Why Everyone Should Leave Their Hometown

The morning of Georgia’s Senate runoff elections, I was listening to voters being interviewed on NPR’s Morning Edition. One voter, Deborah Gordon, described her pride in Trump, her disgust in the “fake” election, and her utter disbelief that the state of Georgia went to Biden. She told the reporter that everyone she knows loves Trump and everywhere she goes supports Trump too—including the two Trump rallies she has attended. (I won’t tell her if you don’t.) Another Georgia voter, Trish White, said this: “I absolutely love President Trump, and I believe the election was stolen in the state of Georgia – absolutely believe it. Look around. No way Biden won this state – no way.”

When you look around and never have your beliefs and biases challenged, it’s hard to see any alternatives to your reality as, well, reality. This is why people must—especially people in rural and small town areas—leave their hometown, if only temporarily.

According to a survey done by North American Moving Services, 72% of Americans live in or near their hometown. 75% of women are more likely to stay in their hometowns, compared to 68% of men. This is what contributes to people’s ability to believe that everyone thinks like them, easily allowing folks to become willfully siloed from others who would be happy to disagree with them.

There’s a lot of comfort in ignorance, and 24% of the people who stayed in their hometown said comfort and familiarity was why they stayed. To be fair, I don’t know if those two Trump supporters have ever left their hometown, but their current place of living isn’t offering much diversity — and this is what pisses me off about humans. People who stay in their safe and like-minded bubbles know what they know because they never put themselves in a position to experience views not their own. They never leave home, and it shows.

College was my excuse, reason, and motivation to get out of my hometown when I was 18, but my degree is secondary and not even directly relatable to any of the jobs I’ve had since graduating from college. The education I got about myself, other people, different religions, races, and ethnicities were the foundation I needed to expand my mind and add peripheral vision to see outside of what I thought I knew. It wasn’t simply the exposure to people who looked and thought differently than myself that helped widen my mind to truths not my own; it was finding commonality in those differences that allowed me to gain a better sense of self and understanding that we all deserve to be heard, seen, and treated equitably. I was fortunate for grants, loans, and scholarships to pay my way through school and I know not everyone will have that opportunity, but going away to college, or moving out of the town you grew up in—even temporarily—is so important.
One study suggests that travel makes us smarter and provides us with more opportunities that allow us to be successful. We all define success in different ways, but survival is the most basic and primal goal. Travel was key to our evolution as a species. The need to find resources and adapt kept the human race moving forward but it also rewired our brains in ways that can’t happen when stuck in the same space, doing the same thing, and around the same people every day. When we surround ourselves with change, we can change too. We can learn. And if we don’t question our own beliefs and what we consider facts by holding them against others’ then how can we be so sure we’re right? How can we know we believe in is right for us? The blue collar, rural town I left at 18 didn’t have enough people to challenge the racist and homophobic views that knitted the community together. It didn’t have enough art or music. It didn’t have enough people from different backgrounds to give each other windows into customs, ideas, and explanations that could start discussions and arguments.
I can’t report on the intelligence of those two voters interviewed by NPR, but their inability to think critically draws me to conclude that they are either brainwashed or not smart enough to fact check. And it leads me back to the assumption that they don’t get out enough or diversify their news sources or vacation plans. They haven’t been asked to adapt, step outside their comfort zone, or allowed any other reality to be considered. Someone who can believe Trump’s lies is either too dumb or too bigoted to believe anything else. Living in a new place and surrounding yourself with new people is mind-opening and forces us to become resourceful as we figure out new standards. Travel introduces us to a wider personal and professional network. Leaving home sheds ignorance and gives us freedom to explore who we are and who others claim to be. Even if after leaving home and our values and voting alignment stays the same, my hope is that we can become more accepting and critical of what we think is the truth. Folks who can second-guess biases are less likely to look around and claim everything they see within eyesight applies to all people.
Because I’m not a hypocrite, I surround myself with people, information, and places that force me to understand nuance while sorting out facts. This means that sometimes I have to admit I’m wrong. I have to research and learn and check my ego. I don’t allow myself to stay stuck in the comfort of ignorance. My agenda includes challenging others to do the same. Because if making people more aware of their own mental limitations is wrong, then I don’t ever want to be right.

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When Does Drinking To Relax Become A Bad Habit?

The pandemic has created the perfect storm for the increased use of alcohol: fear, isolation, anxiety, and uncertainty create vicious cycles of drinking, loneliness, and shame. During the first few months of the pandemic, I worried about the state of my sobriety. I’ve been in recovery long enough to know how to navigate stress and cravings, but when my support systems were taken away or drastically changed because of COVID-19, I struggled to find coping mechanisms that would relieve some of the stress.

I also saw the reports that showed the increased alcohol sales in the early days of the pandemic compared to previous years. People weren’t just stocking up on toilet paper and flour; they were buying booze as if it was just as necessary to survive quarantine. I was worried about my addict friends. I’m still worried about my friends in sobriety, and have watched a few of them fall and pick themselves up. But I’m also worried about others for whom “drinking to take the edge off” has become a dangerous bad habit.

One study showed that not only has drinking frequency increased during the pandemic, but the amount consumed per day increased too. Another finding that is troubling (but not surprising) to me is that women reported a 41% increase in alcohol consumption. This is a dangerous statistic because women — specifically mothers — have already used alcohol as a coping mechanism, and our culture has made it socially acceptable. Women and mothers have been asked to carry much of the load during this pandemic, and many are coping by drinking. But when is it time to recognize a coping mechanism as dangerous and no longer helpful?

