The place to come to wag more and bark less...


Sunday, May 21, 2017

Spring Cleaning

This morning, after hearing a particularly meaningful testament on the importance of tithing in our lives, I considered what I have to give. 

“Nothing,” I thought. “There's nothing I have that I don't need or use.”

Boy, was I mistaken. It took only a moment to realize that, just yesterday, I gave a neighbor something really simple - a length of vinyl-coated, light duty cable dog leash. I found it weeks ago at a campsite along the lake not far from my home.

"Maybe I'll need this someday," I thought, though I might've known better. Sophie, my trusty service dog never runs away, unless she's running with me, so the need I imagined never materialized.

Anyhow, giving something away I'd be unlikely to ever use anyway didn't seem that big of a deal. I didn't think much of it, either, until I considered it's real value to my neighbor.

If you've ever been camping in Colorado in late May, or anytime, for that matter, you're not surprised when a winter storm blows through and makes all those seventy degree days from last week feel like ancient history.

Those are the times when the propane that fuels our furnaces becomes invaluable to us. 

Well, my neighbor had once suffered the loss of a sorely needed propane tank before, as a boy camping with his family.

He remembered shivering all night, and he resolved then and there it'd never happen again.

Although the cable I gave him wasn't meant to prevent anything from being taken, I could tell when he thanked me that the peace of mind it brought him was as much a gift to me as the cable was to him.

It makes me chuckle to think that I had the thought that “one day, I might find a use for that cable myself,” even though it sat, neatly coiled up beneath my camper.

But what I didn't realize at the time was that I did find a use for that cable; I gave it to my neighbor. The metaphor of that one, seemingly simple act was not lost on me; giving is an act from which all parties benefit.

You've heard of buyer’s remorse, right? Well, I've felt like a consistent sufferer of seller's remorse. “Man,” I'd think, “I coulda got way, way more money when I sold that (fill in the blank) if only I'd asked for more.

But there's an insidious, built-in, two-fold mechanism at work in my thinking here.

First, saying that I should have asked for more not only cheapens my memory of having sold something to someone fair and square, but it cheapens the transaction itself.

Instead of making a positive deal with somebody, a sort of dark cloud came over it in my mind, turning it into something that felt somehow tainted.

“I'm so na├»ve,” I'd think, “how could I let myself get taken like that?” Or, “That guy knew what he was doing all along-I fell for some slick-talkin’, fast-walkin’ crook!”

You might already see where this is leading.

The second aspect of this is easy enough to remember, for it's best known as second-guessing. These thoughts pull a built-in trigger for an onslaught of self-criticism.

Any question I ask myself that begins “How could you have…?” automatically qualifies as one likely to end with some sort of harsh, inwardly pointed judgment.”

But after hearing Dr. Roger’s message this morning, it all became clear -the subject of tithing, that is, not All all!. Tithing needn't be of a financial sort, but can occur in a multitude of ways.

However many things you might give, or moments of your time, or heartfelt, thoughtful words etc., are simple, daily tithings I've been giving all along.

But, then I remember-drawing strength from the things I'm capable of giving everyday is actually the very basis of the contract I've made with my world.

In fulfillment of that contract I give of myself to others, like donating clothes or shoes or food, or recycling anything that still has a purpose, or my time and attention. It's what I do because I can, and I want to.

That, I now realize, is a form of tithing, and an infinitely rewarding one at that.

Just a little something to keep in mind during spring cleaning this year. 

One other thing - while outgrown or unwanted or needed consumer items have their place, I think the tithing Dr. Roger is referring to is actually the financial kind!

Friday, May 19, 2017

Breaking News


Mentally Ill Man-Child With 
Seizure Faking History Steals Toy Truck, Takes Joyride



Man-child, faking seizure

Washington, DC: Mentally ill man-child breaks into Kindercare in search of Department of Education Secretary/Fellow Rich Person Betsy deVos. Man-child loses grip on reality, throws tantrum, drives off believing he's Fred Flintstone.



Man-child fleeing Kindercare

Using his outside voice, man-child yells “Wilmaaa!”, forgets his manners, rudely shouts “Outta my way, very bad dum-dums!” 

