone on

Dead anonymous,
I’m now 65and my phone no longer rings. It’s been about fifteen years since I’ve “Put out”, and that’s what I now call it! You so eloquently wrote my story. I, even as an adult, thought when a man wanted to sleep with me he loved me and we would eventually marry. I was very, very, wrong.. I now have the best relationship I have ever had with Jesus Christ, and as for my family? It’s huge!!! I have the entire body of Christ! God is good! Praise God!!! 😊

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Shockabuku: How Sometimes I Need a Swift Spiritual Kick to the Head

Anxiety can cause a terror that is hard to shake.  We need a Shockabuku!

 

Do you ever get so bogged down in anxiety and negative thoughts that everyday tasks scare the poop out of you?  Then, do you feel guilt from feeling scared or stressed? Then, when you finally decide to surrender and slow down, you feel even more guilt for having to surrender and slow down? Welcome to my past six weeks.

Ever since the holidays, I have not been able to gain any traction in my work.  Like one of those dreams when I’m trying to running but I can’t seem to build up any speed at all.  At least I can say that it’s not for no reason.  The past five months have been intense, and until about two weeks ago, I had not been feeling so great. 

Then I received a Shockabuku.  My Hubbie and I were supposed to go off for a few days of surfing when both kiddos got sick.  Seemed about right to me.  There have been more monkey wrenches than I can count thrown into the mix over the past five months or so.  Life has been, well, challenging. 

With both kids sick, I knew I wasn’t going surfing, but then, my amazing and kind Hubbie offered to stay with the sickos, and told me to head to the beach.  Truth be told, I may have run out the house faster than I intended to, without looking back, but damn, I couldn’t wait for the break.  

 

I had been feeling so frayed, like an electrical wire that sparks from the wind blowing.

 

I had been feeling so frayed, like an electrical wire that sparks from the wind blowing. I was jumpy, sensitive, sad, and as I said to my Hubbie, it seemed to me like I was being tested.  I mean, the shit just kept coming.  I felt pretty defeated. 

When I showed up to the beach, my favorite place in the world, the place where I find joy, solace, confidence, and peace, I was fucking terrified.  I took one look at the waves and nearly peed my pants. I literally began to tremble.  This is my happy place!  What the hell is happening?!

I thought about fleeing into the redwoods for a hike.  Seemed a safer bet.  But then, I unstrapped my board, waxed her up, and began the arduous process of getting a 5mm wet suit on.  When I walked in the water, I really did pee my pants. 

 

I realized that my anxiety had gotten to the point where everything in life was scary.

 

When the waves began to lap at my legs, I felt a wave of anger come over me.  Why was I so scared?  It wasn’t a big day out there.  The weather was friendly.  The wind had not kicked up yet.  I saw some friends in the lineup.  What the actual fuck?

I realized that my anxiety had gotten to the point where everything in life was scary. Not just scary, terrifying.  Where everything I did and every choice I made seemed to be like the most important decisions known to mankind.  Do or die.  Make or break.  There was no in between.

I paddled out.  I was extremely tenuous for the first hour or so.  Then I began to catch waves. Oh yeah…I know how to do this…and I actually LOVE doing this…this is awesome! 

I ended up staying for four days.  I surfed in the cold water. I went for beach walks and redwood hikes. I went to bed early and got up with the sun. My best girlfriend came and met me for 24 hours and we surfed, and talked, and enjoyed each other’s company. 

Life wasn’t terrible.  Sure, I may be going through some challenges right now, but it’s not all dread, doom, and gloom, and it CAN improve, actually.  How?  By taking care of myself. 

I received a Shockabuku.

So, if you’re a movie lover, you may recall in Grosse Pointe Blank, when Minnie Driver tells John Cusak that he may be in need of a Shockabuku.  She then defines that as, “A swift, spiritual kick to the head that alters your reality forever.”  I have always loved this term.  It is not real. It was a line written for the movie.  However, I was totally pleased when I found it in the Urban Dictionary, which is where the above definition was taken from.  (The background is my happy spot.)

Getting into the ocean that day, terror running through my veins, walking deeper and deeper into 48-degree water, having to duck waves, wipe out a few times, and also find some liberating rides in it all…  I feel like the ocean was delivering me its own Shockabuku. 

