Posted on March 15, 2020
This too shall pass.
That’s probably my favorite phrase. I usually use it when I’m trying to get through a tough situation, or when I give advice to people with tinnitus. It’s very effective for people who’ve recently developed it. This too shall pass, meaning: you won’t always feel this gut-wrenching, churning fear. It will move on, and be replaced by something else.
Of course, this phrase is one of duality, and I don’t usually talk about the other side of it. This too shall pass means two things- as bad things go, so do the good. It is, effectively, a reflection on the temporary nature of life. Bad and good, in a cyclical dance.
Whenever I open up my calendar and look at this month- March- I see so many events and appointments I had planned. Vacations I booked in January, promises to grab coffee or go out for a drink. A jaunt to Pike Place Market- bustling, bright, colorful. I planned for normalcy, expecting time to move swiftly and regularly. There was no thought to it, no consideration for the phrase I’ve used so many times in my life.
This too shall pass.
Because it did.
I live in Seattle, in the midst of a global pandemic. We are considered one of the outbreak zones in the United States. Schools are closed, major events have been cancelled, and everyone is holed up in their respective homes and apartments and micro studios. Social distancing is the life we live now. It is an eerie, disturbing version of Seattle’s inclination for social isolation. This time, meeting with friends could mean the death of someone else.
At the time I’m writing this, there are at least 769 cases of the coronavirus in Washington. 42 people have died from it. Numbers pale, though, when you consider the anguish of families; the tireless work of EMTs and doctors and nurses and scientists and researchers; the uncertainty of so many lives. A number is easy to glaze over and hard to conceptualize, until you have an entire day, stuck in your home, to consider it. 42 lives, lost.
Several local restaurants and businesses have closed, quickly and violently. Their customers disappear and their revenue drops 50%, and suddenly they have no way to pay rent. Restaurant and bar workers are let go. Pike Place Market vendors temporarily close up shop. An artist friend told me they may not be able to afford living in Seattle anymore, because their business has dried up so rapidly.
It’s like watching a beautiful plant decay in front of me. A city I have grown to love and fiercely protect is rotting from the inside out, and I feel powerless to do anything about it.
There are things we can do, though, to slow the spread of the virus while also supporting people, places and businesses that we love. We can stay inside, call friends, buy gift cards, order delivery, donate to Venmos and GoFundMes. But the dread is still there inside all of us, I think. The knowledge that this is not normal, when will this end, and what will happen to people and places that I love?
And despite doing all I can, I still feel powerless. This is the result of that, a reflection of all the feelings whipping around inside of me. A byproduct of living through history.
We are living through history, although I never knew doing so would make me feel this way. I have Generalized Anxiety Disorder, but this is different. This is a deep, shocked, rattling anxiety that allows everyone to still function, but remains wedged deep in our hearts like a parasite. It is the anxiety of the unknown, the realization of the phrase I used so much, I forgot its meaning.
This too shall pass.
But, of course, as I mentioned before, there’s a flip side to that. Because eventually, this too shall pass.
I do believe it. Normalcy will return, to an extent- but lives will be lost, people will be gone, institutions shuttered, families struggling and grieving. And while what is gone will be smoothed over by time and replaced with something else, what is missing will remain a permanent crack that cannot be fully closed, a tattoo that will never fully heal.
Recently, though, I’ve noticed things. Beautiful things.
I’ve noticed the incredible music of the Seattle Symphony, played for everyone to hear through a free livestream. The show I work for, compiling a list of restaurants and businesses you can help during this time. The social media posts of people staying inside, flattening the curve, spending time with their families. How the sun flits across the blooms of a tree. The sound of a tea kettle. The smell of a candle. Small, gentle things.
This too shall pass. But while we’re in this liminal space, between what was and what will happen, we are lending kindness to one another. That is the soft spot in this murky time- kindness shows itself quickly and brightly amid the gray. While I’m worried, I’m awed and inspired to see what people can do for one another in times of struggle. I see it in so many ways. Donating to a charity. Staying inside as much as possible. Washing your hands like a fiend. Calling an anxious friend or family member.
You can borrow my phrase if it helps said friend or family member. There’s depth to it, and perhaps more anxiety when you get down to the core meaning. But no matter what happens, how bad this situation becomes or how quickly it heals itself, that phrase will always be true.
