EFTROU Season 1 Episode 7 is 1 hour, 30 minutes, and 3 seconds (1:33:00) in length
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[0:13 Intro plus EFTROU Podcast Disclaimer]
Chavonne (C): Hello there! I’m Chavonne McClay (she/her).
Jenn (J): And I’m Jenn Jackson (she/her).
C: And this is Embodiment for the Rest of Us. A podcast series exploring topics within intersections that exist in fat liberation!
J: In this show, we interview professionals and those with lived experience alike to learn how they are affecting radical change and how we can all make this world a safer place for those living in larger bodies and in marginalized spaces.
J: Captions and content warnings are provided in the show notes for each episode, including specific time stamps, so that you can skip triggering content any time that feels supportive to you! This podcast is a representation of our co-host and guest experiences and may not be reflective of yours. These conversations are not medical advice and are not a substitute for mental health or nutrition support.
J: In addition, the conversations held here are not exhaustive in scope or breadth. These topics, these perspectives are not complete and are always in process. These are just the highlights! Just like posts on social media or any other podcast, this is just a glimpse. We are always interested in any feedback on this process if something needs to be addressed. You can email us at firstname.lastname@example.org And now for today’s episode.
C: Happy 2022 and welcome to Episode 7, season 1 of the Embodiment for the Rest of Us podcast. In today’s episode, we interviewed the inspiration for this podcast (and my therapist!), Sheila Ciminera (she/her) about her embodiment journey.
J: Sheila Ciminera, LCSW is a social worker and owner of To Bear Witness Therapy. Over the past 17 years, she has had the privilege of being case manager, program developer, individual and group therapist, clinical supervisor, acudetox specialist, professor, and trainer. Her primary focus is supporting helping professionals with compassion fatigue and vicarious trauma.
C: Sheila also specializes in working with individuals dealing with trauma, addictions, and justice involvement – all through the lens of trauma-informed care and harm reduction. She loves punk rock, yoga, traveling, art, and her two beautiful pit bulls. To learn more about her work, check out her website, bearwitnesstherapy.com.
J: In listening to this episode ahead of publication, Sheila wanted to clarify that she does NOT believe people have to be in “recovery” to create positive change or to share their lived experience. Drug users unions, which include former and current users, do radical, exciting, essential work to protect each other and battle stigma. Despite being in survival mode, people are still able to have an incredible and compassionate impact on the community.
C: Sheila is so proud of the work she has done as a treatment provider, but truly, the voices of folks with lived experience are far more powerful and so impactful. … As you can probably already tell dear listeners, this is a transparent and heart-felt conversation we are sharing with you today. We hope you enjoy the collective experience as much as we did. And off we go!
J: Hi there, we’re incredibly and humbly excited to have the inspiration of this podcast and Chavonne’s therapist here with us today. Hi there! We have Sheila from here in Albuquerque.
Sheila (S): Hi!
J: An incredible therapist–Hi!
J: Educator and human being from what I hear, there’s so much to reflect on coming your way as you’re listening and we can’t wait. We’re just really excited to get straight into it and I’d like to. Know how are you today?
S: I am super excited to be here doing good. I’m, I’m a big podcast fan, In general, a true crime podcast fan.
S: So I listen to a lot of them, but I’ve never actually been on one, so thank you so much.
C: Yeah, thanks for doing this. We’re so honored we’re your first! [laughs]
J: That made me really excited to hear. Thank you!
J: [sighs] Oh, it’s so nice to be with you, I’m so glad to hear how you are.
C: It is, I talk about you a lot. [laughs]
J: Yes, yes, yes! Ahh. I’m thrilled. And so everyone listening, I’m sweaty, I’m super red and I’m just like–
C: So excited. Oh my gosh, let’s do this! Okay! As we sit here, recording in these bodies of ours, and with how we feel in them today, we’d love to start with asking a grounding question about the themes of our podcast and how they occur to you. Can you share with us what embodiment means to you and what was your embodiment journey like? If you feel comfortable sharing that with us.
S: Yeah, absolutely. So I love the name of your podcast by the way, too.
J and C: Thank you!
S: It’s great, yeah yeah.
So I think embodiment to me definitely implies being awake, I think. It means a belonging or sort of empowered claiming of space or presence, like whether that’s, uh, physical, physically, or emotionally. And for myself, I think I feel very embodied through spirituality and creativity, and I think it’s, it’s absolutely a very complicated journey. Ah, I think, I,it-it definitely started off in a pretty painful fashion as it did for so many of us. I grew up in a pretty difficult home, to say the least, in Georgia, and I grew up very much wanting to belong and just be like everybody else like I just really wanted to be–a skinny white girl.
S: Like that was my, my wish and, umm, that so that really shaped my childhood but, you know, as I got into my teen years I became really involved in the punk scene and the Riot GRRL movement which was all about questioning beauty standards and expectations of women. And that really shaped who I am today without a doubt, umm, kind of the ideas I learned from it,about how liking yourself or liking your body, it is a really radical act.
S: It’s definitely this, this form of rebellion, and, and, uh, a way to find some freedom too. So, so that was a very influential part of my journey for sure, uh, but I think it’s taken a very long time for me to even feel, like, somewhat comfortable with taking up space or feeling like I deserve to own space.
S: You know, I know it’s, it’s hard for all of us to have this-this journey of embodying.
C: I really like the idea of being awake as part of embodiment. I never thought of it that way? I really, I really like that. There’–it makes me think of, like, this– we talk about it a lot, being versus doing. Umm, just kind of doing a way of existing, but inside just being, which means being like being awake in this space. Being present in the space that I’m in, I really like that.
J: Hmm. I also honed in on that.
J: And I was thinking like, wow, what does it mean to be awakened?
J: And do we notice it before it happens, while it happens, afterwards? Looking back, it really just made me want to think about when I’m awake, when I’m asleep and I might not notice. And, even like, thinking about being awake without constraints, was something that my mind was kind of taking that and going somewhere with that.
J: Oh, I couldn’t think of the next thing that you said, AH, empowered claiming of space or presence.
J: I thought wow, being awake but, and also claiming it. And sitting in it and like knowing what it feels like to be awake just sounded incredible.
S: Uh, yeah, I think it’s, it’s iInteresting with some, ’cause I think we can be awake, but it can be a very, uh, painful sort of awareness and so I think there’s kind of, uh, a difference to me when it’s like we’re awake but, but also empowered. So it’s, It has a different quality to it, I guess, is how I think of it.
J: Oh yeah.
C: It feels more nuanced to me, like richer, absolutely.
J: Yeah, there’s a lot of depth to that.
C: That’s really incredible.
J: Yeah, oh, it was great! And this actually makes me think of the next question that I wanted to ask. Umm, in thinking about how difficult, how painful and challenging it can be. This is my natural way of thinking is to go, yeah, but how can it be great? How can it be OK? How can it be supportive? So it makes me want to ask–what lights you up? About this work, embodiment, work or embodiment processes and when do you feel most embodied.
S: So I definitely feel most embodied through creativity, but I was thinking about this question about –it’s the first things that come to mind for me are things like art or writing. But I also think in my work specifically, it–there is so much creating with clients that happens like creating a shift and mindset or creating a new way to handle a situation. I love, like, supporting people in trying to create a new narrative for themselves rather than the one that has been imposed on them by other people or society or whatever it may be. So, so, yeah, I think those are some of the, the ways I can strongly feel embodied and, and awake in that way.
C: I love the idea of creating within work. I have often struggled with the idea of like OK, I’m gonna do my work and then I would try to be creative but like feeling like this merging, it’s really expansive. I mean, I’m only gonna be a therapist for a few more months. [laughs]
C: And it still feels like for the next few months, it’s a really beautiful way of finding creativity in what I’m doing with my clients, absolutely.
