Tuesday, December 21, 2010


it's one of those times when it's very uncomfortable to be me.  i have a pretty clear vision of how I want my life to be and it doesn't seem like it would take that much to get there.  But it's always just beyond reach.  I could go see my therapist, and I do believe in the therapeutic process, but it seems like we've talked the issues inside out and backwards, too.  I feel my being able to keep up at work slipping away and the household has definitely gotten away from me.  There's a couple of people who are silent that hearing even a simple, 'I know things are rough right now' would help alot.  But it's not there; just a deafening silence that says more than any words they would utter.  My thinking is fuzzy.  I'm uncomfortable in  my body.  I fantasize about assuming a new identity and beginnign a new life; if I could start out with a level playing field in some ways, it would be awfully tempting. 

It's the kind of period where I buy a gingerbread man, get one with only one eye and it reminds me of a client with one eye who died earlier this year.  It's the kind of period where I soak my feet when I cross the street, not being quite able to straddlea puddle.  Where, when I take my second bite of lunch, I get tomato sauce all down the front of my new blouse I really like.  Where later, someone says, 'come here, you 've got something on your jacket', and it turns out it's a huge smudge of icing where you backed into a cake when someone wouldn't make room for you to get through.  Where you get a paper cut that won't stop bleeding and you have a hard time finding someone who has a bandaid and then an even harder time getting help putting it on, so it's all wrinkled around your finger when you end up doing it yourself.. 


Thursday, December 16, 2010

Digging Deeper

So, I'm tired of impression management and I'm tired of thinking I need to keep certain things to myself and I'm tired of worrying about worrying people and I'm tired of the patchwork mess much of my life is.

When I was growing up, I was not taught,  nor did my parents model, what we call the Instrumental Activities of Daily Living, which includes meal prep, med management, money management, laundry and chores.

I suck at them all.  Except for being a pretty good cook.  I especially suck at managing money.  And, with two major changes to my finances, I can't afford my life.  Currently this takes the form of not having had electrical services since June.

Over the last two years, my rent went from $275 to $525.  I added a car payment of $365/month.  My health care deductible went from $500 to $2500.  I have the storage fee of $100/month.  It's too much.

I have to have the car for work, but can't get it re-financed.  Need the health care in case of catastrophe.  Can't save the money to get the stuff out of storage, or to replace the car window broken two years ago or the side mirror I tore off two years ago. 

Because of all this, I have no idea when I will be able to get the electricity turned back on.  Which means I cannot use my c-pap machine for my sleep apnea.  Meaning I stay a bit more tired and groggy.  Truth be told, that's probably why I can't swim as much.  It means I can't use my microwave or keep food in the frig, so I eat out more, adding to my costs.  It means I can't do artwork at home.  I read by candlelight. 

So there.  I've laid it out.  Universe, what do you have to say?

Monday, December 13, 2010

Irrational Thoughts aka Cognitive Distortions

In my last post, I stated that a depressed person's thoughts could be as irrational as that of a person with schizophrenia.  That is not to say that a depressed person is psychotic; for example, that a depressed person has bizarre delusions.  It does mean that their thoughts, formerly called neurotic, simply are illogical.

As John M. Grohol, Psy.D. says at PsychCentral.com, "What’s a cognitive distortion and why do so many people have them? Cognitive distortions are simply ways that our mind convinces us of something that isn’t really true. These inaccurate thoughts are usually used to reinforce negative thinking or emotions — telling ourselves things that sound rational and accurate, but really only serve to keep us feeling bad about ourselves. "

Common examples of cognitive distortions include jumping to conclusions,overgeneralizing, catastrophizing and blaming among others.  A complete list with short descriptions is available at PsychCentral and I urge you to check it out.

For more detailed information, David Burns', "Feeling Good:  The New Mood Therapy" discusses each one in more detail and provides many strategies one can use alone, with a confidant or mental health professional, to address distorted thinking.  One can learn to restructure ones' thoughts this way.

