Date: Sunday September 17th 2:00-3:30pm
OUT MetroWest is an incredibly important organization in the greater Boston area that serves LGBTQ+ youth. I’m on the host committee for their annual gala event; it takes place Saturday, September 23 and I would love to see you there!
The fourth annual Come Out & Celebrate gala will honor Dr. Asa Sevelius, principal of the Heath School in Brookline, MA. Dr. Sevelius is the first out transgender principal in Massachusetts and amongst the very few out trans school leaders nationwide.
Tickets to the event are available here:
As part of the Department of Pediatrics at Boston Medical Center, CATCH provides support and care to children, adolescents, and young adults who identify as transgender, gender non-conforming, or are gender exploring and looking for additional support. First time patients can expect their initial visit to last between 60-90 minutes. During this visit, medical history, gender history, and patient and family goals will be reviewed, followed by a discussion around gender affirming care options offered at the clinic. Individual treatment plans are created based on individual patient and family goals. Additionally, all first time patients will undergo a complete psychological assessment.
CATCH aims to see new patients within 4-6 weeks. To schedule an appointment, please call 617.414.4841.
Offered services include:
When clients come into my office for psychotherapy, they are usually focused inward, potentially seeking a diagnosis, and often asking “what’s wrong with me?” Yes, the majority of my clients are working through gender dysphoria or pursuing recovery from an eating disorder, and while these are indeed conditions I can diagnose, much of the work I do with folks is about exploring the ways in which structural oppression related to their sexual orientation, gender expression or race is causing distress, both directly and in its internalized forms. In other words, we shift from asking “what’s wrong with me?” to “why do I think something’s wrong with me?”
From a social justice perspective, one of the most insidious ways oppression in the form of patriarchy, misogyny, class bias and racism (among others) does its work is through internalization. When people internalize these structures of power and disempowerment, the self hatred and self doubt that ensue wreak all kinds of havoc in terms of beliefs that impact behavior and emotional experience, which then often leads to the development of some form of psychopathology. I vividly recall a professor at the Smith College School for Social Work stating: “The greater the oppression, the greater the depression” and I have seen this to be true over and over again in the lives of the people who walk through my office doors.
There was a time (and in some cases, that time is now) when people in my chosen profession, social work, were largely tools of oppressive structures. In the words of Michel Foucault: “The judges of normality are present everywhere. We are in the society of the teacher-judge, the doctor-judge, the educator-judge, the social worker-judge.” For example, as the majority of my clients are transgender or gender non-conforming people, many require authorization from me for their insurance companies that they are “trans enough” to receive gender affirming hormone therapies or surgeries. Many of these folks also experience profound depression and/or anxiety: how would you feel if your fate, your ability to live a life as yourself, was in the hands of an ostensible expert, deemed more expert than you about your own self-hood by virtue of their social position and capital?
My work, as a social justice oriented feminist relational psychotherapist, is kaleidoscopic. I work to support my clients in identifying the ways in which they’ve internalized oppressive structures. We work together to identify the ways they’re policing themselves and warping their sense of self through these lenses, and then we work to dismantle the problematic internalized beliefs that are setting them up for emotional distress and behavioral dysregulation. In other words, I sincerely look forward to a day when I become obsolete.
I am a serious fan of perspectives. I had a high school history teacher who was fond of saying that “truth is increasing complexity”, and in both my personal and professional lives, I have found this to be, well, true.
When a client presents me with a truth, about themselves, about an experience, we work to increase complexity. Are you sure that’s true? Has it always been true? What else might be true? What do others in your life believe to be true? Often, in this way, we are able to triangulate, and to move in the direction of deeper knowing, of more true, but also to open space for subjectivity, and breathe some light or humor or next questions into that space.
It is in the spirit of that kind of inquiry that I offer the following blog post by Holly Glenn Whitaker: http://www.hipsobriety.com/home/2015/2/18/why-aa-didnt-work-for-me-my-story-part-1
This is not a prescription. This is not an indictment of AA. It is also not an endorsement of Holly’s sobriety coaching program. It is, however, a perspective. There’s this Buddhist expression, “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!” It speaks to the dangers of making something or someone your god, which is easy to do when you feel as though you have been saved, but the reification of any one concept or any one guru or organization can be fraught with peril.
