All posts by lilithlunae

Three Books That Have Changed My Life

As someone who experienced adverse childhood experiences, books take on a special meaning to me. Libraries became sanctuaries, bookstores as havens, stories as escapes, and books as stability. Engrossed in a multi-book series with hundreds of pages was often the only safe activity for me, and provided me consistency I was never used to. People would come and go from my life; Harry, Katniss, and Aragon would stay within the pages of the text. I could visit them whenever I wanted.

From this experience, I knew the written word was powerful. But I had a bias: I laughed at the people who browsed the “Self-Help” section. Real, or imaginary, this section was a little dusty and abandoned. When I saw patrons in the “Self-Help” section, they seemed to give a furtive left-to-right glance before picking up a novel. I maintained my place in the fantasy section, but each time I passed this section, I shook my head and thought “what can you find in a book that you don’t already know?”

Cue the universe laughing at me. On my twenty-third birthday, I received a self-help book from an acquaintance. She told me it would help me change, and I still, to this day, don’t know if that was an insult. However, the new year falls only eight days from my birthday, so of course, I was feeling the “new year, new me” vibes. I read it. And I actually enjoyed it, with the added bonus that it did change me.

After researching my first ever self-help book, called Warrior Goddess Training: Become the Woman You Were Meant To Be, by Heather Ash Amara, I started reading self-help more frequently. I found that, unlike reading a novel, I could spend days on one page. Instead of devouring a two-hundred page text in one day, it took me days to get through twenty pages. This was due to the profound content I found within the pages of the texts. It was a completely new way of reading and processing — it was a process. Indeed, I found, within the pages of the following books, things that I knew, things that I didn’t know, and things that I remembered.

The Four Agreements

The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz is a book rooted in ancient Toltec, or  pre-Columbian Mesoamerican, traditions. In this book, Ruiz helps the reader understand four “agreements” that we make with ourselves everyday. “Agreements” are things we accept, such as, we are not good enough, smart enough, or pretty enough. Those aren’t our thoughts — they are thoughts put into our heads by others or by misunderstanding, miscommunication, or mis-imagining the -future. In order to overcome those agreements that are self limiting, we must become impeccable with our word, not take anything personally, not make any assumptions, and always do our best. To do that, you will be rewarded with happiness and free from suffering. It seems like magic, it’s so easy, but it’s actually difficult to practice. If there was one book to read before you die, this is it. This book is for the practical, the primal, and the ones who strive for wisdom.

The Alchemist

Is this a self-help book? Maybe. It’s a brilliant adventure across mountains and seas and deserts. This book is unique. There are no words in this book I would take away. Every word has its place and a meaning and feels profound. Paulo Coelho created The Alchemist as a metaphor. It begins with Santiago, a Andalusian shepherd, who goes in search of his own personal legend. Everyone has a personal legend, something they have wanted to do since they were a child. But life gets in the way. Peppered with brilliant lines such as “and, when you want something, all the universe conspires in helping you to achieve it”, “one is loved because one is loved. No reason is needed for loving,” and “tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams, because every second of the search is a second’s encounter with God and with eternity”, you will fall in love with this story and it’s charm. The lush scenes are merely metaphors for our own mountains and deserts we wander across. This book is for the modern-day transcendentalist, the dreamers, and those with wanderlust.

How to Be You

Tik-Tok sensation Jeffrey Marsh created How to Be You: Stop Trying to Be Someone Else and Start Living Your Life as an approachable and accessible way to heal from your traumas, or agreements, as Don Miguel Ruiz would say. “You forget your bravery. You stop trusting yourself. Other people’s words ‘You shouldn’t be like that,’ in whatever context, become your own words ‘I am wrong for being like this. It’s my fault”, writes Jeffrey. Part narrative, part journal, and part personal cheerleader, this book invites one to realize who they are, and let go of things that do not serve, and begin the journey of loving oneself unconditionally. Jeffrey’s love for themselves and love for the reader resonates in every word. This novel is for the hands-on learners, those practicing radical self-love, and those who are a touch fabulous.

