An Enlightening Interview with Local Therapist Jennifer Briere

Meet Jennifer Briere

Jennifer Briere has a warmth in her smile and a frank, open humbleness about her which I am certain, when coupled with her sense of humor, sets her clients at ease.  I’ve asked her to meet with me today because I’ve heard she recently began participating in a private practice.  The name of the practice has me intrigued:  Therapy Today Counseling and Consultation.  She tells me that the name summarizes one of the unique qualities of the practice: if you call today, and you want to talk with a therapist today, they’ll get you in.  Today.

Therapy today!  Imagine.  One of the constant complaints I hear from clients involves the amount of time it can take to get in to see a therapist for the first time.  My agency, for instance, is required to provide a client a first intake appointment time within 14 days of their first request for one.  14 days!  That’s two weeks, and that’s actually pretty good.  To see a psychiatrist?  Even longer.  So for a therapist to get a new client in to see them on the very day they contact them?  I’m impressed.  Of course, I’ve known Jennifer in various contexts for almost ten years now.  The fact that Therapy Today has hired her doesn’t surprise me, but it also impresses me.  Apparently they have good taste.

Before I forget, if you need therapy TODAY you can reach her at:

Therapy Today

2001 Abbot Rd.

East Lansing MI 48823

Phone: 517-481-2133

Now for some things I can tell you about Jennifer.  When you first meet her you might be struck by her slightly elfin appearance.  Her pixie-style red hair might accentuate that impression.  What will impress you the most on your first encounter, however, is likely to be the warmth in her smile and the depth in her gaze.  She meets your eyes, and you know she’s hearing you, even when she’s doing the talking.

As my readers may recall, one of my peculiar quirks is that I tend to mentally transform people I meet into Dungeons and Dragons type character classes.  Jennifer, I decide, would be a hybrid techno-elf wizard/healer.  It’s a formidable, if slightly apocryphal and not recognized by standard D&D rules, class.  Regardless, my gut tells me there’s a depth here, and yet I suspect she would also tell me that she’s a work-in-progress.  I like that honesty in a therapist.

Elf Fantasy Fair 2011 Edition Haarzuilens

Neither of these is actually Jennifer.  But they are elves.  Sort of.

As we talk, I grow to understand a bit where that depth comes from.  She’s not an armchair therapist: she’s had to live by her own advice.  Her route to becoming a therapist took several unexpected turns.  She initially planned to be a speech therapist, and then a sign language interpreter, she tells me with a slightly sheepish grin.  Those careers weren’t good matches for her, she tells me.  I suspect, although I can’t say for certain, that it is because neither afforded her the freedom to intervene in the suffering of others as much as she felt called to do.

A Therapist with Priorities

Like me, Jennifer has a Masters in Social Work.  Unlike me, Jennifer is a clinical supervisor in my agency.  Her work focuses on adults whereas mine focuses mostly on children and families.  When I ask her about the area she holds near and dear to her heart, she lights up.  The work she does with the LGBT community has been the most enriching and rewarding experience she has ever had, she tells me.  This is interesting to me, as I didn’t know she did work with that population, and didn’t even realize that my agency provided services focused on supporting that group.  I’m surprised even more when she tells me that there aren’t really any community support groups for the LGBT community.

Rainbow flag. Symbol of gay pride.

Pride for all.

“Surely you jest,” I protest.  “What about the well-established nefarious and shadowy-yet-ironically-bright-and-flamboyant gay agenda that aims to take over our schools, churches, and government?  I thought they were so well established at grass roots levels that there were millions of pockets all over the nation, just waiting for the rainbow clarion call to rise up and spread their gay malice across the globe!  There must be community support groups in place!”

No, she tells me, there aren’t.  She doesn’t come out and say it, but I’m left with the feeling that perhaps I’ve been watching too much Fox News lately.  Jennifer tells me that even Michigan State University has shut off its LGBT support services to everyone but students.  While this doesn’t surprise me at all, it does get me wondering.  Where do they go for help and support?

I ask her what philosophy or theoretical framework she identifies with.  Mindful Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, she tells me, and this does not surprise me.  “I find it to be the most empowering for the consumer,” she says.  “To empower them to not be dependent upon someone else to make the changes they need to.”  One typical exercise she might ask you to do would be to focus on four or five of your top core personality traits and utilize those as a basis to build upon by using your specific strengths.

This I can identify with.  My own style of therapy tends to be more cognitively based, but I like the mindfulness component she brings with it.  I mention that I am drawn to it partially due the mindfulness and CBT both being rooted in Zen Buddhism, and she nods in agreement at this.  I also suggest that I have always felt the most important work of therapy occurs during the time between therapy sessions, to which she also agrees.

Jennifer tells me that she has had to walk the walk of her professional advice in the past few years, dealing with some particularly trying and emotionally difficult events.  My ears perk up at this, as I am always looking for a Fellow Faker; somebody who is pretending to be more sane than they really are.   Pathetic, you say?  Probably.  Validating I say.  Abso-friggin-lutely.

Sadly, Jennifer doesn’t quite fit this bill.  There were times when she may have been forced to pretend, but this lady across the table from me, casually sipping her short vanilla salted caramel latte, actually appears to be sane.  Like, really sane.  This, of course, makes me suspicious; she must be a better Faker than I.  I’ll have to pay attention; I could learn from her.

“I was really forced to apply what I was teaching in group,” she tells me, talking about becoming a single mother.  She also speaks about how this impacted her professional stance as a supervisor, speaking of days where she felt she “had to get in to meetings with my game face on,” but that in accepting a stance of vulnerability, she was able to just view the people around the table as “just that; people sitting around a table.”

This is significant.  I know that bureaucracies tend to like meetings, and these meetings can be ruthless at times.  Jennifer speaks of accepting responsibility when things don’t work out, and at attempting to establish a culture of safety within her own clinical team.  My limited experience with big-wigs in supervisory positions would indicate that this is a bit of a rare stance to take.

When I ask her how she came to this stance, she refers to a Social worker by the name of Brenae Brown.  Apparently Mz. Brown has some remarkable TED talks on Vulnerability and shame.  She also, Jennifer tells me, has a blog at www.ordinarycourage.com which Jennifer is a rabid consumer of.  I’ll have to check this out, I realize as she’s talking about it, as it seems to have been pivotal in helping this woman before me navigate difficult times and tricky waters, coming out on the other side.

And she has indeed, come out on the other side.  I’ve watched from afar as she rose through the ranks at work.  I’ve heard her mentioned, always favorably, in various settings.  Recently she even won an the “Women who Inspire” award which is given by a local university for amazing women who overcome adversity, have a proven service to others, and have made a positive change for the better in the community.  While this impresses me, it doesn’t surprise me.

