Words are powerful. Words we automatically think inside of our heads and words we say out loud.

Words we read and words we hear coming out of other people’s mouths.

A long time ago, as a younger therapist, I began to realize that the word “goals” could have some unintended negative consequences- especially for those who struggle with cognitive distortions ( basically most humans). In grad school, which was a VERY long time ago for me, we were taught that treatment plans must have all of these GOALS- especially when working with insurance companies-I could easily get sidetracked into a rant about this so I am breathing through it and moving on…Asking a client, “So what are your goals for working with me,” sometimes created such a panicky and paralyzing effect on the dear human who was brave enough to come in to my office, I just knew there had to be a different way to ask this question so that it would seem less overwhelming and actually empowering.

When I started using the word “intentions” instead ( both personally and professionally), I noticed a difference. A lightening. A feeling of decreased pressure ( from my own self and from my clients).

We can set our intentions for ourselves each and every day- we can verbalize them and we can write them down and we can focus energy on them and it can be a satisfying and empowering way to come back to yourself without the whole- Oh I must meet this Big Goal issue that can seem so overwhelming and, well, big.

Daily intentions- such as today I will focus on 3 things for which I am grateful or I will check in with my body today to see what it needs or I will do the laundry today or I will write a to-do list for the week, or I will eat vegetables today—- I could go on and on here. The point is that allowing ourselves to say, “It is my intention to walk outside today” creates a different sense of perspective and energy. We can have multiple intentions and keep coming back to them throughout the day and we can change them according to the unpredictability of life. And we are in charge of them. It’s a way to practice engaging with yourself in a gentler, small step by small step way that can create a sense of mastery and purpose. And Believe Me- when you lose the ability to use your left arm and left hand and you are left handed- you learn very fast from your PT and OT that it’s all about the very tiniest steps. You learn how to use your brain to tell your limbs to do the things that they have naturally been doing for 46 years on their own. And you practice doing the same tiny steps, such as squeezing putty, over and over and over again until you are ready for the next thing. And it is absolutely ok if you cuss and cry and laugh at yourself while you are baby stepping it out- whatever your thing is.

So one of my newer intentions, because as we have established- WORDS are POWERFUL- is to stop referring to my left arm as “ my bad arm.” It is my intention to make peace with this part of myself and to celebrate how much I can now use it- even though it’s still the bane of my existence and is a source of chronic discomfort ( once again, words are powerful and I discovered it makes me feel better to use the word discomfort instead of PAIN).

So I am currently in the process of trying out different words to consider describing my left arm to myself and to others- being a “chronic illness patient” requires LOTS of opportunities to say to health care providers and MRI techs, “Please be careful of my bad arm- can’t draw blood or put the IV there or let me be in charge of the blood pressure cuff- you can’t just grab at my bad arm, etc, etc.”

So I will be playing around with various adjectives that leave me feeling less triggered and that can provide me with a stronger sense of compassion and acceptance for my own ….insert new word here… arm.

So may we all give ourselves permission to be kind enough to set daily – sometimes hourly- flexible intentions that serve us well, each and every day, and/or each and every hour. AND may we be kind to ourselves when our intentions do not happen in the way we would like AND may we just keep coming back to them again and again and again with love.

Just one of my MANY Soapboxes

Once again, trigger warning for those who may be offended by my honest talk about the ridiculousness of diet culture bullshit. Know that I love you AND it’s time for it to stop.

Just stop reading now if you want to. And know that I was caught up in this torturous way of believing at one time- it’s really hard not to be AND it is freeing to be in charge of your own mind. If you are interested in considering a different way to think and feel about yourself and your body, I invite you to sit with any discomfort you may be feeling and just let it be.

Most of us women ( and men) have grown up hearing messages that there is one right body type or that weight and BMI equals health ( do your own scientific research on this and/or follow Dr Joshua Wolrich and Dr Colleen Reichmann to name just a couple on FB and Instagram), that food has moral value and that we need to punish ourselves for eating “bad” by exercising or restricting or “dieting”- basically the underlying message is: You Are Not Good Enough.

