Category Archives: Mental Health

Marketing 101

Today, when I walked in to see the counselor, I handed her this card. She’s accustomed to my sense of humor and laughs authentically when I catch her off-guard. I was incredibly lucky to randomly find her.

There’s a punchline to this. I told her that I came up with the perfect tagline for her as-of-yet written proposal for workgroup mental health discounts: Crazier By The Dozen.

“I’m not sure prospective clients would understand the humor.”

“Well, then they ARE crazy, aren’t they?”

I feel like I won at life in that brief moment.

A Second Of Your Time

Someone smart asked me in all seriousness, “If life is so short, why do you persist in doing so many things you don’t like? Is it that you don’t like life or that you don’t like yourself? You’re losing a little bit of both each time you do it.” Of course, I pithily answered back and received this barb: “An occasional compromise is totally normal, of course, because so much of life is doing exactly that, but why would you let another person frequently put you in the position of using the finite minutes you’ve been given doing things you don’t like to do.? That’s not their issue – it is yours. And the longer you wait to learn how to get out of this sort of thing is more of your life flying past. It’s gone forever.”

An Exaggerated Truth

One of the ways you know that emotionality has seeped too far into your head is when you find yourself exaggerating. Often, when we’re lashing out, we take a small version of the truth and stretch it ridiculously. If we don’t have such a truth to work with, we either invent one or attribute a motive that we have no way of knowing. We villainize.

All of us hear dozens of vicious encounters in our daily lives, wherein people jab, snark, and exaggerate about the people they are currently upset with. That’s not going to end as long as humans are walking around.

For example, I’ve always had a real problem with fundamentalists or extremists, especially religious ones. Regardless of where I was on the spectrum about the existence of god or the futility of interventionist prayer, I’ve had a stable attitude about the foundation of people’s beliefs.

Any dogma, doctrine, commandment, or rule can be created out of whole cloth. It often is. It’s part of the reason no two religions or denominations agree on everything. Often, the divergence is massive, leaving no recognizable overlap.

My derision has always fallen on those who would demand adherence or obedience to the imposition of their chosen religious beliefs.

I distrust rigid authoritarians about religion; they can’t be trusted to honor the line of observance.

But, in anger or exaggeration, I’ve been accused of having a horrible attitude toward Christians as a category. That’s ridiculous. As with most religions and denominations, the individual observing it has massive leeway in how they treat others against the backdrop of spirituality. Many use it compassionately and intelligently; others would burn the world to get agreement. It is the latter that pisses me off.

It’s a small thing, but one which, if repeated unfairly, can grow to discolor the true nature of how I look at Christians and others.

Over the last few weeks, I’ve noticed this sort of exaggeration in anger more frequently. It’s no great revelation, of course.

L.I.T.S.

To start, L.I.T.S. = “Life Is Too Short.”

Secondly, I may be a person on other people’s lists. I admit that fully. We’re all villains in someone else’s eyes; accept it. Yes, it will feel hurtful.

Since I started seeing a counselor, I’ve probably become more annoying in a few ways. If you missed it in my previous posts, anytime you change, even if entirely for the better or positive reasons, people often don’t welcome the change. Change requires adaptation and often new boundaries. As the difference becomes more substantial, so too does the likelihood that someone will take issue – and probably not directly.

I keep a few of these printed in my wallet. Instead of getting frustrated again, I take one out and hand it to whoever is trying to trap me in a situation with the person on my L.I.T.S. List.

For most people, this opens up a conversation about my motivation. At its most simple, it lets the person know that I take issue with how the other person engages with me as a human being. If the person inquiring is a good person, I will take the time to explain. If not, I short-circuit the encounter as politely as possible.

It’s also possible that handing out these might get me in hot water. But let’s be honest, dealing with narcissists or unkind people often lands us in hot water through no fault of our own. I won’t put someone on my L.I.T.S. List unless I’ve been unsuccessful in getting them to stop mistreating me.

There will be situations in which nothing can be done. Even so, at least people will know that I’d prefer to minimize my exposure to the person in question.

Life is too short, indeed.

The Sum

Because I had a delayed counseling session due to the excessive rain and flooding last week, I took a walk in South Fayetteville today. I listened to TED en Español. And because I didn’t know the area as well as I thought I did, I went a street too far. As a result, I walked an hour and a half instead of thirty minutes. The breeze and the unfamiliarity of the area made it glorious. I went past Baum Stadium, past the not-yet-completed “Marhsall Place,” as well as another complex whose name escaped me, both uncompleted. I witnessed several exciting events, including a lift operator lowering himself with a surprising weight of siding (even as an excited co-worker shouted at him in Spanish from below), a car speeding through a huge parking lot at 100 mph, passing within ten feet of me, and a man sitting in the abandoned Cobb complex (which I didn’t know existed) smoking pot. And another contractor who broke a 3rd or 4th-floor window with his hammer, presumably accidentally. He looked down at me as I waved. He laughed and waved back, shrugging his shoulders. I gave a man $20, and his smile and surprise were so tangible that I almost failed to keep my composure; his reaction was so genuine that I wondered if I had imagined it. A woman who probably didn’t know someone was approaching exited her car and put her pants on. I’m not sure what proceeded that. She nodded as I looked in her direction. I ate at Mr. Taco Loco, consuming a portion of pico de gallo so immense that I felt guilty for eroding their profit margin. And the counselor? She was so surprised I ordered and read the entire book she recommended. I set my next session earlier for next week, even as I wondered what I might miss by removing the ‘extra’ time between work and my session. While none of these events were momentous, they reminded me of the millions of encounters that comprise the sum of our days.