Dr. Claire Nicogossian Psy. D, Psychologist, Clinical Assistant Professor, and author of the book, “Mama, You Are Enough: How to Create Calm, Joy and Confidence Within the Chaos of Motherhood,” tells Scary Mommy, “Adults who may never have identified as having a problem with alcohol are using alcohol more than ever in their life as a way to cope with stress and the incredible challenges of this pandemic.” She says there are signs and questions folks can ask themselves to determine if their drinking has become problematic.

Craving alcohol, drinking more than you intended, making excuses for drinking, hiding the amount you are consuming, and feeling guilt, shame, and hopelessness during and after you drink are signs Dr. Nicogossian wants people to recognize as red flags of problem drinking. It’s also important to be honest with yourself about why you are drinking. If you drink because it’s your only coping mechanism to deal with stress, because you are bored, or need to escape, then it’s best to reach out to a medical professional for help.

In an interview with NPR, Dr. Lorenzo Leggio, a researcher National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, worries about that ease with which people turn to alcohol as a way to unwind. The NIAAA reports that 88,000 Americans die each year from alcohol related deaths. Dr. Leggio reminds us that 9/11 and Katrina were other recent traumatic events that were catalysts for survivors to become dependent on alcohol because of stress. He knows that patterns of disordered drinking and addiction that have started because of the pandemic will continue well after its conclusion. And because alcohol use can cause respiratory problems, heavy drinkers are more vulnerable to COVID-19.

Dr. Nicogossian tells Scary Mommy that the alcohol itself isn’t the problem; it’s the reasons why people drink and the amount consumed that can be problematic. She suggests that a better understanding of different types of coping will help people understand their relationship with alcohol. Active coping is a direct approach to reducing stress and enhancing well-being. Exercise, getting enough sleep, and staying socially connected are examples of active coping. Passive coping, like watching TV or scrolling social media, can calm and distract us but may not lead to improved health or decreased levels of stress. Binging alcohol or actively drinking even when you know you have a problem are coping mechanisms that create avoidance and self-harm. While a drink with a friend can be a responsible and active boost in mental health and mood, drinking out of habit and as a way to numb emotions is not healthy.

The length and intensity of the pandemic combined with the added stigma of addiction yet socially accepted use of alcohol is too much to balance most days. I can’t define other people’s relationship with alcohol, but I know that not all drinking habits are signs of addiction. I also know drinking can be toxic for folks who aren’t addicts. I am also proof that addicts can be high functioning and seen as successful while slowly killing themselves with secrets. The best advice I can give is to be honest with yourself. If you are wondering if you drink too much or have a problem with alcohol, then it’s safe to assume you are worried about it enough to make changes. And if someone points out that you may have a toxic relationship with booze, it’s safe to assume they love you and want what’s best for you.

Please reach out and get support. A friend, therapist, or doctor can be a great place to turn. The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration offers 24/7, 365 days of the year confidential and free services in Spanish and English. 1-800-662-HELP (4357). You aren’t alone.

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My Friends Say I ‘Snapped’ The Year I Turned 40

I’m so tired of being afraid.

I grew up constantly in fear. Fear of my abusive father. Of disappointing and dishonoring my family. Of not being a perfect Asian American kid. Of not being fluent enough — in Chinese or English. Of being judged all the time by aunties and uncles and teachers and pastors.

I was too loud, too brash, too weird, too young, too opinionated, too boy-crazy, too American, too Taiwanese — too much.

I was perpetually afraid of not being good enough, smart enough, or pretty enough — of not being enough, period.

It was impossible being “enough” when I was both too much and too little at the same time.

I tried to change myself — to twist myself into fitting an acceptable narrative — but it would never stick for long. Not because of principles but because it was too much effort. I simply did not have the energy (or acting chops).

So, I hid my insecurities instead. I masked it by being arrogant and haughty. I thought myself better than everyone else. I constantly felt as if other people owed me and didn’t deserve the success they obtained.

I was full of contempt, spiteful, and mean. I was jealous. Though I didn’t usually gossip because gossips are inherently untrustworthy and I didn’t want to seem untrustworthy — I was snide and cut down what other people said or did.

“Who did they think they were?” was a recurring refrain in my mind. It is not lost on me that now, that same question is directed at me — usually by my detractors, and occasionally by myself when I allow lies to whisper louder than usual.

Who did I think I was? Who, indeed.

My friends say I snapped the year I turned 40. And though I personally don’t think I changed much, from the outside looking in, I understand. While I had never much filtered my opinions or thoughts when I spoke (which was often), I stopped holding back even more. I altered my physical appearance drastically. I released the last vestiges of worrying about what others would think about me; I shifted from outspoken to unapologetic.

Not everyone appreciated it.

For some, I changed overnight from the “right” kind of outspoken to the “wrong” kind and they didn’t know what to do with me. I was once again, both too much and too little. But this time around, I gave zero fucks.

You know what happened? Nothing. And everything.

I suppose it’s not entirely true that nothing happened — but like, I didn’t die. People didn’t leave in droves. I was happier and more alive than ever. I gained opportunities. My writing improved. Amazing people who I’d never thought to be cool enough to know came into my life and stayed.

I’d already put in the work to gain competence, knowledge, and skills so my confidence wasn’t ill-founded. I was no longer threatened.

I became generous — especially when crediting and acknowledging other amazing people. It no longer hurt me to see other people succeed because I knew their wins didn’t equate to my losses. There was room for all of us.

The world was big enough. And the world opened.

I’ve lost people. That stung — but I chose to be grateful for the season I had them in my life. I trusted we were no longer what the other person needed — and I wished them well.

Of course, I do care what certain people think of me. I care about my family, certain friends, and respected mentors — and their good opinion matters to me — because I value them and their insights.