Something that does surprise me about her, however, is that she didn’t even mention this when I was interviewing her.   Now if I’d won that award, I’d probably get that award plaque and drill some holes in it so I could wear it on a thick gold necklace everywhere I went.  “What this old thing?” I’d say when people asked me, “oh, it’s just that a bunch of people think I’m totally awesome.  Yeah, I beat out a ton of other people for it.”   I’d wear it everywhere.   Jennifer, however, didn’t even mention it.

Barnstar trophy

I’d wear this around my neck in a heartbeat!

I even gave her the perfect opening when I asked “what are your bragging rights?”  You know what she said?  And I quote:  “I’m proud that I really do have the genuine ability to accept people for who they are.”  Wow.  That’s what I’d want in my therapist.

Jennifer, I recognize, won’t be the therapist for everyone.  If you don’t want to be supported, challenged, and gently prompted to grow in ways that will open your horizons and expand your personal success, well, you should avoid her.  For all the rest of you Fellow Fakers out there, you could do far worse than to sit down for an hour long chat with Jennifer Briere.

 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

The Perks of Living in a Fantasy

I’m not sure if it’s healthy or unhealthy. Maybe it comes from my being a child of trauma. Maybe it’s just a manifestation of an overactive imagination. Maybe I just like to amuse myself. But for whatever the reason, over the years I have developed a habit of secretly transforming people I meet into Dungeons and Dragons type characters. There. I’ve said it. (Huge sigh of relief.) Wow. Feels good to get that skeleton out of the closet.

My childhood role models.

This tendency probably goes back to my childhood Saturday mornings when I sat watching the cartoon on television. You remember? Several kids get transported into the world of Dungeons and Dragons where they are transformed into various characters with super-charged gear? Let’s see, there was a brave Archer, a cowardly Cavalier, a whiny little Barbarian and his protective sister-turned-thief,  a lame, anxious and incompetent Wizard, and a hot Acrobat babe. They were befriended by a unicorn colt, named…wait for it…. “Uni” and every episode they encountered the Dungeon Master, who was a short little bald and gnomish guy who spouted off moral platitudes and other tidbits of wisdom.  The whole series was about their trying to get back to our world.  You get a Butterfinger Award if you can tell me who the main bad guy was on the show without looking it up online. (Hint: one of her heads is in the pic above).

The Unlikely Benefits of Dungeons and Dragons in Adolescence

My love of D&D didn’t stop there. It began spreading its roots further in my adolescence. At the time when other more socially adept kids were drinking booze, flirting, getting laid, and developing other important life skills, I was busy rolling up character sheets, designing castle defenses, and figuring out the budgetary allowance of my level 28 Elven Warlord, Silverwing. (It takes more platinum pieces to pay the requisite henchmen and minions than you’d think.)

You might think that this would cause problems for my social life development in college, but not so! I soon found a group of guys almost lamer than me, and we were soon living la vida loca staying up until 4am raiding various nefarious bad-guy dens. All from the safety of our hermetically sealed dorm room, and all the action occurring within our imaginations. No screens. No videos or keyboards required. Granted, I wasn’t getting laid, but it was like, the next best thing, right? Right?

Okay, maybe not.

I first noticed my tendency to group people into D&D classes in college. At the time I lived in an apartment building slightly off campus but filled with students. I had the good fortune to live directly across, above, and under a group of neanderthals who collectively passed for the school football team.

Oh, yeah, backstory: I was a security guard for the apartment complex at the time, and my job primarily consisted of shutting down parties. It made me quite popular, as you can imagine. It was a perfect match for me at the time: I had no life, didn’t have any wild fun, and didn’t see why anybody else should be having any fun either. The reader may see the oncoming train wreck approaching.

After another guard shut a party down one night, I was visited, forcibly visited, by several of these  irate football-playing-disguised australopithecus’s who ambushed me in the hallway. They were not happy, to say the least. They wanted their party.  In this particular trauma-inducing moment, I didn’t have the sense or ability to call for help, and there was no way the police would have arrived in time to save what few good looks I had at the time. My choices were trying to duke it out with these brutes, bust through their offensive line to escape, or to charm them. I doubted the ability of my meagre brawn to solve this problem.

I was preparing to die.  Then, something wonderfully weird happened.

I asked myself, WWJD?  “What would Jordak, (my smooth talking, charismatic charlatan thief character) do?”  The answer came to me swiftly.  I proceeded to fast-talk like my life depended on it, which looking back, it probably did.

Delusional Dissociation to the Rescue!

In the brief moments before the first fists would have flown, I saw this group transformed before my eyes. No longer were they cavemen. They weren’t even football players. Nope. They became orcs. Big, smelly orcs.

Gorbag in The Lord of the Rings: The Return of...

The leader looked eerily like this guy.  This guy smelled better, though.

To this day, in my mind’s eye, they remain orcs. I know for a fact I should have been pummelled into oblivion that night. There was no way I could have talked down a group of drunken, angry football players. He’d have been crushed, smushed, and flattened into a pancake by that group no questions asked.

But that night something strange happened.  Jordak the Grey Ghost took over for me. He didn’t cringe or cower. He smiled. He explained sympathetically that he was angry about the party being shut down also, and could totally understand their ire. He was indignant as well. How dare the apartment director step in and intrude on their social lives?

Jordak fabricated a security guard on the spot, complete with very distinguishing features so that none of the other guards could be mistaken for him, and mentioned that he was probably out fishing for catfish down by the river on the opposite side of campus at that very hour. There happened to be a path they could take that cut through the swamp to get there. Yes, they’d need flashlights. And watch out for the mosquitoes! Soon those drunk angry football playing orcs were thanking me, high-fiving me, and charging out the door, sans bug repellant, in the middle of the night, angrily heading off to the deep woods on a wild goose chase, looking for somebody who didn’t exist. I hope they never found him, and I hope they spent a long, fruitless night searching for him in the thick mosquito infested swamp I sent them through.

This strategy of coping with difficult moments has followed me through the years, and now I quickly morph people I know into classes. I work with a variety of types. There are more than a few cleric/healers, which is no surprise, given my profession of social work. There are also several Paladin types that are out to save the world; again a type frequently called to this profession. But I also work with a few more interesting and slightly esoteric types. There’s a gnomish tinkerer, a dryad tree-hugging bard, a backroom brawler, and a couple wizardly bookish types.

Sometimes its hard not to snicker as the fur-clad barbarian strides down the hall. Sometimes I have to remind myself that the wizard does not, in fact, read minds and curse people with boils, so I don’t have to duck into my office and close the door when she rounds the corner.  I thoroughly enjoy watching some of the interactions between the foul-mouthed-jester and the uptight bishop.  But mostly, I keep it in check and enjoy the scenarios which arise.

Jester-TheCourtFool

There are never enough jesters around, if you ask me.

I’ve gotten pretty good at determining their alignment as well, which, if you are sadly unfamiliar with D&D, basically refers to their moral code. Not surprisingly, most of my co-workers in the Social Work profession tend to be of Good alignment. Some are Lawful Good, some Neutral Good, and some, like me, tend towards Chaotic Good. I find it interesting when I’ve talked with some other co-workers about this, and they, not realizing I’m serious, let slip whom they feel to be good and whom they label as evil. Typically their labels stem back to office politics which I try pretty fervently to avoid.

