Author:Paul Gilmartin

Guest Blog: My Body My Enemy by Lauren Tyree

I have four lumps in my neck. One has been planted firmly in place for several years. It’s roughly the same size as its partner of four months across my Adam’s apple, above my left shoulder. These stubborn, elongated knots are proud parents to the two small pebbles which nest between them in the hopes of one day growing larger, lumpier, mightier. In my current uninsured, penniless state, I must accept them as temporary parts of my body.After all, the body itself has often felt like a tumor. As a compulsively neurotic, perpetually uncomfortable child of religious dogma and first-world conditioning, I have lived all of life thus far inside my own head. The concrete reality of my physical body has always been a nuisance, a hurdle in the way of the romantic, blissful state I imagined for an idealized version of myself. That distant future self was thin, strong but undeniably feminine, allergy-free and fully hydrated, generally happy and deeply in love, wealthy and laudably charitable. One day, there’d be no more rashes or sniffles or itchy throat, no more digestive distress or irritability or hypersensitivity. I thought this state of impossible perfection could be achieved only through sincere devotion to God. I sometimes blamed Him when He didn’t acknowledge my faith by renewing my health and vitality. But I knew it would happen eventually. If not in this life, I was prepared to wait until my first day in heaven to undergo the transformation.

During my last year of high school and first three of college, Crohn’s Disease took what little strength I had. I was frail, faint, in near constant pain. My heart rate was fast, but my cognitive functioning was slow. I often prayed to God to be put out of my misery. I bargained sometimes, reckoning that maybe a miraculous healing could serve as a testimony to His power. But I didn’t want to keep barely hanging on. One night, I called the prayer hotline of the Trinity Broadcasting Network in desperation. I received an empty recitation and speedy dismissal in return for my honest plea. In moments like these, continuing to survive felt like an unnecessary chore. “Please, God. Take me home or free me from this mess.”

After much time and several rounds of drugs, including steroids and (briefly) antidepressants, after a hospital stay and countless high-calorie meals, I was able to get through the worst of it and slip into remission. I’m glad to have avoided surgery and the severe complications that many others deal with as a result of the illness. Following my recovery, I didn’t think too much about the Crohn’s. The entire experience still feels like a very vivid bad dream. I was so alienated and so helpless in the face of what I saw as a demonic attack.

When I finally abandoned my superstitious worldview and began to address my solipsism and anxiety, I became more grounded in my physical reality, accepting myself as an organic being in need of real care and upkeep. I’m not much different than a plant that needs watering or a bird that needs its seeds. Though I am also a complicated person, a thinker and a dreamer, I’m also a heap of matter which will someday melt back into the earth- its home and ultimate source. I may never be an ideal or a perfect paragon of health, but perhaps I can be the best version of myself. This is a brand new feeling, a whole new realm of responsibility. It’s up to me to figure out what to do.

Today, my chronic allergies and depression are largely under control, thanks to a 95% gluten-free diet. This change was the first practical step toward self-renewal. I still struggle each day to remain present in my body, keenly aware of the issues that need addressing. I have to remind myself to stay committed to improving my physical health in order to keep growing and learning for as long as I possibly can. I know that no magic, no sorcery or luck, will make me whole or save me from the inevitability of death. This thought overwhelms and humbles me. So much hard work lies ahead. At least this time I don’t want to give up, and that’s a start.

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Lauren Tyree

Raised by strict Evangelical parents who struggled to put food on the table, Lauren’s story is about what happens when dogmatic parents push their child scholastically (Vassar), but that critical thinking leads to the questioning of her belief and ultimately to becoming an atheist.  She also talks about the politics of skin color within the African American community and the struggle of protecting a father’s image as a community leader when his actions didn’t match his words.  Lauren is a freelance writer and artist living in Los Angeles.  She can found @Vadarama on Twitter.

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Guest Blog by Naomi What it’s Like: To Be Date Raped in College

What It’s Like: To Be Date Raped In College

by Naomi

 

No one wants to admit they’re a cautionary tale, least of all a flush-faced freshman yet to distinguish between book smarts and street smarts. But, as that one woman out of every four, I feel it’s more important to share the story behind the statistic.

Shortly after downing another shot from the sloshing tray circulating around the frat house dance floor, my consciousness went fuzzy, but not in a one-too-many way. I was too dizzy to stand, with no mental energy left over for nonessential cognitive tasks like understanding where I was, what was happening around me, or even that something was wrong. Staying upright when your muscles are GHB jelly and your entire brain is slipping sideways into your inner ear is an impressive enough accomplishment.

The rest of the night I pieced together from visual snippets that materialized days, weeks, and months later:

– I remember this guy propping me up on the sticky dance floor. I remember being annoyed by his groping behind the fogginess, but I needed the help to stand and was too weak to swat his hands away.

– The next thing I remember is making out in his dorm bathroom, feeling my body bruise all over when he pushed me up against the hard corners of the sink. I remember squirming away, sinking down to the tiled floor in an effort to get his mouth away from my face. I remember my hamstrings were too shaky to stand. I remember being dragged into his bedroom by my hair and a fist clamped around my upper arm.