It’s about that time for diet culture to strike even more obnoxiously because it’s January. Even that concept of “new year, new you” is a set up for failure. It’s black and white thinking – an all or nothing cognitive distortion – the reality is that you can choose to accept yourself as you are AND decide to make multiple daily decisions to make nutritional and physical movement choices that serve you well physically and mentally many times a day. And each day can be different depending on the complexities of humanity. And you don’t have to shame yourself for “cheating” or “making a bad choice.”

Y’all- For the love of all that is holy and good- this is all lies. If diets worked, why do most people have to continue to diet? And why can’t we be accepting of all humans with different types of bodies? Diet culture- INDUSTRY- wants your money. Our collective body shame keeps them in business. There is no one right pill or cleanse or ‘whatever bullshit next new thing’ to lose weight and actually maintain that weight loss effectively- either you will gain back even more AND/OR develop an eating disorder. Remember: I am a therapist who actually works with real humans -males and females-with these issues. Eating disorders are RAMPANT and are starting at earlier ages- this is TRAGIC. Research supports this. Unless you are someone like me who has an autoimmune disorder or cancer and/or food allergies/sensitivities, there is no one right way to eat. Research proves and most educated doctors will tell you BMI is meaningless. Thin does not equal healthy- OBVIOUSLY. I am a living example of this fact. Insert laughing and crying emoji here.

And you can exercise because it feels good to you physically and mentally and to celebrate what your body can do. It is empowering to move your body because you want to and not because you HAVE to because you nourished yourself with food and thus must punish yourself by burning it off. Humans need food. It is an actual necessity. This should not be a difficult concept to understand. Science supports the common sense reality of the restrict then binge cycle. Meaning the more you restrict, you will eventually binge, and then you will experience the shamestorm which will tell you to restrict and/or over- exercise and/or purge and thus the cycle of suffering will continue. Not to mention the obsessive thoughts of food when you are entrapped in this lifestyle.

I am weary and sad that so many people, young people and old people, struggle with eating disorders and disordered thinking about food and their bodies. Just recently, I have seen eating disordered thinking and messages on actual “therapeutic” Facebook pages- and yes, I called them out and commented something like, “ Let’s not promote diet culture, please.” And-No, I did not use cuss words even though I wanted to – so so much.

Do some of your own research on HAES and Intuitive Eating. Plenty of evidence-based studies and books and practitioners are out there.

Consider unfollowing the Fitspo inspirational crap that promotes eating disordered behavior. What might it feel like to give yourself permission to accept your body- just even a smidge at a time or one part of it? What if we all untethered ourselves from the false narratives we have been brainwashed into believing and that have been passed down generationally? What if we could have compassion for ourselves and our bodies instead of always trying to shame ourselves and by knowing our appearance is not all that determines our worth? What if we made conscious choices to change our language and perspectives about this serious issue so that we can give our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren ( not to mention our own damn selves) the gift of peace and self acceptance and the intrinsic knowledge that their ( and our) worth as humans is not solely related to what they ( or we) weigh or what they ( or we) look like?

May we all practice embracing ourselves as the multidimensional and unique souls that we actually already are as humans each and every day, as many times as we want to or need to each and every day, one day at a time.

The Gift of Having a Daughter

Before I emote all about the mother/daughter connection, let me be clear that having a son ( especially my sweet boy) is also a gift- just a different kind of gift that is a story for another day.

As a daughter who was always very close to her own beloved mom until the day she died ( and even now because we still talk all the time even though she is not within the earthly realm), I was overwhelmed with excitement when I found out that my first child would be a girl.

O and I have had a deep empathic connection from the moment she came sliding out of me after only a few hours of horrific labor without waiting for the doctor and without me even pushing her out. I knew then that she would be a human who does things on her own ( impatient) time and in her own unique way. Her sense of self was established with her first breath of life and she has been going strong in this manner for the last 18 plus years. She is certainly an original!

I remember my mom telling me, during one of O’s legendary temper tantrums, that raising a strong-willed child was hard but that it would ultimately serve her well as an adult- shout out to my Mom for being Right!

Her compassion for others, her drive for working her ass off ( we are working on her perfectionism disease), her activism, her ability to create nurturing friendships, her gift of a beautiful voice and love for music, her willingness to be herself – a leader and not a follower, her quirky authenticity and self-expression- these are all my favorite gifts and I am privileged to be her mom.