S: Yeah, that, that creation process happens, can happen in so many different ways, but I think I used to feel like the sort of separation between like. Here’s creative pursuits and here is work when really, the two can, can go hand in hand and I think should go hand in hand actually.
S: Ummm, but I mean I will say as part of the embodiment journey, uhm, I don’t– I think the pandemic has had a terrible effect on my own embodiment.
C: Mmm, mm-hmm
S: No, I think I’ve very much shied away from embodiment in a lot of ways. Like I think like that numbness served a necessary purpose in the past year and a half and ongoing
S: So, so I feel like it’s more about caring for what we need in that moment, which sometimes might not be embodiment.
S: Yeah, it’s sort of something I’ve just been, like, mulling over.
C: The idea to somebody that sometimes it’s a trauma response and it’s one that saves you in the moment I think.
S: Yeah, yeah.
J: Yes! Protective!
S: Yes, but it doesn’t have to be a bad thing that’s– yeah, it can be a protective thing and I think it definitely is. I was thinking about, like, actual practices of embodiment that I’ve used in the past, a really helpful one for me was meditation. And it still is, but I do it differently now. In the past I had a kind of a more of a set practice where I would do it every morning or sometimes every evening, and now it’s more woven throughout my day where I’ll just take minutes and moments of mindfulness just to, like, check in with where my body is at, where my emotions are at, and just to get kind of refocused and grounded again. So I think almost like these small doses of embodiment have worked better for me lately than kind of like bigger, bigger ones.
J: Hmm. That’s so interesting to me. I’m having–I definitely think that’s a pretty common experience, that we need things differently right now.
S and C: Mm-hmm
J: And also for me, that’s sprung from what I usually do is not cutting it right now. Something about this isn’t giving me what I need. I have different needs, more needs, whatever that might be. I also, I find that so interesting. I hadn’t thought about it like that. I’m also finding it really important throughout the day to take a breath, To not look at a computer screen, that’s where I’m looking at everything.
J: Umm, to sit out in my backyard and feeling so privileged to do so and also really needing it. That I can have birds and squirrels and things in my backyard and just be with them for a moment, like literally I did it earlier for 30 seconds.
J: Before we got on this very Zoom. I was like, okay I only have 30 seconds! I just sat out there in the sun and got something just resourcing. That feels really important and also makes me think about how–how would I phrase this–how, like, collectively the current conditioning that we have is that we need things to be a particular way. Meditation to be a particular way, rest to be a particular way, self care.
J: Umm, all these sorts of phrases like that that they–even movement–thinking about other things with bodies that they have to come in particular amounts of time and be in specific ways and earlier when you said that embodiment can feel like a rebellious practice, was making me think of that how important it feels for me to encourage in my clients and to keep reinforcing in myself, as if I’m my own client that it’s OK to have that space.
J: It doesn’t have to look a particular way my way. It’s OK, I’m really hearing that in what you said. So thank you for that
S: Of course! Absolutely yeah, and I, I really like what you’re saying about taking like 30 seconds to, to sit and listen and be outside. And, and I think for so many helping professionals right now it feels, it may feel like I don’t have time to do self care, but we all do have 30 seconds. We have a minute here and there. We can all weave in those moments. Throughout the day, just to help us be more responsive and just to, like, care for ourselves as much as we can wherever we can. So yeah, like you’re saying it doesn’t have to look this specific way.
C: Hmm. Yeah. So what other ways do you use creativity in embodiment outside of your work?
S: Umm, I love art. My, yeah, my original background was in multimedia arts, but I’ve always loved art and writing and photography, so those pursuits definitely bring me a lot of meaning, and I feel very focused and present when I’m doing things like that. But I also think relationships, too, like–
S: My animals, for example, with my dogs, like, I feel very present and embodied when I’m spending time with them or touching them, things like that, too.
J: Hmm. That made me think of looking in a dog’s eyes or something about that. That is a really present, umm, it’s actually, I’m finding it hard to come up with words for that. There’s just something very special in that moment.
S: Oh completely, yes. I love doing that. One of my dogs loves gazing into my eyes [laughs] and will just do it, I’m like, this is the best feeling, it feels so good.
J: Yeah, it’s like eye love. I’m not quite sure what to call that.
J: It’s really really wonderful and as we’re talking about this, I’m just thinking or trying to think about how, like, embodiment is so personal even in these smaller bits that we’re talking about, if you have any thoughts about making this accessible. For everyone or for people who are interested in embodied practices, but maybe needing it to start like start low and go slow kind of thing, like something like that?
S: I really think kind of anything we can do to pause is a way of moving towards embodiment.
S: So kind of getting out of this autopilot that we all get into in whatever form I mean. For me, it’s generally my phone that sends me into autopilot.
S: So whenever we can just pause, I think that ultimately helps us cultivate more of that presence of embodiment. So, and I think that is a very accessible thing that any of us can do, whether it’s breathing, whether it is just getting grounded through music or scents or whatever. Whatever makes someone feel more present. So keeping it simple, I think, is a very powerful thing that it doesn’t have to be. I think it’s great when it’s certain practices, like more specific kind of practices, but I don’t really think it has to be regimented or anything like that.
C and J: Hmm.
C: Umm, something that’s really coming up for me as I’m thinking about this and love the idea of slowing down to embodiment. Because when I think of my own journey, when I think of trying to be embodied on a regular basis it’s this, like, I gotta do. I should do this, I should do this, I should do this. And I feel like that often comes up in response to my rejection of diet culture, so I’m not doing these very regimented things with my food or with my movement. Since I’m not doing that I should be really hyper focused on being so anti that, but I’m, I’m just super embodied, I’m super, you know HAES-based, I like the idea of slowing down. Like I–we try to be really present during our, during our interviews and like my body–like, I can feel my body, like, tensing up just thinking about it honestly, uhm. So like people might, which I mean, you already know that, so I’m not making this a therapy session, but slowing down is not my–It’s not my, my, my special skill. [laughs]
J: Me, either.
C: [laughs] So I’m grateful for the reminder to, like, slow down into embodiment because I have this whole list in my head of what I should be doing. So that’s really sticking up for me. I think that diet culture really informs a lot of the way I just interact with this world, even if I am rejecting it on a daily basis.
S: So, right, so it’s almost like, yeah, totally. And it might just be about ,like, expanding that rejection of diet culture to, like, be rejecting all the different things that come with it too.
S: Like that pressure. Yeah, to be, like, these, these people who do self care and leisure so well.
C: [laughs] Yes!
S: Or who do like all these different different roles so well, being, like, such a great activist or whatever you know, like, uhm, that we can put all this pressure on ourselves, which is part of like you’re exactly what you’re saying. That is stemming from things like diet culture.
C: Mm-hmm. Mm-hmm.
J: Oh OK, I’m getting a lot out of this. [laughs] I had to, like, pause my thoughts. Speaking of slowing down, I had to pause my thoughts. I was gonna say all of them.
C: I think you should say all of them. [laughs]
J: OK, maybe I will. I mean, there’s a lot of them, OK? [laughs]
J: For those who are listening, I was just, like, showing my paper about how it’s this big bit of scribble over here.
J: Keeping it simple really speaks to me as a function of privilege,
J: So it’s making me think of that, like, that’s a luxury, that’s something that not everyone has.
J: To be simple. Holding those. And I also was thinking about, like, just thinking about, like, perfectionist diet, culture things and also the need to perform self care. And almost the forgetting that we are human beings in community with one another and that self care often becomes community care because we can’t self care if we don’t have support.
J: If we don’t have an awareness among people around us of what we need. Something that I was thinking.
