Author:Paul Gilmartin

Family Secrets & Hiding Depression – Patricia McKee

How does a family deal with its secrets? The PhD opens up about the inter-generational rage brewing beneath the surface of her extended family and the difficulty in trying to cope when favorites are played, a mother feels jealous of her daughter, trauma isn’t discussed, emotions are stuffed and through depression a smile is mustered for the unsuspecting outside world.

Patricia can be reached at her website and on Twitter @Patricia_McKee

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Being Trans in a Red State – Olivia Haidar

The 29 year-old trans woman dispels myths about what it means to be trans, including those she used to believe. She shares about hormone therapy, gender reassignment surgery, the prejudice and stigma of “passing”, feeling dysphoric growing up, coming out in her Indiana hometown and her upbringing by an overprotective mother, an absent father, and an alcoholic and emotionally abusive stepfather.

Follow Olivia on Twitter @hitherehaidar
Follow her on Instagram @ohaidarling
Follow her on Facebook at

This episode is sponsored by Young Health’s probiotic Probimune. To get your first bottle free (plus $6.75 shipping) go to and use offer code MENTAL

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Trypophobia: WTF is it? A Guest Blog by Lue

Trypophobia is a condition I’ve had since I can remember. In a nutshell it is a nervous, flesh crawling response to particular patterns and textures, typically organic and often involving small holes. It’s especially bad when associated with skin. It’s a known condition (although obviously I’ve never Googled it, lest I turn inside out), however it’s not recognised in the DSM. This is probably because of the large pool of possible triggers which are different for each person. So, it’s not like being deathly afraid of a single thing, say, snakes or cotton wool, And this is one of the particularly awful things about it – you never really know when you might come across a trigger. They often come out of the blue, you might come across something in the street or scrolling through images online and completely by accident trigger yourself.

My Mum has it too, although because I also have anxiety and depression it can be much more acute for me. If I see something particularly bad, it can put me out for two weeks or more. So that’s like 2 weeks of prickling skin, adrenaline rushes, flesh crawling sensations, obsessively imagining the trigger (where my mind very helpfully transposes the pattern onto my skin because why not?), panic attacks etc. I only know one other person who has symptoms like mine and who experiences it so acutely. But it’s really hard to talk about because even talking about it can be triggering! There doesn’t seem to be any specific treatment for it, other than anxiety management.

Having spoken to  few people, I get the feeling that lots of people have this condition to some degree or another, it’s just that my symptoms are really severe. I spent most of my life not knowing it was even a condition with a name, I came across it through a friend when I was about 26. Before then I just assumed it was a weird quirk that just me and my Mum had.

I have two distinct memories of trypophobia as a child. The very first was at a natural history exhibition, I was very small, maybe only 4 or 5. There were pictures and information about a species of frog whose female incubates and carries it’s young inside it’s back. I remember seeing a picture of it and feeling immediately terrified. Prickles ran up and down my spine and it felt as if my flesh was crawling off my bones. My Mum leaned over and asked me, “Does that picture look a bit weird-y to you?” weird-y was the word my Mum always used to describe her trypophobia triggers and now we both knew this was a shared experience.

The second and more acute attack from my childhood was on a camping holiday in Spain with my parents and some of our close family friends. My Dad was explaining to me how taste buds worked and what happened when they ot burned (I must have burned my tongue) and his description of them as little pots with lids just sent me into this insane flesh crawly, panicked state. I remember telling my Mum that his description had upset me – it wasn’t my Dad’s fault, how could he have known? – and she reminded him that I too was afflicted with the ‘weird-y’ disease and to be careful. Unfortunately, it was too late. the entire 2 weeks we were away on that holiday I woke up and went to bed feeling panicked, my skin tingling and being utterly unable to stop thinking about this trigger as my mind festered on it and bent it into all sorts of things. After initially telling my Mum that it was upsetting, I don’t think I said anything else. I don’t think anyone had a clue what was going on in my mind and my nervous system that holiday.

It’s only in the last 6 years that I’ve had the word trypophobia in my vocabulary. As you can imagine, the idea of trying to research this bizarre quirk is less than appealing, both online or in books. I have no doubt that any information would be associated with triggering images. By chance, a friend of mine who had experienced one or two very minor triggers had looked it up online and discovered there was a name for it. It felt good to finally have a real name for it and to know that someone else at some point had recognised it as a state of mind. Being able to label any illness is immediately less isolating.

