Snowstorm and women

My anxiety is a snowstorm. Like snowflakes, my thoughts are all unique. Snow will stick together and start to take shape. Likewise one bad scenario can attract more negative thoughts. Just a small ball of tension in my mind sets the mood. Next, overthinking steps to get the storm brewing.

The snowfall that represents my worry comes down unexpectedly at high speed like a snowstorm. During the worst ones, it’s safest to stay in the comfort of my home. What lies outside is frightening and uncertain.

Some days I’m hit by the storm that is my anxiety, but I am still much stronger than the challenges I face. I am made up of many thoughts, some more beautiful than others. The positive ones are snowflakes from a light snowfall you’d see falling on Christmas morning. The negative ones I wish would melt the second they hit the ground.

I do my best to escape them. On certain days I am home free, others I get caught out in the downfall. The one thing I am sure of is those unfortunate moments do not define me. The event of a snowstorm does not make the snowflakes involved less beautiful.

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Thinkstock photo via kudou.


For many, anxiety is the “acceptable” face of mental health. We can say we have anxiety and others hear us saying we’re stressed. Lots of us assume we know what anxiety looks like; we imagine our own stressful lives and magnify that by the power of x. I always thought about anxiety in terms of panic attacks, uncontrollable emotions and physical signs such as sweating or nail biting. Little did I know, my anxiety would present itself in a totally different way.

The bathroom floor is not my chosen venue for an evening, or an entire night, but when my anxiety struck it’s where I’d find myself by default. During my second year of university I found it impossible to stay away from home, alter my sleeping patterns or cope with any situation where I felt like I wasn’t in control. Despite feeling fine, my body had other ideas. I could live my life during the day, but the moment I tried to sleep I’d find myself plagued with nausea and running for the bathroom. The first time it happened — feeling miserable and alone, in the early hours of the morning and in a bed/bathroom not my own — I assumed I had an upset stomach. What else would bring on persistent vomiting?

After a few months of this I finally sought medical help with a doctor who was confused by my symptoms when blood tests seemed to indicate no stomach problems. It was only during an intermittent appointment with my psychologist when I mentioned how my physical health was getting me down that I got my answer. The feeling of relief to finally understand what was going on in my body was indescribable. I was freed from the fear each night that I would be unable to sleep with only nausea as my companion. Better still, knowing my anxiety was causing the symptoms meant I could be prescribed medication to end the cycle. (While I appreciate medication is not for everyone this felt like the right choice for me.)

Thinking back, hindsight is a great thing, sometimes I can pinpoint what was causing my anxiety to rear its ugly head; other times still remain a mystery. At the end of the day it no longer matters to me. Feeling in control of my body once more is a tremendous gift. Now I can recognize these physical symptoms for what they are, and more importantly I know how to deal with them. I can soothe myself armed with the knowledge that stress has triggered my flight-or-fight response, usually reserved for a confrontation with a grizzly bear rather than a looming deadline, causing me to feel nauseated as my body seeks to empty itself in preparation for “flight.” Having a rational explanation for my symptoms rather than allowing my mind to wander is an immeasurable comfort.

And now? Now I’m taking it one day at a time. I still get stressed, and sometimes my anxiety is worse, but being able to name that feeling has given me back my power. What frustrates me the most is the pain I endured for months with doctors who never considered my past history of anxiety and depression as possibly affecting my physical health. Perhaps that is why I’m writing. I urge you to never dismiss symptoms or accept that a medical professional doesn’t have an answer. If your body is telling you something, we have a duty to ourselves to understand the message. Not all mental health problems exhibit in the same way, all our experiences are unique, and we deserve for our entire health history to be considered, not just the physical.

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Thinkstock photo by  Katarzyna Bialasiewicz

The Physical Symptom I Didn't Know Anxiety Could Cause

Breakups are rough. Most people believe it’s the stuff of sad songs and romantic comedies, but in reality, it’s a visceral and sometimes even debilitating pain to end a relationship in which you’ve most likely invested a great deal of your emotional energy. Cue anxiety, depression and other mental illness and it’s almost impossible to breathe.