I worry that I am anti-Black, racist, misogynistic, classist, anti-gay, or transphobic.

I worry that I am punching down instead of up.

I worry that I am causing further harm to the vulnerable.

I worry that I am an unkind and unjust person.

So, when these select people say I’m out of line, I work through my initial defensiveness and shame, evaluate their criticism against what I know of them and what I know of the world, and then I own it. I apologize, I learn from it, and I do better.

My ego gets a little bruised, but it helps me let go of the need to be perfect.

I’ve made enemies, too. But what do I care for what people I don’t give two shits about think of me?

If anything, their hatred amused me. When I hate people, I erase them. I ignore them. They cease to exist for me. So for certain people to go out of their way to castigate or shame me — to paraphrase Regina George, why are they so obsessed with me?

They can hate all they want; I can’t hear them.

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If You Want To Improve Your Life, Don’t Buy Books By Entitled White Women

Girl, just live your best life. You do you. You can do this. You are enough, and you are worthy. Step into the light of your own life, and start that journey toward your better self. You are strong, and you choose your own happiness. Don’t apologize! You don’t need anything or anyone but you. I can teach you how to practice self-care so that you feel refreshed for the challenges you will conquer.

If you’ve read or seen anything on social media over the past few years, you’ve heard these messages, likely hundreds of times. They are shared with you by middle to upper class white women, with perfectly highlighted hair, toned and tanned bodies, dazzling white teeth. They have children who look like Pottery Barn Kids’ models. Pictures of mother and offspring baking together or reading books in designer bedrooms cover their feeds. They are trying to sell you their fantasy, through their books, conferences, podcasts, and social media channels, but the reality is, they can’t. What they have is privilege, often disguised as bravery and confidence. Most of us cannot ever, and will not ever, obtain their best life and make it ours. Instead, we need to create resolutions that are obtainable and personalized, without the faux-help of entitled white women who make money off our desperation.

Every time one of their books hits the bestseller list, I scoff. They are determined to convince you that you can step up your game, your glam, and your fam if you will just buy their book, devour it, and apply the principles to your life. Often, these authors have zero educational or professional credibility. To make up for it, they hire marketing-savvy employees who push a very specific narrative.

We can all be better, if we just buy a $49 ticket with the promise of creating a new and better self and attend the virtual girlfriend conference. Together, women from across the world can hop around in front of our laptop screens screaming, “I can do it! I am worthy! I am fabulous!” while the hostess with the mostest eggs us on. We can shed a few tears, have some good laughs, and then take notes in our conference-issued (not included in the ticket price) notepads. We are just a few hours away from a brand-new tomorrow in which we take command of our destiny and let the universe know just how special we are.

Self-improvement books have been around a long time. I worked at Barnes and Noble for over three years, paying my college tuition with each check I earned. I often stocked shelves, including the self-help section. Even then, I could see how empty and impractical the offered advice tended to be. Most of these books were written by wealthy, white men (and a few women) who declared our life would be changed at the end of the 246 pages.

I’m an author myself. I believe that books and other media can elicit positive change. But what’s disturbing about many self-help books is that too often they rely on the author’s privilege—be it their race, gender, income—to dictate what they tell others to do. Desperate people are vulnerable to buying into a fantasy of a best life that simply can’t ever come to pass, because the reader and the author have very little (if any) privilege in common.

So readers can apply the positive, determined principles all day, every day, and still see no results. An upbeat attitude doesn’t undo a traumatic childhood. Telling yourself you are enough doesn’t pay the rent. You can’t pull yourself up by your bootstraps and out of the job you’re stuck in because you have to provide health insurance for your family, especially for your medically fragile son. You can decide that you are done apologizing and ruin your partnership, because you’ve decided you’re too good for saying you’re sorry when you’ve messed up.

Real life isn’t a Disney movie where the pretty girl lives happily ever after, exploring her interests, falling in love, and pulling up to a palace. The vast majority of us have real responsibilities and real problems, none of which will melt away if we chant “you go, girl” to ourselves in the mirror each morning, wash our faces, and walk into the sunshine.

I follow almost none of these self-improvement gurus on social media, mostly because what some see as beautiful and hopeful, I see as fraudulent. Filtered, posed, sponsored posts do nothing but breed desire (for something unattainable), jealousy, frustration, and disappointment. No, thanks. Real life is difficult enough without volunteering to add in more anxiety.

The messages in their images, books, YouTube videos, and everything else are redundant and inauthentic. You can sign up for their electronic newsletters, download the first chapter of their new book for free, and purchase their branded (overpriced) merch, and sister, your life isn’t going to change. It’s just not. But the hostess of lies covered in glitter? She gets more money in her bank account to buy trendy, designer clothes and go on vaca with her family while you stay in your misery.

These women aren’t your girlfriends. They don’t know your name or care about your life. They want you to think they’ve leveled up using their determination and discipline, and you can, too. But the reality is that they make bank on your vulnerabilities. Let me ask you a question: Every time you scroll longingly through their pics, do you feel like you’re enough, or do you feel less worthy?

I’m all for women doing their thing. We all know that women have been held back by the patriarchy for far too long. There’s still a lot of gender equity work to do. What I’m not for is wealthy, white women pretending like their privilege (they wouldn’t dare use that word, though) is attainable, through a book, or a podcast, or a conference, or a product. That’s not how privilege works, friends. Don’t fall for it.

If you want to improve your life, by all means, do it. I personally believe that therapy, movement, hydration, meditation, journaling, prayer, and other similar means are more effective in changing your mental, physical, emotional, and spiritual wellbeing. Don’t try to talk yourself out of your trauma, your diagnosis, or your relationship challenges by making yourself feel even more guilty for whatever is going on and always pushing yourself to be more and better. (Even though, ironically, the same self-help leaders who tell you that you are enough are also trying to make you better.) Perhaps, confronting your struggles, bad habits, and challenges head-on and authentically, with tried-and-true methods, is the way to go.