J: And as you both were talking about smaller pieces and taking things slower, I was actually thinking of the word “obligation” that, like, the way the diet culture views resting, pausing. Umm, that to rebel against that sometimes feels really big for me, like in the way it feels in my body as you were saying, Chavonne, I was like, oh, I’m tense, too. It also makes me feel tense because it can feel like an obligation, like, not just to model that for my own clients, and to appear like I have done it like this real performance. Also, to strip that back and make sure that I’m in touch, like, with my own why. Because diet culture is so what and how, right?
J: Here’s your prescription, and here’s how you do it. Go forth and then come back and tell me that you failed. So I can say that you just need to go back to the what and how. But It’s really like what we’re talking about here are like the why. You’re talking about being, uh, like awakened being awakened earlier. I’m realizing what I’m thinking about is the why. But why would we do that? Why would we want to be embodied even, and especially when it’s painful. Like, what’s the importance of that to each of us? Feels just really amazing and it–I was thinking of the phrase and like this is how, like, my brain, summarizes what each of you were saying like it’s something we need to tend to.
J: It’s a process. It’s a practice. It’s not like a one-off like “Yes! Now I’m embodied.” or “Yes! Now I’m self-cared.” Or any of these other “yes, I listened to myself like it’s like suddenly everything is different and you never have to do it again”. I was really getting present to the calmness of tending to something like that and that it could be up to me. It just makes me feel that in my body. Although I’m still feeling the tension of the other things I’m also just feeling like I can breathe a little bit more. Just thinking about it. Okay, so those were all my thoughts. [laughs]
C: I loved it. Thank you for sharing all of it. [laughs]
S: Yeah, I do think that I don’t know if keeping it simple necessarily has to be a, uh, privileged perspective.
S: I think I think that, when I think about that concept, it’s–we can have very complicated, difficult lives, but are the ways we can try to connect with ourselves can be simple? Like where it doesn’t require money like we have to go to some kind of class or a workshop?
C and J: Hmm
S: Or we have to take this big chunk of time that we might not have because we’re taking care of kids or working or, or whatever. Or you know, have health issues or whatever might be going on. So I think in some ways–
S: Simplifying things can actually make– or the concept of simplicity can make self care a little bit more accessible.
J and C: Hmm!
S: That’s what I’m processing through.
J: Ooh, I love that so so much.
C: I hadn’t even thought about it that way.
J: And actually as I was listening, I was like, wow, I was really saying that in such a black and white way. I like took all the nuances out of it by saying that, so thank you for sharing that because–
S: Yeah, sure.
J: And also simplicity is so up to the person what’s simple for each of us is something I was hearing and what you’re saying that’s really important.
S: Yes, like how individualized that–what, yeah–what self care looks like is so individualized, based on what someone’s life looks like, what they want, what they’re feeling in that moment. But it could be sometimes people make decisions to change their lives in whatever ways and that’s their self care. For other people it’s just stopping and taking a breath and that’s your self care that it can be whatever someone wants it to.
S: But then I think it goes back to what we were talking about, that pressure that it can be so self defeating if there’s this pressure involved with the self care. So for us to kind of question that and push back on this pressure we put on ourselves around self care.
C: This makes me think of–we’re going to have an interview with someone– the next person actually named, uh, Jess Kennard. And something that’s been bouncing around in my head since that conversation with Jess is–the idea of, is basic self care enough? Do you think…and Jenn was there, too. And another colleague, Denise, who will be on another interview soon.
J: Yay! I just got really excited. [laughs]
C: [laughs] The idea that that’s surviving is OK, do you think that’s enough or does there have to be something? ‘ll be asking Jess this later, too, as well. Do you think there has to be extra movement or is that–Can you do like these basic, “I took a shower”,”Today I brushed my teeth”, or does there have to be more intention to it for it to be supportive self care. Like, where do you, I guess, where do you land?
J: Great questions, Chavonne.
S: That is, that’s such a good question. It’s a really interesting question. I guess I just feel like life iIs really hard and that people are doing the best they can, and so it’s pretty amazing. Uh, for someone to just like get up and brush their teeth and eat a meal, and that’s awesome, you know. So I think that if our world looked different then people might be able to engage in more intentional kinds of forms of self care, but with where we’re at, I think sometimes that very basic self care is amazing, and that’s kind of what, what’s happening, and that’s great. But I, I wish we did live in a world where we have more space and time for, for all of these things that are, that would help us thrive as people and not as, like, workers or, umm, you know, yeah.
J: OK, I’m feeling tension releasing from my body this very minute.
J: I was so validating it was so validating.
C: I like that.
J: Last night I actually went to sleep and forgot to brush my teeth. That’s how tired I was. And I was like, ugh! I brushed my teeth this morning and I thought, I’m so glad that I still brushed my teeth before it was time to get up. [laughs] It felt really important last night. So thank you, I was like immediately applying that to today’s experience.
C: You’re doing the best you can!
J: Yeah, and also, the nonjudgmental self awareness that is part of self compassion, self care, caring for each other.
J: I was hearing that in what you’re saying and I was also feeling a lot of additional compassion for how hard and not accessible that very specific aspect can feel. Like even being nice to ourselves, self kindness can feel so hard.
S and C: Mm-hmm.
J: Much less not judging because it’s hard. And just sitting with that like I know we’re all on zoom, but like right now I can feel like this sort of, I don’t know, something has come over here across this video from you to me Sheila and, I don’t know if you’re feeling this Chavonne. But I can feel, like, maybe this is the Libra in me, but I don’t know what this is. I love a nest, I’m, like, feeling nested in a different way, like sitting in my seat differently.
J: Uh, I love. Well, I mean I love this podcast! I’m gonna say that a lot.
J: But just sitting in this topic, I feel, like, I get nested here. I’m in the seat and in the beginning I was talking about being sweaty and I’m going to be red, but I’m actually feeling not like that.
J: I’m feeling I can still feel those things going on, but there’s something else sitting within me now, I’m gonna use your word from earlier, like I feel awake.
J: Up to this conversation like I’m, like, waking up into it. I don’t know if I’m making any sense, but like I’m, like, waking up into this conversation, it’s feeling so interesting to me. It’s lighting up my brain. It’s just incredible. I wanted to make sure I shared that.
S: I feel the same way, yeah. I feel the same way with this conversation happening.
C: OK. So good.
J: [whoops] Thank you for sharing that!
C: Umm, well, let’s talk about the other half of, uh, our podcast title. What does the rest of us mean to you and how do you identify within the rest of us? We’d also like you to identify your privileges in content.
S: Sure, yeah, absolutely. So I, I love that term the rest of us, I think it’s awesome. So, yeah, I’ve always felt like the rest of us, I think. You know? We’re people who have been marginalized, often minimized, uh, villainized, you know?
S: Kind of cast aside in many circumstances or situations, but I also feel, like, really proud to be part of the rest of us. And, but you know some of the identities, I guess, I have that have, like, helped me feel part of this…or not, it’s really helped made me feel part of that is…You know, my parents immigrated to the US in the 70s from India. So I grew up in Georgia as a brown person, there’s a lot of like living between two worlds as the kid of immigrants. And you know, very like, I never looked at that identity with pride until I was an adult. I very much hated that identity as a brown person. I hated not having enough money growing up. I hated what I looked like, so there was just, yeah, these very complicated dynamics going on. Uhm, yeah, and I think it was only until I was much older that I sort of realized the full extent of that trauma from that time and from that location and yeah, it’s still something I’m continuing to sort through as I live my every day. But I think also–and I’ll, I’ll talk about it more in the when we talk about the privileged piece as well. But you know, I think I was always pretty much always like the fattest person in my friend group, which definitely always made me feel really self conscious and less than. And you know what else? I also have PTSD and other mental health issues which I think have definitely contributed to this sense of feeling alone or isolated, but I definitely don’t feel the way I once did because I think mental health is discussed. And yeah, it’s represented on like this huge scale I never really imagined could happen, which is so exciting.