Healing a broken heart is difficult for anyone, but for many who struggle with mental health issues, it can cause us to question our self-worth or even trigger potentially traumatic events. Personally, I have been going through a breakup and while it’s not my first, it’s an emotionally draining experience for someone who lives a heart-led life.

Do you fear the stress of a breakup could lead to a breakdown? Read these tips on dealing with anxiety in the aftermath of a broken heart.

1. Take care of yourself.

I believe healing a broken heart starts with self-care. Whether that means going to bed early, taking a day off to lounge on the couch watching Netflix or reading your favorite book for the 20th time, do what you need to do to soothe your mind, body and soul. After a breakup, it can sometimes feel like you don’t have someone to take care of you anymore, but it doesn’t mean you should stop the care. You are most important – take this time to make yourself a priority.

2. Know your worth.

Whether the decision to break up was down to you, your partner or mutual, a breakup can make you question your self-worth. It can be hard to build yourself back up, but it’s essential to know your worth. I believe you will find love again — you were always whole and worth it. 

3. Feel it out.

If you want to cry, cry. If you feel like screaming, get out a pillow and do your worst. Feeling relieved, or even happy? Don’t bottle those emotions up — let them out. It’s OK to not be OK after a breakup, it’s healthy to allow yourself to feel all the range of emotions. Whether it’s anger, hurt or betrayal, acknowledge the pain — it will help you move on.

4. Learn to let go.

Change is always hard to handle, and I believe loss is doubly so. Grieving is random and can be like a rollercoaster. It will come in waves, but I believe you must learn to let go. We struggle to accept loss. We often fight reality and avoid the truth of the situation. We must remember life can be full of loss and pain. We must try not to dwell on what could have been, or if we should have done something differently. It helps me to remember I cannot change what has already happened. Focus on who you are from this and focus on loving yourself — I believe it will go a long way for your mental health.

5. Lean on your people. 

Although you must deal with grief and loss at your own pace — there is no set timeline for moving on — there are plenty of people who understand what you’re going through. Let them help. Yes, you must deal with this emotionally on your own, but support is healthy, too. In the first few days after my breakup, I had an outpouring of support from close friends and family. Sometimes it can be unexpected, but it can help ease anxiety to know you have a support system who is on your side — no matter what you’re feeling.

6. Give it time.

Whether it’s a week, month or even a year — there is no timeline for moving on from a relationship. Nurture your mental health and remember you were always whole, you’ve never needed another person to be you. 

The aftermath of a breakup is heavy. That pain is real. The grief is real. Your anxiety invading your mind, telling you weren’t good enough or how you could have done better is not. Breathe, and remember these feelings can’t break you — they can only make you stronger. This will pass. I promise, it will pass. 

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Thinkstock photo via phive2015.

This is what happens when you mix insomnia and a hard week, with a capital Hard. Being a writer, my goal is to write words that portray images in people’s heads, so they can relate to or understand the world of mental illness just a little bit better. This is what it feels like to have multiple labels when it comes to mental illness.

Imagine you are drowning. You can swim, but you can’t remember how or what you are supposed to do to stay above water. You begin to second guess yourself, and maybe you can’t remember because you didn’t know how to swim in the first place

You are having thoughts, unwanted, some scary, mainly just invasive.

Numbers are pouring down like rain in the water around you, and you try to dodge the ones you think will hurt you or cause some type of repercussion.

Your mind is convincing, and you believe everything it says because no matter how many times you hear, “Don’t believe everything you think,” you still do.

The reality of the fears that penetrate your bones cause fatigue as you struggle to stay above water.

In the distance, you see a lifeboat peaking above the rolling waves that crash over your head every few seconds. The life vest of hope slowing slipping away from your trembling body as you try to scream, only to be met with a mouthful of saltwater invading your strained lungs.

Your breath becomes sharper as it shortens due to the amount of time you are forced underwater.