A Shared Monologue

A monologue that I heard that I tried to capture…

“It’s not about intelligence. Think about it. How many intelligent people have chosen drugs or alcohol? Or had an affair? Or ran their careers into the ground? Or became fat? Or smoke? Make a list of all the pitfalls you’ve done or watched other people do. Intelligence helps us in unimaginable ways. But it also arms us with rationalizations and ways to convince ourselves that everything is fine, we’re not wrong, or that we’re somehow strong enough to handle it or react differently. Look at lawyers who embezzle, bribe, or commit fraud. Doctors? They succumb to the same drugs they are prescribing – and hurt or kill people in the process. Teachers sleep with their students or teach intolerance. Therapists who commit suicide or become addicts? Spouses, who forego a relationship for excitement? Or, conversely, those who stay when they shouldn’t. If you think they’re stupid, you’re wrong. If you can ever figure out the alchemy of the human mind, you’re going to be the salvation of humanity. We all do it – questioning someone’s intelligence for stupidity or misbehavior. In almost every case, the person doing the stupidity has an entirely different narrative running in his or her head. Knowing this, we attribute weakness or folly to others while telling ourselves that it is for a good reason when we do it. Human minds are incredibly complex and simultaneously very basic. A parting note is to remember that no matter what people tell you was going on their heads and hearts when they were doing whatever it is that looks questionable, they mostly either don’t know or aren’t going to tell you the right answer. We all want meaningful lives, great relationships, and health. And we commit the same mistakes over and over, all around the world. We are hard-wired to be both intelligent and stupid. If you can understand your mind, you’re way ahead of the rest of the crowd. And if you can translate that understanding into better and more satisfying and honest behaviors, I will ask you to do my job for me. Instead of labeling misbehavior from others, give them a pass so that you can ask for one for yourself when you do something equally stupid. Let time be a big part of your solution. If you can hesitate before speaking, before acting, before reacting, you have a better chance at being happy or at least comfortable.”

A Peek Behind The Curtains

The hubris of life, of majestic leaps atop a mountain, of impractical love. That’s why I made the picture of the woman leaping with apparent joy. I hope she is happy and that the moment was magical for her.

Once you’ve peeked behind the curtains of someone’s life, both warts and happiness, seeing the frailty you share in common minimizes the feelings of your inadequacy. There’s something to be said about knowing that the person who seems impenetrable is as uncertain or more so than you are.

For every boring life or person walking the sidewalks with a wide smile, there is another person who wears the smile and frenetic cloak of being busy as a shield. It’s often unknowable whether each person is truly happy. People are adept at concealment.

If we could hear the tone of people’s thoughts, especially those who seem to have it all together, I think most of our feelings of inadequacy would disappear.

We window shop when we are in the world or when we use these electronic portals to peek into other’s lives.

There is joy, laughter, and fulfillment.

There’s also pain, remorse, regret, and loss.

For every bite of anguish I experience, I know that the toll for others, though often invisible, burns them privately. I regret that our lives don’t allow us to drop the pretense.

We don’t know what rivers flow behind someone else’s eyes, nor do we really understand what ignites them. Some people craft an ornate and expansive wall around them, on to which they project the facade they want us to see. This is truer when the disparity of their daylight life grows distant from who they are at their center, in the shadows, in private, or in whispers.

It’s exciting to peek behind the facade and share that protected self. It’s sublime and affirming.

But the shriek and tenor that results when some do not want to acknowledge that you’ve seen their secret self? Though you’ve not wronged them, they flail and pivot with the agony of your having shared their inner monologue.

It often gets masked as anger.

It’s not.

Anger is the symptom. It’s really sublimated fear.

It doesn’t have to be.

It’s okay.

Some of us can be glad we experienced another facet of life, even if the ending was a surprise plot twist.

It is a gift to hold the truth of someone else in your own heart. Even if it lodges there like a dart.

Of that, I’m certain, even as certainty eclipses my grasp.

The foolishness of my own certainty came back to punch me in the gut. In time, I will forget the lesson, just as I did with the lesson of life’s urgency; it’s a lesson that can’t be explained. It must be experienced.

The Malefactor Realization

You are a villain in someone else’s story.

I’ve written about this before.

It is an uncomfortable truth.

The realization hurts worse when you understand that you had to be made into one for the other person to get to a narrative he or she can live with. I think we are all guilty of this in some form.