Irritated neighbor, speaking on condition of anonymity, says “Nobody can stand that kid. He's been shouting nonsense since moving in four months ago.” 

Amateur video shows man-child hollering “Yer fired, ya nut jobs! Beep beep beeeeeeep!” No children were present, as deVos shut down facility earlier that day.

Man-child sent home with reluctant mommy, Ivanka, to their big white house. Tells him “You're in big trouble.”

Father, Stephen, tells man-child he'll get “good Democratic spanking”. He was sent to bed after only one scoop of ice cream, an hour of TV, and no cake.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Sympathy for the Donald?

Inasmuch as I believe Donald Trump did not want to lose the 2016 election to a woman – he does not want to lose anything to a woman – he also did not have the foresight to see that, as president, he'd have to get off his ass and do something.

After lamenting about how much easier his previous life was before he became president, and stating outright that being president is more difficult than he thought it would be, just to watch Trump’s behavior as merely another person, without any expectation of seeing anything in him beyond that, is to witness a simple, undeniable truth about him.

A critical part of the problem with the world's view of Donald Trump is that those analyzing and reporting on him regard him in a political context.

Perhaps the Goldwater Rule is responsible, at least in part. I'm no sigmund Freud, but my eyes don't deceive me; I know what I see.

American voters in 1964 were encouraged to take a long, hard look at presidential candidate Barry Goldwater. Fact magazine published a campaign ad featuring the polled disapproval of Goldwater’s by 1,189 psychiatrists.

Goldwater lost the election. but won a libel suit against the editor of the magazine that ran the ad. But it also resulted in the so-called Goldwater Rule, in which American Psychological Association members are forever ethically bound to not endorse candidates in this way again. It would be considered both inappropriate and unprofessional.

The lawsuit itself also had a somewhat similar chilling effect on how news could be reported. Unaccredited psychological professionals no longer gave their input, so any reporters making claims about anyone's mental state did so at their own peril.

Since then, barely a peep has come from journalists intent on reporting and keeping their jobs by not bankrupting the publishers that employ them. Anyway, it's a matter best left to late night TV hosts who somehow, in their own way, make stomaching chronically angry personalities like Trump's possible.

However, as a fiercely independent-and unemployed- news junkie/writer I am not bound by the wishes of any publisher for my actions. I am, therefore, both free and more than willing to speak out for what's right.

Regarding Trump, if you look at him as a person, and a troubled person at that, you will see the separation between the guy who is president, and the guy who just wants to play one on TV. The latter is the Real Donald Trump.

Some of what I'm pointing out here I've only seen expressed by two other writers.* One wrote an article entitled something like "Trump: what you see is what you get." The other wrote an eloquent piece with greater detail on this matter entitled “The Madness of King Donald”.

The point of the first article was that there really is no depth, no substance to Donald Trump. All of the inexplicable, idiotic behaviors and the apparently obscene, rude, and pointless views he has ever held are truly all there is to Donald Trump.

The second article, as the title suggests, is that the guy is just plain nuts, and there's a long history of tyrannical rulers who've displayed their craziness first.

No matter how well Donald Trump’s ego deludes him, he’ll never be the first, nor the “greatest ever” goofball to appear in the history books. It's almost like looking back for hundreds of years on Trump's genealogical tree.

Though I'm at a loss to figure out why, not enough emphasis is placed on the extreme insecurity that Donald Trump embodies. Aside from his near-paralyzing sense of fear, which runs a close second, insecurity is the driving force behind everything he does.

Nothing that Donald Trump does is done for any reason except to exercise power solely for his own personal gratification. It simply must make him feel better about himself, however he defines that at any given moment.

For someone who has all the money he will ever need or want, all of the things he could ever need or want, there is really little for him to want beyond outright glorification.

Donald Trump sees himself born into this world as a poor old sod who rose to prominence by virtue of his superior craftiness, shrewdness and wit. He then, rightfully became king. And, by definition, "king" to Donald Trump means having everybody wait on him, literally, hand and foot. It's what he's become used to, it's what he can't live without. Poor old sod.

