27
Sep
16

Begin in the beginning

I read the 50 Shades series during a week at the beach and talked about the books with my hubby. We talked about things in the movies, other books, and things on TV that were related in one way or another and then out of the blue I said…”I wonder if there is a kink site in Pittsburgh! I think I’ll Google it!”

Oh, the power of Google. OF COURSE there is a group in Pittsburgh! I sat there, kind of dumbfounded, and looked at my hubby and said, “I gotta check this out!”  He looked at me, laughed, kind of did the ‘oh, there you go again look’ and said, “Go for it.”

So, I did. I researched the local group and that led me to a larger umbrella group that is worldwide called Fetlife. Now, there are a number of other groups out there I subsequently learned, but, from all that I was reading, it seemed that Fetlife was the group most favored for a number of reasons, safety being at the top.

Well, the local group’s website was filled with all sorts of wonderful information about the group itself, its history, and the manner in which one might become involved.  It was also  fairly easy to be in touch with the leaders of the group and they very clearly indicated that they were open to answering any questions that anyone might have. You know me….questions GALORE!

I learned that every month, most of the groups around the world have open meetings called Munches. The purpose of the Munch is strictly socialization, come eat and talk. Come meet some people in the group and ask your questions. Seriously? Just walk into one of the very public and popular restaurants in Pittsburgh and walk right into the room reserved for the group for the evening and have a chat!  Hmmmmm, I sent an email message to one of the group leaders and expressed my interest also stating that I was actually rather nervous at the prospect of meeting this group of people. I carried ALL of the preconceptions that I believe most people have about the entire BDSM thing. I got a pretty prompt response assuring me that I was most welcome and that I had nothing to fear. People would be friendly and willing to talk with me and that there was absolutely no attempts at cajoling one to become a member of the group. Interestingly, in Pittsburgh, the group is actually split by age….This Generation is for individuals 35 years and older and Next Generation is for 18-35. Another thing I learned VERY QUICKLY is that under NO CIRCUMSTANCES is anyone under the age of 18 permitted to even attend a Munch, and, on top of that, they absolutely ‘card’ everyone in the younger group to ensure that alcohol is not served to anyone under 21.  They take age restrictions very seriously.

Hmmmmmm. My interest was piqued. I would be in a completely open and public place, there would be no shenanigans going on, I could have some intelligent conversation (hopefully) with some nice people (hopefully) and get my questions answered.  In the interest of full disclosure, my husband was a bit nervous about me checking this all out BUT, he said, go ahead, have a good time, be safe. He knew exactly where I was, how long I would be there, and I had my cell phone.

So, I went to my first Munch! I was  a nervous wreck walking in the restaurant, looking around not sure where to go. Would the people be dressed all leather-like or lacy or what?! Would they be walking around getting their freak on? Would they all be full of tats with pink and purple hair? I just had no idea what to expect. I asked a waitress where the group was meeting and she directed me to the meeting area…and

there were lots of people

sitting around tables and at the bar

eating

and talking

smiling and having a lovely time…

COOL!

One of the leaders noticed me looking around and immediately came over to greet me, introduced herself and guided me right over to a small group sitting at the bar. She introduced me to the two couples and then took her leave. The two men and women immediately turned their attention to me and introduced themselves and asked how I came to learn about the group. Easy, comfortable, nice conversation!

I spent the next three hours munching and talking to about 25-30 different people, most were in their 40s and 50s…a few in their 60s and one women was 70! Talk about diverse!!! All nationalities, all ethnicities, all levels of kink engagement from Master/Slave to top/bottom/switch…all kinds of interests/fetishes. YES, I did engage in that conversation because I wanted to know, I was curious to understand and EVERY SINGLE PERSON was open and willing to talk to me and explain their particular ‘thing’. As I said in the first entry on this topic…these interesting people were no different than you and me. I met computer programmers, nurses, accountants, stage and costume designers, college professors (several), a microbiologist, an equine trainer, a neurobiologist, a model, a floral designer, a dancer….we shared pictures of our children and grandchildren!

I was enthralled!  There were so many questions I had and I had found a group of people who genuinely simply wanted me to understand and get my questions answered.

As an aside, though, one wonderful gentleman in particular (who has since become a very good friend)  warned me to be careful. He indicated that there are always unscrupulous pervs in any group and that if I decided to get more involved, then I should find a good friend who I could trust and vet any person who might seem to get too cozy. Excellent words of advice!