I learned ( because I am kind of a smart person and know how to trust my gut) that O was a kid who needed to have autonomy and agency and do things on her own terms. Her ability to clearly ask for what she needs from me began in middle school. She would preface conversations with: I just need to vent and I don’t want you to say anything right now – just let me get it all out OR I need your help and I want advice ( and sometimes even- Just Tell Me What to Do). And we all know that those hellacious middle and high school years (mean girls are REAL – do NOT get me started) provide multiple opportunities for reasons to vent…I was curious if any of this would change once she left the nest for college- I can honestly say it has definitely not changed ( thanks to FaceTime and cellphones) and sometimes I am amazed at how much she chooses to share with me- I consider it a gift, especially when we laugh about our boundaries- or lack of them with some things…

As hard as I grieved when O moved away, I’m incredibly thankful ( and sometimes still sad- living in a house with all boys and no other feminine energy…) that our relationship continues to transform in such beautiful ways. I know my mom is with us always – every time we go shopping, O will say something like, “ This would be even better if GeGe was with us.” I choose to use our shopping sprees as a way to carry on the grandmother/mother/daughter bond which is just another gift- even if we don’t buy a single thing.

Throughout the years, we have established a very grounded foundation of not only wholehearted love and acceptance but mutual respect for both our strong similarities AND our differences. Our mental telepathy is powerful and sometimes no words need to be exchanged for us to get what the other is thinking/feeling. Just like me and my mom which makes me feel my mom’s energy even more.

So on this 4th day of Hanukkah and Christmas, as I was thinking about all the fortune in my life, what struck me most today was my relationship with this dearest of humans I have had the pleasure ( AND sometimes the pain) to raise.

What is toxic positivity?

Trigger warning as this may offend some people- but that is ok because we can be triggered AND worthy of love and belonging.

Toxic positivity is kind of the opposite of affirming and holding space for your own and others’ actual realities and perspectives and experiences. Most humans just truly need and want to be seen and understood for who we/they ARE and where they are at any given moment of their journeys.

Trust me- I know this for many reasons: my career as a listener AND my own human experiences with all sorts of struggles, AND raising children, AND being married, AND having professional colleagues who are fabulous friends to name a few.

Toxic positivity is often used with beautiful intentions but it misses the mark of being helpful and establishing a foundation for authentic connections. It can sound like cheerleading. It often makes the person saying all the “positive” things feel better and less awkward- we therapists find it awkward to even engage with others in this way or to see it happening because we know how damaging and minimizing and frustrating and sad it can be for the person being “TP’d”….

As a human, a grieving daughter and a member recently initiated into the Multiple Sclerosis Club, I know firsthand what it feels like. Consistent messages from kind humans such as … Just Stay Strong,

You seem like you are doing Fantastic,

Just Keep Having Faith,

Everything happens for a reason,

God only gives you what you can handle….

Ummmm- most of us( not speaking for ALL as we are all different- but MOST humans ) really want to laugh and cry and are saying Fuck Off in our heads, as we politely say thank you or just kind of ignore this type of “help.”

Empathic responses or affirmations to those going through the shitty parts of life look like this:

This must really suck for you.

I am here if you just want to scream or cry or cuss.

I am sorry you are going through this.

I hope you have a good day and know you are loved.

I have no words for this ridiculousness you are going through but I love you.

Life can be so hard and such a mystery.

This must be really scary for you and your family.

Whatever you are feeling is valid. And I bet you probably have all kinds of different feelings- it may seem like being on a roller coaster.

Fuck Cancer

Fuck MS ( insert any and all chronic illnesses)

For those who aren’t cussers, you get the gist…

I hope these examples give you a new way to consider helping your fellow humans AND to look inside and explore what you may need to hear from your own self in your own efforts to provide internal compassion and self-acceptance.

May we all recognize our own individual needs and experiences while at the same time remembering that we are all unique with various perspectives. Differences are part of the human experience AND connecting with others is a gift that serves us all very well.

I’m too tired to edit for grammar so it is what it is. And if you really know me, you know I am an excellent editor but sometimes you just have to call it a day.

