Thursday, May 31, 2007

Fear Intimacy? Then Conflict Could Work for You

I posted this in 2006. made a few revisions.

Sometimes I'll see a couple who communicate primarily by arguing. The gloves are on, the fight is waiting to happen. Their normal posture is to be either on the defense or offense. It's a competition and somebody has to be right.

Take a fictional couple, Jack and Jill. They're in marital therapy. They're very uncomfortable expressing affection to one another (although sex isn't a problem, this is a passionate couple). Both of them grew up in homes where parents used a time-honored right to break things (dishes, walls) to demonstrate feelings. J. & J. learned that when someone crosses you, you react, and react fast and aggressively to win. That way your feelings won't get hurt.

You don't, actually, need to grow up in a conflictual home to be a person who reacts rather than responds under stress, but it helps.

It’s been snowing in Chicago. Jack shoveled after last week's snowstorm until his back hurt and he had to stop. Jill managed to find the spot he missed. She fell on the ice and blamed him. But luckily, Jill falls well.
Jack (walks in the door at the end of his long, stressful day at work): Yo, darling.

Jill: You (expletive)!! I almost broke my neck out there on the ice. You didn’t shovel very well!

Jack: Why you ungrateful (blanking) (blank)! At least I tried. I did a lot. You did nothing!

Jill: A lot of good your effort was to me.

Jack: Well, (blank) you!

Jill: Back ach’a!
And they’re off.

What’s this? Is it merely that they’re uncomfortable with intimacy that they'll say anything to avoid it?

Yes, that's true. But they're still starved for it, they still want love and intimacy, like most conflictual couples. And they'll profess to do whatever it takes to develop an intimate relationship. That's why they're in marital therapy. That's why they do well in marital therapy . This is where individual therapy is called for, too.

These two let loose on one another out of fear, but also out of habit. Habits are hard to break.

They also lacked loving role models, corny as that sounds. Conflict was the rule in both families, not affection. Their parents demonstrated good behavior outside of the home, at work or with other couples, just like Jack and Jill are a model couple on the outside.

And they never learned how to be assertive, obviously. They'll err on the side of passivity (sometimes) with authority figures and friends, then take it out on the family or the family dog.

The Jacks and Jills feel their emotions bubbling over before the key hits the door. Having held their tongues all day long, when they're with the people they love, when they're comfortable, ironically, they let loose.

I've heard a million times, "Where else am I supposed to let off steam?"

What does Jill really want from Jack? Not his steam.

She wants him to show her that he cares about her.

What does he want from her? The same.

In this case, Jill wants Jack to say, "Ah, honey, are you okay? Let me take a good look at you. Let me ice your boo boo’s, kiss it where it hurts. I’m so sorry. I must have missed a spot. Are you okay?!?!”

She wants him to show concern. She needs that. But it comes out wrong. It comes out as a blame statement: YOU missed a spot!

And he doesn't patiently take the hit and say, "OMG."

Had their families modeled Affection Speak things might have been different. Affection Speak sounds something like this:

Try Jill greets Jack at the end of the day after they have both faced multiple stressors:
Jill (quick peck on the cheek): Jack! How ARE you? Come on in, give me your coat. I made us some dinner.

(Okay, it’s a little on the traditional side. If you want, switch genders, add genders, subtract genders, do what you want, I don’t care).

Jack: Ah, honey, that’s so sweet. I love ya’. I had a heck of a day.

Jill: Me, too. And guess what?

Jack: What?

Jill: I narrowly missed breaking my neck on the ice. This looks like it’s going to be a
terrible winter.

Jack (concerned): Where? What happened? Are you okay?

Jill: Right in front of our house! I fell, but I’m okay.

(notice, she doesn’t blame him)

Jack: Aw, man! I must have missed a spot. I feel terrible!

Jill: Oh, please, I could have thrown a little salt out there. I’m not a baby.

Jack (taking her chin in her hand, looking into her eyes): Are you okay?

Jill: As long as I’m with you, I’m fine.

Jack: You’re sure?

Jill: I’m sure.

Obviously that’s the way we’re supposed to talk to one another at the end of the day. Why else are we married if not to support, nurture, and engage each other in caring conversations? The job, ALWAYS, is to make the OTHER person feel good, not bad.

That's the basic point of marital therapy.

That means no blame. Even if you blame him/her in your head, you don’t say so. Did you notice how Jack owned the responsibility for not shoveling when he wasn't blamed? Had she said, “You idiot, it’s your fault that I fell because you did a slacker job!” he would have felt he had the right to say, “Ef you, you blank!”

Not very productive, not very loving. We feel their pain.

So you tell me. Why WOULDN’T a couple want to go with Affection Speak, given the chance, and there's always the chance!

Mainly because a couple like this is really afraid of intimacy (as their parents before them) in this case, probably reflecting a fear of rejection or abandonment, but it could be a fear of suffocation, engulfment, merger, all kinds of weird psychological stuff. Better to reject first than to be rejected, suffocated, engulfed, etc.

Yes, it's as you armchair psychologists out there suspected. Strike first.

If a couple like this starts good relationship therapy then we work on those intimacy fears. And we can work behaviorally to stop the conflict.

I start with the idea of responding versus reacting. Reacting is a knee jerk thing, a reflex, like when the doctor hits your knee with that rubber hammer to check your reflexes. It’s automatic, not thought out in the least. Reactions just happen.

Responding is thoughtful. A person THINKS before responding, strategizes, plans out what he/she thinks will be the best way to phrase something. I personally like to do it this way. I LABEL PROBLEMS. Of course, I went to school for this.

Me: FD? We have a problem here. Do you have a minute or should we talk later?

FD: Now’s fine. What’s up?

Me: I think we need to buy more or better salt. I’m afraid people might get hurt on our sidewalk. I almost fell today. Scared the living daylights out of me.

FD: You okay?

Me: Sure. You know I’m an excellent faller.

FD: Much experience.

Me: Yeah.

FD: I think we have some salt in the crawl space. Lemme check before either of us runs out to buy it.

Me: You’re my hero.

FD: I know.

I would call this Affection Speak. No assignations of blame. All we hear is (1) a statement of a problem, (2) a call to discussion, (3) brain storming for a solution. You work together, two heads are better than one. You come to a decent alternative. You can do that if it's not a competition or you simply can't bring yourself to sharing your head space (too intimate).

I could easily have greeted FD with anger. I could easily have yelled at him.

FD! What WERE you thinking! You shoveled but you didn’t salt and you missed some spots and I almost broke my freaking neck! And you KNOW our health insurance deductible is $10,000 dollars!

That would have been a reaction.

If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you are an adult. By now you want to be above reactivity. Reactive is what lions do. Reacting is what pit bulls do. They eat their prey. You want to RESPOND, talk awhile, think it out.

Responding means defining the problem and asking for help with the solution. You stand shoulder to shoulder. It's better than facing life on your own. Why else get married? Why commit? Why bother? What do singles miss, after all, if not support, caring, tenderness and warmth?

When marriages bite the dust, no one misses the conflict. Everyone misses the warm bod' in the winter.

People who grow up with conflict err on the side of familiarity, thinking the significant other will be okay with it. Why? I don't know. My guess is that since 99% of our behavior really is unconscious, we simply choose social defaults. Unlearning the defaults is the ticket.

Being verbally affectionate, careful, and caring. That's not as easy as it sounds. It's risky. If I say I love you, you may say, Well, I sure don't love you. That would be terrible. But that's what I mean when I'm talking about fear of intimacy and rejection. It's possible. It can happen.

So the job is to make the communication process conscious, to stop, think, strategize, and determine how to say what you want to say without blame. Define the problem in such a way that your partner will want to help you fix it. Engage with sincerity and confidence that if the two of you put your heads together, there’s nothing that is irreconcilable, not even loss-- over time, of course.

It's true that even if you personally learn to respond, that there's no guarantee that your partner will also. Even when you are patient, even when you do edit, things can go sour. But it's worth it to try to communicate clearly without blame. It's worth the risk. It's worth setting the example. Your partner, if tested, might just respond positively to your positive communication.

Somebody has to make the first move. If you can't make the first move, or if you know it's futile, there's still no excuse for putting your partner on the defense. No good can come of that.

Copyright 2006, TherapyDoc

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

You're Not Alone

So maybe, as an anniversary celebration, I'll pick one or two posts of the past that teach you what I feel are the more important things I learned in school. I'll edit (make FD and all you other obsessive compulsives happy out there) and add a little.

This one is about empowerment, assertiveness, sensate therapy, eco-systems, and love. If I forgot something, let me know.

The original running title for the academic paper read:

Being a Part of a Cultural Ecosystem

But I could have also called it, Biking and Making Friends, Not Necessarily in that Order.

Have we talked at all about social ecosystems? I don’t think so.

