Epiphanies, Email, & EMDR

Back in December, I was talking with a friend about being stalked. It came up naturally in the midst of our conversation, I can’t remember how or why. I was stalked throughout the summer and early fall of 2010, and have felt “over it” for years. At some point in 2011, I actually felt bad for the guy, because he was suffering from mental illness and the court system totally failed us both. (To this day, I hold enormous anger toward the courts, for two reasons: 1) he was found guilty, convicted of stalking, and was allowed to walk out the courthouse door the very next day; and 2) the psychologist who administered the required mental evaluation declared his condition “beyond the scope of my expertise,” yet no other eval was done by a more experienced person, no treatment plan was offered or even discussed, and the whole issue – which was the crux of the larger issue – was completely ignored by the judge, the county attorney, and his court-appointed attorney.) When I found I had empathy for the person who stalked me for months, who harassed me daily, who eventually showed up with a loaded gun, I declared myself Over It, Zeroed Out, Free.

Back to the conversation in December with my friend: I mentioned that prior to his arrest, the man who stalked me sent me dozens of emails every single day, sometimes 50 a day – and the moment those words left my mouth, I stopped short. I couldn’t finish my sentence. It was like I was thrown into that cliche movie montage when all past events join together in one flash when everything clicks.


THIS is my email problem. This is the source, the genesis. This is proof that, in fact, I’ve never gotten over it.

If you’ve been reading my blog long enough, you know about my email problem. I’ve written about it a number of times, I’ve tried to brainstorm various ways to get a handle on it. I haven’t been able to keep up with email since Charlie went viral back in 2007, and while that unanswerable volume was a source of guilt, it never caused panic and anxiety. It was simply an issue of time. I still enjoyed reading email and answering what email I could.

While I was being stalked, email was the primary, daily, method of assault, and checking email became a source of panic. Dread. Physical tension. It’s never gone away. Now, like then, when I check email I feel my heart beat higher and faster. Sometimes I mentally shut down, and, for hours or sometimes days, can’t click on the emails that come in. All this time, I have thought my email anxiety, and the incompetence that anxiety caused, was my failure. All these years, I believed it was an area of life in which I sucked and couldn’t improve, no matter how hard I tried. Now I realize this is the f*cked up way that f*cked up experience damaged me. How it has affected me on a daily basis ever since, how it has affected my business and my ability to do my work. It’s been seven years, and I still can’t look at email without my autonomic nervous system activating a panic response. Until my random December epiphany, I never put it together, never identified the timeline when the task of email shifted from “too many to keep up” to “if I touch this I might die.” All this time, it was my psyche having a reaction in my body – a total and complete rejection of email – in order to protect myself.

This issue of protection is multilayered. There’s the obvious part of becoming conditioned to fear new messages, of not wanting to see what came in, of bracing myself for the awful and the disturbing every single time I sat down to check email. But it’s so much more than that.

In the series I wrote on stalking, the first installment of which I posted the day after his sentencing, I shared a lot of details. But I didn’t share everything, because I didn’t know if it was over. I didn’t mention that a friend who worked at Google put some code on my blog to track his IP address and activity, and that the man who stalked me had been visiting my blog over 100 times a day. That works out to every five minutes for ten hours a day, every day until he was arrested. I didn’t mention that I had knives stashed everywhere, indoors and outside, including a huge chef’s knife I kept in my shower (I had no escape route from my shower, what if he showed up when I was in the shower?). And the bigger part of this issue of protection is not wanting to bring this on myself ever again. This makes me cry as I type. Because the man who stalked me was a regular commenter on The Daily Coyote. I recognized his name, as I do with all regular commenters. He wrote me a totally normal email in the early summer of 2010, and I responded. And then all hell broke loose.

I wrote back. I wrote back. Might I have saved myself the misery if I hadn’t written back? If I hadn’t responded? For another woman, the thought that haunts might be I walked home alone or I didn’t want to be rude or I had that drink or I trusted him. Even though the violence we suffer is never our fault, where else do you put the focus – by which I mean, how else do you protect yourself from that day forward – when you can’t trust others not to harm you?