Don’t waste your time or money on superficial white woman nonsense. You are smarter than that, and yes, you are worthy of something so much better.

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If You Needed An Excuse To Take A Hot Bath, Here It Is

When I was 14, I moved in with my grandmother, and her house, well … it was missing a few things. The home was built in the 50s, I believe, and it still had a rotary phone. In fact, she’d actually been renting the phone from Bell for about 30 years. Her house also didn’t have a dishwasher, so I ended up filling that job. And it for sure didn’t have a shower — only a bathtub, which was something I initially hated, but eventually fell in love with. In fact now, at the age of 38, I rarely take showers because I got pretty accustomed to the simple relaxing few moments I get by soaking in the tub. I have a pretty bad anxiety disorder, and I’ll be honest, when I’m really stressed, a hot bath is my go-to. But as it turns out, taking a hot bath isn’t only good for my mental health.

A very extensive study out of Japan is showing the benefits of soaking in hot water. The study was published in the May 2020 issue of the journal Heart. 30,000 people were followed for more than 20 years. They were asked about how often they soaked in hot water. It wasn’t always in a bath, mind you; Japan is notoriously volcanic, so there are a number of hot springs. So many, that soaking in them is more or less part of Japanese culture, known as onsen. They were asked how hot they like their bath, “lukewarm, warm, or hot.” I like my baths pretty warm, although I will admit, I don’t take baths with people often, or ever… so I don’t know exactly how my temperatures compare.

Anyway, 72% of these 30,000 people said they took a bath almost every day, which I will admit, made me a little jealous. What they found was people who took a bath almost every day, as compared with those who only took a bath twice a week, had a 28% lower risk of cardiovascular disease. Taking a bath each day also decreased the risk of a stroke by 26%. How awesome is that? If you have a family history of heart trouble, taking a bath might be a huge benefit to you.

There is science behind all of this. Shinya Hayasaka, a professor at Tokyo City University, did an interview with Deutsche Welle about the studies’ findings. He had this to say as to why a hot bath is so beneficial to your heart: “Soaking in hot water causes the arteries to relax and expand, boosting circulation. The blood brings oxygen and nutrition to all the cells in your body — as many as 37 trillion, by some estimates — and carries away carbon dioxide and other waste products. It is this boost to the circulation that is responsible for the restorative feeling you get when you soak in the bath, as if the accumulated fatigue of the day is floating away on a cloud of steam.” I’ll admit, that last line got me. I kind of want to stop writing this article and soak in the tub for a while.

What about the shower? While this study doesn’t directly discredit them, Hayasaka does mention in his Deutsche Welle interview that the increased rush of modern lifestyle has caused only 40% of people to bathe — in the bathtub, that is — each day. Then he gave the grim assessment that this could lead to a rise in heart attacks and strokes.

Keep in mind, this all comes with a warning. According to Harvard Health Publishing, taking a hot bath is great for lowering blood pressure. But not so awesome for those of you with already low blood pressure. Dr. Adolph Hutter, professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School, cautioned, “People who are in their 70s and older whose blood pressure is on the low side also should be extra careful.” The reason being, if the water is too hot, your blood pressure might get too low. This can make you dizzy, light headed, and from my own personal experience can cause you to pass out. (This actually happened to me as a teenager as I was getting out of my grandmother’s bath tub, and I ended up with a concussion.) Hutter goes on to say that, “A water temperature of 100° to 105° F is reasonable. Get in slowly, so your body can accommodate gradually.”

So my friends, if you are on Team Bathtub, I say, bathe on! Use this study as leverage to take a long warm soak in the tub, no shame. Do it daily, and mention that you are just doing what needs to be done to take care of that very important organ: your heart. Your mental health is just an added bonus.

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We Adopted A Pandemic Cat … With A Mega-Colon

His gray paws hit the floor and it sounds like he’s galloping down the hall, all four pounds of him. He comes sliding around the corner and bounces off the wall – literally. He shakes his head a little, looks up at me, and then continues on, leaping through the air to pounce on Nox, the cat who shares this space and is nearly three times his size. With paws wrapped around Nox’s neck, it looks as if he’s trying to ride a mechanical bull.

He’s Corville, our COVID cat. As my children aptly describe him – “he’s crazy.”

I never expected to be a multi-cat household. Nox has been with us for over two years, and although he is handsome, with long black fur and striking green eyes, he is the epitome of aloof. He wants to be wherever we are, but rarely provides entertainment or affection. So, after being stuck at home for a couple of months due to the pandemic, I found myself considering the kids’ request for another feline companion. My daughter, Holly, was the one who kept asking, and the one who pleaded that we get a kitten and she get naming rights. She was willing to pay the rescue fees and even promised to clean the litter box. I knew the latter wouldn’t stick. Holly’s responsible, but she’s also 13 and words like “always” and “forever” are used frequently and loosely. But the other children agreed, so we began our online search and in just a few days, we found Corville through a local rescue.

Courtesy of Nancy F. Goodfellow

The plan was for Corville to live in Holly’s room for the first few weeks so we could slowly introduce him to Nox. Once we knew the two of them could peacefully live together, we’d give him free rein of the house. During the first two weeks, Corville provided more affection and entertainment than we ever expected. He’d let anyone hold him, and frequently fell asleep in our arms or on our chests or laps. And he’d play for hours, chasing shadows, attacking feet, leaping three feet vertically up the wall to capture light from a laser pointer.