Mother Ocean done did slap me around for a few hours and showed me, once again, that the world is much bigger than me and my problems, and that I am a strong, capable being that can find those amazing rides within the chaos.  My perspective shifted.  I felt lighter. I felt the cloak of darkness lift from my shoulders.  For the first time in weeks, I felt like a badass (or at least a semi-badass) again. 

 

Anxiety seems to come with a side of blindness.

 

It’s been a week and a half since I was out there.  I can’t say that some of the terror hasn’t returned (I’m prone to anxiety…that’s what it does), but I am not ok sitting in it anymore.  My Skockabuku was telling me that I can’t.  That when I focus too much on taking care of everyone around me, I get lost in the mix.  That when I plow through work like normal, in the midst of deep, and lasting changes occurring within my family, I will suffer.

Why do I forget?  I’m not sure.  Anxiety seems to come with a side of blindness.  It’s hard to focus on anything besides the terror.  It’s like a broken fight or flight instinct. I’m extremely grateful for the clarity that this Shockabuku has delivered.  I hope it lasts. 

Can you recall your last Shockabuku?  In the comments below, please share with me your most recent swift, spiritual kick to head, that altered your reality forever...or at least for a good while. 

 

 

I am an artist and writer, living in Talent, Oregon with my husband and daughter. I use creativity to break through anxiety paralysis, I play in the ocean to stay strong and inspired, and I often visit my hometown of New Orleans, where the rhythm of my heartbeat is renewed. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram where I post stuff sometimes.  To hear from me more regularly, join me on this Crazy, Beautiful Artventure.

My Profile on the Anxiety Chronicles (by the Washington Post)

Anxiety Chronicles is a series from The Lily (published by the Washington Post) that examines the journeys different women have with anxiety.

I am honored to have been selected for the Anxiety Chronicles on The Lily (by the Washington Post).  

From 1849-1853 The Lily was a controversial publication created by and for women.  As one of the original Lily editors put it, "It is quite time that [women’s] rights should be discussed, and that woman herself should enter the contest.” They did so by covering everything from ending slavery, to women having the right to vote, own property, and wear pants.

In 2017, The Washington Post brought the Lily back as an online publication with the two-fold mission to, "Empower with news and information and promote inclusivity by exposing diverse voices."

I am ecstatic that I have been selected to be one of those voices. 

Check out my profile on the Lily's Anxiety Chronicles, along with 79 other women who share their experiences of living with anxiety.  New stories are also added every week. CLICK HERE to check it out.  

It was interesting to me that they asked specifically about my physical symptoms.  I am humbled that I continue to learn new facts about anxiety, such that physical symptoms are extremely common, and in fact manifest in just about every person who lives with it.  

Does that sound familiar to you?  In the comments below tell me the ways that you feel anxiety within your body. 

Today, I'm fighting a headache, but hey, at least my knee, hip, and shoulder joints feel ok.  I hope that you are having a peaceful day out there.  

 

 

I am an artist and writer, living in Talent, Oregon with my husband and daughter. I use creativity to break through anxiety paralysis, I play in the ocean to stay strong and inspired, and I often visit my hometown of New Orleans, where the rhythm of my heartbeat is renewed. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram where I post stuff sometimes.  To hear from me more regularly, join me on this Crazy, Beautiful Artventure.

Slow and Simple Poetry from an Anxious Artist

Sometimes an anxious brain needs to keep life slow and simple.

 

Do you feel you need to push yourself hard all the time, especially at a times when your anxiety and depression have come for an unwelcome visit?

Usually when I feel down, I also feel like I’m failing because simple tasks become challenging.  The first thought when my eyes open in the morning is, “I can’t wait to go to bed tonight”. Work becomes a slog.  Faking happy becomes impossible so isolation seems a reasonable course of action.

Today I long to keep things simple.  Simple mind and simple actions.  Slow and simple, I say.  The idea of getting into a long blog post about how I’m feeling seems a sad prospect.  So, here I am, attempting a simple poem.  I don’t write poems that often, but today, poetry seems to fit.  So here you go. 

 

A Dream of Peace

To whom do these rules apply?
The ones that I deem so important. 

The ones that keep me up at night
telling me the ways that I “should” live.

Who created the rules
and do they know that they are unreasonable, unattainable?

Why do some of us believe in the rules
while others turn away in adamant or oblivious protest.

Why do I turn towards my pillow as a way out?
As if sleep will somehow make it disappear? 

