If you’re feeling helpless listening to your friend, try not to reach for your handy advice bag. You have no idea how meaningful it is to simply be there.

Sitting quietly with someone while they feel their emotions is powerful. It’s power. You’re not taking on their stuff. You’re not trying to fix it. You’re sitting there, being present with them. You’re holding down the fort, creating a kind of safety, so they can feel their feelings. They can feel assured that you aren’t judging them, and maybe that gives them a millisecond when they can stop judging themselves.

It’s a thing. It’s called “Holding the Space.” I don’t know whether or not that should be capitalized. I’ve forgotten a lot of grammar and punctuation lessons, because I haven’t been in school in so long. Do me a favor? Don’t tell me how I can get back to school. Just trust that I’m doing what I can. Cuz, for real, you don’t understand, and it’s fine to not understand. Just don’t play like you do. Just listen.

People always suggest meditation to me because I have chronic panic attacks that impede my living and functionality. I don’t like meditation. It doesn’t work. Stop suggesting it. You have to feel safe in order to meditate. Maybe one day I’ll feel safe. In the meantime, shut up. Same goes for yoga.

See, you’re just talking over me cuz you don’t want to believe that there’s nothing that’ll fix me right now while we’re talking. We might be friends an entire lifetime and I’ll never be fixed to your satisfaction. You’re uncomfortable. You feel helpless. You don’t know what to say or do.

Advice is more about the person who’s giving it than the person it’s being given to. Advice is when someone gets very agitated by what you’re saying: you’ve hit a nerve, and they can relate, but they don’t want to touch that nerve, so they kinda go after you.

Here’s what: say nothing. Have you heard of “Active Listening?” It’s listening without interruption while your friend/partner/client speaks their truth. There are a few steps to it. One is paraphrasing what the person said, or even repeating exactly what they said back to them. A second step might be just listening quietly and saying “Oh my goodness,” or “Holy shit,” or “That’s so messed up. I wish this weren’t happening to you.” It’s important to avoid saying “I understand,” because no one really understands another person’s experience. Say “I hear what you’re saying. You have all my sympathy.”

Now, some people tend to bristle when receiving sympathy. They’re not used to it. They’d prefer advice, I think. I can’t speak for them. Maybe they’ve never been to therapy and that’s very uncomfortable for them. Maybe they’ve never told anyone what they’re telling you, and it doesn’t matter what you say – they’ll be mad at you. Maybe they suddenly found themselves speaking this unspeakable thing out loud and they’re trying to shut it back in its box, instead of talking about it while you listen sympathetically.

There’s a fine line. Hey – I want to make things better for people who are suffering, especially if I love them. I feel helpless and angry and hurt when I hear what obstacles they’re facing, and I want to make the obstacles go away. It’s just that has never worked for me. There’s a backlash. I gave them the wrong advice, or I missed out on a moment of being there for someone by pushing them away with advice. It’s the being there that has the most meaning.


Ow, My Depression! ~trigger alert~

I’m so depressed today that I dare not tell anyone. They would be ashamed of me. I’m ashamed of myself.

I’m shaking with anxiety. My kitchen and apartment seem foul to me, especially the fridge, and I’m embarrassed. I’m embarrassed that I’m going to eat gelato, and proably drink cream later. It’s the depression. The effort it takes for me to keep clean is too much sometimes. That’s why I want to live alone. I’m so ashamed of how I live, even though there are probably 17,000 depressed people within a 1000 mile radius of here who are embarrassed by how they live.

I keep people away from my life. I keep them away from my home. I hate my housing: Congregate Care Level II HUD-subsidized housing. The staff watches my every move. Cameras everywhere except inside the apartments (as far as I know). They know – the staff always knows whether or not I’m home. It’s because the front desk person has to record in a notebook whenever a resident exits or enters. There’s just the one entrance. They have a monitor in front of them with all the camera feeds from the hallways and building entrance and lobby. If they want me, they know I’m home. They’ll buzz my intercom over and over. They’ll come knock on my door. The case manager will call my phone.

I’m in an abusive relationship with my housing. Every step I take to protect myself seems to incite some kind of retaliatory behavior. They start treating me like I can’t be trusted; like I’m incapable. They patronize me; they condescend to me. They laugh and pooh-pooh my very real problems. They interrupt me when I’m speaking. They ask intrusive questions – the same ones – over and over; and their shtick is that they need to continually evaluate and therefore they’re allowed to ask the same instrusive questions every time they see me. It’s a design. The program is designed to give me the feeling that I don’t know what’s real and what’s not. It’s designed to give me the feeling that I’m crazy, incapable, dependent, and also undeserving of support and trust.

