Sunday, March 12, 2017

The Refuge


The wind blows gusts beckoning me to the sea; much as, a soprano aria seeps into the psyches of her audiences, hypnotizing their wills to achieve her own ends. The waves pirouette along the shore, sculpting once singular granules into the majestic lyrics composed by Neptune himself. Haunting curves and swirls possess the secrets of lifetimes, lives deep within the ocean lullabies punctuated by the sea's pearlescent gems. Sparkling glints provide evidence of the majestic world deep within the aquatic mists. A world so mysterious that few humans will ever venture to the bottom of its dark realms. Fewer still will return to share the healing wonders encountered in this Pandora's Box of intrigue. This is the land untouched by the evils of humankind. It is a land that welcomes the purest of hearts to sit in peace upon its floor, becoming one with The Creator. The ocean offers an eternal embrace, one given freely without the need for request. Its hold provides solace to the tattered, allowing wounds and spirits to heal within the safety of its surroundings.

Sea creatures pass by as I sit silently mesmerized by the gentle, calmness the world above does not possess. Within these depths greed and envy do not exist. Sin has no place in this soothing haven. The depredations of war and marked territories do not touch the occupants of this incredible land. The sea belongs to all, even an intruder such as myself calmly observing this enticing land. I pose no threat to anyone here. As if the creatures sense this, they proceed on their journeys barely giving me a second glance.

An immense, ancient tortoise swims lazily by, following a school of small fish. His back flipper grazes and tickles my knee. Passing out my hand, I gently trace a long marking on his shell. It's armor bares the scars of travels to far distant lands during its long, active life. Nonetheless, he always returns home. It has been pronounced that sea turtles are never lost, but instead have inner guides to lead them home.

This I envy. I do not have a home. I have searched for decades, in vain. Perhaps the sea is my abode. Within the sea, those humans who call themselves my family and fair weather friends cannot find me and can no longer harm me. In these depths I have nothing they can demand from me. Sitting along the sandy floor surrounded by the armor of the sea I am no one's mother, no one's daughter, no one's wife, no one's sister, no one's disappointment. I can perform no more damage. I can fail, no one else. I no longer have to conceal my own pain for fear of what it might do to another. The sea accepts my broken heart and spirit, my depression and wish to dissolve within its shadowy depths. The sea does not judge. The sea does not expect what I can no longer contribute. The sea accepts me as I am. A sacrifice of the land who has ultimately found my way home.

Friday, March 10, 2017

A Glimpse of A Thief

Note: This post is not an exercise in self pity or seeking sympathy. It is an individual glimpse into what over 50 million people in the US live with to some extent on a daily basis. Just because someone does not look ill does not mean they are not battling excruciating levels of pains. Those receiving treatment for chronic pain disorders are not crazy or drug abusers. Instead of stigmatizing these patients and harassing doctors for isolated cases of misuse I dare regulators and the uneducated to spend a day in our shoes. It is time to provide greater support to the victims and their families.




I sprawl on my rumpled bed, sheets twisted around the fluffy comforter, that provides little soothing in the darkest night. The firm pillows and the down feathers support my spine as my words spill out to the shadows. The firm u-shaped collar wraps around the burning ache of my neck, absorbing all of the ideas trapped in my heavy head. The long body bolster provides a silent and unresponsive substitute for the company I rarely hold. A thin cream cotton throw, tags along my journeys each day, absorbing the silent tears running down the sullen, curves of my face. Moisture that is always concealed from those who might ask the cause and suggest a subsequent remedy.

Modern medicine cannot cure all afflictions. What worked for a family member's neighbor or the postman's spouse are only false hopes offered with the best of intentions without true knowledge of the battles I no longer have the will to fight. My most reliable glimpses of comfort come from my closest companion's licking my cheeks when the heavy sobs interrupt her snoring slumbers. Only this bundle of tawny fur knows the true degrees of despair to which I descend. This is a secret she lovingly keeps as she abides by my side, pressing her warmth against my aching back.