The sharp pains of panic pound against your rib cage as if your heart might explode.

Fear envelopes you like a cloud causing your vision to go blurry.

Losing sight of the lifeboat, you begin to hyperventilate as the water sinks below your neck.

You gasp for air that your mind is convincing you is tainted, making your brain confused.

That’s when the broken record inside your head begins to spin. Thoughts, emotions, memories. Pulled deeper into the depths of the next wave of panic, you begin to wonder why on earth you are still holding on.

A second above the water and you begin to cry. Sobs enveloping your water-engorged lungs as dry tears leave scars down your cheeks.

It seems impossible to care anymore, numbed by the overdose of adrenaline that your body has secreted into your anxiety-tainted veins.

You feel weighed down by the gravity that ever so gently touches the water, and much like a weight you feel as if sinking would be less painful.

Anything would be less painful.

Someone’s words slowly bring you back to the real world, carrying on as if you had been standing there, simply listening the whole time.

You let out a long breath, realizing your lungs were depleted of air as you declaw your fingernails from the inside of your palm.

Silently inhaling, you feel the tingle of life slowly penetrate down from your neck and into your fingertips.

“Sorry,” you mumble, as if the person knew exactly what had just taken place inside of your being. They look at you, confused, because you shouldn’t be, you have no reason to be. A quick, “Never mind,” deflects further questions which leaves you relieved, but also lonely.

Now that you are present again, you feel the blood rush to the depth of your cheeks.

Your hands still slightly shaking from the trauma your mind and body just experienced.

Your heartbeat pumping blood into your veins like your life depended on it.

You feel out of control.

You feel shame.

The havoc being wrecked in your gut piercing at the sides of your stomach almost causes you to lunge forward as if someone punched you.

You want to run, but you couldn’t even if you wanted to. Your feet, heavier than a bag of bricks, unwillingly stay planted underneath you, wait for the next time your mind will choose to take over.

You keep smiling. Nodding your way through life because less question are asked when your head nods up and down rather than shaking side to side.

“How are you?”

“I’m fine.”

You cringe, imagining the worst response if you were to ever unveil the chaos that took place inside of your mind just now.

No one would understand.

Collapsing into yourself every single night from the pain that people only see when you just can’t take it anymore.

A pain that stems from your mind, yet physically hurts.

Insomnia keeping you awake until the nightmares find you when you finally fall asleep.

And then the next day, it starts all over again. Maybe worse, maybe not. Maybe it will be a good day.

No anxiety, no depression, no thoughts.

You vow to talk about it, to tell someone about the events that take place deep down in your core, but how can you expect yourself to speak when it’s so hard to breathe, your demons sitting on your lungs.

So you rise again, faking “fine” like you get paid to do it.

You’re afraid. Afraid to hurt the ones you love. Scared to death the people you love most will leave. But you wouldn’t blame them, you can hardly deal with all of this yourself and you don’t expect anyone else to.

It hurts, but you don’t want to hurt others.

You’d rather let it destroy you than destroy anyone else.

You see you’re scared, and what you ultimately want is for someone to look you in the eyes and actually mean it.

To be able to say they understand. No lie, no joke, no trying to make you feel better.

Just relate.

The type of “I know” that only certain people can whisper from the depths of their souls. Because lots of people know, but they don’t really know.

So maybe that’s what you’re afraid of.

Opening up to people who think you can just stand up to save yourself from drowning. when in reality your whole situation takes place in the deep end.

There is no shallow part. No easy way out.

And the worst part of it all is that you don’t know how to talk about it even when all of the words are etched so boldly in your brain.

You taste the acidic vulnerability leaving scars on your tongue and swallow the poisonous pill that has become easy to stomach.

You don’t know how to speak without feeling needy, a feeling that snuffs out even the brightest of candles.

You don’t know how to explain without feeling judged, a feeling that fuels the stigma.

And the worst part is late at night, dry heaving on every word you didn’t speak.

Hoping  you will fall asleep before you fall apart.