In his business life, he could get away with it. In the world of politics, he cannot, and that's what he means when he says being president is harder than his previous life.

So why did Trump run for president anyway? It clearly wasn't to make America great again. Simple; he had nothing better to do and the call of infinite presidential glory was irresistible. In so many words, it sounded good.

Today, having won the election months ago and with the realities of the job staring him in the face, he can't help but flinch.

But with each quick look back at his victory last November, preferably coupled with a prideful, self-satisfying but awkward to anyone stuck nearby, gives Donald the confidence booster he so sorely needs.

Now that Trump needn't show the world the charming candidate adorned with a bright red ball cap and bursting with promises, Trump makes no effort to hide his real side. It's visible for all the world to see, and it ain't pretty.

He creates situations whereby he blatantly contradicts others who bear his message. This includes his press spokesman/whipping boy Sean Spicer who doubles as a sponge for Trump’s constant flow of vitriol.

But Trump’s not above putting his second in command, Mike Pence, in the hot seat, either. Chances are, it's just a reminder to Pence that he is, indeed, only second in command.

Given that Trump believes he's his own, best advisor, and that the conclusions he draws are the right ones, even in the face of all evidence to the contrary, his administration is, by design, largely devoid of appointees.

It's no wonder that his wife will not join him in Washington DC. No sane person would go out of their way to be with a man who screams, rages, and displays his ire in public.

I'll leave it up to the imagination to wonder what kind of heavy-handed bastard Trump turns into behind closed doors. Does he suddenly turn into a gentleman and model husband and father-of-the-year finalist? Not likely.

In the absence of those whose two favorite words are "yes, sir", in that order, somebody must be there to take Trump's angry energy. And who is downhill from it all? His wife, Melania, the low profile First Lady.

You remember her: She's (God forbid!) the immigrant who reminded Trump in public to put his hand over his heart as the national anthem was being played. He was likely preoccupied with thoughts of his next round of golf.

Yes, that's the Donald Trump the world now sees and, now that he's king, that's all that matters to him. Now, if only he can figure out how to get someone to do all the work of governing while he remains king.

“Too bad we gave up the English system of government all those years ago,” he thinks, “they really know how to treat royalty there.“

Back in the real world, Trump has lost the collective support of all House Democrats and is working his damnedest to do the same with his fellow Republicans.

But once he does, it won't be his fault, you see. When the fruits of his behavior hit the fan, as it's now doing, his rule will come to an abrupt, albeit bittersweet halt.

Bitter in that the eyes of the world will no longer be fixed on him. Sweet because he'll still have a Secret Service detail at his disposal while he gets back to his real calling; golf.

Inevitably, he'll be asked to look back and remark on his broken and short-lived presidency. In a nutshell, he'll offer up a face-saving tale of victimization, highlighted by leakers and fake news,
which he'll ultimately blame on "the system.”

"The system," of course, is simply some quixotic paradox that exists only in his mind. It's something he is doomed to never find, though his life has been spent in search of it.

One day, despite his many flaws, Donald Trump will be remembered as someone people once really, truly adored. It may also be remembered that most of those people were stubborn and misguided, drawn perhaps to a supposed underdog.

He appealed to many who felt better understood by him more than any politician ever had. Given the political climate, it's reasonable people might bet on a dark horse.

But there's another aspect of Donald Trump for which I believe he'll be remembered, and that is mental illness.

Ever since the culmination of the last year's campaign season, I've recognized it in him. The defensive tone of his words, and the childish, pre-emptive nicknames he constantly used in reference to his competitors.

His use of childhood phrasing at the end of his sentences, e.g. “...and everyone knows it.” His predisposition toward sudden mood swings, and tantrums, as evidenced by reports of his raging at his staff and singling out certain TV celebrities who scorned him.

As many already know, mental illness can strike anyone regardless of financial, social, or physical status. Anyone is vulnerable, including Donald Trump.

Just as he displays symptoms of narcissistic personality disorder, I believe it's up to professionals like psychologists and psychiatrists to finally speak up.

