Tag Archive | Mental Health

Spammed by JB

Best Spam ever today, it came from Justin Beiber!!

I am weak in the knees! JB spammed me!!

I am weak in the knees! JB spammed me!!

So here you have it, breaking news, my little blog has not only attracted celebrity attention, but it also given him everything he ever needed to know on the subject of mental health labels. My life feels so full and complete now! 🙂

I’m guessing Justin (the data miner) must have read my daughter’s poem that I posted in that napowrimo challenge last year. Isn’t the interwoven web so amazing? We can reach unexpected audiences, lol

Here is my daughter’s poem in case you missed it or would like to read it again.

Justin Bieber performing at the Conseco Fieldhouse

Justin Bieber performing at the Conseco Fieldhouse – He does seem to be in some sort of cage here, sure hope my post helped him 😉 (Photo credit: Wikipedia)


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Manic, Obsessive, Not Compulsive, Mind Loops

Traffic Circle

Stuck in a loop – mindfulness gets me out (Photo credit: bikeracer)

I am happy. My mind is happy. I thrive on novelty, new thoughts, learning, and creativity. I have all of these right now. In fact I have so many ways to keep my mind happy right now that I have to decide which one to do in any given moment.

  • Work has given me the lead on some very interesting projects and allowed me to delegate all of the tedious portions. Hooray!
  • I have enrolled and started 3 online courses. Yes 3. One for computer programming, one for writing memoirs and self-publishing, one that actually applies to my current job.
  • I have won another art commission, with a deadline to complete the project in early Aug.
  • We’re going on a little family vacation soon, lots of planning for that.
  • I still have all my kids here with me. All day. Every day. Well except when the lovely neighbors, that I am ever so fond of, invite them over to play.

I’ve been getting up early every day for the longest stretch I’ve ever managed before. Without an alarm. I wake up, no fog, no hate, no inner scolding. I just wake up, get up, and start doing something.

This is so unusual for me, and is why I am noting something that otherwise seems unremarkable.

The interesting part though, is that although I am more productive than ever overall, I keep finding myself stuck in a manic, obsessive, not compulsive, mind loop. I will check the same email 3-5 times before I realize it. Or I’ll switch computer tabs in the same sequence 3-5 times without doing anything at any one of those apps. Or I will write an email response in my mind 3-5 times before I actually type it. I can stop – and do stop – so it is not a compulsion. But it has interfered greatly with completing my work tasks in the last few hours. Mindfulness has allowed me to stop each loop, but I seem to jump from loop to loop, simply switching which task I repeat.

I almost wonder if I have found a new way to distract myself from hurling negative thoughts at myself obsessively.  Like I need to be repeating something, and if I won’t permit that negative tape to loop any more, I had to find something else.

So then I thought, OK, I am really irritating myself now that I am mindfully aware of this –  and it is time to break this loop. But how? Blogging of course. Always the quickest mind fix.

Another day I will look into why repetitive behaviors may be soothing, or why they start up like that. Until then, it just gets filed under the ‘my brain is fun’ category.

Shame Attack

Shame. Just seeing the word makes me cringe.

I’ve been mentally suffering again, and I struggle to know what it is that brings me down into the darkness. I’ve written about it before, as some sort of cycling mood disorder or depression that hits me for a few days. I have figured out that shame is at the root of this, and I think I actually suffered a shame attack. (my word – to liken it to a heart attack or asthma attack)

I revisited Brene Brown and her ideas on vulnerability and shame.


This time I came away with the notion that guilt and shame are related, but completely different. Brene posits that guilt is healthy, it is an agent for change and action.

GUILT=”I hurt your feelings, I did something bad, I feel guilty, I apologize and feel better”

SHAME-“I hurt your feelings, I AM bad, I feel shame, I apologize and feel worthless”

Shame allows us to internalize the bad, be one with the bad, in an endless cycle of self hate. I’m starting to figure out some of my triggers for shame attacks, I think. Triggered by success. Triggered by the kindness of others. Go figure.

I used to think I was such an introvert that any social interaction wore me out and gave me need to hide in a dysfunctional stupor for a few days. I am now starting to think that is only partially correct. Yes, I do need alone time to recharge, but that implies a healthy recovery process. Not me hiding from my own brain, dodging my own painful thoughts – thoughts of self loathing and giving up on life itself. I must ride the waves of self destruction, drifting aimlessly until I spot the horizon. Thankfully I have been through this enough times to know that I will spot that horizon, so it is more a matter of distracting myself than actually nurturing myself on those days. Finding some way to ignore the putrid lies my brain feeds to me, hateful lies full of shame and disgust.

I had a lovely time at my public art demonstration. I was mindfully present and felt joyous. Hubby was amazing helping me get organized and make the schedule work with kid events too. Many of my new friends came to watch me draw and I felt loved. Many, many strangers complimented my work. I felt proud of my accomplishment. All in all it was a great experience.

So why the shame attack the next day? I’m not exactly sure of the mechanism, but I think to simplify it a bit, my inner self does not believe art is a worthy way to spend my time, and even deeper than that, I think I am afraid I don’t deserve the compliments – that I am not actually talented.

