Author:Paul Gilmartin

I Didn’t Believe in Addiction: Guest Blog by Marcus Freestone

I’m a 42 year old writer, musician, comedian and podcaster from Wales (the small bit to the left of England where they make Doctor Who and Sherlock, and where seagulls carry umbrellas). I discovered the show in February and have since listened to about 90% of them. It has helped me in many ways but one has come as a complete shock to me; it has overturned one of my longest-held opinions. Brace yourself Americans: until a few months ago I DIDN’T BELIEVE IN ADDICTION.

 

I’ve always taken the existential view on life: we have freewill, we just usually choose not to exercise it out of fear. I have always believed that alcoholism, drug addiction, eating disorders etc are not clinical conditions in and of themselves, rather they are epiphenomena – symptoms of an underlying depression or anxiety, and it is that which needs to be treated. I believed that people made conscious decisions but then denied it to themselves. I saw addiction as a cop out that lets people carry on doing something they want to do and say “It’s not my fault.”

 

It’s not as if a tractor beam drags you to the pub or off-licence – you CHOOSE to go. If we think nothing is anybody’s fault then we have to get rid of all prisons and courts. I once said this to a social worker and she agreed with me. However, I now believe addiction does exist, that I have several of them, and I think I understand the root of my previous opinions.

 

I was a ‘mistake’. My mother frequently used this word to describe my conception for as long as I can remember. She wasn’t a nasty person by any means. But still, it made me feel that I didn’t belong – not just to any particular group or faction of society, but on the planet at all.

 

My father left when I was five months old so I never formed an emotional bond with him. The first time I remember going to spend the day with him at the age of 3 I didn’t know who he was, or indeed what a father was. I thought I was being punished for something and that my mother was leaving me permanently with this stranger. I never called him ‘dad’ or anything because it felt fake.

 

Around the same time, my mother went into hospital for a routine operation. I must have half-seen ‘Logan’s Run’ or ‘Solyent Green’ on TV because somehow I had formed the idea that hospital was where you were taken to be killed when your ‘number came up’. I couldn’t understand why she seemed happy to be going to her death; I clung to her leg and screamed my head off as she was going out the door.

 

You won’t be surprised to learn that I have severe abandonment issues, and to this day I still see rejection everywhere. I acquired a step father at age 7 who was a total piece of shit and constantly told me I was useless and lazy. I was often blamed and punished for things I hadn’t done and he took a sadistic pleasure in upsetting me. My mother never stood up for me in all this – more adandonment issues.

 

This constant stream of negative opinions about me, bullying in school, and the feeling that my mother often sided with my step father over me has led to a lifetime of alienation, depression and the feeling that everything is my fault, that there is something fundamentally ‘wrong’ with me. No wonder I always thought that my addictions were just my inherent greed and laziness.

 

In junior school I ate 5000 calories of chocolate a day, plus several bags of crisps, normal meals, huge pieces of cake after every meal and 3 litres of coke. I would shoplift sweets or steal money from my mother’s purse to buy them. At 10 years old I was 10 stone, twice that of some of my classmates. How I don’t have type 2 diabetes or worse is a miracle, especially given my adult intake of alcohol and cigarettes.

 

My stepdad always said I was greedy (despite him having type 2 diabetes from drinking, smoking, terrible diet and zero exercise), and I agreed with him because I had zero self-esteem. Other than being fat, I never had any health problems from my diet, and I just thought it was normal. I never considered this an addiction or something that I shouldn’t be doing: I had very little comfort in my life, I hated being at school and I hated being at home, so I ate at every opportunity because it was all that was then available that made me feel better. It simply became a reality that I never questioned.

 

I will share one other relevant snapshot from my childhood. When I was 12 my 11 year old friend died and I went to his funeral. I was already an ardent atheist but after this I became a total nihilist. My life suddenly seemed unreal – if he died then so could I at any moment – and I became incapable of imagining any kind of future for myself.

 

Even now, it is rare that I can think about more than two weeks into the future without experiencing a complete blank, as if I might not exist beyond that point so what’s the point in trying to do or achieve anything? As a result of this worldview, I have followed the path of least resistance my whole life, gone where the simplest choice has led me or often failing to make a choice. I’ve never been able to plan for the future or achieve things that others seem to find simple.