Drop the professional gag rule and make an exception; you're smart people, smart enough to come up with a plausible reason why it's okay to do so in this case.

Consider this:

Now-former FBI director James Comey conscientiously spoke up about reopening Hillary Clinton’s email investigation ten days before last November’s election.

While it likely contributed to her campaign loss, Comey did so knowing he was the only person who could disclose that information. The gravity of his announcement - or decision to not announce - a development of such importance to his country's future he felt would make him, and he alone responsible for the consequences.

He knew the gravity of his decision could lead to many deaths, of innocents and combatants alike. There may well be shakeups in the world order and more.

So APA members, you've got a responsibility to the citizens of the world, the same world you, your family and everyone else shares. Please take the initiative and do something.

Anyway, despite Comey’s best intentions, it turns out that Hillary Clinton, with all her international diplomatic experience, would have been the better person to handle the job of president.

Given Donald Trump’s emotional and mental shortcomings, his administration was doomed from the start. But the subject here transcends politics; it's about mental health.

Donald Trump is a conflict-oriented person, as evidenced by, among other things, his penchant for filing lawsuits at the first sign of resistance from those with whom he's done or is doing business with.

Given his impressive corps of attorneys, it's not surprising so many lawsuits are pending still from his previous exploits in the private sector.

Now that he's involved in politics, however, a new evolution of Trump’s conflict-oriented nature has emerged.

Audaciously flexing his newfound political muscle, he continually offends Congress and, in so doing, all Americans by trivializing those issues set before him.

When he's not dabbling in behaviors that even experienced TV scriptwriters might consider inconceivable behavior for an American president:

Walling off the entire US border? Give top-secret intel directly to Russian diplomats in a closed-door meeting in the Oval Office? Nah. Nobody’d believe that.

He continually embarrasses his colleagues’ and pushes their trust to the limit with contradictory explanations of his exploits. This he downplays by saying that he “likes to improvise,” or that his “thinking has evolved.”

As president, Trump feeds his insatiable insecurity by betraying his subordinates and lording his power over them, yet still craving the loyalty he so desperately wants.

Despite having the upper hand now, he's up against a system he'll never defeat.

Again, that's when his story about unfair treatment and being undermined by some traitor who leaked information, disseminated fake news, etc. etc.

His insecurities will be aggravated and, once in that special state of upset, he'll finally feel content again. Only in his absence will the country be able to repair itself and it's relationship to the rest of the world, as well.

At least, however, the world will have a greater awareness and, hopefully, a better understanding of mental illness and it's profound effects on everyone whose lives are touched by it.

* Now it's four; I've added two more, below:

So Much For The Goldwater Rule:

Here are two related articles worth reading on this subject I have since come across writing this post yesterday.

The first is an op/ed by David Brooks entitled When the World Is Led by a Child.

In it, Brooks addresses Trump's infantile, childish and, at best, sophomoric behaviors in greater detail.

The second is also an opinion piece entitled Shrinks Define Dangers of Trump Presidency, by Hara Estroff Marano. It was posted on Psychology Today's online site on April 20, 2017.

In it, the findings of a panel of mental health experts who met at Yale to discuss the president's mental fitness are presented. Their answers may not surprise you.

Perhaps the best part about this group is their consensus that they've chosen to act out of a sense of responsibility for everyone's best interests, Goldwater Rule be damned.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

Something Offbeat And Fun For A Change

This reblog  is a silly change from the goofiness going on in our government these days, and perhaps from my own realities, too. I don’t know about you, but all these political editorials I’ve been making are wearing me down. A respite from it is in order, even if for just a day or two.

I wrote this post about two years after the accident in which I lost my left arm. On the occasion of each anniversary of that accident, I tend to have some weird and not-so-nice memories of the scene. This post was an attempt to distract myself from all that, and it has some real merit, too. After all, the accident left me so physically beat up that, yes, just getting to the bathroom often felt like more than I could handle.

But, like everything else (so far), it’s something I now look back on and laugh. It originally appeared on another of my blogs, which I could only sporadically maintain. It’s still out there, if you care to visit: https://eyecandycopy.wordpress.com.