S: And yeah, I think, like, my own personal work and accepting just where I’m at, whether that is in some state of recovery or not, just just accepting where things are at that moment and and, you know it’s definitely made a difference and even though, being part of the rest of us can be difficult. It’s also really awesome, there’s so many people going through a lot of shit, you know, and they’ve been through a lot and are there for each other. So that’s been really cool.
S: Uhm, but I would say in terms of privilege, I think I do have a lot of privilege at this point in my life. Like, I, I have a lot of education, I am financially stable, I have, you know, a secure home to live in and transportation, a really good support system. And also, we were kind of talking about, like, before, I have time and resources for leisure activities, and I prioritize those things which absolutely is a privilege to be able to do that. And I was thinking about in terms of body size, I’m considered a small fat. So I can generally buy clothes at, you know, big box stores or you know fit into chairs at a restaurant, or you know, walk down the street without being harassed for my size, for the most part. Uhm, so I definitely don’t face anywhere near the the level of discrimination that so many fat people do.
S: But you know, I have had that experience multiple times like where you go to the doctor for like a cold and they’re like, well, you should lose weight and like I’m not here to fucking lose weight, I’m here because I have a cold!
C: [laughs] Yeah.
S: But for so many, this is like I feel a very universal experience of anyone who is large bodied, of being told that your weight is the root of, like, every health issue.
J: Hmm. Umm, thinking about, like, the body privilege it is to be the rest of us. This is not something I think I thought about when Chavonne first said the title of this podcast. I thought, yes! Like people who that, like, underserved, underrepresented, like let’s talk for them, kind of feeling like that instead, we’d be talking and we it would be the sharing of that.Uhm, I, and that feels like that’s what we’ve already been talking about. [laughs] Like, it feels like pressure. It feels like, let’s get it right. It feels like, how do we get all the stories in here? Like how long is it gonna take? Let’s get them all in here. That kind of feeling and right now as you were talking and just sitting with how you were reflecting it was sitting for me, more like when you said that you didn’t really find pride in those things a little earlier until you were an adult.
J: And I just, it was just making me want to sit with, how can these conversations be accessible to those who are not adults? It’s something that I was just really sitting with and I was making me feel hopeful actually feeling hard but hopeful. I say that phrase a lot, hard but hopeful.
S: No, I think there’s something like there’s this Netflix show called “Never Have I Ever” and it’s about an Indian family. It’s about a teenage Indian girl and like that that’s wild to me, like, in the coolest way. Like, when I was a kid or a teen like there were no Indian people on the screen like that was not a thing and especially to, like, have the story be around a teenage girl. It’s really really cool. So I do think that–I do feel hopeful that younger people are going to have more exposure, hopefully, so much of their energy and their thoughts aren’t spent on, like wanting to be like someone else and wishing they were different, you know. Hopefully through seeing more people that look like them and have similar experiences, they might be able to embrace, like, a lot of the amazing things about those identities.
00:35:57 Speaker 3
C: Yeah, I hadn’t quite seen it in that way until you–yeah, and I was like, oh, rest of us, just talking about dismantling, which we will obviously! But, like, I hadn’t thought about the, the positive that can come up from being part of the rest of us too. It’s really really something to think about.
S: Yeah, I think I think for me, you know, like growing up in the punk scene like we prided ourselves on being the rest of us, like we didn’t want to be like anybody else and wanted to be different. And so yeah, that’s something I’ve always, like, really valued actually. So, uhm, yeah, yeah, so I’m into it like it. It’s complicated, it’s hard, but I, I like it too.
J: Oh I love that and, Sheila, you’re talking about embracing that being able to see yourself reflected in some piece of media. Uhm, and it was almost like that word embrace, there is really…I was getting like a really strong visual of someone hugging themselves.I really was like my brain, like, went there like a literal embrace. And that felt, yeah, I don’t even know if I have a word for that, but it hit me somewhere deep. Mmm!
C: Mmm. [laughs]
J: Speaking of deep. [laughs] I’m very interested in trauma-informed ways. So I’m not a therapist, so I get trained more under the, the title like Trauma Sensitive, right? That I’m aware of it, that I’m careful but not really in the model itself. That’s still something I’m very, very interested in. Umm, and something that I have noticed is actually pointed out to me in a training that Chavonne and I are doing recently, that it does not account for trauma related to body size and or fatness. Umm, if it was to be acknowledged in something like that, umm, how might it look to acknowledge it? If you have a thought about that and also shifting perspectives for stigmatized clients. In other words, that it gets said outright explicitly and is shared, umm, for people who experience trauma related to their size.
S: Yeah, you know, I think so many models leave important people and experiences out of the equation, right? So I think it’s about us expanding on models or, you know, often creating new models. Uhm, but I, I think shifting that perspective and for our clients, really starts with us helping other practitioners to shift their perspective, like, I think that’s a really important part of this process. So educating other practitioners about the realities that people in marginalized bodies face and referring them to the words and experiences of the people who live it everyday in terms of, like, client work. I really try to, to introduce the idea of trauma so that clients understand that the definition is much broader and more nuanced than they might have known. I, I think it’s really important for me to really acknowledge the suffering they’ve been through and showing my own outrage about it, I think. That’s really an important component too, because I think fat people so often think that they deserve the cruelty they’ve been shown, and so they don’t necessarily think of that as traumatic like what’s happened to them. And so you know, and I’m definitely not here to tell someone, like, you’ve experienced trauma. But my my goal is more to help them expand from, like, a self hating view to more of that self compassionate, kind of view of their experiences and talking about things like intersectionality is really important as part of that conversation, but you know, I I definitely am not really necessarily about positivity or even self love. More about self compassion. So I see those as different concepts. You know, I, I don’t think, you know, there’s a, that, that idea of you can’t love someone else unless you love yourself. Is that how It goes? Or, you know, you know what I’m talking about. Yeah, and so I’ve, I’ve always hated that expression. I just think that’s such bullshit because I don’t think I have to love myself first to love other people like some of the most caring, wonderful people I know do not love themselves do love other people like really fiercely. So you know when we talked earlier about that pressure, I think there’s so much pressure to love ourselves like that. That is this important component of a healing journey and, and maybe, maybe it is for some people, but I don’t think it has to be. [unintelligible] I think cultivating more kindness and compassion for ourselves is a, is a really loving act, but it doesn’t have the same pressure of like I have to love myself to be able to thrive because I don’t think we have to, yeah.
C: That makes me think of and we’ll ask a little bit more about this in the future, but the idea of harm reduction.
C: Which we do a lot of work and we’ll definitely be talking about this, but we, you and I have talked about harm reduction in terms of relationship with body, and that’s exactly what it makes me think about.
C: It comes back just slightly of simplicity. I, if I’m keeping it simple, I’m going to be neutral toward my body. I’m not going to, like, strive for this body love. This, like, I would just jump from the rooftops that I love my body or whatever, but I can aim for, I’m not gonna say cruel things to my body today. Umm. So that’s definitely what’s coming up for me, the idea of this harm reduction in terms of acknowledging trauma in body size as well.
S: Yes, definitely. That body neutrality is so powerful. Uhm, to just be with wherever we’re at and not necessarily having to change it or judge it in that moment. But not adding that layer of self hatred and self criticism onto it. Also I think being neutral, it’s just a very powerful thing.
C: Yeah, I remember telling, talking to Jenn about it, like, as soon as I heard it. [laughs] I was like, oh my God, there’s this thing called body neutrality as a means of harm reduction!
C: I talked to my clients about it. I talked to my friends about it. I just, I saw lots of things changed my life and I try and I, I am dramatic, but–
S and J: [laughs]
C: : I’m not being dramatic, but I, it really changed my life and the work that I do. In the way that I talked to my body because it was such angst around it. I can’t be positive about my body today, but I can be neutral and that is very, was very liberating.