But this was a 2020 cat, born in the middle of a pandemic, and in order to be true to the nature of the year, things could not be easy or continue as expected. Corville was still acting the same – like a typical toddler full of boundless energy until passing out from exhaustion – but he was now struggling to poop and, instead of using the litter box, was “leaking” everywhere. Holly’s room had gone from the place where everyone gathered to play with the kitten to a war zone, where we moved carefully for fear of stepping on a landmine and the landscape was riddled with the aftermath of explosions. Just as 2020 turned into a total shitshow, so did the situation in my house. I was constantly cleaning up after Corville and giving multiple kitty baths a day. But as much as he didn’t enjoy the experience, he cooperated and spent hours afterward swaddled in a towel sleeping in our arms. He was literally full of shit and yet he never stopped playing or cuddling.

Courtesy of Nancy F. Goodfellow

Within the first four weeks, Corville cost me over $1,000. Holly and I made multiple trips to the vet, waiting for him to be examined while we sat in the car (because in times of COVID, that’s what you do). After x-rays, bloodwork and an enema, the doctor was finally able to diagnose him with something called mega-colon. As Holly and I sat in the car talking to the vet over the phone, she explained the condition – but pronounced it “mega-co-lawn.” At first, we didn’t quite know what she was talking about, but when she said that his small intestine looked fine, and those words rhymed, we understood. We stifled our giggles and then spent the car ride home laughing as we tried to mispronounce other words with the emphasis on the wrong syllable. It provided some levity to a discouraging diagnosis.

Courtesy of Nancy F. Goodfellow

Basically, mega-colon means that Corville’s colon gets bigger and wider as it fills up, but lacks the motility to push anything out. The condition isn’t common, and the vet had never seen it in a kitten before. But once diagnosed, we were at least able to move to the treatment phase – an expensive prescription diet and medication every eight hours. In other times, I might not have agreed to this. But these weren’t normal times, and this was no normal cat. Even the vet and technicians called him special. He was gentle and playful and forgiving and rambunctious – and you’d have no idea just how sick he was. The vet mentioned more than once how lucky he was to have found us. That any other family may have returned him to the rescue and he would have inevitably been euthanized.

It’s now been a few months since we got the condition under control. Holly’s room has been repainted, steam-cleaned and sanitized. Corville and Nox are co-existing. I have phone alarms set to remind me to feed Corville small meals throughout the day and give him his stool softener. In some ways it seems ridiculous to go through all of this for a cat who isn’t even six months old. But in reality, it makes life scheduled and predictable. Two things we could all use more of in 2020.

Corville actually has many names. To Holly, he’s just Corville, named after an invisible space cat from a silly lip-sync video on YouTube. To my husband, he’s Cor-Cor, for Corville the Coronavirus cat. Sometimes we fondly refer to him as Co-lon, making sure to emphasize the last syllable. For weeks I called him Shitty Kitty. But regardless of his name, he is the cat that has brought smiles to my children’s faces during a difficult time. He has given Holly comfort and companionship during a time of isolation and uncertainty. And provided hours of laughter at his crazy antics. He has reminded me of life with a toddler as I pull him out of the dishwasher and dryer and teach him that ice is cold and the oven is hot. He is a distraction from the uncertain world where everything seems upside down, reminding us to find humor and joy in curiosity, and that it’s possible to be loving and fun, even when you’re in a shitty situation.

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Adult Acne Is A Bummer – Here’s How To Deal

I’ve battled adult acne since I was, well, an adult. I only had the occasional (but nevertheless mortifying) pimple when I was in middle and high school. The year I was finishing college and was engaged to my long-time boyfriend was also the year I faced major breakouts that no amount of foundation could conceal. We ordered a then-popular skincare line by mail, and I slowly saw some improvements. I chalked up my adult acne to the stress of working two jobs, planning a wedding, and going to school full time. After the wedding, moving, and taking a summer off, my acne disappeared. Well, for a time period, anyway.

Throughout my adult years, my acne has come and gone. After a particularly bad breakout last winter, which I think was an allergic reaction, I finally went to a dermatologist. She offered me a few topicals, plus warnings to avoid anything that would clog my pores. She also said that acne can take three months or longer to clear up, so I shouldn’t expect immediate results. Much to my dismay, the topicals did little for me. It was only when I made some major dietary changes and drastically simplified my skin care regime that I saw some improvement. This leads me to wonder, for those of us with adult acne, how do we know if our zits are caused by a dietary or dermatology issue?

If you haven’t noticed, there are a lot of products out there that promise to give you a blemish-free complexion. Additionally, there’s always cosmetics to cover up the redness, bumps, and scarring. If you’re wondering if those products are pricey, the answer is yes, they are. Plus, attempting to clear up your skin while concealing the zits is trial and error.

Scary Mommy reached out to two board-certified dermatologists, Dr. Annie Gonzalez in Miami and Dr. Gretchen Frieling in Boston, to get to the bottom of the adult acne frustrations. We’re tired of handing over our hard-earned cash on products that don’t work, and in some cases, make our skin worse. Plus, what if the root cause of our pimples is something we’re eating? All the facial cleansers, toners, and moisturizers in the world won’t be able to fix an internal issue.

Whom to see first for adult acne?

Dr. Gonzalez says it’s best for a person struggling with adult acne to visit a dermatologist first, because acne is a common problem that dermatologists deal with. “A dermatologist specializes in the treatment of hair, skin, and hails whereas a dietitian or allergist may not have the same information and resources.” However, this doesn’t mean a dermatologist is your be-all, end-all. Dr. Gonzalez told us that a dermatologist can refer a patient to other specialists if necessary.

What causes adult acne?

