Choosing Medication Over Fear

Image Source: Dawn McGrath, Author

Is this a time to be brave or safe? Given this choice, my brain screams safe every time. Years of hypervigilance locked down my alarm system, bypassing bravery whenever possible.

I started therapy two weeks before the world shut down, but I had been steadily shutting down long before COVID. The noise grew louder until I couldn’t hear anything else. Imagine that feeling just before you begin to cry, that involuntary quivering that says, “here it comes!” My mind lived on that edge, constant mental quivers that threatened to drown me if I let go.

The noise increased as I…

Image source: Dawn McGrath, Author

I stand on the jetty
assume it is sturdy
protected from the tides.

The rhythm belies me
the ebb and flow of years
despite feeling frozen inside.

This temporary footpath
I wander on
longing for fertile soil.

From a distance I covet
a trail well travelled
the ordinary turmoil.

Wistful what ifs
such imaginings
desperate bids to be.

Windows like mirrors
frame warm incandescence
reflecting another me.

I stand on the jetty
eroded by hauntings
hoping to be transformed.

And reckoning with
another hard swallow
to avoid being swept by the storm.

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You can’t become a mother without pain. Even with an easy conception and an exquisite pregnancy, you still must endure labor and delivery. Even with adoption, you must overcome distressing hurdles. It is that simple-first pain, then motherhood. My labor began with my first miscarriage and continued for six years until I landed safely in the United States with my daughter.

The first contraction hits me in my bed, where I wait for the inevitable to begin. Having been told that it may take some time for my body to miscarry, I don’t know what to expect or when to…

When Bathrooms Were Just Bathrooms

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I expect sadness. I accept sadness. I embrace sadness. I want to let go of The Other.

In therapy and writing my memoir, I dive into the cold, dark, and choppy waters of disenfranchised grief. A vast ocean where the ugliest swells rise from a potent mix of emotions other than sadness: Anger. Resentment. Self-loathing. Betrayal.

The Other is unpredictable, yet it has been with me for decades. I hate it, yet I can’t let it go. It is behind me, yet I can’t close the door.

The Other approaches with a heady sting. I find the air pocket. So…

A Prologue

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I was seven years old when first charged with the responsibility of protecting my family from impending doom. My petite frame bore the continual weight of preventing our three-bedroom cape from burning to the ground. Crouched on the floor, nightly, I stretched my torso to reach my hands toward the electric baseboard heaters, moving under, behind, and between furniture, scraping at the rug to gather lint and any other particulate that would surely ignite into flames while we slept, if not removed.

I carefully scanned for tiny, troublesome specs with my body in a twisted child’s pose and face pressed…

Dear Daughter, I am a Lesbian.

Image Source: Dawn McGrath / Author

Dear Daughter,

There I sat, paralyzed on the edge of your mattress, a nook where I spent countless hours lying beside you, reading, talking, and fending off imaginary monsters. Good mothers ward off such things; in my failure, I brought unimagined betrayal to your bedside. Whether I planned it or not, you rightfully demanded we make sense of the confusion, regardless of the setting.

Still, I wonder — how much of this chapter will you remember? Even more, how will our perspectives braid over time?

School was out for summer break. A rising second-grader all smiles with a few missing…

A Note for My Daughter on Our Family Transition

Image Source: Dawn McGrath / Author

Dear Daughter,

Divorce interrupted your life at age seven; you remained positive and resilient. At the same time, you adjusted to learning that Mama is a lesbian, an abstract label until it is attached to an actual person and relationship. Mama and Maggie’s love made this real for you and me.

Maggie was Mama’s friend. You were accustomed to our regular visits. Once you asked, “Do you two ever talk about anything other than food or running?” We enjoyed your honest and accurate perspective on our chit chat. I have a picture of you sitting in front of the fireplace…

Photo by Sid Verma on Unsplash


A fellow parent and educator on the stakes of homeschooling

My wife and I have 35 years of combined experience in education. Our daughter is in 6th grade. We are fully capable of running a rigorous academic homeschool. Instead, we ask, “Who cares?”

This is not a flippant retort, but heartfelt consideration of what’s at stake with homeschooling in a time of crisis. I am a former special education teacher and administrator. I am the Founder of Well Together Now, a wellness enrichment provider. I am married to a second-grade teacher. I am a parent. Wearing each of these hats, I reach the same bottom line: Who cares? …

Masked faces
wide-eyed darts

Distant spaces
six feet apart

Viral traces
sanitized carts

Unprecedented cases
peak wave starts

Long embraces
healing hearts

Return to places
guarded parts

Dawn McGrath

Wellness educator, coach, writer, and founder of

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