Posted: September 15, 2014 in Bathroom Humor

A Tribute To The Simple Things


Lately, I’ve made it a point to acknowledge the spoils of humankind’s most simple discoveries which I’ve enjoyed but left unappreciated all my life. I’m not talking about drive-through banking, or instant coffee makers, or hot and fresh, home delivery pizza either.
While those things have their place, what I’m referring to goes back much, much farther, to the people who really made it all happen.

Perhaps I was placating my conscience a bit as I recently stepped out of a particularly long, hot shower and stated “I love indoor plumbing.”

I’ve said it other times too, such as after stepping out of the bathroom, flush with relief. While life does not revolve around the bathroom, it may well be the only place in which we find ourselves with a little extra time to think about things.

Given the setting, I’m sometimes compelled to think what on earth I would do if I still lived back in the days of the Cowboys and Indians, for whom no luxuries like indoor plumbing existed.
If digging a hole was the only viable option then, my romantic notion of how people lived in the old days was shattered.

But it probably shouldn’t be, considering that tools of the sort dentists used to extract teeth back then are suspiciously similar to those hanging above my workbench. Knowing this, it’s not a stretch for me to imagine that, like me, some of history’s greatest innovators have also done their best thinking in the bathroom. There, creative and uncensored minds are free to entertain thoughts that couldn’t otherwise be safely shared with the public at large.

My thoughts tend to be guided by the seasons, as experiences I’ve had then often bring them to mind. Now, for example, it’s mid-August, and it seems as if “back to school” this and “back to school” that is everywhere. But I like to think of fun things, and thinking of anything related to going back to school, for me, has little to no entertainment value at all.

Fast forward to springtime, however, and the feel of everything begins changing for the better. Yes, poison ivy begins blooming again, and so do dandelions. But the sweet smell of freedom begins to fill the air once again; school is nearly out, and summer break is about to begin.

Granted, it’s been over thirty years since grade school. Even so, each May the anticipation of another marvelous summer vacation still creeps into my mind, for it is then my truly fun, real world education occurred. English? Math? Reading? Boring! Amusement park rides, barbecuing, bicycles, and the like were my idea of homework.

So, whether you are referring to indoor plumbing or roller coasters, you’ll find they all had – and still have– one thing in common. That is, their reliance on the simplest, yet most important discoveries of our earliest ancestors. Pencils and pens and notebook paper instead of hammers, chisels, and cave walls.

But nobody (but me) pays homage to this notion, and why would we?. Such thoughts are overshadowed by the bright glare of fresh, new school clothes and cool sneakers, and school supplies, which are advertised ad nauseum by retailers hungry for sales.
During those frenzied back-to-school spending orgies, for instance, who is likely to remember that written communications originated when early man first scribbled things on walls within the safe confines of some hole in a cave they happened to call home?

Given the nonexistence of D-cell powered flashlights, this could never have been accomplished without the benefit of firelight, something they’d probably learned from the people in the cave next door. Then, early Man eventually learned from others that not only could they keep warm and cook the sinewy raw wild boar they’d grown used to choking down for eons, but that they could actually see it with firelight.

Where, you may be wondering, were women were all this are going on? Well, they were there, but they were called “Man,” too. For some reason, it took a long, long time before that fact pissed them off enough to do something about it, and rightly so.

Anyway, inventing all this stuff didn’t come easy for man, and it didn’t happen overnight. But without it, where would we be? Speechless, in the dark, and eating raw food, I suppose.

That was then; but how about now? What good would clothes be without buttons, zippers, and shoelaces? We’d probably find ourselves standing barefoot, bare chested, and bare-assed with our pants around our ankles.

All of these things – and so much more – we owe to our human ancestors, for whom the invention of the shovel was a major innovation, too, because it sure beat the hell out of digging a latrine barehanded. It ushered in, I suppose, a brand and grand new day, during which man – albeit while squatting over a hole – now had a great deal more time to think about what to do next.