A social ecosystem is your social system with the cool word "eco" in front of it. It has nothing whatsoever to do with the green movement.

1. There's you.

2. There's your immediate family, the one you live with, could be friends or just your cat or a fish (I forgot fish on the original post. Can you believe that? Crazy.) Immediate could be you and your partner, spouse, significant other, or step-son, niece. Whoever is immediate. Whoever's gonna' call 911. I'm loose when it comes to immediate family. (don't start)

3. There's the family of origin, the people who raised you and your siblings, it’s possible you don’t live with them any more.

4. There's extended family, includes all blood relatives, step-relatives, even people who've married into the family. I'm very liberal with family trees. Some people aren't. You could say I haven't been tested yet.

5. There are your close friends, both near and far, some on the other side of the world, perhaps. That kills, doesn't it? It used to be that we had to shout into the phone to make sure we had a good connection. Now we talk through our computers, can see our friends with our web cams. Miraculous. I knew there was a reason to look left, then right, when I crossed the street.

6. There are acquaintances you see in your neighborhood on a regular basis This would include that little subculture that you see hanging around in Starbucks or Borders. Maybe all you do is smile or nod, comment on the weather. But they're your people.

7. There are the people you know from work, school, or place of worship. Also your people, like it or not. And there's the barking dog next door. You might actually get more out of your relationship with the dog next door, sometimes.

8. There are people from the bar, sports center, work-out club, church, local government. You might call them acquaintances. Sometimes you use them. Sometimes they use you. But they're there and you can tap into them if you need to.

9. There are the people you connect with directly via your computer or telephone, annoying sometimes, but there. Even telemarketers are a part of your ecosystem.

10. There are those people you watch on television, the talking heads at night, the ones who make you laugh, the William Shatners, the Ellen's, the Oprah's, the Gilmore Girls. And the columnists or authors who divest of their words so that you get all of that information you get from television, newspaper, and radio. Media expands our life experience, colors our world.

11. If you're an astronaut, then space might be part of your eco-system. I'd imagine the galaxies talk to astronauts.

12. There's your Higher Power/powers/karma/past lives and the eco-systems of past lives.

Maybe I left someone/something out, hope not. You get the idea. The ecosystem consists of all of the people and all of the information that has a direct influence on how you feel, think, and behave.

Sometimes people feel VERY alone, even when their entire world is VERY big. They
They don't feel connected to their ecosystem, not intimately.


F.D. and I make a big deal about riding our bikes. Getting around the city this way has worked for us on a lot of levels, but these days when I personally talk about my bike it's generally to complain about how people in cars seem to have to swear at me or blast me with their horns.

They act as if I should MOVE OFF THE ROAD. Like roads are for cars, not transportation.

Truth is, I’d have given up riding my bicycle years ago were it not for F.D.'s nagging. I’d have succumbed to the lure of potato chips and television, effectively, perhaps permanently, locking the serotonin in my neurons forever, wondering if I should start Paxil or Zoloft, knowing I'd hate them both.

The bikes, our original bikes, are a common thread with F.D. and me. They’re a link between us, one of those historical reminders reaching back to the first day we met. We were buying bus tickets at the student union to go home before a Jewish holiday.

“Come out with me for a Pre-pesach beer?” he asked. Beer has malt, so you can’t drink it on Passover, the 8 day holiday that was coming up on us.

“I’m in.”

That day, or was it the next, he won his Raleigh ten-speed in a raffle for the North American Indians, I think that was the cause.

I didn’t have a bike at the time. My original red ten-speed, a bike I had used to explore my world throughout high school, had been stolen freshman year and I hadn’t replaced it.

The bike I ride today was our first big pre-marital purchase at a little under a hundred bucks. So you could say it’s a piece of our marital history.

He would say we keep the stupid bikes because we’re too cheap to get the newer more fancy ones with all 36 to a thousand speeds. I would say we're sentimental. But the truth is we've kept them because they FEEL good and we don’t trust the new ones. And they remind us of a very romantic time. Keeping stuff like that alive is key in marriage, in case you're wondering.

Oh, and the new generation, now an old generation, the mountain bikes, were always just plain silly for Chicago, a very flat town.

So before we even had children we were that young couple that took out the bikes at the first sign of spring to shake the lead out, feeling better about having cheese cake or ice-cream when we got home.

But even during pregnancy F.D. would nag me to go out riding with him. “Come on,” he’d say. “You know you’ve never fallen off a bike in your life, let’s go, you need the exercise.” He needed the exercise.

Being a doc he was also afraid I’d throw an emboli and have a stroke during pregnancy. He was always afraid of things he wouldn’t tell me about but I could tell from that far away look in his eyes that he was thinking something very scary.

So I’d go with him well into the pregnancies, nauseous, fat, get on the bike and tool around in the suburbs late at night when everyone else was tucked away in bed or watching a warm TV.

Because he felt the need to exercise. Face it. I could have done yoga if it was about emboli. There are simply some things one does for a relationship. This would go under "recreational intimacy."

When my excuses started to mount (the seat feels too hard, the handle bars are too narrow, I’m bored, bored, bored and want to throw up) he’d work on my bike and make it friendlier. The wide seat, wide handle bars, the perfect high stem that gave me the leg length and stretch that I needed-- all thanks to F.D.

So he'd have someone to ride around with late at night.

But at the end of the day I got pretty addicted to the feeling I’d get from riding, much more than he did. I had the longer ride to work. The fresh air, the visuals, the sounds woke me up. I liked that it was me who KNEW the geese were back in the city in the early winter. Because we talked. “Yo geese.” “Yo back, watch what’s on the bike path. Don’t look up so much.”

Well, one day a group of dog people were out enjoying a summer evening and their dogs were off their leashes. The dogs saw me, a red speeding bullet flying through their park (they had marked it) and of the same mind this pack of dogs thought, “Deer.” They were off to the chase. A pack of dogs. Domestic dogs.

I saw them coming and got an adrenaline rush that helped me out-distance them in seconds. But it was thoroughly terrifying. I shook for days after thinking about it.

The next night, as I approached the park, I stopped, looked around, saw the dog people and their dogs way ahead of me. I slowed it down to a crawl until I was close enough to get their attention and explained that it wasn’t safe, letting their dogs run around unleashed. This wasn’t an official dog park.

What if I hadn’t been able to out-distance the dogs the night before? What then? What if I was sixty-five?

“It’s because you have that flashing light in the back of your bike,” I was told.

Thanks. In other words you’re not leashing them?

“No, turn off your light when you pass through.”

I don’t think so.

I wrote a letter to the Chicago Tribune and the editors published it! But still, the dogs sniffed and roamed and I was stuck slowing down to a halt whenever I passed through. Didn’t seem fair. It's at least a half-mile of park we're talking about.

Then one night I saw a police car parked at the very end of the park. I pulled over to him, casually mentioned the problem.

He cruised on in and fined them all $500 bucks a pop. That's what it'll cost you if you don't leash your dog in Chicago, unless you're in a designated "dog park".

Should I have felt bad that they were fined? It's not like they didn't know the consequences of breaking the law. So no, I didn’t, still don’t. I worked that ecosystem to my advantage and in the end the advantage paid out and I could brag about it at parties.

The system even worked for the dogs who are less likely to be impounded for eating the flesh of the bikers or pedestrians who invite their jaws to nibble. It's not the people we put in jail when dogs bite. It's the dogs who are confined.

So the dog people have leashed their dogs in the park by the river with the bike path.

The interesting thing is that now when I see them? Things are different. The dogs have been on 30 foot leashes since that day, and when their people see me they're very friendly. We have this strange genuine bond going. We smile and wave. Sometimes I’ll even stop and talk for a couple of minutes, just comment on construction or the weather.

It’s like I’m a Park Person, if not a Dog Person, I'm a part of the culture.

They must not know it was me who worked my ecosystem, right, to get them in trouble?

But I've become a part of their world, the person on the red bike. I’m ONE OF THEM.

People like familiarity, being in the same place at the same time with the same people. This is why I tell single people to become a part of a mini-culture, a system within the ecosystem. Become a regular at the library, or at a bookstore or a coffee shop. Go to a church or join a political organization. Meet people or not, if they see you they get comfortable at the thought of you, like you are comfortable with certain checkers or baggers at your local grocery store.

Being lonely is a state of mind, you know. You’re never really alone.

Oh, and don’t be afraid to work your system. If one thing doesn’t work (direct communication, assertiveness, the things we’ve talked about in this blog) then something else will. Just maybe don't brag about how you get things done.

Copyright 2006, TherapyDoc

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The Anniversary Post

It's late!

I'm late!

So not like me, remember? Remember the Being Late for Appointments post?

It's a year since we started hanging out together, a year yesterday, May 28, to be precise.

A year of anything to me basically means that the Old Mighty has been kind enough to borrow me the time. And every year I haven't been mowed down by a truck (K"H) or taken by some crazy new fatal illness (K"H, K"H, K"H) is a good year.

