Monday, February 28, 2011

Charlee Sheen and Back A'Cha

It's impossible not to follow what's going on with Charlie Sheen.  He's talking a lot, to anyone who will listen.  A patient asked me to please blog about it, but I have to tell you.  I just don't have time.  Not right now.  And as luck would have it, a colleague did the job for me, and I trust Dr. Deb's assessment.  We don't need to reinvent the wheel.

All I might add is that if Mr. Sheen is sober for the first time, then yes, a manic episode might indeed follow, if  this is what is wrong, if he has Bi-polar Disorder.  Some people are uni-polar, you know, and this tends to refer to depression, but I have met a few unipolar manics in my life.  Not knowing his history, I can't say what Charlie has, not for sure, but what Dr. Deb says about mania is spot on.

Just because I have no time to write, doesn't mean you should suffer.  So here's an old fashioned Back A'Cha, links to people who link to me.  Or just to people I like.  If I left you out, email me.  Please.  You know I hate it when anyone's mad at me.

Dr. Deb on Charlie Sheen

Sometimes it's the visuals you need when you surf the net.

Sustainable Families Photography Blog 

And then  there's writing with feeling
This is one wild ride

And here's something cool, a place to support artists who actually throw paint on a canvas.They used to do this when people had money. 
 After the Apple:  An exhibition of women in the bible.  

What else, what else.  How about the movies?:
Good News Film Reviews
Law Movie Reviews
Jew Eat Yet?
Movie Web

Or bloggers blogging about Teev?  Online Degree

Nursing blogs:
Digital Doorway
Call Bells Make Me Nervous

Therapy blogs:
Blogging Behavioral
Hope Forward
The Counseling Courier
Mike Langlois, LICSW
Change Therapy
20 Cool Brain Blogs 

Edgy blogs to make you think but definitely not for those of you who can't stand expletives or dirty pictures even to say something. The pain is in the message:
Full Fat Milk
Spilt Milk
Holistic Parenting on a Dime

Surviving Blogs:
Dancing with Cancer
Life With Multiple Sclerosis and Rheumatoid Arthritis
Neurology Social Worker
I'm Just F.I.N.E.
Dry Blog
Uppity Intellectual Crip-- (my greatest critic)
OCPD--from the front lines
You Don't Have to Dance for Them
Faces of Autism

Blogs on craziness:
Inheriting the Hoard
Shades of Ivory
Cheaper Than Therapy
Daled Amos (4 Steps to Heaven)
Dr. Sanity
Random Thoughts-- (Jack, I thought you would like a change of category)
My M-I-L is Still Sitting Between Us

Education blogs:
Social Work Prep Test
Information Addict
Opposing Views
Junkfood Science
Rayna Eliana

Personal blogs:
In the Pink
In Sickness and Health
My Secretive Garden
Erin Merryn
Canadian PostDoc
Digital Rich
Coming Out of the Trees
Jannie Funster
Elms in the Yard
Here in HP
Hilarity in Shoes

Sunday, February 27, 2011

The Bridal Shower Or . . .

It's not as if I want to talk about sexual assault or sex all the time, or exploitation, or homophobia. The big joke in my family is that we couldn't have a meal, we couldn't sit down together, even if there was company, without something embarrassing coming up. From me. Somehow I brought it up.

This gets huge laughs now, now that the kids are adults, at my expense. It mortified them then, of course, and I couldn't promise, in all seriously, never to do it again. 

And it's taken years to stop altogether, to avoid initiating discussions like these.  Writing has helped, teaching, too, talking to people who are looking for practice wisdom or the fruits of higher education.  People who feel like they're having dinner at my table. 

The irony is that I'll want to write about something completely different, maybe even personal, like what it's like making a bridal shower with my mother as a co-hostess, only to get distracted with a Yahoo story about the arrest of a guy like John Hopkins.  And there goes the bridal shower.

If you've never heard of John Hopkins, more power to you, because the story is a confusing soup of cross accusations about sexual slavery and Craig's list solicitations. A veritable He said.  She said.


Mr. Hopkins, arrested last week for allegedly tying a woman to a radiator, supposedly raped her for a week, made her call him Master.  The unidentified victim claims she answered his ad offering free rent in exchange for housekeeping and cooking.   But he bought her a ticket, picked her up at the airport, and then supposedly tortured her in his home, told her she was now his sexual slave.