Phobic spells, some lasting only a few hours and others lasting for up to two weeks, occurred sporadically throughout my teens. Trypophobia triggers are like literal tigers in the bush, pouncing on you from out of nowhere when you’re minding your own business. Looking back on it, I think my acute reaction to these triggers and my inability to stop obsessing about them were probably the first signs that I suffered with anxiety, but nobody was really thinking about these things in the late 1980s.

As an adult I’ve suffered on and off. As I become better at general anxiety management, I can deal with the triggers more proactively. The last time I had a really acute attack was about 7 ago. I was dealing with a string of panic attacks around Christmas 2010 and completely by accident saw one of the worst triggers I’ve ever experienced. The panic attacks, which were already causing visual distortions because they were so acute, became enmeshed with this trigger and I completely fell off the edge. For a few days I couldn’t even leave the house because more and more everyday patterns were becoming triggering for me. Brickwork on the side of buildings was the worst – living in London means you can’t walk down the street without seeing brickwork. Luckily I was able to get some emergency Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) which helped to reduce the intensity of the panic attacks and the trypophobic responses became less difficult to handle and eventually dissipated. My sensitivity to triggers is definitely increased when my general anxiety levels are up, so the two are certainly intrinsically linked.

I would love to know if there’s anyone out there researching this phenomenon and to understand more about the mechanism underlying it. I have a few evolutionary-developmental theories of my own, but for now this is just another brain quirk I have to manage as and when it comes. I hope that anyone experiencing these symptoms can find comfort in this shared experience and to know that CBT and other anxiety management tools can help to reduce the response.

You can reach Lue at


Herpes from Date-Rape: Laura J.

Laura J. shares about contracting herpes by being date-raped and how she has navigated managing it logistically, sexually and emotionally with partners, including her husband. She was raised in an emotionally cold home by a psychiatrist father and image-obsessed mother. Her mother’s response when Laura would say “I love you” has only ever been “thank you”. Laura shares about having Bipolar 2, codependency, fear of intimacy, occasional paranoia, an eating disorder (compulsive eating), multiple stays in psych hospitals, an abortion and always being in the shadow of her high-maintenance and unstable sister.

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Fantasy & Love Addiction: Maia Akiva

Paul’s fellow support group friend shares about the huge role fantasy has played in her struggle to accept life; especially her love addiction. She talks about being unable to watch lesbian films in moderation (she is a lesbian) and how the CPTSD from her physical (and emotional) trauma at birth and being raised in an emotionally stifled home (where success was the only thing that mattered) have made intimacy and trust difficult especially with her struggles with low self-esteem. Inspired to help others as she has healed Maia now facilitates workshops and speaks publicly to help others who are also struggling.

Check out Maia’s website

Maia’s Instagram

Maia’s Facebook

Maia’s Twitter

This episode is sponsored by BetterHelp. To get your 1st week of online counseling free go to  Must 18 or over.

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Witness PTSD : Guest Blog by Michelle H.

*Disclaimer: There are some parts to my story that are pretty out there, new agey, woo-woo if you will. Some may call BS, perhaps I would have called it that at a time in my life too. But it is my truth and resonates with me to my core. Believe what you are able, it is my hope you gain strength from my story. There is one of you who needs to read it.


Growing up, my parents never fought (that I knew of), I lived on a small farm, raised rabbits and chickens, went on family vacations, took swimming lessons and had parents who loved me. I’m married with a four year old daughter and have lived/worked around the country and have travelled internationally. Pretty bread and butter white girl Midwestern upbringing.


But the more I listened to the podcast the more some things started to resonate with me. Co-dependent, what was that? Feeding off the emotions of others to fit in and feel good about myself? Yeah, I could be that. The guy (in the older podcast intro) who lay in the mud for 6 hours? That sounds so wonderful to me, even better if it were raining. I believe he was just grounding himself. There are countless other bits of your experiences which I couldn’t ignore that I too, had felt or thought about but was not able to feel or articulate until I heard someone else explain it to me.


I wasn’t expecting the universe to slap me awake and change my world July 3rd, 2016. But then again, who expects that kind of thing to happen? It was a bright, warm sunny southern Wisconsin day; the kind of day where you turn up the tunes, roll the windows down and speed along curvy backroads. I was en route to my parents to pick up my daughter from a sleepover. Half way there I approached the scene of an accident. A fresh one-no paramedics or police were there. I pulled over, grabbed my phone and ran to the first victim who had a woman performing CPR on him. I told her I knew CPR (I had just been certified for the first time in my life the week before). We took turns pumping his chest for what seemed like forever.


Time was behaving very strangely. I will always see his black t-shirt, his broken leg, missing boots, white tube socks and eyes staring blankly up at the sky. I wondered if it was natural for the eyes to crinkle up or maybe he was wearing contact lenses and they were drying up. The smell of stale booze, cigarettes, automotive grease and sweat will forever be imprinted in my brain.