Dr. Gonzalez says the primary causes of adult acne include physical and emotional stress, hormones, clogged pores, diet, and contact irritation. Hormonal acne may be caused by fluctuations or too much of a hormone which can result in “a pH imbalance of the skin, inflammation, and excess sebum production” (AKA: oil). Stress is problematic in that it can “create biological changes in the body” which is an acne trigger. Anything that rubs the skin, like a mask, razor, or scrub, can irritate, weakening the skin’s protective barrier. There’s some evidence — though not much — that certain foods like dairy, greasy foods, and high-sugar foods may be the culprit (or at least, a contributor).

If at first you don’t succeed, then what?

Dr. Gonzalez wants you to give your prescribed treatment a fair shot, which is ten to twelve weeks. After this, you might need to try a different route, such as a new medication. She wants us to know that it can take time to find the right treatment for your adult acne. Yes, friends, patience is needed.

But it’s hard to be patient with adult acne.

Dr. Frieling suggests we give treatments four to six weeks to begin showing results, and during this time, it is possible we will see more breakouts. She explains, “Whenever we introduce our skin to a new product, especially a chemical exfoliator with strong acids or retinol creams, it has to bring out the junk before getting rid of it.” She also shared that some active ingredients – specifically vitamin A, BHAs, and AHAs — “trigger cell turnover, prompting your skin to exfoliate.” While we prefer a speedier process, we need to know that breaking out isn’t always bad. Rather, it’s a necessary evil in order to bring out what’s lying in the skin’s deeper layers.

What about natural and homemade products?

Dr. Frieling warns us, “Don’t expect the same results as a clinically tested product.” Natural treatments may not only be ineffective, but unfortunately, might even pose danger due to the ingredients. She also says that patients may have allergies, then haphazardly slather products with unknown ingredients onto their faces. She acknowledges that DIY treatments might be more cost effective, and they aren’t always dangerous.

Adult acne can have an emotional impact on a patient.

Anyone who has suffered from adult acne can tell you that blemishes and scarring aren’t just a physical issue. Just like a teenager can have an epic freakout session over a single pimple, an adult can struggle emotionally with their ongoing battle with acne. Dr. Frieling shares, “Certain studies have found that those who suffer from acne experience social, psychological, and emotional problems similar to those with chronic health issues.” If you find yourself canceling social plans due to your acne, it’s time to schedule an appointment with a dermatologist.

I was hoping that by my age (close to forty!), I would no longer be combating acne. What I’ve learned is that the journey to clearer skin is rarely quick and simple, but there are products and changes that can help. There is no one-size-fits-all treatment plan or perfect, natural treatment which is why having experienced, educated professionals guide you is important. My skin isn’t flawless, but I’ve seen a lot of improvement by visiting both a dietitian and a dermatologist.

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We Do Not All Have ‘The Same 24 Hours’

I recently got caught in a rabbit hole of memes and quotes reminding me that we all have the same amount of time in each day to be brilliant, successful, and productive—I think my spiral started with some other quote about all of us being in the same boat. The boat analogy is bullshit and so was this line I read about time: “Many things aren’t equal, but everyone gets the same 24 hours, 7 days a week. We make time for what we truly want.”

Okay, problematic motivational memes. Calm down with your ableist layers of delusion and privilege. Sure, the measurement of time is a common denominator, but what we do within the span of a day varies drastically between people based on many factors, including ones we can’t control. The reminder that Beyoncé and I each have 24 hours a day to work with wasn’t motivating at all. (While it’s true, it doesn’t take into account the fact that I can’t sing or dance.)

Beyoncé aside, have people still not learned the lesson about comparison being the thief of joy? The idea that we all have the same amount of time in a day to achieve everything we want does not take into consideration that we are human, and not magic. Deficits in privilege show up in ways that put many at a disadvantage, and our privilege takes power away from others. We may all run on the same time system, but our actions, wants, and needs do not exist in a vacuum. To act like these memes are inspirational — or great reminders to just work harder — is to ignore racism, classism, sexism, ableism, homophobia, transphobia, mental health disorders, addiction, homelessness… shall I go on?

There are so many layers of reasons, which are not excuses, for people—myself included—for not being able to get what we need and desire. Prioritizing time for what’s important and making sacrifices to achieve goals is part of many people’s game plan. But my tenacity and ability to focus or work hard looks different from someone else, and I can’t just create opportunities I want; sometimes I have to take the ones in front of me and hope they lead to the destination I envision. There is a difference between willing something through action and being stuck right where you are because of circumstances. I’m one of the hardest workers and most resilient people you will meet, and for all of the privileges I do have, I still have to claw my way through some days.

We need to stop shaming people who are struggling. Food and housing insecure people don’t need better time management skills or the ability to work more efficiently; they need help. A person who isn’t as productive as you think they should be may have invisible—or visible—hurdles that cause their tasks to take longer than yours. Some people need more sleep than others to function at their peak potential. Others need a support system. The parent who has a house cleaner, nanny, supportive co-parent, parents of their own, or friends to rely on has a much different 24 hours than a single parent without the familial support or financial resources to afford assistance.

The type of work people do changes time in a day, too. Manual labor is more exhausting, and sometimes more dangerous, than a desk job. I have done both types of work and compared to a white collar job, I have little energy for anything else after a full day of being on my feet. Working a full-time job, or multiple jobs at minimum wage, creates a much different scenario than managing one job that pays several times that. And if the job doesn’t come with health care, time off, or other benefits, then how is it that we all have the same 24-hour opportunity? Time changes when you are forced to sit in a walk-in clinic instead of the waiting room of your primary care physician.

