Personal Articles

I’d Never Tell Anyone This, But…

Friday, December 19th, 2014

I’d Never Tell Anyone This, But…I was 12 years old when my 16-year-old cousin got me alone in a room and started feeling me up. I remember being so shaken and scared. I didn’t know what to do.

When I came home, I told my mother. I shall never forget what she said to me: “Stop making up stories. Your cousin is a good boy. You know that. Why would you want to say bad things about him? What’s wrong with you?”

I froze. Could I have imagined the whole thing? Could it not have happened? Could it have been my fault? I ran up to my room and never mentioned the incident again.

Gone but not Gone: Robin Williams’s Legacy of Love, Not Sadness

Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

robin-williamsRobin Williams died long before the winter chill settled in, but there is a new movie coming out this Christmas that will feature him once again.

When I saw the trailer for “Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb” with Robin Williams playing Theodore Roosevelt and being his usual funny, exuberant self, I had to wonder how many wonderful, new moments we had left with him on film before he was gone forever. Someday explaining to my kids who Williams is will require me dragging out a bunch of movies they’ve never heard of.

You Can’t Please Everyone

Tuesday, December 16th, 2014

a lightbulb on a book showing ideas from inspiration and educationI’ve had an interesting couple of weeks. I’ve been talking to an agent about a book proposal. The book is already written, but in talking to the agent I’ve come to realize that in order for him to take me on as a client, I would need to entirely rewrite the book. I gave his suggestions a shot with a few pages the other day and he still wasn’t happy. This is after a series of rejections about another book proposal with the same agent.

I kind of have the feeling that no matter what I do, no matter how I rewrite the book, there’ll be parts of it he’s not satisfied with.

Suicide, Grief and the Time Machine

Sunday, December 14th, 2014

Salar de Uyuni by Patrick NouhaillerAt some point someone has been asked that playful question: If you had a time machine and you could go back and change one and only one thing, what would it be?

When suicide has touched your life, there is only one answer to that question. No more thoughtful musings on how you would’ve minored in philosophy or not gone home from space camp early or had the courage to speak to that beautiful woman you saw waiting for the F train.

There’s only one thing you could do. You would go back before the suicide and make sure to tell that person how much you cared about them, what they meant to you.

Designated Caregiver: Holiday Drinks and Mental Illness

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

holiday stress man bigstAlcohol is a staple at the holiday table despite widespread tales of family dysfunction. The truth is social lubrication makes it a lot easier to deal with some of the more difficult people in our families. But when you add mental illness to the mix, you run bigger risks than a shouting match about politics or someone going home wearing the stuffing.

My older brother Pat was diagnosed with schizophrenia eight years ago this December. Drinking alcohol is not advisable on his medication. It makes him extremely drowsy. A few beers after taking his medication in 2007 and he passed out in the bathroom, slamming into the toilet and sliding it clean off the floor — and he’s not a big guy.

Do You Connect or Control?

Tuesday, December 9th, 2014

Do You Connect or Control? My youngest always fought with me over the littlest of things. Lately I had even resorted to bribing her in return for the peace it brought.

“Put away your plate,” I reminded her after dinner the other night, “otherwise no iPad.”

“I don’t care,” she retorted. “And you can’t stop me.”

The Middling Effect of ‘Hit and Run’ Parenting

Monday, December 8th, 2014

The Middling Effect of the "Hit and Run"Parenting the older adopted child (or any child, for that matter) can be trying. I forever seem to be competing against his impressions that I just can’t relate to his beliefs, ideas, or perceptions, however reasonable they might or might not be.

After all, adults from his past likely were not paragons of physical, mental, or emotional stability. Notwithstanding more than four years together, why should he regard my intentions any differently? Variability in his trust in me to parent him while sensitively meeting his needs still leaves me with little wiggle room to make the right impression.

The Power of Music

Monday, December 8th, 2014

Music and EmotionsI’ve known the lows of depression, I’ve known the terror of delusions and paranoia and I’ve known the itchiness of anxiety. In every instance, I know I need to calm down. Most times this means going home pulling the covers up and putting on soft music. I do it so much that it’s become something completely natural. Feeling bad? Put on music. It’s almost automatic and because of that I’ve started to take this simple technique for granted.

Music is something magical. It’s salve for all of life’s emotional wounds and I would be remiss in talking about coping techniques if I didn’t talk about music.

Toxic People: You Don’t Need Permission to Walk Away

Sunday, December 7th, 2014

Toxic People: You Don’t Need Permission to Walk AwayToxic people prey on others. They dominate and control, disregard your needs and feelings. They focus on themselves and don’t seem interested in you at all. They seem to see other people as tools instead of whole, autonomous beings.

You may wonder, who would put up with this?

It seems like toxic people zoom in on those with low self-esteem. When you can’t appreciate yourself, it’s hard to stand up for yourself. You’ll second-guess whether you should walk away from toxic relationships, wondering if maybe your perception is off or you did something to deserve to be treated poorly.

Too Stressed to Meditate

Friday, December 5th, 2014

Too Stressed to MeditateFor the past couple of years, meditation has been easy. I’d put in some hard work over the previous decade and had found a place of stillness each time I took to the cushion. Sure, sometimes what I met as I observed my mind was difficult, but my practice had become productive and indispensable.

I spent the last two years as a stay-at-home dad of a toddler. I did all of the dad, and much of the mom, stuff. I managed the house, cleaned (badly), cooked (very well), arranged activities and play dates, and did what I could to keep the family satisfied.

None of this was easy, but my daughter napped every day. And while she napped I had a solid 35 minutes to meditate, without fail. I taught a couple of classes each week, and led a Wednesday night drop-in meditation group, but that was more rewarding and fulfilling than taxing.

Then it all came to an end.

Believe in Yourself: A Surprising Way to Boost Morale

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

Believe in Yourself: A Surprising Way to Boost Morale

Recently, I read Christopher Isherwood’s memoir, My Guru and His Disciple. It’s an account of Isherwood’s relationship with Swami Prabhavananda, the Hindu monk who was his spiritual mentor and friend for more than thirty years. (The photo shows Swami Prabhavananda on the left, Isherwood on the right, and Aldous Huxley between them.)

I was surprised to learn that Christopher Isherwood — who’s perhaps best known for The Berlin Stories, which was the basis for Cabaret — lived for years in Swami Prabhavananda’s monastery in Los Angeles, and considered becoming a monk himself.

How to Find a Therapist You Love

Thursday, December 4th, 2014

How to Find a Therapist You LoveWhen I was struggling with my eating disorder, I’d have particularly awful days. Often, it involved me crying into my carpet and wishing I didn’t exist. In those moments, when life was heavy and pressing, I was willing to reach out for help, but I didn’t know where to begin.

My eating disorder was a shameful secret, so naturally I didn’t want to elaborate to the random secretary who answered the phone. I did leave an awkward message or two on a voicemail.

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