I am a coward.

By Lauren Conaway

I am a coward.

When the doctor told me I was pregnant, I was dumbfounded. The room was cold. I was vulnerable in my little robe, and his words echoed for what seemed like hours.

How could this be? I was on the pill. Every month, I called Planned Parenthood. I made sure to pick up that prescription, and I took that tiny, politicized pill religiously. 4:00 p.m. on the dot, every day. I later came to find out that I’m what’s called a “fast metabolizer,” a concept I didn’t even know existed until it was too late.

I was almost two months along. I was almost 20 years old.

My periods had always been a bit irregular so the first tip-off was the constant vomiting. I was so, so sick. From the moment I woke up to the moment I put my exhausted head on the pillow, I felt like an absolute trainwreck. Unable to keep food or even water down, I lost almost 20 pounds over the course of a month. Later, as I watched Kate Middleton grapple with hyperemesis gravidarum during her first pregnancy, I felt a pang of recognition. Is that what I was experiencing so many years ago? I’ll probably never know.

At the time, I was 3 months past a PTSD-fueled nervous breakdown and the subsequent ending of my brief and dramatic college career.

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Trauma Bonded: How writing a show about my assault helped me heal.

By Chloe Burns

“You need to address this now,” my therapist told me at a regular appointment in December of 2019, her tone more stern than I’d heard her before. “The longer you wait, the harder it will be to correct.” 

She was referring to my laundry list of trauma symptoms—a collection of hyper-vigilance, chronic insomnia, disorganization, nightmares, panic attacks, and dissociation—I had been dismissing for years until I experienced an assault at work in October of 2019  and those symptoms came crashing back. I was then unemployed, living off of my dwindling savings, and spending my days alternating between crying and watching TV with my eyes unfocused. I hadn’t been in Los Angeles for a full year, and already, I was at an impasse.

In June of 2019, I moved to LA to pursue acting and filmmaking, and the business of my life had helped me manage my existing trauma symptoms so far. Running between background acting jobs on television sets and acting classes to my various jobs left me happily exhausted at the end of the day, my mind distracted from the anxieties and hyper-vigilance that tormented me in the quiet. 

But when I was violated at work that fall, my systems shut down completely, and I could no longer lean on my lifestyle for distraction. My ability to sleep was destroyed. My body felt so numb that I frequently mistook my own heartbeat for the earthquake tremors I had experienced since moving to the coast. Anxiety flooded my veins so ferociously that I was exhausted before my day even began. Yet, rest was out of the question. Unexpected noises caused me to lurch out of my seat,  but my limbs felt so heavy I doubted my ability to defend myself against even the slightest threat. I was somehow moving one hundred miles an hour while stuck completely still. Every day that passed meant more of my savings vanished, and by the time COVID sent the nation into their homes, I knew something needed to give.

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I can’t come. What have my antidepressants done to me?

By Nicole Mitchell
Illustrations by Kelcie McKenney

I have chronic “white coat” anxiety—I am terrified of doctors and medical offices. Pair that with the somatic symptoms that come with my anxiety, my heart disease, and other illnesses I’ve had to deal with, it’s been quite a ride—especially when the pandemic hit.

After months of suffering with chronic stress hives, panic attacks, severe cleaning routines for my body and apartment, refusing to go outside, and absolutely avoiding everyone, I decided it was time to try antidepressants.

The good news? They worked! I’ve been taking them since October 2020, and I’ve only had one panic attack since then. And those stress hives? Disappeared. 

The bad news? Once I was on those meds, I couldn’t come. And I lost my sex drive, which changed the whole dynamic between my boyfriend and me.

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The Wolf

By Reese Bentzinger
Photo by Justina Kellner

Content Warning: Sexual assault.

You’re so pretty baby 
He shoots me a grin, pearly whites 
turned neon by strobe lights. I turn to the bartender 
thank her as she slides me a fireball shot. Close my fist 
make crisp dollar bills crumple like leaves. He slides over his card before I 

Whatever you want baby 
I offer a polite smile, and he gives me an unwanted hand 
that draws me over to a leather couch, his hunting ground. Precious stones claw into my skin
drawing blood as they leave his mark on my palm. He eyes my dress, 
red silk, and wants to know what I would 

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Friendship Breakups Exist, and Sometimes They Hurt Worse

By Nicole Mitchell
Photos by Justina Kellner

“I’m going to break up with my best friend after this.”

That’s what I said during my first appointment with a new therapist after she asked me what I was going to be doing after our appointment.

As a military brat, I grew up with friends in all places, so the inevitable ending and beginning of friendships was nothing new for me. But this friendship was like no other. We spent most of our time together throughout our last years of high school: time at school, sleepovers, hanging out at coffee shops, and even holidays were spent exclusively together. 

Then there came a time when we just weren’t clicking anymore. That friendship we had in high school was changing. Gradually, our relationship felt one-sided and different. We hardly ever talked, and when we did it felt as if I had to control the conversation completely. I had lost my best friend, but we were still pretending that we were okay.

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