I was kind of right as a child when I asked “what can you find in a book that you don’t already know?” Nothing in the pages of these books are radical. Some of these things I already knew. But sometimes, the world can make you feel small, less then, not capable, and make you forget your personal legend. These books are certain to help you remember, reimagine, and renew your love for your beautiful self.

Self-help is now my genre. I stand proudly in the section, dusting the shelves by picking up every book. I have realized, through these pages, it is my personal legend to write a self-help book and heal others through my experiences. When I start to forget, or become lost in the 9-5, I just remember the wisdom of these written words. If you have the time, try one of these books — they are short, they are imaginative, and they will help you realize your agreements, your personal legend, and your love for yourself. Comment, like, and follow me for more recommendations, if you love these books, or if you have recommendations for me!

This is a mini story…

This mini story is about family. 

This mini story is about balsamic vinegar. 

This mini story is about family, balsamic vinegar, and trauma. 

This mini story is about family, balsamic vinegar, trauma, and abuse. 

This mini story is about family, balsamic vinegar, trauma, abuse, and healing. 

There are a few things that make my siblings and I alike. To start off, we all have the same father, and all have different mothers. We all have our dad’s nose, we all have the same curly brown hair, and we all love balsamic vinegar. We also all have no contact with our biological father.

Yes, we have no contact with our biological father, our only link.

When I was fifteen, I was placed in emergency housing because of the abuse from our father. My oldest sibling was four; my youngest, a few months old. Unfortunately, having no mother to fight for me, being alone in the overworked child protective services system, I wrongfully slipped back into the hands of my abuser. At seventeen, I watched my six-year-old brother kicked down the stairs.

We dip our crusty garlic bread in balsamic and lick the sweet and pungent liquid off our fingers. 

At seventeen, I left for the military. It was my only chance of getting out of the house alive. I know to be a fact. Somedays, I thought my only option to free myself from abuse was suicide. I left, and left my siblings behind. It would be years before I saw them again.

My sister leaves the bread soaking the balsamic, much to the outcry of the others who want to dip their bread. She takes it out; the bread is now black mush. With her fingers and a grin, she shoves the whole thing in her mouth. She proves she loves balsamic more than either of us.

While I was away, my sibling’s mothers fought to terminate all custodial rights between my father and my siblings. They presented evidence of emotional, physical, and sexual abuse perpetrated on both myself and my siblings. At the time, I didn’t know any of this. Barely eighteen years old, I was still unraveling my trauma. I just had cut off all contact with my biological father. I felt like a victim, thinking the abuse I experienced was my fault for being a bad child, a failure, and so many other terms that came from his mouth. I didn’t even know the depths of trauma I had; I worked hard to stifle all my emotions and lead a normal life. I cut everything out of my life that reminded me of my father – including balsamic vinegar. 

We craft stories of how we are kin by the love of this vinegar. We prove our love to each other with every dunk of the bread. Every story gets a little taller, and every joke and jeer, prod and poke unleashes a fury of giggles as we proclaim our love for each other, with full mouths.

But, as it turns out, trauma doesn’t let you have a normal life. After recurring nightmares of being held hostage in my childhood home with my father telling me that no one was ever going to believe me, I got help. I was diagnosed with PTSD and started going to individual and group therapy. What helped more than therapy, in my experience, was helping others. I worked in a hospital, then as a 911 dispatcher, and I finally felt like I was unraveling the tight ball of trauma inside me. When I was able to heal other’s trauma and keep them safe, I felt whole again. 

I place dinner on the table. It’s the usual: vibrant green pesto pasta. We look at it with skeptical eyes. We have already filled up on bread and vinegar. Yet, almost as a routine, we scoop out a heaping plateful, ready to outdo each other at some new, but classic, food. My sibling piles on the parmesan as we protest – save some for us! 