So, I ask you, is this fantasizing tendency indicative of a schizoaffective personality disorder with delusional thought processes responding to trauma induced memories? When I faced that group of murderous orcs alone in the hallway did I slip into a dual identity?  Or is this a dorky imagination having fun? You’ll have to be the judge, I guess. I can tell you that these days I am less Jordak than I used to be. I’m a bit softer. I’m sadly not quite so quick of wit as he once was. I’m certainly less charismatic, but what I’ve lost out on in wit and charm, perhaps, just perhaps, I’ve made up for in wisdom. Or maybe not. Maybe I’m just faking it.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I hear my wife, the Lustful Tavern Wench/Elven Princess, calling.  Apparently my kids, the Dream-Walker and the Imp, need some real life attention.

Enhanced by Zemanta

Is Your Sleep Killing You?

Dear Fellow Faker,

This war is killing me. Every morning I wage a losing battle with an insurgency in my homeland. They hold all the advantages. They outnumber me. They are merciless, attacking when I am at my weakest. And they are cunning and crafty. They utilize guerrilla warfare tactics and I never know the hour in which they will strike.  And that is the worst part of it.  I never know.

I’m talking, of course, about sleep.  Most of us know how important sleep is.  This is really no surprise to anyone accept maybe toddlers and college students.  The National Sleep Foundation says we need a good 7 to 9 hours of sleep every night.  A decrease in our sleep can lead to a decrease in cognitive abilities, make us grumpy, grouchy, and irritable, slow our reaction speed, lower our stress tolerance, and even compromise our immune system. We all know that, right? I mean really, how many of us are able to leap out of bed in the morning and solve advanced physics problems?  I personally make it a point to never tackle them until after a few cups of coffee at least.

How Does Sleep Deprivation Affect You?

What may not be quite as well known, however, is what an impact a lack of sleep can have on our health.

Main health effects of sleep deprivation (See ...

Main health effects of sleep deprivation (See Wikipedia:Sleep deprivation). (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I’m talking about every-day-joe type of sleep deprivation.  You know, the “stay-up-too-late reading because you just had to know if the maid was really a ninja assassin” type of deprivation that shaves an hour off your sleep bank.  The get-up-in-the-middle-of-the-night-to-let-the-dog-out type of deprivation that only takes ten minutes, but interrupts your REM cycles and leaves you sluggish the next day.

Young Couple Sleeping

A good soldier sleeps when she can.  (Photo credit: epSos.de)

Or, in my case, a perpetual, on-going life as a parent, where every night I am deprived of the sleep I really need.
Part of the problem with battling this enemy is that there is no easily identifiable leader. The foes are clear.  There’s the kids, the wife, and the dogs. And they each present with their own unique challenges. You might think that the wife, being a figure of authority, would be the natural choice, but she is, in fact, actually an ally, albeit an uneasy and unreliable one; sometimes foe and sometimes friend. At the first sign of attack she follows the “every wife for herself!” strategy. Most mornings she has awoken and beaten a hasty retreat from the battlefield before the attacks begin in earnest, leaving me to fend for myself. Traitor.

I don’t remember the last time I felt I actually had a good night sleep.  Truly.  Maybe when my wife stole the kids and escaped to Florida for Spring Break, leaving me home alone for the week.  Maybe.  But part of me still wonders if that was just some sort of sick and perverted psychologically induced fantasy of five nights of sound rest.  The very idea seems improbable, if not impossible to me.

It’s having an impact on me.  No doubt.  I’m grouchy, tired, and hardly able to hold my head up at work after a night of fending off the kids.  Sleep and lack of sleep both directly affect mood.  Not only that, but it’s affecting my health in ways that I didn’t even realize until I started writing this post.  As if being tired wasn’t enough to make me depressed, now I learn that my consistent sleep deprivation is going to actually kill me sooner.  It’s just not fair.

Just last week,  researchers learned that decreased sleep harms our blood vessels and our breathing control.  The month before that a study showed that sleep apnea disorder is associated with a variety of behavioral problems.  Essentially they’re saying that there are some really scary correlations between childhood sleep disorder and ADHD type behaviors.  Seems counter-intuitive to me, but then again, I’m a just a child therapist, not a sleepologist. (I am, however, open to any job offers in that field, assuming I’m the one that does the sleeping.)There are usually a few skirmishes throughout the night. Some nights it’s the youngest, who is the stealthiest, that sneaks in at 2am. She’s so good I’m never sure of the exact hour. Often I am unaware of her clandestine operations until I’m awoken at 3 or 4, groggy, half awake, and too tired to respond, so I simply lie there, morale depleted, waiting for reinforcements that never arrive.  She is truly the special forces of sleep disruption.  Other nights its the older one that storms in, launching through the air like mortar fire and exploding on the bed, twitching, jerking, and flailing her limbs about until I am beaten into submission and forced to painfully drag myself out of bed and carry her back to her room.

Is sleep really that important?

It wouldn’t be so bad if it wasn’t every night.  Every. Single. Night.  And this is what makes it hard.  One of the best things you can do to nurture your REM cycles.  Some might tell me to quit my whining.  What’s so important about predictability and sleep?  Hmmm.  Well, I already talked about the benefits of sleep on mood, cognition, energy, and stress management.  Oh yeah, and you die sooner if you don’t get adequate sleep.  Great.  Well, if that’s not enough, how about this tidbit: SRI International just shared that regular bedtimes in preschoolers improves language, reading, and math skills.  Regular bedtimes can make it easier to fall asleep, thus assuring that you get more of that sweet and tasty Morpheus-Juice at night.

My wife and I have developed different strategies in dealing with this insurgency. She takes more of a “dig in and hide in your foxhole” tactic where she simply curls up and erects defenses by sticking her elbows out, forcing the intruder onto my territory of the bed. I follow a “shock and awe” strategy. I react more rapidly, but at greater cost, for I mobilize and respond with asynchronous force, carrying her back to her bed and dumping her there, then stumbling blindly back through the house to bed, fortunate if I don’t trip over errant shoes, dolls, or yesterday’s jeans which I’ve left strewn about the room like echoes and casualties. The shock is when the oldest first lands on me at 4 a.m. usually skewering me in the stomach or more sensitive areas.  The awe is when I groan “Aw, no. Not again.”

The girls don’t seem to  realize the cost they pay until the morning, when I finally rouse and rally myself, but they do regret it when I begin to storm and roar about, slamming cupboard doors and growling my way through their breakfasts, equally short on both temper and wit.  Oh sure.  They regret it then, but their spirits are indomitable, their energy indefatigable, and their giggles insurmountable.