It should be noted that the most efficacious treatments of depression, or any mental health problems, is a combination of medications and therapy.  This has been demonstrated in multiple studies since the invention of the SSRIs in the early 90's. 

I hope that the last post was not so shocking as to prevent anyone from reading further; the subject is too important and I only wrote these to point out the reasons for pursuing several avenues of treatment for this type of issue.

If you are not trying medications due to financial reasons, many towns and states have programs to help you access the meds you need and many pharmaceutical companies do as well.  What have you got to lose?

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Deep Thoughts about Irrational Thoughts

There is more to the matter of managing depression than is on the surface.  The impact of depression on a life is seriously underestimated in this culture.  We refer to it as the 'common cold' of medicine.  This implies that it's not serious, just something irritating that we can all slug through.  This also implies that nothing more than mildly relieving symtoms can be done for it.

Research indicates that one in seven people will experience depression
Suicide is the third highest cause of death among adolescents
Twice as many women as men experience depression
By 2020 it will be the second most significant health problem in the world
People with depression are 4 x more likely to have a heart attack than those without
It can increase a woman's risk for broken bones

It is the leading cause of disability in the US for ages 15-44
In the US, businesses spend between 12 and 70 billion dollars caring for or paying the medical expenses of employees that have depression or related illnesses.

Only 10% of all people with depression will receive treatment.
Treatment can provide relief to 80-90% of those affected.

Before the development of SSRIs, cognitive therapy was the most efficacious treatment for depression.  Researchers and therapists discovered that the thought processes of someone with depression can be as irrational as those of someone with untreated schizophrenia.

So, are those thoughts your real thoughts?

Seventh Day of Chanukah

Let the straight flower bespeak its purpose in straightness - to seek the light.
Let the crooked flower bespeak its purpose in crookedness - to seek the light.
Let the crookedness and straightness bespeak the light.
~Allen Ginsberg, "Psalm III"

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Deep thoughts

Frequently when I feel as if I want to share something deep, something 'weighty', that's when I have the least to say.

I want to draw again; in the mood, but I don't dig out the kind of paper I want to draw on.  Blah.

There is a new protocol for managing fibromyalgia I've just been informed about that uses, of all things, mucinex.  However, it requires avoiding all types of foods, topicals, meds, which I'm not very good at.  After all, looke how 'successful' I've been at keeping kosher!  Additionally, one goes through a period of getting worse before getting better.  I don't know if I can deal with that!

I've also been looking at the topic of true self and how we know when our thoughts and feelings are a reflection of the self we were created to be vs. the interference of environment, disease, whatever.

A friend here in blogger stated recently that she disliked using antidepressants as she wanted to know what she is 'really thinking'.  She believes she can only do that when she is not medicated.

This has never made sense to me, especially with my own successful treatment with antidepressants.

You are not your depression, nor are you the symptoms of your depression.  Suppose the mind is a window through which the true self shines.  That window becomes dirty.  There is a way to clean the mirror so that your true self shines more clearly.  Wouldn't you want to clean, and keep clean, the window.

It is like saying I'm not going to take pain medication for my arthritis or insulin for my diabetes; that living with pain or high blood sugars are the 'real you'.

Pain is not normal--physical or mental!  Pain is the indication that something is wrong which needs to be fixed or controlled.

I could never think my true thoughts or be my true self until I was successfully treated.  And I cannot imagine going back to the pain I experienced. 

I hate it when people tell me they have tried antidepressants and they did not work.  GPs, family practitioners and internists are not qualified to prescribe them.  It takes a psychiatrist.  Depression is not the common cold of mental health and should not be blown off as such.

Sixth day of Chanukah

Light gives of itself freely, filling all available space.  It does not seek anything in return; it asks not whether you are friend or foe.  It gives of itself and is not thereby diminished.

                                                  Michael Strassfield.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Fifth Day of Hannukah

The commandment to light the Hanukkah lamp is an exceedingly precious one, and one should be particularly careful to fulfill it.  In order to make known the miracle, and to offer additional praise ... to God for the Wonders which He has wrought for us.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Thoughts for the Fourth NIght

Oh, hear my prayer, I sing to you.
Be gracious to the ones I love
And bless them with goodness and mercy and peace
Oh hear my prayer to you.