This epiphany left me reeling. It was illuminating, and also depressing, and it made me really sad for myself and really, really angry for all the women who endure violence or assault or harassment, because violence against women is still, so often, minimized by men – “twenty minutes of action.” Yet, this is the aftermath. I have been affected every single day since 2010 and, as I wrote back then, I got the shrapnel version! I was mentally tortured for months, but I wasn’t hit, I wasn’t raped.

Along with the shock and the anger and the sadness that came with this epiphany, I also felt thrilled. Downright giddy. Because now that I had determined the true root of my email problem, I knew I could fix it with EMDR.

The first time I did EMDR was after my apartment building in San Francisco burned down, which also happened to be my greatest lifelong fear. I woke one night, at 3AM, to the sound of my neighbor’s screams. Flames were everywhere. I called 911 but wasn’t the first to do so. I ran out of the building barefoot, and to get out of the building I had to run past windows that were exploding from the flames. Two buildings were destroyed and two of my neighbors died that night. Afterward, the smell of smoke – even the scent of a distant barbecue – would send me into full-body panic-mode. Two sessions of EMDR cured that; I love the aroma of wood smoke in the winter air, and am typing through a haze of smudge smoke right now.

The second time I did EMDR was after being invited to give the commencement address at CSU. I wasn’t about to turn down such an honor, yet public speaking happened to be my second greatest lifelong fear. Three sessions of EMDR (plus daily meditation and tons of practice), and I rocked that speech.

I love EMDR is because it works fast. It’s like being in a dream. It’s often described as entering the REM state while being awake. And it works in spite of yourself.

I’ve done two sessions of EMDR for this, and have one more scheduled, and things are different. I still can’t keep up with the volume of email I receive. I still prefer to compose longhand than on a keyboard. But the fear is gone. The anxiety is gone. I don’t want to hide anymore.

Click HERE to find EMDR practitioners near you. Many offer a sliding scale.

Stand With Standing Rock: An Action Plan

{My mother forwarded me an “Action Plan” for Trump’s impending presidency. The following is my response. Please share.}

Much of what you fear under a Trump presidency is happening RIGHT NOW under President Obama against the indigenous people of Standing Rock.

1) State-sanctioned racism. The Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) was originally routed through Bismark, ND. The [white] people of Bismark said “no way, it’s too great a threat to our water supply.” So Energy Transfer Partners (ETP), the company behind the DAPL, with the power of our government behind them, rerouted the pipeline through Sioux treaty land. Here is a map.

2) State-sanctioned violence against citizens. Attacks against the unarmed protectors at Standing Rock include the use of pepper spray (photo), concussion grenades, batons (video), LRADs, attack dogs, tear gas, rubber bullets, water cannons, and more. Also:
Women arrested for rioting (ie, walking in prayer) have been kept in dog kennels.
People have been held for 80+ days on trespassing/misdemeanor charges.
People have been shot in the head and back by rubber bullets at close range.
This woman may have her arm amputated after being struck with a concussion grenade (edit as per press release).
Another woman had her shoulder dislocated while she was being handcuffed.
Another woman was shot in the eye by LE and is now blind in that eye, likely permanently.
A man was hit with a club in the throat by law enforcement and sustained permanent damage to his larynx, can now barely talk.
((There are many more such incidents))
Stingrays and scramblers are monitoring and interfering with communication to and from camp.
Planes, helicopters, and drones buzz the camps (on private land) 24 hours/day despite private airspace laws.

Burial grounds on treaty land have been bulldozed and dug up for the DAPL. The Natives were kept away from this land by force – mace, mass arrests, beatings. Imagine a corporation bulldozing your sacred spaces, your grandparents graves, your memorials.