Now this was a juried show, meaning I had to submit a sketch and plan to be invited to participate, and it was limited to a small number of artists. They gave me a spot central to the festival and said they were so happy to have me. All of those people complimenting my work were not just being kind. Rational thoughts should say that someone thinks I am in fact talented. I do think I am talented, and I was proud – hugely proud of myself that day. It felt great to interact with the crowd, answer questions, and hear their surprise and admiration.

It was the next day I was filled with doubt. The next day I could barely get up out of bed, I wasn’t sure why though. The dark thoughts are so powerful and confusing, like being tossed about in a tornado. See, the shame is not so direct, it is all encompassing and does not tell me why it is there, and so I am left guessing about why my brain has chosen to torture me yet again. I’ll list some of the thoughts I had in my negative tape the next day.

“Why did you choose something so complicated to draw? The others were done in half the time”

“You should have spent more time talking with your friends or the crowd, it was rude to keep drawing”

“You looked fat in the photos. When did you get so fat? Why didn’t you exercise more before this event?”

“You forgot your business cards on purpose – you don’t actually want success”

“The kids were tired and whining, why do you keep dragging them along to your events?”

“You wanted to be with your friends, out drinking, and not with your kids – you are a terrible mom – a terrible person”

“Why do you need so much attention?”

“Why can’t you finish any framed art? Why do you only do these art shows with nothing to keep or sell?”

“What’s the point? It’s all meaningless”

“They didn’t pay you enough, why did you work so hard? Don’t you have any self-respect?”

“You’ll never make it as an artist”

“You wore yourself out doing something silly for yourself and now you are useless to your family.”

“You’ll never learn. You’re so stupid”

“Everyone just humors you”

“All you do is waste time. You’re wasting your entire life. No need to continue life if you’re just going to waste it”


I chose TV and video games, and alcohol, to drown out these thoughts. These activities numbed the pain, silenced those thoughts, but actually made me feel worse about everything as I prove to myself that I am a pathetic waste. I avoided my family, doing only what needed to be done to feed them. Luckily they can all dress themselves now and mostly played outside. Extra shame when their friend comes inside and sees me not dressed at 2pm, hair not brushed, dishes not washed, floors not swept, and playing games. I couldn’t even pretend to work, the games were obvious, and I had no extra energy for pretense.

The good news is, the attack only lasted 1 day. Yesterday. Today felt more like recovery and recharging instead of survival. I still zoned out with alcohol and games, but I also got moving and did some chores in between levels – because I wanted to, not out of guilt. I was able to think and plan and make a nice dinner, so Hubby could have one thing less to worry about. Yesterday I could not rub two thoughts together in any helpful way.  I barely remember it, it’s all hazy. What a strange brain I have.

Today the thoughts were gentle, encouraging, and no hate. And as my inner bully quieted, the tears weren’t waiting to fall today. Here are some of today’s thoughts.

“Yesterday was hard, but it is over now.”

“I could do one load of dishes, that would be really helpful”

“You’ve been through much worse, this is no big deal”

“Your family loves you and understands”

“I can wash some towels, we’ll all appreciate that at bath time tonight”

“I can vacuum those dust bunnies real quick”

“I really had fun drawing, I wonder if I should do it again next year? I’ve learned so much about composition, it keeps getting easier”

“I’d like to enter an art competition, I wonder if I can find the time to meet the deadline?”

“This game has beautiful graphics, it would be fun to sketch some of these scenes”

“I’ve never been to Venice, I hope I can travel the world more some day”

“I wonder what we’ll do in that meeting at work tomorrow?”


So shame has left, and hope has returned. Again. This cycle is exhausting, but at least I am still learning, and I think, still headed in the right direction. I do wonder if there is any way to stop the shame attack before it starts? I’m surely going to try.

Who knew that tearing up the sprinkler system ...

Maybe next time, I’ll just wear my cone of shame and see what happens (Have you seen Up?) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)





Ever Feel Like Your Native Language is Foreign


Usually I completed take my freely flowing words for granted. I assume the words will come out and make sense and make points without me forcing them. But lately I’ve been forcing them. I’ve been struggling to find the right words, pausing between sentences to find the right path, the right connections.

The words are kind of like those floaters in your eyes, you can’t see them if you look right at them. So as soon as I know what to say, see that entire thought, it floats out of my conscio

Montage of languages. Prototype header for the...

I don’t understand myself (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

us so quickly, leaving me with a feeling like I saw it, I can feel it, but can’t see it. A ghost of thoughts and words once there.

I don’t know how I’m feeling emotionally these days. It’s like I’m only feeling things physically.  Unless dizzy is an emotion, because that’s how I feel. Like my feelings won’t sit still long enough for me to actually feel them, and I’m left with a dizzy confusion. This dizziness blocks my words.

I stumbled my way through dozens of emails for work, through many reports and spreadsheets, but I have no words left of my own. I’m tired and drained from writing and reading, and re-reading my words full of so many errors and typos and usage errors, and even rhyming words in place of what I meant. My internal editor must be on vacation.

Or perhaps I lost my babel fish. Don’t panic, I still have my towel.

