Bumbling Through Hallowed Ground

A little tradition (or 2 years in a row) I’ve started is taking a fall weekend to hike with my dog. Last year we visited Cumberland Falls in Maryland and then stopped by Gettysburg. This year we headed back to Maryland to try the Annapolis Rock section of the Appalachian Trail.

By “hiking” I mean “meandering around trees.” But it’s good exercise and good mind clearing, right? Unfortunately the Appalachian part did not quite live up to expectations. Being on the AT is always cool, but I think this section required more of a hike than we were ready for to really get to the breathtaking vistas. Instead, we walked along a highway for some time, then kept walking up and up…and turned around. The dog and I were both sluggish, rains were coming….

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…and all the foliage was boring and yellow. So many elms and beeches! Basically we drove 3 hours to sit in a hotel for our normal Sunday activity of SVU in bed. Totally worth it.

The next day we headed to Antietam, my favorite Civil War battlefield. I decided to start at the end of the tour–Burnside Bridge. I usually run out of steam at that point, and it seemed like there’d be good photo ops with foliage background.

Aaand guess what part of the battlefield has been closed since 2015! Yup. I guess there’s a reason the park website has that alerts section with a big red exclamation point.

But I figured since we were there we might as well look around, leading me to a sign for a trail I’d always ignored before since I was tired. Snavely’s Ford trail winds along Antietam Creek, providing a super peaceful and wooded path that you might not typically expect from a historic site.

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At Snavely’s Ford, you can see a crossing spot for Union soldiers. Civil War Traveler provides fantastic podcasts that correspond to the NPS tour stops. Although this walk is not part of the tour specifically, I still enjoyed listening to the Burnside Bridge podcast, which had some details about the crossing in this area.

Once the path veers away from the creek, I came to a path post and decided to head up to the Final Attack Trail. NPS boasts this trail has some of the best vistas of the battlefield…I think I prefer the view from the Visitor Center or Sunken Road, but it was a panorama I hadn’t seen before.

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The portion of the Final Attack I started on was actually stop 7, and a right turn at took me right back to the parking lot at Burnside Bridge, totally about 2 miles total “hiking,” which was perfect for my purposes. I did drive through the start of the Final Attack loop for a view from the other direction. That total loop would have been 1.7 miles.

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Gettyburg is the showstopper battlefield, but I love Antietam for its simplicity and quiet significance. For any battlefield, I highly recommend the above mentioned podcasts and the apps from The Civil War Trust for battlefield info, videos, and tours.

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An Unsuccessful Trip into Online Therapy

I decided to try out online therapy and I wasn’t even lucky enough to have my foray paid for by a women’s magazine!

As embarrassing as it is to say, an ad popped up on facebook and got me thinking online therapy might be for me. Let’s face it, I need therapy.

Though I haven’t progressed to slumping against a wall in a sterile room, I’m pretty much constantly in emotional turmoil. But since that emotional turmoil makes me stressed about having appointments and tight lipped about my feelings,  in-person therapy is either mildly stressful or fully unsuccessful. I’m better in writing and I’m not in a desperate situation as I usually am when I finally find a therapist, so it seemed like a good time to try it out.

The top companies from my brief research seemed to be Talkspace and BetterHelp so I thought I’d try both! I signed up for BetterHelp right away because it has a 7-day free trial. They asked a bunch of typical questions and I was assigned a therapist in about 24 hours. I went back and forth on Talkspace a little more as they do not offer any sort of trial (the answer was that since a week of Talkspace therapy about equals one session they don’t think a trial could give you a real understanding of the service [this should have been my first warning sign]), but they did offer $25 off. Since $25 is the cost of one week, I figured I could use it as a free trial and then have an excuse to confront a company if they wouldn’t refund me the unused weeks later–I signed up the next day and got a therapist by the end of the day.

TL;DR: these services are therapy in the loosest sense of the word. It’s like sending emails to your really busy friends who responds with inspirational quotes. Which is even worse than talking to my real friends because I’d never have a friend who sent me inspirational quotes. The response times are long and the answers are brief, and it’s pulling teeth to go deeply into authentic cognitive behavioral therapy. Probably great for someone dealing with a breakup but not for someone with a diagnosed mental health condition.

For my specific experience…

I just felt super misled. Maybe my expectations were too high, but the services tout “therapy for how we live today,” with all their therapists’ credentials posted and talk of unlimited messaging from therapists ready to talk with you right now.