You see, silence is just another word for pain.

Soon, you find yourself surviving, not living.

You don’t know who you are anymore.

Mind like an ocean, thoughts like a tsunami.

There is no forecast to determine when the next wave will hit.

And maybe that’s the hardest part.

Knowing that if you sink you get control, but if you swim you don’t have any.

Follow this journey on Candidly Cannessa.

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Thinkstock photo via puhhha

Oftentimes, when we picture anxiety, we picture the “classic” symptoms — worrying, overthinking and panic attacks, to name a few. What we may not realize is anxiety presents itself in a lot of different ways. It’s important for us to recognize anxiety is often more than just worrying — and that is evident in the way it presents itself in the lives of individuals affected.

We wanted to know some different ways anxiety presents itself, so we asked members of our mental health community to share one unexpected way anxiety plays out in their lives.

Here’s what they had to say:

1. “Depersonalization/derealization. Sometimes I will look at my hands and they will feel like they aren’t mine, same with my face in the mirror… I can literally touch my face and it will feel numb and unfamiliar. And then everything around seems like I’m watching it through a lens or from outside of my self. My words don’t feel like they are mine… it’s a very strange feeling and very hard to explain to someone who has never experienced it. I become completely detached from myself in times of high anxiety and stress.” — Anastasia M.

2. “Anxiety presents itself as anger for me. Rage seems to feel more safe than anxiousness and masks the true emotion. It’s easier for me to direct the emotion outwards at someone else, something else or some situation than it is to face the inner facing anxiety. Plus reacting with anger seems to allow me to cope and release the pent up feelings, whereas sitting with anxiety is unsettling and lasts forever.” — Jordan D.

3. “Blurred vision and plugged ears. When my anxiety hits hard, my eyesight gets blurry… It’s like trying to see underwater. My ears plug up and the people talking to me sound far away. I hear my heartbeat in my ears and my whole body literally feels like it’s vibrating.” — Brock H.

4. “Uncontrollable tremors, especially in my legs. [I] can’t fully fall asleep and pass out from exhaustion — usually only when I have to stay away from home for a night.” — Kayla C.

5. “Controlling behaviors. I try to control people and events and just about everything. [It’s like] perfectionism. If I iron out all the kinks — get rid of everything that might at all go wrong — then I feel calmer.” — Pourgerour H.

6. “Impulsiveness. I will do [silly] things without thinking through [the] consequences.” — Mikayla C.

7. “[I] ramble and talk too fast. Like all the thoughts in my head are trying to come out of my mouth all at once, and when I try to take a breath and organize them, I usually lose some, which is another way my anxiety presents itself. [It’s the] inability to remember anything. Like you could tell me to remember something and then if in 10 minutes you ask me to repeat it and I’m anxious, I won’t remember a thing you had said.” — Kaley G.

8. “The last couple of years, it’s been disfluency (stammer). Either I can’t even get words out or I get stuck on the initial sound of a word. Another atypical thing I do in a panic attack is make a humming sound, instead of talk. I started doing that shortly before the disfluency appeared. They usually go hand in hand. I get so frazzled I can’t get my words out and make a frantic humming sound.” — Kristina W.

9. “Blistering eczema on my hands and feet. When my stress and anxiety levels go up, I develop blisters on my hands and feet which itch like crazy and the more stressed I get, the more blisters appear and they do so in clusters that sometimes look like flowers. It’s called Pompholyx. I’m never completely free of it anymore.” — Elise W.

10. “An immediate sleepiness. I’ll feel very drowsy and lightheaded if I insist [on] staying awake. [My] body will also getting limp and powerless. once I lie downIi’ll be sleeping for 10 hours or even longer. Usually I’ll skip around two meals, not even waking up for water or trip to the bathroom. I guess my body’s “defense mechanism” is to shut the brain down immediately in order to feel better.” — Riri D.

11. “A lot of crying or needing to cry. I can’t talk clearly and I have to fight back my tears. Sometimes it’s too much and I have to cry even if it’s in public so I can calm down.” — Monica T.