Like a child closing their eyes when they’re scared,
in hopes that the boogie man will disappear in the black behind falling eye lids. 

Why does the hamster not rest?
Running, running, running but never going anywhere.

Rusty wheels just keep churning on, demanding that I take action.
But what?

Rusty joints ache in protest
acting ages older than they are. 

In an effort to find peace, I seek to dream,
but then end up running. Unable to gain. any. speed.

Waking with ridges on the inside of my cheeks.
Sleep brings the wish for peace, as my teeth grind away to dust.

  

Let me know what you think, and if you’re feeling poetry-y, in the comments below, fill in the blanks with the first word that pops into your mind.  

“In my head, I feel ________________. In my body, I feel ___________________. In my heart, I feel_________________.” 

 

 

The photo at top is the first in the series of "Breathe" paintings that I am currently working on.  All the papering is done and now to apply finishing coats.  These paintings are my effort to create a deep calming breathe on canvas.  

 

I am an artist and writer, living in Talent, Oregon with my husband and daughter. I use creativity to break through anxiety paralysis, I play in the ocean to stay strong and inspired, and I often visit my hometown of New Orleans, where the rhythm of my heartbeat is renewed. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram where I post stuff sometimes.  To hear from me more regularly, join me on this Crazy, Beautiful Artventure.

 

 

 

 

How to Move Slowly & Mindfully Through Sadness

My goal this week is to cruise, slowly and mindfully, through a state of anxious and depressive dis-ease. 

 

I don’t feel that great.  Life has been challenging.  It’s one of those weeks where tears flow easily and at inconvenient times.  I am sitting in it.  I am not frantically looking for escape.  I want clarity.  If the brain tornado must spin, maybe I can make it spin slower, just slow enough so I can actually see what’s happening.

I feel bad sometimes that I end up talking to you, more often than not, about how crappy I feel.  I feel like I’m bitching and moaning and complaining with no end.  I try very hard to stay positive.  I attempt nearly every day to do the things that I know will make me feel better.

 

Anxiety and depression are my default.

 

I don’t choose to be like this…or do I?  That is the mind fuck that goes through me every time I get depressed.  Is depression comfortable for me in some way?  Like a warm blanket wrapped around my shoulders that closes me off from the rest of the world?  I don’t want to think that could be true but I actually don’t know any other way of being, so perhaps it is.  Anxiety and depression are my default.

If this is my nature, what can I actually do about it?  If this is how my brain works, is there a solution?  Or just ever-changing coping mechanisms as I choose to focus on one anxiety and depression buzz word or another. “Strategies” is what I refer to them as. 

“Strategy” is defined as “a plan of action or policy designed to achieve a major or overall aim”.  I adapt different strategies in my life to achieve a peaceful mind.  I meditate, exercise, eat well, surf, write, make art, recite gratitude lists and “I will” statements, and talk to my anxiety like it’s a person, all in an effort to find calm. 

It doesn’t always work.  Sometimes there are things happening outside myself that are completely out of my control that make it very hard.  I feel it would be easier if it were just entirely up to me, but there is a whole world out there constantly throwing situations my way that are unpleasant.  I am not an island.

 

What I have to remember is that same world is also throwing a vast amount of beauty my way as well.

 

What I have to remember is that same world is also throwing a vast amount of beauty my way as well.  That for all the bullshit that brings me to my knees, there is kindness, love, and chocolate.  I didn’t remember that until writing this, right now (which is why writing is so powerful for me).

I was hoping to have like 30 paintings finished to offer to you in March.  Yeah right.  The issue is that I’m attempting to make paintings that feel like a deep inhale and exhale.  Relaxing.  Calming.  That feeling will not make it through to the painting if I am panicking to meet an unrealistic deadline. 

The first painting of the series is coming along painstakingly slow.  While I’m doing it, I’ll feel myself speed up, wanting it to be further along than it is.  I have to take a deep breath and remember that slow is the key to these paintings.  I’m now hoping to have them finished by May.

 

One thing that does make me feel better is knowing that I’m not alone.

 

One thing that does make me feel better is knowing that I’m not alone.  That you are here with me.  Whenever you tell me that my writing or painting resonates with you because you know the struggle, it makes me feel better.

I’m glad that we are open to receiving the imperfect message that mental health issues deliver.  If nothing else, maybe it brings us together.  If you know the struggle, you know that it comes with a hefty side of loneliness so that’s pretty dang powerful.  I’m grateful for you.