This too shall pass.
Posted on February 13, 2020
Hi, everyone! Happy 2020. I mean, it’s February, but I can still wish you a happy 2020, right? Time is a construct, go wild!
Yes, I know. I’ve been slacking on this blog quite a lot. But I’ve been busy, I swear! Cavorting around Western Washington, being a bon vivant, eating bonbons while lounging on a chaise lounge…you know the deal. It’s a tough life.
Anyway, I did want to share one of my favorite projects I’m working on for King 5 Evening. It combines my two favorite things- food and storytelling- to create something that I’m pretty darn proud of: Edible Education!
Edible Education, because alliteration is awesome. Even better when it’s Edible Education with the Ever Effervescent Ellen, but that’s way too long so we went with the first one.
Each episode, I interview a culinary expert to educate viewers about various foods and cuisines. It can literally be any food or cuisine that deserves further investigation, which- surprise, surprise- is every food and cuisine!
I have three goals for every episode- teach the viewer something new, entertain the viewer, and encourage the viewer to try something they might’ve never tried before. My goal is to demystify, welcome, encourage and delight. To me, food is a unifier. It can tell stories and bridge gaps in wonderful, unspoken ways. Not that I’m discovering world peace or anything. But, still, you know.
Which food/cuisine do you think I should tackle next? I’m always looking for new ideas.
And there you have it. That’s one of the things I’ve been up to recently. I’ll be back soon with other tidbits. I am writing a book right now, so…
Wait, wait, wait, ELLEN IS WRITING A BOOK?
And that, my friends, is what we call a tease! See you next time!
Posted on June 22, 2019
Hello, everyone! It’s summer in Seattle and life is good. The nights are long, the days are warm(-ish) and everyone has emerged from their dark apartments to frolic in the rare sunlight. It’s been an exciting summer so far- here’s what’s going on!
Okay, so technically it’s a Northwest Regional Emmy. But it’s still an Emmy.
Anyway, I won my first Emmy! I won along with three other KING coworkers for our work on Evening’s “New Year’s at the Needle” special. It was such an amazing night, and I felt so honored to receive the award along with two very hard working producers! There were a ton of people who made the show happen, so it was truly a team effort.
The event itself was also really fun. At some point during the night, regrettably, I used the pointy end of one of the Emmy’s wings to pick up a french fry. I’m sorry. I couldn’t help myself. Other people were doing it at the table. Peer pressure, you know?
If you’re wondering, the dress is from Rent the Runway. I really wanted to emulate a disco ball for my look that night. Did I succeed?
There’s a lot of great stories in the book, so I’d highly recommend picking up a copy! The eBook version is only $5, so if you’re looking for a cheaper version, the eBook is a perfect choice.
Posted on April 22, 2019
Hi everyone! Hope you’re having a lovely beginning of spring! I thought posting the occasional “What’s New” would be a good way to update y’all on what projects I’m working on, and when they’re coming out! So, drum roll please…
Posted on October 17, 2018
In Spring 2018, the American Tinnitus Association published my article about my experience with tinnitus. They gave me the okay to publish the full article on my blog so more people can see it.
I wanted to republish this because so many people have reached out to me since reading my article. I hope that spreading it further will help more people with tinnitus.
Here’s the full, unedited article, originally published in the Spring 2018 issue of Tinnitus Today.
I can’t believe I’m writing this.
Even now, the idea of me doing this is shocking. Up until about a year ago, I couldn’t even see the word “tinnitus” without an icy spike of fear going up my spine.
Every time I saw that word, I was thrown back to Clemson, South Carolina, standing in the hallway leading to my bedroom. I remember the smell of a lived-in college apartment, the springy carpet under my ratty sneakers. It was February 2014. I’d just finished a solid workout, and I was about to hop in the shower and get on with my day when…
It happened. You all know what I’m talking about. Both ears. Medium pitch. Relatively quiet.
The rest is a rush and painful to think about. It comes in flashes of memory that still make me feel sick, even years later. I remember the animal panic that short-circuited my mind as the hissing ring in my ears picked up and continued, lingering like an unseen alarm. What was happening to me? It was so bizarre and unexpected. I couldn’t process it. Something very delicate and very sharp had snapped inside of me.
