Adrienne Masler

Taking the Road Less Traveled

April 9, 2017
by amasler
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Why I Wasn’t SAD This Winter

I’ve had depression on and off in my adult years, most recently for 5 years (undiagnosed for 4), but no matter whether I was actively depressed or not, winter was always worst. Seasonal Affective Disorder has been part of my life for the last decade, and as they say it’s a risk factor for major depressive episodes and post-partum depression. I primarily blamed the lack of light, though outdoor time and exercise also seemed to be factors. For years, all I wanted to do in winter was hibernate: curl up in a ball while eating cookies, breakfast cereal, and deluxe pb&j as comfort food. Motivating myself to get out in the cold and move was extra hard due to brain fog and that whiny, exhausted, helpless “I don’t want to!” feeling. I spent the whole season self-flagellating over my lack of motivation, chastising myself for not doing more to help myself. I always gained a little weight in winter too.

Not this year.

This year, I had no brain fog, no “I don’t want to!” feeling, no carb cravings, no self-flagellation, no wondering what’s wrong with me, no gaining weight. I did notice lower energy levels and needing more sleep, but it was a manageable difference that felt seasonally appropriate, related to the shorter days. It wasn’t psychologically painful.

What made the difference? I can’t chalk it up to the Vitamin D supplements; I was taking those last year, too. Walking a mile to and from work most days probably had a little to do with it, but I know from past experience that wouldn’t be enough to make a longtime condition simply vanish. The major clue turned out to be that I wasn’t craving carbs, because I haven’t been craving carbs since I officially quit eating wheat.

About a year ago, I did an experiment: I stopped eating wheat for three weeks. There were a couple specific things about my own health fueling my curiosity, but it basically comes down to wondering what the gluten-free hype was about and whether it would make a difference for me. If it did, I could decide how to proceed. If it didn’t change anything, I could go back to my normal diet.

Three weeks later, I ate a sandwich. Not just any sandwich; it was on Ithaca Bakery rye. The good stuff. Only within 24 hours, I was in a world of hurt. My joints and sinuses ached like nobody’s business and I felt awful mentally too. It was so bad that my cravings for my old comfort foods evaporated instantly. I wanted nothing to do with wheat ever again.

 

Thanks to a couple accidental exceptions to my new no-wheat policy, the world of hurt results have been repeated enough for me to know it wasn’t just a fluke. What I can’t explain is why I never noticed it when I was eating wheat regularly. Never mind; I sure notice it now.

Over the summer, I also cut back significantly on dairy and experienced the easiest round of seasonal allergies ever since I started reacting to ragweed in 2005. Then this winter was the easiest I’ve had as an adult, psychologically speaking. I never imagined that these two major dietary changes would lead so directly to marked improvements in allergies and depression. I was delighted but not surprised when I lost 10 pounds in two months after quitting wheat. I was glad to listen to my body’s preferences and start to feel better overall. What I didn’t expect was that my SAD wouldn’t come back. I didn’t expect my seasonal allergies to be almost cured.

It turns out that the brain chemistry model of depression may be missing the whole point. When I read Kelly Brogan’s latest post, Depression Starts in Your Gut, this morning, the pieces finally clicked into place. Chronic inflammation is the underlying cause of so many modern ailments. Another name for the “world of hurt” joint pain I get after eating wheat? Inflammation.

I was talking to a friend about my gluten-free experiment the other day, and he had a horrified expression on his face as he contemplated never eating another bagel again. “I can’t live like that. I don’t want to,” he said. Guys, I remember that feeling. Carb-based comfort foods were both crutch and treat for me. I used to say that if I was addicted to anything, it was milk. My acupuncturists gently encouraged me to reduce dairy consumption for three years before I would even consider it. I couldn’t imagine living without entire food groups. Wouldn’t that be restrictive, boring, and unhealthy? Wouldn’t I be in perpetual mourning, feeling denied and left out, if I couldn’t eat my favorite foods and what everyone else was eating?

Here’s my question: Does anyone feel that way about fruits and vegetables? Or do we just feel that way about wheat, dairy, and other foods that might be causing problems? My personal suspicion is that the very foods we can’t imagine giving up are the ones that we need to ditch. Truly healthy food doesn’t have that addictive, can’t-live-without-it quality. It’s enjoyable and delicious, but the thought of never eating kale again doesn’t induce panic attacks. For me, the flip side of breaking those addictions isn’t what I expected. Instead of mourning, I’m celebrating my improved health. Instead of feeling deprived, I’m grateful that I listened to my body’s preferences. I can honestly say that cookies and cheese no longer appeal to me. I’m not struggling to ignore their siren song; I don’t even hear it anymore. I can’t even say that it was “worth it” to stop eating wheat and dairy, because that implies that it was a sacrifice. Healing these specific conditions that have plagued me for years and feeling better every day of my life is amazing. My only regret is that I didn’t do it sooner.