My bed table holds the essentials of life as I have come to know it. Pain cream for aching muscles and joints is needed just to get out of the bed. Pain patches wait to be affixed to irritated skin where they provide 24/7 doses of medication, if I do not sweat them off. Muscle relaxers, and opioids stand ready for the increasingly rougher times. Sleep aids offer a brief escape when nights become unbearable. Crackers and a bottle of water sit ready to combat chronic pain's frequent traveling partner, nausea.

The most ironic of all is the bottle of antidepressants prescribed to help me cope with the losses brought on by my conditions. My cell phone sits within reach, but there is no one to call. My friends have jobs and families. They are asleep at 3AM when I need support. My family says they are always there to call for assistance, something I can never bring myself to do. Now, the television and my iPad are my connections with the external world.

Gone from my bed table are my most cherished items. I miss the basket of students' journals and the purple pen I used to converse with each one before sleep. There is no longer a need for the pad of paper I kept to jot down creative learning activities or the books I read to supplement upcoming lessons. The subscriptions to professional journals and magazines that inspired me to keep trying have been cancelled. My dissertation tools and research have been boxed away. The family photographs were moved when I began dropping things and cracked the glass frames. I wonder if anyone even notices the absence of my Women's Bible and Devotional that once began my days?

To read this you would think I am an octogenarian, yet I am barely 40. Less than a decade ago I had an energetic life raising three children of my own and teaching those with emotional and behavioral challenges during the day. I even served as a crisis counselor for first responders. Late Friday afternoons were spent over drinks with fellow educators and weekends were focused on enjoying family time. Late nights were spent working on a PhD I will likely never attain.

Back then, my room was a refuge, not the prison it has since become. I found pleasure in hobbies and happiness in my vocational calling.  Now I possess no desire to participate in the former joys of life. I have lost hope and faith. I no longer have the energy to attend to my physical appearance, so gone are the makeup and salon visits. I have no appetite. I simply eat what is presented to me to please others. Life merely passes with time holding me captive for some obscure reason.

I took my youth and health for granted, but the searings I experience in my neck and shoulders as I write this remind me that my body has become my foe. It is the enemy that has robbed my family of a wife, mother, sister, daughter, aunt, niece, and eventually a grandmother. It is a thief that has taken me out of the classroom and counseling center preventing me from serving as the Lord called me. My body has become a traitor showing me my uselessness in a world that continues on without notice of my absence.  It acts as an evil conspirator who taking away my faith and desire to go on, yet leaves me in the hell of watching the living endure the burden I have become.

On good days I venture downstairs, always alone at first because I know I will find the disarray I am no longer strong enough to prevent. A chaos that did not exist before. I always make sure that I am alone hiding the blinding tears that fall. I tackle the few small tasks I can before exhaustion claims me once again. I shed tears of defeat and sorrow for all that I've lost, mourning for what I will never have again. As the years pass and more issues arise I wonder if I ever really was a community leader, beloved teacher, and scholar. I do not wish to be a burden nor do I seek pity. On the rare occasion that I must face the public I have learned to hide my physical and emotional pain behind a mask, but I can only do this for short periods of time. At home, I isolate to shield my family from the monster I have become. I once saw an attractive and successful lady when I glanced in the mirror, now all that remains are the tired and haunted eyes of a stranger.



Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Valentines Day & Love Languages

Yesterday we celebrated what advertisers tout as the most romantic of all days, St. Valentine's Day. In fact as soon as the Christmas inventory is removed from store shelves, Cupid lands with his hearts and flowers. A month or more of commercials defining love by expressions of material goods can easily set the unsuspecting up for disappointment. To one lady the receipt of a dozen red blooms might be a delight. To another this might be the source of much sneezing and discomfort. To another partner chocolates may delight, but to the dieter this may be seen as an act of sabotage instead of love. Diamonds may be a girl's best friend, but another may prefer her partner not to financially tax their tight budget with such frivolity. Although February 14th is behind us, there are still 364 days to celebrate your love, if you are fluent in the languages of love.

