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Welcome to What's Helping Today
A quick primer / refresher on all this and me. Hi!
First of all, welcome, new folks. I’ve had a bunch of you join since my recent episode of the TED podcast How To Be a Better Human. Very cool! Glad to have you. For newcomers and established readers alike, I thought I’d take a moment to quickly (re)explain what this newsletter is. And my whole deal, too.
Hello! I’m Sandy Ernest Allen. I’m a journalist and author. I’m trans and queer and live in the Catskills. In my work, I tend to focus on gender and mental health. I often think of my area of inquiry as being interrogation of the norms imposed upon us, especially as regards our internal worlds. I have tended to be most interested in schizophrenia and psychosis, as well as the movement for psychiatric patient civil rights.
In my book, A Kind of Mirraculas Paradise: A True Story about Schizophrenia (Scribner), I explored the realities and myths surrounding mental health care in America, specifically to do with those diagnosed with severe mental illnesses. I appeared on This American Life talking about the book and my late Uncle Bob, who it’s about. I’m writing its sequel, which is about the future of mental health care.
In my essays and radio stories, I’ve explored such topics as: the history of sex-segregated public bathrooms and whether we can do better (we can!), historic asylums, #freebritney and its impact, why we need to rethink how we use words like “insane and “crazy”, how Marie Kondo helped me realize I needed to come out of the closet, my decision to get top surgery, and its aftermath, my perpetual trans frustration with tech companies and brands, and, an old fav, this profile of a different Sandy Allen, the former tallest woman on earth. I was on This American Life again last year in this story about being a singer starting Testosterone. My latest piece is an essay for Esquire about mourning the trans boyhood I never lived.
I use this newsletter mostly as a space to discuss various aspects of mental health care, especially as relates to self-care. I especially like discussing those daily practices, however big or small, that keep us going. So I write about that stuff in my life that bolsters my own psycho-social-emotional-spiritual wellbeing, like my garden and houseplants and meditation practice. I’ve recently written about my own daily self-care routine and my thoughts about finding therapists. I’ve shared some media and other stuff I’m often recommending related to gender and to mental health.
I’ve recently announced I’m starting an advice-type column on here as well. Figure I’ll be working more of the tradition of Dear Sugar, in that my responses will be essayistic. If you want to submit a question for consideration, please write email@example.com. Your questions can be about mental health or gender or whatever else. If I respond to your question, I won’t use your name.
Usually in every edition of this newsletter, I share something that’s helping me, today (or lately). So… What’s Helping Today: harvesting garlic!
And actually cleaning it up, which I’ve never done before.
Alright. Grateful to you for reading. Always feel free to get in touch, especially if you want to tell me what’s helping you, today.
p.s. If you feel so inspired, I encourage you to forward this newsletter along to anyone you know who may be interested. Or share about it on ~social media~ if that’s your vibe. OK I swear I don’t often ask such. Thanks so much!!