The cost of this lack of sleep to me, however is far more pronounced.  I pay it in spades;  a marked depletion in focus, concentration, energy, and productivity. My moods suffer.  I have come to believe that you never really know what you can accomplish on four hours of sleep a night until you’ve made it through the Navy SEALS Hell week or become a parent.  I keep looking around for the bell to ring out of this familial sleep-depriving hell, but I suspect my wife keeps moving it on me.  She’s no dummy.

Navy SEAL training

Navy SEAL Hell Week.  (Notice the napper) (Photo credit: Rennett Stowe)

Each morning I lay in bed wondering if their is any way I can possibly squeeze ten more minutes of sleep out of the dawn’s early light.  This morning, for instance, after the three midnight skirmishes I weathered, I was forced to deal with the oldest at 5:30.  After I sent her packing, the youngest at sneaked in at 5:50.  I sparred with her a bit, and, finally victorious after ten minutes of half-hearted arguing, I convinced her to go back to her room by promising cake for breakfast.

The wife was gone by 6:20, and the sound of the garage door closing sent the oldest into a running, wailing panic through the house hoping against hope to say goodbye to mama, which then set off the dogs, who knocked over the barricade at the base of the stairs, charged up the stairs and leaped onto the bed, landing on my face.  Maybe not so bad if they were Pekapoos, but remember that these are 65 pound boxers that I have.  After cursing and swearing them into submission, I kicked them out and the wife re-emerged, chuckling evilly at me, having forgotten some files for work.  Although she took pity on me and locked the dogs back up, the the ruckus had summoned the little one again, and there was no sending her back to bed this time. I raised the white flag.  I was defeated.

Supposedly there are things you can do to modify your child’s sleep behaviors.  Supposedly there are some voodoo hocus pocus tricks that get them to stay in bed.  I’ve tried them.  I’ve tried them all.  My children remain impervious to all but the chocolate cake bribe.

German chocolate cake from a bakery

The Infamous German chocolate sleep bribe cake.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

 

I have tried following the traditional rules of engagement. Setting parameters of limits, invoking curfews, and establishing the protocols of consequence. To no avail. I never know what dreams may come upon the eldest in the middle of the night, driving her to assault my slumbers with a bombardment of elbows, knees, arms, and feet. I cannot predict when the youngest will awaken in a morass of encopresis which requires a rapid tactical parental mobilization. It matters not how early or late I lay down for shut eye. It is a constant threat which leaves me uneasy and restless.I fear I am close to surrender. I may be forced to change my own policies to adapt to this treacherous and shifting battlefield. Any suggestions you may have, any aid or comfort you may offer would be most welcome, for now I feel it to be my darkest hour.

If you have any great tips for keeping those kids in their beds, please!  Share them!  I need every strategy you can come up with!

Until then, I remain your sincerest correspondent,

Faking Sane.

 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

The Painful Uncertainties of Being Daddy

Every morning I hang out at the bus stop with the kids from the neighborhood and wait with them until the bus rolls around the corner. My two little ones are usually with me, although sometimes it’s just the oldest as the youngest doesn’t ride the bus yet. She likes to pretend she does though, so she loads up her backpack with stuffed animals and pulls it along behind her whether it likes it or not. I sometimes wonder what they would do if I let her just hop on and go to school with her sister. I suspect it would go poorly for me. On my good parenting days, I stand there with my coffee cup in hand,

English: A photo of a cup of coffee. Esperanto...

My coffee is never so tidy.

pretending to be funnier than I actually am, and the kids don’t see through me. They’re a great audience. They laugh in all the right places, and beg for more of the show. It’s a good way to start the day, since I know I won’t see another audience like that again until tomorrow morning.

The kids have changed in the past two years. Two neighbor kids moved, which was a bummer because they were my oldest’s best friends. (Oh! The Drama! The Tears!) It’s slightly ironic, because the bus stop was moved in front of their house at their mother’s request. (It had been on a busy road down the street before.) Then our neighbors moved, but the bus stop remained, and now the people that moved in have no kids. I don’t think they knew about the bus stop in their driveway before they bought the house. I wonder what they think about it.

So, two kids disappear in a puff of U-Haul smoke. But I’m told that Universe likes balance, and sure enough, two new ones start showing up regularly.  Then three more moved in. So on any given morning I’m standing there with five to seven kids. I’m the only adult.

I’m the only adult.  I wonder about that. What do my neighbors think of me, an adult male, being out there every morning waiting with the kids?  Aren’t they a bit curious?  I’d want to know who the creepy laughing guy hanging around my girls every morning was.  I’d be more than just a bit curious, guaranteed.

The kids themselves are great. And you can tell that they like having an adult there.  Maybe they need one, maybe they don’t; but they sure like having one there.  You can tell.

As for me, I’m getting to know what they like, what they don’t, what their dreams and goals in life are and aren’t. I get snippets of their home life. One of them lets drop that her parents “take her to talk to a lady every week” which lets me know that her parents have her in therapy, which is great, cuz she is lovely but has some really grouchy mornings where I’m glad I’m bigger and faster than her.  It’s good to know I can make a quick get-away if needed.   Another has parents that fight and argue a lot. One kid tells me he wants to throw grenades out into the street. Hmmm. Haven’t figured him out yet, other than he’s a rough and tumble sort who looks like he’s going to grow up to be a backroom brawler.  He’s already got the squashed nose for it.

The cynical side of me wonders if the neighbors think I’m a pedophile grooming new victims. That may just be my issues of social anxiety and  transference showing up, I know, but it persists.  One of their mothers leans out the door to her house most mornings to watch. She’s sort of half a person; torso and head. Her girls are always down playing with mine. I wonder, is she watching because she doesn’t trust me? Or is she just wanting to make sure her child gets off all right?

I will probably never know; Torso-mom doesn’t come out to join us, just gives us a half wave. Nor do any other parents, usually. Then I wonder, why? Why am I the only adult out here? There’s five sets of parents that could be out here at the bus stop. Why am I the only one out here? Am I paranoid? Are they neglectful? Do they just not care about all the horrible things that could happen while their kids are waiting for the bus?  Are they unaware? Questions questions.

Torso of Summer (Torse de l'Ete)

Torso-Mom: Always taking things for granite.

Part of the reason I personally have decided to see my oldest off every day is because she likes it. She likes having the attention of being the one with “her daddy” out there with her. Part of the reason is slightly selfish and “helicopter-parentish”of me; I like to be there to help integrate her with the group and smooth over any social-awkwardness she may present with, and believe me, she presents with a colorful history of it. Today, for instance, I had to explain who “Princess Massage” was. Nothing like explaining a fabricated super-powered imaginary princess-avatar with a name like that to a bunch of elementary kids. But you know what? They were totally accepting.  Some of them had imaginary friends, and while that isn’t quite the same thing as Princess Massage, they still got it. I just hope I don’t get any calls tonight from parents asking me why I was talking to their kids about massages.