S: Yeah, I’m so glad that that idea resonated with you and I just, it’s, I know it certainly has for me personally in trying to come to, to move away from like all those old voices of self hatred and self judgment. Neutrality is something I just really connect with and enjoy. I think it’s an enjoyable state of being.
J: Hmm. As you’re both talking about neutrality, it’s reminding me both of the word acceptance and of pausing. I’m just really getting, I think for myself right now that you have neutrality or acceptance is the part of the pause that you were talking about earlier, Sheila. That, like, the do do do, the go go go, the human doings that capitalism asks us to be– a quote that was told to us in our last podcast episode, yes, regarding Tiana Dodson.
J: Uhm, that were actually human beings and just that being requires, umm, requires is not the word I mean. Uhm, can be facilitated by pausing, pausing to be neutral, causing to be accepting of our own experiences, ’cause I think the do do do, go go go kind of experience can really invalidate the pause. It can, it can feel like it’s not OK to do it. It’s wrong to do it just when you were describing that some group that, like, talking to people, talking to clients and they don’t may not know that something was traumatic because they felt like they deserved it. I could hear that echoing within myself in all sorts of different ways.
J: There’s my first journal prompt topic for myself after this episode! That there is like, umm…And also like what we see of other people, or what we hear, is such a highlight of what’s going on, but it can feel like the answer because we’ve seen it and to not pause and be neutral even about things that excite us. Umm, I’m just really getting that for myself is just so much a human doing, in other words, not very human at all, endeavor, so I’m just getting them listening to both of you. I don’t know if that made sense, but, ooh! I’m just sitting with that.
C: It did!
S: Yeah, it definitely did.
C: [sighs] I feel like that’s something I need to go write about. [laughs].
J: [laughs] Yeah, I’m, I’m thinking that right now. I’m gonna pause that for now, but I–
C: Pausing! [laughs]
S: [laughs] I love pausing. All about the pause. [laughs]
C: [laughs] [sighs] What is your take on Health At Every Size? Where does it or can it fall short, if you feel that it does?
S: You know, I really appreciate the HAES model. I think it was extremely groundbreaking. And yeah, there’s so many things that I appreciated about it. You know, just the acceptance of all sizes Umm, but that understanding that large bodied people do face discrimination. Umm, I, I mean I think I’m yeah, I mean, there’s a lot of components about it. I really love–I love the emphasis on movement rather than on exercise, you know, in a traditional way. I, I think what I don’t like about it is the name. [laughs] I don’t like the word help. I’m very resistant to the word. Well, so and I think, you know, HAES def–like that model has awareness of what a loaded word health is.
S: I, I don’t think that the model is oblivious to that, you know. I just–it just brings to mind for me, uh, you know, society’s expectations, or, or what society sees as acceptable for fat people, like what makes a good fat person.
S: And that person is, is trying to, is exercising, they’re only eating certain foods and they’re always trying to lose weight. Uhm, like, they’re always trying to, like, better themselves like better themselves in quotation marks, like, uhm, and trying to be healthy. This idea of healthy, whereas like a fat person who isn’t dieting or hating themselves, isn’t worthy of respect. Uhm, so health brings up a lot of, uh, aversion to me, I guess, and I, I think also just encompass–encompasses so many different areas beyond the physical health and I think HAES acknowledges that as well for sure. And I think many of us acknowledge that, but, yeah, so I, I kind of wish that the model had a different name. But, but all in all I, I am on board, I’m totally on board with it.
C: What name would you give it, if you know? Like what other words?
S: I don’t know. [laughs] I’m not sure. I don’t have an answer for that. I know I don’t like it, but I don’t. I’m not sure I’ll have to, like, ponder that, in my head.
J: I heard healing at every size.
S:I like healing at every size. Ooh, I love that actually.
J: Or healing without stigma, it both occurred to me almost at the same time, which I really have to think about. Right? ‘Cause they’re just like birds floating around in my head right now. [laughs] Uh, for my own embodiment, journey something that I don’t think that I’ve ever like named for myself is considering healing over health because health comes with so many attached meanings from so many people, and I mean we’re humans, we’re meaning making machines in a way and and it just feels like healing is so personal. It also asks a question about what, but I don’t think that the word health gets too, like, it feels like a zooming out. Maybe what I’m trying to say, like health can be in there, but it’s up to me.
J: I love this consideration of the name. It’s definitely something that comes up in conversation around Health at Every Size a lot. It’s written by people who may not be familiar as Health at Every Size, but it doesn’t have that letter Y. Between the two of them it has never quite gotten to, like, feeling maybe different for me, but just now as I was hearing you talk and thinking about healing or without stigma, right? The intentions of what it’s talking about. Interesting second journal topic.
C: [laughs] Ooh yeah.
J: I like, stack them up, that’s it.
S: Yeah, ’cause I agree I don’t really see a big distinction like adding the Y, like the Health At Every Size or Healthy At Every Size and and I understand the, the purpose behind that. I, I think it is very important for people, you know. People have made this assumption that if someone is larger bodied that that means they’re like on death’s door. And like that their body is falling apart even though they may, you know, have great physical stamina and you know, do lots of movement. Then, uhm, you know I, I think a lot of times like going back to, to like medical experiences where, uhm, you know having family members making comments about my weight and that I’m not healthy and I’m like, you know, in my head I’m like I have blood work that shows that like everything is looking good like and if even if it wasn’t that doesn’t mean something about me as a person. But so I do, right? But I so I understand sort of the, the intention around the name Health At Every Size but, but I also don’t like the meaning associated with health like that if someone is healthy that they are better than someone who is not.
C: Oh I absolutely agree, yeah.
J: Hmm. Ooh, that’s giving me a lot to think about because also the five main principles of Health at Every Size. Four of the five are talking about, you can perform health in the way that you would like, or you can be healthy in the way that you would like and there’s one of the five that says you don’t owe anyone health. You get to choose what you do with this body of yours. So I’m sitting with that, too, as we sit here just thinking about the difference there. Mmm!
C: Mm-hmm. It makes me think of healthism, which takes us to our next question. So this whole question was like a random texting to Jenn. [laughs] I was brushing my teeth. [laughs]
J: [laughs] It was so good, I was like, I think I told you, I was like I’m not changing anything about this. I’m gonna put this in exactly as it is. There’s so much in the way you were thinking about it, even, that I think is incredible.
C: [laughs] Thanks! OK, this really makes me think of healthism, which is definitely something that we’ve been talking a lot about in this training that we mentioned we’re doing as well. What do you think the connection is between healthism and harm reduction? Do you think they’re opposites? Or maybe they conflate because there’s a lot of individualism to them? Uhm, in a text conversation with Jenn about this as we were getting ready for this episode, uhm, I said to me that harm reduction is adaptive. It’s an, it’s an individualistic thing that it’s adaptive and I think that healthism is individualistic and maladaptive. I’m still kind of noodling this a little bit, but how do you view those two perspectives?
S: Yeah, I, I think this is such a cool question, it’s really interesting, very thought provoking.
S: So, so I guess, what came to mind for me first around healthism was, like, in the mental health profession, how the mental health profession has traditionally approached people with addictions. So there’s this idea that if a client is mandated to treatment and doesn’t want to be there, that they’re less deserving of time or resources.
C and J: Hmm.
S: Uhm, that a worthy client is one who’s motivated and cooperative and compliant. You know, we’ve seen that word compliant many times, right?
C: So many times.