Usually bloggers celebrate the year's end with all kinds of gymnastics and I'm such a clutz that that's not going to happen, okay?

Unconsciously, today I tried to catch up on the sidebar. I added about two months worth of posts to the proper categories, making up a new one altogether for the Virginia Tech Massacre posts. In so doing was too late to ride my bike to work and now suffer the consequences. I'm a little testy, a bit stiff, and in no mood to answer the phone. And I'm not finished.

So don't call me.

This was an amazing year, and all praise to the Old Mighty, I think it's been good that I started this blog. I think I taught a lot of people things they didn't know, mother's milk to family therapists, of course, stuff I feel should be taught in grade school.

What's the point of set theory if you don't know who's in your set or how to connect to them?

I had a tremendous amount of interesting email this year, all from this blog, about things I should be writing about, causes I should take on.

I have to be honest. When I sit down to write a post, it's me I'm thinking about. Me trying not to sound like an idiot. It is my brain spinning words and following the line like connecting the dots.

Then I edit the posts. Sometimes I edit for days, although it may not seem like it, and this would be one of those days that it doesn't seem like it because it didn't happen. I didn't bother to edit this post because I'm so late, and after all, what am I saying here? Not much, just that it's not easy to take requests. But I appreciate that you make them.

If I were a rock and roll band I'd take requests.

Who knows, some day all I'll do is take requests. It'll be like a diner.

"Ma'am, what would you like to learn about today? Did you say you want to learn about Attention Deficit Disorder? That's on the lunch menu. No, we don't have a lunch menu. We're working on it."

I have so many people to thank, mainly for making this fun for me, other bloggers in particular who link here (I ALWAYS link back if I know about you and you don't have what I consider an objectionable blog) . Certainly I want to thank those of you who write in with your comments. The blogging culture is a real culture and it's very gratifying. Maybe one day one of you will think of a way to do make a study of it.

Interview bloggers about blogging.

I know I've made promises (blee neder promises, meaning they're not real vows) that I'd write about certain things, like Asperger's Disorder. The Asperger's post really is in the works and I think it will be worth the wait. But wait you will.

And the commencement speech. OMG. It is like one you have never heard before and will NEVER hear, not ever. No university would allow someone like me or anyone else to deliver the speech you will eventually read. Eventually will be this week or next. It really will, blee neder. I just uploaded the video today.

Anyway, I gotta' make dinner. I'm starved.

To another year. And thank you.


Sunday, May 27, 2007

American Honor

You know I'm a little stuck on heroes and courage. It was a theme for May, I guess. And yesterday, there it was on the editorial page of my favorite newspaper (WSJ).

Peter Collier reminds us who it is we should be remembering on Memorial Day:

Those who had given all their tomorrows for our todays (as was said of the men who stormed the beaches of Normandy).
The thesis of the article is that our country has become ashamed of its warriors. It's okay to be a victim, but being a fighting hero is no longer a good thing. War heroes are featured far less prominently in the New York Times, for example, than the stories of Abu Ghraib that graced the front pages for months.

Mr. Collier interviewed our living Medal of Honor recipients to write the text for a book of photographs, Medal of Honor: Portraits of Valor Beyond the Call of Duty. He talked to our American living heroes, men relegated now to the "back pages of our national consciousness."

His story in the Weekend Edition of the Wall Street Journal recounts the likes of Jose Lopez, a Mexican American from the barrio of San Antonio who was in the Ardennes forest at the beginning of the Battle of the Bulge. As the Germans approached his unit, Mr. Lopez grabbed a machine gun and opened fire, killing over 100 of the enemy, buying his comrades time to defend their line, to live.

And there's the story of Desmond Doss, a conscientious objector who became a medic but refused to carry a weapon to war. When the Japanese routed his unit in Okinawa he remained behind as everyone scattered. He moved the wounded, one at a time, to a steep escarpment where he roped them down to safety. He saved 75 men.

Then there's Jack Lucas, who at the age of 14 convinced his mother that if she would just let him join the army he would return to finish school. On the way to Iwo Jima he was supposed to be on guard duty but stowed away to be with his friends. He found himself in combat on the beach. When 2 grenades landed near his comrades he threw himself onto them, absorbing the explosion. Left for dead, a medic noticed his finger twitch and rescued him. After a long recovery, Mr. Lucas wore a Medal of Honor around his neck when he entered his first year of high school.

There are many more of these stories.

I know, I've rarely taken a political stance on this blog, never talked about the war in Iraq. This is a therapy blog and you know it. It's about having the strength, the coping strategies, and the resources to overcome life's grenades, great and small.

But I have to tell you what Mr. Collier told me at the end of that article (which you should read in its entirety, of course).

We're the land of the free for one reason only: We're also the home of the brave.
Yes, it's the theme of the month. Thanks for reminding us, WSJ.


Jewish Identity--It's Going to Hurt

On May 22, 2007, Judy Perez wrote a story for the Chicago Tribune about young Jewish parents choosing to forgo the commandment of circumcising their sons.

By Jewish law their child is supposed to have his ceremonial circumcision performed on his 8th day of life, a procedure demanding the precision of a certified moehl, a Jew who has been trained according to Jewish law. Many less than religious Jews ask their physicians to circumcise the child at the hospital.

Moslems are also accept this rite.

My understanding is that if a Jewish boy is not circumcised according to tradition he is still a Jew, but hasn't fulfilled the commandment of having had a brit milah, meaning he has not accepted the covenant.

A boy who hasn't had a brit hasn't been properly initiated as a Jew. He's not really of the Jewish People. He's not entered the covenant as commanded by the Old Mighty (my zaideh's particular reference to the Higher Power running our programs here on Earth).

Why would this bother a blogger like me?

It's an identity issue. Did you know that there is a diagnosis , 313.82 Identity Problem, that includes group loyalty as an identity issue? I see it more often in practice as it applies to career choice, friendship patterns, and sometimes sexual orientation. Should I still be practicing another 10 years, something tells me this is going to pop up.

Parents make the decision to forgo what they hear is a painful surgical procedure. Yet not every child cries, and those who do cry stop crying almost immediately thereafter, and no one I've ever, ever talked to remembers this pain.

And, of course, these parents are making a huge assumption that the child will never, ever want to have the same sense of Jewish identity that his cousins, or perhaps even older brother has. They're assuming the child would prefer to identify with men who are technically not Jewish, not that this is bad, but it's not an ethnically cultural identity. This happens even when the father is Jewish. Very strange indeed.

And I thought cultural identity, ethnic diversity was supposed to be a good thing!

I can tell you as a therapy doc that when a person begins to search for roots, when a person begins to ask the questions, Who Am I? Who Am I Really? certain things will come to light, things like, Well, you weren't circumcised, so you're technically missing something very important if you think, actually that you're a Jew. Uh, sorry, sweetie.

Of course the Nazi's would have had no problem with that. To them an uncircumcised Jew would be a Jew, obviously. They didn't look. They wouldn't have care if your seventh cousin once removed was a Jew. They'd have killed you anyway.

So what happens when a Jewish child learns that his parents spared him the pain of circumcision (a pre-verbal memory, by the way, unlikely to be integrated in the cerebral cortex, virtually impossible to recall, and Yes I know you're going to counter that with the question, But what about body memories? So, No, I don't have an answer to that except to say that I personally don't remember having had a diaper change. Yet I'm quite sure that I did wear them for a time as a child).

I'll tell you what happens when a child who has never been circumcised decides that he would like to become a Jew, one initiated into the Jewish People as his fathers before him.

He has to have a real brit milah, a bris, a ritual circumcision, this time with the scalpel, the rabbi, the whole works, and at whatever age, perhaps he's 13, perhaps he's 30,



And to the Chicago filmmaker Eli Ungar-Sargon, who is promoting this insanity about forgoing the cut, skipping circumcision, with his documentary, Cut, all I can say is,

You really should know better, Mr. Ungar-Sargon. You should take it back, the whole thing. Tell everyone you didn't mean it. You're sorry. You have a lot on your head telling people to forgo this particular precept of Judaism. Take it back, please. Just take it back.

Such givah (rhymes with guy-duh, means conceit) such shtus (rhymes with moose, means stupidity) seriously, to think you have the right to take away a person's identity like that.


Saturday, May 26, 2007


In the comments to the previous post on Rocky Balboa we have the following dialogue:


With regards to backtracking and fixing the errors of the past:

You can't change the past. Period. How is it possible to do that? What's done is done. There is no going back. You just have to deal with the past and hopefully learn from the mistakes. And even if I could fix things, would I want to? Would I be at the same place I'm at right now, good or bad, if I was able to fix things?

This totally confuses me.


Teebopop, SOMETIMES you can change the present by referring to the past, especially if there is something to learn from something that has happened in the past. Clearly you can't change what has happened.