 

I’ve also recently realised that his death may have been the source of my suicidal mood swings. After all, he was in every way better than me. He would have had a better life than I’ve managed and I think on some level I feel guilty that he died and I lived, that I don’t deserve to live.

 

I have lived my life almost entirely in the present, which of course is one of the prerequisites of a healthy mind and an enjoyable life. This has allowed me to be creative and highly prolific. However, as well as the aforementioned problems with future planning, I’ve also had a problem with assessing the passing of time and the passages of my life. I have great trouble seeing beyond my current mental or environmental state and being aware of changes within them.

 

Therefore, it is only relatively recently that I realise I engaged in the same negative behaviour or thinking for months or years at a time. The repeating patterns of my addictions have only become clear in retrospect now that I’m middle-aged and reflective – at the time I just couldn’t see them because I lacked an overall perspective on my life.

 

I loved alcohol from an early age and would raid the drinks cabinet whenever I was alone in the house. By the time I was 17 I would go to parties and drink anything I could get my hands on, usually ending in a blackout.

 

In my early thirties I embarked upon my heaviest period of drinking – I got hammered every night for 18 months. I worked out once that I was drinking 200 units a week (equivalent to 100 pints of beer or 100 single spirits). If I went to the pub I’d have six or seven pints of Guinness and then six or seven double scotches. One night I had 3 pints, 16 shooters (whisky, brandy and baileys) then another 9 pints. I didn’t fall over or make myself ill, I just got a takeaway and walked home; it was just a normal night out.

 

If I stayed home I’d have two to three bottles of red wine (which one night resulted in me nearly drowning in the bath). On the weekend I’d have three or four bottles of red wine or a bottle of neat scotch. Once again I experienced no health problems and held down a full-time job throughout. Once again I never thought I was an addict or alcoholic; this was just how my life was at the moment. 90% of the time I was having a blast.

 

I still drink now, though nowhere near that much, because I still enjoy it. These days, though, I am more discerning: I don’t touch spirits and I only drink real ale, Guinness or one bottle of wine. I’m very sceptical about genetics influencing behaviour, so I question the relevance of the fact that my father’s brother drank himself to death aged 49 and their father was a very heavy drinker (thankfully, my father wasn’t). I believe we learn rather than inherit our behaviour, and I didn’t grow up amongst alcoholics or addicts.

 

I started smoking at 25 when I was first put on anti-depressants. For years I could take or leave them – I’d smoke 20 a day for a week under stress and then nothing for three months. During the last few years the gaps between packs have become shorter and shorter (although overall my life has got better and better) and I now become anxious when I get to the end of a pack if the shops are shut or I’ve run out of money. Sometimes recently I’ve found myself shaking like a junkie when I have to go a few days without them. I often hate smoking and don’t enjoy it, especially as it greatly exacerbates my eczema, but I continue to do it because, volte face, I am now chemically addicted to nicotine.

 

I’ve smoked cannabis a few times (who hasn’t) but I never had the money or supply line to smoke it regularly. If I had, I would certainly have become a daily smoker. Fortunately, other drugs, for whatever reason, have simply never interested me.

 

I still often eat when I’m not really hungry or stuff down huge bags of fatty, salty snacks just for the sake of it. I’ve always thought it was OCD that made me incapable of putting aside a bottle or packet or bag of anything until it was empty. Now, through listening to the podcast, recognising so much of myself in others’ stories, and doing a lot of thinking about my life, I’m forced to admit that I’m addicted to smoking and over-eating.

 

I’m also addicted to sleeping during the day and staying up at night, getting out of commitments/obligations (even when it’s something I would enjoy), avoiding humanity, changing decisions within one second of making them, checking my keys and wallet for anything from 5-50 minutes before I leave home, and constantly checking I still have them when I’m out, trying to destroy anything good in my life (probably because I still don’t believe I deserve anything good), talking to myself out loud, picking at my skin…

 

There are more but you get the picture. The point is that I now accept that I have multiple addictions, rather than “I’m a lazy, useless piece of shit.”

