Identification

So, after a fair amount of thought over the past few days, I think I’ve come up with a list of the ways in which my insecurities manifest themselves. While depressingly long, it gives me a place to start from; otherwise, without knowing exactly how my insecurities show up, I can’t really work to make any of them better. So, without further ado:

1. Intelligence. I know I’m smart, but I am constantly worried that the people around me, especially the people I view as peers, friends, and others such relationships, will think I’m dumb. I often feel that what I have to say on a subject is not that smart or interesting, especially compared to what others are saying. and so when this starts happening, I generally just clam up and wait, hoping that maybe I can interject something that sounds goods somewhere along the line. This was particularly bad when I was in grad school, because I was surrounded by people who shared my interests, and who always seemed (and some certainly did) to have more intelligent, more important things to say.

2. Appearance. This is another big one. I have trouble looking in the mirror in the morning after showering, because I’m never particularly happy with what I see. I know I’m overweight, and I can accept that, but it’s still not nice to look at. I’m also not a very good judge of what makes a guy attractive, but I’ve always had a nagging feeling that whatever it is, I don’t have it. Naturally, when you feel like you’re unattractive and overweight, this brings up issues when talking to one’s preferred gender, and I imagine that lack of confidence in my appearance has resulted in most of the rejections I’ve had from women.

3. Motivation. This, I think, is probably largely tied to my depression, but it can certainly make things problematic, especially where it ties in with my other insecurities. I’ve never had a huge degree of motivation for anything; I just don’t feel that drive to get things done that I see other people as having. There are things I want to do, sure, but my motivation comes in very finite amounts – if I go all-out on something, it will only last for a little while, and then I’ll burn out, lose interest, and never finish. This, I think, is what frequently happens with my efforts at things like weight loss; I start out motivated, but I can only keep up that drive for a week, two weeks, maybe a month. And then I just don’t feel it anymore.

4. Attachment. This is probably a big one – possibly the biggest one, at the moment – for me. A friend who I mentioned this to actually said that she thought I might have an attachment disorder. Now, I know the internet can be dangerous about such things – I remember looking up some things on Borderline Personality Disorder and being horrified by how misleading it was. So everything I have done is preliminary. But I figure Wikipedia, while not the greatest authority, might be a place to at least start. So I found an article on attachment in adults. It lists four separate types of attachment: secure, dismissive-avoidant, fearful-avoidant, and anxious-preoccupied. Reading through the descriptions, initially, anxious-preoccupied seems to fit well for me; I’ll quote it here: “People with anxious-preoccupied attachment type tend to agree with the following statements: “I want to be completely emotionally intimate with others, but I often find that others are reluctant to get as close as I would like”, and “I am uncomfortable being without close relationships, but I sometimes worry that others don’t value me as much as I value them.” People with this style of attachment seek high levels of intimacy, approval, and responsiveness from their partners. They sometimes value intimacy to such an extent that they become overly dependent on their partners. Compared to securely attached people, people who are anxious or preoccupied with attachment tend to have less positive views about themselves. They often doubt their worth as a partner and blame themselves for their partners’ lack of responsiveness. People who are anxious or preoccupied with attachment may exhibit high levels of emotional expressiveness, worry, and impulsiveness in their relationships.” I know that the closer I feel to another person, the more contact I want with them, and I start to spend a lot of time thinking about what I’m doing wrong. I create scenarios in my head of what they’re thinking about me, and how I’m going to far, which makes me constantly question everything I say and do – did I look at her too long? Did I say the wrong thing? Did I make that hug last a second too long? I feel like however the other person sees me, they will eventually see through that image and see how screwed up I really am and leave me, and I always wonder when that shoe will drop. I take the blame for everything that goes wrong, because I feel like it is always my fault – I said something stupid, I was inconsiderate, I wasn’t hospitable enough. Reading up on this, I can see how toxic this must be to the other person, because my second-guessing myself can lead to them doing the same thing, and they might notice this and want to put some distance between us to try and work through their own issues. But the distance makes me feel even more needy. I’m not qualified to diagnose myself, of course, but it does seem to have a fair degree of resemblance to me.

These are all things I’ll need to discuss with my therapist when I see him tomorrow. I know that some of them are the very epitome of what a group leader at Menninger tried to hammer into us: “Thoughts are not facts.” So, now that I think I’ve identified the big areas, I need to start watching for when they pop up so that I can knock them back down. Hopefully moving forward with this, at least to  some degree, might help me save my friendship.

