Sunday, March 8, 2015

Speaking on women

Happy International Women's Day, y'all.

It's hard for me to fathom how far women have come in the world, but I love to see people embracing how strong, substantial, and influential women of all races, nationality, social classes, sexualities, etc., have always been. In honor of today, I wanted to share some of my favorite poems about women, a portion of my love language. They've made me feel empowered and emotional and angry and proud of everything we can be.

Sarah Kay, "The Type"
Do not mistake yourself for a guardian.
Or a muse. Or a promise. Or a victim. Or a snack.
You are a woman. Skin and bones...

Dominique Christina, "The Period Poem"
My own cervix is mad influential;
everybody I love knows how to bleed with me.

Clementine von Radics, "Advice to Teenage Girls with Wild Ambitions"
You don't need to grow up to find greatness.
You are stronger than the world has ever even told you you could be.

I hope something resonates with you today and makes you feel stronger. Whether it's a poem, a show's theme song, someone's message to their younger self, a Nobel Prize speech, or someone who loves you. I hope you're surrounded by women who constantly baffle, challenge, and encourage you. Because we're pretty damn great.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

An ode to my SNRI

It is 4:27am, and I haven't been to sleep. I could run an ultramarathon in anxiety. My body is not good at much else right now, but, oh, it is good at anxiety.

Before I started a SNRI, I was scared of them. I had never heard any stories of them going well, or that someone I could sympathize with was taking them. All knowledge was detached, shrouded in disquietude. There was no normalcy to it in a grand, fearful way. So this is why I'm here. To write a love note of sorts to my drugs. 

Not everyone with anxiety needs SNRIs, SSRIs, or a bottle of Xanax in their purse. (Personally, I send a little prayer of thanks up for Xanax's existence every time I have need to take it.) I recognize that. I recognize that some people start them before deciding they don't quite fit. But I also see that there are more of us who shy away from them than maybe should. I understand. It's often scary, and weird, and just overall unsettling to begin. 

Sometimes, though, you have to recognize that your broken leg needs more than just a brace, no matter what you've tried yourself or how hard you will it to heal. Sometimes you need a pair of crutches, or maybe surgery, or a set of titanium pins. Sometimes you need to mix them all together, or throw in some physical therapy. Sometimes it takes a little playing with to get the combination right. Mental health is the same, in all its various causes and multipronged approached. Almost always, I've found, it's okay to not be able to do everything on your own. 

My SNRI is not a miracle worker, nor is therapy. I still get panic attacks some days, though thankfully much less often. I still describe myself as anxious. But I also still describe myself as my own. I have had no horror stories with them, no negative reactions. My doctors have been lovely and worked together and with me to make sure the cocktail is working for my specific mix of physical and non-physical causes and symptoms. We have played with dosages and brands in attempts to get things closest to "right." It can be a slow, patient process, but one one that has helped me indisputably.

So no, my SNRI is not a magic healer. But it is a tool. A weapon. A bracing band for my shield. It makes it easier to get out of bed some days, or to see other people. It reminds me that I'm human, and to forgive myself. It helps me throw a stick in the spokes when the wheels of my head begin to turn furiously and out of hand. 

It allows me to ask for more help when I need it. 

I hope that one day this will all switch back, that things will balance and my body will flourish at its daily functions and anxiety's vine will be tamped down in the process. I truly hope so. I keep fingers crossed in the way you wait for hurricane season to end. 

Until then, I will take my pills, have the boards prepped for my windows, and do my best to keep moving forward. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

Galentine's Day treats

Are you a fan of chocolate and great ladies? Then you're in the right place. Today we're gathered around our internet devices to honor Galentine's Day. (What's Galentine's Day? It's only the best day of the year.)

Galentine's Day card from Brim Papery, treat boxes from Michael's
 As I've gotten older, I've realized the absolute power and belovedness of great female friendships. I was lucky enough to grow up with great role models for this: my mother's best friends were two other neighborhood mothers with daughters my age who pooled their strengths, took different paths in life, and loved each other fully. I never heard them say a brash word about each other. And in a society that likes to try to pit women against each other, I've realized how amazing it is to subvert this as I've aged a bit.

So, I love my ladies. A lot. I've never been someone with a huge group of friends, but especially with some bumpiness the last few years, I've treasured those I do have even more. I appreciate that we all have different strengths, and that we've all struggled in such singular and understandable ways, and that I've been lucky enough to seek out and find other women that refuse to tear each other down. Support is a powerful thing, y'all.

This year I decided to send out small treats to a handful of these women (if I had the means, I'd do Galentine's Day with every lady I know). I found little gifts that I thought suited each person in the Target $1-$3 section (sorry to ruin the allusion, dears)--because if there's one thing I believe in the power of, besides chocolate, it's the Target Dollar Spot--and packaged them up with a little card and a box of chocolate truffles that I crossed my fingers would make the trek through the United States postal system. If you've found something legal that feels better than doing something kind for people you love, do let me know.

Otherwise, I suggest listening to some Beyoncé or Little Mix and calling up (or texting, let's be realistic) your favorite girls. Do your best to empower and love each other.

Dairy-free Chocolate Amaretto Truffles
(after Oh Ladycakes)
  • 10 oz good quality bittersweet or dark chocolate chips or finely chopped bar (I used Ghirardelli or ChocoLove)
  • 3 T full-fat coconut milk (alternatively: almond milk or heavy cream)
  • 3 T amaretto*
  • 1 T coconut oil
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • large pinch sea salt
  • cocoa powder, powdered sugar, and/or finely ground almonds, for topping
To a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add milk and amaretto and heat to a low boil.* Add vanilla extract, salt, and coconut oil, stirring until the oil melts. Remove from heat. Add the chocolate to your liquid and stir until the chocolate melts and the mixture is smooth, scraping the sides of the bowl and being careful not to let the chocolate burn.** If the mixture is a little too bitter for you at this point, you can add a tiny bit of agave nectar.

Transfer this mixture to a bowl and allow to cool in the refrigerator until firm (this may take an hour or two--alternatively, I would just leave overnight and set out for 20 minutes to an hour before working with it).

When firmed, scoop the chocolate out in large teaspoons-fuls, rolling into a ball between your hands. Then roll the chocolate in your topping choice--I used cocoa powdered, sweetened with a tiny bit of sugar and some almonds mixed in--and place on a parchment or wax paper lined tray or plate. Once all the chocolate mixture has been shaped into truffles, place back in the fridge to refirm for 20-30min. Truffles can then be stored in the fridge for a firmer result, or on the counter for something a bit softer. Yields approx. 2 dozen.

(If shipping them cross-country, I suggest packaging them in a cute box and leaving them in the fridge until shortly before mailing.)

Note: make sure all the dishes and utensils you're using are dry. The chocolate will "seize" otherwise in the presence of water and be a pretty useless mess (though still good enough to eat with a spoon...)

*most of the alcoholic content should burn off through the boiling process, but if you'd rather go booze-free, use 5 T milk and 1 tsp almond extract--allow to heat thoroughly. You can add more extract to taste if desired, or I added 1 T almond butter for a bit of depth
**if the chocolate is not fully melted, you can put the mixture in the microwave at 10 second intervals, stirring thoroughly after each time, until smooth