 

Part of that is that Paul’s repeated entreaties to “have compassion for yourself” have finally got through to me. I don’t think I’ll ever be able to say that I love myself, but now I don’t hate myself and, more importantly, I don’t BLAME myself. I accept that I have solid reasons to feel abandoned and cut off from people, that my step dad’s verbal abuse obliterated my self-confidence and it’s only in recent years that I’ve got it back. My often not being able to get out of bed is the result of insomnia, chronic pain and depression rather than laziness.

 

I’ve been listening to a lot of old episodes of the podcast recently, and have realised something surprising: I am no longer beating myself up. Hearing so many people conclude their interview by saying that they still struggle made me realise that I have recently removed that particular weight from my shoulders. I no longer feel that my depression is MY FAULT. Along with accepting the existence of my addictions, I have also come to accept that the things that get to me are real things that would get to almost anyone. I now believe that my depression and addictions are a ‘valid’ reaction to the life I have so far lead.

 

I also believe that my failure to achieve my lifelong dreams has resulted from my depression and addiction, and not from me being shit at everything. I’ve also realised that I have in fact achieved many more of my ambitions in recent years than the negative parts of my brain ever allow me to realise. I’ve improved hugely as a writer and musician over the past few years and am now finally getting noticed. I can also now also envision a future for myself, one where I achieve my goals and have a stable life rather then repeating the same self-defeating patterns ad naseum. So a final thank you to Paul and everyone I’ve interacted with on the forum. I can’t say that I’m ‘cured’ (if that’s even possible) but I now know myself so much better than I did a year ago. I don’t blame the podcast guests for their problems and struggles so why should I blame myself for mine?

 

Marcus’ website is marcusfreestone.com Check out the podcast and free e-book positive thinking and the meaning of life

 

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Dr. Peace Amadi

The clinical psychologist shares her insight and experience in working with The Ruby Project, helping girls who have been sexually abused and/or involved in sex trafficking heal though group workshops and artistic expression.

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Laura House (Live @ LAPodfest)

The meditation teacher, standup comedian and writer (Samantha Who?) talks about her struggles with alcohol, food, weight, low self-esteem, relationships and what she gets from support groups and meditation.   Recorded live @ LAPodfest.   To watch this episode and all the other podcasts (lots of great ones) from LAPodfest go to www.lapodfest.com/live and use offer code Gilmartin to get $5 off ($25 is full price).   The episodes are available to view until Oct 17th.

And by the way, this is a picture of her bitter old granny.

gran

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Freedom From Childhood Trauma Part 3: A Guest Blog by D.P

Freedom From Childhood Trauma part 3

By DP

With guidance from the 12 steps, help from my AA sponsor and from my grand sponsor I chose to go with Plan B. I would take any and all proceeds from an impending financial windfall and use it to go into treatment.

I returned to therapy and asked her to hold me accountable for the decisions I was to make about my life, help me find a treatment program and have complete access to all my records during treatment. I did not want to leave treatment until there was full agreement between my therapist and the counselors on staff that I was done, that I had done the work to resolve my trauma. I did not want to leave treatment on my own accord.

With the help of my therapist I found one of the best trauma programs in the country, one I would never have been able to afford in this lifetime. I’m just a poor white boy, born on the wrong side of the tracks and would never, never have had the opportunity to go into this type of treatment program without AA’s Promises coming true for me (Google AA’s promises).

I went into treatment sober, stayed sober and left sober.

So off I went, absolutely prepared for what I thought would be the Olympics of The Mind to find a way to release my childhood trauma once and for all and experience freedom!

This was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for me. I realized that. I arrived in treatment ready, willing and able to do the work. And I was excited about it.

It’s really atypical, probably extraordinary that an alcoholic, addict or co-addict would be thrilled to have the opportunity to go into treatment. But, as a trauma survivor I told you I was a little bassackwards about things, but there it is, I did it backwards. No one was forcing me to go, no one was even suggesting it.

I was so highly motivated it was difficult for my other brothers and sisters in treatment to be around me. Most of them were struggling with their first exposure in recovery with process addiction (food, sex), substance addiction (alcohol, drugs) or co-addiction (co-dependent).