Keep On Keepin’ On

So it’s been a while since my last post, but I have good reason. The last week or so has been pretty busy for me; last Tuesday was my third session with my Dungeon World group, and last Monday was the character creation session session for a 4th Edition D&D game that should be starting up soon – I’m not running it, thankfully. Just yesterday was the fourth session of my Dungeon World game, and it went very well – much better than session 3. I think the group works together pretty well, and it’s fun to do, even if it is exercising new narrative muscles in my brain.

I met up with Calla on Sunday to see a movie, and again on Tuesday – we met with some friends at a place called The Mad Potter and painted some pottery, which was fun and a cool new experience. I’m still not entirely sure where things are with her; last year around this time she was essentially placing her life in my hands, and now it seems like – well, I don’t know what it seems like. I know there’s not a relationship in the cards, but it feels like she’s even distancing herself as my friend. It sounds like she’s trying to take on a lot by herself, and I wish she would ask for support if she needed it – but I know how hard it can be to ask other people for help. I spent a long time trying to handle everything in my life alone, because I didn’t feel like anyone else could understand what I was going through – and that didn’t work out so well for me. It took 2 suicide attempts and a trip to Menninger Clinic, as well as four months in a step-down program, to hammer that into my head. My head, as you might surmise, is pretty hard. So I hope my friends don’t do the same thing and try to take on everything alone, when those close to them are willing to help.

Today I was at a workshop with NAMI on learning how to effectively tell my story, to communicate it in ways that would be helpful for advocacy. It’s just another thing to do to work towards getting into the social work field, on the side of mental health. It is so frustrating to me that so many people don’t understand even the smallest things about mental illness, and so I want to do what I can to change that. This blog is a piece of that, certainly, but I want to do more; I want to try to help people the way Menninger and the step-down helped me. I don’t know exactly what I’ll be able to do, but I want to do something; it’s hard for me to see my friends in distress and not want to do more to help. I know I’m not their therapist, and I don’t want to be, but if I can help make any part of their lives easier – and then do the same for other people, while I’m at it.

In a couple weeks I’m going to head back to St. Louis to help my parents figure out what they’re going to keep and give away, sell, or leave behind, and soon after that, I should be an uncle. The next month or so is going to be pretty interesting – and that doesn’t even get inot holiday season in retail. So we’ll see how active I can be here.

Captive Audience

I’ve been thinking a lot the last day or two about being kept locked up. Not in prison, because I’ve never been there, but in a place which some people I know thought of as much like prison – albeit a very well-appointed, well-staffed, expensive prison. the Menninger Clinic.

As I’ve mentioned many times before, I was a guest- voluntarily, as that’s the only kind they take – at Menninger from late February to mid-April of 2013. For 8 weeks, I was on their HOPE unit, which the Menninger Clinic describes, in part, as such: ‘Our program treats some of the most complicated adult patients at Menninger. They often have received multiple diagnoses in a variety of previous settings as well as multiple courses of treatment, both psychotherapeutic and pharmacological.’ (The rest can be found here.) At around (if my math is correct) $18,000 per two weeks, Menninger is not a cheap place to go for treatment – certainly several steps above the acute care facilities I’ve been to. But even a very comfy prison can still be a prison.

Let me be clear – I don’t think Menninger or HOPE was a prison. But I can certainly see why it would feel that way to patients. While we are there voluntarily, once we check in – during which our luggage is gone through for contraband items, such as razors, corded appliances, any kind of personal hygiene product that includes alcohol, and a list of other things – we are essentially a captive audience. There are no door knobs or handles; all the doors patients can access are push-to-open. The sinks in the room are motion-activated, so there are no knobs to remove. Patients are accounted for every half-hour, and so there is no way to lock doors to patient rooms. These are all precautions to keep a patient from hurting themselves or others. Oh, and patients are only allowed in their own rooms – nobody is ever allowed in another patient’s room. There are two locked doors between the patient area and the unit exit, which patients only go through on the way to meals, and if they go to various patient activities (gym, crafts) or AA/NA meetings – all of which are supervised by staff, of course.. Aside from that, the only taste of being outside patients get is the smoking terrace, a small (maybe 300 square feet) walled-in (with 10-foot walls) area outside, with grass, some lounge chairs, and partial shade if it rains where the smokers – and there are many – go between groups.