So, that was my very first experience in the world of BDSM. I went home, excited to share, and wanting to learn more.

 

25
Sep
16

Let’s Lighten up-let’s talk sex ;-)

Got your attention??

As you may recall, when I said I was going to restart blogging, I indicated that I wanted to talk about things that are, well, not understood. Yes, I started with a serious topic, depression. I think we can agree that it still is largely misunderstood and unnecessarily feared. I hope my sharing helped.

Now, I want to touch on another topic which really is very VERY misunderstood and frequently vilified.

Over the next several weeks, I am going to talk about BDSM.  If you don’t know the acronym, it stands for:

  • BD – Bondage and Discipline
  • DS – Dominance and Submission
  • SM – Sadism and Masochism

Some preliminary thoughts for you.

I am NOT, by any stretch of the imagination, any sort of expert in BDSM.

I am NOT a ‘card carrying’ member of a kink community.

Unlike most of you (I imagine, most of you), I DO have many friends who are card carrying members of a kink community.

Let me start by saying that I became interested and curious about the whole lifestyle after reading, **GASP**,  50 Shades of Grey. (We are not going to do a book review here…it was a crappily written series of books.) I did learn, however, that it was a pretty inaccurate picture of the community of people who do consider themselves to have fetishes, kinks, and other desires that are typically considered slightly askew of the mean.

Those of you who do know me, and know me well, KNOW that I have a desire to LEARN as much as I possibly can about a topic once I become interested in it. I don’t try to become an expert and learn everything…no, I want to learn so that I CAN UNDERSTAND something better.

Here we go…

Kinksters (and many of my friends do call themselves Kinksters) are EVERYONE. Let me say that again…the people who participate in any way and at any one of the many levels of kink are EVERYONE.

They are…lawyers, doctors, psychotherapists, florists, ballet dancers, opera singers, country western singers, teachers, moms and dads, brothers and sisters, grandmas and grandpas, computer programmers, auto mechanics, chefs, guidance counselors, chemists, neurologists, nurses, accountants, cashiers, baristas, burger-flippers, your neighbors….get the picture? They are JUST LIKE YOU AND ME. They are us!

THAT is probably one of the major misconceptions about the lifestyle. In general, people think that there is something seriously wrong, very deviant, or sexually sick about a person who participates in any part of the BDSM lifestyle. Just like in any population of people, there are those who might, indeed, have some very serious issues, BUT, that is simply NOT the case for the vast majority of people who do embrace this lifestyle. At least, this has been my personal experience.

Yes, I am going to share with you my experiences and the things that I learned about the Kink community.

Stay tuned.

 

 

24
Sep
16

Back in the leadership role in my dance: a call for understanding

In the last post I mentioned the psychiatric treatment that I received. It was called DBT or Dialectical Behavior Therapy.

I knew that in my past blogging, I talked about DBT and what it had done for me. I had to go back to 2008/2009 to find those blog posts, but it was worth it…I saw, yet again, how very far I have come in my living with depression and being the leader in my dance.

To give you some background, DBT therapy was designed by Marsha Linehan in the late 1980s to treat borderline personality disorder and is now being used for several different mental health diagnoses. This article is a wonderful description of the therapy. The therapy progresses through a series of skill development modules over the course of 8 weeks. NO, it is not a miracle quick fix program; it takes commitment and a lot of work AND you really do need to move through the cycles more than once. I was in active therapy for two full cycles (for me, that meant being in therapy three days a week- both group and individual therapy). AND, if you are honest with yourself, you do NEED to go back periodically for what I like to call “tune-ups”.

I STOPPED taking medications and began the DBT treatment in 2008; Here is what I LEARNED from this therapy:

I have learned to live every single minute in the here and now and to be MINDFUL and focused. This is hard people. It is so easy to look back at things and get disturbed by memories or to look forward in anticipation of things that may not even happen. IF you stay in the moment, you can use all kinds of skills to maintain your mental and physical health.  #1 skill-BREATHING, solid meditative breathing. Nothing centers you faster and makes you feel better faster, for real!

I have learned to use what DBT calls ‘Wise Mind’…equal amounts of emotion and logic…you don’t get overwhelmed when you use ‘Wise Mind’.  You can make decisions that follow your heart AND your head. Again, this can be so challenging. It is so easy to get wrapped up in an emotional response over an event or to be so headstrong stupid in a response. It takes mindfulness to be aware that you are responding in that way and then calm resolve to use the ‘Wise Mind’ skill to stop the inappropriate response patterns.