Coping, Denial, Delusion – Biography of my Schizophrenic Brother, part 8

Snakes (M. C. Escher)

Snakes (M. C. Escher) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

How do you cope with having a condition like schizophrenia? At the time, my brother was so lost inside his own mind that we were unable to explain his condition to him. So the label, with the full force of the stigma, was on our family, not him. I felt my mom was more concerned with keeping this a secret than actually helping my brother get better, but the way to contain this terrible news was also the way to help him. Lock him up in a mental hospital.

The next few years, my brother was in and out of hospitals as combinations of meds were tried and adjusted to control his symptoms and return him to reality – to us. When he was out of the hospital, he either stayed with us – Me, my mom, and the youngest brother (and more often than not, the youngest brother’s girlfriend who stayed with us even though she was in high school with me – because her father was an angry alcoholic, but that is a whole different story when I ever get around to writing about that brother, jeez so much to say, so many branches, and I am so impatient to get this story told) in our 2 bedroom apartment, or he would stay with my dad when my mom begged him to help and give us all a break. My dad then lived in a 3 bedroom house all alone, but was way too inconvenienced to take in his son.

I remember my mom crying one evening on the phone with my dad, after just hanging up with the hospital – they called saying my brother was again ready to be released. She told my dad she was at her limit and trying to keep things together and begging for my father to allow my brother to stay with him this time. When I first moved in with my mom, she gave me her room and moved her bed to the living room. But when my brother needed shelter too, she moved in to the bedroom with me, and my brother slept on the couch. My other brother and his girlfriend slept in the other bedroom. And sometimes, just to make life fun, my brother with schizophrenia’s girlfriend, the Madonna wannabe, came to stay with us too, because she NEEDED my brother and couldn’t live without him. All these lost and broken souls sheltering together for different reasons. What a mess.

At some point in there I graduated high school, 4th in my class, with several scholarships and awards. I only came home to sleep, and didn’t do much of that at all, I actually slept more peacefully on park benches or library sofas. I didn’t feel safe at home. I left for college, left the state, and thought I left all my troubles behind.

My brother stabilized on his meds, and starting coming back to us. He was still altered, but could at least recognize us and take care of his personal needs, and seemed mostly OK. We were able to tell him about his illness, and the importance of taking the meds carefully every day. He understood. He decided to go live with his girlfriend again because she pressured him. My mom did not want him to go, did not want to risk losing him again, but he did go. My mom also seemed relieved when he left though.

He was difficult to contact, his girlfriend was controlling and I dare say abusive to him. I was not there, but I think that is true from what I now know. She made him “work” for his meds, he had to please her to get relief from the voices in his head. She would hide his meds and make him earn them back, taunting him. My brother sounded so sad and lost on the phone when he told me that. She threatened to send him to jail on many occasions, again, and again, he sounded so sad. He said he didn’t understand what he was doing wrong and why she got so angry. And then, at some point in the next year, I heard that I was an Aunt again. I had a nephew in a far away state, to an unmarried terrible woman. My brother freaked out. He told me on the phone, “Hey guess what, guess I’m going to be a dad . . .” and he just kinda laughed in an odd disconnected way. His schizophrenia became uncontrollable soon after this news. My brother needed rescued again, and hospitalized again. He was now suicidal and made a few attempts. I think he knew he could not be a father and it tore him up inside. He must have felt like a complete fuck-up. I am guessing, because that is how I felt just a few years later when I tried taking my own life.

None of us have ever met his boy – an unknown nephew and  grandson out in the world. I have seen pictures, strangely enough, from my father, who seemed to have an unusual relationship with the girlfriend, and I suspect he did actually meet him. I don’t know any details and only have suspicions. At age 18, when I plummeted into my first deep and dark clinical depression, my brother’s illegitimate son was just one more event I could not think about. Sometimes I feel guilty for not reaching out to that kiddo, my nephew,  but I know it was not up to me then. I am angry that my parents did not step up and do the right thing here either, but then, well, they certainly have a track record for not doing the right thing.

My mom’s actions were I think an attempt to try to protect my brother, although I am not certain it was for his benefit or if it was to keep our family secrets. My mom took in my brother, and cut off all communication with the girlfriend. She changed her phone number. She made it unlisted. She grew paranoid and started screening phone calls and looking outside before answering the door. She steamed all of our letters open before giving us our mail. She told very practiced lies to everyone. She created her own delusional world where her children were all safe – and begged us all to play along.

I was so lost in my depression at that point, and living with my boyfriend many states away that I don’t recall where my other brothers were living or how these events actually happened. I never went back home. Never. My boyfriend became my fiance, and then my husband, and I never had to go back to them. I tried to live my life on my own and move forward, but inside I was a complete mess, and felt like a fraud. The self-loathing was relentless, the depression and anxiety barely controlled – I felt like I could break at any moment, and only striving for an outward image of perfection kept me going. My own perfect world based on delusion and denial.


Learn more about Schizophrenia:

Some articles about schizophrenia seem to show a link ( a link is not a cause, huge difference) between childhood trauma and psychosis. I don’t know what happened to my brother when he was little, but I think it was terrible. I only know what I endured, and that he was in the same house for years before I came along to distract my father. I think my brother was his first target.

http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/04/120419102440.htm : “children who experience severe trauma are three times as likely to develop schizophrenia in later life.”