Last night, protectors tried to remove a blockade from Hwy 1806. In October, ETP and law enforcement erected this barricade by bringing in a pile of old vehicles setting them on fire. ON A PUBLIC HIGHWAY. This barricade of charred vehicles and razor wire means it takes twice as long for emergency services to reach Standing Rock via alternate routes, since Highway 1806 is still blocked. When the unarmed protectors approached the barricade last night, they were attacked with tear gas, rubber bullets, concussion grenades, and sprayed continuously with a pressurized water cannon (think fire hose on steroids). The temperature was below freezing, mid to low 20s (ºF). According to reports on scene, law enforcement pivoted to tear gas the medics who were treating protectors for hypothermia and rubber bullet wounds.

This is our government right now. This is Obama’s America.

** The ACLU has been to Standing Rock; here is their report and their letter to the DOJ. Amnesty International has also visited Standing Rock, has condemned the excessive military violence and called on Obama to halt construction. Obama’s Attorney General has done nothing.

3) Mainstream media blackout and information manipulation. The big media outlets are not talking about Standing Rock. They are not showing images and video from Standing Rock. They share more details about Ivanka’s jewelry than about Standing Rock. Oh! And a journalist filming at Standing Rock faces 45 years in prison.

** The peaceful protests and non-violent work of the water protectors – and the attacks upon them by militarized police – have been going on since summer.

4) The US government using militarized force to defend corporate interests. This is the long and short of it. It’s not about where you stand on fossil fuels. It’s about the government taking Native land BY FORCE… AGAIN. It’s about militarized police using violence to defend corporate interests as they steal and desecrate the sacred land of the most marginalized group in the country. These people need your help and action NOW.

** It has been described as “a war zone” by US military veterans who have traveled to join the protectors.

Earlier this month, ETP was told to halt construction pending review of an easement by the Army Corp of Engineers. They have not stopped. They have built a giant wall around their work and are continuing to work 24 hours/day. And they have law enforcement protecting them.

Obama has done nothing to stop the theft of tribal land nor the militarized police violence against the indigenous people of Standing Rock. Hold Obama accountable.


1) Share this info. Talk about this. With everyone. “Thanksgiving” is a natural opening to discuss the abuse of indigenous people by the government.

2) Call your government. Here are tips for calling if you have social anxiety.
White House: 202-456-1111 & 202-456-1414
US Dept of Justice: 202-353-1555
Governor of North Dakota: 701-328-2200
North Dakota legislators: 1-888-635-3447 & 701-328-3373
Morton County Sherrif: 701-667-3330 & 701-328-8118
Army Corps of Engineers: 202-761-8700
Your Congresspeople: use the menu midway down on this page to find the names and phone numbers of senators and reps from your state (thanks to mlaiuppa in the comments for this addition)

3) Call your banks.
Many banks have invested in the DAPL: Wells Fargo, Citibank, Sun Trust, ING…. here is the full list, with phone numbers. MOVE YOUR ACCOUNTS. DIVEST. MOVE YOUR MORTGAGES. Inconvenient? Yeah, it is. Being an ally is inconvenient. They are banking (har har) on you not making the effort. Here is a handy, eloquent template.

4) Boycott.
Conoco, Sunoco, and Phillips 66 are behind the DAPL. Fill your car elsewhere.

5) Donate.
Sacred Stone Legal Defense Fund. Oceti Sakowin Supply List. Standing Rock Sioux Tribe. Or you can send money with people going to Standing Rock who you know will use the money for supply runs as dictated by the Natives. This is actually a very efficient way to contribute.

6) Travel to Standing Rock / Help an indigenous person travel to Standing Rock.
**Please see Caitlin’s message in the comment section (#13) regarding helping an indigenous person get to Standing Rock**
If you go, first carefully read this and this (better yet, read the entire website).
If you go, don’t go to watch – go to stand with the protectors.
If you go, make sure you are set up to handle the weather – it is cold and windy.
If you go, make sure you bring MORE than you take/use and won’t infringe on their resources.
Anyone who goes can stay at my house en route.

7) Learn more:
Dallas Goldtooth
Tara Houska
Ruth Hopkins
Yaz Like Jaws
How To Talk About #NoDAPL: A Native Perspective
The Financial Powers Behind The Pipeline
Dakota Access Is In Financial Jeopardy

Please add your additional suggestions and resources in the comment section.