Oh, let us light these lights and see the way to you and let us say amen.
Oh, let us light these lights and see the way to you and let us say amen.

                              -Debbie Friedman

Saturday, December 4, 2010

The Third Day of Chanukah

To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle,
Every cubic inch of space is a miracle.
~Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thought for Second day of Chanukah

Another prophet of those difficult times, Zechariah, transmitted to the People an image of purity and grandeur: he prophesied about a menorah of pure gold, flowing continuously with holy oil. Thus, long before the Chanukah story, the menorah became a symbol of hope and light. Many centuries later too, the menorah became the symbol of the Jewish People, and a major theme in synagogue art and architecture.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Friday, November 26, 2010

Another Small Victory

This week, I have gotten rid of another bag of clothes so worn out they went to the garbage (what does it say about my self esteem that I was still wearing them?) and another bag for the good will (30 gallon garbage bags),  I threw out  wall hanging I was planning to do something artsy with as it had gotten stained.  I have a broken lamp ready for the next trip.  I also have been doing some picking up and cleaning. 

Mostly I've been sleeping and reading and cuddling a little cat.  I must have been exhausted for quite a while before my vacation arrived. 

Shabbat Shalom!

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Another random pic


I'm thankful for the following things:

Friends--'virtual' and 'real'.
Old friends I've reconnected with and new friends I've made.

Finding my religion and being able to practice it in a time and place that is relatively safe.  And the wonderful community I've found to practice with.

Family--whether they get me or not.

A little cat who spends her life loving me.

A job that makes a difference; although a bit more money with it would help!

Access to adequate health care.

Safe, warm housing.

Adequate nutrition, clothing and other basic needs.

Clean water to drink.

Efficient sewer system.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Confused and tumultuous while in a rut

I love ruts.  Being in a rut is sometimes the only feeling of order I have in  my life. 

It can be a rut of activity;  a bout of reading, drawing, jewelry-making, blogging.

It can be a rut of ideas:  psychology and counseling, Judaism, or other ideas

It can be a rut of routine:  a daily/weekly/monthly/yearly schedule I adhere to.

But sometimes the ruts end abruptly and I'm twisting in the winds while lightening strikes.

And then, everything and nothing is attractive.  Structure is gone.  And I feel existential angst.

A random photo

Friday, November 12, 2010

Three Names

According to the Sages, we each have three names: 

The name we were given at birth,

               The name we earn by our own deeds (explained to mean the name we give ourselves)


The name that others give us (the name we deserve).

Should the last two be similar or congruent?  What role should they play?  Clearly the Sages think we should concerned about them. 

Which do you focus on more?  What would you like it to be?  And is it similar to the other?

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Meeting Evil?

I was at the pool today, and in the hot tub afterwards a woman I have noticed but never spoken to asked me where I got my fins.  We began talking and the next thing, I am hearing how much of a burden her spouse is since he had a stroke.  As we talked, I still wasn't seeing what she talked about, as she described her spouse as still pretty functional physically and cognitively.

The next thing I know, I am hearing about how abusive he is and how she can't leave him.  It boils down to the fact she doesn't want to lose the lifestyle she has. 

At some point, I notice the husband is using a walker with the wheels on the front, dangerous in a wet area as it could so easily slide out from underneath him if he started falling.  I point this out to her and she points out how easy it would be to remove the wheels, having been instructed on how to do so.

While we are holding this discussion, I notice the malevolent glint in her eye.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

A Small Victory

Today  I had a small victory.

Recently a client of mine was awarded a guardian. After that, we started discovering some financial information we did not know ie, how many assets the client really had, how many life insurance policies he had...things of that nature that we had not been able to find out in the past.

Not that it was a bad thing we were in the dark.  My client would have been kicked out of the program if it was known how much the client had in the bank.