I’m not making universal dietary prescriptions here. There are people out there who can eat wheat and dairy without issues, but I think they’re both a bigger problem for many people than some want to admit. Here’s what I’d encourage you to do: try your own experiments. Find out what’s really going on in your body. You probably already have an idea which foods or food groups are most problematic for you; I know I did. My own weight loss journey began when I stopped eating breakfast cereal as a comfort food several months before my no-wheat experiment. Start small and listen to your body. If your experience is anything like mine, you may be blown away by the results.

January 25, 2017
by amasler
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Why “Identity Politics” Matters

I’ve heard people dismissing the modern civil rights movement as “identity politics” and “political correctness”, implying that the ongoing struggle to secure full human rights for everyone is useless or even harmful. If that’s you, please read this carefully.

First they came for the Indigenous, and I did not speak out because we stole this land and it’s ours now and they should be “good losers”.

Then they came for the journalists, and I did not speak out because I thought the media were spreading fake news and it’s about time someone took away freedom of the press.

Then they came for the immigrants, and I did not speak out because I thought they were taking my jobs.

Then they came for the Muslims, and I did not speak out because I thought Muslim was a synonym for “terrorist”.

Then they came for those who are differently abled, and I did not speak out because I wanted more easy fodder for my sick jokes.

Then they came for the Blacks, and I did not speak out because they’re all lazy and would rather deal drugs than go to school or work.

Then they came for the LGBTQIA folks, and I did not speak out because I thought their “lifestyle” was an “abomination”.

Then they came for the poor, and I did not speak out because I thought they were the ones taking my tax money.

Then they came for the middle class, and I did not speak out because they could have made it if they worked hard enough.

Then they came for the scientists, and I did not speak out because they’re all godless heathens.

Then they came for the artists, and I did not speak out because Game of Thrones was on, and who needs the arts anyway?

Then they came for the women, and I did not speak out because they were just putting women back in their rightful place, finally.

Then they came for the planet, and I did not speak out because making money now is more important than my children and grandchildren having a safe place to live.

Then—just when I thought I finally had all the security I could want—they came for me on some trumped-up charge (ancestry? didn’t go to an Ivy League school? perceived loyalty?) and there was no one left to speak out for me. And I finally knew that the people I helped oppress were never the enemy.

—my adaptation of Martin Niemöller’s comments on World War II

This is about civil rights. If any of us are expendable, we are all ultimately expendable.

Picking and choosing who has their rights protected and upheld sets a dangerous precedent. When those in power see the world as a zero-sum game populated by “winners” and “losers”, in order for them to keep winning, they must always have an adversary to beat. If they can, they will pick us off, group by group.

Those who are still fighting for their rights in 2017 have also been protecting you with their words, their bodies, and their lives. They are protecting your rights from being violated by the same powers reluctant to recognize their rights. This is easy to overlook when activists are gaining ground. When officially protected rights are expanding, those of us whose rights have been long protected feel so secure that the front lines of the fight appear to have nothing to do with us.

Image displays text of Martin Niemoller's poem "First They Came"The front lines have everything to do with us. Once the circle of protected rights starts shrinking instead of expanding, there is nothing that will protect you—not tradition, not law, not being a good person, not appeasement. It will take longer for them to get around to violating your rights because it’s a last in, first out kind of situation. But rest assured, your time will come. If those who have been fighting all along are silenced and sent back to the reservations, foreign countries, asylums, ghettos, prisons, closets, and kitchens, there will be no one left to speak out for you.

Why should you care about “identity politics”? Because none of us have our rights until we all do.

White people, it is far past time that we join our less privileged human family on the front lines. Don’t tell me that you have better or more important things to do. Don’t wring your hands and tell me you’ll be devastated if anyone loses their rights. Don’t tell me that you have no evidence of things going to shit because you’re not on the front lines and you’ve been ignoring the dispatches.

Get your ass in gear. Read up on intersectionality and the history of oppression. Respect your leaders (hint: they’re not rich white cisgender male citizens). Then start speaking out and acting up.