There is also a link to substance abuse. Most researchers don’t think drugs alone cause schizophrenia, but it is part of the story for sure. Many people with schizophrenia have substance abuse and addictions in their past. This article explains some symptoms and links fairly well.

Schizophrenics are not usually violent, they tend to be withdrawn and more dangerous to themselves. The media and politics add the violent misconception to the disease.

http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/schizophrenia/complete-index.shtml : “”People with schizophrenia are not usually violent. In fact, most violent crimes are not committed by people with schizophrenia.7 However, some symptoms are associated with violence, such as delusions of persecution. Substance abuse may also increase the chance a person will become violent.8 If a person with schizophrenia becomes violent, the violence is usually directed at family members and tends to take place at home.The risk of violence among people with schizophrenia is small. But people with the illness attempt suicide much more often than others. About 10 percent (especially young adult males) die by suicide.9,10 It is hard to predict which people with schizophrenia are prone to suicide. If you know someone who talks about or attempts suicide, help him or her find professional help right away.People with schizophrenia are not usually violent.”

And of course there is a genetic component, something that makes one person more prone to schizophrenia than others.


Five seemingly different mental health disorders—major depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, autism, and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder (I think PTSD fits in here too!)—may be more alike than we think. A ground-breaking new study has identified a handful of genes that are shared by people with these disorders. This work could help find new and better ways to diagnose and treat mental illness.”






PTSD and Schizophrenia May Be in the Same Spectrum

PTSD and Schizophrenia may be related as varying degrees of a similar malfunction.

I was describing a recent flashback to my therapist, and I finally got brave and actually described it without watering it down. I told her how it seemed so real, and that I could see, hear, feel, smell – everything- my past superimposing and flickering over my present – leaving me unsure for moments which age I actually was.  I told her I was afraid to say that before, afraid I would get taken away and locked up. She smiled her sad smile at me, knowing what I meant. I asked her if any of her other clients describe flashbacks as powerful hallucinations – and she said yes.

So that got me thinking – woah – what if my brother’s schizophrenia is similar to my PTSD flashbacks? What if all hallucinations work on the same mechanism, the same spectrum of disorder, but that schizophrenia is much more severe?

What if schizophrenia is a flashback that doesn’t end with a safe return to reality?  I shudder at the thought. 

Turns out some recent studies have been thinking along the same lines. Check out this article: http://healingattention.org/documents/doc_litreviewpsychosis.pdf

Excerpts from that article:

“Paranoid delusions: faulty attempts to explain traumabased hallucinations? Some people, when faced
with negative, emotionally loaded, or unusual or anomalous experiences quickly jump to the
suspicion of external threat, i.e. they become paranoid. Hearing voices when there is nobody
there is often (but not always) a negative experience, and is often experienced as unusual

or anomalous. Paranoid delusions are sometimes, therefore, understandable attempts to make sense
of hallucinations (in various sense modalities) (106, 146–148, 155–157).
Paranoid delusions can, of course, develop in the absence of hallucinations. Is there a difference
between the hypervigilance to threat acknowledged in PTSD patients to be the outcome of
trauma and the belief that people are out to get you which is labelled delusional in traumatized
people diagnosed psychotic? (30, 33). Having been severely or repeatedly abused as a child is
likely to render other people a serious potential threat, a threat that can easily be generalized to
anyone or anything that is reminiscent of the perpetrator or the circumstances surrounding the
abuse. The processes by which hypervigilance develops into fixed paranoid delusions would
appear to be a fruitful research avenue. Again, Nadel and Jacob’s (159) work on the impact of
trauma on the brain is salient. Whether we label this PTSD, DID or schizophrenia, the resulting
fear, distortions and impoverishment of lives remain. Heightened sensitivity to stressors: the Traumagenic
Neurodevelopmental (TN) model Many of the theories attempting to explain trauma’s relationships with hallucinations and
delusions, such as high levels of distress in the face of anomalous experiences and hypervigilance
to threat, are consistent with a heightened sensitivity to stress in general. A study of 271 severely ill
in-patients found that the two subscales of the Brief Symptom Inventory most strongly related to
sexual and physical abuse were psychoticism and interpersonal sensitivity (164).
Heightened reactivity to stressors is a cardinal feature of schizophrenia (165) and is considered
the core of the constitutional vulnerability that forms the diathesis in the stress-diathesis model.”

Biography of my Schizophrenic Brother, Part 1-Pre-Adolescence

I’ve been thinking about my big brother, imprisoned in his own Schizophrenic mind. I’ve been thinking about our childhood, and if there were any signs his brain was in trouble. He definitely got in lots of trouble, but that’s normal for a young boy, right? Especially one living in a dysfunctional home. But I wonder if his extreme behavior may have been an indication of more than teenage angst and acting out against the hurts from abusive parents. I wonder how early the schizophrenia gave him symptoms he was too alone to share.

My big brother is quite a bit older than me, so I can’t speak as to what he was like as a young child personally, but I do have some stories others have told me.