– I remember being hoisted onto his desk, and (THANK GOD) I remember the condom. I remember trying to pull him out by the ring of rubber at the top because my hands couldn’t grasp with any force. I remember him going a little soft when he realized I was picking at it with my nails, and I remember him getting hard again when he snatched my wrists and pinned them to an adjacent bookshelf, cracking the back of my head against the cinder block wall.

– I remember waking up with a start to a completely dark room and a suffocating revulsion in my gut. I remember my abject confusion about where I was. I remember sitting up against the cold wall and breathing, breathing, breathing myself calm, willing oxygenated blood into my muscles as he snored on. When I was less faint, I felt around the floor for covering and got the fuck out.

– I remember that walk home: the head-compressing dizziness and my blistered feet flapping around in his sweaty white alligator slip-ons — and how badly I wished I could have found my underwear instead of having to wear his jeans bareback.

– I remember how much more important showering was than sleeping, how grimly determined I was to scrub my weak and achy body before I crashed, face first, onto my bed, completely exhausted but only partly dry.

The next morning, I was extra hazy on top of the standard Sunday hangover, dotted with bruises, and perplexed by the throbbing bump on my head. My memory’s snapshots hadn’t bubbled to the surface yet. I wasn’t even sure that I had been anything more than just very, very drunk. So, when asked why I had disappeared and then turned up at brunch dressed like post-Subway Jared, my fallback response was self-deprecating humor. I even posed for an “Oops, I’m a whore!” picture in his heavily cologned club wear. My friends thought it was hilarious, and I was just grateful that being the punchline meant the joke was over and I didn’t have to explain it to anyone, including myself. I deliberately avoided thinking about that night every time it came to mind, the force of my internal cringe powerful enough to send his warped face slinking back into the dark corner from which he had first stalked me.

About a year later, The Guy walked by during lunch. I nudged my boyfriend and said, “That’s him.” He immediately leapt to his feet and whipped his head around wildly, fists clenched and veins popping. “Just let me deck him. I won’t even say anything, I’ll just clock the bastard right in the face.” I didn’t want to make a scene, and so I entreated him to sit down, forget it, and not get in trouble.

But his instantly protective instinct stuck with me, and I realized that I hadn’t truly written off the experience as the cost of short-sighted collegiate excesses. Seeing him want to fight for me proved that I deserved protection, a truth I had hidden under layers of pseudo-comforting justifications. So when I discovered this guy was in one of my senior seminars, I couldn’t stop thinking about that missed opportunity. With encouragement and plenty of righteous anger, I approached the human Axe can and his cronies one evening and asked, “Do you remember me? Because it took me a while to remember you.” As I had expected, he feigned ignorance, and his transparent denial just enraged me further. Upper lip curling with contempt, I hissed the damning details at his sweaty mask of skepticism like a malevolent jungle cat reveling in the delightful ease with which my claws shred flesh. I was flushed and giddy, loving every second of the big reveal. This was my time to prove I had never been prey.

But this audience wasn’t the vindicating jury I wanted; they were already his comforting numbers. An oily, mustachioed smile broke over his craggy face, haughty and entitled to a degree that only the special combination of Third World wealth and an Ivy League education can produce. He insisted that he was sorry, but he had never met me before and certainly was not the person I believed he was. “Whatever you need to believe, motherfucker,” I spat and walked away.

On the podcast, Paul and guests describe exactly how predators pick their prey out of a crowd. Despite the weight of that carnivorous gaze, I know that GHB was only one ingredient in the recipe for my disaster. I immediately felt culpable on that excruciatingly bright Sunday morning. I didn’t assign any agency to him; I assumed that he couldn’t help himself (or me) and that it was my fault for not being responsible enough for the both of us. Even as I consciously felt sorry for my poor, hapless little rapist boy, I also felt intense outrage on behalf of other women whenever anything even vaguely “anti-SlutWalk” came up in conversation or in the media. My rabid mama bear protectiveness came from a deeply coursing sorrow that no one had been there to rescue me from peril and humiliation. Rage and remorse exhausted me into feeling blameworthy, too blameworthy to blame someone else because, after all, I had chosen to slam that shot. I was stupid, I was slutty, I was shamefully shameless — and that shame shut me up, turned tragedy into comedy, and held my boyfriend back.

In order to confront that face, I first had to acknowledge that my lack of control and inexperience meant that I couldn’t have reacted any other way. Five years later, I just want to have learned something. That feels like a cop-out because acceptance is all that’s left, but this is how I strive to relate to all experiences in life: at peace with my past selves, looking back with fondness at how earnestly I struggled through dark times, and confident that I am stronger on the other side. There’s no alternative: being weak means you don’t come out at all, and letting it make you weaker means you never move forward.