If inequalities are experienced and situations are blatantly unjust, how can you possibly make the leap to say that the hours within those inequitable days are the same for everyone? That’s like handing everyone an eight-ounce glass of water, but half the people get dirty water. Then instead of giving everyone clean water, you shame the people who say they’re thirsty because they can’t drinking the dirty water they’ve been given. Sure, everyone has the same amount of water available, but not everyone benefits. Some 24 hours are dirty and unsafe.

Our differences are not just defined by how we choose to spend our time each day, but also by how we are forced to spend it. There are systems in place in this country that make it harder for marginalized folks. We can pull ourselves up, stay positive, and hustle our way through the amount of steps we have to take to feel physically, emotionally, and financially safe, but those steps aren’t always consistent. We move in in bursts, are often slowed down, and sometimes we have to retrace our movements because the progress we thought we made the first time wasn’t accepted or necessary because the rules were changed without our knowledge. The idea of suffering until we reach a goal isn’t the way I want to live, and I need to feel okay to take a day off and “waste” time too.

My day shouldn’t be held up to what others consider to be successful, because some days getting out of bed and going through the motions is a win in my book. So many people are putting all of their energy into just surviving, staying sober, or keeping the electricity on while others don’t have to work hard at all and are perfectly content to bask in whatever was handed to them. We each experience 24 hours in a day, but those 24 hours are rarely the same.

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Giving Up Alcohol Has Given Me My Mojo Back — Here Are 7 Reasons Why

In early 2020, a mysterious virus (one that maybe is not so mysterious now) attacked my husband’s heart and landed him in the ER. He was sent home after two days with anti-inflammatories and the advice: “Don’t get sick again.” We stopped drinking, temporarily, we thought — my husband because he could barely pull himself out of bed, and me to be supportive.

Most of my adulthood, I fell squarely into the social drinking camp. I didn’t drink every day, but most. When I drank, I didn’t stop at one, but usually before five. Most weeks, I stuck to my plan of not drinking Monday through Thursday (er, Wednesday). Only sometimes did I succumb to an oh-what-the-hell half bottle on a Monday playdate. It was a rare occasion that I was incapacitated by drinking. I kept it all going — two young kids, a full time job, a social life.

So I was surprised when, after about three weeks of sobriety, changes began. Over the months, they have amplified to the point that they have become not just changes but reasons that staying sober is worth it. Here are some of them.

Reason #1: I am sleeping better than I have in years. When I first stopped drinking, I woke up every night sometime between midnight and one, heart and mind racing, unable to fall back asleep. But as the sober days went on, I fell back asleep faster and faster, until eventually the wake-ups stopped altogether. There’s a chance that finally getting some damn sleep led to my positive changes almost as much as quitting booze did.

Reason #2: I have more resources. I have more time, more energy, a bit more money. It’s as if I’ve discovered a secret personal stockpile of mojo. Because I have more to give, I am more generous and patient. I kick the soccer ball a few extra times with my younger son. I spend more time listening to my older son tell me about the book he is reading. It doesn’t bother me as much when a deadline drops in at work. I don’t mind as much extra runs to the grocery store, cleaning up spills, waiting in line at the post office. Interestingly, even as I have more resources, I seem to want less. As I’ve lost the gaping hunger for greasy food to fill the void in a physical hangover, so too am I losing the hunger for online shopping or bad TV to fill the void in an emotional one.

Reason #3: I feel great. I start each day ahead: hydrated, not nauseous, no headache. I’m ready to go. There is such pleasure in this. And while I won’t belabor the obvious point that alcohol is not great for a person’s health, it does feel like a pretty big deal in 2020 that overdoing the booze can lead to lowered immunity. Celebrity trainers like Harley Pasternak and Shaun T attest that drinking makes it a whole lot harder to achieve health and fitness goals. And while perfect fitness isn’t necessarily a goal of mine, feeling better is.

Reason #4: I am less debilitated by anxiety. Before I quit drinking, my anxiety was an omnipresent part of my psyche and even my body, a weight on my chest that only drinking could alleviate. And when I wasn’t drinking, whether my last drink had been five days or five minutes ago, there was the inescapable, generalized panic. I never thought I could get rid of it, and I never associated it with drinking. But now, while the anxiety isn’t gone completely, it’s reduced to a mild hum that I often forget altogether. I sometimes imagine what my anxiety would be like during 2020 if I were still drinking. I think I’d basically need to stay drunk in order to survive.

Reason #5: I experience everything more fully. I have been shocked to find that life is actually more fun without booze. Who would have thought! I have moments of spontaneous joy, spontaneous laughter. I think a big reason why this is possible is because I also feel all of the pain and all of the grief. Certainly, 2020 has provided plenty of opportunity for those things. Not only do I feel everything more fully, I know that what I am feeling is real.

Reason #6: My relationships are better, especially my marriage. My husband and I fight a whole lot less. On Friday nights, our longstanding tradition used to be mixing up a batch of martinis. And whereas in our honeymoon days the martinis would lead to wild sex; after kids, the martinis would lead to wild fights. It was like we were literally mixing up a batch of liquid-argument. I suppose one could assume that the alcohol helped us surface deeply held resentments, that it was us, not the alcohol doing the fighting. I used to believe that, but I’m not so sure anymore.

I’ve come to believe that alcohol doesn’t just dampen inhibitions, thus giving us fuel to voice what we are really thinking — it also changes our perceptions of reality, making us more combative, frustrated, and rigid, and less likely to empathize with others. In the end, I realized it doesn’t matter if it was the alcohol causing my husband and me to fight, or it was the alcohol lowering our inhibitions so we felt empowered to fight. The end result is that by not drinking, we fight less, and we feel better about each other overall.

