Author:Paul Gilmartin

No Longer Suicidal

I got this email from a listener named Angela Stewart.

Paul,

Just a quick note to say I discovered your show after I caved in got an iphone, discovered podcasts, saw the shows logo, laughed out loud and decided that perhaps, I should listen to the show! I don’t listen all the time but on occasion and some people annoy me (most people do!) but listening to your strong message about getting help, has made me be more assertive in getting the help I need, I have for the first time been given a diagnosis (Bi polar type II and most likely/maybe ADHD and Cyclothymic Disorder) am taking medication that works and a feeling of hope has returned to my life. I was researching suicide seriously a month ago and had made my will and arranged my life so it would be easy for my relatives to close off my affairs after my death. I would cry on waking, working, talking and before sleeping. I have love in my heart again and I can give it back to my dogs, as I was viewing them as parasites feeding on the last shreds of my strength, but at the same time thinking that they would be better off without me. This has been the darkest period of my life but your voice has been a warm beacon in the blackness.

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Coping & Trauma with Brenda Feehery

How do each of us cope with trauma?  Brenda’s story is remarkable for many reasons.  She is a former Div 1 softball player and hockey mom with two kids who endured a day most people only experience in their nightmares.   She shares how she got through it, where she is at today and the role athletics played in honing her mental toughness.  Paul also reads some very intense survey responses covering a variety of ways people cope with trauma.    Not a light episode, but hopefully illuminating.

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Am I Less Mature Than a 4 year-old? A guest blog by Ali Baziak

My friend Molly posted this on her Facebook in regards to going trick-or-treating tonight with her four year old daughter, Boo.

“So – took Boo trick-or-treating to the neighborhood behind us this year. I think she’s the ONLY child who, after filling her bucket about 3/4 of the way, peered into it, nodded her head, and then told me and Ali in no uncertain terms that she was done…

“But… There are other houses – we could trick or treat on the way back home…”

“No thanks. I have all the candy in the world.”

…walking down the road…

“Hey, Boo! There’s one. What about this one? Want to do just one more house?”

“I already TOLD you – I’m done. Thanks!”

*blink*”

 

To expand a little (because I am verbose), I hastily invited myself to Halloween festivities with Molly and Fred. Obviously, this seems like a strange thing for me to do, but I have never felt unwelcome at inviting myself to hang out with Molly. I am very blessed to have her.

So I asked her what she was doing tonight with the wee one, and she invited me to come out trick or treating with her. I haven’t been trick-or-treating in forever, so I was thrilled to be able to witness the event from a different angle.

We trudged outside, umbrellas in hand, and Boo held her little pink pail for candy. She skipped and sang and chortled with excitement. Her first house, she forgot what to say when the door opened. We had to remind her a few times to thank the people opening their doors and handing out candies. “364 days a year, we teach our children NOT to take candy from strangers…” Molly mused. We then burst into hysterical laughter as Sticky Hands McGee (Boo) took FOUR HANDFULS from someone’s bowl.

Because she can totally work the sweet, they smiled and said “no worries” as we shouted apologies.

Boo’s unbridled laughter is like a drug for me. She laughs loudly, with abandon, and has yet to feel self-conscious about the volume she can project. To me, it is the sweetest symphony. It is that last drag on a cigarette where you expected to suck filter and instead get a sweet pull. It is my west coast version of Vicki and Seth’s corny num nums (cornbread with jalapeno).

The sounds of her merriment traveled through the air as ghouls, ghosts, and goblins traversed Suburbia. Not even a ninja hip checking her into a brick wall took her happiness away. She was in the moment and that moment was GLORIOUS.

After a while, she looked into her pail, and the conversation we had (mentioned above) occurred. We strolled past houses we hadn’t visited and she shrugged them off, saying that she had plenty. We got back to the house and Molly relayed the story to Fred and he chuckled.

As I was driving home, I was hit with the thought “I wish I could have a moment like that”. It’s amazing to think that 75% is good enough (considering how hard I am on myself). I remember as a child mapping out the neighborhood to ensure maximum candy retrieval. I was methodical. I was organized. Hell, I separated my candy not only into brand, but flavor spectrum.

The idea that a four year old could see a bunch of porch lights on and have a bucket not filled to the brim and be CONTENT with what she had was so foreign to me. But… I want that. I want the moment where I am completely present and not trying to figure out contingencies. I long for the moment where I don’t think to open my phone to plan for the future and instead live blissfully happy in the present.

Getting a life lesson from a four year old is remarkable.

 

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DC Pierson

The author (The Boy Who Couldn’t Sleep And Never Had To), comedian (DERRICK Comedy) and actor (“Mystery Team“) opens up about the loss of his mother to cancer when he was in junior high, overachieving, cynicism, and the terrifying prospect of intimacy.  Paul also reads an email from a listener who sheds light on being an identical twin, and reads the survey responses of a college-educated professional who is addicted to huffing.

