As I type this I’m sitting in a parking lot at a local park, a softball game going on 50 yards away, and I’m listening to Brené Brown’s podcast from July 1, “Brené on Shame and Accountability”.

I'm also stuffing a double cheeseburger in my mouth, barely chewing it. Trying to suppress my panic over closing my office after my daughter and mother had another yelling match over something.

What was it? Literally I cannot even remember what started it.

Are they raising their voices at each other? At me? Did I ask Em to do the dishes? I remember a raised voice, door slamming, general anger.

Then my mother entered my room, “I don’t deserve this!” No one deserves this.

Emma doesn't deserve to have an ADHD brain where thoughts (input) bounce around like a pin ball machine.

Do I deserve this? I did some things in my past that I’m not too proud of. (Who has 2 thumbs and had to go to rehab for a cocaine addiction? THIS GIRL!)

Is this a punishment?

I often think that it is my fault my daughter has ADHD. That it is my fault for her not having the perfect start to life. It is my fault for us living at my mother's house, 13 years later, different reasons for staying and yet always wanting to leave.

Is this blame and faulting the same as shame and accountability?

No, but they might be related.

I have blamed my mother for my eating disorder which morphed into the drug addiction. I actually kept my plate of cocaine in my microwave so if I did go into my kitchen to look for food, hungry or not, I could just pop that door open and then have "energy" to go without actual nutrition. (later on I learned cocaine replaces serotonin and little did I know that I do not produce enough of it to begin with so I need a little help via Venlafaxine).

I blamed her for essentially telling me I was too heavy as I stood at the top of the steps in my childhood home at age 8, Christmas morning, as she was helping button my brand new jeans so I could wear my new Rubics cube belt with them that I received that morning. "Suck in your gut!"

I remember coming out of my surgery after my tonsils and adenoids were removed when I was 12 and the two nurses talking to one another right above my hazy self, "she is so big. Who would allow a child to get like this?"

My favorite though was in my early 20s and I was told by a friend that two former high school friends, whom she ran into at a party, said, "I have the hiccups! Say something scary!" and the other girl replied, "Jenny Harrison in a bikini!"

I am actually Facebook friends with these women and one day I hope they read this and know how I have carried this with me, this shame, for over 20 years so they can share with their children how words do cause harm.

This is shame. Shame being watched while I eat so I did it in private. Shame that I had a drug addiction that I have a whole month of not working while I was in out-patient rehab and that month used to glare at me on my resume when I began looking for jobs after I returned to work.

I still carry shame, this particular shame, and now worry I will pass this along to my daughter along with my eye color and love of old movies.

But I don't have to.

I won't in fact pass it on.

My mini me has been in therapy since she was 6. She knows what cognitive therapy can do for her and when we have the emotional outbursts like the other night, I know she has it pinned to bring up in therapy the next time.

The fact that she has grown over the years with this knowledge of being able to talk to someone outside of the situation has allowed her to have almost instant accountability for her actions. Her brain may explode, physical outbursts happen, and then, if I can give her the time and space of about 10 minutes, this part of her super brilliant brain can filter through everything that happened and say, "oh, I see what happened. That was me over reacting to being asked to do a simple chore that should not be a surprise to me."

My accountability is allowing myself to continue to allow my eating disorder come back to bite me, and now that I'm older, and my joints are a little less supple, it is hitting me differently. My joints ache form the added weight. My breathing is heavy and feels shallow. I sweat constantly it seems (a real plus in perimenopause). My body is essentially screaming for help as I await results on my hip and low back x-rays and taking a heavy duty NSAID to help with the near constant pain. Isn't this just another way of avoiding accountability? "See, I have arthritis in my hip!" I already knew this and I know that my chiropractor told me 8 years ago to lose 50 pounds to ease up on it getting worse.

I want to not feel this shutdown, mentally and physically, so accountability is needed now. To be able to remind myself I stopped moving during the pandemic as I allowed my depression to take over. I stopped getting up at a regular time. I stopped getting my yoga mat out. I stopped seeing a therapist to talk about raising a difficult child on my own or having a relationship with a mother that tends to not take responsibility in relationships when they are struggling.

I did.

My accountability is saying I have had to close my massage business for now because I am in such constant pain and I am so out of shape I can't make it through a session without limping out of the room with sweat pouring down my face. My accountability is not giving my daughter enough structure in her day and helping her be accountable for schoolwork being turned in and not using ADHD and anxiety as an excuse.

My accountability is knowing that my shame will probably never go away in some instances, but I can definitely lessen it so I can have healthy relationships with those I love and with myself, including my relationship with my body.

Today, as I finish this post, I am sitting in my favorite coffee shop, black currant iced tea in front of me, and these words are like a tonic for my soul. Helping heal my own thoughts of shame and reconciling with being accountable for myself and my thoughts.