But you can apologize to people for the things you have done to them in the past and that changes the present and the future. Also, if you have been hurt by someone in the past you can go to that person and demand an apology and/or reparations.

What are reparations? I'll post on it right now. It's about time I did.

So the question is,
What are reparations?

Here's how it goes. A young woman comes to therapy because she's been sexually molested, perhaps even raped, by a member of her family many years ago. She was a young girl at the time and perhaps the perpetrator was only a few years older.

This isn't at all uncommon. Boys see their sisters and cousins as perfect objects of experimentation and need fulfillment. A girl is not always sure that what is happening is wrong or that it will come back to torment her in the future. Molestation can feel good and the girl has been sworn to secrecy, a perversion of emotional family intimacy. She also loves the perpetrator. He is her older brother/cousin.

At some point the molestation has ended, generally when he has found himself another girlfriend. The sister (let's say it's brother/sister incest) is confused and mortified. She knows, at some point in her emotional development that this wasn't the way it should have been. Incest is a universal taboo. There is no culture in the world that gives the nod to incest.

Years later she's in therapy. She's having difficulty with sex. She talks about the incest. We talk about bringing in her brother, making him own his part of her problem, and making him pay.

Thoughts of him, after all, have interrupted her life in the most egregious moments. She's bombed tests at school, she's panicked socially and on dates. She's never been able to finish college. She's felt guilty for having sexual desire, yet is unable to have romantic relationships.

We determine that an apology, him on his knees, literally, will feel very good, along with financial assistance so that she can go back to school. She has worked through much of her emotional trauma in therapy with me. But she needs to cap it off. She needs to see him grovel.

He is willing to do it. He comes to my office ready to take a beating. He's been waiting for this, has known that one day he would have to accept responsibility for what he has done.
He gets down on his knees. He bows to her, then looks up, tears in his eyes. He begs her forgiveness. He offers to help. They cry. They hug. It's amazing.

It's family therapy, friends. It's the real thing.

Oh, and the intervention is direct from Chloe Madanes, Jay Haley's wife. (He's one of the fathers of family therapy). I am sorry, I'm not sure of the name of the book I took the intervetion from but I want to say, Uncommon Therapies.

Much of the work that I do today is grounded in this kind of therapy. It is called strategic family therapy. Do you see why I get a little less than humble when I diss the training of other schools? It's not that other types of treatment are less powerful in general. They're just less powerful in specific situations, much less powerful. This is one of them.

Copyright 2007, TherapyDoc

Friday, May 25, 2007

Rocky Balboa

Well rested, well-fed, and well, bored, after a two-day Jewish holiday, I settled back to blogging after the respite. So many things I wanted to write about, but all I could think of was the Rocky story and how it worked for me as a therapy doc last week.

You remember Rocky, right? He’s the fighter who ran through the streets of Philadelphia screaming Adrian! True Rocky cultists refer to more than his love for his woman. They talk about the things that come out of Rocky's mouth. He's an inspiration.

And Sylvester Stallone, a hero of mine since I caught a glimpse of him at the Paramount commissary a thousand years ago at lunch, has a way with words. He wrote the screenplay for the movie.

He's the creator of Rocky-isms.

It ain't over 'til it's over. (In divorce I refer to this as, it's not over until the ink is dry).

The world ain't all sunshine and rainbows. It is a very mean and nasty place It will beat you to your knees and keep you there permanently if you let it. You, me or nobody is going to hit as hard as life. But it ain't about how hard you hit, it is about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward, how much can you take and keep moving forward. That's how winning is done!

I like that idea, how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.

If you're willing to go through all the battling you got to go through to get where you want to get, who's got the right to stop you?

Once I lived in Israel. The bureaucracy nearly killed me. Then someone told me the secret, and it's an element, you should know, of assertiveness training-- my version of assertiveness training that is:

NO is the beginning of the negotiations. You begin to negotiate when they say NO and you don't let up. You keep at it and you'll get what you want. It works; it really does.

I mean maybe some of you guys got something you never finished, something you really want to do, something you never said to someone,

Meaning, just because YOU haven't got the courage to backtrack and tie up loose ends, doesn't mean I haven't. That's the essence, by the way, of the 12-step programs, back-tracking, fixing the errors of the past, if possible. I love that.

So Rocky is more than a boxing movie, and true to the Rocky genre, Rocky Balboa is all about perseverance and courage. Don’t Give Up. It was a good call, asking me to review this one (was it you, Mi? I think so!)

But a real review of Rocky Balboa would be remiss if I didn't give the downside, right? You need to know, okay, that the beginning is so, so slow. If you have back problems, maybe don’t even rent it.

I was definitely half-way through the film when I turned to F.D. and said,

"If this doesn’t start very soon, if he doesn’t AT LEAST jump rope VERY SOON, it’s over, it’s over, it’s all over."

Then all of a sudden they were beating the blank out of one another in the ring. Did I mention that it's a boxing movie? FD, who outlasts me with blood and guts any day of the week, said, “This is disgusting. This sport is disgusting.” And he was right.

But I don’t know, it kind of made me feel good. All that sitting and waiting and then finally, finally, a fight. It’s very much like a united front couple before their first fight. Oh, I haven’t told you about united front couples, have I. No, not today. Suffice it to say, the first fight is the last. It’s a knock-down drag-out, take no prisoners argument, and it never happens again. That's it for fighting. That's it for problem resolution. Way too scary to go there again.

So sure, I got through Rocky Balboa relatively unscathed, a patsy for distraction any night of the week. And the very next day I happened to see a really sick patient. It’s not like every day I don’t see really sick patients. I do see really sick patients every single day, which is why it is good to take the Sabbath and these religious holidays seriously. Therapy docs are good for no one when they burn out. I believe there's a Rockyism about that.

Anyway, this particular individual that I'm talking about could be anyone of us with bi-polar disorder. I’ve mentioned in previous posts that bipolar disorder is often misdiagnosed and glamorized in our very caffeinated, manic and neurotically labile culture. The vicissitudes of depression and mania are many.

There is a normal range of sadness for the rest of us, but people with bi-polar disorder feel way beyond that range.

And it's not good. They really suffer. We can marry our depression, those of us who never feel that very dangerous pole, and most of us don't. Depression's actually very sensuous in some ways. But the depression of bi-polar disorder is exceedingly psychologically and physically painful (sheer exhaustion, battle fatigue, nasty side-effects from medication). It's difficult to predict and manage. One out of five people with this disorder do successfully complete a suicide. (Not on my watch. Don't get any big ideas.)

Yet by definition the disorder improves with dogged intervention. Sick today, well tomorrow. I've seen it so many times. The cloud lifts. The light switch goes on. It's magic. (With intervention, don't forget, meaning medicine).

Anyway, let's continue the story. My patient was feeling pretty low, as exhausted/bereft as ever as he's felt in his life with little hope for tomorrow. It can be difficult convincing people that this hopelessness will change, no matter how many times they've been through it. Their brains select out that wellness memory when they are in this particularly horrible place.

But I had just seen Rocky Balboa and I couldn’t help but take a stab at it.

"Have you ever seen the Rocky movies?" I asked.

"Every one of them, I think," he said.

"Then you’ve seen Rocky Balboa?"

"No, I missed that one."

"Rent Rocky Balboa. Maybe it will help."

Between you and me, and between me and him even, and I said that, I hedged my bets, in my heart I know the movie won’t change the way he feels very much, if at all. He may not be able to concentrate. I'm sure, in fact that it will be next to impossible to concentrate, although sitting through it is certainly possible. Sitting is something he can do very well. He hasn't much energy to go anywhere.

But you know something? If he rents it and he does hear the message? If he continues to work with his doctors and take his medication, watching a movie with a message can't hurt.

It's good to know that when you're down, when you're really down, there's a way to move forward, if only by marking time.

THAT can take courage.

Copyright 2007, therapydoc

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


The truth? Graduation's a real trick box for me.

I missed every one of my own except for 8th grade. I graduated high school early and college late (with free housing and tuition, wouldn't you?)

Both the Master's and the PhD ceremonies at the University of Illinois took place on Saturdays.

So over the years I've made it my business to go to these things when I could, make a presence in the school auditoriums, bleachers and gyms. True, it wasn't easy sitting through the many leaps into eternity, but having a pager (in the days before cell phones we had pagers) it was easy to excuse myself to find a phone.

Therapy docs can get pretty busy, especially when someone's giving a speech.

I love the costumes at these things, the robes, the tassels, the sashes, the ropes. I love the idea of 4,000 kids throwing their black caps into the air at the same time. I love seeing the college kids strutting and smiling, parents snapping pictures, getting it all on videotape. And there's the pride, the mutual sense of sacrifice (parents pay, pay, pay, for kids to learn, learn, learn). And the sheer press of humanity trying desperately to fill a football stadium or a basketball dome, knowing that without cell phones we'd all be separated in the throng forever (meet me at the top of the stairs outside to the left, past the turtle).