I learned something quite revolutionary right away; the trauma I sought to resolve was not in my mind but in my body! This was not to be the Olympics of The Mind. Although I had done a lot of work, trauma is a medical problem. I needed a medical solution to a medical problem. It never occurred to me to look somewhere other than my mind.

But I did have a very serious problem in my mind, one of over–thinking to extremes. You might say that I was an over-thinkers’ over-thinker. My AA sponsor almost banned me from thinking. The solution to this is actually in the 11th step – meditation. Fortunately I had a reasonably solid meditation practice. My sitting meditation took me to a place inside of myself I describe as, “the place before words.”

So I began treatment by getting out of my own way, taking down my walls to intimacy (being known)… excuses, defenses and quieting all the noise that would come out of my mouth whenever it was open.

The treatment counselors were on to something that none of us could understand. We struggled to connect with our emotions (egad!) and our body sensations. “What are you feeling?” This is a difficult question for an addict.

Fortunately I received guidance from the voice inside of myself, the voice that we learn about by working the steps, the voice of a power greater than myself. That voice said, “Stay present.” My only responsibility in treatment was to stay present. Be emotionally available, physically available, and spiritually available for whatever was to happen every minute of every day.

I had no idea addiction counselors were trained to be confrontational. They push every button you’ve got. With my years of preparation I was ready for them to “bring it on.” The most surprising thing that happened to me, and it happened more than once, was when a counselor I never met before would sit next to me and in the space of two or three minutes tell me more about myself then I knew about myself. Shocking.

Well my time finally came, my primary counselor pushed a button and I went nuclear. Although I didn’t show it at the time, man I was outta there. Ready to pack my bags, tell this b** off, and be done with it. Forget my years of preparation.

Then.

Then… I sat down, took out my tools and started working out what was going on inside of me. Where had I failed to communicate where I was coming from, misunderstood what was being asked of me, or failed to mirror back my understanding or misunderstanding of this conversation? That night, it took me several hours to work this out. I had a private session scheduled with my primary counselor the very next morning and was very apprehensive. We began this private session, and I think it took me not more than a minute or two to put this issue on the table. Then we spent most of the remaining hour laughing and enjoying the humor in our misunderstanding. This is the first time in my life, ever, that I was able to work out a major difficulty with someone face-to-face and resolve it in such an esteemable way.

Little did I know that I was also on my way toward an end date. This was growth.

One treatment that overwhelmingly enhanced my recovery was EMDR (look it up). I had several sessions of EMDR with my therapist before entering treatment and discovered another gift – an aptitude. I actually enjoyed EMDR sessions! Some time in my third month of treatment I was trying to find the source of my codependency issues and went in for an intense EMDR session. At the end of the session my counselor suddenly jumped up and said, “Oh wow, you did a 600! What the heck was a 600? So I asked and it is probably some kind of big deal. But it’s not as big of a deal as knowing that you’ve done the deal – when your counselor gets really, really excited about the results. Yeah, I was on my way.

Treatment was so busy that we really never had time to think about what our experiences would be like afterwards. We worked about 12 hours a day six days a week and barely had a day off. Actually we were still doing the work while sleeping. My primary counselor said it was a 24-hour a day program.

I still had work to do, and the energy to do it, and continued to stay in treatment. Once again I was very, very committed. This was a once-in-a-lifetime deal for me and I was going to get everything out of it I could.  Around 90 days it became obvious that most of the staff thought that I was done, that I had done the work so I began inquiring as to my transition back into the real world. I set an end date. I was thoroughly exhausted. This was the most intense experience of my life and I feel that I got everything out of it that I could.

I slept for almost 30 days straight after treatment just to recover from the intensity. I really had not spent any time discovering internal changes or checking to see if I had released the energy behind my trauma.

I spent the next three months amazed, absolutely amazed at the differences inside of me. I felt 90% lighter. There was no need to over-think things, actually no need to think at all. My family of origin story literally vaporized. No need to go back because being in the present moment was so new. Every minute was new. Every minute was fresh. Every minute was a discovery. I was present for my life.

For those of you who’ve done therapy and sat in a session painfully recalling an event from your life only to hear your therapist say, “That’s interesting.” Well that’s what happened to my story. It’s “interesting,” but not relevant at all. My family of origin story isn’t about me at all.