No one else.

Just me.

Updated: Jun 21

"And don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous."-Rumi

This poem by Rumi has always been one of my favorites. It has always resonated with me on many levels, but at this time, it truly reflects the way I feel in this moment of my 47 years. After nearly 10 years in massage and 6 years working for myself, I have decided to indefinitely close Jen Harrison, LMT Integrative Massage while I work through personal and health issues along with supporting my daughter during this very unsure time.

This is my winter.

Looking outside at this moment there is snow falling. The beauty in it when it starts to build atop the stark branches at my sister's house that looks out into a small wooded area before an open farmland.

I love the silence that a real snow brings, sneaking outside, late at night, just to listen.

In a way, I feel I may always be in a type of winter. Often over the years feeling not quite grown. Not quite satisfied with where I am in life yet finding an incredible sense of purpose when I decided to go into massage therapy.

Even in those early years, going to school, working full time, and raising a baby on my own was a lot. I can now look back though and see true growth and the beginning of something great.

Yet through it all my own mental health was not at its best.

For many years I have battled depression and an eating disorder.

On medicine, off medicine.

In therapy, out of therapy.

Going with what others thought I should do and what I should be, I learned to speak up for myself.

Now that I am years past that, I am learning to speak up for myself again.

Knowing that many of my ailments are autoimmune based and are obviously related to one another.

Learning I had developed a new form of contact dermatitis (dyshidrotic eczema) along with newly developed allergies was a breaking point for me and I think the beginning of a very long season of winter in my life. That was 2 years ago.

Depression, weight gain, and now a literal pandemic has put me back at a beginning. Not THE beginning, but A beginning.

To top it all off, my scoliosis and hip issues have worsened with the years in massage, and even a day of driving caused so much inflammation that I could barely walk by the end of the day. Having my feet go numb while I washed the dishes last night I knew I was not making it in for a massage client again.

I know I have canceled on many clients over this past year, and I can only continue to apologize and look to repay gift certificates and series over a period of time if I am not able to fulfill them with massage at this time.

Please know that it was not for dislike of you or massage itself, it was because of how I am feeling on most days now. Often it is the dislike I have for myself and the anxiety that comes with anticipating physical pain from giving a massage that had me canceling. Sometimes it was mental, sometimes it was physical, often times it was both. With the Pandemic hitting and having to be closed for the majority of 2020 gave me a chance to reevaluate if this was what I still wanted to do with my life.

Yes, as a single mom who is a business owner, this year was extremely difficult. I would never want to belittle anyone else's experience, as I know many more are out there just like me, but all of our individual experiences deserve to be acknowledged.

And from my own experience, or as Rumi might call it "my winter", is that last year really stunk. Like a pile-of-old- sneakers-that-got-wet-from-the-bath-water-of-a-dog-that-rolled on-a-dead-animal stunk.

Now, at this ending, not knowing a direct path, I plan on following my instinct and gut that will allow me time to heal physically and mentally and to assist my daughter on her own mental health journey and her schooling at home. Assisting one of my sisters with her cut flower business is beginning to keep me busy and has also been a blessing for me to explore another passion of mine, plants.

My riotous roots.

Taking time now to face my own issues and ailments I believe will help me be a better mother, friend, daughter, and professional. As massage therapy was such an incredible part of my life and I truly believe in its therapeutic benefits, I hope those that may be reading this will continue to seek out massage therapist professionals to assist them in their own health journeys.

I wish all many blessings and good health, mental and physical.

All of my love, Jen Harrison, LMT

Updated: Jun 21

How long has it been since you had a massage? Truthfully. Me? Six months. Six very lonnngggg months. But I’m finally going this week. Finally. Desperately. Joyfully.

Sometimes daily life gets the best of me. Taking care of others is literally my job after all. But when it comes to self care I’m not always on my A game. And please know, self care is not defined by massage, bubble baths, and a yoga class. These things definitely don‘t hurt, but they are not definitive self care.

Self care, in short, is paying attention to yourself. Listening to your body’s needs. Hungry? Feed it good foods. Tired? Go to sleep. Take a nap. Want to try a new hobby? Take a class. You will be among other newbies so don’t fret.

For me? I don’t speak my truth with my loved ones enough. Oh sure, I talk. I talk a lot. And I’m loud. I know this. But am I letting my freak flag fly? Am I telling family and friends, “you know, I don’t eat meat because I just don’t feel it’s the best for me“ as we sit down to share a meal. Or, “I don’t want to go out to get a drink but how about a hike in the afternoon?” when making plans to meet with friends.

The point is these are all self care options. I’m not being selfish, just placing value on my self worth. And who knew? It’s free! So that freak flag, I’m not just letting it fly, I’m going to let it soar.