My sibling’s moms watched me with wary eyes. I acutely felt how they looked at me, at first. I was a part of my father; I was entwined with the abuse. They were emotionally abused by his hands, too. There was so much healing to be done. They told me later they were scared for me– I would turn to drugs or have severe and debilitating mental illness from my years of abuse endured alone. Yet, they turned to me for help. When I was twenty-three years old, they asked me if I would write an affidavit on the abuse I suffered at the hands of my father. They finally had enough momentum in the custody case – a diagnosis from a court ordered psychologist– to terminate all rights. I was the piecé-de-résistance. 

We finish our carbohydrate-laden dinner. We bemoan our bulging bellies. Then someone suggests a nerf war, a pillow fight, and a movie. We hush as we scramble the dishes into the sink, ready for our next chance to try to prove ourselves. We aren’t competing to win at capture the flag or pillow-beat each other to submission. No. We are trying to prove that we, despite everything that has almost kept us from each other, deserve to be with one another.

I wrote. I wrote and wrote and wrote some more. I had a ten page memoir written; a love letter dedicated to my sibling’s freedom. The paper went to court. I was interviewed about it’s contents by a seasoned social worker. He looked at me, in my eyes, and solemnly stated, “I know every word of this is true. Everything written ring as the words of a survivor. Even your job in 911, your mission to try to help people, is the mark of a victim of abuse. I am sorry you had to go through this. You didn’t deserve any of it.” And that is the first time anyone ever told me they believed me. That is when my life began to make sense. That is when the healing began.

Now my siblings and I enjoy vacations and weekends together. Eyes are no longer wary, just grateful. There is a bond that is deeper than blood. The love that runs through our veins is sweeter, zestier, and a little more potent: it’s balsamic vinegar. 

If you, or someone you know, is facing a battle against domestic abuse and needs help, please call the National Domestic Abuse Hotline at 800-799-7233. For more options on how to help a loved one or free yourself from domestic abuse, visit https://www.thehotline.org/.

You do not have to go through this alone. If no one has ever told you, or even if they have and you want to hear it again, I believe you

Harry Potter and the “Don’t Say Gay” Bill

Somewhere in Florida, a child is hearing about a bill called “Parental Rights in Education”, called by some the “Don’t Day Gay” bill, and does not begin to realize how their education is going to be ruled by the government, starting with restricting speech on gender and sexuality. This child, from preschool to third grade aged, does not know there is a bill that has been passed which prohibits stating certain genders or races are oppressed. This child does not know in their earliest years that they will have books taken out of their classroom, BANNED, because they talk about race, sexuality, or gender in a way that calls to light oppression.

This is taking books from children, moreover, taking knowledge from children, in effort to have parents have more control over education.

I could try to tell you how insidious this is, even though some say they are just trying to protect the children (Putin is also trying to save Ukraine, but that’s for a different day), but I love a good analogy. Bear with me folx, because we are about to go on a metaphorical journey. Grab a butterbeer and buckle up.

To explain, if you don’t know, the Harry Potter series is a mix of Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations and The Alchemist, set in modern day England. Long story short, little wizard boy doesn’t know he’s a wizard, tragically loses his parents, lives with neglectful Aunt and Uncle. Harry finds out he’s a wizard, his mom and dad were killed by Lord Voldemort, a man on the mission to cleanse the wizard bloodlines to create “pure blood”. Our boy Harry was almost killed on the same night when his parents resisted Voldemort, but weird magic stuff happened and he didn’t. Voldemort hung out in the shadows, doing horrible things like becoming a parasite on another wizard’s body, waiting around until he had the moment to kill Harry and return to power. Today, we are specifically talking about the fifth book, (The Order of the Phoenix) when we meet this witch:

Don’t let her fool you. She looks pink and cute and parades around as though she loves children, but really she was appointed by the government (the Ministry of Magic) to come to Hogwarts (a magic school) as the “High Inquisitor” of the curriculum. She starts to make changes, which are agreed upon by the PTA equivalent of Hogwarts (with a dark side). One of the main men on the PTA is one of Voldy’s supporters, who believes in purifying the blood of all wizards (i.e. eventual enslavement of all non-magic folx). He also has a big history with threatening to kill people on the PTA, if they don’t do what he says. He’s making some big decisions, even though he doesn’t have a degree in education and is definitely in the wizard equivalent of the KKK, wealth ‘n’ all.