Well the therapist are real, but they are in no way available right now and pretty much never will be. I rarely got more than 2 messages a day, and usually only one of the messages would be “long”. Both companies advertise you can “write whenever you want!” “Sessions vary depending on the interaction between you and your counselor.” Whether I wrote a sentence or pages, there was no telling when I would get a response. By the time I heard back I had lost my train of thought and my passion for the issue. Or sometimes I kept sending additional messages as things came to mind and the therapist would write back and address the thing that really wasn’t a big deal. Other times they would misinterpret something and I’d have to (it felt like to me) waste an interaction clearing that up. There is a live chat option, but you have to schedule it, in my experience, at minimum a day ahead of time. I requested 3 live chats with 3 different therapists. One needed 4 days’ notice, one said anytime that day was fine and then never responded to my time, and another scheduled one for the next day, had an emergency, rescheduled, and never showed up. We finally talked 2 days later.

I brought this up with the therapists and customer service.

My BetterHelp therapist told me basically well you’re not writing enough to get anything done–most people treat this as a journal and write a ton and get one or two responses a week. A) That’s absurd. Why am I paying from $20-55 a week to have someone read my journal? B) There’s no B it just sounds better.

I started writing more and still just felt like it wasn’t going anywhere. I told her I really felt like I needed a live chat at least in response to my longer writings so we could dissect them. I didn’t get a response…I wrote back and said my subscription was ending and I hoped to hear from her before that and didn’t for 36 hours, at which point I cancelled and was offered another free week with a new therapist, which I took. Even less responsive.

Like the BetterHelp therapist, my TalkSpace responses were slow to come and for both of them it was glaringly obviously that this was a side job. Both of them said at different points, with a more apologetic tone from TalkSpace than BetterHelp, that they were busy with their jobs and couldn’t always be available to me. Well I understand that but also I’m paying for this service just like others are. When I contacted customer service about what I could expect from responses, BetterHelp did offer more time for my trial but TalkSpace said “your therapist is busy just like you!” If I’m waitressing as a 2nd job, I can’t tell my table their food is cold because I’m busy doing work from my 1st job!

If you really dig into the FAQs for each service you can see the fine print saying this service is in no way a substitute for in-person therapy, which is pretty much directly opposite their statements all over the main pages of the sites. The sites and customer service I talked to also say a week’s worth of chatting = one in-person session and most people need about 6 months to get anywhere.

The lack of responses makes each response seem more precious, so the biggest frustration was that most of the responses just didn’t cut it. I said right away that I’d been in therapy, I’d been medicated, and I have these issues and want to get to the bottom of them because that would make me feel more able to understand my feelings and address them.

Some of the responses I got were [paraphrased]:

can you catch yourself having negative thoughts and tell yourself not to have them?

if you spend time worrying you can’t smell the roses

is there really any point to identifying the source of your anxiety?

you shouldn’t be worried about time going by quickly, most people don’t have as much free time as you do.

I guess a silver lining is that I really got forceful with what I wanted and how wrong these perceptions were. But even so I don’t feel like it was productive to pay for a service that caused more stress than my additional issues. TalkSpace especially infuriated me because when I asked for a new therapist they told my current therapist I wasn’t happy and then I had to speak directly to her about changing, and since she was very nice and one of my main issues is disappointing people I felt so bad I stuck with her. A week later it still wasn’t going anywhere and even after talking to customer service there was no option of changing without involving the current therapist.

Both services were pretty much identical but if I had to choose I’d go with BetterHelp because of their far superior customer service. They checked in 3 days after I signed up, and when I said I wasn’t sure if I was satisfied they extended my subscription by almost a week. When I cancelled the last day, still not thrilled, they gave me another free week to try a new therapist. They are, however, more expensive than TalkSpace for shorter-term plans. I would never go so far as to say these are a scam but they overstate their efficacy and methods for sure.

No Means Yes?

As I’ve said before, I’m girly and not super anti-gender roles, or so I think. I guess I’m just into people doing what they want, more so than being anti feminist. I want a pink couch and doilies on my tables but I’m not taking my husband’s name if I get married.

This Stanford rapist business has really got my blood boiling, as it should everyone’s blood. And whether it’s that or just my own changing expectations in the face of a (legally at least) more accepting world, I’m just continually shocked/infuriated at interactions I have with racist, sexist strangers.

Take, at the library.

I’d like to test drive Chrissy Teigen’s cookbook* because her food looks awesome and she’s enjoyable. I ask the librarian to put it on hold.
She rolls her eyes.

I say “you don’t approve?”

The librarian goes on to explain how John Legend is so classy and articulate (aka safe for white people) and she’s stupid and raunchy and should just keep her mouth shut and look pretty. Repeatedly.
Maybe librarians should read and not talk. And not revile people they saw once on a talk show.
Next, take every guy I’m talking to right now.
Yea, I’m a pain in the ass. I want to hang out with you on my terms. But if we’re meeting for the first time, I think that’s ok, especially if you’re trying to meet me after less than 24 hours of messaging. And if I say no, I don’t need to explain myself and you don’t need to try to analyze me.
Do you want to hang out tomorrow?
I’m working
You can take a break.
Actually I can’t
Is it because I’m younger?
No it’s because I’m working.
I’m promise I’ll be a gentleman! I just want to get to know you.
Listening to my answer would be a good start on knowing me.
I’m sorry. I’ll stop talking to you. I’ve ruined our chances.

