Tuesday, December 19, 2017


After so many years of getting "locked out" of this blog site and getting no help from Google, I was cleaning out my desk and found a tiny slip of paper with my access codes!!  It's crazy what I went through to try to get back into this place!  I signed up originally with a work email that eventually went defunct and therefore when I forgot the password, the ultimate default was that Google tried to send the new password link to this old deleted address.

Well, I'm back now after a LONG hiatus.  I hope to be blogging again soon!

Thanks everyone!

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Subtle Evil I Encountered Today

It's been an emotional day or two. Two former clients, one recent and one in the past, passed away this week. They both were good people and both moved me as a therapist with their spirit and their resiliance. The one from the past was one of the first clients I saw shortly after completing graduate school in 1991 and our work together gave me confidence in myself as a new psychologist. I paused today to remember him with gratitude. My work continues twenty years later. I have more experience now but the basics of respecting my client, listening mindfully and engaging in an active partnership for change remains the same. Today however, the realities of this brutal era in American history confronted me head on. In my perception, we have grown into a much more polarized society- Democrats over here, Republicans over there, corporations and profit versus individuals and well being. Almost every day, I hear stories of callous disregard for others and a new spirit of selfishness that seems to be gaining traction as the "new self-esteem". I became a psychologist I think because I deeply care about people and their suffering. Yes, I'm sure I had my own "selfish" reasons for pursuing this field- maybe to understand myself better, to ease my own pains, and maybe even searching for validation as a person worthy of the gratitude of others. I admit it. But I really do care. I couldn't do this work if I didn't care and I didn't hold myself to the highest standards that I can possibly reach in the work that I do. Compromising my values has never been something I could do without personal strife. That why today felt a bit like a body blow for a little while. I accepted a new client two months ago who was in desperate need of individual attention. She had been injured, was living in pain and was now in her third trimester of pregnancy. She had recently made a committment to herself to stop relying on medications, both for the sake of her baby and for her own quality of life. I've learned over the years in this field that living with pain is hard, VERY hard. Every fiber of our being tells us in every moment we feel pain that something is wrong and that danger is nearby. It is an exhausting, frightening and intense experience to have constant pain that doesn't go away and perhaps even has gotten worse with treatment. That's why today was particularly heinous in my opinion. My young client was injured on the job and was referred to me by her primary treating physician for six individual sessions. They pick the number six somewhat randomly, mainly because it is easier to obtain authorization for a lower number than to go for more. When clients come to me with a set number of authorized visits, if I need less, I use less and if I need more, I request more. It's very difficult to estimate exactly how many visits it takes to help someone feel better despite over twenty years of experience because each person is an individual- some with layers and layers of protection that come off slowly and some who open up quickly and are ready to make change when they walk in. In this case, she is a lovely, intelligent and articulate person who sincerely came for help. A bundle of fears and new skills for managing pain that she had yet to fully implement into her lifestyle. Near the end of our six sessions, she anxiously inquired about where we go from here. I reassured her that I would request more and that I would not leave her dangling as she approaches delivery. Within a week, I received notice that my request was denied by a physician with no mental health training or qualifications, a bizarre system from the start that allows health care professionals who have no contact with the actual client to make decisions that impact their treatment and their future (and get paid for it). I, of course, appealed on the grounds that a non-mental health professional could not ethically make the determination of what what necessary treatment and what was not. My appeal led me to a conversation by phone with another psychologist, who lives in Texas, who claims to have pain management expertise and sounds like she could be my daughter. Far from warm and empathic, she listened quietly to my rationale for continuing treatment, especially with delivery two weeks away and pain levels increasing as her spine tries to bare the extra load she adds each day. She's doing this without pain medication, I explained, and her fear about the delivery contributes as well. She replied with a cold "how has her function improved during the six sessions in which you have been seeing her"? "Improving function" is the new catch phrase in the Workers' Comp industry that signals whether treatment is a "success". I reminded her that improving function would be quite difficult during anyone's third trimester and that my major goal had been to help her reduce her worries and set reasonable expectations for herself. I shared my concerns that the delivery itself might be overwhelming psychologically, given hormonal shifts and the physical stress of it all. I guess I expected someone with similar values to mine as a psychologist, or as someone who had empathy for suffering or compassion for people in crisis. I found none of these qualities as she hastily stated that I would hear by the end of the week of her decision. Two hours later, I received a phone message from the insurance company consisting of a simple and impersonal "your appeal for more visits has been denied." My first response was to feel personally assaulted. It's hard to be in this business as long as I have, dealing with complex clients every day and trying to unlock the barriers to health and wellness, only to have someone who doesn't know you or your client decide that treatment is denied. I wonder why this person became a psychologist and how she lives with herself every day. The ego that it takes to believe that you can make the most intimate of decisions about a person in another state that you've never seen, never spoken with or taken the time to assess is mind boggling. To ignore a central ethical code of "do no harm" is unacceptable. Stopping treatment now would be devastating. To accept money for it is, well, just evil. Do not depair readers!! My ethics are still stronger than my desire for profit. I will see my client through her delivery no matter what. I am a human being with a soul and with empathy. We will look for other ways to get her treatment regardless of what Dr. Texas thinks. There's something very wrong with this system. I will continue to fight for what is right.