But does any of this show up on billboards or television commercials to remind us of how thankful we should be for the accomplishments of our forefathers and mothers? I doubt it. Consider how primitive we may now think of things as having been at the beginning of the twentieth century.

Then, pull-chain toilets with overhead tanks were the latest and greatest. Or, unlike today’s fancy pants with zippers or even Velcro, new and novel button-fly trousers and suspenders were once all the rage.

So, it seems we’ve come full circle and find ourselves back where we began; in the bathroom. And even though our business in there remains largely the same, we can find dramatic changes in the way we actually do business.

In many public restrooms today, we only need to step away from the toilet after we’re finished before the thing automatically flushes. The sink, hand soap, and paper towel dispenser are likely automated, too.
There is an old adage that claims some of our greatest thinking occurs in the bathroom. If it’s true, I imagine all this extra free time now will make ours a much greater society than ever. In fact, it shouldn’t be a surprise, then, that my inspiration for this blog entry first came to me in the bathroom.

Greatest thinking, huh? Now, if only I can get my desk and my laptop in there, my writing just may become better than ever. Maybe someday, it’ll even be possible for me to automate that, too. It sounds a whole lot better than scratching on cave walls by firelight.

Monday, May 15, 2017

Waking Up From The Nightmare, Addendum

There is one additional aspect of Trump's belligerent attitude toward the world in general that was not found in my original post. I believe it's important enough to be pointed out before he departs for his foreign venture this Friday.

Namely, his predisposition toward making up, and then standing behind his words, which are often pulled out of thin air. He's got an attitude that the world should accept them as truth.

The president's actions are not unlike those of my own father, and probably his father and his father's father, etc. just as they may be, or once have been, with yours.

This awful parenting tradition, passed down and continued with great passion by my own father and witnessed by my indifferent mother, is exacerbated by trump's mere presence. A horrible feeling of being ensnared here, with no apparent escape from the situation has been resurrected from some dark place in my mind, and it once again is strong as ever.

Ironically, I never felt safer from my father when in jail last February for refusing to put a leash on my service dog and holding it with my already occupied only hand.

At around age eleven, the memories once again flooded my thoughts. Forty years after the honeymoon period I enjoyed with my father ended for good, the flashbacks of his abuse were once again triggered in earnest.

Being shut in, not just behind bars but a thick steel door that was closed every evening in a state of what they called “lockdown”, was strangely comforting.

I remember thinking, in the haze the complete and total absence of my medication, that my automatic return to the nightmarish situation, this time as an adult, did not lead to feelings of aloneness and despondency, but safety.

How it could possibly be I don't know. But, in telling them about my experience for lack of anyone else to call, it seemed my parents - yes, both of them - reverted to their old patterns.

It was my mother to whom I spoke first, as I figured it would be. Ultimately, my father refused to speak to me, as if denying me the honor of his attention was something that would strike at the very heart of me.

Never mind that it was he who was behind the regular beatings and confinement to my bedroom for months at a time, with yard work as my only respite, during summer school break.

Yes, I am indeed an evil person. What a laughable idea. But such reminders of this also emanate from the White House, though now it’s all of America that is held captive.

The only hope we have, indeed, is despite the uncertainty of the date, we're all in this together, not suffering alone. No matter what his hardheaded “base of support” believes, impeachable offenses have already been committed, and the president will one day have to answer to them.

Unlike the inescapable predicament of my youth, my father could mistreat me with impunity as my mother looked on. Then, both of them would contend that the conflict they conspired to create was actually my fault. This in mind, I realize they must be among Trump's defiant supporters. How could they not be?

Consider this: At the time of my release from the jail, not once did my mother ask what on earth could happened to result in such a terrible thing.

Rather, convinced without evidence of any wrongdoing, my mother, suddenly feigned being upset and blurted out “You just called to upset me”. Then she said, with conviction that “I could tell in the hospital when the nurses handed you to me by the look in your eyes that you are evil”.

Realizing in my adult mind how terribly sick that sounded, I simply responded “No, I simply called to say goodbye”. It was a much nicer response than she - or my other family members who've become sycophantic clones of my parents - deserved.