Reason #7: I am more creative. And not only that, I get sh*t done. Author Brené Brown, who has been sober for more than 20 years, has said, “I can’t separate anything powerful or good in my life from my sobriety.” My experience has been fully this. Put another way: drinking in no way helps me to create what I want to create. Instead, every drink makes those things harder to achieve.

If you enjoy drinking, I’m not here to judge. If the pros outweigh the cons for you, go for it! To be sure, there are things I miss about drinking. Like, sloshy socializing. At least at first, it was crazy hard to hang without a wine buzz. I miss the event of having a drink. I miss a fresh glass of bubbles on a holiday morning. A Friday night, that first sip of a martini (before the liquid-argument aftermath). That cheeky fourth glass at the bar with a friend I’ve known forever. I miss the instant escape, the booze-fueled moments of euphoria where it seems like none of my problems matter. Those feelings of we-are-on-the-same-wavelength-and-I-am-invincible.

But I’m learning that ultimately what I want are not things that alcohol can provide — ultimately, I want connection, self-care, safety, rituals, and peace. Many of us are missing these things. Alcohol temporarily masks the pain of this, but in the end, makes them harder to get. And though abstaining may seem like the harder route, for me it’s the truer one.

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Tattoos And Trauma: How Body Art Helped Me Overcome An Abusive Past

Trigger warning: physical and sexual abuse.

The first time I was sexually assaulted, I was 16 years old. My “boyfriend” forced me into a compromising position. He gave me an ultimatum: give him a blowjob or get out.

I was first diagnosed with mental illness when I was 17 years old, after years of cutting and self-injury. After a precarious suicide attempt.

I got my first tattoo when I was 18 years old. I gave up my driver’s permit, trading the thin piece of cardstock for a state-issued ID and some ink. And I was physically abused when I was 19 years old. My boyfriend struck me in the face during a fight over a banana.

He gave me a bloody nose and blackened my eye.

And while this was the first time, it wouldn’t be the last time. I collected bruises like my friends collected Beanie Babies or cards. Every day was a different wound. A different battle. A different scar. 

The good news is, eventually things got better. I’m 36 and haven’t been beaten, pushed, kicked, or struck in some time; however, the wounds remained (and, in many ways, still remain) — at least until I turned to body modification. Until I realized the healing that I found in tattoos and body art. 

“Trauma experts encourage us to work from the body out in the course of recovery and healing — to attend to the sensations, senses, and images that carry the imprint of trauma,” Suzanne Phillips, a psychologist and adjunct professor of clinical psychology at Long Island University, tells PsychCentral. “The tattoo’s use of the body to register a traumatic event is a powerful re-doing. It starts at the body’s barrier of protection, the skin, and uses it as a canvas to bear witness, express, release and unlock the viscerally felt impact of trauma.” And this was the case with me.

The first time I was tattooed, I felt empowered. Like I was reclaiming a piece of myself. Of my voice. The second time I knew it wasn’t a fluke. The act transformed me. I felt whole — and healed — and since then I’ve used tattoos to overcome grief, trauma, sadness, and loss. My tattoos aren’t just a part of my story, they are the story. They are pictures of pain and triumph. Of battles won. 

Of course, I am not alone. Many people use tattoos as a means of catharsis for various reasons. Kelli, whose last name is being withheld at her request, told Scary Mommy she used body art to overcome a “difficult crossroads” in her life. 

“Everything was crumbling around me, and my religion and culture were the only things there for me during that trying time — hence why I got a shamrock with a trinity knot.” 

Caitlin Papiner, a childcare provider and educator, admits she used tattoos as a way to stop injuring herself and engaging in self-harm.  

“[Cutting] was a way for me to bring an instant calm to a chaotic emotional overload. When my anger and anxiety would become too much to handle — when my adrenaline was skyrocketing at an insane pace — the ONLY way to drop those levels were to cut and then instantly take a nap. But then I found tattooing and the second I felt that needle, I was instantly calm. It felt like I could finally breathe.”

And Samantha Robinson, a mother of three, shared a similar story.

“I tattooed my left forearm to cover scars from my past. I used to cut as a way to cope from sexual assault in my teenage years. As I got older and found better ways to cope I was embarrassed by the scars. My tattoo brought beauty from pain and reminds me of everything I have overcome. It made me confident again.”

That said, tattoos still get a bad rap. Many associate the art form with deviant, criminal, or sexualized behaviors — hence the terms “prison art” and “tramp stamp.” The notion that tattoos and body modification can be used to heal is also widely debated. Some believe it is a form of social masochism. However, tattoos can be cathartic for many of us, particularly for those (like me) overcoming trauma. In fact, “therapeutic tattoos” represent a powerful pathway to healing and body reclamation.

“In its visibility and in the bearer’s wish to let it be seen, a tattoo can undo the shame so often associated with trauma, war, victimization, and the intergenerational legacy of hidden trauma,” Phillips writes. “Choosing to publically… [share things which are] often hidden, they [tattooed individuals] turn horror to honor and shame to a shout about survival and a mandate to ‘Never Forget.’”

As for me, tattoos have helped me cover physical wounds, bringing new light and life to myself and my body. They have helped me overcome invisible scars. The act of tattooing has actually helped me heal, feeling comfortable in the hands of others. I’ve allowed men (and women) to touch my body in a safe, controlled, and intimate way. What’s more, tattoos have given me a renewed sense of self. Body art has helped me feel more secure in my skin. For me, body art has been transformative, in more ways than one.

Does that mean tattoos are right for everyone? No. Of course not. Tattoos are personal, as is trauma. But there is potential pushed with ink. Power. Tattooing can be motivational, inspirational, and full of healing and hope.

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