Monday, December 20, 2010

From Hero to Coward: The Long, Sad Fall of the Maverick

I'm still a bit moist after this weekend's amazing vote by congress to repeal the Clinton travesty, Don't Ask, Don't Tell. Really though, I'm trying to savor every moment because this is one of the biggest advances for gay rights in my lifetime. When I was a gay teen, it was beyond my wildest dreams that I would have a lifetime partner, much less marry him. Being an "out" gay man in a professional setting would never happen and having the military become a place for lesbians and gay men to serve openly was unthinkable. It's sometimes hard, I think, even for my most loving and supportive straight friends and family to understand that hope just wasn't allowed then. Fear was the emotion I was most familiar with, constantly waiting to be exposed, humiliated, beaten or killed. I couldn't allow myself to wish for things to be better because I was too busy worrying about what could go wrong. Although I hear that some African Americans are insulted by the comparison to their struggles, I know about the pain of waiting for the day that good people wake up and realize that fear has kept them in denial about the ways that status and privilege can directly harm those without it. So, today, I celebrate the long journey that my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters have taken, both the living and the dead, to get us to a place of celebration and true hope. And yet, I cannot fully celebrate because there are people who still are afraid and are still fighting for exclusion and discrimination. Yes, I know there will always be idiots on the "far right" like that jerk who runs the Focus on the Family who will fight gay rights forever because it raises money and makes them feel superior. What I feel most puzzled about though is the way that John McCain has fought the repeal of DADT every step of the way. There was a time that I respected McCain because he at times chose to talk back to the Republican establishment, especially when reason called for it. Sure, he was a member of the "Keating Five" in the 80's, investigated for peddling political influence, but he was largely successful in promoting himself as a man of reason, principle and heroism, for his status as a prisoner of war during Vietnam. I've been fooled before however, by the public profiles that we've come to accept as true about celebrities and politicians. In McCain's case however, I honestly believed that what he went through in the war might have made him a true patriot and defender of American values. Once you have faced death, I imagine in my own little fantasy world, you would decide what's important to you and stand by it. Over the years however, I've watched McCain waffle, vascilate and just plain give in to the pressure from the right wing of his party, even as they toyed with him and abused him for their own gains. The right wing spread vicious rumors about McCain during the 2000 Republican primary race in South Carolina, in order to tip the vote in favor of their darling GW. McCain took it and later jumped on board with the Bush train, despite the fact that he was defeated with lies and innuendo. I was shocked that he didn't stand up and say more. Then, while running for President, he selected a stupid, inarticulate and unqualified Sarah Palin to be his running mate, in a cold and calculated attempt to win the votes of women, because of her gender rather than for what she could do for this country. A selfish move then that still sickens me today, every time she opens her ignorant, narcissistic mouth. In Arizona, facing a tough Tea Party opponent, McCain consciously chose to move away from his reasonable positions on immigration in order to win. And now, McCain has sunk to the lowest point of all- outright homophobia and discrimination. First, he says that he wants to wait to repeal DADT until a "readiness" study has been completed so that the troops won't be affected. This despite overwhelming evidence that other countries have successfully integrated openly gay and lesbian troops with absolutely no effect on military preparedness. So, when the internal study is finally complete, and again overwhelmingly supports the repeal without significant effects, McCain still resists repeal, with no legitimate rationale. His wife and daughter understand that DADT is discrimination. The majority of Americans understand that DADT is wrong. The Federal courts have rule that it is discrimation and should be stopped. And now, the majority of both houses of congress and the President have done the right thing. The military itself says it's ready and it's time. And despite all of this, John McCain, who once served this country with valor, now has become the Strom Thurmond of his time. He's a man who has lost his moral compass and has forgotten what he was fighting for- freedom and fairness. His congressional colleagues now see him as angry, explosive and petty little man. Sadly, John McCain has shown that he is truly a coward.