My friends were in class. My family was hundreds of miles away.
It was the most alone I’ve ever felt in my life.
I always feel odd saying that – guilty, even, because I think of all the worse things that can happen to a person. But I know tinnitus isn’t as simple as that – it robs someone of silence and attacks their quiet time, their sleep, their conversations. For some, it’s like a train roaring in their head without end. For me, although my tinnitus is relatively quiet, it preyed upon something that I was already dealing with in my life: anxiety.
I’ve always tried to control the parts of life I can – to make the world a little less uncertain and scary. But tinnitus was like the personification of my anxiety, the ultimate test – I couldn’t control it. I’d done nothing to trigger it. It could get worse over time. And there was no cure.
After the initial shock, came doctor’s visits filled with waiting rooms smelling vaguely of disinfectant. Each appointment featured cool, plastic instruments inserted into my ear. My shoulders would shoot up to my neck when I felt the scratch against the shell of my inner ear, fearing the slight tampering would make my tinnitus worse.
At first, I wanted a solution. I prayed the doctor would step back and say I had an ear infection or some bizarre allergy that prompted the tinnitus. Either way, the doc would present a cure.
After several different doctors, a perfect hearing test and some well-meaning suggestions for vitamins that didn’t help, it became clear I wouldn’t get that cure I was looking for.
Each visit ended the same way. The doctor sitting back on his wheeling stool, slightly crushed by years of use. His expression was flat, but his tone was always reserved and light, like he was an ice cream parlor employee about to tell me they were out of chocolate.
He didn’t know what caused it. It could’ve been a jaw issue or a low-grade ear infection. He wasn’t sure.
It might go away. It might not. It might get worse.
I’m not sure.
Even after I realized a cure wasn’t going to happen, I still searched for a doctor who would understand my emotional struggle and lend an understanding ear regarding my own ears. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen – whether it was because I chose the wrong doctors, or because I’m a young woman, or something else entirely, I’m not sure.
At the time, I was the only person I knew who had chronic tinnitus. I could only get so much support from my friends and family at the start, so, after I failed to find professional support in my “real” life, I went online. Unfortunately, my first foray into the online tinnitus community wasn’t the American Tinnitus Association website, which is filled with accurate information and resources to get help.
Instead, thanks to a mixture of morbid curiosity and misguided intent, I found myself on random internet chatrooms for people affected by tinnitus. They were filled with concerned friends and family members, and sufferers themselves, fraught with terror. Every message was helpless and scared, often mentioning suicide. The worst-case scenario, it seemed, was the only scenario in the world I’d stumbled into.
It was like peering into the future, discovering my inevitable fate. My anxiety fed into this rhetoric like a flood. Would that happen to me? Surely, it would. I’d already developed chronic tinnitus at age 20, what chance did I have?
I finally quit my “research” after my mom talked some sense into me, but the damage was done. Every time I happened to see the word “tinnitus,” a cold rush of terror would come over me, and I was back in that hallway. Every loud noise – the bang of pots and pans, a car horn – was a golden opportunity for my tinnitus to get worse. To put it bluntly, I was a mess.
And then, slowly, I became less of a mess.
I wish I could pinpoint the exact moment I started sleeping soundly through the night, or the first time a motorcycle roared past me and didn’t leave me worried the rest of the day. Small victories like those came and went, but they all came from the same place. I started habituating to my tinnitus, and I realized something.
I wanted to feel like myself again.
This wasn’t a passive recovery. After several months of sleepwalking through life, I knew I had to wake up. I had too much to do at the time and too much I wanted to do in the future. I had to finish college, follow my dreams into the world of broadcast journalism, find a cute apartment in some faraway city and some equally cute guy. I couldn’t control my tinnitus, but I could control how I responded to it.
I started seeing a therapist who specialized in tinnitus, a commitment with a 45-minute weekly commute in rural South Carolina. We talked about coping mechanisms, treatment options, and how my anxiety magnified my tinnitus. How when I drank alcohol, my tinnitus got worse – and when he imbibed, his tinnitus went away. I saw that therapist for a relatively short time, but I walked away in a much better mental and emotional state.