Like when he set our house on fire before I was even born, when he was about 4 years old. I’ve been told that he took my Dad’s cigarette lighter and deliberately set fire to the shag (Yes, in the 70’s) throw rug. I guess both my parents were home, but busy with the newborn, and they saw him do it, but were too late to prevent it, as they said NO, the fire had already consumed the rug and moved onto the couch. My Dad’s black faux leather couch he bought himself with his raise when he became a manager. He has still not forgiven my brother for this destruction of his prized property. I was told no one was hurt, and my Dad put out the fire himself – according to him – but the fire department helped – according to my Mom. The house itself was fine, but everything in it was smoke and water damaged. It was a brand new house, in a nice suburban subdivision that my Mom got to pick out the design and layout and they had it built. Mom still says that was her favorite house and the fire was such a “shame”. They moved 7 times in the first 10 years of marriage, and that house was 2 before the one I called home.

My earliest memories of my brother have him about age ten I guess, making me about 3. I loved listening to him play guitar, he was already really good by then, able to play any melody he heard. He taught me to pluck out Twinkle Twinkle on it while he held it for me, and even let me use his lucky pick. He was not allowed to play guitar in school, so he chose clarinet. He learned that easily too, but never enjoyed it, and dropped it as soon as he could. Sometimes after school, he would allow me to try to make music on that clarinet, and would laugh warmly when it all it did was squawk. He’d pretend to step on an invisible cat every time I squeaked and squawked and we would roll with laughter. He always made me laugh. I adored him.

Also about that age, and the next few years, he did lots of silly tricks with me. He would put his hands around neck, while I held onto his wrists, and he would lift me up, by what appeared to be my head, but the weight was really supported by my hands on his. It freaked out Mom and she would tell us to stop. He loved animals, and often came home with live snakes and frogs, and when he didn’t he would bring home a wavy branch and hand it to my Mom saying, “Check out this snake I found” just to hear her scream and make me laugh. He would tousle my hair while making gorilla noises pretty much every time he walked by me. Anything to get me to giggle. And he hated when I got sick, which was way too often with my asthma and secondary infections from steroids. I spent much of my childhood with a fever, alone in my room. I have so many memories of him playing the guitar in my room to help me sleep, until the fever broke. He like playing heavy metal music, but for me, it was always a pretty gentle little song. Sometimes he even played my favorite songs from Mary Poppins or Sound of Music. He’d always stop playing and go back to his room when anyone noticed he was in there, like he didn’t want to be noticed or caught being nice.

This brother was always an outsider in our family. If I felt it, I can only imagine how alone he felt. I have some memory of him being “sick” and staying in his room for family events, like birthday parties. Every Christmas Eve, I remember opening my gifts, and not being surprised that he was sick again. My Mom would ask him to join us, but then just give up when he said no. We also often went out to eat without him. He’d just say “Nah” when asked to join us. He was the middle brother, a dull shadow under the eldest brother’s star status, and sweet and special like his little brother.

I remember him getting in trouble for wearing a sheik hat to school when he was in 5th grade, so I must have been about 3. He refused to take it off, so I got to go to school with my Mom to speak to the principal and take him home. Everyone was so serious and angry, and I remember laughing at my silly brother and not understanding why everyone was angry – I loved his hat. I had the same teacher when I reached 5th grade, and she told me he had been wearing that hat every day for 2 weeks when she finally had to make it stop. She figured he would get tired of it, but it became something more and he could not stop wearing it without threat of suspension.

It was also some time around this age that he molested me, just mentioning this in the timeline, not going into details today. I actually can’t remember much of this time period clearly, only isolated events. I do know that I was not afraid of him, and never told anyone, because I adored him so and either I didn’t want him to get in trouble, or I didn’t even know it was wrong. Plus, it was nothing compared to what my Dad was doing to me, so it seemed a normal part of life to little me. Dad encouraged his young boys to collect porn magazines and watch it on cable with him, making sure they knew women were only good for sex. Everyone in our house was overly sexualized and not permitted to keep our childhood innocence.

It seems like fifth grade was like a point of no return for my brother, and I really have to wonder if he was also molested by my Dad, and if that abuse caused him to start on me, or caused the short circuit in his brain chemistry that would later develop into Schizophrenia. But we’ll never know if Dad hurt him, since he can’t tell us, he lost touch with reality so long ago.  And I also wonder if his pre-puberty hormones triggered some brain changes at that time to start his decline. Again, only speculation.

As I grew taller and my hair grew longer, people started calling us twins, and I loved that. We had the same cheekbones, same green eyes, same fair skin and freckles, and the same auburn hair! His was long, wavy, and unkempt  like a rock star. Mine was long,  wavy, and unkempt like a tomboy. We’d also both stuff our wild hair into a ball cap to avoid brushing it.

I idolized this brother and his cool long-haired friends for a few years, until he slipped out of my life. For the next few years, although we lived in the same house, I have very few memories of him at all. He pushed me away, no longer let me in the room when his friends came over, and most often, simply only came home to sleep. He even started forgetting to make gorilla noises for me. But sometimes, on very special nights, he would knock on my door late at night and ask, “Hey, Wanna see the moon?” Everyone else would be watching TV or whatever, and we would go out back to where he set up a telescope. He’d lift me up, because it was on a huge stand and too tall for me to see into. I remember the first time I saw the craters in the moon, jump right out through that telescope at me. It was magical. My brother explained all about the phases of the moon, told me the names of the craters and how they formed. Sometimes he would tell me about constellations, or meteors, or astronauts. I would get cold, but never complained, never wanting those special astronomy lessons to end. For years I wanted to be an astronaut myself – until many years later when I saw what they do at space camp and realized my motion sickness that prevented traveling to the super market without vomiting would most likely prevent me from successfully completing that G-force spinning simulator.