Back to the lady in pink, Dolores Umbridge. She starts small at Hogwarts. She observes lessons, critiques instruction, then distributes government-made curriculum in place of history books. She fires people who don’t adhere to the government’s standards, or are speaking out against government interference in education, eventually firing the Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore, who is actively working against Voldemort and the idea of a wizarding hierarchy. She even fired teacher because he had “giant” blood, which is something that was said to make his disposition wild and dangerous, although Hagrid was one of the most beloved people at the school. And she does this all on the orders of the government and a select group of folx at the Hogwarts PTA, who are *criminals*.

It’s not long before she is torturing students. She literally tortures students in detention by making them write lines with a quill that takes the blood from their body. As we see this unfold, we see that her influence is not only harming children, but also providing a education which makes them basically defenseless. They never learn anything with the books they receive, they are never taught to practice spells; they are told if they think Voldemort is real and going to hurt them, they are telling lies.

Slippery slope indeed, but does it sound familiar?

Voldemort is a pure blood supremacist, and Dolores and the government think they are doing the children a favor by telling them they don’t have to worry about violence, white wizard supremacy, or oppression, because it doesn’t exist. They change history books, they erase people of color teachers who have non-magical blood by firing them, and they torture students for not maintaining their silence.

When the government and a select group of parents start controlling the curriculum for all children, ignoring blatant truths in the world such as oppression, injustice, racism, sexism, and homophobia, we start this scary cycle. Understand: identity is intertwined with perception, which starts before school even begins. Perception of inequality begins as soon as a child is treated different then his or her peer because of race, gender, or sexuality. Now, that child doesn’t have the crux to understand that their government-appointed textbooks and teacher (not there yet, but slippery slope) is treating them differently because of their gender identity, their race, or their culture. No. Instead, they think they are bad children who deserved to be punished (that’s almost a direct quote from our dear friend, Dolores). But they never even know why. And I haven’t even got into those who it doesn’t directly affect (outside of the state of Florida); the eyes of the LGBTQ and BIPOC world are on Florida. Once they begin to erase gender, identity, and sexuality, what validation will those people feel for their journey?

Thank you for taking that magical metaphorical journey with me. Horrified? Terrified? Scared? Me too. Here’s what you can do:

Look at the facts. I didn’t say much about how empirically harmful this is — but here’s some cold, hard data.

Tell lawmakers to oppose this bill.

Teach the people around you, your children, your friends and family, that erasure is harmful.

As an LGBTQ+ kid, I was bullied. I was told I should be essentially lynched so I can spend an eternity burning in hell for my homosexual sins. I was reported to the principal for holding hands with my girlfriend as inappropriate, when straight couples would share buckets of saliva by their lockers. The whole softball team refused to change with me in the locker room. It’s okay to be gay, to say gay, and to talk about sexual orientation and gender identity.

I AM VALID. I AM HISTORY. I WILL NOT BE ERASED.

It should be noted, Harry Potter actually a challenged book. Many schools have challenged the idea of the witchcraft in the novel. It’s also contested due to transphobic comments made by the author, J.K. Rowling. Many of the community members who do enjoy Harry Potter condemn the acts of the author, but state that the book does not portray any overt transphobia, and in fact, is a book about love, peace, and goes against racism, sexism, bullying, and xenophobia. I do not condone any comments made by the author of Harry Potter that have negatively impacted the LGBTQ+ community.

Pause Before Pouring Out Your Vodka

Businesses in United States and Canada have started pouring out their stores of Russian Vodka in solidarity for Ukraine because “every small thing makes a difference”, states a Fox News article, with a slew of pictures and stories of business owners pouring out Russian manufactured vodka.

While I do believe it is important to stand in solidarity with Ukraine during this attack fueled by Russian greed, pouring out your vodka should be pretty low on the list.

If you think that your mission to end human suffering, an unprovoked attack on Ukraine citizens, is solved by pouring out an alcoholic beverage, a non-essential food item, is your greatest plan to end a war, as this article suggests, please don’t pat yourself on the back yet.