Why I was so restrained, perhaps even nice about it, I'll never know. Maybe it was some relic of the dynamic that once existed in my subordinate relationship with them. Through our country's notorious leader, the memories returned.

Nonetheless, that old, familiar interaction with my mother had a strange benefit. As I ended the call, I was struck by the feeling that I'd somehow survived something so horribly wrong yet managed to come out alive on the other end.

In short, the cards dealt me in the birth lottery were stacked against me from the very beginning. Statistically speaking, I never stood a chance; I should have become just another childhood suicide.

Not that I didn't consider it, but I believe I was afraid even to try it. So strong was my fear that I believed they could punish me, even in death.

The fact that I still have such unsupportable yet very real feelings of despondency when I visualize the angry image that belies such irrational thinking and subsequent behaviors the so-called “leader of the free world “ I is a trigger for me.

Therefore, if I feel this way, others must, too.  While I wish I could comfort us with some uplifting words, as I search the recesses of my mind I'm unable to find any.

The only thing I can offer you is that you are not alone, and that we are all in this together. It's together, then, that we will one day prevail.

With luck, the world will become more adept at recognizing and tolerating those who are mentally ill.

Until then, may we all soon find Peace and Kindness in our hearts and in our world.

Saturday, May 13, 2017

Would you treat me differently? National Mental Health Awareness Month

Because May is Mental Health Awareness Month, it's fitting that the subject be addressed in this blog.

According to a 2015 report from the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), “Our best estimate of the number of adults with any diagnosable mental disorder within the past year is nearly 1 in 5, or roughly 43 million Americans.”1.

Equally important, the study goes on to say that “Although most of these conditions are not disabling, nearly 10 million American adults (1 in 25) have serious functional impairment due to a mental illness, such as a psychotic or serious mood or anxiety disorder.”2.

The entire study is a brief and engaging read in itself. In the spirit of Mental Health Awareness Month, I encourage you to read it. It's likely that whether you're diagnosed with a mental illness or not, you may better understand many of your coworkers, friends, and loved ones and they you.

Now that you know some of the numbers regarding mental illness, I'm compelled to ask: Would you think differently of me if I had a mental illness?

Well, the mere fact I'm compelled to ask you is a giveaway in that those afflicted with my particular disorder-Borderline Personality Disorder, or BPD-are occasionally prone to impetuous and often unexpected behavior.

Remind you of anyone you know? Chances are, it does, and I'm not referring to a willful teenager, or a toddler working his way through the Terrible Twos, either.

Not to be condescending, but as an adult dealing with BPD, the analogy is a good one. Episodes must sometimes look to others as they feel to me-defiant outbursts often about nothing in particular, to no one in particular.

Though many who are diagnosed as mentally ill aren’t readily obvious to others nor functionally impaired by it, others are, albeit in varying degrees. Given that none of us wear neon signs on our foreheads flashing “BPD” or “Doctor” or “Valedictorian”, or whatever happens to identify us at a given moment, this applies to interactions between everyone.

Consider also that all three designations can easily apply to the same person; a doctor who was once a valedictorian may also be dealing with BPD.

Although I don't readily disclose my BPD to strangers, it's been my experience that most folks don't have the faintest idea what it is anyway.

The same is true of all mental illnesses and, therein lies the need for this article, and especially the need to celebrate Mental Health Awareness Month.

So, whether or not we can readily identify each other as mentally ill, we all can access those resources that can lead us to a better understanding of each other.

For me, online forums addressing PTSD and BPD are places where I can vicariously hear and be heard by others dealing with similar challenges.

In fact, beyond brain injury and amputee social groups I enjoy in person, I've also come to know many of my online counterparts quite well. It's a big part of what makes our community so strong, and what gives us strength to carry on through our weakest moments.

Maybe it's because we've learned that discussing mental illness is a very touchy thing, and that we may have met with considerable guilt or shame about it long before a diagnosis could have happened.

Regardless, approaching the intimate subject of mental illness requires fortitude, something that can take time to build.