I opened up to my family and friends more. My mom was there for every late-night call, every weepy worry, and dash of uncertainty. When I went to a concert with my friends, earplugs in hand, they made sure I was comfortable as we got closer to the front of the stage.
After I finished therapy, I bought a book on anxiety, and I knew I had to commit to managing my anxiety, as well as understand how tinnitus affected it. I chose to manage my anxiety through my lifestyle. I started exercising again and caring about what I ate. Slowly, I felt in control again, like the world wasn’t going to crumble around me at any possible moment.
But, the last thing to go, the last bastion of my terror, was my fear of the word “tinnitus.”
About a year ago, now on the other side of the country and working for a local television station, I went to the gym for a quick workout. On my way to the treadmill, I passed a rack of magazines. Like a bizarre superpower, I sensed the word immediately, front and center on a glossy magazine cover.
The familiar fear made me feel like I was sinking under water. Even in the gym, of all bizarre places, I couldn’t escape it. It was almost funny.
I was almost tempted to pick it up, but I wasn’t ready yet.
Now, I am.
And that’s why I can’t believe I’m writing this article – because four years ago, even one year ago, it would’ve been impossible to relive my trauma so many times or become so intimate with the word tinnitus. I would’ve broken down on the first sentence.
Now, I truly feel like a stronger person having gone through and survived such a traumatic personal event. Even though my tinnitus still makes me anxious sometimes, I’ve built up the self-care skills to manage my anxiety.
My friends, family, and boyfriend are still the main people I go to when my tinnitus gets tough. I exercise regularly and try to stick to a healthy diet, despite my love for Mexican food and doughnuts. I keep myself busy with creative projects, work, friends, and family. When quiet time is no longer literally “quiet” time, I find it better to keep active and engaged.
In the past, I’ve considered the word “habituation” as something negative –
living with something, resigning oneself to it. But now, I realize that’s not the case. Habituation means going through something you thought would ruin your life and emerging from it with the realization that you can survive and flourish, despite the challenges. For me, it’s returning to my hopes and dreams for the future and making them a reality, despite the added struggle of tinnitus.
I’m not going to lie – bringing back these memories is still challenging for me. The pain has softened over time, but it’s still there. Even so, writing this article shows me how far I’ve come and how hard I’ve worked to come out of my diagnosis mentally and emotionally stronger.
Everyone’s story is different, but this is mine. And if I can convince one person that they can survive, work towards feeling better, and end up okay four years down the road?
Writing this article was worth it.
Have questions about tinnitus? Head to the American Tinnitus Association’s website. They have accurate information, access to support groups, and cultivate a positive environment.
Posted on November 29, 2017
In June, a man I’ve never met messaged me on my professional Facebook page and asked me to have his children.
I could fill this entire blog post with harassing comments and gross requests from people I’ve never met and never want to meet. I’ve had a man tell me my skin makes him want to waltz. One guy asked me if he could be my slave.
There’s an old local TV news saying. Every day, people invite you into their homes. You’re on their TV every day, delivering them information. They put their trust in you, they learn things from you, and after awhile, they get to know a part of you- the public part. You become a slice of their lives, and a part of their city.
Many times, it can be a wonderful thing. People say hi to you on the street and compliment your stories. An older woman might bring baked goods to your TV station. You know almost every neighborhood and every street in your town. It’s an amazing feeling.
And then, sometimes, it’s different. Sometimes, people believe they have a right to your body, whether you like it or not. They think they own a part of you, because you’re on TV in their town, and you’re a pretty girl in a pretty dress who’s there for their entertainment. It doesn’t matter what’s in your head, or how hard you worked on your story.
Harassment in the media is a problem- that’s clear. The recent news about Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer cements that reality. That’s another blog post for another time.
But there’s another problem running through local TV news that affects women daily.
Harassment from the people who watch the news.
It’s the guy who screams, “F**k Her Right in the P***y” behind your live report. Or the local woman who sends you racial slurs because she doesn’t like the way you look. Or the man who sends flowers to your station over and over again. This is a pervasive issue. For the hundreds of young women in local broadcast news, there are thousands of stories of harassment.