I love that the stadium is at capacity with people doing the right thing, suffering through the pomp and circumstance because their kids shouldn't have to go it alone. Nah, my parents couldn't make it. As children of a 2 working-parent household, my kids said that so many times. I came in late to so many school plays and I missed many, many things.

I love looking at the faces, mainly, and the clothes, the polyester, the silk, the leather, and the hair! The gray hair of the middle-aged juxtaposed against the long, jet black or brunette, blond locks of youth.

I just love the SCENE. I'm not even going to tell you how much I love a college campus, almost any college campus, and how red brick buildings drug me senselessly.

F.D., on the other hand, hates these things. We went to our son and daught-in-law's graduation at the University of Maryland yesterday.

"I hate these things," F.D. moaned.

D-I-L's mother: "I can think of a million things I'd rather be doing and should be doing. Can't you?"

Uh, no.

But again, I usually don't sit through the whole thing. I get up, I make calls. I walk around the entire periphery of the building. I look for art work, plaques. I read names.

And afterwards I still get to see the kids laughing and smiling, smacking those high fives with their friends.

Sunday night I DID sit through the whole thing. I sat through the WHOLE thing and IT WAS DREADFUL. The speeches were really horrible. So, so boring, and the one speech that could have been good, the one about selflessness and leadership rubbed me wrong. How could he tell us how selfless he is? Is it selfless to say you're selfless? I don't know. All I could do was shake my head.

This brought up the inevitable question, Could you, TherapyDoc, do a better job? Could you give a decent commencement speech?

No, I thought, probably not.

Oh, heck. Why not give it a try? What have we got to lose?

It's almost finished, actually.

Copyright 2007, therapydoc

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Carnival of All Substances - May 20, 2007

Well, what's this?
It was a gift and it's beyond me how one actually balances the bottle on the piece of plexiglass or lucite. . .whatever that thing is. FD figured it out. He used to be called him genius doc on this blog for a reason.

For sure, in some families this is where the bottle should remain, suspended by a piece of plexiglass and admired from afar.

That's the only lecture you'll get from me today.

This, dear friends, is the first Carnival of All Substances. I asked bloggers to submit stories that had anything to do with substance abuse and recovery. We even have a post on sugar addiction! But next time? Recovery stories rule, and there will be NO BOTTLE in the picture. I'll think of something, though, trust me.

So let's take a look and see what we have. Some VERY interesting stuff. I'm posting them as I see 'em.

The ever delightful Meg Moran clearly concurs that "crazy" is addicted, and tells us she's not crazy after all these years. For sure, read Meg and see her post secret. (You've all been to that site, right,

Meg posts again, this time about a relapse dream and tells us how

relapse always = secrets, deception, and out and out lies

so true. Once you get a sober brain, the lying and deception thing is so, so second rate.

Lushgurl returns to tell us that she's in court, trying to get her kid back. In case you should think that perhaps the risk of chaos and crisis is worth while, read Lush at Back to Court I go posted at Yo Sick Momma. "Looking back into what a mess I had made of my life," she says, "I realize just how far I have come!"

Lushgurl also presents Life is a Journey, Not a Destination about working-- pre-recovery-- insane."

Two Dogs Blogging, or was that Two Dogs Barking, has it figured out that if a person hasn't got hope, then winter is definitely going to be a downer. Come to Chicago, Dogs, and we'll show you that although the weather is hopeless, the spirit's (as in, can I help push your car out of that snow bank?) is quite high. Dogs also teaches us a lot about alcoholic thinking (I simply love this stuff, by the way) in Everyone But Me is an Idiot.

If that weren't enough, Dogs Blogging/Barking is Kvetching, too, about being unstable and "cranky."

presents What is My Story? posted at What Winners Do. Erin started out at age 9 with her first beer and cigarette. Her polydrug dependencey culminated with a secret oxycontin addiction that she tried to beat cold turkey, ultimately winding up in a 5-day lock down in rehab. But she made it. Anything worth having is worth working for, she tells us.

Definitely the post I have the least credentials to even comment upon, Dreaming Life presents Chacruna Report by Juan from DreamMagick posted at Dreaming Life. Dreamer tells us that this is a report from the jungles of Peru where his friend tookmind-altering substances with the assistance of a shaman to lose weight. It's pretty unusual, I have to admit, but fascinating.

Hal Sommerschield, Ph.D. presents North Star Mental Fitness Blog: Codependency Debunked posted at North Star Mental Fitness Blog. He's got another point of view. I'd like to hear yours. Come back and tell me what you thought of it.

Bill Urell is all about persistence. His post, A Baby Falls 300 Times Before They Learn To Walk is worth it for the title alone. Find Bill at Addiction Recovery Basics

Meera Patel presents Quit Smoking For Good! posted at Meera on the Wall.

Kara-Leah Masina presents Remembrances of a drug lifestyle posted at K-L Masina.

John Hill presents How to Stop Drinking Alcohol posted at Universe Of Success.

Dr. Vitelli gives us the history of cocaine. Wow. Thanks.

And of course TherapyDoc responds to that with the history of your marriage if you keep using that @#!#, in her post, Relationships and Recovery, considered in some circles a classic, I'm not gonna' lie.

Jo Lynn Braley presents Are You Addicted To Sugar? posted at The Fit Shack, saying, "Did you know that sugar creates the same reaction in the brain as does heroine, morphine, and opium? This article includes 10 questions based on "The Sugar Addict's Total Recovery Program", that will help you determine whether or not you are addicted to sugar."

And The Nourisher tells us about Rapadura, the way sugar is supposed to be. And here I thought it was all about chocolate, butter, eggs, and flour, in equal measure, or whatever recipe you got from your mum.

I'm An Alcoholic
writes There's a Reason They're Called Spirits, to tell us that this sobriety business is no picnic.

Hueina Su presents Life Balance Lessons: 7 Keys to Avoid Burnout posted at Intensive Care for the Nurturer's Soul, saying, "Chronic stress could interfere with recovery. It could also lead to burnout, which could greatly impact a person's physical & emotional health, relationships, work, and everyone related to him/her. When you are burned out, you can't function at your best, and everyone you care about suffer with you. It's not difficult to see that there is much at stake. Here are some proactive steps you can take today to prevent (or overcome) burnout."

And Dr. Allen tells us that change only happens when we have the courage to attach to other people. I'm guessing he means to choose humans over that bottle at the top of this post. Great idea, D.A.

Dr. Allen also shares a story about the miracle of a 12-steps, a sexaholics anonymous group that has helped people in recovery for sex addictions. Check it out. In my opinion, these groups are incredibly powerful for treatment of sexually compulsive behavior.
That concludes this edition. Submit your blog article to the next edition of carnival of all substances using our carnival submission form. Past posts and future hosts can be found on our blog carnival index page.

OKAY! Next Carnival of All Substances is scheduled for June 24, 2007. RECOVERY STORIES take precedence!

Bring 'em on.

Thanks everyone,


Technorati tags: , .

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Ego Trips

In my culture, humility, modesty --they're good things.
In relationships, too, these are good things.

So I'm sorry, I'm sorry for getting on this big ego trip right now, but YOU WOULD BE, TOO IF THE WALL STREET JOURNAL LINKED TO YOUR BLOG!!!

You can now read the whole story of Educating Eric on-line and see those cool graphs, too.

It is exciting.

We're Friends, Right?

I hear that Dooce devotes entire posts to her hate mail. I thought about doing that, seriously. But there really hasn't been any certifiable hate mail in this past year of blogging. Some serious very much I dislike you mail, but no HATE mail.

Also some rather invasive, creepy mail. Not much spam, and nothing I'd write to Blogger about, and I haven't called the FBI. But it feels creepy.

Me exposing someone as a creep feels creepy to me, even if it works for Dooce. I'm not her, and being me, you don't get to even hear me swear (for the most part). So why in the world would I let you read something creepy.

Here we talk lashon (rhymes with trah-tone) naki (pah-key) .
We talk in clean language on this blog.

I bring this up because on Sunday, May 20, 2007 we're doing the First Carnival of All Substances, a collection of posts from people who have mega-experience with drugs and/or alcohol, even food and sex addictions.

Some bloggers (okay, most bloggers) are pretty loose and throw off expletives in this very fashionable I-don't-give-a-blank-that-I'm-swearing attitude. So I've had to say NO to submissions for the carnival that have words I find objectionable.

But we're still friends, right? I'm not your therapist (probably), in cyberspace I'm just another friend. We've established that if you need therapy you have to go to a therapy doc, someone local.

We're friends.

So is this okay that I don't post your stuff if it bothers me?
It's just gotta' be, peops. It's just gotta' be.