S: And so I think that’s, that’s one example of how clients are just people in general or are penalized for being honest and authentic about where they are. Umm, and, and so, yeah, like, thankfully there are modalities like harm reduction and motivational interviewing and things like that that are, are widespread. But at the same time, I feel like there are people that don’t believe in those mindsets in the mental health fields, and hopefully I’m wrong about that. That’s just been kind of, of my experience, but umm…So I think with harm reduction…So I think harm reduction has no expectation that like or no belief that someone is more deserving if they’re trying to stop a behavior. And, and so in thinking about, like that individualistic piece, I think harm reduction is an individualized approach, but very much about community too, like community acceptance. Like because people who use substances are our friends and family and neighbors. We need to support them and empower them collectively. So, so harm reduction, I think, is this really beautiful mix of, like, recognizing and respecting individuality, but also embracing, like, an embracing kind of approach. Like Jenn earlier, when you talked about that feeling of an embrace like hugging yourself like that’s what I think of when I think of harm reduction.
S: Yeah, yeah but I, like, also this made me think about umm, healthism with, with larger bodied people, like thinking about Lizzo for example, who like a couple of months ago how she had posted about doing like a smoothie cleanse or juice cleanse or something like that and she got, like, huge judgment from people for, umm, like supposedly betraying like fat positivity ’cause she’s been kind of forced into this role model identity of it, which I don’t think is fair to her at all. And then she got all this credit from other people who liked that she was doing something traditionally associated with weight loss, and, and of course, there’s just like this whole other layer of pressure and judgment on her as a black woman. And, and so I Just I don’t know. Like, I guess what I’m trying to say is, like, I just feel strongly and as I know you two also do, like, you know, whether someone is healthy or not is irrelevant to their worth as a person. Like that, that uhm, people shouldn’t have to justify their very existence by saying like I’m exercising, I’m trying I’m eating well like, who cares? Like that’s, that’s cool if someone wants to do that, but that doesn’t make them a better person than anyone else. I, I just think it’s crucial for people to just be true to themselves and to care for themselves, whatever that may look like. And often people aren’t going to like how someone chooses to care for themselves. And you know that that is what it is and everyone should be able to, to do what form of coping they need to feel as safe as possible and cared for.
C: Ooh, that was great. Thank you and listening to your answer in my head I was saying, oh maybe individualistic wasn’t the word I was thinking of. It’s individualized, which is not a bad thing and I, I yeah, health–harm reduction is individualized, not individualistic. That just really blew my mind a little bit, so I hadn’t even thought of it that way, so thank you.
S: Of course.
J: Mmm. That was so good that my brain is running a little bit, but I’m going to pause [laughs], get it slowed down a little. I heard something in what you were saying about Lizzo was really reminding me about the socialization we all have to compare ourselves to one another as well as that health is a personality that we take on and that the pressure to perform or not to perform about these things falls on the most othered of all of us.
J: I was really hearing in what you said, and something I actually think about a lot, but umm, want to journal prompt some more. I really like noodle this, I love that word, noodle, and process this because thinking about harm reduction I was really sitting with as you were expressing that. How agency and autonomy are stripped without harm reduction. It is a facilitator of putting those things back into the conversation.
J: Seeing people using substances, people with eating disorders, people with mental health struggles, anything as a human being first, not as the illness, not as the substance use, not as a person doing a juice cleanse, but they’re still a person first. Uhm, and they’re allowed to have something to say about that and they’re allowed to do that. I mean, there’s nothing we can do about it. First of all, it’s part of this like, what is that phrase? Armchair X, like, I’m the armchair epidemiologist of this pandemic, now I’m the armchair juice cleanse police person about this, like it’s just like taking on something like that. Having an opinion is so, like, such a…I’m like literally snapping it, so just snap, like, let’s go straight to that. It’s also making me really sit here and think about harm reduction and how when we practice that, how it separates us from that current narrative, the new perspective, to let people do their, like, just let people be, just let people do. It’s OK, it doesn’t affect me. They don’t like any of the other people having a conversation about that. It may really feel that way. I could really see how it would feel that way. Because you’ve done this. It appears to me that you’ve given up. And now I can’t get my mind off giving up right, but that’s actually all happening over there with the person saying all this, not with Lizzo, not the juice cleanse. And you know her new song with Cardi B has several lines in there very specifically about this, like she just wanted to try something. Why is everyone still talking about it? I can’t remember what the line is but like this week that song came out I think. Come with that found very. What a powerful thing to be able to pause and reflect on it in the future piece of art and creativity. Thinking about being embodied like one can actually be embodied and try something.
C and S: Yeah, yeah.
J: Be embodied and experiment. Like that is autonomy and agency and action, that we can try things because we can just say no when we want to say no, right? That’s the ideal anyway, so we don’t have to do something forever just because we decided it once. This stepping away from the rigidity of something also feels like rejecting diet culture.
C: Mm-hmm, mm-hmm. Absolutely.
J: Like, it’s OK. Like when Chavonne and I were talking earlier and I said you know, like diet culture doesn’t get salads, they don’t get to have those. I like them and I want one.
C: I want my salad, yes.
J: When I want one, I get to have one.
S and C: Yes.
J: I don’t have to avoid that because it’s part of this, right? I get to reshape what that is for myself. The word reclaim comes to mind that we can have our perspective and also we can be wrong. It’s something I’m like sitting with right now. Sometimes it is embodied because we’re wrong and noticing that. And I’m not sure that pause happens as much as I would like. It’s because it’s a very neutral and accepting pause. It’s not charged. It’s like wow, maybe this is different. Maybe I have assumed wrong. Uh, maybe I, maybe they’re just a person with a public image and I’m seeing the tiniest of highlights about their life. Maybe I should not have an opinion of this, [laughs] like at all, much less a strong one, and throw it at them. So I’m kind of sitting with all of that, like how do we keep each other from being embodied particularly right now, thinking about that inside of the context of the rest of us, like how do we harm each other as people who are othered? How do we judge each other from the same narratives that we’re trying to rebel against ourselves? It’s like those kinds of questions are sitting with me. Like where do we lose ourselves in that?
C: Hmm. And I think it’s, like I think It was you who said it, Jenn, it might have been you, Sheila, I apologize, that we by nature categorize, and I think it’s so easy to create this hierarchy so quickly like good fatty/bad fatty and I’m done, you know. And so trying to pull ourselves out of that narrative and just be, like, we don’t need to have this hierarchy, really intentional work that takes a lot of pauses. At least I can speak for myself personally.
S: Yeah yeah, and I think, like, a harm reduction mindset allows us to see all the possibilities and all the, all the, I don’t know, how to explain what I’m trying to say. Umm, I think, just broadens our perspective on what may be happening for a person. Like, I was thinking about, like, in terms of thinking about celebrities. Uh, Adele, a, a few months ago or a year, I don’t, I have, like, no concept of time. [laughs]
J: Pandemic time shuffling.
C: Yeah yeah. [laughs]
S: Like in the past two years! [laughs] Adele, I think, posted some pictures where she’s, you know, experienced some significant weight loss and and I feel like kind of the same thing happened. That just happened with Lizzo, too, or some people were really, like, hurt by this weight loss and then other people were, like, oh, she looks amazing now and just like all that, it just like whole thing just made me feel so gross, like just this analysis and discussion of her body. But I also understand for, for many people who saw her as, like, this symbol of, like, wow, like, someone who is large bodied can be successful and beautiful and all these different things. I also understand how so that could be painful for someone who is, like, put these expectations and hopes on this person who didn’t ask to be a figurehead in that way. So I, you know, I do understand why that hurts. But at the same time, you know, none of us know what’s going on with her or why she has lost weight or hasn’t, or people who don’t lose weight or, you know, it’s none of our business. And so I, I think what, I appreciate about harm reduction is like there’s this, this not knowing and then not knowing is fine, like, we don’t have to know everything to, to support someone and care for them and want to be there for them. Yeah whatever their motivation is, whatever they’re, uh, dreams are hopes are, like, or lack of, you know, it doesn’t matter. That just for them being a person that we want to embrace them and, and support them.
