I was a writer.

I do something different now, but, from the time I could put thoughts on paper, it's all I wanted. So off I went to college for English, graduated, and set my sights on it.

After knocking on many doors, I scored a meeting with the metro editor at the now defunct Rochester Times Union. He was a kind man with warm brown eyes behind thick black plastic frames. I wore him down by calling him every 2 weeks for a few months and landed a spot on the features desk.

It was a glorified editorial assistant job. I was mostly responsible for weekly movie times, the recipe exchange, and writing wedding announcements (yawn), but I wrote the occasional features articles whenever they let me.

I was over the moon -- dream come true, and all that. After the excitement wore off, I realized it wasn't a good fit. I didn't want to write on command under constant deadline pressure. It was so not sexy.

Deep down, though, I began feeling like reporting on people's stories was a poor excuse for really listening to people's stories. 

Listening, witnessing and honoring what people go through in their Gate Passages is what I do now. It's a much better fit. 

I still love writing. I recently wrote this for Medium. Grab a mug of steaming coffee and have a read. I'd love to hear what you think.

The Gate Passage of Endings

A few days ago, you brought this year to a close.

It’s an ending. For some, it's a welcome end. For others, not so much. Either way, as a culture, we aren’t great with endings. 

Endings are Gate Passages. They lead you from one thing to another. I’ve shared some of my own Gate Passages this year, and I’m in the midst of another one -- closing the psychotherapy office I’ve had for the past 9 years. 

It's been a slow dance of breathing, witnessing, feeling, and allowing.

This ending is very different from how I used to end things. In my teens and twenties, destruction was the only tool I had. From situations to jobs to relationships, I'd blow it to pieces, angrily blame the other person, and move on before the dust settled.

It pretty much sucked, and I felt like hell every time. After a long while, I realized it was NOT a very satisfying way to end anything and I learned how to do it differently.

In my years as a psychotherapist, I’ve seen over and over how difficult endings are for all of us. 

It’s not like you're taught in school how to do it (but this kind of learning would benefit you far more than memorizing the multiplication table). The good news is that you can teach yourself.

The next time you're faced with an ending, I offer you some things think about: 

  • How can I end things with grace and honor?

  • How can I end things without denying or blaming the other person, and with owning the part I've played in it?

  • How can I loosen my grip on the things that hurt and embrace what felt good?

You can start with this ending -- goodbye 2017 and hello 2018.

Deep Share, part 2 (aka getting off of anti-depressants)

This summer, I did a deep share about one of the Gate Passages I was going through in getting off of anti-depressants. In my 15+ years as a psychotherapist helping kind souls through trauma, I’ve seen firsthand the silencing effect that the stigma of struggling with mental illness can cause. With the new Moon in Scorpio happening November 18th, the time is right to share rather than be silent. It's time to continue telling this story.

It’s been more than 6 months since I took the last dose — a minuscule cluster of tiny white balls stuck to the end of my moistened right pointer finger. I took a super longtime coming off — more than 2 years. By western medicine standards, this is unusually long. Typically, docs recommend 2-3 months, which I say isn't nearly long enough.

It’s been a wild ride. 

The first few months were a dark time of recurrent and prolonged panic attacks that triggered my survival fight/flight/freeze response, with a heavy heaping dose of sobbing spells. I felt as if I could feel all of the agony on the planet without a filter. It was all of the feels, all the time. Even though I had so little of the medication in my system by the time I took that last dose, I still felt the withdrawal effect big-time, which is not uncommon for sensitive people.

Between you and me, I’m relieved that I survived this part. There were moments when I didn't think I could. I did it with tons of support. I did it with the sheer knuckle-down determination to use all of the healing tools I’ve learned ... every single one of them and especially when I felt like I couldn’t do it.

Since then, I’ve noticed some interesting things about being off of anti-depressants.

All of them have to do with my heart. 

First, I cry all the time. I cry when I’m happy. I cry when I’m sad. I cry when I read about homeless dogs. I cry when I read about people doing kind things for others. I blow through tissues like they're going out of style.

Next, my sensitivity is off the charts. Anti-depressants by design take away the extremes of feeling — the dark lows and the happy highs. Most people wind up humming along in the middle. That’s where I hung out. Along with erasing the extremes, the meds dulled this sensitivity. It didn’t erase it by any means, but I'm surprised how the meds covered it up. I feel this sensitivity most in my heart center. 

I deeply long to feel connected to people. This too was something that I couldn’t feel so much on meds. I knew it was there intellectually, but now it’s a persistent ache in my heart. It's what neuroscientist Stephen Porges talked about at the trauma conference I went to a few weeks ago when he said that we human beings are wired for connection.

Lastly, I notice a lot grief for stuff I never dealt with. Lost loves. Lost opportunities. Although it should not surprise me given the work I do, I was pretty freaking surprised how much grief I've stored in my heart saying not now, maybe later. This grief is now demanding like a screaming, hungry baby that I face it now, and I am.

No matter how ...

you look on the outside or what you do for a living, Gate Passages are hard for each of us. Even so, they bring gifts. All of these things going on in my heart since that last dose is a gift.

If you need support going through your own Gate Passage, I'm here.

Meanwhile, pass the tissues.