Last week I had to file an report with the elderabuse agency in my county as the guardian did not get one of my client's Social Security checks and found out that the client's savings acounts had been closed.  WE were a le to find that an extended family member had cashed the check.  We were worried about how to pay for the client's funeral for a complex set of reasons.

The client died yesterday morning.  The guardian stated she would notify the family and then updated how it went.  I had a message from the client's sister to call her.  She accused the guardian of taking my client's money. 

In my professional capacity, when  a client dies, I am no longer bound by confidentiality.  I was able to inform her that we had evidence this extended family member had the money. 

Two hours later, the extended family member was planning the type of funeral/burial my client wanted--after originally blowing off the guardian.

Sometimes i get to make things right.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Pat Conroy

It's not often that a writer can truly change your life, turn on the lightbulb on your shadow side and yet, this is the role that Pat Conroy's books have had in my life.

The first of his novels I read was 'The Prince of Tides' upon a bookseller's recommendation.  I bought it on a Friday night and finished it at 3 in the am on Sunday morning.  I couldn't stop reading it, but when I finished, I walked it out to the dumpster and chucked it.  It was the first and last time I have done so in my life.  Several years later, after my mother died, I started therapy.  Judy listened for several sessions and her first real comment was 'Your family reminds me of that one in 'The Prince of Tides''.  As hard as it was to believe, I also had to check it out. Sure enough, I found many, many similarities to my family.  My mother was the beautiful, redhead Southern belle (although she never remarried after my parents divorced) and my father greatly resembled psychodynamically the father in the book.  I was the oldest, though female, I have a sib who is mentally ill and another who bucks the system.  I myself have issues with trauma and depression.  The same was true of his earlier books; he captured neatly his own hell and that of my family. 

Since then I have read everything but 'The Boo', his cookbook and his latest book, "My Reading Life'.  His books have validated that it is possible to survive almost anything, although one may be scarred in the process.  In many ways his books have validated the strength of the human spirit. 

However, they also demonstrate the cost of honesty:  his family was torn apart by his book, 'The Great Santini'.  His mother's side of the family protested it, he lost contact with his father for many years.  It also affected one of his marriages enough that the marriage ended in divorce.  'The Prince of Tides' damaged his relationship with one of his sisters.  One also has to suspect the great pain the books cost him when writing them.

In his books before 'South of Broad', one gets the feeling that he will never be able to resolve some of these family issues and that they will forever plague them.  Since I identify with the books so much, this has always been hard to note.

However, the tone of 'South of Broad' is very different.  He has a loving, gentle father.  His mother is not so sexy or as much of a social climber as the mothers in his other books.  While terrible things happen, they are things that can happen to any of us (no wild tigers, convict rapists, etc.). 

Most importantly, the main character, Leo, is able to appreciate the goodness in his life without the desperation the main characters have done in the past.  He can see people as a whole, good or bad, in a more balanced way than previous characters.  And finally, he is able to reconcile and forgive with his mother and father.

I hope the tone of  'South of Broad' means that Mr. Conroy has been able to find peace in his life and healing, if not a cure.  I hope the scars have faded.  I wish him peace.

And I have the same hope for myself.

Sunday, October 10, 2010


For a long time I've know I had too much stuff; I've been told that for an even longer time.  Most of my adult life it has been very hard to get rid of most anything and I've devoted considerable energy to replacing things I've lost.

At some point after I started taking the current mix of antidepressants, the idea at least became feasible, although it was shortly after that I had to put most things in storage while my then landlord was having work done to the house.  And, this last move, I did not have much prep time, so once again, I packed things I may not have otherwise.

I've never had any insight into why......why do I keep these things, especially when they are broken, have no sentimental value and I know I will never use it?  Now, not all my things in storage are like that.  I have some very lovely things like my grandmother's china, a set of silver, some antique quilts, quilttops.  But alot of it is just....stuff.