On the macro-scale, “The Nova Scotia Liquor Corporation removed Russian products from its shelves and website because of the ‘terrible events taking place'” and “British Columbia [has] ceas[ed] imports on Russian alcohol” states the article. Canada and United states have started an embargo on Russia, an economic sanction. Not only is this embargo targeting liquor, it is targeting all Russian-made exports, the most important of those being crude oil, which nets the Russian economy $300 billion dollars per year.

And while we might cheer for the Russian economy to be starved so that the war ceases, and we might like or even post videos of pouring out vodka as some form of “humanitarianism”, an embargo is not starving President Putin, nor the Russian billionaires who line his pockets and have lead to this war.

The Russian people are not our enemy. These are people who may not even want their country to be at war, but found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Let’s talk about what this article does not discuss: the implications of an embargo on Russian goods. A good starting point of understanding would be assessing the embargo of North Korea and Cuba. The United States embargo has caused pain, suffering, and starvation in these countries. North Korean citizens are receiving food rations that are below the “survival ration” that has been deemed by the United Nations. This has lead to 300,000 to 800,000 North Koreans dying each year from starvation. In Cuba, the United States denied medical supplies, food, and fuel. Because of the sixty-year embargo, the country is unable to build an economy and is living in a crumbling physical and economic infrastructure with no means to support their citizens. Do you think that their authoritarian dictators care about if the people they rule over are dying of starvation? These regimes have done little to reverse their stance on political issues, so how can we say that an embargo is working, or would work?

So yes, you can choose to read the article put out by Fox News, and as a business owner or a private entity, you can pour out your vodka and give yourself a pat on the back. But this, dear reader, is lulling you into a false state of humanitarianism. As one business owner stated in the article, “He said he stood to lose a few hundred dollars over the spilled vodka – but said the protest was worth it to him”.

A few hundred dollars for lost liquor and praise on social media, while the implications of an embargo will lead to universal human suffering and starvation not limited to Ukraine, but also in Russia. Is that worth it to you?

I am not condoning military actions against Russia by the United States, nor am I condoning violence. What I am imploring of you, dear reader, is to read articles and consume media cautiously. Be aware that what might be trending can actually be harmful if you do not know the real life implications. Don’t subscribe to this kind of humanitarian illusionist journalism — instead of offering ways to truly help the Ukrainian people, or even the Russian who people find themselves in a conflict they do not want, look for sources that will educate you on the full story, or tell you how to get involved. We must not be hoodwinked by these posts; we must hold world leaders accountable for taking actions to decrease the likelihood of human suffering, rather than small, meaningless actions that don’t really, in the scheme of things, do anything.

A final note: what I am asking of our world leaders is that we impose sanctions or operate our governmental posturing with the most attention to prevent human suffering as possible. I know that’s a big ask — the United States hasn’t got it right with Cuba or North Korea, or even immigration and refugees, and has just began to look at the human suffering inflicted in our own country. We must stand by Ukraine’s innocent civilians as well as Russia’s. I am asking you to be swift in your decision making, decisive, and lead us on a path that will lead to the least loss of human life. Hold Putin and his allies accountable, not innocent people.

What #FreeBritney Should Mean to You

I never thought I would type the words “#FreeBritney” on social media. I rolled my eyes at the idea that any celebrity, worth millions or billions, would need a social media movement to spotlight control over their own rights. “Go cry into your millions”, I brazenly thought.

You may know the story; it’s shocking headlines are sprinkled across many social media outlets. But an article caught my eye. As I read “Beyond Britney”, suddenly, I realized that Britney’s story wasn’t just a celebrity, who had a very public mental health collapse, pandering for more fame and to once again become relevant. Conservatorship, the key word in Britney’s story, is a topic we should all be familiar with, because the laws around it affect millions of our most vulnerable citizens. Here’s how I did a 180 on my thoughts on Britney Spears and the topic of conservatorship.