I've seen firsthand forum newcomers initially make a somewhat reserved, tentative introduction to a group then, eventually becoming fixtures on the site. I have been among them.

Today, my online participation is not as involved as it once was. I tend to check in weekly instead of daily. But it's not for lack of interest.

Rather, from my online interactions, I've gained the guts to step outside my door and partake more with my human counterparts. My online community, I know, will always be there, just as my human counterparts will.

In fact, much of the confidence I have in writing this article stems from the power I've drawn from the combination of the two. And that's where you come in.

So, when it comes to embracing the subject of mental illness and learning to live with it, all of us must learn to lead the way.

From the look of things in America now, one of us already is, and that's a good thing. Few people beyond the president have such visibility, and who better to be an ambassador on the subject of mental illness.

It shows how a person can rise to a point of prominence despite their affliction. Like so many health conditions, mental illness pays no heed to income status or social standing. And, while a mental illness can seem dormant for so long, even hidden for awhile, realty eventually asserts itself and the fact of the matter must be addressed.

When it comes to mental health, then, all of us enjoy a uniqueness. And that, like Mental Health Awareness Month, is something all of us can celebrate.

1., 2. Insel,Thomas, May 15, 2015. Post by Former NIMH Director Thomas Insel: Mental Health Awareness Month: By the Numbers. https://www.nimh.nih.gov/about/directors/thomas-insel/blog/2015/mental-health-awareness-month-by-the-numbers.shtml.

Wednesday, May 10, 2017

Super Seizure Boy

Years ago, at the Bolder Boulder, I witnessed something remarkable. As a non-runner, I was there to support someone for whom, like thousands of others, the event had become an annual rite of spring.

Some took the event seriously, running to improve last year’s time, or just to have a strong finish. Others ran in costume, a gorilla here and an angel there, making the event more fun and visually exciting for we spectators.

Most, however were among those I could identify best. They began the race feeling strong, putting one foot confidently in front of the other in an energetic rhythm.

Slowly but surely though, each step became less confident and more deliberate. Eventually, the slogging set in, the slow and painful albeit still-positive struggle toward that elusive finish line.

Looking back on a few of my own motivated years when I ran in age-group triathlon events, I recognized slogging as the place where running becomes more mental than physical.

Suddenly, among this seemingly endless sea of humanity trudging by, a little boy appeared. He ran next to his mom, and they both kept a pretty sprightly pace. Clearly, they were truly happy to be there.

By my estimate, the boy was about eleven or twelve, about the same age when I had my first serious knock-down, drag-out seizure.

What first caught my eye about this boy though was the blue t-shirt and yellow cape he wore. On his t-shirt were the handwritten words “Super Seizure Boy”. On his improvised cape, a shielded “S” was sketched, a la Superman’s, with a Sharpie marker.

Unlike the throng around them, the boy and his mom weren't slogging at all, but still running energetically. Just the image of it makes me smile now, as I write this.

My mind was flooded with several thoughts at once: This little guy obviously has some wonderful support in his life, and any stigma about having seizures simply didn't exist for him.

Further, the boy also seemed empowered to run stronger, as was his mom. They were a happy and justifiably proud unit, one that seizures might affect, but never overcome. The Bolder Boulder was merely a reflection of what and how they did everything; together.

It was the exact culture I wish I'd had when I was his age, instead of the opposite, shaming response and ever present need to hide the fact behind closed doors.

The sight of this boy, though, didn't elicit any feelings of envy from me, but of exuberance. Through the crowd lining the sidewalk, I kept up with them as long as possible, cheering them on as I went.

So did many others who realized we were witnessing something special.

Afterward, I reflected on my happiness to know that another person - just a kid - was not condemned to a lonely existence within his family. Rather, he was the embodiment of support, and it reflected well on his mother running next to him.

Super Seizure Boy was not pushed aside, even vilified by his disability, but empowered. He literally took in stride an event which caused so many grownups around him such physical suffering. That day, he empowered us with a lesson in determination and resilience.

Now, years later, I imagine the boy as he might be in high school: A model of confidence and tolerance toward everyone no matter their ability - or disability. That's something which our world today can never have too much.