Another reason I like to be out there is that I also like to make sure any possible conflicts are smoothed out. (So far the biggest one was a case of line cutting and “who was there first” and look-out! Hell hath no fury like a first grader shorn of her rightful place in line!) Oh, the drama! It was bad. I’m not sure Torso-Mom could have handled it, but being the highly trained child therapist that I am,  I managed it with a minimum amount of yelling and screaming.  The kids were pretty calm about it also.

But the biggest reason I stay out there every morning, a deeper part that I know is rooted in shadows and anxiety and fears that I try not to pull out to examine too often, is that I want to protect her. I want to be there to ensure that some sicko in a white van doesn’t come speeding down the street and shriek to a halt, whip open the door, pull my little girl inside and tear off.  Every parents’ worst nightmare, I’m sure, but when that white van door slides open, I’m going to do my best to be standing there waiting.

Does that happen? I suppose. I mean, media certainly capitalizes on those incidents.  But is it likely to happen to my daughter? On my street? To the best of my knowledge it has never happened before in my town. But then again, Sandyhook had never happened either. Try telling that to those parents and see how much comfort it brings them.

My heart is still breaking over Sandyhook. It was only a few months ago, I know, but it feels like years.  Just this year, on Christian Bale’s dark night, a theater was gunned apart.  Then came Sandyhook and we all died a little.  Then Boston blew up and was promptly shut down. What’s going to happen next? I mean, history moves, and quickly at that. We all know it’s coming. It’s just a matter of what, where, when, and whose kids are going to die next.  We all know it.  We just pretend like we don’t, as if avoiding the thought is some sort of mystical talismanic protection.   But magic holds little sway in the age of hard science, Fellow Fakers.  There’s no bullet proof totems on the market these days, and anyone selling you Ghost Dances is a fraud.

Ghost Dance at Pine Ridge.

Ghost dance.  Sadly, not bullet-proof.

The world was scary enough before I had kids. Now that I have kids, I find their presence in my life has opened the door to all sorts of fears I’d previously reserved for childhood me.  Muggers.  Rapists.  Kidnappers.  Nuclear wars.  Standard kid fears, I know.  Now, all those bad things I feared as a child and laid to rest as I aged, have come back with a vengeance. And they’re pissed. They’re pissed that I set them aside. They want my attention. They want it now, and by gum, they’ve got it.

So what’s a guy to do? How’s a mentally well-adjusted guy supposed to handle it when parental fears start to overwhelm?  I ask this because I know how I handle it.  And I know I’m not particularly well-adjusted.  I’m curious.   I mean, intellectually I get that  there is nothing I can do to prevent a Sandyhook from happening in my daughter’s school.  I’ve been the annoying parent that called the principal.  I’ve asked about their safety procedures.  I found out that Sandyhook had even better security protocols in place.  Isn’t that reassuring?

So, every morning  I stand there, depleted

Coffee cup

Depleted indeed.

cup of lukewarm java in hand, and I watch that bus roll off down the road, carrying my oldest girl away with utmost faith that it will bring her back later that afternoon. Just like millions of other parents across America.  And, despite my fears and hyperactive imagination, I DO have faith that it will bring her back.  In the face of insufferable uncertainty, there is no other choice left but that of faith.

I can’t hover over her, regardless of how much I want to. I can’t rant and rail at my neighborhood parents who sit back obliviously at their breakfast tables leaving me to oversee the orderly line up rituals at the bus stop. (Tried that: got as far as the door before my wife hauled me back.) I know that all the potential manifestations of my suppressed neurotic fears are statistically incredibly unlikely to come into being. But you know what? That doesn’t help.

I still worry. And I don’t see that changing.

Until next time, I guess I’ll just keep Faking It.

 

 

Enhanced by Zemanta

The Business of Creation

First of all I want to say thanks to the encouraging messages I’ve been getting from my readers.  Keep in mind you can post in the comments as well as emailing me!  I haven’t been posting as much as I’d like to because I’ve been putting a lot of time and energy into a new product I’m creating that I’m really excited about.  I’m not sure when it will be ready for launch, but if I keep up the steam, it should be ready later this spring.  Then it’s simply a matter of figuring out the marketing for it.  How do I get the words of this out to people who need it?

That’s what’s most daunting to me, and what’s most exciting. See, I know this is going to be a powerful resource for people. I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that the materials I am putting together are going to be valuable, helpful, educational, and provide a great deal of relief to suffering people.  That excites me.

Without boring you with too many details, I’ll just say that I’m building on my Miscarriage and Couples book.  You may have noticed that I’ve taken it off the site, and have taken it down from Amazon.  There’s a reason for that.  It was selling, some, but I have a better use for it in mind. I’ve revised it, cleaned it up and re-edited it, and I’ll be including it in the package I make available to people.

The Energy of Creating

Anyway, I’ll talk more on that later on.  Suffice to say that I’ve been busy.  Super busy.  And that’s a good thing.  My brain feels like it’s sparking and firing and fully alive.

Roasted coffee beans Español: Granos de café t...

Can’t you see all that beautiful potential! (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

It’s almost, ALMOST better than coffee. It’s also overwhelming. There’s a lot that goes into content creation and production that I never dreamed of even thinking about.  There’s a process of taking an idea from concept to product.  It’s become a real eye-opener to me.

I’ve always been an idea guy. I love the initial stages where the ideas are cropping up, the project is so full of untapped possibilities and amorphous shape, where it could start to look like anything, anything!   There’s energy in the brainstorming phase.  I see it in my fiction writing as well.  But, just like writing a novel, after those ideas have bubbled, brewed, and fermented, they need to coalesce and start to take on structure, form and shape.

I love that phase also, because this is where you start to see things actualize.  You start to see things forming and shaping up, almost like throwing pottery on a spinning wheel,

A man shapes pottery as it turns on a wheel. (...

I like my pottery like I like my coffee.  Beautiful and dirty. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

molding it and letting your fingers play about with the textures.  I’m using mind-maps, organizers, and outline apps in ways I never have before.  I’m researching software and learning to use it, and that’s part of the learning curve as well. I like that, because they’re kind of gadgety on the ipad, and I dig the mental playground they afford.

After the structure is planned out, after things start to take shape, that’s when I start to hit some of the first roadblocks. I’ve been with the project long enough at this point that some of the initial excitement has worn off.  Some of it.  Not much, but I can tell it’s starting to feel a little bit like work instead of play. And that’s a good thing, I think. This is the point where I start to realize that not only is it work, but it’s work that I love.  And I start to think that if I can make this happen, if I can find a way to actualize this into a product, then that would be sort of a dream fulfillment.

It’s strange to me that it’s a project that focuses on miscarriage and pregnancy loss.  It’s an unlikely passion for me.  But it’s a subject that stems from my marriage, our experience, my work as a therapist, and my passion of writing.  So there’s energy there to sustain it.  And I know.  I know it’s going to help people.