More Words

I want to clarify something.
Fear is not meanness.
Protest is not meanness.
Anger is not meanness.

are somehow being used interchangeably with meanness (by some).
are somehow being used to justify meanness (by some).

Bigotry IS mean.
Hate IS mean.
And while bigotry and hate often grow from fear and anger, these words are not all interchangeable.

I think it’s obvious to anyone who has spent mere minutes reading my work that I don’t support Trump, and I think Pence is the second coming of Satan. I’m glad that Mike didn’t support Trump. BUT. I have friends who voted for Trump. It’s not unlikely that 100% of my ambulance crew voted for Trump. Wyoming had the distinction of being the state with the very largest percentage of Trump voters in the nation. And maybe I’m being sensitive, or maybe I’m being naive, but I’m having a hard time with this sentiment: “Now I’m the person who doesn’t love you, Trump voters. I don’t want to be. But you hate your neighbors.” And this: “A lot of people’s terror doesn’t come just from Trump being elected. It’s knowing half the country is enjoying the pain of the other half.” And this: “A Trump supporter just followed me on Instagram. I’m not sure how I feel about this.” These statements are real, they came from very intelligent artists. These statements, and others like them, make me so sad.

It makes me sad because it’s more division. It’s division based on one thing. And whether that thing is superficial or not is up for debate and whether that thing is inherent bigotry or not is up for debate, but from where I stand in Wyoming – from my experience and that alone – I don’t agree that all Trump voters are bigots. I don’t think the blanket statements are helping anything.

And this does not negate the fear! It does not negate the anger, or disregard the protest! It can all be true. I went to Planned Parenthood on Friday for my annual exam, as I have always done. But I caught myself, as I was leaving my house, wondering if I was going to be shot to death during my appointment. My privilege – being white, in a hetero relationship, with a job that allows me to spend the majority of my time exclusively with animals – means I only feel this fear sometimes, not all the time.

I was riding my horse this weekend, wearing a tank top with Mapplethorp’s Flag printed on it (I have been riding my horse daily in tank tops in the middle of November in Wyoming, what is this world?). I was out in the hills, completely alone, no sign of human life, much less other humans. But I wondered to myself, what if I was wearing this tank top in public today? What if people who weren’t familiar with Mapplethorp’s work and life just saw me with the American flag on my chest? What would they think of me, just from that? How many would hate me, just from that? How many would fear me, just from that?

I received this in a email, and am posting it with permission:

“Several weeks ago my partner said she saw Trump as a heyoka (Lakota clown who mirrors the dark side). The heyoka’s role is to illuminate the shadow and ultimately help the people. In my prayer this morning, in despair at the election, I got back immediately that you do not engage the heyoka. You stay seated on the ground and you do not give into the fear that the heyoka creates. Stay in your prayer. Stay out of speculation. These just feed that kind of energy.

I got very strongly that the best medicine for us as a people is to keep our homes peaceful and calm, to engage in our community, to do all the small things that make up a good life, to remain kind and thoughtful, to stay in our prayer. We are part of the nurturing, and we have no idea how many of our small acts are helping other people, who go on to do other small acts. Strong community, strong neighborhood, strong households.

I have to say that usually my prayers are short and I don’t get a whole lot of words back, only a feeling or two. But this was a kind of torrent and as I stood there with my sage burning, the wind came up very strongly. Lastly, I got that humor, art, and ceremony are crucial in these times. I hope this is helpful. Big hugs to you all. I am so glad to count you as my community.

​Love, mitakuye oyasin (we are all related)” ​
–Caitlin Sullivan, Seattle

And lastly, this is really important. This is for everyone outraged by racism, white supremacy, the lies of those in power, the abuse of power by those in power, and systemic disregard for the environment. Please stand with Standing Rock TODAY!

Go to www.nodapldayofaction.org to find events in your area. TODAY. Trump has invested in two companies behind the DAPL, so if you want to hit him where it hurts, PROTEST THE DAPL.