On the Mend

Writing this on pain meds after surgery yesterday. No real sleep since Wednesday-

How is a person supposed to recover when continually given shots through the night and getting blood drawn and vitals taken??And I may have spilled my water all over the bed around 1:00 am and instead of waiting for the nurse, I just remade the bed with dry blankets- then when the nurse came in to poke me for the 27th time he was like – Why didn’t you call for me…. I just told him I’m a mom and it’s just easier to do it myself….

So glad to be at home now! My sweet boy who is recovering from an emergency appendectomy on Sunday night made me tea… we have been comparing surgical notes and have the same yellow hospital socks- I’d rather bond with him in other ways, but I’ll take what I can get.

The angelic DR from MD 360 who sent him to the ER called me today to check on him and tell me she had his surgeon’s notes- she basically said that we are extremely lucky he is ok- can’t even write all the words and science-ey medical stuff because it makes me so emotional and angry at his “pediatrician” who is no longer his pediatrician- OBVIOUSLY.
This same Dr was the one who sent me to the ER on J’s 15th birthday last year when she thought I was having a stroke. She remembered how angry I was that she was making me go to the ER. When I told her it wasn’t a stroke and that it was MS, she stood up and hugged me and got a bit emotional herself. Then she had to tell me she was sending J to the ER immediately- this was not triggering AT ALL… Insert Eye Rolls.

And even though every part of my neck hurts and it’s hard to swallow- I am filled with joy that J is ok. Still not 100 % of course but so much better.

AND I got to walk outside with my dear friend today- very very slowly- but Hallelujah for fresh air and walking and friends who visit with goodies and dads who bring you coffee and smoothies and husbands who do all the things and daughters who go to the pharmacy and take silly videos of you.

So here’s to recovering and may all of you dear souls who are dealing with the reality of being human give yourselves a big hug of self compassion and acceptance.
And if not one word of this made any sense, it’s the Ultram.

Here We Go

When we can accept all parts of ourselves- especially the dark and not so lovable parts, we can be at peace with ourselves. Intrinsic kindness fosters external kindness to others which is what we all need as humans- authentic connections.


I’m Melissa- This is a space to be real.

I have been told I am inspiring- which is sometimes kind of annoying. When you are attacked with a chronic illness such as MS and your whole world changes in an instant, what choice is there but to figure it out? Especially when you have a life to live and people to take care of and things to do.

I’m just a middled aged woman who has been encouraged to write a blog. Maybe it’s because I’m a psychotherapist who is also a human living with Multiple Sclerosis who understands the need for allowing people to be who they are, to hold space for the pain of being a human, for knowing how to empower people to accept ALL of themselves and to exist in this life that is both awe-inspiring and hard as hell.

I am not one to offer ridiculous sentiments of toxic positivity -more on the harm of that later.

I am a wife, a mom, a daughter who lost her own mom to cancer and who has an amazing father, a member of a lovely family, a friend, a patient and so much more. I am learning what it’s like to live with an unpredictable chronic illness – lots of cussing,  anger, and sadness-  basically grieving my old self AND making peace with my new one.

I am naturally introverted and quite friendly and warm. Meaningful and personal one-on-one conversations are one of my favorite things. And Hugs.

I am a seeker of knowledge and an avid reader of books. And also a binger of Netflix- Thanks MS for requiring me to rest so damn much.

I am a lover of physical movement of all kinds- depending on what my body needs each day. Again-  thanks MS for forcing me to listen to my body.  

I have the privilege of listening to people’s stories and holding space for their struggles. Even though I’m the “mental health expert”- I also know that I am not an expert on anyone else’s lived experience. Most humans have the capacity to be their own experts when given permission and skills to do so. I am a firm believer that not everything happens for a reason, that mystery exists and sometimes things just suck and we won’t experience true understanding AND that is ok AND deeply frustrating.  The human experience is quite challenging and sometimes full of emotional anguish and physical distress AND sometimes so beautiful and filled with moments of pure connection and joy and peacefulness- much  like parenting…

I believe in the power of using the word AND- most things are not black and white-  perspective is EVERYTHING and embracing the word AND is a gift that keeps on giving.