I have learned to use EMOTION REGULATION strategies. When I begin to think about something stressful, I DISTRACT myself by listening to a great song on the radio or a CD. When I feel myself becoming stressed I SELF-SOOTHE by petting my kittens, chewing a piece of cinnamon gum, listen to relaxing music, getting out my coloring book and crayons, and BREATHE. These strategies immediately reduce your heart rate and reduce anxiety and stress. This is a biggie for me. When I get stressed adrenaline surges through me almost instantly (something I learned about myself through mindfulness) and it is especially important for me to breathe and self-soothe immediately. Once I get calm, I can distract myself and get past whatever triggered the response.

I have learned more effective INTERPERSONAL EFFECTIVENESS skills. I always thought I was pretty good at these skills, and I am. But there is always something you can learn.  DEAR-MAN is an acronym for a sequence of behaviors that are very effective in getting what you want and need out of relationships with others. NO GUILT, NO FEAR, NO EMBARRASSMENT.

I have learned DISTRESS TOLERANCE skills that allow me to stay very calm in the face of activities or people who I used to allow to cause me tremendous distress. The best strategy I learned here is RADICAL ACCEPTANCE or another way of saying it is: It is what it is. For me, that meant learning how to walk away; how to say no to requests and not feel guilty about it; how to really accept that there are things that cannot or will not change and move on. Radical Acceptance is a skill that I find a need to re-tune with my therapist. Sometimes, I have tremendous difficulty dealing with things in my life that are completely out of my control (I already admitted how much I need to control the things that CAN be controlled  to keep me in my happy dance), and Radical Acceptance is THE major cog in my wheel for distress tolerance.

These skills were literally life changing.  I  found a wholesome natural way to really gain control of my life and my depression. I have been MEDICATION FREE since 2008. I recognize more quickly when I start to slide towards a trough and can see when my responses to situations are out of line. I know that I need periodic tune-up sessions with my individual therapist and call her for the help. It actually improved my communications with family (better than isolation).

So, this brings to a close my series of posts about depression.

What do I want you to get from this series?

  • PLEASE know there is a real need for people to understand what those of us with depression deal with, how we feel, how we try to help ourselves and need help (read that as compassion) from you as well. We can’t just pull ourselves up by the boot straps and tally forth! It takes a village!
  • PLEASE know that this is an illness that does not go away but can be well controlled and that doesn’t make us bad people or problem people or selfish people or disgusting people. We are just people like you!
  • Please know that there are likely many, many people in your lives who have some form or level of depression and that

your willingness to understand and offer help may just save a life one day.

Thank you, for taking the time to read these posts. I am back in the lead position with  my dance partner, heading for my latest tune-up, and ALL is good in my world! Here is a little giggle for you…I was featured (2009) on a local television program whose focus was on DBT…be kind in your reviews (I have already corrected the “ummm” issue…LOL!)…

 

22
Sep
16

2000-2010 Decade from Hell

It’s funny how a relatively brief period of time can have so many highs and lows. I mean, in the grand scheme, 10 years is a spit in the bucket. My bucket, during that decade was full of spit, and loads of other things as well.

I don’t want to bore you with a play-by-play; instead, I will simply give an accounting of the time from a pro and con perspective…

Cons: (the big stuff)

  • my mother died of lung and metastatic bone cancer
  • my uncle (her brother) died of colon cancer
  • my aunt (her sister) died of lung cancer
  • we lost our house to a fire
  • my father suffered massive third degree burns on both of his hands from a kitchen fire and was found to have lung cancer when he was being evaluated for his skin grafting surgery…oh, he also had a blood clot in his heart (this was immediately after our fire)
    • and ALL of that happened between 2000-2005
  • I had two major depressions that required me to take a medical leave from my job and also had a place in my needing to resign from a very prestigious position at my University
  • I had shoulder surgery for a frozen shoulder and knee surgery for a torn meniscus I got in class doing jumping jacks!
  • my husband lost his job and was not able to find another one, ever

Pros: (the big stuff)

  • both of my children graduated from college with degrees and a future ahead of them
  • my dad survived and just celebrated his 91st birthday
  • I was promoted twice…to Associate Professor and then to full Professor
  • I was appointed the Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence
  • my first text book was published
  • I was able to take my husband on the trip of his dreams to Hawaii, twice
  • I traveled the Mediterranean, Alaska, and my first trip to Australia and New Zealand
  • I was humbled to be the recipient of the most incredible generosity and kindness from our neighbors and the University community and so many strangers in response to our fire…the clothing and money that was collected in my family’s behalf had me in tears for days
  • I began intensive therapy and counseling in Dialectical Behavioral therapy (DBT), which changed my life, forever (more on that next posting)
  • I decided to retire
  • I survived in one mentally and physically intact piece

DBT was, and continues to be, the reason.