There were other people attending to the younger female. I wondered if they were a couple. He was much older than she and they were riding a motorcycle with no helmets, crossed the center lane around a blind curve and hit an oncoming vehicle.


Finally, a squad car arrived and the cop calmly gets out of her vehicle. I recognize her and I say, “hi Jen”. I graduated high school with her 20 years ago and hadn’t seen her since then. She replies with a hello and takes over administering CPR. She asks me to get the defibulator out of her car and I help her apply the patches and start the machine. Take note, it may seem as though I were calm, but I’m shaking, and there is nothing but sheer adrenaline running through my veins. There was no electrical activity coming from him. I knew the man was dead before I even touched him, but you do everything you can to try anyway. It is what had to be done.


The rest of the paramedic team arrived shortly thereafter and the people who stopped to help either stood aside or left the scene. I stood off to the side.


Two men arrived on scene coming from the same direction as the victims and one man approached the girl. I instantly knew he knew her. She was his daughter. I made an unconscious decision at this point to stay and comfort the man. I made phone calls to notify family. I hugged him. I asked him questions about her.


Officer Jen came over after the blankets were draped over the lifeless bodies, hugged me and gave me a debriefing of sorts. I asked her lots of questions, like what happens next? How do cops prepare for this sort of thing?


There were two old men standing stoically as people rushed about. I thought that was odd. They said nothing. Later I wondered if they had been in war, their life experience was very different from the rest of the group.


Two hours had escaped in Earth time. I couldn’t tell you how long it felt like it was, maybe five hours? When I returned to my car, it was still running.


The remaining hour long drive to my parents was harder than the event that just happened. All I wanted was to hug my mom and cry in her arms. When I arrived, she was sitting outside on a porch-swing.


I went to her and the thing I wanted most in the world was a huge heartfelt hug from her while I sobbed in her arms. What I did get as I reached in for that hug, was a one armed half hug and “what’s wrong?” I didn’t answer for a second for two reasons. One, I felt rejected she couldn’t see there was something so wrong that I just needed a full hug even though she is not a “huggy” type. And that she hadn’t tried to text to see what took me so long to get there as I had let her know when I left my house. Thankfully my daughter was napping and I did get the chance to tell her what happened. I also let out a bunch of other things I had never told her before as well. Things I never planned on telling her just came out. She didn’t say much but insisted I spend the night instead of driving back that evening as planned.


My husband made the trip down to see how I was. We walked about in the fields as I retold the story. It was calming to be amongst the tall grasses, the birds and seeing the sun set slowly. I told him about the omen in the clouds I saw two days before. After work as I sometimes did, would go to my backyard and look up at the clouds to relax. That day, I looked up and saw a skull and cross-bones which evaporated after I saw it.


As this all happened on a Sunday, I had Monday off and my employer insisted I take the following two days off. I took one, thinking I was going to be ok. I had the strangest and worst neck pain I have ever had that wouldn’t go away. My boss set up an appointment with the yoga/dance instructor at the daycare where I am employed as a chef. She also does intuitive/energy/massage work and I was told she was amazing. The appointment was set up for Thursday, my birthday. (Turns out I have a thing for special dates…) During my session, I began to tell her a little about what happened, my neck pain, the cold lifeless heavy daze I was in. The first thing she said was the neck pain was not my own. I give her a strange look, a pause and ask whose it is? And proceeded to answer my own question by saying, “it’s his, isn’t it.” My mind raced and knew in that instant the man had broken his neck at the spot I felt this strange pain. I was intrigued and she had me lay on a yoga mat while she performed reiki on me. She told me that my spirit had gone. I couldn’t fathom that was a something that could even happen. I asked where it was and she said she didn’t know but she was helping to ground it back into my body. I asked if it were at the accident scene and she asked if there was any point in my time there I made a decision to stay. I said yes, to stay and comfort the father of the deceased woman. She told me that is when my spirit stayed and didn’t come with my physical body.


My husband told me during this time I felt cold and lifeless. I’m a little weirded out by hearing all of this, but something rang very true. I questioned, but it just felt right even though very “woo-woo.”


I was told I would actively have to ground myself in the next few days, keeping my diet very clean and that I would experience a whole slew of emotions that day. My mantras-which I wrote in sharpie on my arms, were: Spirit Stay and Light Surround. It worked, and still does when I need serious grounding. I laughed, I cried, I shook and it was a rollercoaster of emotion all day. I am very grateful I work alone in a kitchen where I could fully experience these emotions without having to hide from others while I let them flow out of me.


