Like a hermit crab

I hate Cancer Season.

(Astrological Cancer Season, to clarify. Not like a season where everyone gets diagnosed with a disease caused by cells dividing uncontrollably and spreading into surrounding tissues. And yes, I actually looked that up.)

Look, I’m allowed to say I hate Cancer Season, okay? Because I’m a Cancer. And it took thirty years of living to realize…I hate this time of year.

Well, hate is a strong word.

If you’re not into Astrology, or don’t know anything about Cancers, here’s a tidbit for ya:

At our best, Cancers are sensitive, nurturing, caring, loyal, intuitive, kind, expressive, and sentimental.

At our worst, we’re clingy, grudge-holding, overbearing, nagging, overly sensitive, brooding, moody, and we worry like crazy.

Everyone is impacted differently by their season. Even some Cancers I know feel super empowered during this time of year and feel like they can rule the world.

Not me.

During Cancer Season, the frequency of my already-daily existential crises jumps from maybe 6 to about 67 in a day.

I question and second-guess everything, especially myself.

I’m extra touchy and sensitive and defensive.

I let the demons in my head get a little louder, and even win some of the battles.

And I’m usually super depressed on my birthday.

(Gosh, I sound like a delight, don’t I?)

The realization began last year leading up to my 30th birthday.

It was the middle of a global pandemic (lol, you probably remember) and my friend Kayla volunteered (or maybe I begged for it) to host a few of my favorite people at her house for a small, intimate shindig. AKA, my favorite type of shindig.

A few days prior, I felt a heavy sadness set in.

If you’re someone who struggles or has struggled with depression, you might know what it feels like when the “storm” is coming.

For me, I start needing way more sleep. Then my limbs start to feel heavy. Then mental fog begins to overtake my whole body. I don’t even know how to explain that last point — but it’s like all of my muscles have mental fog. Everything is cloudy.

And then…the “What’s the point of anything?” thought spiral takes hold. Over and over and over.

While I’m in the shower. “What’s the point?”

While I’m driving. “What’s the point?”

While I’m working. “What’s the point?”

Everything is fuzzy and heavy and arbitrary and WHAT IS THE ACTUAL POINT THO?

When these feelings begin, I tend to go off the radar. My response to texts is delayed. Or, I don’t respond at all.

I cancel plans.

I avoid everything and everyone and just plop down on my sofa, thankful that I have the cuddliest dog with the sweetest soul.

And many days, if I didn’t have him, I wouldn’t even leave my apartment. (It’s a blessing to have another creature to care for with daily walks and love.)

So, per usual, all of this heaviness began in the days prior to my birthday last year. And I couldn’t handle it — seeing anyone or doing anything because WHAT’S THE POINT? And then I did it — I Canceled my birthday.

A lot of introspection and therapy sessions then led to the discovery — I’m ALWAYS depressed on and around my birthday. Like, every. Single. Year.

Even if on the surface I’m happy-go-lucky and sparkly (thanks to my Libra Ascendant — which means those who come into contact with me likely find me pleasant, sweet, social, and charming.) But internally, I’m insecure and convinced that none of my friends actually like me and wondering if I should just go live in a shack in the woods.

In particular, my birthday makes me sad for a couple of reasons I think:

  1. Another trip around the sun of evaluating “WHAT AM I DOING WITH MY LIFE, I STILL WATCH CARTOONS AND HAVE SO MUCH DEBT”
  2. People celebrating me is uncomfortable for me. Because my cute little Inner Critic says, “These people don’t mean all of these nice things. Don’t take these compliments to heart. They’re not true.” Often when someone says anything kind or positive to me, I can’t even process it because it’s in direct opposition with this core internal belief that I’m broken and a screwup and undeserving of love.


(Hi, I’m a nightmare.)

Let me be clear — I’m working on it.

In the past 6 months, I’ve felt a marked shift in my ability to be self-compassionate and be a bit more open and gentle and graceful with myself.

I do cardio now! I eat protein! I have daily affirmations!

And I’ve been feeling really good.

But we’re in the thick of Cancer Season now and wow can I feel her presence. I’ve woken up a couple of mornings feeling broken. Worthless. Unsettled and as though tectonic plates are shifting within me and I have no control over it.

Like the world has grabbed me against my will and is shaking me all around inside my crabby little shell.

I’ve felt the urge to retreat. To go off the radar. But I’m fighting like hell against it. Because that’s not a life. A life inside a shell…is not a life.

It’s probably not a coincidence that this is an incredibly busy summer and I don’t really have the time to mope, because there’s a good chance I would if given the opportunity.

But I’m trying to push through with grace and self-love. To take small moments of reprieve when I need, get out of my head, and come home to my body.

Which brings me to a quote graphic I have as my phone screensaver. It says,

“Be softer with you.
You are a breathing thing.
A memory to someone.
A home to a life.”

— Nayyirah Waheed

I sat with my 11-year-old niece on the sofa a few weeks ago as she read that out loud. Then in her 11-year-old inquisitive and wonderful way asked, “Like a hermit crab? They carry their homes around on their backs. Did you know that?”

Which led to one of those heart-clutching smiles that fills your whole body with joy and lightness and reminds you how damn lucky we are to be here doing this whole thing.

Things get hard. Ugly. Tumultuous. Our minds play wicked, vicious tricks on us. But we can always come home to ourselves. As my therapist likes to say to me when I’m getting wound up or anxious, “Look at your feet. Be here. Be now.”

And it’s not lost on me that my neice said, “like a hermit crab” when it’s Cancer Season and I myself…am just a little crab.

My home is always on my back.

I looked at my niece, held back happy tears, and said, “Yes. Like a hermit crab.”

And I remembered in that moment — Oh yeah. THIS is the point.

I am filthy stinking rich — with love. And that….that IS a life.

So here I sit, the morning of my 31st trip around the sun.

The birthday texts/calls are rolling in. Normally they’d made me feel overwhelmed and anxious. But ya know what? I’m here. Presence is my present to myself.

And my heart is overflowing with love.

Honored to be a fellow human with you.

(But FRFR…please forgive me for the things I might say or do during Cancer Season. I am still an insecure little crab, after all.)