I no longer re-experience trauma when a thought about my family history comes up. Instead I am sad at how sick they were and sad they never chose to get help. But that’s still not on me, I have healthy boundaries in place.

I think it’s important to do adequate family of origin work to take away the power story has over our lives. I think AA and Al-Anon’s middle steps 4,5,6,7,8, and 9 are immensely helpful. But there does come a time when there is no further benefit to go back and try to figure out the past with the past. I now look at my family of origin story like a fun-house mirror. Ultimately, there is no sense to be made out of this level of dysfunction.

Two years later I am still relatively trauma-free. Not a perfect recovery, but damn good enough! Most every experience is actually quite new. Today I am learning to be comfortable living in the question. If I’m living in the answer I’m not present, I am somewhere else, usually my head, and that’s not healthy.

I haven’t recovered to some mystical state of perfection. I describe my recovery as ordinary. I’m now an ordinary person with ordinary problems who makes ordinary mistakes. Who wins some, loses some and really is okay with pretty much everything that’s happening.

My relationships with other people, particularly women improved drastically. I hear some words frequently, words I never heard before in regard to me; “Thank You”

Really? You’re talking about me?

People like having me around! I love to be present for myself and for other people around me without condition as long as I’m connecting with safe people with healthy boundaries. This is what life is like for me today.

I really became the change I wish to see in the world.

Oh, and what about the question, “Do you know anyone who has worked through trauma and is now a happy functional adult?

Well, yes. I do.

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Cheryl Klein

The breast cancer survivor opens up about her lifelong battle with hypochondria, OCD and anxiety.  She talks about the emotional toll of infertility, having a miscarriage and the ensuing depression as well as her double mastectomy and hysterectomy (she has the BRCA 2 Gene)  and the perspectives she gained by having gone through all of it.   Not a downer, I swear!

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Sometimes the Illness Wins: A guest blog by “Emily’s Twin Sister”

On this night, my husband and I had come home after a full day of driving.  He lay sleeping on the floor.  I lay on the couch, watching television.  I learned of Robin Williams’ suicide.  I snapped off the television immediately.  I avoided all news coverage and Facebook posts regarding him.  I did not tell my husband.  I answered monosyllabically when he brought it up days later when the news entered his sphere of reference.

“Robin Williams is dead?!”

“Yes”

“He Killed Himself?!”

“Yes”

I didn’t say anything to his statement “You would think he would have had everything to live for.”

You would think, and you are right.  But when you live with mental illness and its many accompanying demons- each day can be a struggle.  Giving up.  Not giving up.  We are trying.  Do we wake?  Or sleep?  This is the lonely life of one who suffers from mental illness.

You see, because as much as it seems to have become fashionable to say that collectively as a society we accept one another blemishes and all, body defects, physical differences, emotional problems, behavioral issues, mental illnesses…. You still do not want us around you. You fear us.  You wonder if you might be like us, and you shun us.  Or you tell us to shape up and act right.  You tell us it’s a self-discipline matter and it’s under our own control.  You throw up your hands and ask if we want to give up?!  Would you ever say this to a person with cancer or ALS?

I wish I could say this is my coming out of the closet, being brave enough to say that among all of the things that I am, I am also mentally ill.  I wish I had the courage to follow other groups of ostracized who have bravely stood in the daylight at some point and said:  I AM HUMAN.  Whatever other labels you give me, or I give myself because of how I was made or because of things that happened to me.  I am human.  Don’t push me away because I frighten you.  I am human I need only for you to touch me.  I am isolated.  I am pushed here.  I am pulled here.  Mental illness and its isolation are cruel jailers.  They create cravings that they will not allow to be filled.

And this is why I and probably many like me grab from every candy jar in front of us, whether it is filled with poetry, food, cocaine, alcohol, men, women, or weed.  We need to fill the hole that isolation makes.  It’s so fucking huge.  And we can’t fill it with you.  It’s not your fault.  It’s not our fault.  It’s living with mental illness, it’s these voices and the reality is that even though it’s crowded, it’s no party. It’s not something you get over.  There are treatments, often only temporary in effectiveness.  Currently, there is no cure.  You are born with brown eyes or blue.  You are born with mental illness (or the disposition to develop it) or you are not.  You can open your soul like a can of artichoke hearts or you cannot.