And so on…

Another fun one is the “hey add me on snapchat (by the way I’m sending you nudes)”

I’ll say gross and they’ll say why don’t you like it. Having to even explain that much is too much but if I’m feeling generous maybe I say I don’t like sexual talk or pictures. I’m up for hanging out but not that.
Why not? You can trust me. I won’t share them. Is it because you don’t like mine? You won’t send me any?
I know my mailman better than you, dude! What kind of creep prefers talking about sex to getting a drink! And ps if you won’t take my explanation for why I don’t want your dumb pics I certainly won’t trust you to respect me in person.
People are pretty transparent. Give it a second chance after one I’m busy, but two mean get lost. Don’t make us spell it out.
Just stick with the golden rule. Treat others as you’d like to be treated, and keep your dicks and racism to yourself.
*get the cookbook. it’s good. and get it from a library to support sustainability and community resources and making middle aged white women everywhere uncomfortable by bringing up “raunchy” celebrities.

How to Feel a Little Less Lonely….

From the Today Show*, that bastion of feminism, comes a tip for putting on a bracelet alone: paperclips!

Twist it into an s and use it as an extender to hold the bracelet as you clasp.

Perfect for the independent office supply hoarder.

I’m sure when I’m feeling sad sacky I’ll still manage to feel bad that I’m staring into a paperclip putting on my bracelet instead of the eyes of a handsome man, but it’s better than nothing.

*from the Today show and apparently many other places. Photo credit: Lifehacker

I put on a pair of yoga pants tonight and realized I’ve had them since 2002.

One of the longest relationship I’ve ever had is with elastic-waist lounge wear. (Actually that is pretty apropos considering my commitment to lazing.)

Meanwhile, today in Facebook updates:

  • friend living in Hawaii with 3 kids
  • friend vacationing abroad with almost 3 kids
  • friend purchasing 2nd home

5 years ago these friends had 0 homes and 0 kids.

But 5 years ago I had my yoga pants and I still do. So that’s…something?

Hindsight

Ever go on a date and it’s kinda ok and then you get home and start identifying all these dealbreakers?

This seems to be happening kind of a lot lately. While we’re hanging out chatting I’m not dying to get home. I think “I’d give him a second date.” Then I get home to my couch’s warm embrace away from the glow of whiskey and feel compelled to text.

“So I just went out with a more bitter version of [insert ex here].”

“So this guy tonight was grilling me about where I work. Is my job weird?”

“So this guy tonight said he puts butter in his coffee…”

(Ok so that last one is apparently a real thing. And actually something I might try when I’m not busy scarfing straight brown sugar.)

Am I sabotaging myself or am I trying so hard to be open minded I don’t even know what kind of company I like to keep anymore?

Like when I met up with the guy this week for drinks and he didn’t drink. That seemed weird and also awkward since I enjoy drinking and did so heartily. Naturally he didn’t pay for my drinks, which as we know is a major annoyance that I worry I should be more modern about but don’t want to be modern about. Espesh when my bar tab for the night is $9.50.

Also when I tried to explain him to a friend and said “he was kinda super negative but maybe it’s good to not always be optimistic?” Hearing myself out loud rationalizing a guy’s behavior by suggesting a positive outlook is a bad thing was jarring…

The past two half-hearted 2nd dates I regretted and the fact that I decided against sending a thank you text lest I have to have a conversation were a push to let it be a one and done with this guy. But I’ll keep wondering if I’m letting a guy’s one bad night keep me from a relationship or if I’m just too picky.

Trying to trust your (anxious, prone to depression) gut while also having an open heart is as confusing as it is tough.

 

 

*PS: That VH1 show Hindsight was awesome. Bring that back!

So Lonely

Actually not at all.

But apparently I’m supposed to be working hard not to feel bad this Valentine’s Day. Talking to a video of Fabio is better than being alone!

Usually Valentine’s Day is split between ugly jewelry ads and anti-Valentines promos (often overlaps with the Sexy and Single angle). Recently, the single-and-cool-with-it-so-I’ll-celebrate-with-my-bitches (but actually praying for a last minute date) group’s gotten played up.

And I’m always for the Pal-entine’s Day ideal. Stickers and puns and half price candy February 15!

However, it seems this year advertisers have caught on to the demographic of just-kinda-single-but-gonna-need-to-eat-Sunday. We get the Singles Blizzard:

This has no theme but delicious, yet somehow it’s supposed to be for singles like me. At least put a heart in it. Until I get a free blizzard by proving how man-free I am, don’t try to use my relationship status to sell things!

 

 

Credit: https://twitter.com/DairyQueen