I just got it.  I've been reading Shari Gaynor's 'Creative Awakenings'.  One of the artists featured, Suzanne Simantais, struggles with the same issue.  She said some things that switched the light on:

'That's why it's so sad and so difficult to get rid of all this stuff.  It feels like I'm abandoning the dreams that go with it.' 

(I thought of Langston Hughes' poem, 'A Dream Deferred' when I read this.)


'Now, six years later, I am miserable where I should be happy.  Not only am I drowning in clutter, but I am also disappointed, even embarrassed, that in no way does my home reflect my true self...Wait, let me rephrase that...This mess does reflect the current state of my mind.  I see that in addition to dejunking my environment, I must declutter my brain and ditch the thought patterns that have created the situation.'

'And there's the real problem that lurks beneath all this hoarded stuff:  perfectionism.  Not only do I hesitate to toss stuff, I hesitateto use it because I fear wasting it.  I am afraid I'll be unable to create the desired outcome, so I don't even try.  Perfectionism causes clutter, throughout my environment and inside my head.'

and finally

'I chuck the least attractive....and return two to their drawer.  Hey, it improves he situation by one-third.  I choose to be proud of this small step.'


After contemplating these words for about a week, today I got rid of

-two arm chairs
-two throw cushions
-a store display 'spinner'
-a bag of clothes
-30 gallons of recyclables, mostly paper
-30 gallons of garbage,

all out of my living room.  Now I will have room for my grandmother's rocking hair and the red cabinet.  I can bring in the two houseplants because there is enough room.  And my cat can stretch out on the floor.

I also wiped down most of the hard surfaces in the room before I totally pooped out.

It feels good.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Memorable Monday

Felt good after swimming yesterday.

Today was special because I got to pet a dog and hold a baby.

Also, I have a client, 89 y.o., who has been estranged from her two children for most of their adult life.  The oldest  re-connected with her several years ago.  The youngest, she would never talk about and said she would never tell the oldest about the youngest.

Recently she admitted she would like to know what happened to the youngest.  I asked if she would like met to try to locate her if I had some 'free time' at work.  She said yes.

I sent out three letters Friday to possible individuals--and hit the bull's eye.  Today I got a call from the youngest child, who has been searching for her mother for years and years.  She was in tears to know her mother was still alive.  I told her that tomorrow or Wednesday, I would let the client know about our conversation.

Not only would I like those two to re-connect, I want to re-connecct the two siblings.

Maybe it is in the realm of possibilities.

Sunday, October 3, 2010


Crocheting is my creative focus this fall.  I've been crocheting off and on since middle school.  I used to do very fine thread crochet, but cannot due to nerve damage in my dominant hand. After that, I gave up on it for years.

I started again this fall as I saw some of the new ways of doing things come out; enlarging traditional patterns (think exploded crochet by Doris Chan), old motifs reworked, freeform crochet. 

Americans frequently have  a hard time quieting down enough to meditate because we are so focussed on doing.  There is a book I have which I can't wait to re-read called " Zen and the Art of Drawing" if I remember correctly.  It confronted this issue and used plein air and life drawing as a compromise solution.  By focussing on an item or scene or person, one could achieve some of the same benefits as meditations while doing something.  Looking back, I think the writer was trying to accomplish the predomal state of entering 'flow'.  Flow itself cannot be engendered just because someone enjoys the state. But by practice and discipline, one can reach the predomal state more frequently and easily, thereby allowing for the more frequent occurence of flow. 

But for many of us, the predomal state of quieting physically and mentally is  enough.

Crocheting is one of many ways I can bring on the predomal phase.  It occupies my intellect enough so I don't have thoughts wandering into icky places and I end up with something useful and beautiful.

Currently I have a mini-poncho going out of fingering weight marino wool that is handdyed green and lavender.  I am also working a traditional, thread doily up in yellow 'Sugar and Creme' cotton yarn.  I am hoping it will be large enough to make into a shawl or shrug of some kind.  Pictures later.