He tells us, however, his rebuttal is that theirs was a consensual dom/subdom relationship. She wanted to be tied up, handcuffed, beat-up, and raped. It was a part of their deal. She all but signed a consent form.  My spin accepts that that could very well be true, maybe not.  We don't know.

So the story on Mom and the shower, all the things leading up to it, what we talked about in the car, will have to wait.  I'm sorry, you have no idea.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Assault on Lara Logan

I started this post yesterday, but stopped, too sad to continue.

How do you educate a mob in Egypt about sexual assault?  About rape?

Reading the details of the brutal attack, the post didn't even feel possible, might even invite reprisal somehow.  But that made me feel worse because it is so blog-worthy, there are lessons to be learned.

Lara Logan's pain is the pain of millions of men and women, her condition, Rape Trauma Syndrome (assuming she was raped) not unusual at all.  When it is a gang rape, and a victim is conscious, the post traumatic stress is seemingly endless, amplified.  Who knows how many.  And yet, you have to wonder, why?

Too sad to write, and hopeless for the first time in a long time, that we will ever see a just world; I put it away.

Then this morning, watching the CBS anchor on the morning news retell the story, I changed my mind. There are different kinds of rape, and there are different motives, and the nuances are so interesting, at least to some of us, that people should know about them.  So whether Ms. Logan was gang raped, or "merely" sexually assaulted, physically beaten, you'll have to go to Relationship Wise to read about these.

There does seem to be enlightenment of sorts, happening all over the world.  But you'd never know it sometimes, seriously.


Sunday, February 13, 2011

The Valentine Post

Petula Clark sang a song in 1965, she called it My Love.
The lyrics of the most memorable stanza:
My love is warmer than the warmest sunshine
Softer than a sigh.
My love is deeper than the deepest ocean
Wider than the sky.
My love is brighter than the brightest star that shines every night above
And there is nothing in this world
That can ever change my love
Now that's a valentine.

 This is Cupid, the original matchmaker.

In my community, matchmakers look differently. They all wear clothes, for one thing.
But that is another story for another day. The current jury-of-what-works-in-relationships would not approve of matchmaking.

The story:

A journalist from the LA Times/Chicago Tribune, called me about week ago for an interview on Valentines Day. Why me?  Hearing about this, people in my personal sphere of influence joked about my deep, profound, enduring, long-lasting relationship with pagan holidays. 

The joke is that it isn't true. Like most observant Jews, I don't celebrate Valentine's Day or even Halloween. No Trick or Treat, no cheering, Happy Valentine's Day! Sounds horrible, but nary a dime spent to say, I love you.

Which isn't so bad.

Many years ago Valentine's Day was associated with the expression of love, not the flattening of the wallet.  I learned this because a little rusty on the history of the holiday, I did what anyone would do to prepare for an interview. I Googled it. Apparently Pope Gelasius I, clearly a visionary, razed the pagan rite, Christianized the day in 496 A.D.

The holiday rewrite looks a little like this:
Claudius II, an ambitious second century A.D. Roman emperor, sends every able-bodied man off to war. His soldiers, forlorn and lovesick, suffer terribly, destined never to return home again. 

In his quest for dominion and land, Claudius thinks it prudent to ban new marriages, put an end to that threat to the empire.
The stroke of a pen in those days.
You may recall the PBS series, I, Claudius with Derek Jacobi.
In the dramatization, Claudius himself engages in all kinds of liaisons and conflictual loving relationships. But apparently he bans them for the common folk. So off to war we go.

The abolition of marriage doesn't sit well with the people, and a rebellious priest defies the emperor, marries off young couples at a brisk pace.  (I picture these ceremonies happening in the woods). Unfortunately, blessing unions lands Father Valentine in jail.  There, behind bars, he falls in love with the jailer's daughter, and before his execution on February 14, sends her the first Valentine.  It is a letter.  A note.  Signed:

 From your Valentine. 
Knowing this history freed me to spout off eloquently to the Tribune reporter, Kelsey Collister, who proceeded to write a cute piece, Have a Stress Free Valentine's Day. Kelsey whittled down our 45 minute interview to a few sentences, still got most of it right.

She asked me the reason this day seems to be so stressful, and I said that people are afraid to fail at Valentine's Day. And basically,
Life gets in the way.
Who has time for another holiday, seriously?  Did you get that Bar Mitzvah gift for your nephew?  Why not? And we're all way behind on birthdays.

Another reason for the angst is that we have lost the skill of love, expressing love, even feeling love.  We're great at sex (at least people seem to say they are) but love is a lost art. Love is sexualized, I think is what I said. Only one of the five intimacies, and yet, you would think, that's all there is.

