Play: The scope or freedom to act or operate.
A tight rope walker doesn’t start out a thousand feet in the air. What they practice close to the ground are the same skills they use way up high. The only difference? They’re free to make mistakes.
When everything feels overwhelming, we can create space for each other where the stakes aren’t so high. In this space we can try on new ideas and discover meaning in places we never thought to explore. The new perspectives and courage you gain will be with you when it’s time for the high wire.
Grounding: Basic knowledge of a subject.
Spirituality. Who are we? Are we connected to each other and everything that exists, or are we floating out here alone? Does life mean anything at all? How do I even think about this stuff when people who gave me the answers are the ones who hurt me most?
Getting Help. The parts of our mental health systems that aren’t broken are strained beyond capacity. Let’s learn what we can do to help ourselves and change what needs to be changed. Let’s be a generation that leaves the world better than we found it.
My therapist said I had a very interesting life. She said I should write a book someday. What she never did say in the two years I was seeing her was, “You have PTSD.” Instead, I spent years in a broken mental health system going through intake after intake as I got worse and worse.
I saw that first therapist in 2016, around the same time I started PlayGrounding. The podcast was part of my plan to hold myself together when everything around me was falling apart. I lost my job. I lost my freelance work. Everything that made me ME, or so I thought, was gone.
Over those six years under the care of my HMO, I spiraled and experienced true despair. I now understand that my therapist was wrong. My life is not unique. I’m just another person diagnosed first with anxiety, then an eating disorder, then depression, then alcohol abuse – in that order. (Also, I got diagnosed with ADHD as a special prize thrown in at the end.)
At every intake, to the eating disorder clinic, addiction medicine, etc., I answered yes to the question “Have you ever been the victim of a violent crime?” I had been sexually assaulted multiple times. No one every addressed this with me. I thought maybe I was just being dramatic to think they would. I also grew up in fundamentalist religion and purity culture. I experienced deep shame and shunning. I’m still unraveling it all.
In the end, I gave up on my HMO and spent thousands of dollars on a credit card to get a therapist outside of the system. In eight months, I experienced more healing than I realized was possible. This therapist saved my life no more or less than a surgeon who removes a cancer tumor.
Looking back I know how lucky I am that I had insurance at all. That I had that credit card and got the help I needed. That I had help – a mom and dad, a new husband, and a mother-in-law who loved me and kept me going. And if my husband didn’t have an amazing line of work that enabled him to carry us for so long, where would I have ended up? It’s hard to even think about.
This is why PlayGrounding is now dedicated to anyone out there who’s going through something like this. The things I learned making the PlayGrounding Podcast over the years were like breadcrumbs leading me to each next step. Along with my family, they helped me find the courage to keep trying when it seemed like nothing would ever work. I said in many episodes that I didn’t fully “get it.” I still hadn’t learned how to play as an adult, not really. It broke my heart. It was why I quit making episodes periodically and disappeared off the internet for months or years at a time. (Sorry about that!)
But I can confidently say now that I do know how to be playful. It’s part of my spirituality now. I’ve learned so much. I never would have learned it from hearing the interviews alone, as amazing as they are. What they did do was keep me wanting it, to be inside that world – the one where joy was possible. They kept me looking for the door to walk through and I did finally find it. It’s what gave me the strength to find real help and go through the painful process of healing.
The great news is that there’s no one process that you can go through to get there. There’s no prescription you can take to find meaning that gives you strength. There’s a unique path to that door for each one of us. What we have to do is walk it.
I don’t know what your path is, but I have some idea of what you’ll need for the journey. I know you need encouragement. I know you need to understand the systems you’ll be dealing with that, very often, don’t have your best interest at heart. I know you need support. I know you need something to look forward to. I can’t do all of that with a podcast and an app, but it won’t stop me from trying.
The archive of old shows is still available. The guests I had on over the years taught us about the value of play for adults. Learning to be playful through meaning-making gave me something to look forward to. Yours is going to be uniquely yours. Let’s hold onto each other and walk this journey together.