January 15, 2017
by amasler
0 comments

I Wouldn’t Be Here Without You

I have a minor confession: I almost always skip the acknowledgements pages in books. They’re often little more than lists of names which mean everything to those named and to the author, but nothing to me. I do, however, appreciate that the acknowledgements are there. There’s a tendency to see writing as a solitary pursuit, but acknowledgements pages remind me that it takes a village to write a book, no matter whose name is on the cover.

We’re immersed in a culture that would have us believe that living is a solitary pursuit too. We’re supposedly the independent architects of our unique lives. Each of us gets all the credit—and all the blame—for everything that happens to us. Now, there is absolutely something to be said for personal responsibility, but there is also something equally as important to be said for interdependence, connection, and community.

I’ve long wanted to write my own acknowledgements page for my life so far, and here it is. It’s somewhat different than you’ll find in books; rather than a simple list of names (though those are included), it also includes my brief thoughts on programs, services, and products that have significantly impacted my life for the better. In this way I hope it will also serve as a reference for people who are dealing with similar struggles.

I won’t claim that it’s a list of recommendations, because I don’t have a specific audience in mind. I don’t know who will come across this list or whether all, some, or any of the items on this list apply to you and your situation. What I am claiming is that these people, programs, and products have helped me, they may help others, and I’m so grateful for their role in my life. Also, this is completely personal. There are no affiliate links here and I get nothing from anyone for sharing this. No fine print!

One more note: my life is a work in progress and this list is by no means complete or exhaustive. Some of the gratitude I have is incredibly private and even complicated, and not something I’m willing to publicize. Some omissions may be entirely unintentional. Perhaps in another few months or years I will update it or create a new one. Finally, these are in no particular order.

Martha Beck’s Life Coach Training literally changed my life. It taught me how to listen, how to ask the most effective questions, and set me on the path to trusting myself, my journey, and the universe.

Wendy Renee Holthaus held space for me to melt down in the midst of depression and work all the way through it. Wendy is a Kick Ass Recovery Coach!

Angelina Lombardo is another coach who is holding space for me to create new dreams and become a phoenix rising.

You Need A Budget (YNAB) is what finally made personal finance make sense to me. I’ve been using it since I was in college and it’s the reason why Z and I were able to face a surprise pregnancy and having to radically change our lives in 6 short months without going into debt.

Mercedes Lackey’s novels, especially of Valdemar, show me a better world in action. I absolutely love the care and attention her characters show for each other and their remarkable teamwork and sense of justice. Her books were my escape and my salve during my PPD.

St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Ithaca is nothing short of amazing. This community has seen me through all the upheavals and challenges of my adult life, including coming out, having a baby, and PPD. Special thanks to MM&WP, KK&BP, AM, LD&LD, JS, JM, JB, KO, AM&PM, the choirs, everyone who helped us with pregnancy, moving, meal delivery, and childcare, and of course NP&GG.

Ithaca Shamanic Drumming Circle has become my spiritual home and is teaching me that yes, there is more to this world than we can see, but anyone can find that out and experience it for themselves. This community is an amazing group for learning, support, and healing.

Karaoke nights at the Scale House with Elephant Sound were my first foray back into the land of the living in the wake of PPD.

Ithaca Community Acupuncture literally changed my life. Since the clinic’s operating model and sliding scale fees make treatments so affordable, that’s how I was able to even try acupuncture in the first place. Regular treatments made seasonal allergies, SAD, and PPD livable. Their (now retired) volunteer program was my first commitment outside myself in the wake of PPD. Special thanks to CF, SH, and K.

The Yoga School got me moving again, and I’m especially thankful for the trade I was able to do. I’d still be doing it if other commitments allowed! Special thanks to LS.

La Leche League leaders in Ithaca helped me identify the cause of our breastfeeding hell and how to resolve it, giving us emotional support along the way. I knew I was through the worst of it when I had the opportunity to give another mother hope about her similar situation. Special thanks to LU.

Cayuga Family Medicine, JL, and DZ solved the breastfeeding problem and the PPD problem. Thank you!

Hand in Hand Parenting puts words to things I’ve sensed since childhood but had no idea how to articulate. It’s gentle, compassionate, and backed by science. It helps me to more consistently be and become the parent I want to be, and my Listening Partnership has become my anchor (thank you, CS).

Mama’s Comfort Camp is a fantastic virtual community of support, kindness, and non-judgment. Maybe I’ll make it to a local meeting someday!

VE at the YMCA offered me a job again at just the right moment.

McCune and Murphy PT, especially DM, are getting me moving again without hurting myself. Getting back the strong, flexible, healthy body I knew was buried somewhere under old injuries, bad habits, and fear is fun and confidence-building.