J: Oh, I love how much we’re weaving embrace into here because I’m just thinking about hugging each other which, you know, with consent, just feels not diet culture-y, it feels just very heart, heart and human centered. To consider embracing each other with words, with intentions with, like, literally embracing each other, just feels…mmm…and also–
C: That’s what I miss most in the pandemic, is hugging people. Ugh.
J: Me, too. Yeah, some people listening may not be huggers, but Chavonne and I are, and I don’t know about you, Sheila, but we are huggers!
S: Yeah [laughs]
C: [laughs] We’re gettin’ in there! Shannon I am.
J: I miss the oxytocin that comes with that. You get looking in your dog’s eyes. That’s something my sister has told me, who is like an encyclopedia about dogs, that they get oxytocin from looking in our eyes.
C: Right [laughs]
J: And also with close contact, we also get that. It’s like, those, I mean even if we get it, we used to get it so expansively. I didn’t realize how much I took that for granted then. So I’m, ugh, like I can’t have that!
C and S: [sighs] Ugh, yeah.
J: Yeah oh! That made me hurt a little bit.
C: I know.
J: Like a lot a bit actually. And I don’t actually know if this is a word. But this is something I say a lot, so it’s definitely a word to me. [laughs] I think the pedestrianization of people putting people on pedestals. Throwing, it’s not just the expectations we throw at them, not just celebrities, either. Uhm, like as a dietician I see this as therapist that there’s, like, this helping people and also people who have no concept of trying to help other people. But it’s still, be the role model for us, right, whoever these people could be a lot of different things! Putting them on a pedestal involves expectations and even more so, like a way that we disembody them a way that we dehumanize them and other them is to also throw attachments over there. But you’re the reason why I’m OK with my body now that you, anything has changed, and I’ve forgotten that that’s not really what we’re doing over here. This judgment about that stuff. Uh, it’s how could you do this to me? Right, all of that comes in that, like, attachment swirl. And I was just thinking about how when people–I don’t know if elevated is the right word –might choose a different word–when, when people have transformed in a particular way about their narrative as you were saying, like that, you’re really interested and supporting new narratives. Sheila, the work that you did for much of your career with formerly incarcerated women is so heart centered, so person centered. How is this group of people left out of traditional Wellness body image embodiment and other conversations? What’s, what gatekeeping is in the way? A word that keeps coming to mind as you’re talking is gatekeeping. What really gets in the way there?
S: So almost all of the women I worked with had experienced abuse in some capacity. So, you know, if for, for many of them, if their body didn’t feel safe, they would seek things outside of themselves outside of the body for safety and, like, through relationship, which is so often how, how women relate to the world is, is through these different types of relationships, with, whether it’s with family, could be with drugs, romantic partners, you know, whatever it may be, a man. And it’s completely understandable to me that anyone would desire those connections even when they do cause harm and so I think first of all, there’s the, you know, the women experience a lot of judgment around choices that they’ve made. But I think when we really look at those choices, they’re very understandable, just very human choices, but I think they’ve been left out of many conversations related to their bodies. You know, I’ve worked with multiple women over the years who were shackled during labor.
C: Oooh, ugh.
S: Who and then, and, you know, and they give birth and then the babies are immediately taken from them. So many of the women I worked with just had all kinds of intense medical trauma and, and have faced so much discrimination from providers in medical settings. So, so you know, why would they want to go to a doctor or seek out any kind of treatment if they’ve been just treated like shit and dehumanized when they have made those efforts to get medical help? Umm, and you know, I think when it comes to some, like, non traditional forms of treatment, those are often inaccessible like due to costs, but, but also I think things like acupuncture or massage yoga have very traditionally been seen as like really like kind of bougie things that only a certain group of people should be doing or deserve to be doing. Even, though, of course everyone deserves the benefits of those alternative modalities, you know, especially something like yoga. I know we’ve talked about that yoga has been like super, you know, commercialized as like this thin white woman arena. You know that that’s what you’re supposed to look like if you do yoga, that’s what you should be striving to look like and and I’m grateful like that now that many actual Indian people and people of color of all sizes, that their voices and teaching are being amplified in the yoga community, but I still think I’m not specifically part of that community. But, but there’s obviously a lot of work left to be done there. And there’s wonderful models like trauma informed yoga which, uhm, you know, we used to do with the women I worked with and it was so cool. I mean, so there’s a lot of ways we can make these things more accessible. Like, I’m an acudetox specialist, which is acupuncture in the ears. Umm, for people who have experienced trauma or have addictions, or for helping professionals at risk of trauma or have experienced trauma or addictions, there’s so many affordable ways we can make these things affordable and accessible for sure, uhm. But you know, I think when it comes to body image for a lot of the women I worked with, uhm, they often might gain weight from, from stopping substances. So, that adds this whole other layer of self judgment because it’s a very complicated thing to not only have your whole life change, but then your body changes, too. And that healthism piece, umm, there’s, I think, there’s a lot of expectations of people who are trying to change their using patterns, or stop using. That, like, recovery and trauma work looks a certain way, that, that you have to be entirely sober to be able to to be in recovery of some kinds. Like there’s always really unfair expectations, I think, because those forms of, of healing, whether it’s from addiction or trauma, it just looks so different person to person and there’s not one set way to do that. So, and I was also just thinking about how so many of them have spent their lives in survival modes. They haven’t had time to stop and do this in depth analysis of diet, culture and beauty standards and all that stuff. And–but when, given the opportunity to and space to have this incredible insight and understanding and, umm. And you know, desire to see, see changes happen in that realm too, but, but haven’t had the time to do that when they’re trying to survive.
J: Uhm, I was just thinking about, and the experience of these women, how much their body is not their own, and what you were saying is making my heart break quite a bit.
J: And that what you were saying at the end there that they are not afforded the time. It’s not their fault they are not afforded the time to be in anything other than survival mode, right? No, no thriving in their view. What a toll that must take.
J: How exhausting that must be? And just thinking that about the trauma of it, how separated from their self and their body they may have to be.
J: To survive. Not just that, they’re in constant survival mode, but that being disconnected or disembodied may actually be essential to that. It’s just kind of sitting with that.
S: Absolutely, that substance use is often a great coping skill and does help people stay alive.
S: And, and you know, the whole reason why we need harm reduction is to offer people the services and supports to be able to stay alive as they are coping with whatever crisis or trauma they’re going through that the problem isn’t with the substance itself. The problem is that, is that drugs are not legal. Like that’s, that’s a huge piece of the problem here.
C: Yeah! Mm-hmm.
S:And so, so yeah, I mean and I was just thinking about, umm, I mean, I think anyone who has been incarcerated of all genders, there is that dehumanization that that truly their body is, is not their own. So, so that’s a really hard thing to, to recover from once someone is not incarcerated, because often they’re still involved in the criminal justice system, whether through probation or parole. So it’s, like, kind of this continuing lack of, of agency.
S: And so a really important part of the work that we would do is you know, how can they, they find agency and empowerment just, you know, in spite of the circumstances. In part, it’s it’s, it’s really hard.
J: It’s reminding me of earlier, we were talking about how life is already hard.
C and S: Yeah.
C: Harder, yeah?
J: That’s reminding me of my privilege is that life can be hard and I can do something, like, really hard and I’m not being surveilled in any way that I’m at least aware of or thinking about. I’m not thinking about it all the time. Yeah, and not just surveillance, but check my like this other element of like check our boxes so you can stay human in our eyes and human who’s allowed to be out here.
J: Uh, maybe not even the human part. As I said that out loud, I wasn’t sure if that was actually a thing that they were granted, but [sighs] sitting with the heaviness of that and thinking about how grateful I am that there are people like you, Sheila, who have even worked with this population of people, humanizing them, listening to them understanding.