Relationship expert, Gary Chapman, theorizes that there are 5 universal languages of love (1995). We tend to express affection in the manner in which we wish to receive it. Unfortunately our partners may speak another dialect. This leads to frustration on the part of the giver and disappointment on the part of the receiver, who often does not recognize of the efforts put forth. Just as a match with one partner speaking solely Japanese and the other speaking solely Spanish would fail to fully flourish, relationships involving partners who speak different love languages are limited. Fortunately it is easier to learn your partner's love language than mastering Mandarin.

Business owners delight in Chapman's first identified language of affection, gift giving. In today's society material expressions of emotions are extended to us even before we take our first breath. The baby shower offers a chance for friends and family to celebrate the pending new addition. Flowers send messages of congratulations, condolences, gratitude, and yes...love. Jewelry may be bestowed to mark significant events in life, including engagements, graduations, and even retirements. It may be hard to believe, but some see gift giving as an attempt to purchase affections rather than as a genuine expression of devotion.

Many do not wish to receive material tokens, but prefer to enjoy quality time with their beloveds. Chapman explains that the giving of time, one of the most precious commodities we have, may be appreciated by some as greater than any material gift one could be bestowed. Spending an evening snuggled together watching a favorite movie or sneaking off for an impromptu weekend alone speaks to the soul of those who view the giving of time as the most romantic gesture of all.

As children we are taught that kind words garner greater promise than hurtful comments. Chapman contends many see the giving and receiving of words of affirmation as effective tools to enhance fondness for between partners. A simple "Good morning Beautiful" can put a smile on a lady's face and carry her through the entire day. Leaving notes with sayings such as "I love you," "Your smile brightens my world," or "Last night was amazing" in places your guy is sure to find them will keep the romance alive if words of affirmation are his preferred love language.

Acts of service may warm our loved ones' hearts, according to Chapman's work. A husband making sure his wife has a full tank of gas in her car or bringing her breakfast in bed may find himself rewarded by her recording his favorite television show or making his favorite dish for dinner. A mother may find it heart warming to come home to her son tidying the house or helping a sibling with homework. Doing something kind for the object of your affections rarely goes unnoticed or unappreciated.

Physical touch expresses attraction and affection and cements the bonds between partners. Be it holding your loved one's hand while driving or consistently greeting him with a kiss at the end of the day the extent of this love language is limited only by your imagination. Couples write their ownscripts for physical touch. It may be as innocent as placing a hand on her shoulder while you sleep or rubbing his neck when he has a headache to joining one another in the shower. This love language not only strengthens bonds, but has been shown to promote health and well being.

As relationships mature, couples' love languages evolve as the individuals learn more about one another and what makes the other feel appreciated. As individuals age and face new experiences their own love languages may shift. We may come to hold dear expressions of affection extended by our mates, even if they are not in our preferred love language. The simple act of making the effort to learn the other's love language is a demonstration of devotion in itself.

For more information on this topic check out The Five Love Languages: How to Express Heartfelt Commitment to Your Mate by Gary Chapman. To determine your own love language take the quiz at http://www.beliefnet.com/love-family/relationships/quiz/the-5-love-languages-quiz.aspx








Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Insecurity & The Media

The great director, producer, and screenwriter, Francis Ford Coppola, once said "I don't think there is an artist of any value that doesn't doubt what they're doing." When we watch an Oscar winning performance we don't consider how many takes or do overs were required to give us that perfect film.  When we see a model gracing the cover of Vogue, we don't realize how many shots and how much air brushing it took to get that immaculate cover. We hold ourselves to impossible standards. Standards that even the professionals cannot reach.

Whenever I see a sparkling, clean home on television I secretly wish mine was like that. I find myself assuming every other American woman has somehow mastered the art of meticulously cleaning, decorating, and bringing home the bacon too. I beat myself up because there are just not enough hours in the day to reach let alone maintain a film ready house. Even though I know if the cameras panned out 9 times out of 10 it is not even a home I am viewing, but a carefully constructed set created by dozens of hands. Even when it is a real house dozens of hands pitch in to make it camera ready. Unfortunately, I only have 2 hands and they are too busy juggling to dust my baseboards or remove the cobweb I saw in the kitchen last night.