Mama Gena’s School of Womanly Arts. Now that I think about it, the virtual course I took here was essentially my first step on my path of healing. It led me to Life Coach Training.

Dressing Your Truth helped me uncover my own sense of style. Prior to finding DYT, I’d basically given up on ever feeling or looking put together in a way that reflected who I really am. It turned out to be simpler than I thought!

Simple Green Smoothies helped me jump on the smoothie bandwagon in delicious style and gain vitality while losing weight.

Katy Bowman‘s work is slowly, slowly helping me rethink how I move all day, every day. This is the year I learn how to squat! Maybe next year I’ll be climbing trees…

ZM: dear friend and bane of my existence

OM: you are my sunshine

NP: aunt extraordinaire

JCK: you get me

You know what? It feels just as good as I hoped to write all this down and share it! Now I’ll send it out into the world with love and gratitude and hope that it will make even a small difference for someone else.

January 15, 2017
by amasler
0 comments

Dogfights and Teamwork in 2017

Last night I read something that accurately describes American society in 2017… and it was written in 2010.

Lengthy periods of economic stagnation or decline have almost always left society more mean-spirited and less inclusive, and have usually stopped or reversed the advance of rights and freedoms. A high level of national wealth, Friedman writes, “is no bar to a society’s retreat into rigidity and intolerance once enough of its citizens lose the sense that they are getting ahead.” When material progress falters… people become more jealous of their status relative to others. Anti-immigrant sentiment typically increases, as does conflict between races and classes; concern for the poor tends to decline.

I’m reading Parker Palmer’s Healing the Heart of Democracy, which was first printed in 2011. The quote above is on page 64, and it’s from a 2010 article in The Atlantic which quotes a 2006 book.

You know what this tells me?

1. People knew this was coming. It’s happened before, it’s happening again. We have the opportunity to learn from the past and respond differently in the present to create different outcomes. (That may not exactly be news, but I find that a reminder like that inspires a deep breath and breaks the worry cycle, enabling curiosity and creative thinking.)

2. The most important thing we can each do in our current social and political climate is to hold onto our kindness and compassion for everyone. And I do mean everyone. Black, brown, white, citizen, immigrant, queer, trans, poor, rich, political, apolitical, sick, well, optimistic, pessimistic, privileged, in denial, in power, angry, beaten down, you name it. No exceptions, not even for the man who will be sworn in as President in a few days. (Lest anyone think I’ve lost my mind: Compassion wears different faces in different relationships, but it never looks like letting letting bullies have their way.)

3. Yes, we must do everything we can to protect the rights of minorities of all types and those who are traditionally more vulnerable and discriminated against in our society and we must also do everything we can to protect the rights and address the needs of the “citizens [who have lost] the sense that they are getting ahead.” Most people who are going to read this already know that growing wealth inequality is real, but for some reason the national conversation tends to focus on the big picture instead of on the individual impacts.

Look at it this way:

When a black person is killed by police, they become the poster child du jour. It’s personal. That movement has faces, names. They did everything they were supposed to do and still got shot.

When entire communities lose their livelihoods, we don’t hear much about it. When we do hear about it, it’s in the context of a larger conversation about the national economy, globalization, regulations, trade, etc. But for the folks who live in those communities, it’s personal. Their neighbors have faces, names. They did everything they were supposed to do and still lost jobs, retirement plans, and houses.

As a thought exercise, how would things be different if wealth inequality protesters had poster children?

Another thought exercise: What happens when you’re someone who believes wholeheartedly in personal responsibility and then you can’t get ahead and/or lose everything you worked for due to forces outside your control? How do you make sense of that experience? I think the quote I opened with provides some suggestions.

Pain is pain. Suffering is suffering. Poor and middle class white folks are suffering from systemic injustice too. Comparisons are worse than useless because they separate us. The ol’ divide-and-conquer trick is working well.

This isn’t an either/or situation. It’s a both-and situation.

Yes, as individuals there is only so much we can do. Maybe you reading this feel called to march on Washington with feminists, or stand with Standing Rock, or put your energy into Black Lives Matter. It’s all important. It all matters.

But one other thing we can all do, individually and collectively, is to change our way of thinking and talking about systemic injustice. Even as we each choose the work that matters most to us, we need to keep in mind that racism and economic injustice (for example) are not different beasts. They are different faces of the same beast.

We are all in this together. Many of our allies don’t know that yet, or perhaps they’ve forgotten. We need to keep inviting them to join us at the table and on the streets and show them that we take their concerns seriously too.

I think, underneath everything, most of us are afraid that there’s not enough to go around. Not enough justice. Not enough resources. Not enough jobs. Not enough equality.