Patients don’t have their own phones; they are issued very simple cell phones, with no cameras, while they are at Menninger. And if you don’t write down a list of people you might want to contact, you’re out of luck – your phone is locked up until you leave, barring special circumstances. There is computer access, but only at certain hours, and there are up to 24 patients trying to use three PCs – which are restricted from accessing any kind of social networking or adult website. Patients work on Levels of Responsibility, or LOR – starting at 1 when they arrive, meaning they can’t go out on the few weekend excursions – up to three hours a day on Friday night and Saturday,and necessities shopping (at Wal-Mart or Target) Sunday mornings. If patients act up, break rules, refuse to attend groups, they lose privileges, and can even be restricted (especially in the staff thinks they are a danger to themselves or others) to One-to-One, meaning a staff member is with them at all times, they never leave the unit for any non-medical reason (so no activities or meals, so they have to hope the staff brings back something edible), and they get their presence registered every 15 minutes, instead of every 30.

Now, there are ways out – if you decide you want out early, you just have to tell the staff, fill out a form, and wait 3 hours – to let you calm down in case you try to do something dramatic while highly emotional – but there are no refunds; any money you pay stays. But otherwise, you are kept in a highly restricted area, with limited choices on what to wear, what to do, what to eat, who to talk to, and basically no options on where you can go. The staff at Menninger is top-notch, and I remember all the people I interacted with – from the resident MD, to my psychiatrist, therapist, and social worker, to the nurses and MHAs – fondly; I’m not saying any of this because I felt like I was there against my will. On the contrary, it changed my life for the better, and in a massive way. But for some people who were essentially told by family members that it was Menninger, or a long-term asylum, it was still very much like living in captivity. And I was also lucky in that I generally enjoyed the company of my fellow peers on the unit – I know others, who were in before and after me, who found themselves lost and often worried or scared by their fellow patients, which made it hard to open up to others and talk about their problems, something which impedes treatment significantly. 

These things may not sound like much hardship to others – after all, there was good food, nice beds, generally friendly people. It’s a lot better than prison, and many steps above the average acute care facility. But because of suffering from mental illness, we have to be essentially confined for long periods of our treatment – how many other people with non-infectious medical problems can say that? And that doesn’t even consider the treatment at less-well-appointed treatment centers; the VA hospital that Eric Arauz describes in his book, An American’s Resurrection, sounds not too far removed from something out of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest – and Arauz’s story is real. And even that is nothing compared to the terrifying experience it must be to be both homeless and mentally ill, which MentalIllnessPolicy.org estimated included some 250,000 people back in 2007. 

We’re already often captives inside our own minds; it’s sad that to get treatment we have to be held physically, as well.

The Guide to Me

Most of my readers probably won’t find any use in this, but this is something that has been bouncing around in my head for a while, and so it kind of needs to get out. Maybe someone I know will find it useful, or it will just be useful to have it out of my head where I can see it. Basically, it is what it says in the subject line – a guide to (what I see as) the important parts of my personality.

1. I’m a geek, and proud of it. I like Star Wars, and Star Trek; I can quote the Jedi and Sith Codes. I love to read comics (Marvel over DC any day of the week). I have been to see every Marvel movie thus far in theaters, and I hope to continue to do so. I grew up reading D&D novels, be they Dragonlance, Forgotten Realms, or Dark Sun. Many of my favorite books are science fiction and fantasy, and if prompted I could spend the better part of the day talking about them. I own the Extended Editions of all three Lord of the Rings movies, and the first Hobbit – and several editions of the books, as well. I love tabletop roleplaying games, video games, and going to Renaissance Faires – I even have a sword hanging on my wall.

2. Consequently, I can be, well, a bit of a nerd. I don’t bust my geekery out a lot, because I know many of my friends don’t share it, and it can get kind of annoying to have (or be) the guy going on and on about his favorite comic book characters and who would win in a fight (hint: it’s always Squirrel Girl). I went to see the second Thor movie and the second Hobbit movie alone, because I didn’t want to drag other people who might not enjoy them. I was terribly grateful to Calla for not only going to see Captain America: The Winter Soldier with me last weekend, but coming over to watch the first one, as well.

3. I’m kind of an academic. I’ve had critical thinking kind of beaten into me over the last 8-10 years, and so it is the way my mind works. I like to read books on literary criticism, or articles on medieval literature (particularly works like Beowulf). Lately, I read a lot of mental health books, trying to wrap my head around the way that other people’s minds work so that I can see where they might be coming from.