Marketing is not Just a Four Letter Word

I just have to find a way to get it out there to them.  Which brings me to product availability, testing, marketing, and then -ugh- sales.  Sigh. More roadblocks.  These are intimidating and a bit scary to me, because I really have very little experience in these areas.  In fact, aside from researching them, I have NO experience at it.  I’m good at coming up with ideas.  I’m good at getting things started.  I know how to do that.  I’ve written several books, so I understand the discipline it takes to follow through.  But this project is different.  And when it comes to the next stages in project/content development, I’m a total newbie.

So I research.  I probably don’t have the most efficient methods.  I browse reddit, looking for subreddits that hit my topic.  I find the forums.  I’ve even bought into some internet marketing materials, which I’ve found surprisingly helpful, as I assumed I was going to get scammed.  It’s been enlightening.  I walk and think and dream a bit.  Then I focus again.

Reddit Sticker

Reddit FTW! (Photo credit: cambodia4kidsorg)

There’s something that’s always felt kind of slimy to me about sales and marketing, but lately, as I’ve been thinking about making this program available to people, I’ve realized that it’s really needed.   It’s shaping up to be a great product, but it could be the best product in the world and totally useless if nobody sees it.  I’m beginning to think I’m going to need a partner to help develop the delivery system.  That would have been scary at one time.  Now it’s exciting as well as scary.

Why am I doing this?

When my wife and I went through the miscarriages we went through, it really felt like our world was falling apart.  I think we each wondered at various times if we were going to survive the aftermath as a couple.  And sometimes, it felt like it was just going to kill us.  Our lives would have been greatly improved, improved in ways I could never have imagined back then, if someone had just handed us this package in the hospital when we lost the baby.  It would have helped us navigate through so much pain, confusion, and conflicts.  It would have made a real, measurable, tangible difference.

Which is why I’m doing it.  So, if I’m not posting as frequently, please understand that I’m still in the game here, I’ve just been sidetracked a bit by a project that needs to be done.  This blog is for my, and hopefully your, enjoyment.  The project, however, is for suffering couples who really need it.  I feel compelled to do this.  So wish me luck, Fellow Fakers.  I’ll keep ya posted.

Recognizing Creativity’s Roadblocks

 

Don’t You Feel Like You Should Be Creating Something?

 

Repeat after me: “I am creative, d@mnit!!”

How many times have you been there?  You’ve got that deep-down feeling like you should be working on a creative project, but something is keeping you from doing so.  You know what I mean.  A part of you recognizes that you need to write, draw, paint, twist, bend, shape, fuse, or otherwise just plain make something, but  you just can’t bring yourself to do so?  Something is holding you back.  Something is in the way.  Some roadblock in your mental landscape is barring the path.  What do you do?

I find that urge to create to be one of the most interesting parts of being human.  I like almost everything about it.  I like the process. I like thinking about it. I like the energy within it.  I like the products that come from it. But what is it that makes us want to create things? From art and poetry to computer code and dinner, from gourmet coffees and skyscrapers to fishing lures and social policy, people love to create. We love to make things. But why?

Part of me thinks that it shouldn’t be surprising: we’re born this way. Seriously. Look at kids. Give them a small can of play dough and a stick and they’re busy creating away for hours.  Buttons become magic tokens. Empty boxes are transformed into space ships. Sandboxes become allegorical personal universes. I challenge you to look at the way a child’s imagination fabricates, guides, and defines her play and then tell me you honestly don’t believe that we are all born creative beings.

One of my favorite quotes is by Einstein, where he states “Perhaps creativity is just intelligence having fun.”  Whenever I feel dumb, I just go squish two different colors of play-doh together and keep good ole’ Albert in mind.  I repeat over and over again as I mash those colors into vague shape “See how smart I am, Ma?  See how smart I am? I am smart, Ma!  I am!”  Of course, that may be signs of some sort of mother issue I have.

English: Albert Einstein Français : portrait d...

“The Imagination Abides, Dude.” (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Mother issues aside, as humans we can’t help but create things.  It’s who we are.  We create.

Our creation manifests in innumerable myriad manners.  Myself,  I don’t claim to be a great writer, but I do see myself as a writer. I identify myself as one. And there’s a deeply ingrained part of me that feels like I should be writing. I never feel more fully alive than when I am doing so. During those periods of time where I am actively engaged in the creative process which writing requires, my brain cells fire faster, my mood is happier, and my outlook is brighter. Women want to be with me, men want to be me, and rainbow unicorns want to frolic in my back yard. Life is good.  When I’m writing, at least.

When I’m not, though?  When I haven’t been writing or creating much of anything at all? The creative ball of energy within feels like it just shrivels up into a lonesome desiccated husk rattling about the dusty, echoing confines of my otherwise pathetic and empty shell of a being.  Man, I prefer the unicorns.

And let’s be honest, who wouldn’t prefer the unicorns?  We all have an inner artistic sense.  Everyone. From the hardest con to the softest mom, from Mozart to Clinton, heck, even Hitler was a postcard artist before he became a tyrannical monster. And I think we’d all agree that if he had focused on his art the way he focused on his later endeavors the world would be a much better place today.

Scottsturgis unicorn

Okay, maybe this guy wouldn’t.  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Some people will deny it.  They don’t see themselves as artistic.  I say “liar liar pants on fire!”  They may think they don’t have art in the genes, but really that just means they haven’t found the form in which their creativity manifests yet.  They haven’t identified it as being creative expression.  This tells me that either A) they haven’t tried finding it, or B) they haven’t identified their particular avenue of creativity.

It’s an inherent part of human nature.  We need to create.  Yet, simultaneously, we can’t always be creating.

I have a hard time accepting that.  It doesn’t seem fair, does it.

Which brings me to roadblocks.

 Roadblocks, Schmoadblocks!

One of my personal problems with my creative life is that I get stuck at roadblocks. These are the blockades, barricades, or other barriers which bar our creative process. They come at us in differing manifestations, but  everyone runs up against them at some point.  Some of us just happen to beat our heads against them more frequently than others do. I think I’m one of those frequent head-smackers. I’m not sure why it is, but I tend to hit a lot of roadblocks when it comes to creative expression.

If you are a mindful, introspective, and reflective sort, you learn to anticipate roadblocks over time. If you are a mentally healthy individual you probably have learned what your roadblocks are, when and where they are most likely to crop up, and how to make good choices about what to do when you encounter them.

Blank map of the major places visited by the M...

The Official Road Map to Happiness. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

You might even have a map and several alternative routes planned out in advance. Well. Good on you, mentally healthy navigator!

For the rest of us who are barely getting by at faking sane, it’s not so simple. See, when you encounter a roadblock, you are forced to make a choice. As you draw closer to the roadblock your choices become more limited.  Wait too long to make a decision and sometimes you just plain get stuck. At that point you have to look at your options.