But that scarcity mentality is exactly what keeps us fighting like dogs over scraps in the yard when the door to the banquet hall is wide open.

November 10, 2016
by amasler
0 comments

An Open Letter to Clinton Supporters

To Clinton supporters and others who are reeling from the results of this election:

We need time and space to take care of ourselves, to process this grief and fear. Cry. Light a candle. Take a long walk. Give hugs. Reach out to others. Read this essay by Martha Beck that is still making me vibrate with powerful energy.

When you’re ready to move forward again, consider this. We focused a lot of energy and power on Clinton. She won’t be our next president, but that power and energy hasn’t just disappeared into a black hole of doom. It’s come back to its source: us.

This may be the kick in the pants we need to get out of our armchairs, for those of us who were in them, and to find new ways to take action together. We can use the power that’s snapped back to us to build grassroots movements, protect each other and the planet, and build community.

In the next few days I’ll be gathering with friends to strategize our next moves. One friend is keen on voting reform, specifically starting a NY chapter of FairVote. There’s a book I’d love to read in community, and I have other ideas that I will be posting after more reflection.

What I saw in Clinton over the last year and a half was a woman standing up in the spotlight, raising her voice to speak for us while facing the most scrutiny and judgment ever heaped on a presidential candidate. My own childhood taught me that if I wanted to stay safe, I had to stay small and on the margins. I’ve been afraid to be seen and heard, because any time I dared to show my true colors as a kid, I was laughed at, yelled at, or considered broken and in need of fixing. Well, between Clinton’s example and the redistribution of power that we’re experiencing in the wake of the election, I am done playing small. I’ve stayed out of politics and kept silent because I’m an introvert and a Highly Sensitive Person; my skin is thinner than most, which can be a superpower but often feels like a liability. No more of that. I will need to find my own way to speak up and participate. I will probably never be on the front lines of a protest, or even anywhere near one, but I will work behind the scenes in my daily life to make connections, build community, and inspire others.

I’m so thankful for all the “come together” messages I’m seeing from you. This is the silver lining: realizing that we really are in this together, that we must, can, and will be the change we want to see, and that we are stronger together.

Many of you may not be ready for this, so remember it a little way down the road. Trump may be the personification of the patriarchy, but the people who voted for him had many different reasons for doing so. We need to know what those reasons are. We need to share our own reasons for being afraid of his presidency. We need to hear and be heard, and we need to find common ground with our neighbors and family members who have scared the shit out of us with their choice to vote for a misogynistic, abusive bully. Partisanship won’t disappear on its own and it won’t end by magically picking the exact right candidates in the next election. It will end when we reform our voting system and start actually talking respectfully to each other again.

I am not suggesting that we tolerate hate speech or violence. I am suggesting that we did win the popular vote, and we have it within us to be leaders in reconciliation. Yes, I’m scared too. This whole standing up and speaking out thing is pretty new. I don’t think that I’m ready to truly listen yet, but I do know that’s the direction we have to go in if we want to make the best of the next four years and create different results in our communities, states, and nation during that time and beyond.

I love you. I believe in us and what we can do together. I’m here with you now while we cry. Let me know when you’re ready to get back to work.

November 10, 2016
by amasler
0 comments

An Open Letter to Trump Supporters

Earlier this morning, I posted to Facebook asking the Trump supporters in my life to tell me what concerns motivated them to vote for him. I asked them to keep it to, “I am concerned about xyz” and leave it at that, and I did get a few polite responses.

To Trump supporters and others who are celebrating the results of this election:

I hear your concerns, now hear mine.

At least 8 transgender kids killed themselves today.

Trump is choosing a climate change denier to head the EPA.

My friends are asking questions about their safety and security in this world, everything from wondering about their future careers as female academics in the sciences, to am I going to be able to keep my health insurance, to are our rights as a married couple safe? Others are wondering if they will be deported and forced to leave their kids behind.

We’re not just talking about nice-to-haves. We’re talking about the fabric of daily life. We’re talking about basic safety and human rights, the ability to take care of ourselves, and to believe that our fellow Americans won’t throw us under the bus.

People are crying, not because Clinton lost or Trump won, but because half the country just elected a man who declares that most of us aren’t people. According to him, women are objects, Muslims are terrorists, being LGBTQ is a heinous choice instead of a natural expression of humanity, climate change is bullshit, immigrants are ruining everything, and threatening and inciting violence against those who disagree with you is OK. Do you see what he’s doing there? He’s defining people as problems. How can we feel safe if our president-elect sees us as problems to be crushed or swept aside?