Yesterday the Army Corps and The Obama Administration issued a statement that essentially told Water Protectors to wait. Today, across the nation, in every state, in every major city, we will tell the Army Corp and President Obama that their statement is not good enough. We will make it loud and clear that we demand a decision that honors Indigenous Rights, Human Rights, and Climate Justice! No easement for Dakota Access Pipeline! #IndigenousRising #NoDAPL #WaterIsLife

A photo posted by Dallas Goldtooth (@dallasgoldtooth) on


I can count on one hand the number of times I’ve been down at the corrals this year. We turned the front yard into an ICU for Sunshine when he was declining in January – the corrals are down a hill and over another hill from the house and we wanted to keep Sunshine close to us. The yard became Sid‘s playpen when he was born this spring, and it naturally became the place where I helped him bond with Daisy, and, at that point, I just started milking Daisy in the yard, too.

So, I’ve only been down at the corrals a handful of times, when we’ve needed to sort cows or tag calves. Just over a week ago, we took Sid, Roxy, Ixchel, and a couple of other calves to the corrals to wean them. Ixchel, Fiona’s calf, is gigantic. She is nursing solely for comfort at this point. And Daisy was producing SO much milk – she is such a devoted mother – that she has become too thin. The more food I gave her, the more milk she would make – she never gained any weight herself. She became so thin, I became worried for her well being in the inevitable cold and decided we must wean for her sake.

Whenever we wean, we put the calves in the inner corral and leave the outer corral open to the pasture. This way, the mother cows can go in and out of the outer corral and spend as much time as they like right next to their calves. They can sleep and eat side by side, see and smell and talk to each other, and the entire process is very calm for everyone. And very quiet. When calves are weaned and immediately taken away from their mothers (which is the norm), the calves and mother cows cry and call out for each other for DAYS.

The morning after we weaned, I walked down to the corrals with Chloe to check on everyone. I happened to arrive just as Mike was driving up with some hay for the calves. I was standing in the inner corral petting Sid when I heard a very loud meow. An urgent meow. Crouched in the dirt, not three feet from where I stood with Sid and Chloe, was a soggy little orange kitten. I called to Mike, but when he came over, the kitten scampered away and huddled under the railings of the round corral. I threw Chloe’s leash to Mike and scrambled over the railings, dropped into the round corral, and crept towards the kitten. It looked awful – I couldn’t tell if it was sick or crazy or just weak. I took off my t-shirt, and while the kitten was focused on my shirt in my left hand, I reached my right hand behind him and plucked him from his hiding spot by the nape and wrapped him up in my tee. And then. And then! When I held the little bundle against me, he started purring!

We zipped over to the vet, and I’ve spent the last week IN LOVE. He is 11 weeks old. He is neither sick nor crazy, he just needed food and care. We don’t know his origin story – my vet believes he was feral, Mike wonders if he was abandoned. I think the stork of souls dropped him in my path. He’s very likely Eli’s kin. To honor this, I chose a name that begins with the “long i” sound that Eli ends with: Ivan.

Ivan and Chloe are pals – Chloe lets him climb all over her and they are very sweet together. Charlie is really calm and submissive with Ivan but Ivan wants nothing to do with Charlie. Mushy is pissed. She has never not been the baby of the house and she is furious. She’ll get over it. Mushy always seemed so little, but she is positively gigantic compared to this kitten! He is tiny. But his paws are not, and he is already noticeably larger than he was a week ago. He purrs whenever I touch him. I have spent so many hours supine because he fell asleep on me…. and I consider it time very well spent. Here are pictures! If the embeds don’t work for you, you can see them (and more) HERE.

A photo posted by Shreve Stockton (@dailycoyote) on

A photo posted by Shreve Stockton (@dailycoyote) on

A photo posted by Shreve Stockton (@dailycoyote) on

Caveman Motivations

The other day, my mind wandered into wondering about the motivations of early humans. Here’s the list I came up with, in order of priority:

To make their lives
• safer
• easier
• more secure
• more convenient
• more beautiful
• more meaningful (to find/define the meaning)

And then I wondered what has changed. And then I realized NOTHING HAS CHANGED. Nothing has changed, in regards to general human motivations, in 50,000+ years. The technology with which we attempt to achieve them has changed (vastly and drastically), but our incentives? Still the same as cavemen.