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Days of Awe 2010

It's time for those dreams to be put aside; those dreams that leave one more exhausted than when they drifted off.  I sprout wings and somersault through time......the past rises before me yet is ephemeral.  I move through it as in a fog.  Looking below I see the sites of my childhood, the monopoly board of my beginnings.

Today is the birthday of the world!  And I look for my center, my fulcrum, my teshuvah.  Do the somersaults count? 

Children grow; last year's shy bar mitzvah boy is this year's young man, finally willing to look me in the eyes and shake hands. 

I remember the dreams of my impending death; a death prepared for carefully by those with me.  Do they know what role my subconscious has assigned them?  Turn away.  Turn toward life. 

The moon-smile signals birthday's beginning.  Moon smiles to herself alot.  Sun boasts of controlling the days, but she has the power to mark the holy-days, to influence the fluids of life, to trigger ecstasy. 

Eyn od....ey-yn od....ey-ey-ey-yn oooodddddddd.....eyn oooodddddd......

Lovely lady, be with me.  Be with me with your quiet merriment, your stalwart beliefs.  I turn to you for discovery; were you able to let go any better than me?

'You have drive, such drive.  I keep coming back to that.....a car.....and joy, deep joy'.

I want to atone to those two whose life I have turned completely upside down and inside out.  May their increased quality of life do it for me since to atone would seem to admit a mistake. 

Sh'ma Yisrael!  Nachamu ami!

Moon-lady, moon-smile, who cradles my brother, help me crochet my nest of light and love.  Help me weave into it friends and justice and beauty and righteous deeds.

The dreams are back as I plead to be written in the book of life--and then sealed.  Pain returns, hard to stand or hold a machzor. 

Sam and Lena escort me to the bimah.

May prayer teach me through what I lack.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

a knotty situation

I went to a specialty yarn shop tonight and bought some lovely hand-dyed merino wool, fingering weight (fairly fine).  It was in a hank rather than a ball or skein and, when I went to start rolling it up, managed to tangle it very quickly and efficiently. 

So now I sit untangling a pile of yarn while I roll a ball out of it.  Looking for a metaphor or lesson to be learned; some Zen koan or hassidic story.  None come to mind while I continue my knotty path.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Why a second blog?

So, why would I start a second blog?  The first one has kept me quite busy and I still plan to add to it on a regular basis. 

My first blog is very spontaneous and off-the-cuff many times.  I need that, but since my bat mitzvah (more on that later), I feel the need to write something more focussed.

I ended my d'var torah (Torah lesson) at my bat mitzvah by stating I planned to re-examine the mitzvot (sacred deeds) to see where I needed to grow, to become more adult.  It seems the right time for this as I've been Jewish for about 5 years in a wonderful congregation that has allowed me to play and dance through 'time and tradition'. 

When I thought of a focus point for it, it came to 'shalom beyt', a peaceful household.  Traditionally, this seems to mean peaceful relations, and it is at its core that.  However, since I live alone, this has several elements to me:

-an orderly household that runs smoothly.  This is true of housekeeping as well as financial management.  I'm not great at managing my money and I frequently find myself not able to maintain my household the way I would like.

-a Jewish household.  I received a mezuzuh for my conversion that I've never used.  A mezuzah is a case holding a small scroll with the sh'ma, the root prayer and statement of Judaism.  It is an ancient artifact of Judaism and one of the most clearcut ways to show one runs a Jewish household.  There are other ways to show a household is Jewish and I will be exploring those as well.

-a hospitable household.  I used to entertain when I was younger--sleep apnea, fibromyalgia and other issues have interfered with this.  I would like to start doing this again; Shabbat meals, holiday events, and welcome others to share my life  more intimately

-a base for increased contribution to my congregation and community.

So why this name?  I guess it comes primarily from my background as a psychotherapist.  A philosopher said 'The unexamined life is not worth living'.  Various schools of psychology work to help an individual examine life.  In some cases, a person can end up with all kinds of insight and stop there, staying in much the same state as they were prior to examining life.  What is required, to me, is a response--an active response--to make your life more what you need it to be.  That is what I want to accomplish with this blog--put insight into action.