Hurt People Hurt People

​It’s been quiet here in Wondrland, and it’s not because I haven’t wanted to say anything. I’ve been wanting to talk about Mental Illness, and haven’t been certain how to approach the conversation. Cos, you know, that’s something you’re “not supposed to talk about”. But since there’s not a day that goes by when I’m not faced with evidence of mental illness in someone I know, including myself, I want to talk about it.

As you probably know, mental illness can be hereditary or it can be a response to events in a person’s life. Something that you may not be aware of (I wasn’t for a long time) is that a mental illness can begin to appear at any point in a person’s life. Childhood, adulthood, or any other time of life, things can begin to go…sideways. The part that matters most, I suppose, is when the “differences” start to be addressed and treated. 
When I began to have concerns about my child’s behavior, I was told  “that’s just how boys are!” and also, from my family members, “You were the same way at that age!” Which caused me to wonder if that’s just how the boys in MY family have always been, and if there was something going on with ME at that age that might have been handled differently, and had a seriously more positive outcome?

So I began searching the web for information to explain the things I was noticing in my boy.  I found a lot of answers to the questions that had been running through my head, and raised some new questions! For example, I had not been aware that symptoms of ADHD/ADD look very different in boys than they do in girls. I accredit this ignorance to the fact that nobody was talking about ANY kind of mental illness in children back in the 60’s and 70’s. At least, nobody my parents or I knew. 
I can’t even describe the feelings I had when I heard that when I was being punished for being “lazy” or “daydreaming” or “lying” about things I was POSITIVE I had not lied about, that it wasn’t my fault. As a young girl, I was disciplined for all of these things. Rigorously. And often. I now know that my Dad had been through essentially the same traumas when he was young.   Come to find out, I’d had the symptoms of Attention Deficit Disorder as far back as I can remember. Growing out of that period came the depression, “generalized anxiety disorder” and PTSD that have been my continual companions ever since. The realization that there was something unusual about the way my mind processed things motivated me to find out as much as I could about psychology. I knew I was different by the time I was about 12 or so, but didn’t know what “IT” was, exactly.  I’ll never forget the first book I read about a person my age that had a mental illness. “Lisa, Bright and Dark” told of the daily life of a teen girl who was behaving increasingly strangely, and how it was ignored, denied, and finally addressed. It shined a light on a part of me that I’d never taken out of the shadows before. It told me that I wasn’t the only one. 

You can find more info about Lisa, Bright and dark on Google or Amazon. (I tried to post a link for ya, but it doesn’t seem to be working.)

I remember my Dad asking me what I had to be sad about?! I had such a good life (and it’s not wrong, by many standards, I was VERY blessed), and I was so “ungrateful” I should be “ashamed”. And of course, I was. For a very long time. I’m not certain that I’ve gotten past that shame, even now.  It seems like a good time to write down what the difference between guilt and shame is. As I have come to understand it,  GUILT is the feeling I get when I’ve done something wrong, or BAD. SHAME is the feeling that I am BAD or WRONG. Period. How many times did our parents tell us “Shame on you”? I couldn’t tell you, but I did share what I’d learned about the difference, the next time I was told that I should be ashamed. 
So, it took years of discussion with my Mom before she accepted that antidepressants weren’t “drugs”, and they didn’t cause you to feel high. Thank God, she wasn’t so hesitant to get me to a counselor when I hit my teens, but medication was a tougher pill for her to swallow (see what I did there?). Several years ago she was even able to be helped by taking them for a while. I’m happy to say that she doesn’t seem to need them at this point. 

And so, now the generational “quirks,” we’ll call them, have shown themselves in other parts of my extended family. As the children grow into their teens and young adulthood, they’re giving (me) reasons to be concerned. I see the same symptoms that I showed at that age, and I can only hope and pray that the stigma and “what will the neighbors think?” won’t keep the adults from getting the kids to a Dr. of some sort. I understand that everyone is busy, running as fast as they possibly can to…I don’t know, rest? And I absolutely know that the cost associated with mental illness treatment can be intimidating. But guess what? If it HAS to be done, we find a way. (And if we’re not willing to address/treat the problem, we find an EXCUSE.)

