I'm Lost (& the Magic Fairies are Angered)

by Cindy Moy (founder of Hot Flash Sisters)

There’s supposed to be a video on the HFS Facebook page of blogger Miriam Queensen playing the drums during her band’s recent performance. Don’t bother looking for it. Getting the video clip for the page was my job and I didn’t arrive in time.

I wish I could give you a great and valid reason for this but I can’t. I was late because when I walked into the bedroom to get ready I had what I can only describe as ‘A Moment.’

A moment when I sat down and decided to not leave. Ever.

Not a panic attack or an anxiety attack. Simply a moment. The world could go on out there while I stayed in my bedroom.

Then I pulled myself together and drove to see Miriam. I’d missed the band’s set and there would be no video but she would be hanging out watching other bands and I wanted to hang out with Miriam, whom I’ve known for more than a decade.

When I told her about The Moment she didn’t judge or chastise me.

Instead she said something that made me laugh out loud: “You always seem like you have it all together.”

Her comment reminded me of a conversation I’d had with my friend (and HFS blogger) Katrina Woznicki a couple of weeks earlier. Katrina and I are both trying to help teen daughters navigate in a social media obsessed culture.

We talked about how people have two selves: the real self and the possible self (the person they want to be), and how they show the world the possible self on social media. Except other people think the possible self shown on social media is the person their friend is all the time—the real self.

Katrina talked about the importance of showing her real self more on social media as an example to her daughter—words that came back to me while talking with Miriam.

“I don’t know what I’m doing,” I told Miriam. “I’m barely getting through each day an hour at a time. But next month I’ll get video of your band doing the George Michael set. I promise.”

Don’t bother looking for a video of Miriam’s band doing the George Michael set on the HFS Facebook page. I didn’t get it. Granted, I’d just had minor surgery and was taking narcotic pain medication but still, it was a broken promise.

My possible self doesn’t break promises. My possible self—the one I show on Facebook or sitting in church or even when I run into people at the grocery store—is nothing like my real self.

Do we want to show people our real selves? As my grandmother used to say, ‘Don’t air your dirty laundry in public.’

There’s no need to run around telling everyone our problems—people have enough problems of their own and don’t want to hear about ours.

But it’s also ridiculous to pretend that we have no problems—that our marriages are always happy, our children are brilliant and popular, our friendships are all intact and our homes are spotless and company-ready.

Here’s a few unvarnished truths about my real self:

I have two therapists. (Don't you feel better already?) One to help me get my act together after being out of the professional world for a number of years and one to help me navigate what I'll simply call 'personal muck.'

I’m estranged from half my family.

One of the best moms I know once told me to figure out which page my kids are on and meet them there. I have no idea which page my teenage daughter is on. I don’t even know which book she’s in. Hell, I don’t even have a map to the library she’s at.

My birth mother refused to meet me, stating she prefers to think of me as dead.

And things get worse from there.

Despite that, life is good. The kids are healthy and amazing and refuse my offers to get them therapists of their own to counter any damage I'm convinced I'm doing. (See 'Family History'^^)

My sister is my best friend and my other friends are like sisters. (Except the men, who are now the Frostbite Bros.)

There’s a roof over our heads, food on the table and clean water coming out of the tap. Those 3 things alone are more material riches than most have in the world.

I may not know what I’m doing but I’m not complaining.

Life hands us enough challenges—let’s cut each other and ourselves some slack, shall we? Less judging, more supporting.

Let’s be real, Sisters. The next time you see me post, say, a video of cathedral bells while visiting Newcastle upon Tyne and think that I--as my friend Rebecca recently said to me--'live an incredibly rich and intellectually fulfilling life,' [insert hysterical laughter here] please remember that I managed to get lost while following the sound of those bells.

And while using the map app to get back to my hotel I somehow managed to anger the magic fairies that live in my phone and was slapped with a $25 roaming charge. Flagging a taxi to drive me back would have cost me the equivalent of about $5.

Seriously...No. Clue. What. I'm. Doing. But that's not going to stop me from moving forward.


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When Anxiety Says No, Say Yes

By Cynthia Cloutier

I wake up every day terrified of something. Whether I’ll meet that day’s work deadline. Whether the last thing I wrote was crap. Hell, I worry about getting the girls to school on time.

You’d think that since I’ve never missed a deadline and never been fired by a client and consistently arrive at school so painfully early that we have to cool our heels in the parking lot so I don’t have to pay extra for before care – you’d think that I’d get over these worries. But history of success is no match for my brain’s ability to envision the worst case scenario.

This is what it’s like to live with anxiety disorder.

I used to crave a day when I would wake up calm and reasonable – what I imagine life is like for people who seem to ease through their days unscathed by worry and fear. But I’ve given up hope of that.

I’ve accepted that anxiety will by my constant companion, my fellow traveler through life. And so I manage it like one might manage diabetes.

With medications, yes, but since the only real “cure” would be to mainline benzos or smoke a ton of weed, I manage my anxiety mostly with thought control.

Over the past two years, since a nervous breakdown left me unable to shower on the regular, what I’ve learned to do is the opposite of what my brain tells me.

Now, if my brain tells me to stay under the covers, to not bathe, to eat Eggos and chips for breakfast instead of real food, here’s what I do instead: I force myself to get up, to make the bed, to wash myself, to fry an egg.

And if my brain tells me to stay timid, to not raise my voice, to give up at freelancing and seek a day job that would be much easier on my nerves than this constant hustle, then I send out more pitches, reach out to more contacts, dive into new projects.

Because to hunker down is to die.

At one point, that death could have been quite literal, as suicidal ideation was my mind’s favorite hobby.

Today, giving in to worry would represent more of a figurative death: Death by letting anxiety keep me from living a bold life.

And in 2017, my goal is to live the boldest life possible.

So I’ve been doing the opposite.


Just this week, fate-like, a friend from twenty years past reached out to me with an offer to fill in for a drop-out on her Grand Canyon rafting trip at the end of March. A trip that will end with me hiking ten miles out of the Canyon with a mile gain in elevation.

I’m not a hiker, not a wilderness camper, and I’ve never rafted. I can’t tie knots, I don’t cook, and I cannot overstate how out of shape I am.

“Irregular yoga” would describe my exercise routine for the past year. As in, sometimes when my back hurts from writing all day at the computer, I’ll do child’s pose on the mat behind my desk for like thirty seconds.

I said yes.

I mean, I have a tattoo on my wrist that tells me to do just that: Say yes. To do things even though they terrify me, even though I absolutely hate doing things I’m not good at, hate the thought of letting people in a group down, cried through a humiliating ski trip years ago with experienced skiers, broke my foot getting out of the bathtub, and passed out at Universal Studios and spent the rest of that vacation in the Disney World hospital recovering from heat stroke.

I said yes. Even though I spend my days anxiety-ridden about the smallest of small stuff, even though I battle imposter syndrome on the daily, even though I don’t particularly like being wet and/or cold, even though I make a thousand decisions every week simply to stay sane.

Because I will not let anxiety defeat me. I will do the things that scare me – the big things and the little things. And I will no doubt wake up the next day still terrified of something, and I will do it all over again.