Relationship therapists recommend saying I love you, and saying it often, but this is far from easy. We're all children really, locked into our fears of rejection, our fears of intimacy.  What happens if our words are not reciprocated?  Not good.

So we play it safe, keep it intellectual, funny, or sexual.  Don't give over that part that is most vulnerable, the part that craves attachment. Be cool.  It's not about love.

But it is, and couples know this, at least the ones I see. Love is everything, and the test of a relationship is the work, building on that attachment, adding to whatever it is you have, bonding over problem solving, working together, sharing, negotiating the in-laws, work. Children. Love is a verb that builds, takes two partners, makes them into one.

This did not come across in the interview. 

What you get instead is me saying that if your partner shovels snow, massage the sore muscles. Not very deep, that advice.

But touch does matter.  We don't just massage anyone's sore muscles. Humans are sensuous, and the other way to loving, the one that isn't work, is to feed the five senses-- touch, smell, sight, sound, and taste. Good relationship therapy works toward enhancing life in this way, together, pushing away from the ordinary, the ho hum. Maybe even leaning towards chocolate. Smelling flowers.

So sure, you can give a gift or three on this holiday.

But I like Father Valentine's way so much more, and think it is what we need in our technologically glutted, electronic world. Not the generic grocery store greeting card, but a homemade valentine.  Historically these are works of art, beautiful, sensuous, cut by hand. Let's rejuvenate this art form, and better even, take the religion out of it. Any day, any time, create something for someone.

Should that be a valentine, however, consider buying the following: rice paper, watercolor,  lace. Try to make something pop out of the card, like they do in the childrens books. Write a poem, Nancy Rosin,  president of the National Valentine Collector's Assocation, has close to 10,000 of these, including the first mail-posted Valentine on record.  Her collection is a social history of love and it is more than beautiful.  Each one, homemade.

Making your own works because like a good chocolate chip cookie, it is original, has no added preservatives, feels fresh and personal, smells good.  And better than a cookie, there are the words, the sentiments.

No time to shop, get out the markers, the paper, the magazines. Collage is fairly simple process, Google that, and add old pictures, make it personal. Go to your mother's sewing box and find some pretty material, cut and paste it to your card.  Make it beautiful. Try.

And if that seems impossible, then write the right things on a plain piece of paper. Celebrate your appreciation, your need.

Maybe a limerick.

When I met you, the world turned colors
My thoughts, my dreams, no trace of others,
The future bright, warmth and treasure
For you I gambled, without measure.

There. That took all of 76 seconds. Feel free to steal it, don't even worry about giving me credit. Or just use the Petula Clark song. My love is warmer than the warmest sunshine. . .softer than a sigh.


Tuesday, February 08, 2011

Treating Bill Zeller

That's Bill Zeller on the front page of  1000 Memories, a collection of memorabilia sure to break your heart.  Great-looking, a brilliant young man, best known as the creator of MyTunes, an enhancement of iTunes, and Zempt, another technical upgrade, this one for movable type.  A computer programmer with more potential than any one person needs, splashed the news  January 5, 2011 with his suicide. 

He left us a note that does a more than adequate job of explaining why he did it. (It might be good to read that before reading on, not sure.)  He could explain why, but he wasn't a therapist, didn't know how to save himself.  Like most people who take their lives, he had to get out of the pain.  It's so hard to read about a case like this (he's now a case), because not only is the story going to be sad, but there's no happy ending. 

Some people blame bad therapy, which he likely suffered.  He describes detached, clinical treatment.  There's a reason doctors detach, there's so much secondary trauma in this work, absorbing the pain of the patient (you have to be infected some) and living, if vicariously, the trauma.

But sometimes it is the patient who is hurt, call it incest redoux (once again), if he pays for a lack of professional attention, for professional indifference.  Bill Zeller made an effort, took the a chance, played the Lotto for professional understanding, desirous to rid himself of the cloud, talking to the likes of us.  Only to find the cloud follow him out the door.

Zeller was a victim of sexual and psychological abuse. It's clear from his writing that the abuse left him unable to interface with the world in any way that didn't leave him feeling he was too sullied to have the same experiences that he thought others had. He had a self-described "darkness", which despite his prostration it's clear he handled more ably than perhaps he ever realized.

Programming was a solace, but only temporarily. Zeller never felt he could escape the things that had happened to him because he carried his torment with him everywhere.
Yes, it is that painful. Rape kills.