I’m going to put away the computer today and get straight into the studio.  I’m going to put positive music on, and my studio tiara, and try to rock out the rest of this first painting…in a slow and mindful way, of course.  I’m excited to share it with you and I hope that the paintings bring across a feeling of calm.  It may be forced calm, which seems like an oxymoron but sometimes that’s the best I can do. 

Do you know this feeling?  I’m so sorry if you do.  Perhaps a bombardment of joy will help.  In the comments, tell me something good.  Something that makes you feel better when the struggle is real. 

Hopefully next week I’ll feel better and be able to lift you up.  Right now, I need some lifting so thanks for anything you can give.  Much love. 

 

 

Up top is a detail of the first “Breathe” painting.  Creating this painting is like an active meditation.  I hope when it’s done, that is the feeling delivered to you. 

 

I am an artist and writer, living in Talent, Oregon with my husband and daughter. I use creativity to break through anxiety paralysis, I play in the ocean to stay strong and inspired, and I often visit my hometown of New Orleans, where the rhythm of my heartbeat is renewed. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram where I post stuff sometimes.  To hear from me more regularly, join me on this Crazy, Beautiful Artventure.

How Slowing Down Helps Me Accomplish More

For me, one of the easiest paths to anxiety is to try to do more more more, faster faster faster.  Slow it down, Girl.

Have you ever noticed that the more anxious you get, the faster everything seems to be moving?  This past week, I had to surrender.  To my to do list, to my own expectations, to the pressure that I put on myself, to the feeling that everything needs to be done RIGHT NOW. 

I had been working on a painting that wasn’t coming along well.  I was attempting to create the first in the series of “breathe paintings” that I told you about last week.  What was coming out was the prickliest looking “breath” I have ever seen.  It was pointy, sharp, not at all the feeling of inhale and exhale that I had hoped to create. 

I realized that my state of mind at the time was abrupt, self-critical, and racing like it was running around on fire.  How could I possibly create paintings that felt like releasing a deep breath if I myself felt frantic?

I wanted to rip it up and start over, but I had spent hours on this painting already. Shouldn’t I stick it out and see where it went?  I have a goal of when I want this series done by…I’d be losing time if I were to abandon what I had already begun.

I stared and stared at this painting.  I tried hard to talk myself into what it was becoming.  Then, I decided to wipe it clean.  I had already applied a good bit of paper onto the canvas so I wet a bunch of paper towels and laid them on top of the paper so they would gently become loose, and I removed everything I had done.

 

Back to a blank slate.

 

I immediately felt myself exhale.  “On the right path already,” I thought.  Then I began to apply paper again.  I felt myself slow, my actions almost in slow motion.  Pick up the paper, dip it in the adhesive, fold it carefully, and apply it to the canvas.  Over and over I did this. 

Occasionally, I felt myself start moving faster, that deadline creeping into my brain.  I took a breath, picked up a piece of paper and slowly continued, watching my pace as I went on.  A funny thing happened…my shoulders relaxed & my breath became deeper and more intentional. 

A few hours passed in this way and when I stepped back, ahhhhh there it was.  The deep breath that I was looking for was beginning to appear on the canvas.  No more prickly, pointy paper.  It was now smooth, calm, and flowing. 

I worked in that way for the next two days.  This morning, I woke with energy for the first time in weeks.  My first thought when my eyes opened wasn’t, “Oh God I can’t wait to go to sleep tonight.”  Instead, I woke excited to continue on with my painting... 

…which, as it turns out, I won’t be getting to today due to three appointments spread out over the day, and an early Yoga and dinner date with my Mom.  But it’s ok.  A shift has happened. 

 

A funny thing happened…my shoulders relaxed & my breath became deeper and more intentional.

 

I worked for a nutritionist and herbalist for nearly a decade.  During presentations, he would talk about the different types of energy and why sea turtles live so long.  Now, I’m sure I’m going to get this wrong, as I am not a healthcare professional or a scientist, but basically, we are either spending energy or building energy.  Sleep is our time for building.  Waking hours are when we spend.

Where do sea turtles fit in?  Well, he said that the reason sea turtles live so long is because they move so darn slow. They aren’t in a hurry ever, like at all. They spend waaaaaaay less energy when they are awake than we do and don’t have to work so hard during sleep to build energy back up and thus live to be two million years old or whatever.