4. I spend a lot of time stuck in my head. This might be related to the academic point, but I spend a great deal of time thinking about what I’m going to say. if I feel I don’t have anything worthwhile to add, or that anything I add will just be seen as offensive, I don’t say anything. Sometimes, I overthink things, and don’t talk about my thoughts or feelings when I should because of this. Its a habit I am trying to break.

5. I am extremely loyal to my friends. It tends to take me a while to warm up to people, and it can be hard to get to know me, but once I consider you to be a friend, there is very little I won’t do for you. It tends to apply even to friends I haven’t seen or heard from in a while – if a friend from Menninger who I haven’t heard from since leaving asked me for help, I’d do what I could to assist. I trust my friends implicitly, though I don’t ask for or require the same in return; I know a lot of people don’t tend to trust to the same degree that I do.

6. I’m hard to get to know. Because I tend to be rather terse, and I tend to hold a lot of my thoughts and feelings inside around people I haven’t yet gotten to know, I can seem aloof, arrogant, or out-of-touch. Generally, I’m not any of those things, but I have a tough time getting to know people in most situations. It was a big surprise to me that I ended up making so many friends in Menninger, and that I have managed to stay close to so many of them outside.

7. I’m an introvert – which you may have guess from the last few things. I tend to keep to myself in social settings when I don’t know everyone, and my conversations can be awkward, because I can run out of things to say easily. I would imagine most people who have met me can agree about this, at least initially; without knowing people, I have a tough time interacting. Also, being too social with people I don’ know well tends to tire me out pretty quickly, so I need some time to myself after things like that. Living alone is thus both a blessing and a curse, because it means I don’t see people as often as I would if I had a roommate, but I also get time to recharge.

8. I’m pretty liberal, politically speaking, but that doesn’t necessarily mean I will always hold a strong liberal stance on everything. I realize that a lot of far-left positions are pretty crazy, much like the far-right stuff, but I think there needs to be more thought and conversation (and even compromise) put into modern US politics, and less bloviating, invective, and general hate between the Democrats and Republicans.

9. I’m an atheist (though I’m leaning towards agnostic, or maybe something else). This doesn’t mean I am anti-religion, though. I grew up Catholic, and at some point during my undergrad years I didn’t feel like I had faith in a greater power anymore, and haven’t much since (though a bit recently). But I understand religion, and I don’t think other people should give theirs up because I lost my faith. I’m not going to rail against religion unless it is something I see as blatantly stupid or crazy, and even that tends to be more religion getting into politics – or you try to tell me that because I don’t believe in a deity, that I can’t have morals. them’s fightin’ words.

10. As you might have noticed from my post about Captain America, and some older posts about my moral sense, I have a pretty strong sense of what is right and wrong, and I get a lot of those from strange sources – D&D has been a big contributor in that regard, as well as chivalric medieval fiction. Now, I don’t always live up to my own standards, but I do try to, and I have trouble even playing bad guys – I can’t even play a Dark Side character in a Star Wars video game.

11. There are certain things which can evoke strong emotions from me. Some of them are obvious – losing a dear family member, friend, or pet; saying goodbye to someone I won’t see again for a long time; the end of a relationship. Others, however, can be kind of odd. There are certain portions of several books that cause me to tear up when I read them, and for whatever reason, musicals (Les Miserables, for example) can bring me to tears, as well. Pictures don’t really seem to do it, but I could be proven wrong. It’s hard for me to admit that, because I spent so long trying to avoid crying in front of other people that I just held it in until I could fall apart alone, but I’m getting more used to expressing that.

12. I am a happy omnivore. I like eating meat products. Hell, I like to eat a lot of things that are bad for me. I’ve never tried being vegetarian or vegan, and I don’t plan to – with the amount of vegetables and fruits I like,my diet would get boring really fast. I do like cooking, though, which is something I never thought I would say a year ago. It’s a fun exercise, and it is really good for helping to keep myself in the moment – plus it means I can cook all sorts of fun stuff. And I haven’t given myself food poisoning yet!

13. I communicate much more clearly through the written word than the spoken. Now, given that I write a blog, this is probably a good thing; if I did a podcast, it would be full of awkward silence and ‘um, uh…’. This can be a bit difficult when trying to communicate difficult or emotional (or both) topics. Telling people who are important to me how I feel is really, really hard for me in person, but I know that in text it seems impersonal, so it’s another thing I am working on. There’s at least one person who could judge how well that work is going, but it’s up to her to tell me that.