It’s a rare thing for people to look at one another, nod in acknowledgment, and go on with their lives. We are wired to evaluate, judge, and appraise.

None of us like to imagine we acted badly. Sometimes, we have. And sometimes, not that often, we are outmatched by a superior intellect or a harder heart, both of which contribute to the likelihood that you’re going to be the rapacious villain when the words “The End” appear.

It will burn your heart and sense of fairness to be at the epicenter of such attention. Flailing won’t help – and neither will rebuke.

Sometimes, we’ve been assigned motives that don’t reflect what is in our head or heart. People need those motives to protect themselves from introspection or scrutiny.

It’s okay that it’s that way.

It is possible to act with the purest form of love and still stumble so badly that someone labels you as the villain.

It’s hard to change that label because so often there is no observable trail, no defense to be made, and no fair reckoning of facts or forces.

Yes, even in love, especially so; if vulnerability is invoked, it amplifies the rawness and center of people.

Consequences often overshadow intentions.

There are times when there is no real lesson, no moment of clarity or closure.

Only of acceptance.

Anthony Marra said it well: “You remain the hero of your own story even when you become the villain of someone else’s.”

Yesterday, I reached my moment of clarity and gave myself closure. In so doing, I ruptured some unseen line of acceptance. And I realized that the villain was me.

And I accept that, even though the label fails to align with the truth of my life. But such statements are given to an audience of no one. Fighting your labels is seldom rewarded.

I want everyone to be fulfilled and happy and to have people in their lives who love and appreciate them.

I say none of these words as villainous. But perception and personal filters assign motive for anyone reading this.

I had nothing but love in my heart.

I hope we all find our way back to it.

All of us.

Love, X

Thin, With Blues

This picture is of me today, in a place that does not put me at ease like it once did. It was was supposed to have rained and stormed by the time I took the picture. Hours later, and it still hasn’t.

For reasons of my own, I’ve started counseling. Doing the comprehensive assessments yielded some surprises. Because of the pandemic and the bureaucracy of anything related to mental health or healthcare, I’ve only done distance counseling so far. My first face-to-face talk therapy session isn’t until next week. I haven’t done such navel-gazing since I was much younger and struggling to understand the demons that some of my family members dealt with.

Oddly, I’ve convinced so many other people to get counseling or at least seriously consider it, especially at work. Talking things out can’t hurt. Knowing your truths isn’t something to shirk away from, even if the conclusions aren’t what you expected or wanted to hear.

One of the things that caused issues on my assessments was my sixty-five lbs. of weight loss in the same time period that coincides with my life issues. Absent some pathology, it’s rare for someone to do something so successfully and simultaneously fail on a personal level. But that is precisely what I’ve done. The vision I had in October propelled me toward success. I’m grateful. That I crashed and burned on a personal level is still a shock and sadness that prevails. I’m struggling to “pull up” meaningfully. As hard as it is to accept, I’ve got an anxiety problem that is keeping me up at night.

In the future, maybe I can share those surprises and defeats here. Part of the story doesn’t belong to me, even though it’s mine to tell. Hurting people isn’t part of my natural repertoire. Time and distance either gives us grace or the ability to revise our narrative despite the path that we took. Most of us can’t tell our story without revision, especially if we know we didn’t treat everyone as we would like to be treated.

The part I can tell is that I was so confident of the outcome and that my path was one of ascendancy and fulfillment. I got crushed in that confidence.

Today, I stood next to one of the men’s display tables at Sam’s. On the one hand, I was a little chagrined. On the other, it pleased me to know that the perfect size of that pants style wasn’t available to me. Because I was too small. If anyone had told me last September that I would encounter the problem of being too small, I might have laughed. Wearing such pants wasn’t possible for me before. Now that I realized that I love the fabric and fit, I’m a fan. This brand and fit aren’t available in 30″ waists. For the record, I’m a 32″ waist for the brands I used to wear.

A man saw the displays of pants and walked up. Almost immediately, I realized he had no clue what his exact size might be. He began to fumble and hide his attempt to ‘see’ his pant size. Because I was only a few feet away, he looked at me and laughed. “Hey, can you read the tag?” he asked me as he turned the back seam of his pants down. “Don’t make it awkward,” I told him jokingly as I leaned in and looked. “34 X 30,” I said. He replied, “What brand?” I didn’t have to look. “Eddie Bauer,” I said. I had a moment of surprise as I realized that my waist was smaller than his.


Because I knew Sam’s had no Eddie Bauer on display, I gave him a twenty-second presentation of why he should buy the pants I had on. And because he was listening, I sold him on the same style of shorts. He picked out four pairs of pants and four pairs of shorts. I should have asked for a commission.

When I got back to the house after Sam’s, I grabbed five pairs of pants and discarded them. The 36″ ones float on me. Because I’m still overly confident that I’m never going to the size I once was, I don’t begrudge the money I spent on these pants. As my size reduced, it has been a comfort to ritualize me throwing out the old.

Love, X