In addition to the energy session this day, I also had a chiropractor appointment to put me in skeletal alignment and my boss offered to do a ceremonial sage cleansing for me. She had me create an affirmation and performed the ceremony. I have never witnessed or experienced anything quite like this and was willing to try anything to get to some sort of normalcy and further myself on this new path. I enjoyed it and felt more at ease than I had all week.


To close out my day, a sandhill crane visited me that evening during dinner. We live in the city, but have backyard space. The crane peered into our dining room window while we were eating. The bird spent around 10 minutes walking around before it disappeared into the brushy overgrowth.


I continue to have therapy sessions with Elizabeth. I don’t have a set schedule as I make appointments when I feel I need them. Some have been mind-blowing. My first one in her office was spoken only. I felt like my hair was blown back by the things she said. She asked me if I loved myself. I said I think I do, I wasn’t sure how to answer a question like that. She said she didn’t think I did. It scared me to hear these words. What did that look/feel like? How could I have not known all this time? I’m 37 and didn’t know or experience this reality? She also asked if I was abused. I was terrified at this point. The only type of abuse I assumed was sexual. I couldn’t think of any time in my past where that happened. I poured over childhood photos to see if I could find a trigger. Nothing resonated.


Over time, I discovered it was emotional abuse from my parents and verbal abuse from my spouse that I was suffering from. Although my parents love me very much, they have their own set of emotional issues that hide below their surfaces. I am not sure they acknowledge them or not. I have my own theories as to why and how they are the way they are, but I’m not ready to have that conversation with them yet.


It is still difficult to rethink moments of my life where I was emotionally alone. My high school graduation, where my fellow classmates had their parents hug them, my mom shook my hand. I nearly lost it when my dad hugged me after that. During a particularly rough time a few years ago when my grandma told me that she could see how different my younger brother and I were treated as children. How in 7th and 8th grades, I desperately wanted to go to the junior high dances, but was only allowed one per year. My brother on the other hand was encouraged to go, but didn’t want to. When in kindergarten I was relentlessly teased for having a friend that was a boy (we both shared a love of He-Man.) And being made to sign a paper in first grade stating I wouldn’t date boys until I was 16. At the time I wholeheartedly agreed, but they brought that paper up the older I got and as far as I know, it still exists in their fire safe.


Now that I have had time to pour over the past and reflect upon my current existence. I am ready to acknowledge that I felt lonely and lost, but that does not define me today. I have the ability to mentally go into my mind and hug the kid who needed it. I can write scenarios where my current self can give advice to my younger self. It is very comforting and healing for me to do this and allows me to let go of the hurt so I can become a whole, capable loving being.



The more I continue therapy the more I open up. I am building layers of trust with Elizabeth. The things she speaks and my energy sessions are sometimes strange, but they hold true and allow me to open further into a dimension that is new to me, yet always been there. I look forward to my sessions as opposed to getting anxious a few days prior. I asked about this anxiety and she explained that the ego can become defensive and fearful of change. I can understand that and the anxiety lessens, unless it has been awhile between sessions, then I can’t tell if I am coming down with a chest cold or I’m feeling anxiety. (It’s usually anxiety).


Since starting my sessions July of 2016, I have come a long way to understanding my existence. I know that we are capable of creating our own realities. Each one of us has our own unique and valid beliefs. We are capable and deserving of love. We are all the same.


I heard something amazing recently on another podcast; let’s just for a moment assume that reincarnation is true (even if that is not part of your belief-just entertain me please), each and every person alive right now is you at another time in history. So the person that gets you irritated and the person who loves you and the person at the bank or the person you secretly lust, you once experienced life as they view the world and we are all carved from the same universal fabric of life energy. When I think of that, I feel more compassion for others.


I wish the world had more compassion for this. Much of the garbage we live through would just evaporate if this were true. But, I have also resonated with another saying: “Choosing to be a human is one of the hardest things a soul or spirit can do.” I’m in a good place now even though I continue to struggle sometimes.


I am doing my best to accept each moment as a “present” and enjoy it for only what it is. I am putting more trust in myself and the love of the universe. It feels good and I’m going with that.


A Phoenix Tale: one girl’s spiritual awakening, by Michelle H.


I am a professional chef, natural enthusiast, moderate neat freak who is just learning what it means to be a part of humanity in a new plane of thought. My titles may say Mrs., mom, daughter, granddaughter, chef, but I feel like a young student where the more I learn, the more I do not know anything. My hope is that there is one person out there that can gain a taste of love for the world and find healing in my words. Feel free to find/contact me on:

Instagram: 365_days_to_take_today

Facebook: Michelle Hinze

I have many resources which has helped me in my journey, journaling being one of the most powerful, meditation through the app Insight Timer, therapy and websites that explain a lot of what I experience. Please reach out if you would like to know more.


