Author:Paul Gilmartin

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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Dave Holmes (Voted #8 Ep of 2012)

Most people know Dave from MTV’s Wanna Be a VJ contest where he was runner-up,  from FX’sDVD on TV,  his video podcast A Drink with Dave or dozens of appearances on various programs, but few know his calm exterior often masks panic and anxiety.  He and Paul bond over being raised Irish Catholic, hosting interstitial t.v. shows and other similarities.   Dave talks about the minefield of coming out to a family with mixed views on gays, his oddly easy time with it in high school and difficult time in college.   Paul reads survey responses related to the LGBT community, highlighting where America is at in seeing them as equals and how it makes them feel.

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The Gift Inherent: A Guest Blog by former guest Alycia Schlesinger

I had an amazing moment with my dad, today.

Although I’m not Jewish, I accompany him to temple every year on this day. During the service, they take an hour to remember those who have passed on with a special focus on parents. I had a WAKE UP moment. Instead of waiting to remember him, I decided to do it today. He showed me where he grew up, he told me about his childhood, his elementary school, the day I was born. I did the one thing I could do to “remember” him today: I listened. I paid attention. I let him know I love him by being with him today–really being with him completely in every moment. I let him know his life matters to me by giving him my full attention. I realized that I don’t know when our last Yom Kippur together will be so today, I let him know with my actions that I see him and I love him. With that, I thought, “This might be what it’s really all about–letting the people we love know that we love them and that the fact that they were born matters to us.” I think that may just be the gift inherent in witnessing a life…..

read more of Alycia’s writing at her blog http://divinesurrender.blogspot.com/

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Lesbian afraid of her bigoted father but still wants his approval

There are two reasons why I chose this woman’s response from the Shame & Secrets survey.

1. I think there are MILLIONS of LGBT kids and adults who still hide their sexuality because of the awful things a parent has said about gays in the past, and most of them still crave their parents approval, even though disowning those parents seems like a slam-dunk to us bystanders.

2. Her sexual fantasy made my scalp tingle.   I’ve read almost 2500 Shame and Secrets survey responses and this one made my upper lip perspire more than any other.   Now if you’ll excuse me I have to go splash cold water on my face and adjust my cumberbun.

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A mom opens up about her dark thoughts & past behaviors & feels lighter

This is from the Shame & Secrets Survey.  I LOVE the honesty of this mother who calls herself “Gin-n-Tonic”.   I also love how she feels lighter after sharing the things that embarrass her.  I have found the same to be true in my life.   If I can find a safe person to share something with, the power gets taken out of the shame.    I also relate to the intrusive dark thoughts that she has; things she doesn’t want to act on, but pop into her brain like a horror movie.   Gin-n-Tonic, you are not alone!

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Cara Santa Maria

The neuroscientist and senior science writer at Huffington Post (Talk Nerdy to Me) talks with Paul about the roots of her depression, her parents divorce, her decision at 14 to leave the Mormon church and her father’s inability to accept it, her love of science, how she currently treats her depression and the toll it has taken on loved ones.  Plus Paul reads some listener emails and surveys and a list of signs that might mean you’re a narcissist.

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10 Layer Hate Cake

Have you ever made a multi-layered hate cake?

I made a monstrous one today.   Ten delicious layers of built up resentment, fear and worry.

It’s really ridiculous.   It was about nothing serious.   Taking care of some business related to a support group.

But the woman who requested that I take care of this issue talks a lot, and is needy.   And yes, she reminds me of my mom.   So out of the gate, I have an uneasiness and impatience with having to deal with her.  Layer one.

Then, the thing she requested me to do had hazy details, so I wasn’t sure how to respond.  Gray area.   I might make a mistake.  Layer two.

I began to picture her hovering over my every move, questioning my handling of it.   Future projecting.  Layer three.

Then I contacted the business she had the problem with and I kept getting a message saying they were not taking calls at that time.  What.  The.  FUCK!!!!!  Layer four.

I waited a day.  Called back.  Same thing. I started imagining her hounding me for answers while I deal with a business that can’t get its fucking phones straight.   Layer five.

I finally found out the phone list I had was incorrect – a hot wave of resentment at the “stupid motherfucker” who put it together.   Layer six.

I imagined myself holding the phone list in front of his face and quizzing him like one of those pompous British guys with the powdered wig.   “So you knew the citizenry depended upon the phone list in question, yet you abandoned the duties bound by your oath?  Hmmm.   No further questions.” – cut to him being beaten by peasants while a butler serves me a single egg.

I found the right number and called the most horrendous phone system I have encountered in my entire life.   No exaggeration.  Seriously.  The hold “music” sounded like squealing bombs going off.   Screeching, distorted sounds so loud I was afraid my phone was being damaged.  And of course I sat on hold forever.   Layer seven.

I could feel my face getting hot.   I fantasized about finding the owner of the business and telling them they should be ashamed to call themselves a business.

I finally got through and the person I was told to talk to, Karen.  She told me to talk to someone else.  Layer eight.   I wanted to tell her she should be ashamed of herself for not caring about her workplace and pawning me off on someone else, and stuffing that feeling made my heart beat faster.   I could feel adrenaline surging, like my tongue was in a horse gate at a race track, just begging to let loose.

I was then transferred to a dude who sounded as uninterested as he was dumb.  He said I needed to talk to Kenny.   Layer nine.  I asked if I could leave a message for Kenny; of course not.   He was too busy sounding dumb and uninterested.  I probably caught him in the middle of staring at a lamp.

I couldn’t resist telling him about the hold “music”, and reminded him to pack a sweater because fall can be chilly at The Hague.

I went to write down Kenny’s extension.

I couldn’t find a pen.  Layer ten.   Timer dings.  Cake done.

I wanted to scream.  I wanted to drive my car through my front door.  I wanted to put my fist through something.

I hung up the phone.   I felt warm rage in my face.   I could feel it tingle my scalp.   I wanted to cry.

And here is where all my therapy and support group work paid off.

I recognized what I was feeling.   I didn’t brush it aside.   I felt it.   I didn’t judge myself for feeling it.  I asked myself “What am I doing to contribute to what I’m feeling?  What do I have control over?”

I went back to the beginning of what I was doing and I realized I was anticipating the needy woman’s disapproval of my handling this.  I was anticipating being overwhelmed by her phone calls, her micromanaging and complaining, or worse, her being passive aggressive.   I was looking into my broken, useless crystal ball.  It’s where my addiction and mental illness lives.   It presents itself as the truth,  I believe it and act from a place of fear.

I anticipated me not being able to set boundaries with this woman.  I anticipated letting someone down. I anticipated me not being perfect.

THAT is the problem.   Not the woman, not the business, not their shitty phones, not their uninterested employees.

I had become ATTACHED to an outcome:  I HAVE to solve this.  I HAVE to please this needy woman.

I should have approached it with the INTENT to solve it, the ACTIONS to do so, but the resignation to ACCEPT that I MIGHT NOT solve it.  That someone somewhere in the world might be upset with me.

Suddenly I could see the ridiculousness of my fear, which led to feeling frustrated, which led to ten layers of anger.

So the next time we find ourselves screaming, “WHERE ARE ALL THE FUCKING PENS?, “ stop, take a deep breath, let go of expectation and focus on what we have control over (which is usually very little) and accept what we don’t.

I’m having a great day now.  I’ll call that business tomorrow and if I can solve the problem, I’ll solve it.   If I hit a dead-end, so be it.   The needy woman won’t die.   She’ll probably be upset.   And if she’s lucky she’ll know to stop, take a deep breath and accept it.

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