When I was younger I was scared of a nameless, faceless man. I would have dreams where he would come into my window at night and chase me across the city. My fears lately haven’t been that specific or simple. I recently learned that while my father’s tumors in his jaw are responding to the chemotherapy, his lung tumors are growing. I’ve been having flashbacks about my brother passing away from an infection and his struggle with hepatitis C. The election makes me cringe and afraid to live in this country as a queer woman if a certain person gets elected. And, my depression has been rearing its head and I am having a hard time just doing the things that I need to do. Monsters grow in complexity as we get older but the fear still feels the same.

As a kid, I would get my parents to stay in my room while I fell asleep when I was afraid. They had the answers and would protect me if the man came. Things are not that simple now. Both of my parents are trying their hardest to fight cancer, but they are mostly powerless. I feel like I can see my Dad changing in front of my eyes. He is losing weight, having a hard time eating, tired by walking across the kitchen and off balance. There are moments that I can see the spark of the storyteller and pun-creator that I used to know. Then there are moments when I can see his fear and anger at the situation. These emotions come out in spurts and seem like disproportionate responses to smaller problems. I float between trying to be supportive but not nagging. I go visit him once a week and ignore some of the hurtful comments. I paint him canvases of support and try not to let him see that I am sad and scared. I connect with Mom and let her know that she can take breaks too. I hope that I will have more time with my Dad and not the angry version.

There is a song called, “Sarah Said” by Death Cab for Cutie. There is a line in it that haunts me, “Love is watching someone die.” Watching Paul die was my biggest fear for the longest time. I can still see him give his “dying breath” and hear my mom exclaim, “Oh Pauly!” Watching him fade under machines and eventually stop responding comes back in flashes more than I care to admit. It is almost like I am watching the same type of thing with my father. It isn’t quite as dramatic, but I can see him fighting and the days when it is too much to bear. I feel his excitement when he gets good news and despair at his new unwelcome news about the new cancer cells. When he tells me that this is the hardest thing he has ever done, I believe him. And this man was drafted into the Vietnam war.

I keep getting up every morning because my sense of responsibility will not let me sleep through the days, but sometimes it is really hard. I have a hard time taking petty complaining seriously because it feels minuscule compared to my father’s misery. I have been self-soothing through eating, but that just feels like avoidance. My depression is not a lack of feeling, but a small voice that keeps telling me that I will never do enough. I am not succeeding in my work or as a teacher. I shouldn’t even get out of bed because it isn’t worth it. I will never lose weight and I am a failure because of it. What is the point of everything you are doing? You will always feel bad. Why are you doing Zumba? You are the fattest one here and it doesn’t matter.

I am encouraged by the people who have recently admitted to depression publicly (Kid Cudi, Kristen Bell, etc) because I am the face of depression. I take medicine because I don’t think I could function without it. It is just a tool in my toolbox, though. I hate the stigma of mental illness. I appear to be happy to the outside world all the time. That is a mask that has been carefully cultivated through many years of knowing that the immense pain and anger inside of me is scary. I am scared of my own anger. It explodes out of me sometimes and I am always amazed. I am getting better at letting it out in more healthy ways than yelling,  but it still terrifies me. I don’t know how to wield it in a productive manner. I am currently working on taking a series of self-portraits with black paint. I am hoping that this will be a way of letting out the pain that I have carried for a long time. I wonder how much I have actually let go throughout my life. I’m tired of carrying all of this baggage.

Please have patience with the people around you that are struggling. You never know what they are really feeling.



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I’m not my type

I saw Andrea Gibson perform at the University of Maryland while I was a graduate student there. Her poems were fire and pain and glory. There is a reason that she was the poetry slam champion so many times in a row (at least 3).

In this poem she brings several thoughts to light in a short time. Soul mates, self awareness, romantic ideation. While humorous, I think she makes a great point. Would we chose ourselves?

I read an article about self compassion  by Michelle McQuaid. It states that you need to talk to yourself like a friend would do. It also mentions that you need a compassion mantra, so when the voices in your head are mean you can just state your mantra. I wonder what mine should be. “F- you stupid critical voice!” hmm, not quite my style. “You are doing better than you think.” Maybe. “You have been through hell and you haven’t quit yet.” That sounds better.

Onward Mel. You ran last night and evaded the rain. You walked a lot this morning and now you are getting more sleep. Keep going.

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About me, revisited.

Yesterday I read a post by the Huffington Post called “To Anyone Who Thinks They are Falling Behind in Life” by Jamie Varon. I needed to hear it. It isn’t that anything specific happened last week to make me feel like a failure, it is more of a constant feeling of not doing “enough.” I search for more and then shame myself when I don’t live up to my own unrealistic expectations. So I feel that I need to lay all of my ish out there, not seeking for pity or consolation, but so that I can get it out of myself and look at it. Look at it real hard.