We’re afraid, in a way none of us have ever been due to an election. We’re afraid that the next four years could undo the hard work of the last 50 years.

I hear you celebrating that your concerns were heard in the outcome of this election. But this grief and fear is happening simultaneously.

We need to learn how to talk and listen to each other again. We need to find the issues we agree on and the ones we can support each other on even if we don’t give them the same level of importance. We need to stop this zero sum political game in its tracks.

I want to see a very different presidential election in four years, one that’s less divisive and polarized. But that’s the long term. Starting tomorrow, I want to see all of us more engaged with local politics and with each other. I want to know that you hear me, that you hear us. It may take some time for others who feel as strongly as I do about this outcome to be ready to listen, but I want you to feel heard too.

We need to deconstruct our echo chambers and rediscover the humanity in those who disagree with us. And we need you to stand with us to protect the human rights and our planet that are now under attack.

October 4, 2015
by amasler
0 comments

Tell Your Story, Change the World

Tell: Transformational True StoriesWe all have at least one life-changing story. The time you left home and learned to support yourself. The stray animal who stole your heart. The small shift in perspective that changed everything in a time of illness, struggle, or conflict. The time life threw a curveball at you and you surprised even yourself. These are the stories we tell with pride, gratitude, and tears.

Our stories have the power to transform the lives of others, too. The stories of others show us that we’re not alone with our darkest moments and deepest insecurities, and they give us hope that we, too, can make it through. They illustrate the power of love and remind us that good people and acts of kindness abound. Stories like this can inspire us to choose a new path or revisit something we’d given up on.

Whether we’ve done it before or not, we all have an impulse to share our stories. Telling stories validates our experience, brings us closer to others, and is an opportunity to help or inspire others. Tell: Transformational True Stories is an online magazine dedicated to sharing stories of transformation, healing, and love. Submissions for the November inaugural issue are open and will be accepted until October 20, 2015.

Submission Guidelines

Tell publishes stories that are true and personal, with a specific transformation, healing, or change for the better.

Content: No story is too big or small, but stories should be specific. Focus on one event or relationship; don’t tell your life story. Delve into the heart of the challenge or conflict, then conclude on a high note. To be most inspirational, your story should clearly illustrate your transformation or healing, with any lesson learned written in personal terms (don’t proselytize or moralize), or let your story speak for you.

Style: Write your story vividly! Readers should be able to put themselves in your shoes. Keep the focus on the event you’re writing about and choose your details thoughtfully.

Length and format: Aim to write about 800 to 1,500 words. You may use Google Docs, MS Word, plain text, or paste your story into the body of your email. Please, no formatting. Send submissions to the Editor with the subject “Tell Submission”.

Bio: You may include a 100-word bio with picture (optional) and links (optional).

Editing: Submissions may be edited for clarity and grammar. If more substantial edits are called for, I’ll work with you to make sure that your story is written clearly and compellingly.

Publishing: Accepted submissions for the November 2015 issue will be published on the blog at adriennemasler.com. As Tell evolves, so will the format.

About Tell

Tell was born out of love: Love of stories that inspire, encourage, spread hope, and touch hearts. The stories published in Tell offer connection, acceptance, and compassion to writers and readers alike. In a world of curated social media feeds and FOMO (fear of missing out), Tell invites us to take off our masks, be authentic, and celebrate each and every journey.

Contact Adrienne with questions or comments.

May 11, 2015
by amasler
2 Comments

Coming Out of the Mental Health Closet

Perhaps 2 months ago, some insights and realizations I’ve been slowly collecting for months and years finally clicked into place. I’m depressed and burnt out and have been for about 4 years.

In the immediate aftermath of this blinding realization, I only knew one thing for sure: I needed to cut WAY back on the activities of daily life. I was overwhelmed by finally identifying what was going wrong and it knocked the wind out of my sails. For several weeks I found it difficult to think clearly and logically, never mind getting up and taking action. At present, I’m not actively coaching or doing anything to build my practice. I’ve also asked for help from my partner, family, and friends and am blessed to have received it. My number one job is to take care of myself so that I can rest and recover from burnout and heal my mind.

The story of how I came to be depressed is also the story of how I could remain blind to it for so long. I want to tell this story in full and do it justice, but for now I will say that my whole world turned upside down when I found out I was pregnant despite having an IUD. Things changed so dramatically in both my inner and outer life that I lost my sense of continuity and the deep self-awareness I’d had up until that time. See, I expected my life to be difficult given these radical new circumstances, but I had no inner gauge for how hard was too hard. When people would ask how I was, I’d shrug and tell them I was doing as well as could be expected. I really believed that and had no way of knowing that in saying so, I was lying to myself and others. Dismantling that lie took years, and there are many reasons for that. I’ll share more about that process in the future.

