When I did my first partial hospitalization program as an adult, I was 20. Every day for two weeks a dozen or so adults and two facilitators would crowd into a long, narrow room for five hours of group therapy.
At the end of each session, the therapist would always tell us to "go have a day." She didn't want us to set expectations for how our day would pan out. Rather, she wanted to us experience whatever the day had in store for us, to release control and have confidence in our distress tolerance and coping skills.
Today was "a day." I'm probably a bit too comfortable oversharing about my own life and health on the internet, but I draw a hard line at sharing anyone else's stories, so today's travel diary will be more vague than previous entries.
I pulled my hair out of the silk scrunchie I sleep with it in at let the morning sun drench me with hazy warmth. My hair hung down the length of my abdomen, tickling my bare back and dragging across my thighs with every inhale.
After the sun settled atop the hotel's steeple, I turned from the window. In a graceless attempt not flash the entire west wing of the Adolphus Hotel whose guest windows paralleled my own, I did a weird little crouched run to the bathroom. I filled up the deep circle tub with steaming water and a few drops of tea tree soap. The bubbles and steam intermingled until that bathroom felt like a sauna. I lowered myself into the tub with a cold bottle of water and turned on a relaxing playlist. In 24 minutes, the playlist would be over and I would pull myself out of the bath and start my day.
Seventeen minutes in, I was wide awake and antsy. I fought the urge to check my phone and see how much longer was left every few minutes - unsuccessfully.
I am not good a relaxing. I'm good a writing research papers on the most effective ways to relax (listening to an audiobook and square breathing are among the best). I'm good at setting up environments that should relax me. I'm really, really good at telling other people about the importance of relaxing.
"Sleep is not rest. Sleep is sleep. You need to rest during waking hours too," I often tell people. The hypocrisy is either hysterical, pathetic, or frustrating, depending on who you ask.
"Get good rest!" Is a common sign off when Josh and I wrap up our conversation for the night. He does. I do not. (re: Jan. 8 diary)
Jeremy called me towards the end of my bath and we talked through plans for the day. I was going to pack up the hotel room and work the 11 AM - 7 PM All Things Considered shift at KERA. He was going to work on some writing samples and coordinate a few loose ends with our move.
We talked about our Rory pup and our plans for the coming week and spend what my brother calls a "gross amount of time" telling each other how much we love one another. It's annoying to everyone who isn't us, but frankly I don't care.
I drained the bath, got dressed, and settled at the desk to catch up on the morning's news and do some writing. Several minutes in, Jeremy called again. We had an issue.
After several attempts to resolve the problem from afar, it was clear that we needed to be in the same place. I called off work for the day (bless my editor who I think is on a fast-track to sainthood) and drove back to Austin.
After tending to the situation's immediate needs, I fell asleep. I don't know how long I slept for, but I woke up to Jeremy needing me again. After helping him, I fell right back asleep. I woke up for real about 4 PM and got to work making sure everything within my control was taken care of. The afternoon dragged on and I don't think I ever fully woke up.
Around 6 PM, I texted my editor asking if I could work form home tomorrow. A few hours later, St. Paul gave me the okay.
"Yes, absolutely. Shift back to the morning. I'll tell Sam you're on remote."
I was thrilled to be back on my morning shift. When people learn that my work day typically starts at 5 AM, they say "I couldn't do that" or "how do you ever sleep?"
My dudes, I have been on SSRIs since I was in second grade. I can sleep anywhere, any time, any place.
As for the early morning start - I love it. I get to wake up slowly with the sun. By the time 9 AM rolls around, Morning Edition has flown by and my day is halfway done. When I get off at 1 PM, I'm just starting to feel hungry for lunch. The whole day is ahead of me. I can take a long afternoon nap. I can schedule doctors appointments or dates with friends. I don't have to contend with rush hour on either end of my commute. It's bliss.
I usually write these travel diary entries a few days later, but tonight, I'm writing about January 10th on January 10th. I'm sitting cross-legged in bed with a wheat bag warming my Raynaud's-stricken toes. Rory is sleeping on the floor at the foot of the bed, snoozeling gently. Jeremy is curled up and tucked in to my right. A fan is humming in the far corner and I can still smell the quesadilla Jeremy ate for dinner. No matter when I am in the world, this is home.
I love my work. I hope that as my career grows, so do my opportunities to travel. One of my biggest fears is dying having never seen more of this Earth. When I do ketamine infusion therapies, my hallucinations are almost all travel-based. I see myself in tucked away corners of the Earth, floating on an Antarctic glacier. The hallucinations unfold until I am the glacier and the ocean and every other part of the Earth all at once.
This interconnected "we are one" hallucination is a common one. I don't know any other people who use ketamine to manage their mental health, but from the accounts I have read - as well the accounts of people tripping on other psychedelic drugs - my experience is not uncommon.
When I'm stone cold sober and actually traveling (by plane, train or automobile, not ketamine) that feeling sticks around. When I sit in small courtyards and watch local children play tag with dogs or I braid local flowers into my hair I don't feel like I'm visiting a new place. I feel like I'm discovering a new part of myself.
Carl Sagan famously said, "We are made of star-stuff."
If I ever get the chance to go to space, maybe I'll feel the same kinship with the stars. But as a 28 year old woman with her feet (although maybe not her brain) firmly planted on this planet, I'm grateful to be made of Earth-stuff.
One of my favorite traditions from my Episcopalian heritage is the funeral liturgy.
Ashes to ashes, dust to dust.
Of the Earth we were born, back to the Earth we will go.
I'd counter than we never leave Her. We just gain agency and with that a bit of separation, but we are always of Her. Being an earthling dappled with star-stuff makes these not good, not bad, "go have a day" days bearable. Rooting deep into my Earth-ness while letting my head float to the stars is a homecoming and a challenge to see beyond the now.
Be present and have hope, you star-speckled earthlings.