Love and Peace,


Wednesday, May 16, 2007


There are perks to this job.

No, not to being a therapist. No perks there, in fact, many disincentives. For example I'd be sitting at an affair, maybe a dinner or a birthday party, and someone would ask

Do you work outside the home?

I'd say

Why yes, I sell flowers. I have a little shop in Glendale (a nonexistent 'burb in Chicago.)

I used to do that because after I'd tell people I was a therapist it was all about me. What kind of therapist are you? What kind of patients do you see? What kind of problems do you see the most? And oh, by the way, can I ask you a question about . . .

It's like my brother, the dermatologist. He can't sit down in a restaurant without someone stopping by the table and lifting up his shirt to show him a dot. What do ya' think it is, doc?

Still, although the perks of being a therapy doc at a wedding or a Bar Mitzvah are few and far between, being a therapy doc blogger is awesome.

You get free books. Who knew?


My name is A. and I work for Sourcebooks, Inc, the publisher of the book Extraordinary Comebacks: 201 Inspiring Stories of Courage, Triumph, and Success by John A. Sarkett. I was hoping you would be willing to review this book for your blog.
The publicist goes on with a list of reviews and explains that there is no obligation to blog about the book if I read it. She continues:
AND, it's always nice to get free stuff.
Maybe she knows about the cool pens the drug companies give F.D.
Other docs get trips to Bermuda. He gets pens.
Oh, and I need more stuff.

Sure, I'll do it.

The book came in the mail the following Friday and I tossed it onto a pile of stuff I read. It's a big pile. I'm always embarrassed when I add to it. What if someone walks into my bedroom and sees this pile of stuff on the floor? Newspapers, journals, books, magazines. A complete disarray. What will they think? What a slob.

Anyway, there's a half inch banner across the cover of the book. It's not the best cover, honest, I wish they'd have hired my kid to do the art work, but okay. The banner says,
Now that impressed me. I don't know why. Maybe I felt like I was in a special club. At some point I picked up the book and read John Sarkett's introduction, which was a little wordy and corny. I tossed the book back to the pile.

But I felt GUILTY. I'd said I'd take a look. They spent money on the postage. Reading the introduction wasn't much of a look.

So I did the chesbon (Hebrew word, sounds like hesh-bone, means accounting) and said to myself, There are 201 2-3 page stories about famous people in this book. Maybe I'll learn something cool, something I can tell over at a wedding or a bar mitzvah.

And I DID learn cool things.

Like, did you know that the Julie Andrews had a throat surgery and it went so badly that she doesn't sing anymore?

But she went on to make the Princess Diary movies and who doesn't love the Princess Diary movies?!

Or did you know that Pablo Picasso was depressed over his friend Carles Casagemes' suicide and THAT'S why he was blue during his blue period? This is why, peops, I keep telling you to use your emotion as an advantage, not a liability. Being sad can inspire creativity. Look at Picasso.

Or did you know that Michael Jordan didn't make the cut for his high school basketball team?

Or that Ray Kroc started out selling paper cups and moonlighted as a jazz pianist? (F.D., there's hope for you, honey).

Or that CBS originally said NO to Lucille Ball's idea of a sitcom called I Love Lucy?

Or that Stephen King nearly died in an auto accident and thought he'd never write again?

Wow, 201 stories like this. I started reading algorithmically in my obsessive-compulsive way, before I realized I could skip to the very end if I wanted to and STILL write this review! And no one would know!

Okay, truth be told. The book is a great social lubricant. I brought it to the dining room table and read a few stories to F.D. last Saturday. We were entertained, enjoyed the stories quite a bit. But then, we're easy on a Saturday afternoon. An article in Commentary or National Geographic would make us laugh.

The publicist wrote that I might want to recommend Extraordinary Comebacks because it's inspiring.
You know how hard it is for people to see the light at the end of the tunnel, she wrote.
But this book won't necessarily help anyone see their light at the end of the tunnel. I think it could even have that paradoxical effect of making depressed people even more depressed.

Why was HE able to be so successful and I'm such a sjhlub? (sjhlub is untranslatable; a close translation would be slob).

Inspiring stories, tributes to the human spirit, Extraordinary Comebacks is chock full of them. And for that, perhaps worth the price.

But this is what we in the therapy doc business call anecdotal data. That means for every 201 extraordinary comeback stories, there are a few million less extraordinary comebacks and many stories about people who are not coming back at all. Those quiet lives of desperation.

Most of us are not going to be like these 201 exceptionally talented people who rose up against mental and physical disability, financial loss, and Himalayan darkness.

Our saving grace is just being thankful, thankful that we're able to open one eye then the other in the morning and say, I'm BACK. Another day. Another chance.

Or simply, UGH. Still a comeback of sorts.

Now that may seem depressing. But you should know. When a therapy doc taps into your particular hidden talents, the ones you've shared with a person like me? When you and I talk in secret and the real you comes out, and I suggest that perhaps you really can beat those odds; I mean, who knows, I'll ask, who really knows what those odds are, whether or not, if you try, you might rise above the grain.

When we talk about you quitting that job, or investing LESS emotional/ physical energy/time in the job that's making you sicker day by day, and you consider working harder at your other strong suits, well,

Well, you usually laugh.
Oh, I could never do THAT, you tell me.

Write the book, I say. Start a band and play the gig. Borrow money, start a business. Adopt a child. Get vocational counseling. Charge more for what you're doing. Go back to college. Paint. Travel. Consult. Sell your work.

You shrug and tell me you could never do that, you're too old. Or you're too tired.

But I have to tell you. When we do hit on that talent, that latent aspiration? Even though you poo poo me and say you could never do it, even though you dismiss it all as pie in the sky and maybe, indeed, that is all it is,

You really do look up for a minute.

You get that glint in the eye, that tiny glimmer of, Well, it's true, I am a good. . .

You KNOW you've got it. I mean, maybe, just maybe, we're not all that different than the 201 people in John Sarkett's book. Maybe with just a little bit of luck. . .

That's why, I for one, LIKE anecdotal data.

Copyright, 2007, therapydoc

Saturday, May 12, 2007

Educating Eric

He killed his principal. The man who gave him shoes.

It's front page Saturday/Sunday Weekend Edition, WSJ, May 12, 2007 and you CAN'T read it on-line, I'm sorry, although there are some excellent graphs in the Journal about special education and a video. Go out and buy this edition of WSJ if you can. It's an incredible story.

I'll quote it liberally here to show you that diagnosis is not easy and that the causes of violence are multivariate.

Eric Hainsock

Eric was a troubled boy who threatened others, who threatened suicide, who had an ADHD diagnosis, who bullied and was bullied, who disrupted class, whose parents divorced when he was a toddler, who lived with his father, who relished hunting and fishing with his father, who missed his mother who promised gifts that didn't arrive, who rolled on the floor in class making pig noises, who was beaten by his father with a paddle, who needed Ritalin but didn't take it because his father said he didn't need it, who needed a special school but didn't go because his father said he didn't need it, who came to school disheveled and smelling of smoke from the wood-burning stove that heated his home, whose head was held down in a toilet by other students at school, who failed over and over again at his studies, who chose to sit in a wastebasket in class, who brought a shotgun and a pistol to school 2 years ago, not intending to shoot either, he says.

Who accidentally killed his high school principal with the pistol after the maintenance engineer wrestled away the rifle.

Now Eric sits in a jail cell and talks to reporters. He is schooled by a teacher who pays him daily visits at prison. He's making A's and B's.

Robert Tomsho and Daniel Golden, journalists who posted the story from Cazenovia, Wisconsin make the point that Eric should never have been mainstreamed. He was in need of special education and he didn't get it. When he has individualized attention (as he is has in prison) he's able to learn and seems happy. Had he had CONTAINED special education, Mr. Klang, the man he shot and killed, would be alive today.

Diagnose Eric? What's the point?

His mom is probably alcoholic (I say that because she made promises and didn't keep them). His dad was overwhelmed and didn't parent well. For sure Eric was depressed, for sure he had learning problems. He had SOCIAL problems, maybe Asperger's, who knows. I will tell you what I've learned about that disorder soon. Misunderstood is a good way to describe individuals with Asperger's. WSJ blames mainstreaming, and who wouldn't agree, considering that streaming clearly wasn't a good idea.

I like how the way the journalists put it, actually, "troubled." His dx, for everyone had at least one, the social worker, the psychologist, the educators, didn't save Mr. Klang's life.

Oh, and did I mention there were 2 guns? Guns don't kill people. People who HAVE guns kill people.


All Substances

I promised (blee neder, which means no promises, really) I'd host the first Carnival of All Substances tomorrow, May 13, 2007.

But. . .

There have been a few complications and it won't be ready until the following week. So if you still have a recovery story for me or a story that doesn't glamorized drug/alcohol abuse and/or dependency, than FOR SURE there's plenty of time to write it up on your blog or send me an old story and I'll link over to you.

