Sunday, December 23, 2012

Another personal Christmas tradition: Six to Eight Black Men

Wait... I think that came out wrong. What I mean is that another Christmas tradition I've developed, just for myself, is listening to David Sedaris read his essay "Six to Eight Black Men," about cultural differences, particularly surrounding Santa Claus. If you can't listen to it, or just prefer to read along here is a pdf of the essay. I also post this almost every year since I found it, but I don't mind repeating myself. Just ignore it if you have heard it before and you don't want to hear it again.

The "No Tears" Christmas Playlist

One of my favorite parts of the holidays is that I get to listen to my Christmas music. I'm fine with most Christmas music, but I really like weird, mean, funny, odd Christmas songs. I blame my family. While my mom collects Christmas albums, there are two that I remember the most from my childhood. One of them was the album with "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer" on it. The first year that the song came out, or the first year we heard it, we thought it was hilarious. Not just my mom and I, but also my uncle and my grandpa. No, I don't know what my grandma thought of it. It seems like she usually ignored the things that we all thought were funny. The rest of the album is kinda dumb, but I'm surprised we didn't wear out that section of the album. Oh yes, it was an actual album. We bought it on vinyl because we couldn't find it on tape. (It would be another few years before we had a cd player.)

But the album I remember most will probably always be A Christmas Together- John Denver and the Muppets. Yep, you read that right. John Denver and the Muppets. It was a television Christmas special in 1979. The television show was a few years before I was born, but we had the vinyl and listened to it every year while we put up Christmas decorations. Though it suffers a bit from the sappy peace on earth stuff that filled up Christmas stuff from that time period, it's still great. But when your favorite Christmas album is the Muppets, you tend to seek out less mainstream Christmas songs. So here is my "no tears" (that means no sad songs) Christmas playlist.

Hating You for Christmas- Everclear

For everyone who looked at other people's Christmas cards and newsletters and wanted to tell them to go fuck themselves. 

Christmas in Hollis- Run-DMC

My mom loves Die Hard and I think this might have been the first rap song I ever heard. 

Ben Folds- A Bizarre Christmas Incident

Any song where Santa gets stuck in the chimney is pretty funny. This one is hilarious. I remember playing it with my grandpa in the car and the moment when I could see by his face that he was actually listening to the song. "Did he just say that Santa was naked?" Also, Ben Folds' explanation for his inspiration is pretty funny. I never would have thought this story, which I'd heard before, was his inspiration.

Santa's Lost his Mojo- Jeremy Lister

I also like the idea of Santa in Mexico drinking tequila and wine because he's tired of giving those little brats presents.

Ain't No Chimneys in the Projects- Sharon Jones & the Dap-Kings

This is a kinda sweet song about the things you wonder about as a kid and the things we realize when we are adults.

Elf's Lament- Barenaked Ladies

Maybe Santa went to Mexico so he wouldn't have to do with his elve's efforts to unionize. 

You're a Mean One, Mister Grinch- 

The Grinch is another staple in our household. We watch it every year. This song just slinks. 

Twelve Days of Christmas- John Denver & the Muppets


Merry Christmas from the Family

The first time I heard this was on a Christmas compilation that I had bought because it had Tori Amos doing Little Drummer Boy. I always thought this was the best song of the bunch. I especially liked the look on the faces of older family members when they heard the word "tampon" in a Christmas song.

Baby, It's Cold Outside
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Alright, now I know that this song sounds a little rape-y. I loved the back and forth between the man and woman (actually called "wolf" and "mouse" in the lyrics, not specified to be a man and woman), as I've always loved duets with this kind of playing off one another. As I started to process the lyrics, I was a bit dismayed. But this interesting piece helps me to let myself off the hook. Basically, the mouse wants to stay and is just worried about what other people will think. Also, the "say, what's in this drink" line didn't mean "is there a roofie in this drink?" like it would now, but was a way of playing off doing something you weren't supposed to do on whatever was in the drink. Ok, so seeing Stephen Colbert and Audra McDonald dance and sing it together doesn't make you feel better? How about we neutralize the gender problem? Enjoy this bonus version, with Kurt and Blaine.

We Wish You a Merry Christmas

Ok, well, if you don't want to stay inside with a predator, you can go outside and demand food and drink. According to the #1 on this list from, though I'd heard it on a History Channel show years and years ago too, Christmas caroling was very cold trick or treating for adults. "So bring us some figgy pudding...We won't go until we get some.."