My Brain Helped Me As a Little Girl By Leaving My Body: Guest Blog by Ashley B.

This is a typical night when I was a little girl. I am describing the night backwards chronologically. Dissociating distorts a sense of time and so often people who experience it find themselves going backwards chronologically, not only in their mind but sometimes temporarily in how old we feel. It seemed appropriate to share it this way.


He is gone now and it takes all of my will power not to scream out loud or vomit or both. But I keep it all in and I feel proud of myself. I turn to look at my clock and fall asleep to its flashing lullaby, dreaming of floating in space and running through fields of sunny flowers and trying to pretend it won’t happen all over again tomorrow night.

My eyes are closed but I can tell he is standing beside the bed now. I can feel him staring at me, looking me up and down. I am 4! What could there be to look at? I can hear him breathing heavily as he gets himself ready, taking off his briefs and touching himself. There is an electricity in the atmosphere flowing directly from his excitement and it is too much for me.

Tonight I feel tired, more tired than any child should have cause to feel. No amount of running around outside in the yard or swinging on my swing set could explain the deep down heavy exhaustion in my soul. I sigh inwardly and think to myself, “Oh well. Here we go.”

I know I am not really free. I know the difference between real and pretend, even if my father does spend so much time trying to confuse the two in my still-forming mind. I know.

Still, it makes life easier to act as if I did not know. So that’s what I do. I go about my daily life at home and at school and with friends, pretending. I pretend that I am ok, that I am not frightened and lonely and confused all the time.

I jump slightly as I hear the doorknob turning but quickly still myself again. No matter what, I cannot let him know I’m awake. This is only a little game I play with myself, the challenge of not letting him know I’m awake. I know from experience it won’t change his actions, but it makes me feel like I have a little bit of control.

Not to mention, I am getting really good at going away. Every now and then he touches me in a way that hurts, or worse, feels good, and it brings me back momentarily but I always find my way out again. Out from underneath his too gentle hands, out from under the heaviness of his body and the smell of his breath. Out of this room, this house, this life. Out into the open where I can fly free.

I try to sleep but I’m too anxious and on edge, instinctively listening for his bare feet shuffling down the carpeted hall towards my door. I hear him coming now.

…flash 12:00 flash 12:00 flash 12:00 flash…

Those flashing red numbers deserve my gratitude, as they probably contributed to keeping me sane throughout my childhood in that bedroom. Staring at them night after night, I hypnotized myself into a state of calm nothingness, as my father used my tiny body to satisfy his desires. I was lying there, but I wasn’t really there.

I’m lying in my bed. It’s a beautiful bed- made of wood and painted white, with a yellow checked canopy that matches the curtains framing the large window in my room. I glance to the left and see the white wooden desk I love so much, the one that has a top that lifts up so I can store paper and markers and crayons neatly inside. I turn my head slowly to the right and stare at the clock sitting on the bedside table, getting lost in the red digital numbers flashing 12:00.

I feel proud of my brain for knowing how to dissociate to protect me as a child, but it’s been something I’ve had to overcome as an adult. After years of therapy I have learned how to recognize the signs that I have been or am about to “check out” and I’ve developed ways to keep it at a minimum. Still, it’s my first instinct when faced with hard things and personally I find that pretty cool. My brain loves me.


Ashley Bayley


I am a writer, storyteller, and recently out of the closet lesbian from the deep South. I have a Master’s degree in counseling but currently work as a legal assistant. Before that I delivered groceries. Before that I was a barista. And before that I was an escort. I feel compelled to tell my story so others may be comforted, inspired, or just feel less alone. You can find me on social media if you want:

Instagram: @disappearingviolet

Twitter:     @brooksiecola





I Worry I’m Unlovable – Pauly David

The co-host of YouTube’s Pauly & Monks show shares about feeling unlovable, not being a good enough partner, trying to always “fix” other people, having to be an adult in his family at nine, learning to equate money with love and being rejected by relatives for being gay. Oh and his Bruce Willis-admiring grandfather shooting his grandmother.

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I Can’t Stop Worrying! – Giulia Rozzi

The Moth Grand Slam winner, standup and podcaster (Hopefully We Don’t Break Up) shares about being raised by Italian immigrant parents who worried a lot and her “high school brain” that still worries about being left out or gossiped about.

Follow Giulia on Twitter @GiuliaRozzi
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