I can’t help but think of my Dad, and his distaste (translated: refusal) in asking for help.  When I was probably about 10, I was at my Dad’s house and he was “partying” and dancing around, having a good time. I think Elton John was playing loudly on the record player. Well, somehow, Dad danced in the wrong place and caused the horizontal blinds to fall down onto his foot. THAT ended the dancing. For the next 2 hours or so, my stepmom and Grandma tried to explain to Dad that the end of his toe was BARELY attached, and he needed to get to the ER. He didn’t think it was that bad. He musta been HIGHHIGHHIGHHIIIGH. 

Then, many years later, when his life was in a downward spiral because of his drinking and drug use, he again insisted that he didn’t need any help, thank you very much. If the helicopters would stop flying over his shed, and the spies would stop creeping around his house, he would have been fine. But just in case, he always had a loaded .38 handy. It takes some of us longer than others to have our denial broken down. Thank God he did get clean/sober, and the rest is wonderful history. 

So, it makes me think of Dad when I hear adults replying (re: getting their kids to see someone or see if perhaps medication would help) “Counselors are a waste of money” or, even better “We don’t have time”. I love what I heard James Dobson say about parenting older childen. He said that up until that time, it’s like you’re on a ship with them, teaching them the roaps and how to stay safe, etc. Once they get to their teens, we have to pick our battles carefuly, and just keep them from jumping ship. My kids have done infinitely better with negotiating the rough waters than I did, and I attribute that to their getting help when they did. I just happened to have personal experience  that allowed me to recognise the symptoms in my children.  

Depression in kids may not look the way you’d expect it to. Kids aren’t likely to necessarily let you see the depth of their despair. (I was told to stop being such a baby when I was unable to keep my sadness from coming out.) Kids and teenagers, AREN’T supposed to be continually sad or angry (anger is what we see when sadness isn’t “allowed”), and it’s not just a part of that period. Sure, moodiness is guaranteed to be a frequest visitor when the hormones are flying around, but that’s different from being angry or sad ALL THE TIME. The worst thing we as parents can do is to be overcome by pride, not wanting to find out what “they” would think. 10 or 20 years down the road, “they” won’t even be in your life, and if they are, they still won’t be as valuable as your child’s wellbeing. Right? 
I am sometimes hesitent to speak up about matters of mental health. I was shamed and punished enough to make it quite clear to me: act normal and don’t talk about anything. It’s still a subtle influencer on my decisions today.  I appreciate your taking time out of your day to read this. I feel strongly about these issues and I’m not sure if I am able to make that clear in my writing. So I throw it out there, and hope someone catches something they can use. 

What are your thoughts? Have you seen addictions and mental illness moving down your family’s bloodline? How is it dealt with, or is it?
From my cabin in the woods. 

This could easily be you. Or me.

This story was from February of last year. 

http://wishtv.com/2016/02/04/addicts-discouraged-by-lack-of-options-for-uninsured/

And a year later, almost to the day:

http://whtv.com/2017/02/08/mother-of-fatal-od-victim-shares-story-in-hopes-of-helping-others/ 

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I’ve had people look at me strangely, even people who are in recovery, when I talk about how it disturbs me when relapse is treated like “no big deal.” Of course, it happens, but it DOESN’T HAVE TO. “Everybody relapses” is something that just makes my blood boil. Addiction is a progressive, fatal disease. 

When I got clean/sober, it wasn’t unheard of for a recent relapser to be told to SHUT UP during the meeting. “You obviously don’t know how to stay sober, so sit there and listen. You may hear something that will save your life.” I’ve heard of much “worse” things said or done, and the people who took suggestions eventually learned how to quit and STAY quit.

I was told similar things in early recovery. They hurt my feelings!! (Insert pouty emoji here) The truth will do that when you’re not used to it. That’s where I learned about caring enough to tell you the truth even if it pissed you off. I can live with you not liking me. If there’s a way that I can prevent or at least help to postpone that next drink/drug, I will do it. Like me or don’t.

The Old-timers weren’t there to make friends. They weren’t there to pat me on the butt & tell me everything was gonna be OK (if I wanted to hear that, I could get it at the bar). The Old-timers were there to carry the message. 

Thank God there were crusty old farts sitting in those smoke-filled rooms who cared enough to confront me on my bullsh*t. If they hadn’t, I may still be lying to myself. 