I'll post the carnival (blee neder) next Sunday, May 20, 2007, if you get it to this link by May 19, 2007

thanks for your understanding,


Friday, May 11, 2007

Retraction on Going Home Part One

At the time I thought it was true. I thought that maybe I'd ramble on and forget to make the points I wanted to make, or that I wouldn't make them very well (I think I said as much). I wrote that there might not be any psycho-educational content in the Coming Home series.

Of course each post is psycho-educational. I might get personal at times, like I am with this series, but the blog is NOT a personal diary.

I am extremely selective about what I choose to reveal about myself and my family. If I am telling you about something personal (like F.D. and I talk in code) you can trust that there is SOME educational value in that, whether or not I spell it out for you.

I really don't like having to spell it out. It detracts dearly from the writing.

The personal anecdote IS to educate. I share about my marriage because I have been happily married for going on 33 year (Will I tell you the exact date? You'll have to wait to find out. That's why a blog like this can be fun). Every once in awhile I'd like to give a glimmer of what it's like to be in that very special club.

By the way, 33 years really isn't that long. When we hit 60, THEN we'll talk. Will I tell you about sharing a bed then? I sure hope so.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Going Home, Part Three

FD was in the bedroom and it was dark. He was standing opposite the twin single beds, just staring.

"Which one is yours?" he asked.

"What do you mean?"

"Which one did you sleep in when you were a kid?"

"Why, both."

"You can't sleep in both."

Fact is, I clearly remember the moment it dawned on me that there were two beds, two big twin beds in my bedroom and there was only one of me. Maybe I didn't actually have to sleep in the bed I had been sleeping in for the past three or four post-toddler years. I could choose. There was the one under the windows, the usual bed, and there was the other by the opposite wall.

Soon after that decisive moment I shyly asked,

Mom? Do you think I could switch beds?

Sure, she said.

The strangest things can give a kid power. Two beds. Can you imagine? And some people grow up sharing one, sometimes sharing one bed with more than one person.

I did appreciate it, you know. I never took it for granted that I had that choice, a second bed. And I switched off on a regular basis.

Although pondering the bed situation in the dark with F.D. was interesting, I slipped off to get a drink of water from the kitchen. The skin, the skin. It has to be hydrated at any age (that's what they tell me in InStyle). My parents were reading in the living room so I joined them, not quite sleepy enough to go to bed. We talked a bit, caught up on who is sick and dying, the latest funerals. So many people I vaguely remember but remember! Pretty soon F.D. joined us in his pajamas.

They were thrilled. My parents adore him. More than me. He is a doctor, after all. The real kind. We all settled into some serious reading and then F.D. excused himself and went to bed. I still wanted to read more before joining him. By the time I tossed my book to the floor and stumbled to the bedroom, he was asleep in the bed by the wall. I snuggled in next to him for some heat.

When I thought it possible to brave the cold sheets alone, I slipped away to stretch out more comfortably in the other twin. In seconds I was out.

Woke up the next morning hearing the bedroom door close gently. F.D. was returning to bed. He'd been up at 4:00 learning. (When I refer to "learning" on this blog it often means learning Jewish law or Talmud, like it does now). He sat down next to me.

"I have bad news."

"Oh no, WHAT?"

I was nervous. When parents are getting up in age and sleeping more than usual, bad news is something you don't want to hear.

"The 30-cupper went out. The water's cold."


"No coffee?!(expetive)"

"I'm afraid not."

another expletive, not a bad one.

"They have orange juice," he said. "Lots and lots of orange juice. With calcium. Must've been on sale."

"I hate orange juice."

"Maybe there will be coffee at the hotel. They often serve it with a little cake just outside the room where we daven (pray-rhymes with Mahvin) at the hotel," he offered hopefully. We were invited to a Bar Mitzvah at a hotel. That's why we were staying with at my parents' house.

"I can't wait that long."

"It is bad, I know." He patted my hand.

"Yup. More than bad." I already had a headache that didn't quit that week. Maybe allergies, maybe stress. For sure a combination of both. The thought of no coffee was too much.

"I'm going to take a little nap before shul," he said softly, resigned.

We traded places. He took my bed and I put on my slippers and headed for the kitchen, thinking about how I could make coffee without hot water. (You don't cook anything on the Sabbath, remember, not even water.)

Dad was sleeping sitting straight up in a chair in the family room. He heard me and woke up.

"How are you, Dad?" I asked.

"Good." Then as an afterthought. "Have some orange juice," he said.

"Okay," I answered. He went back to sleep.

I opened the refrigerator door and found what I was looking for-- the Hershey's chocolate syrup and the milk. I took a large plastic cup, two teaspoonful of Folger's instant coffee, a huge glob of Hershey's, a half a cup of milk, a half cup of water, and stirred vigorously.

It fizzed like a phosphate and wasn't half bad. Try it.

I made one for F.D. then looked in the cupboard where they keep their daily medications and found some Tylenol. Took two with my chocolate phosphate.

Exhausted, joined F.D. in my old bedroom. "I brought you some coffee. It's iced coffee but without ice. Want some Tylenol?" I asked.

"Uh, no." He turned over.

I set down his drink, finished mine, joined him in that bed by the windows.

We lay there under the covers just looking around as the early morning sun gradually brightened up the room. It had been a pleasant bedroom for a kid, pink carpet, pale pink, hot pink, and peach curtains, matching bedspreads. I remember picking it all out. (note, choices). Now the decor is muted down to pale pinks, creams and cranberries, walls are off-white. Mom's made many nice changes.

"Do you remember when I used to sleep in the other bedroom, your brother's room, when we were engaged?" F.D. asked me.

"Uh, huh."

He continued. "I thought to myself, maybe one day, one day, I'll get to sleep in HER room. With HER."

"You did not."

"I did," he said. "Of course I did."

"Nah, I don't remember."

"That was a nice time of our lives," he said.

"Yup, we were 21 years old. Doesn't get any sexier than that," I said. Then correcting myself,

"Intellectually sexy, I mean, of course. We were young, but not too young. Old enough to make our own decisions, mature enough to consider everyone else's feelings. Still we felt good about making the choices we thought were right."

"What do you mean?"

"Oh, you know. Like it was good that we told the parents to do whatever they liked with the wedding. Just let us get married already."

"Uh, huh. I see."

"There were other choices that we made, some weren't that hard," I said. "They seem harder for the kids these days."

"We were religious."

We were both thinking the same thing.

"Yup, decisions, decisions."

"We need to make one right now," he said.

"You mean, Should we get dressed and go to shul?" I asked him, closing one eye, then the other.

"Uh, huh."

Decisions, decisions.

"We still have time to nap awhile," I said.


Copyright 2007, therapydoc

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

All this before 11:00 a.m.

It threatened rain this morning so I took FD to work, almost passed the light and he pointed to make sure I made the turn.

"You should probably close a couple of those windows," he said. He'd been talking and I had been listening, but not 100%.

As I was about to pull into the hospital drive a couple of really, really cute kids blocked my way. They were laughing, maybe singing, surely gesturing in an "I'm Free" (ala the Who song) way. The little girl saw us waiting for them to move past and shouted, something, something, You old people!

Well, that's a matter of perspective. I gave my guy's beard a stroke and dropped him off, headed to Jewel to buy some groceries, and completely forgot something. Didn't remember until I got home.

The flowers.

I wanted to get my aunt a pot of flowers. It's not like I'm a great niece or anything. I don't visit my aunts and uncles in their homes, and they're all retired and I'm sure they'd love a visit now and then. But when they're in the hospital sometimes I get around to visiting.

Anyway, this time around I've visited several times but each time been too lazy to make the stop for flowers . Instead I've left lame notes on the backs of the cards the hospital staff leave, those pre-printed things that say, Welcome to the Hospital, You Lucky Person You! We're so glad you're insured!

So this time I decided to trek back to Jewel and get the plant. After that I dropped off F.D.'s shirts at the cleaners and searched my brain for more things that I'd probably forgotten to do, found nothing and headed off to the hospital.

There are signs up telling us it's Nurses Week! Who knew? Now you do. Anyway, at the elevator a nurse in a pink blouse noticed my flowers.

"Those are pretty," she said.


"I like pink."

"Me, too."

"It's got color, but not too much color. It's pale, but fresh."

I smiled at her. "Very true." We reached my floor and I wished her a good day. (All you nurses out there, thanks for being you!)

I always pause a second before walking into Aunt C.'s room. Even if the door's open I'll do that. Stuck my nose in a bit and could see her bed was there, as was my aunt and her care-taker, Maggie.

"Yo, Aunt C.! How's my beautiful aunt today?" I shout cheerfully. "Hi Maggie."