I found myself thinking about this as I slowly worked on my painting and also today while running around from appointment to appointment. I reminded myself a couple of times to take it slow.  

 

When I am running anxious, I have a Mean Boss in my head telling me that I need to do more and I need to do it faster

 

I find, when I am running anxious, I have a Mean Boss in my head telling me that I need to do more and I need to do it faster.  I should already have accomplished more than I have.  I should be much further along than I am.  

That will make my insides feel like they are vibrating and I begin to move faster in an effort to get more done.  This is what I refer to as “chicken with my head cut off” syndrome (see also "tornado brain", "hamster wheel mind" and "running around as if on fire mode").  It feels frantic and panicky and most of the time, leads to exhaustion, miscommunications and me taking everything personally. 

But here’s the deal…it will never be enough.  I will never please Mean Boss.  I will never accomplish what Mean Boss thinks I should have done.  I will always not be doing enough.  I will always not be doing it fast enough, or good enough.  Mean boss is a real fucker. 

The thing is that if I listen to Mean Boss, and start moving faster, I and my work suffer.  I am not able to create my “breathe” painting and instead create a pointy, sharp painting because that is how I am feeling on the inside.

The answer?  Slow down.  Be mindful of every action.  Don’t think about the deadline.  Instead, think about how this little blue piece of paper looks next to the lighter shade of paper that I placed it next to.  Think about the curved line that I am creating with straight edges. Inhale.  Exhale.  I am breathing. 

Today, I find I’m reminding myself to simply slow the pace down.  I’m realizing that when I spin out into “go mode”, it actually feeds the anxiety. Instead of feeling accomplished, I feel even more like a failure.  It’s because I am trying to satisfy Mean Boss, who will never ever be satisfied.  

 

The answer?  Slow down.  Be mindful of every action. 

 

I have clarity on this today.  Tomorrow, I may not.  It is the ebb and flow of peace and anxiety.  I feel, as I’m settling into middle age, that the anxiety is getting worse.  Is it because there is more to do?  Maybe.  But deep down, I feel it is fear of running out of time to get all the things done. If I figure out how to fire Mean Boss, who will never be satisfied, will I then I solve the issue of never ending deadlines, and ever growing criticisms?  

My desire right now is to be that sea turtle.  To feel ok about my productivity, even if I am not running on full throttle 100% of the time.  To tell myself that I do enough.  I am enough.  I will accomplish enough...and to quote Stuart Smalley, "Gosh darn it, people like me".  Simple, yes?  Someone needs to get Mean Boss the memo.

Have you ever noticed the power in slowing down?  In the comments, tell me about one time that you helped yourself by simply taking things slower. 

 

The photo at top is a detail from the beginning of my first Breathe painting.  I have a ways to go, but already I'm finding it soothing.

 

I am an artist and writer, living in Talent, Oregon with my husband and daughter. I use creativity to break through anxiety paralysis, I play in the ocean to stay strong and inspired, and I often visit my hometown of New Orleans, where the rhythm of my heartbeat is renewed. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram where I post stuff sometimes.  To hear from me more regularly, join me on this Crazy, Beautiful Artventure.

Being Kind to Yourself This New Year: Three Ways to Ease into 2020

After transitioning from blissed at the beach to stressed to the max in 3.5 seconds, I've turned my new year's intentions into anti-anxiety strategies.

 

Happy New Year Everyone!  I’m sitting at my desk after 2.5 days of catching up on correspondence and getting organized for 2020.  I’m going to get into the art studio this afternoon for the first time in about a month and I’m sooooo excited to get my hands dirty! 

I have been thinking for a long time now about a series of paintings that focus on horses and ocean waves.  In Greek mythology, Poseidon gifted the earth horses.  They were born of the sea and when you see waves break, those are horses rearing up from the surf.

In my mind, I’ve been thinking, “2020 is the year for this project.  I must find somewhere to volunteer with horses since I don’t know much about them.  I must start researching their anatomy and I want to know more about how they are therapeutic for people suffering from PTSD and emotional disorders.  I have to do this.  I have to that….” and now the hamster in my brain has begun its first 2020 run on the wheel.