So, don’t smile & joke about people relapsing. Not around me. My friends whose kids are dead aren’t laughing. The kids whose Mom will never kiss them goodnight again, they’re not laughing…

Do me a favor, will you? Say a prayer for those left behind when addiction claims another life, and while you’re at it, pray for the still suffering alcoholic/addicts. God loves them, too, you know. 

Just Another Day in Paradise

​Perusing one of my blogs from many years ago, I came upon this & thought I’d share it with you. I hope it blesses you.

This morning I woke up with a heavy heart. After talking recently with a friend about how I’ve been doing pretty well for the last few months taking only half of the most recently prescribed dosage of antidepressants, some recent events would have had me wondering, not so long ago. 
Today I know that it’s normal to feel deeply, and my determination to rely more on God, (and as little as possible on chemicals) allows me to feel, and DEAL with it. 
Now I’m sitting in a crowded food pantry, looking for a mental escape. …it was as crowded today as I’ve ever seen it, and the place was full of overly warm bodies, and talking, yelling & the occasional baby crying – the sights & sounds of low-income and the discomforts of life, when you’re broke and hungry. 
At one point an overweight (most of the folks were, and probably under-nurished, statistically speaking)  woman burst in, yelling and cursing at a thin, dirty young man sitting behind me to give back her ipad. The volunteers were pretty quick to get the situation taken outside, but not before she’d hit him. I heard the impact, but couldn’t tell where she’d struck him. From his (non) reaction, it seemed like it wasn’t anything out of the ordinary for their relationship.  
One more part of “the norm” for under-educated, unemployed, oppressed,  depressed populations. After the couple left, it occurred to me that some music would be nice, and w/ earbuds I would be able to block out the noise. Todd Agnew sang about Hope, and my spirit was soothed for a moment.  
After the song was over, I unplugged the earbuds & put on some old-time hymns. I felt like it was something that I could contribute, to improve the place for all of us waiting.  
A small thing, but the Spirit came through. For a few brief minutes, the chaos lifted. I felt better for having been able to help. 

What you put before your Recovery, you’ll lose.

​…if an addict tries to replace their Program of Recovery (growth via spiritual principles) with ANY THING, they will lose both. 

There’s a good reason that the Old-timers say “No major life changes in the first year.” 

School, work, moving out of state/country, job, serious relationship… 

Just. Don’t. 

If it’s God’s will for you, won’t it still be there when you’re actually ready for it? In my experience, my will is always going to be along the lines of INSTANT GRATIFICATION, while God’s will requires me to practice patience (and other spiritual principles). 

Something to think about.
Posted from my castle in the clouds.

Smart People Take More Drugs

​I wish I could take credit for this piece, but, alas, I can not. However, I was educated by it & think you may be, as well.  

I’ve heard alkie/druggies described in many ways, and smart isn’t usually one of them. There’s a reason why AA has the slogans. For example, “Think think think.” – Sponsor says “That doesn’t apply to you.”

https://www.blvdcenters.org/blog/smarter-people-take-more-drugs

As promised: Q & A with the Director & Executive Producer of “Surrender”.