No holds barred, here is my real “about me.”

Things that I am dealing with, in no particular order- both positive and negative-

Dog owner, sibling of a person with down syndrome, 4 degrees from UK, job that combines my academic and personal passions, depression and anxiety, PCOS, hypothyroidism, grief from my brother’s death and my grandfather’s death, father with unique severe cancer, middle of paying down debt from graduate school, condo owner, boyfriend, queer identity and how to maintain it, overeating, sense of humor, artist.

Phew. That is a lot.

If I am really honest with myself, really honest, I haven’t done too badly… I also think I take myself too seriously. If my brother could spend his last words to me making a joke while he was in INTENSIVE CARE, then I can learn to let go a little more.

Wait… let me put that in context. I do have a sense of humor, but I am very serious with my own goals. I need to give myself more grace. Here is the picture that I took at our last staff meeting with words that other people used to describe me- notice “best sense of humor” is pretty prominent.

senior staff

Where does this leave me? I do have a lot of pain. Pain from my past, pain from what is happening in the present, self-imposed pain and external pain. I want to get it out of me and let it go.

I often leave myself out or last. I think a part of this comes from growing up with Paul. I am not blaming him or making an excuse. The relationship of a sibling with a disability has shaped my entire view of the world. Paul was a beautiful enigma but he needed a lot of care. I loved him deeply and feel almost like he was my son. Growing up I was exceeding expectations, so I let my needs go to make sure that he was alright. He brought a lot of joy to my life, but also took a lot of energy. Fighting for myself was a secondary thought because in context what did I really have to fight for? I could eat, speak clearly, run, go to school, get married, drive, live on my own, etc. Paul could do those things sometimes, but needed a lot of help to get there. Then when he was struggling with Hepatitis C for the last 7 years of his life, it was an even bigger need.

I matter. I need to frame my thoughts to support my needs. I also need to be gentle with myself. Having goals is not bad. Having unrealistic goals and then shaming myself for not reaching them is.

Where do I go from here?


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“I believe in you– I need you to believe in you.”

I went to part of a leadership conference today. The quote in the title was said by the last speaker, David Rorke. It struck a cord because I am impossibly hard on myself. 

It is so simple and yet the action becomes complicated. I have done what I can this week. That is enough.

Now I’m enjoying the evening at the dog park with my boo- Lucy. 

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My milkshake brings… Wait

So this happened today. I felt like I needed it after writing my final paper all night for my graduate class and killing it at haggling today. 

I might reward myself with food too much. More to follow on that soon.

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“Imma keep running ’cause a winner don’t quit on themselves…”

Music- Freedom by Beyonce and Kendrick Lamar (Thanks for the title)

While driving and thinking yesterday, a dangerous habit I confess, I realized that while I often make excuses for taking care of myself (cleaning is too much, working out takes too much time, eating healthy only happens sometimes, etc.), I still persevere with taking care of my dog and the people around me even then I don’t want to do so.

Why is that?

Maybe because I was born in the context of a sibling with special needs? Maybe my self-concept is tied into what other people think of me? Maybe it has always been easier to make excuses than to do the work for myself? If I don’t make the decisions and try then I can’t fail. Right?

Today is a new day. Fight for myself. I am capable of dealing with myself, with love. I can be judgmental when it comes to the things that I need to do. I just need to do it all, even if it looks messy. Messy emotions, eating, working out and creating. I have a lot going on but I can place myself first.

Be gentle with myself.

I ran for over a mile this morning at 5 miles an hour and on an incline. Yes.

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Ordinary Days


I was reading an article about life the other day, and one of the things that struck me is that one person who was dying wanted a “normal day.” I agree. There were so many types of days while Paul was struggling with his disease. Days on a diet, days at the doctor, days where he went to work and days where he was asleep as quick as possible. There were other days where we went to Disney World, and visited my Grandparents in Traverse City, and went on drives in the car. When I think back to hanging with my brother, I don’t want more vacation days or graduation days or party days. I want just a normal day. There can be so many expectations with the special days, when it is just a run of the mill day you just are happy to be yourself.

My favorite day was when we had a food fight with my brother. For years my brother had talked about food fights. He had seen several food fights on television and he wanted to do it in real life. We decided to do it. We got the food and invited several people to come over and participate. We combined the food fight with a water fight. Several people showed up and they were really excited. We go outside, his friend grabbed the mash potato container and right before she threw it at him, he said, “I don’t want to play,” and went inside.

Paul was definitely his own person. I loved that. There is something about the reality of a dream that is disheartening.


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