So there is your holiday cheer. Stay tuned for the "crying in my eggnog" Christmas playlist.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

Crossed Wires

I'm not exactly a stranger to my emotional reaction being completely inappropriate or not what one would expect, but it often still surprises me. I'm getting a better handle on it, but nothing exemplifies it like the last couple of days.

I guess I should go back and first talk about what my DBT educational group is working on right now is Wise Mind (a place that is not ruled by your emotional mind or your reasonable mind, but uses both sides) and the how and what skills. The How Skills are Observe, Describe, and Participate and the What Skills are One-Mindfully, Non-judgmentally, and Effectively. Last week, our homework for group was to observe what frame of mind you were in. This week, it's to observe and describe how you are feeling and to participate as fully as possible in your daily life. Though this can be a problem for anyone, BPD people, who have a particularly difficult time with emotional regulation, often just get taken on a ride by our emotions without ever observing exactly what those emotions are or what spurred it. Sometimes you are feeling what is actually a secondary emotion, without ever realizing the primary emotion behind it or the instigating incident. (For example: you might be feeling and expressing extreme anger but it might actually be propelled by a deep fear.) I'll come back to how this is applicable in a minute.

So you all know that I love my job, right? I have complaints, like everyone does, but I really do find it rewarding and I feel like I'm good at it. I have some evidence to back that up as well. But sometimes I still dread going to work. I have a main client and then one that I help out with. With the other client, at least half of my shifts are 5pm to 8pm, most often on Sundays. Usually I putter around the house all day and I feel generally Sunday-y. By the time 3pm rolls around and I have to start getting ready, I am filled with dread about the coming shift, sure that something will go wrong, wanting more than anything to go back to bed. Until recently, I often had the same feelings about hanging out with friends most of the time, which is why most of my friends have been cancelled on multiple times. But with work, as with hanging out with my friends, it was never as bad as I had made it out to be in my head. If I just did it, I usually had a good time. While I think that working evening shifts when I've been up all day and just want to relax makes it more difficult to get going, I have no idea where all that dread comes from. Maybe I need to start observing it more or better, so that I can describe it more fully.

So back in November, I agreed to fill in for that client's regular caregiver over the holiday, starting today (Saturday) til Wednesday morning. It is split shifts, 8am-11am and then 5pm-8pm. My parents can't leave town because my step-dad is on call at his job, so it wasn't like we were going out of town. They agreed to work our festivities around when I was working. Then, Friday the regular caregiver called me around 2pm, just as I was going to settle in at home to do nothing for the rest of the day, and asked if I'd work his evening shift. He sounded really upset about something that he was going through and I wasn't really doing anything, so I agreed. As soon as I hung up, I regretted it. I just wanted to lay down and veg out. Then I just wanted to cry. But I sucked it up, listened to some funny Christmas songs on the way there, and it was fine. Not just "fine, I made it through the shift" but I actually enjoyed it.

One of the only things I can cook well is lasagna. Originally this client and his wife were going to have Christmas together, not with the rest of their larger family, who they spent Thanksgiving with. I decided I'd make them a lasagna on my own time, as a little Christmas gift, so they'd have food and leftovers. Of course, their plans changed and they'll be having their traditional family Christmas dinner. Of course, I'd already promised them a lasagna. We decided that they'd have it tonight. Their son and his wife came in town today and had dinner with them, my lasagna. Despite my worries that they might not think I'm doing a good job or that they wouldn't like my lasagna, everything went well. Actually, it went great. They are so nice and they really seemed to appreciate what I was doing, thought I was doing a good job at it. Even better, they really liked my lasagna.

Because dinner lasted longer than usual, I was there an hour later than normal, getting him into bed. His daughter-in-law hugged me before I left, thanking me so much. I got in my car smiling. Then, thinking about how thankful they seemed and about how good of a job I'd obviously done, I felt the tears welling up in my eyes.

What the fuck is going on? Why am I crying? I'm happy. Not just I should be happy, but I actually am happy. I not only do I have a job that I'm good at, but I have one that matters, that adds a great deal to these people's lives, lets my clients live with as much dignity and comfort as possible. And it's not just that I feel like I am doing a good job, but they think I'm doing a good job. I am happy. Why the fuck am I crying?!?

These are happy tears.

I know that I'm supposed to be observing and describing, but this all feels so weird and not like it is what is supposed to be happening at all that I am just throwing up my hands at the moment. Plus, if I'm actually sad about something, I don't actually want to participate in that sadness at all right now. I just want to try to enjoy my holiday. Fuck sadness, fuck crying. I'm going to be happy this year. Or at least tonight. 

