I had a beer; rolled skated; and broke my ankle. Lessons in sharing, vulnerability and addiction.

Whew! Why do I write about such matters? Who does being so emotionally vulnerable benefit? Sharing about things that I’d perhaps be better off keeping to myself. Perhaps. It’s at that juncture I hit a hard pause. The thought that I’d perhaps be better off if I didn’t share as much I recognize as the societal conditioning that tells us we should value our privacy above all else. I would succumb to this belief – in fact, I have in times past – if not for this deeper and more primal desire within me that propels me to share. To share not only because of the healing I experience when I let go of shame in the telling. But also, because in sharing, I hope no one gets to live in their shame. In the shame of feeling broken, alone, and unworthy.

I have felt all of those things and still feel them from time to time. This idea that I may indeed help someone feel less alone isn’t one that I’ve always believed without questioning my motives. Am I narcissistic, do I not understand the sacredness of privacy and the sanctity of our deeply felt emotions? Do I over share because of trauma? And the list and self-flagellation goes on and on. At one point, I may have believed that I had said ulterior motives and failures in self regulation if not that what has helped me feel the least alone and broken in this world are the words of others. The words with which they too shared what many in our society consider private/secret and sacred even. It is in others sharing their stories of abortion, self harm, abuse, violence, anger that I’ve seen myself reflected to me. It is in those stories that I found reason to stop questioning my worth, my validity, my humanness. And so I share.

This latest share is about how the pandemic, multiple infidelities, a divorce and reconciliation led me to develop coping mechanisms I’m re-examining. I grew up with an alcoholic dad and later became witness to an alcoholic brother. All that to say alcoholism isn’t new to me. I’ve seen the different shapes it takes. The dad who only drinks at night but might finish a 24 pack of beer yet still wake up in the morning to run a very successful business. To the brother who is using alcohol and drugs to escape a mind besieged by words and images that aren’t within his control.

Because of those very close examples of what it looks to be at the mercy of alcohol, I would never have categorized myself as an alcoholic. I still don’t. But there was enough for me to examine my newly developing coping mechanisms. I mean, I had the “good” coping mechanisms on lock. I crocheted, I went to therapy, I wrote, I podcasted, I skated, and I drank a bottle of beer almost every night. Yup, that’s it. Just that one bottle. Some nights, if I was feeling frisky, I’d have two bottles or maybe some wine. Certainly not enough to get drunk. But for me, a lightweight, a bottle of beer was just enough to take the edge off. You know, the edge of living life during a global pandemic isolated from friends, family, and for me, coworkers as I haven’t been to work in four months.

I never sought more than those one or two bottles because I don’t like the feeling of being drunk. Tipsy is just good enough for me. Good enough for me to want to feel it nightly. My partner would tease me every time I said I went grocery shopping by asking, “you mean you got plantain chips and beer?” I’d chuckle and say “you already know it”. While she said nothing expressly, I could tell she was beginning increasingly worried about my apparent desire to have a beer every night.

So yeah, I had some concern, but nothing that I couldn’t explain away. I was just kinda taking the approach of observing myself to see how long this streak would last. I didn’t consistently drink the whole pandemic; just in those initial did in the initial months where I was freaking out and filled with anxiety at the unknown. In fact, I intentionally went a couple of months with no alcohol at all because I wasn’t trying to have the conversation about whether I was drinking too much. This time around though, I was taking more of a let me wait and see how this plays out approach.

What prompted me to write about this, you may ask. Well, I broke my ankle a few days ago while practicing my new hobby of roller skating. It happened in the hallway of our apartment complex, which is where I had taken to practicing ever since I took up the new hobby. I’ve had multiple falls, as one does when learning how to roller skate for the first time! Yet, with this fall a few days ago, I couldn’t brace myself for the fall the way I had learned to. I was “off” just enough to careen into the wall with my foot with a resultant crack sound that showed the break an X-ray eventually confirmed. That feeling of being “off” is the feeling I recognize accompanies my tipsiness after a beer. This happened around 3pm in the afternoon, and I had had a beer earlier on that afternoon with lunch.

When I was telling my partner and folks on Instagram of the fall, I didn’t mention I had had a beer. I didn’t even mention it jokingly like I would have if I felt it was a joke. Something to the tune of “y’all better not skate after having a beer because you might break your leg, learn from me”. As I kept this from my partner especially more and more, I realized the familiar feelings of shame that accompany doing something that my instinct tells me isn’t right for me. I eventually told my partner, and she was kind enough to say “that was kinda hard for you to tell me, wasn’t it?” Yes, it has been hard to admit it. And so, after tackling that hard, I wrote about it.

I’m choosing to write more, but also to write truly and share authentically in all ways. This may resonate with you, or it may not. That is not within my control. However, if it does, I want to say, you’re not alone. Maybe I’ll never know how this resonated with you and I don’t need to know. I only needed to get it out. To cast out the shame that accompanied this for me. Because only when I have let go of the shame am I able to decide and say hey love, let’s stop with the daily beer, yeah? Let’s see how hard it is to stop. Let’s see the emotions that stopping brings up for you. Let’s face it from a place of self love and acceptance and see what comes up for us.