J: Umm, this is a human thing that they’re doing you’ve actually never heard it described in that way. I’ve heard phrases like hungry ghosts and like there’s so many phrases like this that are still not–I mean, even though they may have a lot of value, I actually find a lot of value in that phrase, but they’re not a human phrase, right? Even Ghost is not being human anymore. Uhm, about, like, what lives within us, what’s stored within us? And what it’s like to be embodied even with that. How can we be human and embodied, and life is really, really hard. How can we be human and embodied? And not have to fight. Uhm oh man, I can’t think about what to say there, but how to think, like to say my thoughts. But, Uhm, like awake which I guess is synonymous with embodiment as we’re talking about that. And also like thinking about how can we support that? How can other people in communities support someone being able to be awake in their embodiment. Or not, depending on what the person needs.
S and C: Mm-hmm.
J: Earlier I was like, oh, awakeness, so we should all strive for that. THat is what was going through my head and I’m like, how painful is it to be awake?
C: To be awake. Absolutely. Right?
S: Yeah, like things like you know meditation for example. That’s not always a good thing for people. For some people that’s, that’s really too intense and uncomfortable and often re-traumatizing. So like I think also we just have to keep expanding the ideas of what coping skills can look like or what, uhm, these tools of well being can be. That, yeah, meditation is definitely not a be all end all, uhm, for yeah, for lots of people.
J: There is no right way. There’s only the right way for someone what’s workable for them right now, especially right. Very like now, Now, now about that.
C: So it’s part of what I love about harm reduction is that we’re not defining what has to be done for someone to feel like they’re healing, or to feel like they’ve failed. And at that point you mentioned the hungry Ghost. I think “In The Realm of Hungry Ghosts” is one of the best books I’ve ever read about harm reduction and also made me a strong proponent for decriminalization and legalization of substances.
S and J: Yes. Mm-hmm.
C: And because I, I don’t believe, and I said this many times, I don’t believe in bad or good coping skills. I believe in coping skills that let you survive and, and maybe sometimes they need to be changed in that it becomes harmful instead of helpful. But that doesn’t mean that it’s a bad coping skill. But if this is what’s working for you, the last thing you need is for there to…and abolish prisons, but that’s that’s another thing. [;aiughs] But the, the last thing you need is to, not in addition to have your humanity stripped away by the prison industrial complex, to also have this way that is helping you not be an option. Of course you’re not feeling embodied. How could you feel alive? How can you do that? [sighs] I feel really sad. Umm-
J: Such a, such a great book. I hope it didn’t sound like I was poo-poohing on that book. I just realized that I was honing in on the phrase.
S: I thought that was really interesting, what you said though about how, you know, so like, if someone is a ghost like they’re not in this realm.
S: Yeah, ’cause you know I’m a Buddhist. Umm, like absolutely, I think the concept of the hungry ghost is really powerful, but I I also–that really clicked with me. What you said, though, is like, is that another form of separation between like you know, saying that people who are, you know, homeless or people with addictions. They’re in this other realm. I think that’s a big part of the problem is that, that we’re not just seeing them as like this. These are our community members, and yeah, I guess that was that was interesting to me. But you know, I, I do think what’s, uhm, well, I think there’s. a lot of painful aspects to this conversation around, you know, folks who have been incarcerated. I think that when people are given love and support and, and, and that embrace, we’ve been talking about, I think embodiment is very possible and, and it might happen over years. You know, there’s people I I worked with for years and years and we just, you know, hung in there with each other and and having someone who, who cares and who sees them and hears them can help foster that, that embodiment over time and so I, I think it’s very possible for for people to to find that path despite all the struggles they’ve had and the trauma they’ve been through.
C: Ah, absolutely.
J: And thinking something in what you just said was so incredible in thinking about like the pace that someone might need. But even I mean thinking about modalities and all of our training and education and degrees and letters, and we think about these things. There’s often that, this is how we do things here, and despite any unlearning, for example, that I might do my brain clicks into that. It’s so conditioned into me to be like this is how we do things here. But I was really, which I’m always fighting against and try to catch myself, even if I go there. I was just hearing in what you were saying, this patience. And thinking of the word embrace again, how patience can be such an embrace to go at our own pace, a pace of trust in a therapeutic alliance that the trust built there in this space means that things don’t have to go at a particular speed, they can just be or exist or move. And, and they can turn into something, and they can also just be a place for healing because it’s a place where they can go without judgment. I was hearing all of that in there and feeling really inspired and also feeling less hard on myself about that. Because I am so concerned to do that, to not resist re-traumatizing someone, to go back to those conditioned ways just feels the tension of that doesn’t feel bad, it just feels deep, intense. It’s not bad, but it’s just very present.
C: We talked about a lot of big and small perspectives in this conversation. What do you think we can all do to make a difference with what we have learned and unlearned today?
S: Uhm, I mean I’m definitely going to be chewing on everything we all talked about today. It’s such an awesome conversation, I mean. I, I feel like self reflection is just a really powerful tool for any of us doing this work, really needing to be honest with ourselves and, and taking that time for self reflection, I think that that isn’t really an optional thing. If you are doing work with people who are hurting or suffering like we all have that obligation to do that as well. You know, I think speaking of, uhm, I think if we have financial resources, spreading those to the people who are doing the work I, I think, making, like we talked about, like, making, like, tools of well being as affordable and accessible as possible. And welcoming, too; it’s not just about the money piece, it’s also about it being welcoming and inviting for people to, to try different types of treatments or, or coping skills.
J: Thank you Sheila so much for being here with us. I’m feeling quite giddy about such a serious set of topics right now. And as we finish up this episode today, what would you like everyone listening to now about what you’re up to and how they can find you and how do you see your career and work continuing into the future?
S: So alright, so right now I’ve got a private practice, a private therapy practice called To Bear Witness Therapy. My primary focus is working with helping professionals dealing with compassion fatigue, and burnout, but I also work with trauma and addictions and justice involved clients. And I’ve done trainings for agencies all over New Mexico about compassion fatigue and mental health and harm reduction. So I love doing that so people could feel free to reach out to me if they are interested in that. And I do teach a social work graduate class, which is definitely a way I hope to have an impact on the next generation of social workers because I think we all know social work is also affected as a profession. That’s a whole other podcast episode, I’m sure. [laughs] But yes I do, I do, that’s, that’s something I do. And I don’t have a great social media presence. I think I have a, a very inactive Facebook page, that–don’t look at that. I, I do have my website, bearwitnesstherapy.com, so people could reach me there. But, I do think this is going to inspire me to get an Instagram going. Do something a little more exciting.
J: You have so much to share, so if you do share it with us, people definitely follow.
C: Oh yes, absolutely. This has been amazing. Thank you for inspiring this podcast. I don’t, I know I told you this, but I’ve never said it again. So thank you for making me do meditation, but encouraging me for like 100 years before I finally did it, to do some moving meditation.
S: I am very patient.
C: Thank you for inspiring this podcast and everything you do in this community and this has been amazing. Thank you so much.
S: Oh, thank you both so much and that means so much to me.
J: Everything she said and this was really awesome.
S: I just really enjoyed this so much, getting to talk to both of you and getting to, you know, mull over all these ideas, figure out new ideas together, so this is really cool.
J: Thank you for being in conversation with us.
All: Thank you!
(J): Thank you for listening to season 1 of the Embodiment for the Rest of Us podcast. Episodes will be published every two weeks wherever you listen to podcasts.
(C): You can also find the podcast at our website, embodimentfortherestofus.com and follow us on social media, on Twitter @embodimentus.
(J): And on Instagram @embodimentfortherestofus. We look forward to being with you again next time in conversation.