16
Sep
16

I just want …

to die.

The feeling was overwhelming and complete. I thought very long and hard about that…I truly did.I thought about all my alternatives and none of them were going to relieve the constant horrible pain I was feeling inside. My insides churned constantly and burned, heavy in my core. Every piece of my skin hurt. It was a constant fight with my brain to stay as calm as I could be…to hide 24/7 what I was feeling and what I was planning.

A NOTE for those of you who scream about suicide being the coward’s way out.  DON’T YOU DARE. Until YOU walk in the shoes of deep depression or disease, or addiction where the pain is overwhelming and all encompassing and there is no physical or mental or emotional respite, don’t you dare even think that this kind of act is cowardly. It is the most heart wrenching decision one could ever make and trust me when I tell you that it is NEVER done lightly and without tremendous forethought. That individual needs to stop being in permanent pain and there is certainty in one’s death being the end to personal pain.

I would peek over at my husband at night as he slept and hoped, with all my heart, that he would carry on well without me and without feeling any guilt. There was nothing he could do…he DID try to keep communications open, but I closed him off. Isolation was better. My kids were already adults and pretty much on their own either in college or finishing up. They had figured out that I had demons to fight, but, I certainly would not drag either of them into the trough of despair that I was engulfed in…no, they needed to not think of me as some damaged person who couldn’t hold it together.  My parents…well, they would probably be beside themselves, wondering what they did wrong or might have done differently, but, they too, would be OK in the long run. There would be no notes left because this was going to be a horrible accident…it was important for the family to be able to collect on all of the life insurance. Oh, they may figure out after a time that it might have been a suicide, but, if I did it right, they wouldn’t be able to prove it for sure.

Very few people know about this part of my depression and the fact is, those that do know found out way after I had been saved from my certain demise.

So, I had a plan; a very nasty and completely deadly car accident. I only needed to determine when to put it in action.

As I sunk deeper and deeper into the trough the time began to feel right to do it. Then driving home one early afternoon from school (it was 40 miles one way, so a good amount of time to process) I began to think, “Would anybody care enough to try to stop me?”

Maybe that was my waaaaaay deep inner voice saying, “Whoa, hold on a second, are you sure about this?” I don’t know. All I do know is that this time period was well before EVERYONE had cell phones (and the ones out there were still bag phones pretty much!).

I got home and called my mom. No answer. Called my sister. No answer. Called my aunt. No answer. Thought while laughing to myself…”There isn’t anyone…see!” And I began to cry, quietly…tears slowly slipping down my cheeks because, well, it WAS time. One more call…I called my best friend (ya know, the one I said was the ONLY person from high school I stayed in touch with)…I called Judie…she answered the phone and I can’t remember the exact words I said to her, but I was crying, crying hard and she said, “I am coming to get you RIGHT NOW.”

And she saved me from myself. 

She took me for a long drive. We talked, I cried, a lot…I shared what I was going to do and how I had been feeling, and I think she wanted to die at that moment! She could not quite believe what I was going through and that I hadn’t shared with anyone…she stuck with me like glue that day. She helped me get my shit together that day just by being the ONE PERSON who answered the phone.

I know, without a doubt, that I would not be here right now had it not been for Judie answering the phone that day.

Now, what to do…

14
Sep
16

not just blue…it was more of an indigo

It was happening and I didn’t know it…wasn’t tuned in to it…the trough was beginning to form again…my partner had taken back control and was changing the rhythm of the dance.

As I said in the very first post, it is insidious…ya know how they say that some cancers or heart disease are silent killers…well, depression is the same way. It doesn’t show on the outside normally until it is really REALLY bad and sometimes, too late.