You can:

  • Turn around and search for an alternate route that will let you get to where you want to go.  (This is the best choice, in my opinion.)
  •  You can also try and move the road block itself, maybe see if you can just open a space wide enough to slip on through.  This sometimes works, but you run the risk of scratching up the vehicle in the process. 
  •  If you have the drive, momentum and off-road capability, you might just haul ass down into the ditch and bypass the roadblock entirely, gleefully giving it the finger as you leave flying trails of mud in your wake.  That may be the most fun option, actually, but my experience with ditches and off-roading has been a treacherous one that usually results in me getting stuck chin-high in the mud. 
  • Or, lastly, you can choose to just sit there, waiting, hoping that the roadblock, for whatever reason, goes away.  I am guilty of this one Waaaaay too often.

Start with “I’m Stuck.”

Sometimes it takes a while for me to even realize that I am stuck. Every day life has a way of distracting us from the inner work of creativity.  After a while though, vague feelings of impatience begin to crystallize into frustration, which gives way to the eventual realization that I am stuck.

I sit there bemoaning the fact that I am stuck.  I sit there, shaking my fist at the stars, cursing the fates that have dropped the roadblock before me.  Years of thumb-wrestling depression have made me very good at getting stuck in a self-defeating cycle of self-doubt and negative thoughts.  Typically, these thoughts follow a predictable pattern.  “My writing’s not good enough.  It will never amount to anything.  It’s a waste of time.  Nobody’s going to want to read it. You’ll never be published, so what’s the point?  Go back to bed loser.”  Ah, the joys of an inadequacy complex coupled with depressive tendencies.

Often these thoughts link together and form into a heavy duty iron chain of a roadblock that I have to deal with.  It becomes even more complicated for me because  self-doubt is a normal part of the writing process.  Writers constantly doubt the quality of their work.  They often teeter-totter between crippling self-doubt and elated self-confidence. For many writers, this is part of the work; part of the calling. But for me, these questions and periods of self-doubt make faking sane infinitely more difficult, because I have to identify what part of them is rooted in depression, and what part of them lies in the normal, doubtful ambiguity of the creation process.  What starts as classical artistic uncertainty easily morphs into classic negative thinking.

Sam Smith, left thumb bent further back than n...

This thumb.  I ask you: Blessing or curse?  (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

And that, unfortunately, tends to mean my thumb is going to get pinned down by depression, big time.  And honestly, it’s hard to write when you don’t have the use of your thumb.  It’s that Space key.  Gets me every time.

 

 

Molly Tinsley recently did a fantastic guest post over at Studio Moms that focused on dealing with the down times of the creativity process.  It’s a great article, and it generated a lot of good conversation in the comments. I recommend giving it a read if you struggle with roadblocks in your own creativity.

So I ask you Fellow Fakers and Friendly Readers, what are the most common roadblocks you encounter?  How do you deal with them?

The Hidden Costs of Saving the World

Psychoanalysis

Therapy: It can feel weird.  (Photo credit: Carlos Ferrer)

When I was starting out my graduate classes in Social Work there was an introductory conference for the students. Sort of like a boot camp for all us emotionally sensitive wanna-be saviors, except instead of push-ups in the mud while drill instructors were screaming at you we had soft music, smiling faces, coffee, rolls, and lots of nervous laughter.  Oh, and topics. All sorts of touchy-feely topics.  Social workers love that shit.

One of those topics was self-care and burn out. They talked a lot about how hard the field could be. They talked about the  importance of making sure you are tending to your own needs. “You can’t help others if you can’t help yourselves,” they said.

While they talked at great length about the toll the job can take on you. I doubt any of us had a clue what they were really saying.  Seriously. Until you start doing the work of tending to people’s thoughts and feelings, until you’ve been up to your elbows in the emotional dirt and manure of the work in the field, there is no way you can really know what it’s going to do to you.

I sat there looking around me thinking “well, sure, the rest of these suckers here need this, but not me. I’m mentally fit as a fiddle. I’m grounded and stable. I got it going on, Baby-Doll, and I’m on fire. After the things I’ve been through there’s nothing this field can throw at me that I can’t take.”

“You Fool!”

I wish someone would have slapped me and said: “You Fool!” Come to think of it, I wish they would have slapped me twice.

Mrs. Jester (the better half)

“This hat is you,” they said.  “It’ll turn heads,” they said. (Photo credit: Will Montague)

Cuz I was a fool. An ignorant, arrogant Fool of a Took.  I had no idea what I was really walking into.

Here’s the thing. To really be able to do this job, you can’t just go into it passively and think you’re going to be alright. You can’t think “I’ll be fine. Things will work out. Sure, it will be tough, but it will be life as usual.” You have to have a mindfully planned system of self-maintenance in place. Because there are times when you are going to feel like you are going crazy. Quite literally, stark-raving loony-bin madcap nutso type crazy.  (That’s another clinical diagnosis I suggested to the APA, by the way.)  Yeah, still waiting to hear back on that one.

If you decide to go down the road of becoming a therapist, and if you have half a heart, and if you have most of your chromosomes floating around  closely to where they’re supposed to be, this is going to affect you. You are going to break down sobbing in your car at some point. It’s going to happen. You are going to get home and want to reach straight for the bottle. It’s going to happen. You are going to feel incompetent, inept, and inconsequential. It’s going to happen.  And that’s okay.  Perfectly normal.  Take it from me, the guy at Faking Sane.  The question you need to answer is, after it has happened  are you going to keep passively letting it happen, or are you going address that head-on?

 What? I Can’t Gossip About You?

Part of the difficulty of this job is the confidentiality. As a therapist, pretty much everything you hear is confidential. Yes, there are the exceptions: abuse, neglect, harm to self or others; those things we have to report.  We’re required by law to do so.  Everything else, though?  Mums the word.  And please believe me, sometimes the stories we hear are begging to be told.  But if we’re good little therapists, (therapists that value and respect our client’s privacy, therapists that know the importance of having someone trust you, therapists that don’t want to get sued) we keep our mouths shut.  We keep it secret.  We keep it safe.

gossip

“So I says to him, ‘how long you been feelin’ this way about yer horse, hoss?” (Photo credit: Craig Walkowicz)

After years of secret keeping,  it can start to feel like you’ve taken on the role of a passive dumpster for people’s emotional trauma and dysfunction. Sometimes it can feel like you’re just waving flags at the dump truck, telling it “back up, back up, little to the left, there, yup, keep going….great! Now dump that crap on me!” And you can’t tell anyone.

Any therapist will tell you this. We hear some really sick shit sometimes. Really sick. We’re talking John Carpenter sick here. We hear traumatic events. Ugly events. Things graduate school doesn’t, and simply can’t, prepare you for, because graduate school can only really prepare you for generalities, not specifics. And I believe it’s the specifics, not the generalities, that get to you.

Specifics like the step-dads who rape their kids for years, and threaten to murder their mother if they are told on. Or the parent that kills the kitten in front of their child as punishment for mouthing off one too many times. Or the father who steals his kid’s laptop and sells it for drug money. Or the girl who is molested by her older brother for years before anyone finds out, and then it comes out that he was molested by a relative who was molested by a grandparent. Like the mother who was gang raped and left for dead in a city park. Or the seven year old boy who is stuck with the aftermath of discovering his father’s bloody suicide. Or the woman who had to raise her siblings from the time she was eight on, because her mother was prostituting herself to pay for her drug habit.