I wonder if I will have the nerve to put my name at the bottom of this page.  Will I face my family who would prefer not to talk about this at all?  Will I be willing to face my spouse who thinks I can lose my weight to health or will I remain isolated?  Will I continue to walk through the world like a stranger looking at others, feeling separate, feeling different, and feeling apart?  Will I be able through therapy, through meditation, walks in the woods, the support of friends be able to maintain the castle walls against the assault of my enemies?  But then, I remember. These enemies, my enemies, are inside the walls.  Though with them constantly, I am alone.  They are what keep me isolated.  These demons.  These voices.  I carry them with me everywhere.  They are the voices of self-doubt, self-hatred, of guilt, of shame.  The voice that says you do not belong here.  You do not deserve to live. And you never have.  Why are you still here?

Will I ever become strong enough to silence this voice?  To keep control long enough to use my hands to reach out?  And this is what frightens one who lives in the isolation of mental illness- when one of us falls.  We are reminded how close we are to the edge of the cliff- one thought, one criticism, one stupidity, one death, one breath away from no way out.    I can mouth these words to therapists, to friends, to cops on bridges, over suicide hot lines but when you are truly in that moment, there can be no one with you.  There is no room for anyone else.  Nothing else.   Just the ache of the loneliness you’ve felt your entire life overwhelming you.  Your desire to silence it.  To escape it, just for a minute to be without the crushing weight of failure upon you. It feels like that until you’re on the other side for whatever reason, your dog comes over and licks your face, or something your therapist said makes it through the fog, or there is something in the drawer upstairs calling you.

Having made it through, the intensity, the isolation, the fear, the anguish and desolation of that moment turn right around and stand directly behind you again, pressing into you, like someone in line for bread and they haven’t eaten in a week.  We are deathly afraid that we won’t make it through the next moment when it comes, we are afraid to tell anyone this.  They will think we are crazy and lock us away.  And we are already locked up.  In our brains.

We NEVER choose to give up right out of the box.  But we might get tired earlier in the day.  We might not be able to go in to certain buildings because they are not wheelchair accessible.  We might not see the path we’re walking just the same way- my path might be blurry at the edges because of my eyesight.  And there may come a day when our spirit is weak and our body is willing to let go of the struggle to keep up.

This is not saying we are not capable of achieving great things. We can be great friends, loving wives, good bosses, fine authors, competent team members, amazing artists, intense human beings, literal rising phoenixes!

Not giving up is lonely.  Yes, it means you  continue to live, but live in isolation. Giving up seems like bliss.  To be no more.  No more puppy love(literally, the love of a dog), no more daisies, no more thunderstorms on the porch, no more poems, no more laughter, no more fingers entwined in mine, twisting, bending, kissing.  So I stay.  I must learn better ways to endure the pain.  The pain I inflict upon myself.  The injuries inflicted when you feel are alive in this world alone because you are mentally ill.  Even though I am married, have many friends, family and a therapist.  I feel utterly alone.  Is this self-pity?  Am I playing the victim card? It does not feel like it.  It feels like I am hunting elephants with a fly swatter.

There is nothing quite like being isolated.  Being criticized and ostracized for it and then criticized further and judged when the loneliness bears down on you like an 18 wheeler and you let it mow you down.  When you let go of the edge of the hole; when you fall in.

 

But I am trying.  I am trying to find a little equilibrium among the shards of glass that are the pain of any variety, new (young soul-mate cousin six-month apart-age dying suddenly) or old (your mother dying on the occasion of your birth) and the isolation (the constant companions of loneliness and depression).  This deep pit of blackness- its deepest depth that from which we don’t return.  This is when you fall – Sylvia, Jimmy, Philip, Robin.  And the countless numbers of those whose names we don’t know.  They didn’t WANT to fall.  None of us do.  When we say “I want to kill myself” we are really begging “please, give me a reason to live.”

I want to stay.  Robin did not want anyone, let alone his precious daughter, to know of his last anguished moments of isolation – and to have a physical description of his body now to give weight to them.  That would give him great sorrow that would exacerbate his guilt but it would not stop him.  Agony.  Isolation.  Stiff competitors to the quiet voice saying “live.”  There are so many yelling “Why!?!” “You don’t deserve it!” “You’re shit!” “Die Already!”

