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My 2019 Christmas Card Letter

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I retired eight years ago on my 54th birthday, and I'm about to turn 62. May I tell you a story? It's the most compelling story I have. When I was 56 I started therapy. I got fired by several therapists which is kind of funny. Therapists and members of the healing community are very gentle when they discard you. Finally I found an effective match - a gestalt practitioner who told me I had suppressed memories and scary things locked away in little boxes deep in my head. He was right. When I was 58 I realized: I'd been beaten violently through my tender young years. I'd been raped repeatedly over the course of three years by a priest. And from that trauma I formed behaviors that tended to protect me, which were effective in the short term but it turns out, aren't very effective in the long term. I have two blog posts describing it -- but it's all just grim details. None of this is unique; the classic path of an abused kid is hypervigilance, initiative, protec…

Nictophobia: on Not Committing Suicide (subtitles)

From The Altantic, a French artist's explanation of his mental health, his experience with the mental health system, and a St. Ex story that forestalls his suicide, one day at a time:
This resonates with me. I am also continuing to the next big rock. References:
The Instinct to Heal, by David Servan-Schrieber (who founded UPMC's Centre for Integrative Medicine in Pittsburgh ) Wind, Sand, and Stars by Antoine St. Exupury

Exploring Bisexuality in a Hetero Marriage

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Amanda Kohr, who is @AmandaInADress on twitter, has written one of the few articles I've seen that speak to my predicament: How to Explore Your Queerness When You Have a Straight Partner. I am grateful to see it in print. She specifically explores coming out as bisexual in a straight marriage. This is a big issue in my contemporary life. It is bigger I think than my traumas. It is certainly more immediate.When I was 26, and repressing a lot of memories, I asked a girl to marry me. We lived a cis-het life for 35 years. Because I was angry a lot we went to counseling. I got tossed out of counseling and urged to find a gestalt counselor, which I did. And I did a year of EMDR. They asked me a few questions and when I was 58 years old it all came tumbling out: gay experiences up to the age of 22, which I had repressed and stuffed down deep in a compartment and for a long time I did not remember them. There's more, and this brings up a question that offends many: between the ages…

Suicide Advice (Don't!) from a Good Friend

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I met a good friend for coffee. It had been quite a while since we met and I was happy to see him. We talked about this and that, about old friends and how they've fared, and then we talked about Me and My Issues over the last years. He asked: you were never suicidal, were you? And I said, Oh yeah. Not as persistently this year as last year. But I still have suicidal thoughts, maybe two days a week. I told him: I expect I'll always be suicidal, the way some folks are always alcoholic. I think I surprised him. He valiantly tried to show me the error of my thinking, and particularly by describing the damage my suicide would inflict on my children. So it's guilt, I asked? I'm in jail and I have to stay here because of my kids?
I tried to explain: suicide is about making the pain go away. I have pain that stays with me, that travels with me, that daily reminds me of our pairing. I could film a buddy move with my pain. I have pain that doesn't go away, that makes…

Monsters, Misfits, and Drag Queen Reading Hours

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I recently finished Dead Blondes and Bad Mothers: Monstrosity, Patriarchy, and the Fear of Female Power. Excellent book. The first two-thirds is a thorough review of historical monster-making in the service of patriarchy, and the finish is a call to arms. What is a Monster? In movies we see The Thing, or the Werewolf, or Dracula. In Frankenstein it's pretty clear that the begotten creature is a monster, but it's ambiguous as to whether the Dr. is also a monster. A monster is often a type of grotesque creature, whose appearance frightens and whose existence threatens the human world's social or moral order. A monster can also be like a human; they are commonly portrayed as the lowest class, as mutants, deformed, supernatural, and otherworldly. And so deformed children were once (and perhaps still are) monsters. But the Unicorn Puppy born with a tail on it's forehead is so cute, and doesn't threaten our notion of dogs, so they're good to stay. Animal monste…

Physical Health vs Mental Health: facilities and budgets

I had the occasion to spend two days in a Brooklyn, NY emergency room with my daughter who had mono. Then she spent a few days on a hospital ward. I was very impressed at the quality of care. Various doctors, each with different specialties, came and checked her out and ordered lab tests within their expertise. Two ER physicians, a cardiologist, an epidemiologist, etc. Although the shifts and names changed, they were always checking my adult daughter (24yo) out. I was apprehensive at being in an emergency room on a Friday night. When I was a kid in Brooklyn, ERs were dangerous places to be. People got stabbed in ER waiting rooms. Patients got into conflict with each other. This was a completely different experience. People were civil. One man, sitting with a patient, got into a loud badgering argument with the patient he was supposed to be supporting. Staff took him out of there. It was crowded with beds and patients filling every space. But it went just like it was supposed to.…

Hope, the Absence & Meaning of

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first draft published Sept 10, 2018 "You'll always have Hope!", I've been told, but I don't believe it. More specifically, I don't see a reason to believe it. Which got me to thinking: what does Hope mean?Wiki says: Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one's life or the world at large. As a verb, its definitions include: "expect with confidence" and "to cherish a desire with anticipation". Hope is a positive expectation of the future. Hope is faith in future good outcomes. Hope is no small matter; research indicates the presence of hope can affect medical outcomes; a recent Presidential campaign choose Hope as an organizing theme.
Hope. It's what makes a Subaru, a Subaru. Wait...Well, what is the opposite of Hope? dejection, hopelessness and despair; perhaps fatalism. Is hope a force that displaces despair? Does that justify entertai…

A Motherless Child

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Although I'm told I'm making progress, and I feel like I'm better in some ways, there are so many ways that I'm not better, I'm not healed, I'm not even approaching the target. I think about suicide a lot less, and when I do think about it I don't dwell on it as deeply. I don't think I'm as routinely angry as I used to be, but there are still days and things/stimuli that push me to anger. There are days when I am bereft: deprived or robbed of the possession or use of somethinglacking something needed, wanted, or expectedsuffering the death of a loved one, in this case, childhood me.I still have depression, anxiety, and PTSD. When I go low, when my WOTD is bereft, morose, I often don't know what to do or where to go or how to start. This is the music I sometimes play on those days. It touches my soul, which is not a phrase I often use.
Paul Robeson, 1926 I can sit and sing this song and let it wash over me; it does not diminish my poverty but …

Back story and A Sign of Progress

At various times in the last five years I've been in the care of several mental health professionals. R began seeing my wife and I for marriage counseling, then split us up for separate individual counseling. After a while R told me that 'you might be better served by another counselor', which I came to recognize as standard phraseology. R fired me. R had a MSW and focused on Christian counseling. Then my wife and I went to M for marriage counseling. Again, M split us up for separate counseling and then periodically saw us together. M was brilliant, had a MSW, and focused on Christian counseling. There came a time when M told be that "you might be better served by another counselor" and she fired me but she recommended a gestalt practitioner because I needed to reconnect my left and right hemispheres. I went to see X, who was a Christian counselor and wanted to make sure I was right with the Almighty before we got into my specifics. I told him I wasn't ther…