You look the same, try to always act the same..like everything is just fine. You carry on and do your best to live your life the way you need to. I do my very best when I have a tight schedule. I’m not sure if that is a part of my Type A personality or an internal need I have because when I have a schedule and follow it and get my stuff done and do it well, I AM IN CONTROL.

I’m actually sitting here laughing as I write this because I JUST REALIZED THAT! Being tightly scheduled for me WAS and still is a means of control!

So, I taught a full course load of 15 credits a semester; I was the Coordinator of Student Teaching for our program; I was on several college-department-university committees; I was doing presentations all over the country (both requirements for tenure and promotion); I advised approximately 40 students (and I DID meet with every single one of them for no less than 45 minutes at least every semester for scheduling if nothing else); I went to my daughter’s in-house and traveling soccer games; I went to my son’s choral performances; I tried to do the best I could with dinner preparation (kudos to E for taking over so much of that during this time); I did the laundry; and I drove a 2 hour commute each day I traveled to work–usually 4 out of 5 weekdays. I was also on a number of professional committees outside the University. I also started writing my first textbook and became a regional coordinator for a multi-million dollar grant…my region was the west coast- Washington-Oregon-California-Utah-Idaho-Nevada-Arizona-New Mexico (remember that I lived on the east coat, in Pennsylvania) so I was traveling…a lot!

Yes, a bit tightly scheduled, but, like I said, PRODUCTIVE and brilliantly so…I accomplished every single thing I wanted to get accomplished during this period of time and unbeknownst to me

the trough was deepening and deepening and DEEPENING.

And suddenly, and I do mean suddenly, it hit.

Chest pains, could not breathe, started crying for no reason at all. The pain was screamingly tangible and all internal, burning, searing, throbbing pain.

All I could think about was how badly it hurt, that my medication had apparently stopped working, and that if it continued to feel this way, I could not bear it. I wasn’t feeling blue; no, I was indigo, closing in on midnight.

And, nobody knew because I chose isolation. Don’t tell, don’t share, don’t let on. Stay away from any kind of interaction or conversation that might give you away. I sobbed in every shower I took. I sobbed driving to and from school and then washed my face with ice cold water to get rid of the swelling around my eyes and redness on my nose (damn nose always gives me away when I cry).

I just wanted to BE ALONE and left alone.

My lovely waltz had turned, slowly, but surely, into a moshing slam dance.

 

12
Sep
16

the dance

That really is a perfect metaphor for one’s relationship with depression. Think about it; what is a dance?  According to Merriam-Webster it is a series of movements that match the speed and rhythm of a piece of music.

The dance that you perform depends on the mood of your partner. Tarantella perhaps?

Legend states that between the 15th and 17th centuries an epidemic of tarantism swept through the town of Taranto in southern Italy. This was as a result of being bit by the poisonous tarantula spider. The victim, which is referred to as the tarantata, was almost always a woman but never a high ranking lady or one of an aristocratic upbringing. Once bitten the tarantata would fall into a trance that could only be cured by frenzied dancing. People would surround the victim while musicians would play mandolins, guitars and tambourines in search of the correct rhythm. Each beat would have a different effect on the tarantata causing various movements and gestures. Once the correct rhythm was found it was almost certain that the tarantata was cured.  http://www.italiansrus.com/articles/tarantella.htm 

LOL, how appropriate is that?!

Or perhaps my partner wishes to dance the Twist?

The point is that the way you learn to relate to your depression is by shaking its hand and discovering how to become the lead in the partnership. You become the leader in the dance…in other words, YOU take control.

For me, Prozac helped to start me on the path to learn those skills. It allowed my insides to calm down enough to focus more on the here and now and surprisingly, some of Dr. F’s relaxation strategies began to work more effectively. This was a really good thing because around this time, I had a major career change. Moving from the K-12 environment to the ivory towers of academe was going to provide all sorts of new and exciting challenges. YAY! I was moving in a positive direction.

And then, inexplicably, I wasn’t.

The hurt and anxiety returned. I still wasn’t able to identify in myself when this was happening. My family, specifically, my husband, was acutely attuned to what was happening to me and would sometimes ask me if things were still OK…hint-hint… another visit to my PCP (who was now in the Rx loop and prescribing the meds for me) and the dosage was increased. OK, that seemed to help again so maybe that was it; I just needed a bit more of the Prozac to keep an even keel and maintain my lead position in our dance.

But, of course, I was wrong, and the worst was yet to come.




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