I work with a lot of clients who struggle with substance abuse because when the world offers you its misogyny, its transphobia, its racisim and its fat phobia (amongst others) to internalize, numbness and escape often sound like the loveliest of sirens. I have folks who come to my office who have found a sober life working an AA program, and it’s glorious. I also work with clients who have found that the language of powerlessness and surrender was inaccessible to them in the context of a history of sexual trauma or internalized hatred and disempowerment, and who echo Holly’s statement that in fact, making the choice to let go of alcohol because you can’t use it and be well is profoundly powerful, and profoundly empowering.
You can’t get sober by yourself, but you’re also the only one who can get you sober. The rooms of AA are one available community within which to do that work, but they are not the only one: could this be a truth?
The above is a link to the Health at Every Size website, and details the principles of that movement. It’s important to me professionally to ensure that folks know that I’m not in the business of telling people to lose weight, although I sometimes reference weight management or body composition changes because those are things I support clients with when it’s medically or personally warranted. For example, if my client loves to kayak, and her body size is interfering with her ability to participate in that activity, and she wants to take a look at food choices, sleep, exercise and stress management (all of which impact body size), we’re going to do that. Another example would be if my client has a lifestyle related disease such as diabetes or chronic joint problems. If, however, she’s eating well, sleeping well, managing stress well and functioning well in her professional and personal life, but just doesn’t like the the way she looks, we’re going to have a very different conversation and a very different set of goals related to acceptance and body image.
If you’re living in a body that’s larger than some theoretical image of how you think you “should” look, ask yourself:
Is my body healthy, in terms of how systems function, my energy levels etc? Is my mind healthy? Do the thoughts I think support my well being and ability to move through the world with ease?
Because health truly is possible at every size, and to be frank, it’s far more common for me to encounter folks who are unhealthy and unhappy because they are trying to force their bodies to remain (even slightly) underweight by making impoverished nutritional choices and overexercising.
On a related note, try this. If you’re hungry, go eat something. You’ll feel better. If you’re sad, food’s not really a related phenomenon (unless you’re actually sad because you’re not eating enough dietary fat which does a number on the brain and tends to give rise to feelings of depression and anxiety) and a snack probably isn’t what you need. Just saying.
The Whole30 I did recently with my partner can definitely be filed under the heading context matters. The program was a no-brainier for him: struggling with IBS, overweight and taking a hit in the self esteem department, he was a prime candidate for a lifestyle change. My context, on the other hand, was a bit different: having spent a good part of my adolescence and 20s struggling with an eating disorder, and breastfeeding our infant exclusively, I was (appropriately) apprehensive about any plan that involved restricting my food intake. But, I am the primary food shopper and menu planner in our family (by inclination and by choice) so I really wanted to find a way to make a Whole30 work because it wasn’t realistic for him to do one without me, and supporting his health is an “I love you” I want to choose every time.
I did my due diligence, including reading and rereading this important article, and talking with friends and a counselor before deciding to take the plunge. The vestigial ghostly eating disordered part of my mind knew that, done mindlessly, this was a perfect chance to accidentally get too skinny, and I had to have daily conversations with that voice to keep myself honest.
I did a number of things in order to intentionally “fail” at losing weight on the Whole30 as a breastfeeding Mama in eating disorder recovery. This was not easy, friends. I had the “perfect” opportunity to relapse, and it required real intentionality to choose self love and health throughout. (I’m bragging right now. I am very proud of myself. Just saying.) I cut out any exercise beyond the babywearing up and down the stairs with laundry variety. I put gobs of coconut milk in my coffee. Breakfast was three eggs, a sweet potato spread with ghee and a palm full of olives. I ate dinner portions 150% larger than my partner, who is five inches taller than me and a former ice hockey player. To steal Melissa Hartwig’s phrase, I ate all the things.
When we weighed ourselves again after the month long program, I had stayed exactly the same weight, which while a disappointment to the ghost, was a victory and a milestone on the path of my ongoing recovery. (My partner, on the other hand, reports that his IBS has literally never been better managed and that he lost a significant and healthy amount of weight.) I did have a number of non-scale victories over the course of the month, by the way. My sleep, digestion and overall energy levels all improved. I broke a nasty MyFitnessPal habit I had developed postpartum. I reset my sweetness meter. I actually made more milk for my baby. Wins.
So why am I sharing this? Because choices. Because mindset. Because motives. These all matter enormously. So often in recovery, it’s not what you’re doing or what’s on your plate, but why. Many people do a Whole30 to lose weight, but it doesn’t have to be about that at all. Same goes for anything else you or I choose to undertake, be it exercise, a relationship, a career change… all of these can be recovery wins or purposeful self-sabotage.