Basically, think of all the sick and twisted and horrible stories you hear about in the headlines. Now think about the victims and bystanders, and how they are affected by being up close and personal to those stories. How do they survive? How do they cope with it? How do they deal with, or more often, fail to deal with, those events? Those are the stories therapists hear. Every day. Those are the lives we touch. Every day. You don’t go into this field if you don’t want to help others. But giving that help is going to cost you.

You really can’t be prepared for the cost. It’s one thing to read it here. It’s one thing to intellectually know that you are going to be encountering things like this. It’s an entirely different thing to go to bed each night after a day of hearing these stories back to back to back all day long. All week long. All year long. Year after year. It’s just plain silly to think that this isn’t going to have an affect on you and on your relationships. It’s going to happen.

So, say it does happen.  What then? It can take a while before you figure out that it’s up to you, and you alone how you are going to deal with that.  Let me reiterate that, because it can’t be stressed enough.  It’s up to you to decide what effect this job is going to have on you, and how you are going to deal with it.  Nobody else  is going to make you deal with it.  Nobody else is going to do it for you.  Nobody else can.  I guess that also applies to  life in general, but it  certainly holds true for doing the work of therapy.

In that conference back at graduate school they gave us some ideas on the fundamentals of self-care. Exercise. Diet. Sleep. Relaxation. Community. Spirituality. They had us do some group stuff, do some journaling, and practice some specific breathing exercises.  We left feeling well armed.

Joy. Dream. Hope. Suckers.

Joy. Dream. Hope. Suckers.

 

And they were dead-on right about how important those areas were. These are all critical, nay, vital,  pieces to making sure you are firing on all 8 cylinders. (Or all four, in my case.) But what they didn’t prepare us for was how incredibly hard it was going to be on some days just to get out of bed, much less tend to all those different areas of self-care. If you don’t make that self-care happen, it’s not going to happen.  Took me a while to figure that out.  I hope you figured that out a lot sooner than I did.

So, Friendly Readers and Fellow Fakers, I ask you. What are you doing to take care of yourself today?  Leave me a comment and let me know.  Honestly.  I’m just faking sane.  I can use all the help I can get.

The Coward’s Guide to Managing Irrational Fears

 

Fear Filled BathtubI’ve told you before that I am not an overly brave man.  Some might even call me a bit cowardly.  I have a list of fears that I could wallpaper my house with.  My  irrational fears are numerous, vibrant, and fecund.  But I’m not bragging.  Much.  Don’t envy me, though, Fellow Fakers.  It’s not all it’s cracked up to be.  And it’s not for everyone.

Some people, for whatever reason, may not even want to cultivate irrational fears the way I have.  That’s okay.  I don’t judge them.  Much.  Today I want to talk about what to do with some of the irrational fears we accumulate on this journey through the treacherous, danger-filled jungle of  life. I already talked a little about identifying and writing down your fears. If you missed it, you can find it here.  In that post I talked about using lists as a method of identifying your underlying fears.  Once you’ve identified and written some of your fears down, it’s time to focus on REALITY CHECKING.

 What’s Reality Checking?

Reality checking is an important component of therapy. It’s one of the fringe benefits of having a therapist. Just having an audience to listen to you can help you realize when something feels off kilter or doesn’t ring true to you. It’s more than just listening though. Therapists (good ones, at least) will both  listen and question.

Reality checking is basically observing your thoughts or beliefs and judging whether or not they are rooted or based in reality. Sounds easy, right? Easier said than done, I say. The reason our thoughts torment us so much at times is because it’s hard to determine what is based in reality versus what is based in an incredibly dynamic and powerful imagination run amok.  It can be likened to asking a fish to describe what wet means.  (Usually fruitless, as fish don’t talk.)

Continue reading

Conquer Your Fears! (Or Practice Running Away Quickly)

Today I’m going to let you all in on some of my most base and cowardly fears.  In case you missed Fellow Faker Beta’s comment responding to my Butterfinger post, I’m re-posting it here because it really strikes at the heart of one of my biggest fears: messing up my kids.

Beta writes: “I can remember being very young and the multiple times my mother described me and my older sister: he’s smart and she’s pretty. I think she intended to compliment our individual qualities but the end result was that my sister felt that she wasn’t smart and I felt like I wasn’t attractive. The unintended damage that parents do…”

Beta’s comment taps into my fear that I am going to mess up my kids.  No matter how good I get at Faking Sane, I’m pretty sure that’s inevitable.  Of course, even the healthiest parents are going to mess some things up, so I take some consolation in that fact.  Messing up my kids is just one of my fears, though.  One of, well, many.  Thank you for bringing that up, Beta.  You get a Butterfinger Award!

Now, I’ll be honest with you. I have a lot of fears. I am not a particularly brave soul. I grew up with some life experiences that basically taught me that the world is a hostile and dangerous place, one filled with numerous threats both specific and vague, and that people would try to hurt me if they were given the opportunity. People were not to be trusted. Period.

tunnel walk

No way I’m crossing into the light.

I’m no rocket scientist of a therapist, but I suspect that there MAY be some connection between this upbringing and my sense of social anxiety. Maybe. Or, maybe not. Maybe I am a coward at the heart of my genetic coding. Deep down that’s my suspicion. It’s better to live and run away has been my personal credo for decades. I have died a thousand deaths. Often on a daily basis. Sometimes before breakfast. I understand that heroes only have to die once. I’m pretty sure I got the short end of the stick there.

Surprisingly, my fears aren’t all reasonable. Some rude souls might suggest they’re even a tad bit irrational at times.

Continue reading

One Simple Anxiety Crushing Secret

Hello friends and Fellow Fakers.  Today I’m here to tell you about One Simple Thing you can do to crush anxiety.  In fact, I will teach you to go Full Conan on it.  Hear me now and see me later: by the time you you’re done here, you will have the skill to crush your anxiety, to see it driven before you, and to hear the lamentations of it’s symptoms.   And all it takes is One Simple Thing.

One Simple Thing

One Simple Thing. Not a top ten list of things to decrease anxiety. Not seven tricks to being highly effective at dispersing anxiety. Not even Three Flaming Pillars of Wisdom to Boost Your Skills at Doing Away With Anxiety. Nope. Just one. Life is much simpler…one might say singularly simpler, when we focus on just One Simple Thing at a time. So forget about multi-tasking. Single-tasking is where it’s at, Baby.

Anxiety is a wretched feeling that can make you feel like you are falling apart at the seams. At it’s mildest, it can be an annoying distraction. At is more severe stages however, it can lead to crippling social incapacity and isolation the likes of which we’d expect to see in the illicit love child of Emily Dickinson and Howard Hughes. In short, anxiety sucks.

Continue reading