How the mighty have fallen.

Sunday, October 31, 2010

The Death of Reality TV

I have to admit that I was one of the first to jump on to the reality TV bandwagon back in the day of the original MTV's "Real World." The idea of watching real people living together under one roof and all the twists and turns of human relationships was just SOO appealing to me as a lover of observing people and the psyche.

Part of what attracted me to psychology as a field, was of course the helping people part of it, but I also truly enjoyed learning about social science research and I guess you could say, the highly scientific versions of watching how people dealt with controlled (or some would say "staged") circumstances.

The Milgram studies from the early 1960's, for example, were absolutely fascinating and controversial experiments about the power of authority figures to cause volunteer subjects to apply presumably painful electric shocks to confederate "subjects" when they missed answers to simple tasks. It was mind blowing to watch the old black and white films of these experiments and wonder just how far each subject would go, simply because they were told to do so.

Or the classic Stanford Prison experiment from 1971, where 26 male students were chosen to perform the roles of 'prisoner' and 'guard' to test how human beings conform to role expectations. The new movie "The Experiment" starring Adrian Brody and Forest Whitaker was inspired by a book about this real life study where the subjects go farther than imagined in their fake roles and situation.

So I guess when TV began tapping into reality setups, they tapped into my own curiosity about what makes us tick and how far will people go.

Among the first shows I became hooked on was the phenom American Idol and later the Amazing Race and of course Bravo's awesome Project Runway and Top Chef.

And I have to admit that I was tempted into the seedy side of it all with Tyra's America's Next Top Model and even, gulp, Big Brother for a few seasons.

I could overlook Tyra's over-the-top hysterics in each episode, just to watch the inevitable fight between the "plus-sized" token girl and the "I'm just too in love with myself" anorexic.

Who doesn't tune in to Survivor just to watch them wear less and less each week as they exploit a little flesh for instant celebrity?

But lately, I've been finding myself too often on the disgusted side of the aisle, screaming aloud that the judging was FIXED or fast forwarding through the increasingly obvious product placement in almost every reality show these days.

Who doesn't know for example that American Idol is sponsored by Ford and Coke. Or that Jenny-O turkey is apparently the only meat allowed on The Biggest Loser?

Again, I could overlook a lot of the constant selling selling selling, especially on my absolutely favorite shows because I thought they were of a higher quality, with actual ethics.

Project Runway used to be in that camp for me.

The first few seasons of PR had me so hooked, it was one of those few shows that I absolutely could not wait to watch every week. If I could, I would brave those damned commercials on live, non-DVR'd TV, just to be absolutely caught up. It just seemed that truly, from week to week, you never knew who was going to win the design challenge and that the judges absolutely tried to remain fair and unbiased.

I waited patiently with them through the long break when they were fighting it out with Bravo and trying to move to Lifetime. I even made it through the slightly boring (and a bit confusing) year in Los Angeles.

I breathed a sigh of relief when they moved back to New York and even when they brought back super-orange Michael Kors and slightly constipated Nina Garcia as regular judges again.

Yes, I vehemently disagreed from time to time with them.