14. I tend to be pretty easygoing with most things. If a friend wants to do something I’ve never done before, I’m up for it. If I get asked to do something I’ve never done before at work,. all I need to know is what to do differently and I’ll do it. I’ll watch romance, action, comedy, or documentary,, and I am open to new things.

15. Connected to the loyalty to friends above, I also can get attached to other people, and that can become awkward. Like I blogged a few days ago, I can be really insecure with people I am close to, and the closer, the more insecure. This can make for some very awkward relationships, because I can get a bit clingy if I feel like I’m drifting away. I am trying to work on that, though. Man, I seem to be working on a lot of things.

16. I’m a smartass. I am constantly trying to avoid saying something too offensive, because I almost always have a smartass remark or response to things. It’s amusing, but can also be annoying. I’m not working on it, though, because I kind of enjoy it.

Well, that’s what I have right now. I may have more to add later. Or others might have things of their own to add, because as was pointed out to me at both Menninger and the stepdown, we don’t see ourselves the same way others do

Never Alone

It’s hard being alone. A lot of us struggle with it throughout life. Maybe we weren’t the popular kids in high school, or even before that. Maybe we were the nerds who got picked on, or the outcasts who were shunned. The way we dressed, or thought, or acted meant that other people didn’t spend a lot of time with us. Since this is my blog, I’ll use my own examples – from the time I was 7 until 13, my family moved every year or two. Not just small moves, either – first we moved from Ohio to England, then England to Spain, Spain to Germany, and Germany to Michigan; finally we moved from Michigan to Nebraska.

I didn’t make a lot of friends in those years. I made some friends, sure, but most of us never kept in touch, since we either had to write using snail mail or short calls with murderously expensive long-distance fees (no e-mail or cellular long distance plans, sadly). I was really introverted, and pretty smart, which made me a nerd, and being a nerd and the new kid was a bad combo. In 8th grade, I was bullied a lot, enough so that I moved from public school to a Jesuit high school

High school was actually good to me, oddly. It was all guys, so there was no trying to impress the girls, and so as a nerd I was actually valued for my brains. The thing that screwed with me in high school was my thyroid; I fell asleep in classes in the middle of the day because my metabolism just ran out of steam, and I got detention (quite a bit). Combine that with my preference for dressing in black – including combat boots and a black leather trenchcoat – and I was the rebel in my family. I pushed a lot of people away, and that didn’t get better in college.

I was so insular in college that my only friend for my first tow years was my roommate. I got to know some great people my junior and senior years, but I was also spiraling into depression, so I drove some older friends away while that was going on. And as depression got worse, I drove my school friends away, too. After college, I moved back in with my parents, who had moved to St. Louis, and I got worse; I didn’t know anyone in the area, and I rarely got to see people from college or from Omaha.

That feeling of isolation was part of what eventually drove me to my first suicide attempt. Even though, in some part of my brain, I knew I had friends and family who cared about me, I felt alone in my misery. I didn’t know anyone else who felt the way I did; my therapist at the time, while nice, was also not helping me to feel connected. I didn’t feel like there was anyone around me who understood what I was going through, and as things got worse, I didn’t have the energy to go out and look for help or company myself. Eventually I decided that I was so unworthy of any kind of company that the world would be better off without me.

But the thing I realized, after I survived, was that I was not alone, and had never been alone. When I got out of the hospital, my friends traveled from across the country to come visit me. It was something that some of them could barely afford, but they did it because I was their friend. And I knew that even though they weren’t near me physically, I wasn’t alone. It took a couple years and another suicide attempt to really hammer that home, though, and finding a community of people at Menninger and the step-down who had gone through similar experiences.

I guess the point of this is that, in this age of social media, text messaging, and VOIP, it is hard to actually be alone. I know that some people feel that way, and believe me, I understand. but there are people you can talk with. There’s Twitter, Facebook, text messaging, suicide hotlines, Skype calls from people around the world. They may not be right next door, but there are always people available to talk. Hey, I’m one of them. I’m not a licensed counselor of any kind, but I am always willing to talk; my Twitter and Facebook links are right below my bio. 

You may be lonely, but I promise you that you are not alone.