As soon as I started thinking seriously about this project, I became completely overwhelmed.  To me, that means that it may not be time yet.  Maybe in a month or two.  Or maybe I just need not to be thinking about big projects while I’m still in the getting organized process of my January.  Which leads me to question, how I can already feel crazy when it is only the 9th day of the damn year?

We got back from our vacay this past Friday.  The weekend was fine.  I organized the house, took down Christmas, and got the studio cleaned up from the holiday madness.  I cooked food and watched football.  It was nice.

Then, Sunday night, I awoke in the middle of the night, the hamster in full sprint.  My brain was going crazy.  I found myself worrying about revenue plans, art projects, my family’s needs, if the boy scouts were ever going to come and pick up my Christmas tree from the curb...  I didn’t sleep much after that.  I practiced my breathing exercises and finally got another hour or so in. 

Monday, I was a bit of a mess.  I felt completely stressed out.  I had an appointment with my therapist and asked how it could be possible that while at the beach the week before, I was fine.  I get back home, and within three days, I’m in nervous breakdown land.  I mean, WTF for realz?

Just like that, I had slipped right back into worry and overwhelm.  Happy new year. 

 

My intention for 2020 is to stay positive, keep moving, and don’t be attached to outcomes.

 

My intention for 2020 is to stay positive, keep moving, and don’t be attached to outcomes.  Since Monday, I have found myself repeating this over and over and practicing my breathing.  I began to think about the horses, and frankly, they stress me out.

FYI – I’m terrified of horses. I have always been scared of them and they know it.  Every horse I’ve ever ridden, with the exception of one, has taken off with me on it.  They know I’m scared and thus, that they are in charge.  But I digress… Back to the breath.

Within 48 hours I have made a decision.  Yes, I will work towards the horse/wave project this year, but I don’t have to start RIGHT NOW.  I mean, jeez girl, calm down already. 

In my head, I had to have the project done like next week and of course all the marketing and sales work that go along with introducing a new series should have already been mapped out, and I don’t have my revenue plan for 2020 done yet, nor do I have my social media content thought out, and I already had to abandon a collaboration that I was supposed to have my part completed for and I had to back out, and I feel terrible for that, and I hope that person isn’t mad at me and…now I have entered the tornado…

Just breathe.  I am inhaling. I am exhaling.  Repeat. 

Today, I feel a bit more stable.  Maybe because my to do list isn’t two full pages long anymore.  Maybe it’s because I have decided to do a few “breathe” paintings instead of diving head first into the horses.  Maybe it’s simply because I actually slept last night from 11:00pm straight until 5:30am without waking up.

I will admit that on Monday, I went from “anxious” to “entering the panic zone” because I simply felt like a failure.  I thought, “Really? Even merely thinking of getting back to work and life is enough to send me off the cliff?”  It doesn’t seem fair, and sometimes I feel shame because I feel like I should be able to hold it together better. 

My therapist had to remind me that I am quite a capable person.  I had to remind myself that it’s ok to take re-entry slow.  So that’s where I’m at today.  My new year’s intentions have become strategies to easing in to 2020: 

 

Be positive – This will pass and I will get back into my routine. 

Keep going – Today a few more things have been checked off the to do list and I’ll make art this afternoon. 

Don’t be attached to outcomes – I wanted to work on horse/wave paintings, but it simply isn’t the time so I’m going to work on something else that doesn’t stress me out.

 

There.  That’s not so bad, is it? 

Did you get back to work from the holidays and is having or had trouble settling back in?  I’d love to know I’m not alone in this.  In the comments below, let me know your post-holiday experience.  I mean, does anyone out there actually feel rested after the holidays?

Just in case you need to hear it, it’s ok to take it slow.  Put one foot in front of the other until you find the pace that works for you.  I’m going to go take a walk before studio time.  Time to get outside again and let Mother Nature calm me.  Peace.

 

The photo above is my first 2020 action in the art studio.  I'm beginning a "breathe" painting, starting with painting paper in an abstract ocean scape sort of way.  From here I'll cut the paper and create a pattern on a darkly painted canvas.  I feel more relaxed already.

 

I am an artist and writer, living in Talent, Oregon with my husband and daughter. I use creativity to break through anxiety paralysis, I play in the ocean to stay strong and inspired, and I often visit my hometown of New Orleans, where the rhythm of my heartbeat is renewed. Follow me on Facebook and Instagram where I post stuff sometimes.  To hear from me more regularly, join me on this Crazy, Beautiful Artventure.