Body memories, terror, an invasion that is gruesome, hurts, overpowers, shames, confuses and traps, sullies, violates, and won't let go.

How does one recover a sense of separateness, wholeness, integrity, goodness-- when someone else has declared possession?  When someone else has enslaved, degraded, etched memories, sensory memories, physical feelings within one's very body, soul?  The self is no longer one's self, but a shared object, something someone has used, over and over again.  Abused.  That's the word.  The crime, heinous.  Taboo everywhere, all over the world, incest.

We talk about wanting to share our life with others, having a partner, joining, intimacy, making a family, maybe.  Where there is an incest wound this is particularly difficult.  Intimacy is going to be difficult at all levels, all of the intimacies are difficult, but especially sexual intimacy.

Therapy doesn't just work with young adult incest survivors who come to us frustrated with efforts at socialization, more than a few failed relationships, feeling the need to meet sexual expectations, human expectations.  And sex therapy doesn't just work, either.  It is a stretch to have what is considered a a normal, intimate sexual relationship when touch isn't pleasure, but is associated with pain.  Initiating touch, or the very experience of another initiating touch, is packed with terrifying memories and dread, anxiety.

This isn't fun, this isn't goodness, this certainly isn't holy or sanctified. It isn't even pleasure for the sake of mutual pleasure, forget the blessings of commitment.  A survivor of childhood sexual abuse does not usually enjoy sex, not without a head trip.  Libido is confusing, associated with shame.  Therapy must address all of the above, all of the trauma, and more:

Who am I?
Why am I?
Why me?

There are many objectives of such a therapy.  Self-esteem, for one.  A fresh cognitive assessment of one's life, two.  Loving oneself, three.  Becoming a social person, four.  Somehow capturing that self and rewiring it, inhabiting the same place, the one with all the memories, in a different way, being inside a shell that must symbolize a new identity.  This is the goal.

The body memories?  How does one get rid of these?  So complicated, that these will remain, lie side by side, parallel to sensual pleasure, but they can.  In the process of reclaiming, redefining, re-identifying self, they must be ignored, as if they don't belong, don't matter.  Willfully set aside, the focus is on a new relationship, a good, loving relationship that needs love back. All in good time.

Working a therapy like this is hard, and a support group or three, has to be a part of it.  Holding onto that new identity, A Survivor, is experiencing the self as clean, good.  Knowing.  A person with something very important, perhaps, to teach others.

It can be very difficult, very painful, very sad, but then, there is a happy ending.

Except not always.  Most survivors suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, or Acute Stress Disorder, and a myriad of accompanying affective disorders, depression and anxiety primarily.  But incest can make some people so sick that they can never get a grip on a therapeutic relationship, can't sustain one, or so it seems.  One of the ways that children survive incest is to split off, disassociate from the assault at the very moment it is happening, become someone else, invent a second, third, a fourth identity.  Fall into a trance, a happy dream. The goal for a person with this disorder is different, demands an integration of the many identities, or exile.  This is Dissociative Identity Disorder and it is unarguably one of our most challenging disorders to treat. 

Mr. Zeller didn't have it, not from what we can tell from his writing.  Brilliant, it seems he stayed Bill, a guy who played tennis and got good grades and fought depression all of his life.  And lost. 

We don't know if he ever confronted the perpetrator.  If he had, and if the perpetrator apologized, if the animal owned his offense, then Mr. Zeller might have had a better chance at beating his darkness.

Chloe Madanes, the spouse of Jay Haley, a father of family therapy, offers a powerful family therapy technique:
(1) The victim holds court.  The perpetrator is literally forced down on his knees (or her knees).

(2) On his knees the perpetrator begs forgiveness, acknowledges wrong-doings, admits everything. This person is more than contrite, he is disgusted with himself, ashamed, moribund, dying inside for having committed an act that is so perverse, so cruel, taboo.

(3) If the apology is sincere, and if it is accepted, the perpetrator proposes amends.   (I don't remember if Madanes' protocol works this way, but mine does-- apology first, amends later).  After the apology, the perpetrator offers to pay for all of the therapy, past and future, or to pay for a college education, a down payment on a house. Something.
Never happened for Bill Zeller, is the guess, raped by someone repeatedly, systematically, he alludes to it being a family member.  Bill was a little boy, the note suggests the rapes first memories.  Had he told a teacher, had he known to tell someone, he may have been spared.
So we clearly have to teach about child abuse in schools, for that is where the children are.
Child abuse education won't be taught at home, not in the homes that are breeding grounds for this barbarity.  For child abuse is often transgenerational, passed down from one generation to another.  It is learned behavior.  Not always, but percentage-wise, learned. Family therapists see all kinds of gradations, variations on a theme, from one generation to the next, each saying, Mine was worse.