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Anniversionary

February 25th was one year, to the day, to my coming down to Houston to enter the Menninger Clinic. Before then, I had essentially left grad school, had only a few friends – none nearby – , had serious internal family issues, and had tried to kill myself. Now, a year later, I live in my own apartment. I have a community of friends around, several of whom live in the same apartment complex with me – and we’re making plans for dinner, or something similar, this weekend. I have a job – if not a long-term, lifetime job – and I’m making money and getting experience, while looking for other work. And I have become a lot closer to my family, and we’ve covered a lot of ground that we probably never would have covered otherwise. There’s even the possibility – I hope a strong possibility – of a romantic relationship, something I wouldn’t even have conceptualized a year ago.

But it didn’t just happen, sadly. To get from there to here, I had to do a lot of work, look at a lot of unpleasant truths about myself, and undergo some pretty unpleasant experiences. Being told that, even though I wanted people around me – parents, colleagues, women – to change, that I couldn’t change them, and that the only person I could change was myself, was a big hit to me. There were times that it had to be pretty much beaten into me that there was no easy fix, no magic phrase or technique I could use to change the world around me. I had to look inside myself to see what I could change there, and oddly, as an introvert, I was very unused to introspection.

As an odd segue, being an introvert is one of the things I don’t think I can change about myself. And while there are certainly problems caused by being an introvert, I think I prefer being this way than being an extrovert. While my shyness and social awkwardness haven’t always been friends to me, there are good parts to being an introvert – I find it pretty easy to focus; I tend to be pretty good at assessing other people, even if I can’t always vocalize it; and I tend to approach most situations in a calm, thoughtful manner. But there are certainly things I find often frustrating, and while I could enumerate them myself, I find it is much easier to just let someone who has already done so to say what’s on my mind – ladies and gentlemen, I give you 10 Confessions From An Introvert.

Imperfection

I started reading Brene Brown’s book The Gifts of Imperfection earlier today, and I have to say that even a few pages in, her topic really resonates with me. It seems to be largely about learning to feel comfortable in our own skin and not judging other people for things we have done ourselves. As someone who has been struggling with mental illness- and inferiority issues – for a long time, that really hits home with me.

One of the hardest parts about learning to manage my depression, from a therapy standpoint, was realizing that I, as a person, am worthwhile. I have to find worth in myself, because placing all that I find worthy outside of myself means that it can be easily lost – a friend I place worth in might leave, items I value might be lost or stolen. But my own worth is internal. Now, this was a problem for me, because, being depressed, I didn’t feel like I was worth anything – to myself or to anyone else. It’s why I tried to commit suicide, in part.

The Gifts of Imperfection speaks to that; it says, at least to me, that one of the bravest, most courageous things we can do is place that worth in ourselves. And not in a way that places us above other people – but in a way that lets us realize that we are worthwhile, much m=like them, and that we are capable of the same successes and failures that they are, and vice versa. And the way we find this worthiness – at least according to Dr. Brown – is threefold: courage, compassion, and connection.

Courage is important because it takes courage to express that we are afraid we might screw up. It’s hard to admit to others that we might have moments of weakness – especially if we have worked hard to give the impression that we have no weaknesses. But that courage to show others that we are capable of error – that we are human – creates the possibility of a connection between us. In a similar manner, it takes courage not to judge others; that feeling of superiority that we get from thinking we’re better than others is nice, but fleeting. 

The judgement part, for me, was actually one of the easier things to learn. I’ve screwed up a lot over the years, and I’ve hurt a lot of people and let a lot of people down. I know exactly how fallible I am, and so I don’t judge anyone else for their actions. In Menninger, there was one woman who was terrified to speak up in one of our groups because, as it turns out, she had tried to commit suicide once – and she thought that was such a horrible thing that we would ostracize her. When I heard her say that, I just looked at her, smiled, and said, “I’ve tried twice. That woman over there has tried four times. Nobody’s going to judge you here.” That makes it sound like I’m some sort of saintly character, but I’m not; I’ve lied to my friends and family before, I’ve manipulated people, and I’ve done plenty of bad stuff. 

I think that doing that, and being in a place like Menninger, really showed me the dangers of judging other people, and how much being judged hurts. And so I’ve made an effort since then to avoid laying judgement on people. It’s a process, and it’s something I have to work at; like it says at the beginning of The Gifts of Imperfection‘s first chapter: “Practicing courage, compassion, and connection in our daily lives is how we cultivate worthiness. The key word is practice.” So, I practice. 

More on the book as I move through it.