Monday, December 03, 2012

So My Therapist Says, Vol. 4, Very Special "Thank You" Edition

As you might know from the last post, a young woman that I met last year in hospital killed herself the Saturday before last. When I talked to my therapist the day after I wrote the post, we talked a good deal about suicide and about how other people, often people who have never had mental health issues much less ever felt suicidal, feel obligated to offer their opinions about suicide. (And, oh man, did that problem with people's opinions about suicide not get better after the events of this weekend.) We talked about how I feel that it's not my place to say that someone must suffer for the sake of others, even if that suffering is psychological. Yes, I am pro-choice, even to the point of being pro-abortion if that is the woman's choice. I am pro-euthanasia, pro-assisted suicide. I'm thankful for the time that I got with grandfather and with my uncle, but I would like to think that I would have abided by their wishes if they wanted less medical intervention or decided to end their life rather than suffer, especially once they knew they were going to die. On the other hand, as I said in the last post, I am eternally grateful my attempts were not successful. My therapist offered some of her opinions as well, including that she understands that some people might be suffering so much that they feel that is their only choice. As a therapist, she feels it's her duty to never say that a person is beyond treatment. In fact, many of us BPD people have been told that we are beyond treatment before we find DBT. She talked about having the conversation with suicidal people or self-harming people where they push back against her assertions that they shouldn't do it, that they assert that it's their life and they have a right to do what they want with it, even if it's a negative thing. She said that she can't say that they don't have that right, just that everyone's life is worth trying to make it worth living in as skillful of a way as possible.

As for everyone expressing their opinions, particularly those who say things like "How could s/he do this to his/her family/friends/loved ones?" or that suicide is cowardly or whatever other bullshit people say, she gave me a great comeback,"You just say to them,'I'm glad that you are fortunate enough to have never felt like that, but we can't know how this person was feeling. Let's just mourn for the loss and the loss of the family." Then she shared something extremely personal experience with suicide and dealing with those kinds of opinions. She told me that very few people there knew about this. But obviously she felt both that I could benefit from what she shared and that she could trust me enough to tell me.

And I wanted to write this post to express how grateful I am that she told me. Overall, I'm always thankful just to have a caring therapist who is always available, but I'm thankful that I have her as my therapist as well. This, however, was such a special experience. Many mental health professionals don't share anything about their own personal lives. Some don't even have pictures of their loved ones on their desk or any personal touches in their office. I really like that the people at the place where I receive therapy feel that sharing some personal info and experiences creates more of a connection with their clients as well as allows them to use their own lives to draw examples from. Even so, my therapist didn't have to do what she did. She didn't have to show an open-mindedness about how suicidal and self-injuring people feel. She didn't have to trust that I would not twist it. And she definitely didn't have to tell me the specifics of her own experiences. She didn't have to trust me with her personal knowledge. But I am so grateful that she did.

I realize that it must be a really hard job to do. There are so many fine lines to walk, especially when it comes to discussing suicide with someone you know has had multiple suicide attempts in their past. For example, on the one hand, you don't want to discourage our bodily autonomy, a feeling that this body we live in is ours. Many people getting treatment where I do, at the level that I am, have felt like we were forced into taking medications or forced into a "voluntary" hospitalization. We have hostility towards medical professionals who tell us that we have to do, or not do, something, so you're not going to help our therapeutic relationship by telling us that we can't do what we want with our body. I think this probably goes doubly for those of us with BPD. Another thing that BPD people deal with more often than the general population is trauma and abuse. When you've experienced a traumatic event or lived in an abusive situation, you start to internalize that your body is not your own, that it exists to serve others' prerogatives. Many of us disassociate from our bodies, our feelings, or both so we don't have to deal with this problem. The last thing we need is another person, specifically the person who is supposed to be helping us heal, telling us that our body is for someone else.

On the other hand, you're not going to tell us that self-harm or suicide is ok. You're the person trying to find the best way to get us to stop doing that shit. Even if I'm in a place where I'm not self-harming, haven't thought of self-harming or suicide for quite a while, you don't want to leave me with an idea that I might later use to rationalize self-harm or suicide. You do want us to leave continuing to feel that those are not positive, helpful coping mechanisms. You want us to feel like our bodies and our selves should not be hurt, that we have value and worth.

So I wanted to give a very public "thank you" to my amazing therapist. I'm so grateful for all your help and for this specifically.
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