Limitations

I often feel limited by bipolar disorder. I have to worry about medications every day. I have to sleep eight plus hours a night. I shouldn’t drink. I need a job that gives me flexibility. I am constantly self-monitoring and self-modulating. And the list goes on…

In creative pursuits, we often impose constraints on ourselves. A great sonnet blooms out of a rigid structure. This newsletter was becoming difficult for me to wrap my brain around—too amorphous—so I realized I needed to reframe it by simply writing down a list of themes and then choosing one after another after another. The act of limiting myself to one topic at a time has—for the time being at least —freed me from paralyzing perfectionism and self doubt.

What if limitations aren’t actually limitations at all but instead crazy beautiful constraints for you and me? This astonishing TED Talk recently reminded me of what it means to refuse to define yourself by what you are not.

We all have freedom to reframe limitations as licenses to be a little more creative. 

How can you choose creativity today?

Fertility Craze

Hi Crazy Beautiful Reader,

I’m so happy to announce that an essay I’ve been working on for a few years was published today in a literary magazine called “Into the Void.”

The essay chronicles a manic episode I suffered a few years ago triggered by the fertility hormones I used to freeze my eggs.

While much has been written about the benefits and opportunities of egg freezing—allegedly a life-changing fertility intervention for women—very little has been documented about the psychological effects of this practice.

I’d be so grateful if you’d check it out and let me know what you think (you can reply directly to this email). And please forward this newsletter along to anyone you think would appreciate it.

xo,
Michele Faye

Read the full essay here.

Excerpt:

There’s something about egg freezing that feels like an expensive act of defiance: you refuse to be a slave to your biology. Another part of it punctuates your sense of loneliness and failure. Like maybe if you hadn’t dumped that college boyfriend because he was too clingy, you’d be out to dinner with your doting husband on a Saturday night instead of injecting yourself with thousands of dollars of hormones before hooking up with a stranger you met on a dating app.

But the pursuit of prolonged fertility isn’t a superficial process. You don’t hand the doctors thousands of dollars one morning and, after an uncomplicated procedure, leave the building with a bunch of microscopic eggs that, for a monthly storage fee, stay tucked away in a freezer. It means supplemental hormone injections that put the body and mind through a significant ordeal. There’s a substantial gap in research on how the hormonal measures women take to get pregnant using In Vitro Fertilization or egg freezing influence mental health. The field is still new. And this is what I came up against in my own experience of egg freezing.

Hello, My Suffering

Hi Crazy Beautiful Reader,

Buddhist teachings say we need to change our minds to change our world.

Years ago, I learned a Buddhist lesson that has stuck with me. Imagine you are looking in a mirror, the teacher explained. Instead of getting lost in the reflected image of yourself, you can notice the mirror—maybe a dot of toothpaste—and shift from being the reflected to the reflector. Step back and understand that your truest self is the person who is able to examine thoughts from a comfortable distance. Jealousy, pain, hurt: these are all experiences we can accept and acknowledge rather than succumb to completely.

Thich Nhat Hanh writes in No Mud, No Lotus:

With mindful breathing, you can recognize the presence of a painful feeling, just like an older sibling greets a younger sibling. You can say, “Hello, my suffering. I know you are there.” In this way, the energy of mindfulness keeps us from being overwhelmed by painful feelings. We can even smile to our suffering and say, “Good morning, my pain, my sorrow, my fear. I see you. I am here. Don’t worry.”

Let’s abandon the notion that living a good life means an end to suffering. Let’s accept our suffering, notice it, and acknowledge that is part of the human condition. Let’s remember this holiday season that it’s a difficult time of year and perfectly fine to feel less than joyful.