Up All Night, but Out of the Fog

Here I go again, back into not sleeping. So strange. After a few days of sleeping soundly all night each night but still barely staying awake each day, the sleep fog has lifted.

I could feel it lifting yesterday afternoon. I got busy on some work projects that I had put off for a better thinking day. I showered in the morning, put on my shoes, and was busy all day long. I went to dance class  full of energy and returned home with even more energy. So much that I had to turn up the music and practice my new dance moves. So much that I did 20 minutes on Wii fit Plus and beat my previous high scores in 3 areas.

So much that I did not get angry at kiddos desperately delaying bedtime, and instead snuggled them while I read about stellar clusters in my latest copy of Scientific American to my boys as a bedtime story and we all laughed when it said something like “This cluster type is short-lived and only lasts a few million years”.  My 6 year old thought that was hilarious. And when we learned that all stars are born in these cluster nurseries, he figured out our Sun must be quite grown up to be living on its own. Then he hugged me and said he doesn’t ever want to grow up and leave me. Awww, he can be so sweet when he’s trying to stay up late. (Geekiness is quite hereditary, my 6 year old can’t get enough of the science and fact books)

So much energy that I resisted junky snacks and had a slice of cheddar cheese and water. Actually I didn’t resist, I wasn’t even tempted!

English: Fog in Wayanad

My view now is clear, but I’m certain more fog lies ahead (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So I was quite surprised, after all this energy, to find myself in the recliner at 3am. Apparently I fell asleep during a TV show and slept soundly for 4 hours, and my brain decided that was enough. I have been up since 3am, reading, watching TV, answering emails, working, getting kids ready for school, and now blogging. I’m still not hungry, and had some walnuts and almonds and herbal tea for breakfast. I am not sleepy at all. AND not foggy at all. I feel like I’ll have a super productive day. And I’m guessing I’ll have a super productive 3-4 days, and then go back into the fog for 3-4 days. Seems to be my normal now, and despite my efforts, it does not seem related to anything I eat or drink.

This energy feels sooo good. It does not feel manic. I am not impulsive or irrational. Well I’m not any MORE impulsive and irrational than I am on the foggy days. I feel relaxed and happy.

So I just have to be thankful that I have a job that allows me to work more on my better days, and less on my foggy days.

And I will NOT be mentioning this cycle to Doctors any more, as many years ago when I described this pattern they put me on terrible meds for rapid cycling depression, then mood balancing meds for Bipolar. I’m calling the meds terrible, because they were terrible for me, and caused hallucinations and all kinds of other not-so-fun side effects. I am not anti-meds, just anti-incorrect-meds.

My therapist half jokes that my good days are just so good that I burn myself out and need recovery days. Who knows? I don’t, so for now, I will continue to just go with the flow, and keep taking care of myself and my family.

PTSD, EMDR and Computer Games and Drawing

I have been using computer games and drawing for most of my life to escape the anxiety that builds up inside of me. I always thought they were just an escape. I am now wondering if my eye movement during these games and art sessions could actually be a helpful form of EMDR?


EMDR has many skeptics. I am a believer that anything is possible, and I also know that eye movements are attached to memories, as most people look up and to the left when directly recalling something. I think the main issue with the skepticism is how quickly EMDR proponents say it can work and the sense of sensationalism brings up a quack alert. I do believe EMDR could have an immediate effect, just as any therapy session could. I don’t really believe it can “cure” someone of all lifelong emotional distress in just a few sessions. My current therapist is not certified to do this technique, and so I have never tried it. We do, however, attach positive “I survived” and “It wasn’t my fault” emotions to past events in a somewhat similar manner, without the finger tracking, as described below.


Excerpt: Although EMDR is alleged to be a complicated technique that requires extensive training (Shapiro 1992), the treatment’s key elements can be summarized briefly. Clients are first asked to visualize the traumatic event as vividly as possible. While retaining this image in mind, they are told to supply a statement that epitomizes their reaction to it (e.g., “I am about to die”). Clients are then asked to rate their anxiety on a Subjective Units of Distress (SUDs) scale, which ranges from 0 to 10, with 0 being no anxiety and 10 being extreme terror. In addition, they are told to provide a competing positive statement that epitomizes their desired reaction to the image (e.g., “I can make it”), and to rate their degree of belief in this statement on a 0 to 8 Validity of Cognition scale.

Following these initial steps, clients are asked to visually track the therapist’s finger as it sweeps rhythmically from right to left in sets of 12 to 24 strokes, alternated at a speed of two strokes per second. The finger motion is carried out for 12 to 14 seconds in front of the client’s eyes. Following each set of 12 to 24 strokes, clients are asked to “blank out” the visual image and inhale deeply, and are then asked for a revised SUDs rating. This process is repeated until clients’ SUDs ratings fall to 2 or lower and their Validity of Cognition ratings rise to 6 or higher.