And some of those women shared their stories with me.
Imagine this. You’re a young woman in your first or second job. You’re hundreds, if not thousands of miles away from your family. Surviving on slim paychecks, living alone, and working odd hours. Usually, thanks to social media- it’s relatively easy to find out where you are at any given moment.
And, along with some guy who wants you to kick him in the balls, you’re dealing with people like this:
Outside harassment is so commonplace, it’s basically become part of the job. You’re a public figure in a small town, a woman always dressed up and made up. Your first creeper is a right of passage. A weirdos obsessed with your shoes is a hilarious screenshot. It’s something to laugh about at drinks with fellow reporters- unless it isn’t funny anymore.
It’s a reality for women. For men. It’s even worse for journalists of color and LGBTQIA journalists.
I’ve tried to understand why these people threaten and harass journalists. Is it power? Sex? They’re just inappropriate weirdos and creeps?
I don’t know. But I do know these people are harassers, and what they’re doing is inexcusable.
The wild and wonderful world of local news take its reporters everywhere- it’s amazing, and exhilarating, and many times, these young journalists do it alone.
It’s less amazing when you’re constantly worried about the man who pretends to offer reporters jobs before sexually harassing them. Or mentally preparing yourself when an older man approaches you while you’re reporting, and you can tell by the look in his eye that he’s going to say something lewd and offensive.
The kick in the chest doesn’t just come from harsh words or threats to safety. It’s the complete disregard for your intelligence and hard work. It’s that squirming feeling in your heart when you realize that many people consider women in TV news, first and foremost, eye candy.
As women, and as public figures, too many TV newsers are taught to be polite and friendly. It goes against years of conditioning and stereotype to flip the switch and be aggressive. Even now, when I deflect any kind of harassment, there’s still a little twinge of guilt that I have to brush away.
As I wrote this article, I read a lot of stories from women in the business. At the end of many of them, they asked: Next time this happens, what should I do differently?
Should they be more aggressive? Smile and try to be polite? Every question was filled with a vague sense of guilt and one damning thought: Am I overreacting?
And you know what? That’s happening to me right now, as I write this post.
Let’s go back to the guy who wanted me to have his children. When I responded to him, he got angry.
“There’s a thousand other half-cute journalism grads who’ll easily replace your milquetoast-ass tomorrow. So don’t flatter yourself. No one gives a shit about you.”
His rejection-fueled rage was pretty obvious, but I’d be lying if I said it didn’t affect me.
Because, for awhile, I thought he was right. Who would give a shit about some small-town news girl getting creeped on? We’re a dime-a-dozen, generally represented in popular media as vapid bimbos with half a brain.
I sat on this post for months. I started working on this in late spring, but every time I came close to publishing it, doubt started worming its way into my heart. A little voice, whispering at me:
And then, other women began stepping forward, in other industries. Allegations emerged.
And the more women I saw come forward to tell their story, the more people reacted. Other woman, echoing that feeling of helplessness. Of weakness. And I realized that these experiences, no matter how slight or different, absolutely do matter.
I’m tired of getting messages that make me feel ashamed, or have me looking behind my shoulder when I walk to my car at night. I’m tired of talking with other women in the business, feeling their fear and shame, hearing their stories like confessions.
And when I got tired of the man asking me to have his children, I went to my station about it. Not all stations are supportive when women come forward with their concerns, but mine was. They supported me whole-heartedly. I got in contact with our local police, who also supported me and assured me that it wasn’t a foolish move to report the message.
That experience was one of the two bright spots in this whole mess. The other?
The women I spoke with.
Despite this barrage of threats, sexual requests and invasions of privacy, the woman journalists I spoke with still press forward in their passion. Journalism is already an emotionally and mentally taxing business- to also deal with external threats and still create compelling stories is a testament to the strength of women working in the business.
If you’re a journalist who feels threatened by a harassing message or personal interaction, tell your news director and contact police.
NOTE: I would like to thank all of the women who shared their stories with me. This post wouldn’t be a reality without them.
NOTE II: Harassment is a reality for journalists, no matter what gender you identify as. However, I’m writing from my perspective as a woman, and chose to keep my focus on events close to my own experiences.
© 2017 Ellen Meny