“I was held hostage from my family and my friends… My guardian told me that if I called 911, that I would lose all phone privileges. They made me clean feces off the mattresses. They made me help restrain other people. I called adult protective services, who came, but didn’t believe my story.”

In a Vice article entitled “The Horror of an Unwanted Conservatorship, According to People Who Lived It”, Michael Lincoln-McCreight exposes how he was held hostage in an unwanted conservatorship when he aged out of foster care. He did not know he was receiving a guardian, he was not advocated for in the judicial system, and he was forced to be psychologically evaluated without any understanding of the process. After his full guardianship was granted to another by the court, he was “awarded” no legal rights: “the right to vote, the right to get married, the right to choose where I wanted to live, the right to choose my socialized environment” was taken, he states. Any money he possessed was given to his court appointed guardian. He was placed in a group home where he was restrained, administered medication, told not to call 911, and could not maintain any contact with his family.

Fortunately, Michael was able to contact  Disability Rights Florida and hired a lawyer to defend his right to his own life. He is now able to make supported decisions in a less restrictive guardianship. Michael is free. He owns a home, has a driver’s license, and is a state-licensed security officer.

About 1.5 million Americans are under guardianship or conservatorship, many over 65, or with legally recognized disabilities. The guardians or conservators are charged with ensuring the wards in their care have access to medical care, and legally obliged to protect their wards wellbeing and health. As we can see, this does not always happen. While Michael’s story is one of hope over a fraudulent system, more tragic stories paint a picture of the true horrors of conservatorship.

Rebecca Fierle made millions while controlling the lives and finances of more than 500 people before she was charged last year with abuse and neglect of an older adult ward who died after she had him placed under a DNR and allegedly told doctors to cap his feeding tube. When police raided her office, they found urns containing the cremated remains of nine former wards on display.

Some guardians use conservatorship criminally to take finances from the most vulnerable people in our society, and the judicial system makes the practice of shutting citizens in group homes or senior living houses easy. These criminal guardians isolate those under their care from their families, cut them off from their finances, and make life-altering decisions like Rebecca Fierle, placing those they care for under a DNR without consultation of the client or family.

Murder is not an exaggeration as to the fates of some placed under conservatorship. Carl DeBrodie was a man with developmental disabilities, placed under the care of a guardian who managed hundreds of wards in Missouri. He was placed in a group home. After living in the group home, his family saw him with cuts and bruises, indicating possible neglect. After such a report was filed, the Carl’s family was banned from seeing him. Seven months past before Carl’s body was found encased in concrete at the group home. The staff at the facility falsified medical records, claiming that they were caring for him. When found deceased, his body showed signs of malnourishment and maltreatment, which lead to his death. He was likely isolated in the basement, and died alone.

Meanwhile, the guardians who criminally exploit their wards spend the money of their abused or deceased clients on luxury homes, shopping sprees, and vacations.

“Britney Spears Said She Lost The Use Of Her Lower Body After Being Confined To A Chair For 8 Hours A Day In A Treatment Center That Made Her Think She Had Cancer During Her Conservatorship”

The article with this title was posted on BuzzFeed about 24 hours ago. You may have seen it pop on Facebook, like I did. You may have kept scrolling, or you may have read it. You may have doubted it, you may have thought it was terrifying, or you may have felt apathy. However, given the context of conservatorship and the stories of Michael Lincoln-McCreight and Carl DeBrodie, how do you feel now?

It was quite dismissive and narrow-minded of me to ever assume that Britney Spears’ addiction and mental health struggles were something she would ever use to manipulate the media and the public. “Cry into your millions”, I thought. I was wrong. Please understand, this is not actually about Britney. She is merely the lens I, and maybe we, needed to open our eyes on conservatorship and it’s horrors. The #FreeBritney movement should mean more to you: it is about protecting our most vulnerable citizens and ensuring they have the right to exist.