Zoo Empire

So I’m thinking, wow, all these years, when I feel stress, I turn on my computer and play hours of intense games. Some of my escape games are SimCity, Zoo Empire and other Build and Wait games. These require holding so much information in working memory at once that nothing else interrupts. But in the past few years, as I have really begun to heal from PTSD and recover from the painful past, I have been selecting time management games like Diner Dash, Hotel Mania, Airport Mania, etc. These games require quick lateral eye movements across the screen as you select your next move and queue up enough steps to stay ahead of demand. It requires the same quick mousing movements. But it does not require the overall management and planning of simultaneous goals like the Sims do, and so my mind can wander freely. Now when I play these games, memories often come up, as they do at any time for me. But while gaming, I see, hear, and re-experience some past event, but I don’t feel anything about it while playing, no distress, just facts whooshing past my consciousness. I have to wonder if this has helped me to process and desensitize. And I wonder if the eye movements actually helped me to recall certain events that I had not been trying to recall, and certainly were not related to anything I was currently experiencing.

Artist Studio: Ruza Bagaric / Dumbo Arts Cente...

Artist Studio: Ruza Bagaric / Dumbo Arts Center: Art Under the Bridge Festival 2009 / 20090926.10D.54595.P1.L1 / SML (Photo credit: See-ming Lee 李思明 SML)

Drawing is something else that can take me to a safe zone, a soft cocoon of no stress. When I first get started, the planning, the creating, the composing the scene, I am completely absorbed. No wandering thoughts at all. But when I draw an object, my eyes move quickly from my own paper to the object, always checking for accuracy, comparing, adjusting. I prefer to have a photo of the object to use as reference and mount it directly next to my own drawing, which I now realize uses that same lateral eye movement. And of course my mind is free to wander here during the drawing phase and it always does. I have to wonder if this relaxed state, combined with the eye movements, helps us to recall and process past memories. And I have to wonder if some of the emotions of the past memories somehow get infused into the artwork, and that’s why a drawing can be so much more interesting to look at than the photo of the same object.

The brain is fascinating, and I love learning more about it. If I had my own fMRI and SPECT equipment I would be scanning myself daily to see what was going on up there.


The Ghosts of Therapists Past, part 1

I have been seeing a therapist for 20 years now. From age 16-36, wow. (I mean some form of mental health professional, not the physical therapists for my back and leg injuries – that story is coming soon) I have learned how to get the most out of therapy by preparing for it first, being honest and targeted within it, and then being gentle with myself afterwards. That’s not how it started though.My attitude towards therapy has changed over the years and so has my actual therapist. Many times. Meet my first 2 here.

When I was 16, and finally able to ask my Mom for help, to get me out of my abusive Father’s home, she made him pay for a therapist for me. This was ugly for many reasons. I was not ready to deal and heal. I was moved from a psychopathic pedophilic Father’s home to a passive-aggressive narcissistic Mother’s home. My life was not instantly better, and honestly not much improved. It was actually more difficult, because now my Father was angry and unpredictable to me.  I was much more afraid of him than when I lived with him and basically knew what to expect. And my Mom was a complete stranger. We had barely spoken our entire lives, and barely saw each other since they divorced 4 years prior. So I had to put my trust into all these adults that I did not actually trust.

Mom drove me to this first therapist without telling me what we were doing. She seemed to have forgotten that by age 16 I could actually read quite well, and knew what building we were entering. I could tell she was nervous, but determined to be strong, to do the right thing. I asked her if I had to go in, and she said Yes, that I needed help. I didn’t understand at the time just how much help I needed, or how anyone on this planet could help me. Mom went in by herself first, for just a few minutes, then we swapped. I wonder what she told them. How to sum up my  life and needs so quickly.

My first impression of my first therapist was that she was just like my Mom, only older and a professional. Old, graying hair swooped out asymmetrically, patronizing smile, strong perfume. She asked me to sit and pointed to a chair, and then just stared at me. I gave her a polite smile, then looked at her book shelf. “Oh Crap” I thought as I read those origins of psycho theory titles. Then this stranger, this very smelly stranger, (I still hate strong smells, highly sensitive, I just wanted to open that door for fresh air) said, “How are you dear?”

I looked her right in the eye, and gave her my best and often practiced “you are an idiot too” look that I gave most adults in my life. Then I answered her first in my head. “How do you F-ing think I am? I’ve been molested for 16 years, my mom never cared until I made her, my Dad is now pissed, I told my boyfriend too and now that’s all weird, and I’m afraid all the people at school will know, and now I have to live with my Mom and everything is different, and all I want to do is leave this crazy life and go to college and start my real life, not this pretend hell I have lived so long” And then I said out loud, boldly, “I’m fine.” And looked away, showing her I did not need her.

Somehow an hour passed with her asking stupid questions, like

“How is school”


“How are your grades?”


“What do you do after school?”


“Do you have any good friends?”