Not only is it perfectly fine—it’s perfectly human.

xo,

Michele

p.s. Know anyone who would like this newsletter? Please tell them they can subscribe here: http://crazybeautifulfight.com. <3

Finding the Light

Well darkness has a hunger that’s insatiable
And lightness has a call that’s hard to hear.
—The Indigo Girls,
Closer to Fine

Hi Crazy Beautiful Reader:

Sundays ALWAYS challenge my psyche. All of the things I might have accomplished during the week—more writing, more reading, more learning, more meditating, more yoga—slip away from possibility. I struggle to relax and to accept myself as anything but hopelessly flawed. I wonder why I can’t find the energy to do my laundry.

Depressive thoughts dig ruts in the pathways of our minds so that negativity flows with ease. Positivity, lightness, does indeed have a “call that’s hard to hear."

To move towards the light, we have to reject the voice in our head that tells us we are not enough. We have to seek an alternative route. We have to carve out space to let the light in. For me, this means yoga. This means staying off of social media. This means making time for friendships and family.

Remember: There will always be something else to achieve in life. Something else to accomplish. Someone else who has more than you. But what matters is what you have, what you’ve done, who you are.

In yoga class, my teacher often reminds us to stop looking at everyone else in the room. This is your practice, he will say. When I started yoga, I couldn’t come close to touching my toes. Now, once I’m warmed up, my fingers graze the floor. It’s an accomplishment no less significant than the woman on the mat beside me who can fold over her legs and press her chest into her thighs. We’re both reaching from where we were to where we are.

Wishing you lightness and ease this week.

xo,
Michele

Contending with Darkness

Hi Crazy Beautiful Reader,

I've been feeling low this past week. Not exactly depressed, but certainly not happy. 

I notice low moods when I stop wanting. I stop wanting to get out of bed in the morning, I stop wanting to see friends. I stop wanting to buy anything new. All the colors in my life fade to grey. My dreams and aspirations evaporate into fears and anxieties and rumination about all that's wrong.

The best mantra for depression—the mantra that helps me, at least, and the mantra I've mentioned to friends who are struggling—is to remind myself:

This will not last.

Those four words embody a truth that helps me get through hard times. While we do tragically lose people to suicidal depression every day, for most of us, depression is not suicidal depression. Still, it can lead us to feel like we want to disappear to free ourselves from the demon. 

When the darkness casts a shadow onto my life, all I can do is remind myself that the shadow isn't forever. Part of living with depression is to accept that you feel lifeless and to know that you won't always feel this way.

Sunday morning, I was feeling down and dug up the book that has helped me many times through depression. It is called The Depression Cure, and I highly recommend it to anyone who is struggling. What I love about this book is that it provides some very tactical ways to manage depression, everything from a little bit of exercise to light therapy to guidance on supplements. And while the book is subtitled "The 6-Step Program to Beat Depression without Drugs" I'd add the caveat that many of us —including me—do need drugs as well.

In the past, when I've struggled with depression, another thing that has gotten me through is to write checklists with how I am going to get through my day. Sometimes, it will say things like:

  • Shower

  • Make dinner

  • Watch Seinfeld reruns.

We have to acknowledge, when we are down, that our best might be getting out of bed and showering. That is OK.

Andrew Solomon, in his masterful book on depression The Noonday Demon, closes out his last chapter with a truly beautiful meditation on how we can feel gratitude for depression:

On the happy day when we lose depression, we will lose a great deal with it. If the earth could feed itself and us without rain, and if we conquered the weather and declared permanent sun, would we not miss grey days and summer storms? As the sun seems brighter and more clear when it comes on a rare day of English summer after ten months of dismal skies than it can ever seem in the tropics, so recent happiness feels enormous and embracing and beyond anything I have ever imagined. Curiously enough, I love my depression. I do not love experiencing my depression, but I love the depression itself. I love who I am in the wake of it. 

Today, I accept that my mood is low. I hope to step back into the light soon. In the meantime, I will look at all the grey with gratitude. Without the grey, I might not experience the colors of my life so brightly. 

Take a moment to drop me a note and let me know how you contend with the darkness in your own life.

Love,

Michele

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