Aunt C. opens her eyes. Sees me and I could swear I saw a glimmer of a smile on her face. She mumbled something unintelligible, closes her eyes. "She's doing better," Maggie says.

"Auntie, talk to me! What's happening. Why the hell aren't you out of here yet. FD tells me hospitals are for sick people!" Indeed, FD told me last night that if she could possibly go home, she'd be a lot less confused. That might improve the dementia.

She started to explain, in word salad, that she's tired and she really would like to get out of there. Actually, she can only say a couple of words at a time and they don't always make sense. She's short of breath.

"Like the flowers?" I put them in front of her and she nodded.

"You know it's me, right?" I continued. She said my name. Maggie said something to me, I looked up at her, and by the time I looked back at my aunt again, she'd gone back to sleep. She's got a bunch of tubes helping her stay alive, and seems to be up at night. By day time she's wiped out.

"Aunt C.! I've got to go! Listen up. You've got to concentrate on getting better. You're looking MUCH better to me. Get the hell out of here, okay?" Her eyes opened.

"I love you," I said.

"I love you, too."

"Did you hear that?" Maggie asked in amazement. "She said, 'I love you, too.'"

I don't know how it made my aunt feel, but I felt like a million bucks.

Copyright, 2007, therapydoc

Going Home, Part Two

I was about to tell you that indeed, my father is always right and was always right. Just like you're always right and I'm always right. Everybody's right. This is the postmodernist way of looking at reality.

From a psycho-educational point of view, searching out how someone who is obviously wrong, in one's own humble opinion, could possibly be right is THE exercise in empathy.

But this post is about mom.

Yet here's the problem. Sometimes, admittedly, I don't have the emotional kai-ach (rhymes with Yay, Bach!) to post things. And this post, Going Home, Part Two, is one of those times. The story is bittersweet, emotional, personal, funny. Nothing you'd want to read, right?

So when I get like this the post goes into "drafts."

I'm sorry. Maybe someday. But I'll share a little, cuz I love you.

We had just finished dinner, which was fabulous, as always, if a little light on the salt. We've graduated to having a salt shaker on the table which I feel is good. Anyway Dad had left the table to take a snooze before dessert, and Mom started washing dishes so they'd be perfectly clean before going into the dishwasher.

FD was about to ask, "Where do I put the leftover . . ."

when Mom turned to us, interrupted. "You know, I always feel guilty. It's like I've never gotten over . . ."
It was rich, it was great. I can't tell it.

By the way, she had nothing to feel guilty about, NOTHING. But we're hard-wired for guilt, some of us, then we find, many years later, rational or not, there it is.

Like I've said before, they're wrong. You can and should go home again.

copyright 2007, therapydoc

Monday, May 07, 2007


I'm moving out of Kansas, the man said on National Public Radio. I've lived here my whole life, but I'm through with this state. I'll move to Arizona. They don't have tornadoes in Arizona.

Another Greensburg resident, also NPR: I had a goal, you know. I had a goal. I knew what I was doing, where I was going. Now I don't know. I don't know what I'll do. I guess I'll have to find a new goal.

Katrina, Greensburg. Maybe we'd better start listening to Al Gore. My guess is that most of us like our goals just the way they are.


Saturday, May 05, 2007

Going Home, Part One

There are stories, and there are stories behind stories, and there are the stories behind stories behind the stories, and stories behind stories behind stories behind the stories.

Which is why sometimes when someone like me starts to write a long story there's cause to worry that there may not be a point and that nothing really will tie together and that I'm a terrible writer who has tricked you, webbed you into reading in search of redeeming value, and that I will be exposed for what I am which will be the beginning of the end of . . . something.

Aw, who cares.

But I'm telling you right now that there may not be a psycho-educational moral to this particular personal story (I can hear my friends gasp when I say that word, personal) .

On the other hand, maybe you'll glean something good anyway.

Friday F.D. and I packed up to visit my parents. That was unusual since we haven't stayed overnight in their home, my house, for over 25 years. Sure, we've visited them in that condo near the beach in Florida, their winter migratory home, but who needs to stay overnight at their place in Chicago when I've got my own bed just 5 miles away?

Not me.

But we had a Bar Mitzvah, and the services were going to be in a hotel that was about 5 miles too many to walk. Since F.D. and I don't drive on the Sabbath, and since my parents, 81 and 86 live only a few blocks from the hotel, staying there would give mom an opportunity to feed us, a good thing from my point of view, if not a little selfish.

See, it's not like she needs this, feeding people. Even when she was much younger my father's friends would just happen to "stop by" right about the time my parents were sitting down to dinner. If I happened to be there, mom would shoot me a look that read

I need this?!?#@. Do I need this? Why me?

No expletives, she's very elegant, but s
ometimes she'd even say those things under her breath.

But these days it's harder for them to do a lot of the things they used to do in their sleep. Still, mom was insulted when I suggested that I cook something and bring it over. She had it in mind that she and my father would shop and prepare the meal together. They were excited to entertaining us I think.

I know.

So I dropped F.D. at the synagogue for Friday night services and headed to the house. Dad met me at the door and in the process of handing him my suit, the jacket slipped off the hanger and the plastic got all tangled.

I bent down to pick up the jacket and F.D.'s phone fell out of my purse.

My hands were full, so even though I saw the phone on the porch, I had to bring things into the house before I could reach to pick it up. I dropped a bag at the door, set down the flowers on the kitchen table, and this is where my memory completely fails. I had shuffled between the bedroom, the bathroom, and the kitchen, and. . .

The next thing I remember is the two of them are hustling to finish everything before candle-lighting. The table is set, Dad's scrutinizing the fish under the broiler Think it's done? Whaddaya think?

Yeah, it's done, looks great
, I say, and Mom's setting lights, turning off the stove.

"The food will be cold by the time F.D. gets here," Mom says, although she doesn't call him F.D. Hardly anyone does.

"It'll be fine. We like it cold. Better cold than dried out."

One of the rules of keeping the Sabbath day is that you don't cook. The "day" starts the night before at candle lighting, about an hour before sunset, so we turn off the appliances at that time. The food's already cooked and covered to keep it warm, and it's great, surely the best meal of the week.

There are those of us who start thinking about Friday night dinner on Wednesday morning, actually. About 2-3 million of us in the world, give or take a few of my tribe begin menu planning and shopping mid-week.

I head back to the bedroom to set things up so that I can find what I need at bedtime in the dark. (We don't turn on lights either). I paused a minute to see if Mom had made any new changes to my bedroom. She'd added a little tray of bottled perfumes on the dresser, so I tried one, Fendi. Fantastic. Then I noticed that F.D.'s phone wasn't in the pocket of my purse. I went through all of my things. No phone.

I panick. He had handed it to me before he left the car and said, Make sure you bring it into the house. I thought I remembered him saying something about E.R. call.

Then I remembered I'd seen it on the porch while fumbling for my jacket. I checked the front porch. No phone.

"Mom, Dad, have either of you seen a cell phone around?" Immediately I'm thinking my father picked up the phone and has put it somewhere and probably has no idea where it is by now. Hey, that can happen at any age.

"No," he says.

"No," she says.

"You're sure?"


"I haven't seen a phone."

"You didn't see it on the porch when I dropped it fumbling with my suit?" I ask Dad.

"I don't know what you're talking about."

"But I said," I say back to him, "Oh, blank, I dropped the phone and you said, I'll get it."

"I did not say that."


I totally believed him. But I have this thing. It's called search your brain and it always works. Well, it USUALLY works. Only I'd done that and visualized the phone on the porch and it wasn't there, so search your brain was not working, which through me way off. I went back outside and again, it wasn't there. It wasn't anywhere near the porch, not in the bushes on the right, not in the flowers to the left. Not on the mat where in my mind, I'd seen it. I went back inside. I looked through everything again. Purse, overnight bag, even the plastic suit bag from the cleaners.

"Are you sure, Dad, you didn't pick up that phone?"

"I'm sure! Why don't you look in the car? Doesn't it make sense to look in the car? You haven't looked in the car!"

"But I saw it on the porch. How would it get from the porch back to the car?"

"I don't know."

"I'm going to call the phone," I said. "Problem is, of course, it's on vibrate."

I'm thinking, if it's in his pocket, he'll feel it. Or maybe there's a chance one of us will hear it vibrating someplace. A slim chance.

No dice.

I dug out my keys and thinking, this is silly, went back outside to look in the car.

No phone. About to give up, I looked in the street. There it was.

Honest, I have no idea how it got there. I went back inside, cheerfully announced, "I've got it! I found the phone!"

Dad looked at me and said, "See, I told you it was in the car."

"But it wasn't in the car, it was on the street," I said.

"But it wasn't in the house, and you weren't even looking BY the car. I told you to go outside."

I shake my head, smile, "You're right, of course."

That was the beginning.

You can go home again.
You can go home again.
You can go home again, you know.

Copyright 2007, therapydoc