The Hare-Brained Hypnotist

The Hare-Brained Hypnotist (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I saw her a few times a week to play 20 questions each hour. Finally one day they took me to a different room down the hall, and introduced me to a different therapist. I saw “hypnotherapist” among her titles on the door. I was immediately thinking of Bugs Bunny holding a swirling disc and saying “Look into my eyes, you are getting sleepy . . .” I also thought, “well, this could be fun” and this room did not smell like old lady perfume. It smelled spicy, but gently, like cinnamon toast. And she had a rainbow of throw pillows piled on a chair in the corner. And her books were less Freud and texbook, and more Oprah and Buddha and color therapy. I finally looked at the woman leaning over her desk, she was much younger, less smelly, had nice brown hair and caring eyes. She did not ask me anything. She gave me one of those bright colored pillows to hug on my lap, put on some oriental type music, and just watched me. Then she told me about herself. I learned that she was married, but did not have kids yet. She had some cats and dogs, don’t recall the details. She never asked me anything, and so I never spoke that entire hour, other than hello and goodbye and a few nods of understanding. I left feeling very proud of myself for costing my Dad whatever she charged and never saying a word.

The next few visits with her, she had me do various relaxation exercises. We never spoke of my Dad. She taught me how to flex and relax my muscles and breathe deeply. She taught me how to visualize happy scenes. She wanted me to feel good, and I liked her, so I told her it was helping. All these fools thought they could “cure” me in a few hours. Kids are so resilient, and I must be ok I had good grades in school, right? I even let her think she was actually hypnotizing me a few times. She was trying so hard, I just couldn’t let her think she had failed like the first therapist. And I didn’t want to fail either, I wanted a good grade in therapy. I just didn’t know the goal, they gave me no rubric or syllabus, so I didn’t know what to do  in there. And I hated it. I just wanted to be left alone.

One day I went in and she asked me to choose a pillow and place it on the floor. I raised my eyebrows, but did it. Then she asked me to lay down with my head on the pillow. And close my eyes. I did not like that, but I did it. I felt so stupid and exposed lying there. Then she took me through the relaxation narrative we had been doing in the chair. It actually felt really good. And then she started some counting nonsense, and said when she got to 3 I’d be even more relaxed. And kept doing that, over and over until she said I was now at the deepest state of relaxation possible. She asked what color my thoughts were. ?? I stifled a giggle, so she wouldn’t know I was NOT completely relaxed and hypno-anythinged. Instead I very calmly said “Green”. Then she asked me to flex different muscles, and would ask me the color of my thoughts in various states of flex/tension. I said colors to her, and she said “ahh” each time, like it made perfect sense. I thought she was completely looney tunes, and that I could probably help her more than she helped me at that point. She eventually brought me out by reversing the counting, relaxing commands. I played along. She was just so nice and I didn’t want to hurt her feelings.

I don’t remember how I stopped therapy, if they pronounced me better, or I begged enough to stop, as it was interfering with my busy schedule, or perhaps my Dad and insurance stopped paying. I just know I stopped going after a few months. That was my junior year of High School. I found out I had enough credits to get out of high school early. I was determined to get out of my Mom’s home, get out of this city, and leave them all behind. I went to a Community College my Senior year of high school and thought everything would be OK if I just worked really hard and didn’t have to look any of my peers in the eye any more. I wanted a fresh start, where I was normal, and no one knew I was broken.

I did start using some of those relaxation techniques each night to fall asleep, but didn’t really get good at it until many years later. I was basically trained by my situation to never sleep deeply, always waiting for my Dad to enter my room at night. Afraid to sleep and wonder what he was doing before I woke up. Hated that sense of confusion and powerlessness. He typically left shortly after I was awake and pushed him away. He did it that way to make it seem like I was in control of ending it. Like he only did what I wanted and stopped when I wanted. Sick bastard. I understand this now – I didn’t then. It worked on me. It worked. I would try to barricade my door without being obvious by leaving toys or books in front of it, because he would get angry if he knew I was doing it on purpose. I would try to stay up all night and sleep at school or friends houses. I still have sleep issues and likely always will. But it is a bit better now when I can convince myself I am actually safe.

And I have always used my mind to mentally escape wherever I was. I got through years of abuse, and years of boring classes that way. I have always had my mind elsewhere. Always creating stories and poems in my mind. Always creating wild vacations and meeting amazing people in my mind. Always seeing myself as brave and heroic, exploring new lands, and doing fantastic things in my mind. I daydreamed of living in the rain forest, just me and my best friends, a tiger and a macaw, with a crazy modern lab hidden in a primitive tent to research new species and cure cancer. I dreamed of that until I found out the rain forest is full of spiders. Big hairy spiders. Then I switched my dream to biomedical engineering in an American facility without spiders, and my cats waiting for me at home. I saw myself at award banquets, and people with back injuries like mine thanking me for my research that allowed us all to walk easily again. I also saw my Dad in prison, forever, watching me excel on the news. I actually still struggle to keep my mind in the here and now. That is also getting better too.

And so I am preparing to see my current therapist tonight, what sparked the memories for this post. I am now being completely honest with her, not needing a good grade, and not caring if she feels like she is doing a good job with me. No longer sabotaging my own therapy and healing and growing more this year than ever in my life. I have more moments now looking forward to future moments, rather than dreading how to survive yet another day. Life is mostly good right now. Feels so good to realize that.