I so disliked the neck-tatoo guy from season three that I railed at the TV and swore to stop watching (which I of course didn't as my senses gradually returned) because I actually did understand that his clothes were quite beautiful and exciting, even if I didn't think he, as a person deserved it.

This year however, was very different for me and there was something not right with this season.

Several times, the winners just didn't seem right to me. Michael C was one of the sweetest contestants in a while, but I never quite saw a consistent voice in his designs. He was so honest about it too because he never could quite explain himself, endearing me even more to him.

Gretchen's early wins were puzzling as well, especially the jumpsuit thingy selected for the cover of Marie Claire. Ok, I get that it's different and "edgy", but she never really brought that kind of edge again in my opinion.

And then those darned producers.

They absolutely played up the affected manner of Gretchen, every chance they got. Maybe she wasn't always so overly confident, critical or enunciating, but it sure seemed like it. And no amount of editing could excuse her constant talking out of both sides of her mouth about the other designers and about her own flaws in front of the judges.

Aside from her wretched persona on TV, nothing about her designs excited or interested me during the entire season so when she won, I felt different this year, even a bit betrayed.

I am willing to give credit where credit is due. An evil personality can create beautiful and exciting clothes. Jeffrey Sebelia as case in point.

In every other season, I understood early on, that the eventually winner had talent and was doing something new and interesting. I am not a designer, but I know what I respond to and in almost every other season, I responded at least a little in a positive way to the creativity or the skills or the choices of the ones who made it to the top.

This year, I felt nothing for Gretchen or her designs. I mean nada, zero, zilch.

Maybe it was just me, but when I logged on to the PR website and the PR Facebook page, I wasn't the only person shocked by the result or has such a negative and visceral reaction to her bland and monochromatic separates.

So it got me thinking.

Michael Kors and Nina seemed to dig their heels in during the "discussion" by the judges. Even Heidi, and fashion icon (just kidding) Jessica Simpson, could not convince them to change their minds.

I started to wonder if perhaps, the little disclaimer at the end of the show that states that

means that in effect, Gretchen was selected early on in the show and that what I am watching is less of a reality competition and more of an entertainment show.

I've watched the product placement so blatant in other shows slowly creep into PR over the seasons, from the Piperlime accessory wall to the Garnier Fructis hair products.

This season, of all others, has caused me to sit up and take note.

Maybe Michael Kors and Nina Garcia really don't have good taste. Or maybe they did but now their opinions and tastes are passe and it's time for new judges. I have to say that the two Michael Kors shirts that I own are among my least favorite, feeling rather cheaply made and showing signs of wear after just a few months of laundering.

But maybe, just maybe, PR has fallen into the pit of cash and ratings and this was the year to "shake things up" no matter how gross the result or how untalented the winner.

So, if this unhappy result can happen to my cherished PR, you know that it's been happening to the other reality shows too. Only beautiful people seem to be selected more and more and if I see one more close up of a product label, I'm going to puke.

American Idol has lost it's glitter and the Bachelor is just a mess.

On the upside of the evidence, we have better scripted TV shows than we've had in a long time.

I never miss GLEE of course and Modern Family actually has decent writing!

So here's to you, reality TV, don't let the door hit you on the way out.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

You Don't Have to Die

I read about the suicides this week of Tyler Clementi and Asher Brown in the SF Chronicle, but it took the Larry King Live show this week with Wanda Sykes, Kathy Griffin and Tim Gunn, for me to realize that there had actually been five altogether within a week.

Anytime I hear of a teen suicide, for whatever reason, something inside me rips a little. A girl who thinks she's too fat, or a boy who didn't make the baseball team, takes the final step to end their suffering and never has the chance to experience what could have been.

When I hear about a child who takes his or her own life because they thought that they could not face living as a queer youth, the rip is more like a shred.

Hearing about five similar stories in a short amount of time is beyond painful. Paying attention to each individual story is just too much to bear.

The sad truth however is that although we are fortunate to have a heightened awareness that lgbtq youth still suffer and are more likely to take their own lives because of it, there are thousands more stories that did not make the paper or the media and the real reasons behind the suicide were never explored.