12. “Nausea and a constant ringing in my ear that gets louder as my anxiety gets worse. Also I’m usually pretty sensitive to sounds, so when I’m very anxious the smallest noises (such as my own hair rubbing on the pillow case) irritate me out of proportion.” — Mariana N.

13. “I get really itchy on my arms and legs, like there are little bugs crawling on me. And sometimes I’ll find myself picking at the sleeves of my shirt, like they’ve gotten too tight. I just feel super uncomfortable with myself.” — Sadie S.

14. “Being skittish. When I’m anxious, or even when I’m not, I get scared at the smallest things. The buzz of a fly, the sound of a bell, something dropping, abrupt yelling. I jump and it feels like my heart stops. I immediately go into reflex mode and I position my body like I’m defending myself from an attacker, and it takes me a few minutes to recover.” — Caelynn C.

15. “Memory problems and confusion. I forget everything and in high stress/anxiety moments. I will forget how to function normally, I can’t speak in complete comprehensible sentences and I don’t realize what’s going on around me. I work in a retail store and I have people that come in a lot, but I don’t remember them… Someone can walk in, I can hold a conversation with them, leave and then they can walk back in 10 minutes later and I won’t remember/recognize them.” — Serenity B.

16. “I become aggressively social when I’m out with a lot of people. I don’t want to seem nervous so I start talking and sometimes can’t stop because if I do, my momentum will crash and I’ll feel myself panicking.” — Cristal G.

17. “Rushing around the house to get out the door, even when there’s no set time for me to be anywhere. For years I did this without realizing it was linked to my anxiety. I still do it but now I can recognize it and slow down.” — Julieann H.

18. “I pick at and pull out my hair for a couple hours at a time. I break each strand I pull out looking for split ends so I can get the immense satisfaction from pulling that apart. I will also tweeze my leg hair stumble and bite and pick at my finger nails and the skin on my fingertips.” — Nicole P.

19. “[I experience] hyperacusis/misophonia. Everything around me starts making me uncomfortable, every noise. It makes me irritated, mad. I get the urge to run away from crowds to a silent area.” — Maria T.

20. “Irritability! I get overwhelmed quickly and tend to get nasty and short with others — ‘Stop, be quiet, go away,’ etc. My senses become overly stimulated and I don’t know how to handle it. I yell and then shut down.” — Francesca C.

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Thinkstock photo via Anna_Isaeva.

20 Unexpected Ways Anxiety Presents Itself

“Do I have to look?” I mutter to myself as my finger swipes the notifications off my phone’s screen. “I really, really don’t want to.” I swallow a flare of heartburn and lay my phone on the kitchen counter so my hands are free to flap.

I’m freaking out, man.

The messages are from my friends — fellow writers and/or lovers of a story well-told. Why wouldn’t I want to see what they have to say?

It’s because they’re not just friends today, they’re beta readers. They are giving feedback on the first complete draft of my book. And I’m pretty sure they’re going to say it’s cheesy, half-baked and fucking awful. My heart is in my throat.

It’s been four months since I committed to turning the stories and messages from my blog into a book. In that time, I have been tossed like a rubber duck on tidal waves of emotion.

It started with ecstatic freedom — knowing that my fate is in my own hands.

“I’m going to be my own freaking fairy godmother!” I sang inside my head. “I’m gonna turn myself into an author!” All I had to do was learn the steps to the self-publishing dance and follow them. Simple as pie.

Next came a slice of juicy satisfaction. It felt indescribably good to reject the traditional publishing route. Much like starting my blog, producing my own book freed me to dig my fingers into wet and smelly stuff without worrying about soiling a publisher’s image or offending their marketing sensibilities.

No one was going to stop me from saying the things I felt needed to be said or water down my tone. I was completely free to amuse myself with all the gross and unsettling imagery I craved. The sensation of creative control was like bacon-wrapped filet — arousing, addictive and nourishing to a part of me that was always hungry.