Both my doctor and my counselor agree that depression is an accurate diagnosis. The most important things I’m doing to take care of myself are getting acupuncture regularly, going to counseling regularly, asking for help with the logistics and responsibilities of daily life, drinking plenty of water, and knowing when to call it quits for the day so I don’t undo my progress. As things improve, I’ll build on this foundation. I’m not currently on any medication or supplements; it doesn’t seem to be indicated at this point and I want to proceed with caution if it’s recommended in the future.

I haven’t told many people because figuring out that I’m depressed was such a shock to my understanding of myself and the choices and plans I’ve made. A couple months out, I’ve adjusted and can more or less wrap my head around it. Having done that, I want to start sharing my experience with depression and my journey from this point on. It’s my hope that putting my story out there will help others and become part of a badly-needed conversation about mental, emotional, and spiritual health.

This post is meant as an FYI to those who haven’t heard from me in a while and are wondering what’s going on. It’s also an invitation for questions and conversation about depression and postpartum depression in general and my situation in particular. If you have support to offer, I will gratefully receive it. If you need support, I’d be happy to listen to your story and share the resources that are helping me so far. Reaching out can be hard, but it’s not as hard as the daily struggle with depression. None of us are alone unless we choose to be.

March 18, 2015
by amasler
0 comments

The Biggest Problem With Being A Control Freak

Hi, I’m Adrienne and I’m a control freak.
Does that surprise you as much as it surprises me? Card-carrying control freaks are probably grabbing pitchforks and torches to come after me right now.
I never meant to become a control freak. I’m certainly not a Type A. I have a vision of myself as relaxed, easy-going, and enthusiastic about all the right things.
In fact, it wouldn’t be fair to call me a control freak across the board. I’m pretty relaxed about what my son does, don’t feel the need to direct every minute of his playtime, and I trust him to know his own limits. I look out for the ways to best support my clients, but they’re all grown-ups and I can leave the responsibility for them doing their own work squarely in their camps. (You’re all awesome, by the way, and I’m honored to be your coach!) I’m certainly not obsessive about the state of my house or the way housework gets done.
But when it comes to other areas of my life, I certainly am a control freak. I have expectations about how my relationships function and if there’s ever a hint that one won’t function exactly that way, I freak out and start trying to fix it to my specifications. I don’t just want to live my life in a state of flow, I want to make the flow happen right now, which of course makes it impossible. I don’t just want to live my calling and make a difference, I want to feel supercharged in every moment. When that inevitably fails, I beat myself up for not being creative enough.
Broken egg with angry face on floor.

Birth of a control freak: You broke me! How dare you! Never. Again.

And that right there is exactly the problem: creativity. The thought behind my being a control freak is, “If I don’t know what is going to happen, the outcome will be bad.” Now, I’ve been surprised by some truly wonderful things in my life, but anytime I’ve been surprised by something bad, I’ve turned into a control freak. A relationship I thought would last forever goes south? I start trying to control my relationships. I’m not sure what I want to do and spend years in trial and error mode, most of it miserable? I start trying to control my calling and contributions.
What happened here? I’ve lost the sense of good possibility. The Universe failed me once, so I’m going to take the reins and make sure that never happens again. Can anyone say “trust issues”?
But…
As I keep saying, we each get what we ask for with our whole hearts. My being a control freak is a way of saying, “Don’t let anything bad happen to me again.” My imagination is focused on avoiding anything I’ve determined in advance will be bad. I’m so busy being fearful that I’ll lose what I have that it’s hard to even think about having more. I’ve effectively shut out any good surprises, because all surprises (good and bad) come in through the same door.
Which makes me think about Pandora’s box. Hope was in the box too. Where’s my hope? I’ve been, to use an old phrase, throwing the baby out with the bathwater. Instead of asking what my lesson was from those “bad” things that happened to me, I allowed my fear and pain to turn me into a grasping, uptight control freak. Interesting to note that when anything “bad” immediately and obviously turned into something “good”, I haven’t become a control freak.

Diagnosis: Clinging to fear, unsupported faith in my own ability to control my life in every way, and lack of imagination.

Prescription: Revive imagination in my life, especially where I’m being a control freak.
How? Stay tuned…
Is there some part of your life where you’re being a control freak? What’s underneath that?

February 8, 2015
by amasler
0 comments

Do You Love Yourself?