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Kathryn Hahn

Most people know her as Lily Lebowski on Crossing Jordan, or from recurring roles on Hung, and Girls.  She has appeared in films such as Anchorman, Step Brothers, How Do You Know and A Lot Like Love.  Funny, nice and self-deprecating, she opens up to Paul about her difficulty in saying what she means and asking for what she wants.   Paul also reads a letter from a veteran having trouble adjusting after returning home, and one from a mother of four married to soldier currently in Afghanistan.

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Coming Home: A Guest Blog by Matt – a Returning Soldier

Coming Home

“The object of war isn’t to die for your country, but to make that other poor bastard die for his.”

-General Patton-

I remember when I decided to join the military. It wasn’t for college money or to see the world or to shoot someone. I didn’t think of any of that. When I joined, I did it to protect my country, my people, and my friends. I saw the planes flying into the buildings when I was in high school and I remember feeling in my stomach that I was going to go.

I have always had a problem trusting people in my life, and I wasn’t going to start with a bunch of young kids holding guns. When I talked to my recruiter, I told her, “I want to be the hardest, meanest, best soldier I can be. I want to be face to face with ‘evil doers’. She quickly signed me up for special operations and gave me a date to leave. The day I left, she drove me to my MEPS and told me, “Have fun now, cause when you come home, everything will be different.” I didn’t know what she meant, but I was too worried about basic and leaving my friends.

I went through basic with ease, but the next year and a half of special operations training was hell. Nothing about it is easy, and they make sure of that. I won’t even start to tell you the ways they tortured us, but it was all worth it to protect my people, friends, and country. I was deployed many times and saw my share of combat against the ‘evil doers’. I would have stayed in until I died, but after five years and a hand injury, I was released from special operations.

I remember the day I knew I didn’t fit into society anymore. I went to a party with some new friends cause the friends that I had before I was in, didn’t like me anymore. I wasn’t on their level of partying and I had deep thoughts about how to make this world better. They didn’t want to hear that when they’re drunk and high. They want to laugh. Problem was, that they were in that state of mind continually so when would they think about it? At this party, there was a man pushing around a woman violently, but everyone just watched. No way was I going to, so I called the man out. I told him if he hit her again that I’d break his hand. By this point, everyone was watching but not one person stood with me. The man tried to hit me and I broke his fucking hand just like I promised. The girl who I stood up for called the police and tried to put me in jail. The policeman let me go and told me, “that’s why you mind your own business”. I wanted to scream at the top of my lungs that I’m no coward and I won’t stop helping when I see it’s needed. I knew then that I wasn’t like everyone else anymore. Everything has changed Ive seen my share of horrible and I wasn’t going to let it happen around me, even if I’m the only one standing I’ll still stand.

I remember the day I figured out it was all bullshit. This took about a year after I came home, but this one hit harder then anything else. I worked as a special education paraprofessional. I only took the job cause I thought it would help my karma balance out. I was going through a lot, thinking about what I did to other humans in the name of my country, my people, my friends. A country that wouldn’t help me find my way or give me disability for my aching hand. The people who wouldn’t stand by me when they saw injustice. The friends who didn’t even want to give me a chance when I came home. I broke down. Spent a week in bed crying and broke. Wondering why I did any of it. I wanted to die. No question in my mind that I would of ended it if I had the right tools. Luckily I didn’t. I quit my job, but had to have some income so I started looking into construction. That’s when I finally put it all together. I looked at a costumers bill which was 12,000 dollars. I was paid 120 dollars for that job. 1%. That’s all I made for doing 25% of the work. Well, I brought this fact up to my boss and was quickly released.

Now I sit here unemployed. Beaten up by the way things are but not broken anymore. I had my time for that and the time is past. My quest now is a different one. I want to educate the people about what we have allowed to take control of our country and our military. Our government is just a puppet to money and greed. It used me and it will use you if it can. Big business has not only destroyed our country, it has used the people’s good intentions to do horrible things. We give up our rights daily when we go to jobs that underpay and deal with bosses who treat us horribly.

The hardest part about coming home wasn’t losing my friends or seeing a man beat up that woman. It wasn’t the thought that I killed men for no reason other then to make a rich man more wealthy. It was seeing my fellow humans not stand by my side to stop something that we all knew was wrong. It’s watching my fellow Americans go to shit jobs and get treated like shit, and not stand up for themselves. I’m not saying take a gun to work, I’m saying be mentally strong enough to say enough is enough and I won’t be apart of this war machine or apart of making the rich richer. DEMAND RESPECT!

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Suffering in Silence: A Listener named “Dreama” Can’t Talk About Her Trauma

I chose this survey response because I know there must be so many other abuse victims like her, that suffer in silence, afraid to talk about the abuse they suffered as children because it would mean a confrontation with family members and experiencing the trauma again.   But what I think Dreama and others like her forget is that they are reliving the trauma everyday because they have kept it secret, where it does the most damage and has the most power.    Though I don’t know the rest of her story, my hunch is that  people like Dreama usually wind up expressing their pain through living a life based in fear, and anticipating pain at every turn, and that anxiety is usually passed on to children and kills any chance of intimacy with a partner.

But how to you get someone who has been violated to trust again?  I don’t know the answer to that, but in my case, my bad coping mechanisms had to start to unravel, and suicide had to start looking good forme to wake up and realize I was hurting inside.