Their formula keeps me trapped in my home, because I don’t want each of my exits and entrances recorded…because I deserve privacy and independence…because I don’t want to run into nosy staff every time I leave or come home. There’s only one way in and out of the building. It’s all very “Big Brother Is Watching You.”

You want out of the shelter, you submit to them. They get to change the rules whenever they want.

I sit in my apartment and shake with fear. The meds don’t touch it, this anxiety. It’s not anxiety. It’s pure fear of being abused. It’s pure fear of being violated. The answer to an abusive relationship? GET. OUT. Get out! Get out! Get out! Don’t try to reason with an abuser. Just get the fuck out however you have to.

In Briefs

Sorry ^ inside joke with a friend.
In brief:
I’m selling custom fragrances. They are made of essential oils and ethanol, whose relatively low toxicity (used externally) can be verified by searching the ingredient database at Environmental Working Group

I still have PTSD, and sometimes dealing with customers or anyone triggers the hell out of me. I get uncanny vibes about whether or not I can successfully get someone what they want while I maintain my comfort and feeling of safety and sanity. It’s like not you; it’s me. Then again, I worked customer service nearly 20 years and, honestly, sometimes it is you, darling.


Why does it feel so good to give someone a dollar or two a few times a week? Why do I end up talking to them? Why does it feel good? Is it self-righteousness? Is it my programming? I was programmed to believe I deserved nothing. Then again, I don’t buy that anymore. I just feel good when I give. I feel good when I’ve been frugal enough with my money for the month that I can give.

I often wonder if the people I’m giving to have just as much as me – subsidized housing, Public Assistance, Disability, or some combination of public housing and benefits. What moves someone to sit or stand on the sidewalk and beg? I never begged. No wait – one time I asked someone for a swipe so I could get the train to work: when I was working, the money flew away from me before I knew what was happening. I wanted to get rid of it as fast as I could. I hated that job.

No, that’s not it. Yes, I hated my job. I needed to spend out of convenience, because what life didn’t take out of me, my job did. I needed to take a cab to the train because I injured my leg at work. I needed to spend money on medical care and medication, because I didn’t get insurance. I needed to buy food, because I didn’t qualify for food stamps. I ate and ate and ate so I could get to sleep; so I could forget how awful the day was and how awful the next day would be. I saw no way out. There wasn’t really any way out. I looked for jobs all the time.

I’ll Make It OK

I never know if I’ll get through one day or the next. I mean, I believe I’ll stay alive. Yet I can only do it by putting one foot out of bed each day; then the next; and so on.

I try to imagine my future. Will I write? Will I finish my four-year degree? Will I ever be able to work again? What would allow me to earn my keep? Will I ever be able to decide where I want to live and sign a lease?

I know I’ll make it. I know I’ll stay alive. I know this morning that I’ll be alive in the evening. Yet I know any given morning I might not get out of bed, because of a migraine; I won’t be able to think of a good reason to risk a panic attack in order to go out and accomplish something. I know that even if I make fun plans and follow through with them, there’s a damn good chance that my mood will stay depressed.

So what’s the point? JUST KEEP GOING. That’s the point. One foot after the other. That’s the point.

Cuz I have a secret: I think my future’s gonna be awesome, really awesome. And I can’t wait.

What the hell, Depression?

I don’t understand my mental and physical conditions at all. I can be fine, and then a weather front rolls into the area, and I’m flat on my back for days. I’m in pain. I can’t speak. My body fills with negative comments I’ve heard, mean things. Something sinister inside of me toys with my sense of joy, telling me I’ll never get better.

“You’ll never be able to work. Who’d hire you. You know you’re making it all up so that you don’t have to go back to the service industry. Don’t you know that all you exist to do is wait on people?”

That stuff curls up and nests inside of me for weeks at a time, and then, one day, it’s gone. I remember who I am. I can organize my thoughts. I can stand up without the room spinning, without getting sick.


I’ll be moving right along, going to all my appointments, keeping up with the housecleaning, and suddenly not be able to sleep one night. Then a huge depression pushes me down and holds me there until I wake up one day and feel fine. I’m fine! I can go to the store! I can tolerate the heat for 20 minutes at a time.