And then I decided to assume, for the sake of a mind game, that these motivations are no longer sound. Let’s say we’ve solved them, wholly and completely and permanently. I decided to try to see if I could:

TO MAKE OUR LIVES SAFER: Einstein said, “The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.” Platitudes can be found in many religions, spiritualities, and philosophies which all boil down to “you are always safe (if you believe).” I say “platitudes” because it is hard for me to reconcile the words “you are always safe” when juxtaposed against the facts of this speech and this book and this story and the truth that I could continue this list of examples for pages. So let’s circle back to this one.

TO MAKE OUR LIVES EASIER: “Easier” isn’t a sustainable thing. What if we collectively let go of wanting things to be easy all the time. I’m taking this back to the premise of my commencement address: you can’t avoid pain. It does not matter how much money one has or how much power one has or how much love or how much sex or how many awards – these things do not magically make people exempt from pain and difficulty. To attempt a life of permanent easiness that is free from pain is futile, and therefore a waste of time, energy, and opportunity. So let’s take EASIER off the list.

TO MAKE OUR LIVES MORE SECURE: “The illusion of safety” is a concept my aunt and I came up with right before my cross-country Vespa ride. I did not have room to bring a tent. And I didn’t want to bring mace because I didn’t know how the pressurized canister would handle the extreme heat and elevation changes of my ride (I didn’t want it to explode on me). And my aunt and I came to realize that “tent” and “mace” do not guarantee safety, or even do much to mitigate potential harm the way my helmet and leathers did. And even my helmet and leathers didn’t guarantee my safety. We want guarantees so badly and we just don’t get them. Perhaps a better term is “the illusion of control.” The ancient Greeks called it the “caprice of the Gods,” and built their entire mythology around it. I have an IRA and I wear my seat belt and I recommend both, but they don’t guarantee anything. So let’s take SECURITY off the list.

TO MAKE OUR LIVES MORE CONVENIENT: Convenience is killing us. I decided this when I was living in the cabin, which was glorified camping, especially through six Wyoming winters. I didn’t have a furnace and I had to chop wood for the woodstove and haul water from the horse trough but I was in excellent shape, just from living – I got strong because I didn’t have a button on the wall to make my hovel warm. And while I wouldn’t really wish that kind of lifestyle on anyone, nor on myself at age 50-plus, going from furnace-heated-house to car to elevator to office to sofa to bed with some take out meals in the middle is not great for our health. So let’s take CONVENIENT off the list.

TO MAKE OUR LIVES MORE BEAUTIFUL: I love art, I make art, and, in my opinion, music is utter magic. But we’ve got nuthin’ on Mother Nature – her work is the best. I don’t NEED jewelry when I have a sunrise. So let’s accept that there is BEAUTY all around us all the time and take that off the list, too.

TO ASSIGN MEANING TO OUR LIVES: I may have become a bit cynical after so much loss and death in the past few years, or maybe I’ve become more realistic, but I’ve come to think that so much of the meaning we try to assign to our lives (and to death) are bedtime stories for grownups. Stories we tell ourselves to feel better, to feel less out of control, perhaps to guide but mostly to comfort. Here’s the meaning I’ve assigned everything at this point: all we have is right now, and we really don’t know f*ck-all about any of it. So that takes MEANING off the list.

And then I wondered what’s left. If we can go back to the first point of safety and determine that we are not in imminent danger, and everything else on the list of caveman motivations has been refuted, what could motivate us? What WOULD motivate us?

And I decided the answer is KINDNESS. Kindness to others.

Vonnegut was right: “There’s only one rule that I know of, babies – God damn it, you’ve got to be kind.”

And if we were able to do this, REALLY were able to, collectively… the first point of safety would be granted to so many who don’t have it now.

It’s been interesting, fun, and disturbing to analyze myself since going on this mind trip – my thoughts, my choices, my actions – am I leading with a caveman motivation or am I leading with kindness? It is a work in progress.

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