When I was 13, I knew that I found other boys attractive.

One day as a hormone-driven early teen, while looking up any topic that related to sex in the family Encyclopedia Britannica, I found the word "homosexual" and my mind virtually exploded. As I carefully read the words explaining the term, it so deeply resonated that I literally shook. Before that moment, I had no idea that there was a word to describe what I felt.

More importantly though, in that instant, I knew there must be others like me out there.

I did, however, know that I had to hide this reality and that everyone in my little world at the time would view me as horrible and disgusting if they knew. How I knew this, I have no idea since I have no memory of any discussions about gay people prior to that moment.

So, I did what I could to hide this emerging part of me by acting like people wanted me to act. I pretended I liked girls. I attended the fundamentalist church of my parents and I said nothing to anyone. I prayed to God to take these feelings away and to make me "normal". I called my gay self "disgusting" and told him to "shut up" and I was afraid and lonely and frustrated.

Back then, there was no internet. There were no books about it in our local libraries. There were no TV characters or role models.

At 17, I met someone older who told me he loved me.

I fell fast and hard, and I finally understood what my straight friends were talking about when they talked about romance and tingling naughty parts and fireworks.

And then, my parents found out.

After four years of suppressing and hiding and emotionally self-mulitating, I could not hide it any longer so I admitted to them how I felt.

They were not happy. In fact, they were livid. They said things that parents should never say to a child. I remember them like they happened yesterday.

In small fundamentalist Southern towns in the late 1970's, gay people were not welcome. What I had been able to find out about homosexuals at the time was not good. They were mentally ill to many people and sinners to the others. For rednecks, they made good punching bags. For scientists, candidates for "treatment."

For months, my super-religious parents made my life hell. They took away my freedom, removing my driving and phone privileges and blasting me with Bible verses. Anita Bryant, anti-gay crusader of the moment, was on TV regularly, and my mother often turned up the volume loud enough for me to hear every hate-filled word. At breakfast, she would leave readings from her right wing religious propaganda on my plate for me to find when I arrived at the table.

I had no place to go, no one to talk to, and no other options, so I spent many hours locked in my room, so angry and lonely that I begged Jesus to take my life.

After several months, my parents arrived at a possible solution and I was given three choices, namely, to begin meeting with the fundamentalist preacher at the church, to see a mental health professional or to get out of their house.

Because I knew that praying had not been the answer thus far, and I had no resources with which to support myself if I left, I chose the shrink, who after two evaluation sessions, ended up telling my parents that I seemed to be a perfectly well-adjusted gay person. He went on to tell them that if they were having trouble accepting me, they should consider coming in for some sessions.

In the flash of that instant, my life changed.

For the first time in my life, an adult in a position of authority told me that I was ok and that society was the problem.

It was a moment that I will never forget.

Since then, I have spent much of my time trying to live authentically and sorting out the messages in our society that makes sense and those that are based on fear, hatred and evil.

I have learned that being gay does not make you unworthy of love.

Being gay is a normal part of life.

You love better when you love honestly.

The bad times will pass.

There are more of us out there who will understand you and love you and support you.

Do NOT listen to the hate messages from your family, your religious institution or your government. They are wrong and sad and corrupt.

Choose to live and be strong.

You have a choice and you have options.

There will be a day when you look back and be grateful that you survived. I never thought this day would come, but it did and now I am truly free and happy. You can be too.

If you think you are lesbian, gay, bisexual or trans, and you are alone and afraid, take the first step by calling the Trevor Project at 866-488-7386.

There's a whole lot of love out there waiting for you.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Done with Politics for a While

Now that Don't Ask Don't Tell has failed to be repealed by the Democratic majority Senate, I have made a decision.

I'm done with politics for the time being. I'm not voting for Democratic candidates, or left leaning independents. I'm not voting for Obama again and I'm not going to help Jerry Brown or Barbara Boxer. Anyone who reads this knows that I won't vote Republican either.
I'm also not donating to political campaigns now as well.