My therapist reminds me often that acceptance is not ambivalence or culpability, it’s expansive love. It’s understanding why I didn’t react in a healthy way without castigating myself for being unable to do so. It’s knowing which aspects of my behavior are uniquely Me — even in the pockmarked face of uncertainty, opposition, and helplessness — and which are learned behaviors. (For more, start with thissuccinctpaper on rape culture published out of UC Davis.) It’s knowing my anger is justified and using the truth of my experience to guide my politics and morals. And the path to acceptance is becoming more and more comfortable talking about my experience — not just for myself, but also to let others know that it’s not taboo and they’re not alone. I know that I never would have been able to think my way through to writing this down without PostSecret, ProjectUnbreakable, or the uncompromising honesty of the Mental Illness Happy Hour community.

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Joe Matarese

The standup comedian (Chelsea Lately, Late Show with David Letterman, The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, Comedy Central Presents and Howard Stern) talks about his New Jersey Italian roots, his hair-trigger temper, questioning whether he loves his mother, and reconciling a long standing resentment with his father.   He also talks about his recent plunge into the world of anti-depressants and the profound difference it’s making in his life as a father and husband.   Joe also hosts the podcast Fixing Joe.

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Bald Bryan Bishop

Known as “Bald Bryan” to Adam Carolla listeners, Bryan Bishop’s life is actually a mental illness success story.  After being a poster child for ADHD in his youth, he has managed to find the perfect outlet for his impatience, memory and excess energy.  We then discuss his painful ongoing battle with glioma; an inoperable tumor on his brain stem, how his upbringing is helping him cope, the importance of family and some practical advice for anyone caught in the confusing beaurocracy of modern medicine in America.   You may also know Bryan from his podcast, The Film Vault or his appearance on Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.

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Jamie Denbo

Comedic actress / improvisor / writer / podcaster Jamie Denbo talks about being an only child, born to Jewish parents whose lives, culture and ancestors she feels are informed by fear.  She talks about growing up in Massachusetts and feeling guilty for not having more obvious reason to explain her sadness, panic and anger, and how motherhood is helping her to recognize the familial and cultural cycles she would like to break.   Listeners may know her as Beverly of the podcasting duo Ronna & Beverly, or her many television appearances, including FX’sTerriers, ConanLate Late Show with Craig FergusonWeeds and Curb Your Enthusiasm.

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Guest Blog: What is ADD/ADHD? by George Glade M.C.,M.N.,ARNP

What is ADD/ ADHD really?

ADD/ADHD first of all is poorly named.  People with ADD can pay attention.  They just have difficulty regulating it.  This can range from hyperfocus where a person looks up from their work and says, “where is everyone else and why is it dark outside”?  It can be losing countless hours on video games while homework sits waiting.  It can be taking the garbage out, seeing a weed, which needs to be pulled RIGHT NOW! You might even forget why you went outside in the first place.  Not everyone presents in exactly the same way.

ADD/ADHD is both over diagnosed and under diagnosed.  Of the roughly 5% of people who truly have ADD, only about 10% ever get any treatment.  Why do these opposite dilemmas exist?  Telling if you have ADD requires careful assessment.  It’s not going into your primary care provider, saying you think you have it and walking out with a prescription for Adderall or Ritalin.  Clinicians who practice that way can often do far more harm than good.  It is under diagnosed because clinicians rarely get any training in in recognizing ADD.  If they do get training, they come away with the belief everyone with ADD can’t hold a job or a relationship, uses drugs and may have a legal history.  They don’t realize ADD people are generally smarter than average and sometimes at the genius level.  They may come through school with very negative messages about who they are.  To quote the title of an ADD book, people can feel like they’re ‘Lazy, Crazy or Stupid”.  Often time people with ADD brains grow up feeling different and somehow out of synch with others.

Clinicians get taught it is a dysfunctional brain, but is it?  The concept of Neurodiversity is just getting a toe hold in the science world.  It is not a dysfunctional brain but it is a different brain.   The elegant work of clinicians such as Daniel Amen, M.D. has shown it is a brain that operates in uniquely different ways.  It is well suited to synthesis thinking (as oppose to linear thinking).  This is the very basis of creativity.  For example, Thomas Edison was labeled by his grade school teacher as ‘mentally defective’ yet has a record for U.S. patents which will never be equaled.  ADD was at the core of his creativity.

I have a belief that I’ll share with you.  What do money, information and cow manure have in common?  They only do any good if you spread them around.  I want to thank Tom for asking me to do a guest piece for his blog and his spreading of information.  If you are interested in finding out more, join me on Facebook at The Stimulus Driven Brain for podcasts and weekly tips on living with ADD/ADHD.

Bio:

George H. Glade, M.C., M. N., ARNP is a psychiatric provider in the ER of Harborview Medical Center in Seattle, WA and in private practice.  He is the author of  ‘The Stimulus Driven Brain.  The Essential Guide for the ADD/ADHD College Student’.

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Phil Hendrie

The groundbreaking radio personality opens up about the childhood and adolescent pain that informs his stable of highly detailed, irreverent character voices.   He and Paul bond over sexually inappropriate mothers and distant fathers.    Whose mother acted creepier?  You decide.  It’s Ick-a-palooza!

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