​Interview: Mark Renshaw + Christopher Carson Emmons

Chris, as the director, you brought forth a patient yet striking visual narrative with this short film.  How were you able to achieve the vision you sought with the numerous effects shots and other stylistic challenges that the film required?
The team tried to achieve many unconventional things with this project, it is essentially a silent film from the point of view of an unreliable narrator (due to his alcoholism we see some things that are only in his mind) and is also a mental health and addiction awareness piece masquerading as a horror/thriller film.
I felt that showing literal manifestations of the main character’s inner demons throughout would help communicate why as an addict he consciously makes the wrong decision time and time again. The temptress character at his office is a living manifestation of the addict’s impulse to do the wrong thing while being aware it’s wrong, perhaps seeking ultimately punishment and intervention from external forces before the darkness inside completely consumes.
I also wanted the viewer to experience what a day in the life of this man was like from his point of view, in an effort to hopefully help them empathize with what otherwise may have been a deeply unsympathetic character. To me, the core issue of the character was a lack of self-love, which caused him to lash out at loved ones because he didn’t feel he deserved them and he simultaneously punished and medicated himself constantly for this with alcohol.
We tried with the visuals to thematically imbue a sense of not trusting the world around the lead character or the character himself early on. Even the water bottle he puts clear alcohol in is misleading, but alcoholics viewing the film would know that there are many ways such as this to disguise addiction. With the sound, we tried to really illustrate the decay inside this man physically and spiritually. Every time he takes a drink of alcohol, you hear the sound of his insides burning. The music is really the dialogue, which communicates most of the emotion throughout the journey.
Mark, as the writer and Executive Producer, you drew from some personal accounts when you envisioned—and eventually scripted—“Surrender”. Please tell us about your personal journey that led to the genesis of this unique and important film.
At the time of writing this, I’m three years, nine months and two days sober; not that I’m counting or anything!
I was a functioning alcoholic. I had a successful career, a fantastic family and a lovely home. At face value my life was perfect. I seemed like a happy, normal guy.
Inside I was dying.
Physically, mentally and spiritually, I was a wreck. I couldn’t cope with the real world, so I started to rely on something which took me out of my anxiety and into my own version of reality. The only thing keeping me going was the promise of that bottle at the end of each day. It became my solution to everything.
Eventually I had my rock bottom, I reached my jumping off place. To quote from Pulp Fiction, “I had what alcoholics describe as a moment of clarity.” I admitted defeat, reached out for help and began my recovery.
When I wrote “Surrender”, I wanted to encapsulate how it feels to exist as a functioning alcoholic. I wanted to show how different they are from the stereotypical, drunken tramp-like figure most people imagine when they think of an alcoholic. My goal was to highlight how ordinary they appear at face value, as well as how deceptive and manipulative they can be.
The main character, Dave, isn’t me, but he does represent key elements of my battle with the booze. “Surrender” also drew on many shared experiences I’ve heard from alcoholics over the past few years.
However, I wanted to avoid a potentially dull narrative were we simply observe a character drink heavily and wind up in trouble. I initially wrote about a guy who existed in a completely isolated world when he was sober. The only way he could cross into the ‘real world’ and interact with people was to take a drink. This would allow him to operate normally for a while but he would eventually spin out of control and wind up back in the ’empty zone’ when he woke up.
After reading this script, Chris suggested that I try a more horror-based approach, in which we could see his fears, anxieties and all his inner demons materialized. I loved this idea. And thus, “Surrender” was born. 
What do you hope audiences leave with after viewing “Surrender”?
Chris: My hope with this film is that people take a moment to question what the differences are between someone’s surface demeanor and their inner lives. What is the person who publicly seems happy all the time really thinking and what does this temperament do to their soul? What are the depths of compassion the person you deem awful or irredeemable is actually capable of?
Functioning alcoholics are often masterful at seeming like they have it all together, which makes them incredibly difficult to diagnose let alone get to seek treatment. It is an internal struggle that I think deserves examination and awareness.
The film unapologetically presents an addict who is self-destructive in all aspects of his life on his road to rock bottom. When presented with the concept of rehabilitation by his wife, we end the film on his response, which is simply “How?” This is one of the most important questions we should all be addressing about addiction, and it is my hope that the film ultimately contributes to that dialogue.
Mark: This may seem strange but I would like viewers to have a strange taste in their mouth when they watch “Surrender”. I want them to be hooked into Dave’s journey but be slightly uncomfortable about the ride. 
Dave represents the ‘Yet Factor.’ I drink a bit too much, but not during the day…yet. I drink but at least I’ve not lost my job…yet. Well, I’ve passed out a few times but I’ve never woken up in a strange place…yet. Etc.
My hope is that anyone struggling with addiction, both personally or through someone they know, will identity with Dave’s struggle. When they get to the end of “Surrender”, I want them to realize that no matter how far down the ladder they may have fallen, they can always climb back up. I also hope that they are as curious as Dave as to how this can be accomplished and seek the help to do so.

 “Surrender” to Win

 I was contacted a while back, and asked to view a short (14:04 minutes) film and consider sharing it with my readers. I watched it at the time and I knew it would be very helpful to many of my Tribe, and probably eye-opening to many others. 

I just watched it again, and added it to my “watch later” list on YouTube. It’s that kind of piece, in my opinion.

I don’t believe in coincidences, and I’m not organized enough to have had this pre-planned; so, on this, the last weekend of 2016, I offer you this short film. Please, tell me what you think of it, and share it on any social media you use. 

Next, a Q & A with Mark & Chris, the Executive Producer and Director of this award-winning video. 

What do you think? Is it true to your experience? Do you relate to the feelings portrayed? 

Written in my apartment above the Tea Room.