Why? Because I'm tired of politics that don't work. I completely understand the frustration that the Tea Partiers have. They too are disappointed by their elected officials who seem paralyzed to do anything. I don't agree with their solutions, to elect whack jobs who speak loudly and make no specific promises, but equally despise the status quo, just because they can "relate" to them.

No, I'm sick of politicians. I'm really sick of the Democrats and Obama, who could have made this happen. They could have used the force of their influence to push Blanche Lincoln and Mark Pryor, both Democrats, to vote for repealing this or face the weight of the Democratic machine helping oust them from important committees or in their next re-election fights.

Obama could have used the power of the bully pulpit instead of Lady Gaga doing it for him.

He could, with the stroke of a pen, order the military to stop enforcing DADT and when the next President comes into office, it would be virtually impossible to start enforcing it again once the military was integrated. He knows this and chooses not to do it.

Now, with mid-term elections happening and likely to go to the Republicans because of Democratic incompetence at getting "on message" or responding to Republican or Tea Party or Fox News distortion, the chance at legal repeal of DADT will be virtually nil. This was the opportunity, with a majority House, majority Senate and Democratic President. AND a recent federal judge declaring it unconstitutional. What better odds?

We have to wait for the issue to worm it's way up to a heavily biased U.S. Supreme Court to decide if gays are real Americans or just second class citizens. Imagine that a small group of people that you don't even know gets to decide if you deserve full equal rights in this country. People who were hand picked by Republicans, who will knowingly favor corporations over individuals, because they get money for favoring corporations over individuals.

Democrats, in my opinion, should have seen this coming and done whatever it took to stop the plan of replacing unbiased justices with highly biased ones. Yes, Ginsberg, Sotomayor, and Kagan have biases- they are humans- but at least they appear to try to interpret the U.S. Constitution in a way that favors American freedoms and not extend them to companies or restrict them from tax-paying, honorable citizens.

So Democrats, so long. Stop calling me for donations. Don't expect my vote for your hand-chosen successor. I left the Democratic party several years ago to become an independent, but like Bernie Sanders, I-VT, I voted for Democratic candidates or issues 95% of the time. Not anymore.

Until you repeal DADT and DOMA, I'm outta here.

And if that means America suffers because the nutjobs take over, then she will have to suffer.

Hello President Palin!!

Monday, September 13, 2010

A Week of Patience

This is a week that I've been dreading.

For more than a few months I find myself challenged, almost daily, by circumstances that are harsh and disorganized. It is hard at this point in my life to be treated so disrespectfully and so crudely. It's compounded by my health challenges that have been surprisingly gentler to handle.

Even though my head tells me that this chaos has little to do with me, because of my conditioning, my first response is always emotional and irrational. Because someone treats me poorly, the reflex is to believe that their treatment is justified. It's hard for me to believe sometimes how people make the decisions that they do, that ultimately are not in their best interests.

I guess what suprises me most is that for most of my career, I have listened to thousands of stories of people who have made choices that weren't in their best interests. And I of course, am also guilty of making choices that came back to bite me.

So, what I don't get is why someone who could use my help right now, chooses to insult me instead. It does not make sense.

I've certainly pondered all the reasons that could explain this scenario. None of them seem rational in the real world. I supposed the most understandable reason is self-preservation in a desperate situation- basic animal survival where you lose your moral compass, but you do what you have to do. There are less kind explanations of this behavior as well but that's not what I choose to think about today.

Today, I need to prepare myself for facing the challenges with grace and dignity. I need to reflect on my strengths and not my weaknesses.

I gained some perspective on recent events last week and although it doesn't change the situation, it did help me understand it better and oddly, give me confidence that I can handle whatever comes.

Writing helps me find my center- helps me find a new angle, perhaps one that reminds me of what is important and what is not.

My plan for the week:

I will focus on helping my clients this week, more than ever.

I will breathe, relax and meditate.

I will pray for the strength and flexibility of a deep-rooted tree in a strong wind.

I will ask for support from the people in my life who show me love.

I will remember the things I know to be true no matter what I hear from those who don't know me.

I will think of the wonderful things in my life and feel gratitude.

I will be patient with others even while they are impatient with me.

And I will rest when the week is done.