I know my therapist would say it is up to the individual to give themselves that reason to live.  He is right.  But I maintain equally adamantly, that it is an indisputable fact that for some of us this is harder than for most.  Just like some of us have shorter legs and can’t walk as fast as others.  Some of us have weaker eyes and have to wear glasses in order to see well.  Some of us are born with malformed limbs and cannot walk or use our arms or legs or move our bodies at all.

Every fiber of my being strains to walk.  My mind is screaming at the muscles to move- but the synapses do not fire.  You chide me continually as I remain paralyzed.  I can’t say anything in my defense.  I cannot speak.

 

Despite all this, today, I’m still here.  I’m still living lonely in this world.  I am in agony nearly all day.  But I will laugh.  I will do my job.  I will put on countless masks. I will avoid any conversation that seriously addresses my situation because no one, aside from perhaps my therapist, really wants to have that conversation.  Honestly, don’t lie about it.  But look me in the face.  Understand that I cannot look in the mirror unless I’m drunk.  I hate myself that much. No one in my day to day world can handle that.  Nor should they have to.  They are not professionals.  They don’t usually last long.  They fall away to safer places.  I remain isolated.  I hate the trail of wounded bodies that my mental illness has left behind me.  More reason to stay isolated.  Exposure will mean retribution for sins and crimes committed.

There are places I can turn to for distraction, comfort, support, and help:  friends who have remained, my therapist. But I still feel myself slipping.  The sheer walls of the loneliness cavern rise high over my head.  Hearing someone say they care or tell me I’m not alone helps.  Sometimes it’s enough – sometimes I can’t even hear the words.  My enemies are making too much noise.

For those who find a way out of the cavern, I say and mean most fervently, Bravo, Congratulations and shut my mouth if I sound defeatist.  But the mirror, look in mine – look at me, for me. The rules of isolation allow for two outcomes.  I have to acknowledge that I might not make it out.  And I do realize this means, I also might.

And I will continue to hope for a different life for people like me.  I will hope until my last breath that someday, like they found a cure for polio, and like they can see you when you are in utero and do surgery to fix things, maybe someday they will find a better way to reach the mentally ill like me who live in a world where we feel we don’t belong.  A world where we wander in the solitary confinement of the isolation of our illness.

My therapist urged me not to get lost in the sadness over Robin’s suicide.  To remember all the laughter he gave us and I do.  But as someone who suffers from mental illness as Robin did – I know the isolation that the laughter was hiding.  I know how it feels.

We have to acknowledge that sometimes the illness wins. We must research the disease to find a cure.  We must first see that which we are afraid of in order to begin not to fear it.

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Matt Oswalt (voted #8 ep of 2014)

The 43 year-old comedy writer/director opens up about his idyllic childhood, and a couple of traumatic events he believes contribute to his isolating and fighting the demons of depression while being single, unemployed and living alone.

Follow Matt on Twitter @Puddinstrip

To purchase the live video stream of the upcoming LAPodfest recording on 9/26 at 7pm Pacific time go to www.lapodfest.com/live and use offer code “Gilmartin”   You’ll get $5 off the $25 price which includes access to the dozens of other podcasts recording there.   The show will stream live and be available to watch for three weeks afterwards.

This episode is sponsored by Bulubox.  Visit www.bulubox.com, click on the microphone in the upper left-hand corner and enter the promo code “HappyHour

This episode is sponsored by SquareSpace.  For 10% off your first purchase and to show support for this podcast go to www.squarespace.com and use offer code “Mental“.

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Aparna Nancherla (voted #10 ep of 2014)

The first generation Indian-American comedian opens up about her low self-esteem, perfectionism, depression, anxiety, eating disorder, the trap of becoming the “good child” and the constant struggle to not compare herself to others.

Follow Aparna on Twitter @Aparnapkin or visit her website www.aparnacomedy.com

This episode is sponsored by Bulubox.  Visit www.bulubox.com, click on the microphone in the upper left-hand corner and enter the promo code “HappyHour”

 

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