I was talking to a friend of mine the other day when this question came up, and his answer was no, but he’s working his tail off to be a better person.

The resulting conversation reminded me of my own objections to being told to love and accept myself first. “Isn’t acceptance tantamount to complacency? Won’t I just be stagnant if I start with loving myself before I’ve actually done anything?”

I think those objections are pretty common. (Tell me where I’m wrong?) But… I’d also never seen them addressed to my satisfaction, either. Maybe I’ve been blind/deaf, or maybe I just never encountered someone who explained it in a way I could understand, but when I finally stumbled, bit by bit, onto the explanation for WHY loving yourself is so important, I was breathless.

Complacency

Once upon a time, I worked as a lifeguard at my local YMCA. Between the general challenges of running a non-profit exercise facility and some personnel challenges specific to this location, the only changes the pool area had seen in years were basic maintenance and repairs. And it showed: The paint was dull, stained, and peeling in places. We were constantly having to mop up puddles from the low areas of the deck so people wouldn’t slip. There was no good place to store equipment, and certain supplies were old and falling apart. Most of my shifts were during lap swimming hours, so I had plenty of time to observe how the place was slowly disintegrating around me. The thought that crystalized and stuck with me was, “If you’re not going forward, you’re going backward.” The pool at the Y gave me a visceral lesson in the importance of choosing growth… because if you’re not growing, you’re just fixing things as they break, working hard just to stay in one place.

The world keeps changing around us, and even the activities and emotions of daily life will slowly break us down over time unless we’ve chosen to orient our change toward growth. Decay is a sign of neglect, and neglect is born of complacency. Complacency is a feeling of being satisfied with how things are and not wanting to try to make them better (thank you, Merriam-Webster). In other words, to be complacent is to deny the reality of change.

Acceptance

Acceptance is the ability to look at yourself, others, and the world around you and say, “This is the way it is.” True acceptance isn’t an emotion; there’s no resignation, satisfaction, or complacency involved. On the other hand, to be unaccepting, to say that this thing that is should not be, is to create resistance. Resistance and friction inhibit growth. Acceptance never proclaimed change impossible or undesirable, because the inevitability of change is something to be accepted as well as the reality of the present situation. Acceptance precedes growth because it removes mental and emotional obstacles to growth.

Love

Have you ever watched someone who really loves their work? Your grandma in her garden or kitchen, perhaps. Your neighbor who babies his classic car. The mom or dad you know who was just born to be a parent. Anyone in any profession who just seems more alive than the people around them. What do these people have in common? They’re proactive. The classic car guy isn’t going to wait until something breaks to tune up his ride. Grandma isn’t going to wait until her garden is bone dry and choked with weeds to cultivate it. A loving parent tries to anticipate their child’s needs and seeks to care for and understand their child day in an day out. And if you ask anyone like this why they do what they do, their response will boil down to one word: love.

Love makes things grow. Love gives you joy, inspiration, energy, creativity, motivation, persistence, and so much more.

I just realized that whenever I’ve been in love in this way, whether it was taking care of a sick child, comforting a friend, writing something powerful, coaching, singing, hiking, or some other experience, I feel it in my hands. It’s like love takes over my hands and makes them gentle and strong at the same time, able to do whatever needs to be done.

Motivation

There are 2 kinds of motivation in the world: forced and what I’m going to call “organic” motivation. Forced motivation could be having a proverbial (or actual) gun to your head, but more often it looks like what we fondly call willpower. “I should eat salads, but delicious cheesy Mexican is off the table.” “I should work out.” “I should go back to school.” And then you go out and use some combination of carrots (bribes/rewards) and sticks (self-punishments) to try to force yourself to comply. People who are used to living this way often think that forced motivation is the only kind, and that they won’t have any motivation at all if they stop using their willpower.

Organic motivation, on the other hand, flows naturally into your life when you love. When you love someone or something, you act to take care of it. This looks like taking care of a sick child, walking your dog, my boyfriend tinkering with his computer, not minding in the slightest when your friend needs a place to crash for a week and then gets sick while he’s staying with you. It’s simple, straightforward, and powerful. When you love, loving action is the path of least resistance. When you love, it would be difficult to stop yourself from doing what your loved one needs when it’s a need you can honestly fill. When you learn to love yourself this way, you won’t need carrots and sticks anymore.

Do you love yourself?

Loving yourself might mean developing a new relationship with yourself, a new habit for interacting with and taking care of yourself. It’s simple but not easy, and I’d love to explore this with you if you’re longing to love yourself but aren’t sure where to start.