The suicide note, in its entirety,  should be read by everyone old enough to understand cause and effect.  Mr. Zeller requested that it be circulated. He knew that he had something to say, something very, very important, more important than whatever he could create as a programmer, an identity he established to distract from his darkness.

Read it and know that people learn to perpetrate sexual violence from people close to them, that sexual violence is usually a family affair, that 48% of all acquaintance rape is right there, it is in the family, and 90% of all rape is acquaintance rape.

Makes a case, to plug the profession, family therapy. At some point, family therapy.


Wednesday, February 02, 2011

snO M G!!

Or Snow-megeddan, or the Blizzard of 2011.

Pictured below is an unlucky WBBM news reporter.  Hopefully by now she's indoors defrosting  As of 11 p.m. last night poor woman was still out there in the wind, on television in Northern Indiana, braving the snow.  Watching her talk from the eye of a blizzard hurt.  You just wanted to shout,
Get inside already!  What a crazy job!

But the show, the snow,  must go on.

A person like me wants to Tweet on a day like this,
It's DEEP! Don't expect to go anywhere!
But you know that's ridiculous, tweeting the obvious. All over the country people have been talking about the snow, the weather, and there's absolutely nothing new about it, except that this storm is said to be the greatest in 44 years. 

What makes a storm great?

Even more than the snow, it's the wind.  The wind is fierce, and the snow is wet, and you put them together and you get a cold wet blast in the face, unless you don't care about how you look and have covered every inch of your body.  Nobody cares how they look in a blizzard.  Actually, there have to be exceptions to that.

All I could think about, well not the only thing, but while urban cross-country skiing home from work yesterday the movie,  A Mighty Wind, came into my head.  That's worth seeing again, maybe tomorrow.  Nobody is moving, no one will want to see me in the office, and they can't, because I won't be there.  Travel won't be possible.  All the schools will be closed.

People gave me funny looks carrying my skis on the bus heading off to work but look who's laughing now.  It's easier to walk in these.

Not that forty to sixty mile per hour winds, especially on skis,  aren't humbling.  You can't ski into that north wind. I could go on and on, tell you the story of how I really didn't ski home, rather took the bus to a stop five blocks from my house and skied home from there, which felt great, mainly because the neighborhood houses blocked the wind.  And I could tell you that my mother called me seventy times.

I worried too,  last night, having friends in high-rises, tweeting that their buildings were swaying.  And the roof of Wrigley Field is in pieces all over the city, thousands have no electricity.

Being self-centered, like everyone else, what worried me most yesterday was that my son drove to school to the south side (we're north), thinking he would get out before the storm. Before I left the office, as I tightened my ski boots, I texted him, hoping he had made it home. 
You home?
The dismay, or is that despair in the text, palpable.
Still in traffic.

Not wanting to distract him, I do the maternal thing, text back short,
Be careful.

He texts me back,
This is not reassuring.  When I reach my door step he is not home.  I grab a shovel and hope for the best, and within 15 minutes he pulls up in his car.

The people of my tribe have a prayer that we're supposed to say when we've been saved from a very dangerous possibility.  It's called, benching gomel (both spelled like you would think, benching, go- Mel!).  First words out of his mouth,  "I should bench gomel.  That was terrible.   The winds from the lake!  I forgot about the winds from the lake!  You need four-wheel drive!"

Not happening on a 2001 Altima.  He helps me shovel and we go inside to hear that Lake Shore Drive is now closed.  People are running out of gas, nobody is moving.  A spun out bus has blocked three lanes.

This makes for a storm that's mighty.

Luckily, I had shopped in the morning so we would have something to eat for dinner.  Target had food yesterday, but not that much, because people prepared ahead of time.  Aside from Mubarak and Egypt, preparing for the storm has been the news story for four days straight.  My plan last night, once everyone was accounted for, was to stay in, cook, and watch other people cope, worry that we would lose electricity. 

Then kaboom!  Snow lightening.  Something new to worry about.  You haven't lived until you've seen the white night light up with lightening.

You do begin to think catastrophic thoughts.

But basically, you can't wait to just read real books, and later, go out and play.  One of my friends just offered me hot chocolate if I happened to be zipping around near her house.  This sounds like an offer that can't be refused.