 

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Going Off Meds: A guest blog by listener Mike Pierry

I was listening to Grizzly Bear’s album Veckatimest today and kind of basking in the laid-back beauty of it, when I suddenly recalled the last time I had listened to the album. It was back in 2009, a few months after I had quit taking Effexor. In order to mitigate the unusually intense withdrawal symptoms (anyone who has ever been on Effexor can tell you about the experience of missing just a single dose – it’s not fun), I had devised a clever little method of tapering my doses and had successfully gotten myself down from 225mg a day all the way to zero. This was done gradually, over the course of 7 or 8 weeks. I was very careful. Nor did I let my guard down once this process was over. I had originally been prescribed antidepressants back in 2005 for (believe it or not) depression, so naturally I was on the lookout for returning signs of depression in myself. I did not anticipate what actually happened, which was that I slowly but steadily transitioned into a state of near-constant high-level panic and dread. I lost my appetite and started to lose weight (which seemed kind of nice at first). Then I began to sleep less and less, until finally I was barely able to get any sleep at all. Every time I would close my eyes and start to doze off, I would suddenly think something like “I could die in my sleep tonight!” Immediately I would feel a jolt of adrenaline and want to jump out of bed as if awakened from a nightmare.

This thought didn’t exactly come out of nowhere, but a somewhat lengthy digression is necessary in order to explain the origin and nature of my death-obsessed horror. I grew up without religion – my father had been forced to go to church throughout his childhood and despised it, so had no intention of putting his children through a similar ordeal – and apart from a mild fascination with the Bible when I was about 10 or 11, I grew up with a vague, wishy-washy idea of God as this benevolent, Santa Claus type figure. My Bible reading and a few religious friends spooked me just enough so that when I first discovered my father’s Frank Zappa albums and played the song in which the satirical rocker intoned with trademark cynicism, “If we’re dumb, then God is dumb – and maybe even a little ugly on the side,” I immediately turned the volume down on my stereo and waited, cowering, for the lightning to strike me. Later on, after I had determined, through careful experimentation, that punishment for listening to (or reading) heretical words was not forthcoming in any kind of timely manner from God Himself, my doubts about his existence grew apace. While part of me clung to my childish notions of a supreme and loving deity, the rational part of my brain decided that religion was pretty much not worth wasting much thought over.

Since then, although I had thought about death often over the years and wondered about its essential mysteriousness, I found it hard to wrap my brain around the concept of non-existence, so I preferred to hold out hope for some sort of afterlife, although of what kind I couldn’t really imagine. Fast-forward to 2009 and I found myself confronted with the reality of death in a much more intense way than I had ever considered it before. Right at the time that I was becoming more and more anxious, my father unwittingly loaned me the book that would send me over the edge of panic and fear. It was called The Ego Tunnel: The Science of the Mind and the Myth of the Self. A rather succinct and straightforwardly-written thesis on how the brain creates consciousness and the “illusion of the self” by German philosopher Thomas Metzinger. After reading the first few chapters, I was both convinced that the very notion of any kind of life after death was ludicrous (consciousness itself being a mere illusionary construct of the brain, a tenuous bundle of nerve cells) and utterly terrified of the fact that my future non-existence was more or less the only thing in the world that I could count on with utmost assurance. This book, combined with my rapidly developing state of anxiety, pretty much destroyed my fragile psyche.

In a futile attempt to escape this terror-ridden mental state, I would go on long walks around my neighborhood. One day I put the aforementioned Grizzly Bear album on my iPod. Listening to it then, the songs felt to me like a meaningless rattle of strings and drums, an absurd noise to make in the face of overwhelming, all-engulfing, terrifying, eternal nothingness. I don’t mean that I actually thought any of this while listening – I mean that I *felt* it, directly – as directly as you feel the warmth of the sun on your face, and as strongly and thoroughly as you love whomever it is you love the most.

I know this will sound strange, but I think of that person who suffered as not exactly me but some other person who lived inside of me, and I feel sad for the suffering of this other me. His ordeals over the course of a few months seem to me now, while not nearly as horrible as those of countless others I’ve seen, heard or read about, just as pointlessly cruel.

Although I had good reasons for going off of Effexor, it was still a unilateral decision on my part. I, ultimately, have nobody to blame but myself for what happened. Still, I couldn’t have known what would happen, so I don’t necessarily think of it as a stupid mistake. Obviously, it was unwise to go off of a medication without a doctor’s supervision. But I couldn’t afford a doctor at the time; this was, in fact, the main reason I was going off the medication (Effexor is quite expensive, although I understand a generic version is available now). Furthermore, despite having seen psychiatrists and other mental health professionals for years beforehand, nobody had ever warned me that anything like what I experienced could happen to me if I went off my medication.

In the end, I think what this experience showed me is that what makes each of us recognizably ourselves can be altered (and in some cases, permanently so) to an arbitrary degree, by chemicals just as surely as by physical traumas. We are all such fragile creatures.

You can read more of Mike’s blogs at http://www.mikepierry.com/blog/

 

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