But with all that dizzy liberty came huge responsibility. Every time I caught a giddy swell of possibility, I’d fly off the crest and free fall into 20 league trough of doubt.

You can’t do this, the doubt in me hissed. You are too scattered to make your deadlines, you’re too flighty to make it polished and you’re too egocentric to make it satisfying to anyone but you.

And that’s what I was sure these messages from my beta readers were saying.

“What the fuck on God’s green earth made me think I could do this?” I moaned to the kitchen cupboards.

Learning how to do this, silly!” came a squeaky voice from near my feet. “You learned, and then you tried it. What is there to fuss about?”

I look down and see warm green eyes smiling up at me from a furry black robber’s mask. I start to bend over to pick up my imaginary raccoon. But part way over, I freeze, staring numbly at the floor behind Critter, my hands working open and closed.

Critter tilts her head and frowns at me, then thrusts her arms in the air to spur me back to action. She looks exactly like my 2-year-old, her face saying, “Yeah yeah yeah, I know you’re having all kinds of thoughts… but come on. Pick me up and let’s get on with this.”

Critter’s movement catches my eye, and my focus rolls onto her face for a blank pause. Then, I complete my initial motion and lift my scruffy friend to my shoulder. I heave a sigh.

Critter nestles her head against my neck and exhales with audible contentment. Usually, her cosiness radiates into me, but today, it’s bouncing off like heatless rays from an LED bulb.

“What’s up with you?” Critter asks sleepily. “I thought you’d be basking in the afterglow of orgasmic completion today.”

I frown as I pat her back absently.

“What completion?” I ask.

Critter pushes her chest away from mine and looks up at me with an eyebrow cocked in disbelief.

“The book?” she says. “The one you just finished? How are you not dancing right now?” She tilts her head and peers into my eyes, searching for signs of “madness.”

I shake my head sadly.

“Oh, it’s not finished,” I report. “That was just the beta draft. I was thrilled yesterday because I thought it was almost done, and it was such a relief. I was ready to collapse — it’s been a hard push to meet my beta deadline.

But as soon as the first feedback comments started rolling in, I realized the manuscript is nowhere near done. It’s a steaming coil of thoughtless turd, and I’m afraid it’s the best I can do. I have no idea how I’m going to make it fit to publish.”

I sigh again, and it makes my chest ache. It’s like trying to breathe through wet sand.

Critter rolls her eyes at me.

“Are you serious?” she chides. “You’ve finally made it to Mount Doom, and you want to hand off the ring to Gollum now? I don’t mean to be rude, but are you a moron?” She gives me a crooked smile.

I blink at her, not sure if I’m about to burst into tears or a tirade.

Critter pulls herself out of my arms, crawls onto my shoulder and leaps onto the counter. Then she stands on her hind feet, so our faces are level and puts her paws on my shoulders.

“What’s your problem?” she huffs into my face with cat food breath.

“What happened to last week’s humble acceptance of your imperfection?”

I crinkle my nose and pull away from the spoiled meat breeze that carries Critter’s words.

My stubborn raccoon narrows her eyes, grabs handfuls of my shirt and clings to me. As I pull back, her body stretches away from the counter like an accordion, following my retreat.

“Oh no you don’t,” she laughs. “Quit evading the question, or I’ll reach up there and give you mouth to mouth.”

My stomach lurches, and I step forward, clasping my hand over my mouth. This brings Critter back toward the counter and she shoves off my shoulders to regain her stance on my food prep area.

“Ha!” she says. “You’re helpless before the power of putrefied Purina.”

I swallow hard and scowl at my pushy friend. She scowls right back.

“Spill it, Captain McQueasy,” she says. “What happened to realizing your best effort was good enough?”

I breathe deep and think about it. An image of last week’s peaceful surrender in the bathtub floats into my mind.

“It’s all about nakedness,” I say to Critter. “Last week, I was just being naked and honest with myself. It was a wonderful feeling of freedom and security.