So, that’s what I’m doing. I’m two days in and so far, a little anxiety, a little displacing of that anxiety onto my partner, a little desire to open that bottle of wine or buy some beer but above all, a lot of noticing and sitting still.

Xo, Christabel.

abolish the fitness industry

Is that the goal? Is that what we’re going for with the “counting your macros is not healthy” and the “accept your body the way it is, do not lose weight” and the ever popular “if you’re trying to lose weight, you are still under the thumb of the diet industry.” While a lot of the articles you’ll see with this theme of self love and acceptance are written by people with good intentions, they often feel disingenuous.

Let’s start from the beginning shall we and look at the factors that may have someone conclude that counting macros with the aim to lose weight is not healthy. Their introduction to macro counting was probably because of having jumped from diet to diet all their lives and having a desire to approach things in a healthier way. They were probably then introduced to macro counting at their cross-fit box or power-lifting gym. WOW! I can eat anything I want and still lose weight as long as I stay within these numbers?! I can ditch the unhealthy disordered eating behaviors I’ve had all my life?! What an amazing concept. So, they jump in headlong.

Read more“abolish the fitness industry”

don’t touch my hair

In Ghana, where I grew up, school age girls were expected to have a hair cut with hair no longer than an inch or so. The only ones exempt were the one or two mixed girls in the school. This meant that during our senior year, all of us girls would start growing out our little ‘fros (but we’d tie them down overnight so as not to alert the teachers that it was longer than the 1 inch maximum allowed) in preparation for graduation because that’s when the magic happens! Many of us get to relax our hair for the first time! We get to have straight hair that swang in the wind.

So, as expected, I graduated and dove head first into the world of relaxers and braids and wigs and weaves and every iteration of it. It wasn’t until 2008, in the midst of the new natural hair movement that was sweeping the US did I stop to investigate what my hair as it grew out of my scalp looked like. I promptly did the “big chop” as it’s known. I.e., I cut off all my relaxed hair and went back to less than an inch of hair. I embarked on a journey of discovering curls I hadn’t known existed in my 23 years of life.

Read more“don’t touch my hair”

why you need to ditch your “goal weight” today!

Unless you have a sport, health condition or otherwise for which you need to maintain a certain weight, having a “goal weight” is a recipe for disaster.

First, what is “weight” as it pertains to your body? In the most simplistic of definitions, it is the sum of your mass. So, when you add up the amount of water, fat, muscles, poop etc., you get your weight. This number fluctuates minute to minute, day to day based on so many factors not within our control. Did you sleep enough, did you poop, are you on your period, are you stressed, do you have hormonal issues? These are just a few things that impact how much you weigh.

Read more“why you need to ditch your “goal weight” today!”

next time, make sure your phone is working

“Next time, make sure your phone is working before you page me.” This is what a doctor said after I had just apologized to her (unprompted) that the phone wasn’t working but that the outgoing nurse had paged her to that phone.

That she felt the need to chastise me still speaks to just a fraction of the verbal and emotional abuse nurses get from doctors regularly. Nurses take it with grace and move on but I couldn’t do it this time. After she said what she said, I said to her “I’m not sure how I could have ensured that seeing as it is that I came in to work and I had no way of knowing the phone they paged youto wasn’t working.”

Read more“next time, make sure your phone is working”

health education is a must – this nurse’s perspective

Baby Nurse Christabel circa 2012

My work as a nurse is fulfilling, but it’s also often saddening. The sadder parts for me is the realization of my limitations. I have a hard time accepting those limitations because often; I feel that it is all unfair. Disease and death are the two most difficult things for me to accept as the inevitable part of our human existence. It has become even more difficult since I do not actively have a belief system I subscribe to. When I was a Jehovah’s witness, the promises in the bible about a day when there will be no more sickness and death were my favorite ones:

Revelation 21:4: “…he will wipe out every tear from their eyes, and death will be no more, neither will mourning nor outcry nor pain be anymore. The former things have passed away.”

The above scripture and many like it brought me such comfort. I could always refer to them when I felt the crushing hopelessness of the human condition overcome me. While being empathetic is a good quality to have as a nurse, it has to be tempered by acceptance of our limitations as caregivers and healers. I can only do so much. We can only do so much. And the acceptance of those limitations is even more imperative when we’re dealing with incurable, chronic, progressively degenerative or congenital diseases. I rarely see miraculous recoveries rather, disease progression is usually predictable.Read more“health education is a must – this nurse’s perspective”

how strength training and therapy saved my life. *trigger warning: self harm and suicidality*

  My passions run deep and are varied but not by happenstance. I am who I am today and care about the things I care about today because of a very rough journey through life that has resulted in a lot of self-discovery and self-love. I’ll write a book one …