Mental health: you hear a lot about it. It seems like there is always a post about it on social media, or someone is telling you about their self-care routine and now, you need self-care, too. The talk around mental health can be overwhelming. As a full time student and working full time in an elementary school during a pandemic, “overwhelming” is a little bit underwhelming for how I feel. My story probably feels similar to a lot of you: who can afford just go to college nowadays, and not worry about car payments, rent, medical bills, and more? Seriously, are sorority houses and frat parties a thing of the past or is just me?

We are often overwhelmed by the amount of stimulus that pings off our brain receptors; you walk around with something in your pocket that anyone can talk to you at any time. You scroll social media for… I mean, really, what for, and see that someone you knew is dying of COVID-19 and there are refugees with heartbreaking stories that you wish you had time to volunteer and then, you see the perfect family, taking perfect family photos, in a pandemic, seemingly not struggling, at all. Zoom, e-mail, Google chat messages, and phone calls pile on your chest all day at work and you feel suffocated.

Sometimes, it all stops, and then the real horror picture begins. Spring or winter break rolls around and I find myself roiling in terror — combative thoughts like “I am not doing enough, I am not productive enough, and I can’t keep up with all this anymore” emerge, and corrupt my peaceful mind like rot.

To give you some background, this time of year is what I like to call my Bermuda Triangle of mental health: my birthday, New Year’s Eve, and my SAD (seasonal affective disorder) have joined forces to make me feel like the sun will never come out, and I will never be good enough — I mean by goodness, I am twenty-seven years old and I don’t have my degree yet? According to the world right now, I also need to exercise more and lose weight. This soul crushing trifecta lead me to two hours of sobbing uncontrollably on a cold, dark, Friday night. My partner asked why I was crying and my best offer to this was,

“I am so bored and life is so long and I am too tired to do anything but resent myself for not.”

The only thing that made me come out of this dark place was when my partner agreed to let me teach him to play chess. I needed to unplug. In doing so, I felt the smooth pieces of the olive-worn wooden board and heard the beautiful, muffled clinking sound of felt against wood, striking like a blow every time I captured a piece. I needed my life to narrowly come down to thinking about the way pawns, kings, queens, knights, rooks, and bishops moved. I didn’t know how I was going to move forward, but I felt, in every part of me, I could move what was on the board in front of me and win the game.

I don’t have all the answers, and I am not perfect. I am not saying that chess will help you like it helped me. I am telling you that you are not alone, and there is something out in the world that is perfect for you to feel a little bit less overwhelmed. As a Mental Health First Aid responder and a former crisis negotiator, I want to tell you the ways I help myself and others with feelings of overwhelm, boredom, and sadness, especially in what feels like the eternal winter of a pandemic.

First, unplug. There is nothing so important as you, when you are feeling this way. Note, after you put your phone down, how you are feeling. Why are you feeling like this? Is it because of New Year’s blues? It’s a real thing. Click here to see how you are not the only person suffering with New Year’s depression. Is it lack of Vitamin D? Vitamin D and SAD can play some tricks on your serotonin levels. Click here to see more.

Second, listen to your being and be honest with yourself. I was tempted at first to sip a glass of wine to unwind my feelings, but that could have made my feelings worse. I had to be fully aware to make a decision for what my body needed at that time, and it wasn’t alcohol.

Try some meditative practices, such as gentle yoga, journaling, chess, or reading. I even find some video games to be highly therapeutic. What you choose does depend on how well you can function at the time. I could only begin to think about playing chess when I cried and sobbed and listened to my body. If you are alone, I recommend a chanting yoga, or a loving kindness meditation. See directions on this simple practice, with an audio guide, here.

If you are around those you love, connect. Embrace. Maybe even teach. They do love you. I taught my partner how to play chess and I have watched his joy of the game bloom. I sowed those seeds in a very dark time for me, and our competition is flourishing.

Finally, if you can’t get past the first step, that’s okay too. You have talked to a loved one, you have tried to write your feelings, and nothing seems to be working. As a Metro student, we have access to additional resources. Click here for 24/7 counseling services that are free and confidential. Want to text or chat? Click here for a list of resources by MentalHealth.gov.

You’re not alone in feeling overwhelmed, sad, or even bored. Listen to your body and your being, and find your chess board.