But this week, it feels like I’ve just dropped my trousers in front of my friends. And it’s only a practice run for the big show when I release the book on the market. I’m basically a stripper, Critter, and I don’t have the body for it!”

Critter covers her eyes and sniggers. Then she opens them and shines her mossy-hued lamps at me kindly.

“Being an artist is kind of like being a nudist,” she says. “You can’t get into the club unless you bare your naked truth, but wearing your skin suit in public is an act of discipline.”

I chuckle. Critter tilts her head at me.

“You’re not that far off on your analogy about stripping,” she continues. “Trying to make a living with your art means you are exposing yourself, ostensibly for the benefit of your audience. If you ask for their sweaty dollar bills, you’d better give them a good show.”

I chuckle again.

“It’s weird how right you are,” I say, shaking my head and scratching Critter’s ear. “Only you could make me feel better about the prospect of training for stripper-cise.”

Critter grins and leans into the scratch.

“You realize how lucky you are to have that terrifying feedback lurking in your mailbox, don’t you?” she asks with slitted eyes.

I take a deep breath and nod.

“Those are your dance instructors,” she says, pointing her nose toward my smartphone. I watch it’s message alert blinking green a few times, and notice the quiver in my guts.

“They’re giving pointers to help you put on a show you will feel good about,” Critter finishes.

I take another breath and sigh.

“You’re right,” I say. “This judgment is kind; they are trying to help me.”

“And they will, if you let them,” Critter adds.

I nod.

“Somehow, I have to muzzle the terrified voice inside me that just beats me down,” I say. “I need to clear my ears so I can hear the helpful critique and move forward.”

Critter tilts her head and considers.

“You need nudist therapy,” she announces.

“What?” I laugh.

“Nudist therapy. Stripping is all about polishing your moves to please people, and it forces you to submit to judgment,” she explains.

“Nudism, on the other hand, is about abandoning judgment and just letting everyone be what they are. There are no beauty pageants on the nude beach.”

I laugh and shake my head.

“You make the nude scene sound meditative,” I reply, “But I’m not quite ready for that.”

Critter smiles at me.

“I know,” she says. “Why don’t you start with a swim?”

My eyes and mouth open wide and I suck in a rush of air.

“That’s… freaking… brilliant!!” I gasp. “I always feel scared to step out in my bathing suit, but as soon as I start moving through the water, nothing matters. The curve of my belly, the shape of my thighs… all the things I am so afraid to have judged… they just become body parts once I sink below the surface and start to blow bubbles.”

“The rest of the swimmers are just collections of body parts, too. We are all exposed at the pool, and we just let each other be. Holy crap, Critter! You just invented bathing suit therapy!”

My self-assured rodent grins and polishes her claws.

“I’m going to do it!” I sing. “Tomorrow morning, I’m going for a swim after I drop the girls and daycare and school.”

“Atta girl,” Critter says, “and don’t dig into your beta feedback until your bare feet are planted firmly on the ground.”

I scoop up my imaginary raccoon and hug her fiercely.

“I don’t know how you do it,” I whisper to her, “but you make this terrifying shit doable.”

Critter looks up at me with mischievous crinkles around her eyes.

“It’s what I do,” she says. “And if you want to show your gratitude, I could go for a can of something wet and stinky.”

“Yuck,” I say, grimacing. “But to be fair, you’ve earned it.”

So I fix Critter a bowl of slimy stuff from the garbage can and wash my hands three times. The next day, I follow-through on my plan for a swim.

It feels amazing, and the sound of my bubbly breath fills my ears until the voice of my inner critic fades away.

Now, I’m ready to face the beta feedback on my book. I’m going to let my feverish ache to provide a satisfying show pull me through the next phase of grueling revisions.

And I’m going to make sure I tell my beta readers how much I appreciate their brave critique of my literary lap dance.

Critter and I know you face daunting challenges, too. We hope you find a way to balance your “stripper training” with nudist therapy and give yourself room to grow without debilitating self-judgement.

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Thinkstock photo via Grandfailure.

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We face disability, disease and mental illness together.