The fact is we all feel that we have fallen short in some area of life, if not several. The media has taught us to judge ourselves against their make believe standards. Advertising executives peddle their wares by feeding on our insecurities. Fear is the number one seller of goods in America. Fear of injury or incomptent medical treatment, don't wait for a disaster to occur call 1-800- Lawyers now. We have operators standing by to take your call 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. Fear of aging? Buy the same wrinkle cream that has kept Cindy Crawford looking decades younger than her half century years. Fear of getting flabby? Get the latest extreme workout DVD. If that is not enough hurry to sign up for the newest meal delivery service promising you will see the pounds melt away. Fear of having a poor golf game? Buy the newest training device endorsed by Tiger, sure to give you a drive of 200 yards or your money back.

As models and celebrities grace the covers of magazines in the grocery store check out lane, many of us subconsciously wish we had Debra Messing's gorgeous red locks, Halle Berry's toned abs, Jeffrey Dean Mogan's killer smile, or Tim McGraw's beautiful wife. The fact is that none of these people were born perfect. They have an entourage of professionals at their beck and call. Personal trainers, stylists and publicists, hair and makeup teams, and even Botox on demand are all in celebrities' arsenals stocked for career success. They make it their jobs to turn heads and invest big bucks in keeping up their images and employing only the best to fight their own insecurities.

Those in the public eye wield the kind of money and expert contacts that most of us just don't  have at our disposal. Instead we press our faces up to our screens and secretly envy those who do. We fall to the mercy of modern day Mad Men, making purchases we can't afford and/or don't really need based on celebrity endorsements and our own fears of not measuring up. Falling prey to celebrity endorsements makes us feel more like them, the elite with perfect air brushed lives.

This would explain the 2 lipsticks I recently added to my collection of a dozen, just because these 2 were named for Julianne Moore. Did I need 2 more lipsticks? No, of course not, but having them in my purse makes me feel a little more special. Painting my lips with them makes me feel a little more like I could be the perfect starlet she shows the camera.

The fact is perfection would get annoying after awhile. As Emma Stone's character in "Crazy, Stupid Love" pointed out who wants a partner who looks Photoshopped? I want someone who will eat Haagen Daz and snuggle with me at 2am while watching the latest Hollywood production, even if we are surrounded by 3 baskets of unfolded laundry and that cobweb I am secretly afraid to pull down. Someone who will tell me I am just as beautiful as Julianne Moore, even when I am not wearing her namesake.

I call on all of my readers to find the perfection hidden within. Cast aside the media scripted standards and create your own. Commit to being the best version of you possible. I think you will find that you are just right for the life you have designed.

Monday, February 13, 2017

Welcome!

Welcome to Functional Dysfunction, a blog devoted to the musings and insights of a mental health professional and freelance writer as I maneuver the twisted journey we call life. If you have stumbled onto this blog seeking wisdom or advice, you may find helpful information along the way. If there is a specific topic you wish covered just dash out an email and I will try to cover it in a professional manner. Please understand that this blog does not provide therapy. If you are in need of professional counseling please consult a licensed therapist in your area. If you are having thoughts of harming yourself or others please call 911 immediately. 

For the most part this blog is devoted to exposingy sides of a mental health professional and the world of a freelance writer that you don't regularly see in a light, friendly manner. By exposing the inner workings of my mind, I hope to shed light on the fact that we all have struggles, regardless of our educational levels or professions. It is true that many counselors entered their fields to find their own answers. In the end, we are all just human beings striving to reach our potentials and find our purposes, while navigating the rapids of life. When behind the masks each of us wears around others, we are all hot messes in one way or another.

Please note that the opinions and experiences presented in this blog are mine alone and should not be considered those of the mental health profession or other freelance writers. Names and other identifying information will be changed to protect the innocent and the guilty.