NaNoWriMo Again!

National Novel Writing Month begins at midnight tonight… November 1, 2019. I did NaNo last year and wrote around 30,000 words. Not the 50,000 word goal, but not bad.

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Yes, 50,000 words in a month. That’s the purpose of NaNo. That is 1667 words a day. If I am being prolific, I can do around 700 a day, sometimes up to 1000. But consistently? Not so much.

I have 4 Works in Progress… 3 Memoirs and 1 Psychological Thriller. The one I am working on for NaNo is (working title) In the Bushes: Gay Life before AIDS. I spent a lot of time in the gay community from 1978-1982 and have fabulous stories to share about those crazy times before my friends started to die around me. I’ve already begun, have just over 7000 words so far, and the book is unfolding beautifully. My goal for November is to write those 50,000 words.

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The NaNoWriMo community is amazingly supportive. Tons of forums… many serious, others completely frivolous. I closed my Facebook for the month, but must stay out of the NaNo forums until my daily numbers are met.

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And so I am off to write. Wish me well!

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Forgiveness

I have a Rubik’s Cube in my hand… the hand in my mind… working it working it working it, trying to figure out how to change things I have done in my life, how to correct them, make better decisions, hurt fewer people. If I can just figure out the right way to get the colors lined up, my life would not be filled with so many regrets.

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I have apologized to those around me, including my children, many, many times, yet I still feel horribly guilty for my transgressions. I’ve confessed my sins in therapy for 30 years now, yet continue enduring the weight of guilt, it often weighing me down into depression.

And then I heard, in a book* I am listening to, “How long is the sentence for these crimes you committed in your 20s, 30s and 40s? What is a fair sentence for your crime?”

I am 58 and believe my sentence is now over.

In this decision, I thought, “Does carrying others’ pain lessen their own misery?” It does not. I also do not believe my children want me to suffer anymore.

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I am here to answer the questions people in my life have. I am here to apologize for things I am responsible for, but I will not wear the yoke of guilt any longer. I release my Self from my shame, my pain, my sadness and my grief for the things not done or that I did wrong.

Therefore, I shall make amends… and forgive my Self.

* Maybe You Should Talk to Someone: A Therapist, Her Therapist, and Our Lives Revealed

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How to Find a Therapist

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Looking for a Therapist?

Looking for a therapist can be a daunting task. I know because I have had to find several over the last 40 years. Finding someone compatible can take time and when you are in a crisis, time is not what one typically has.

Here, I will lay out questions that can help with the screening process for who might be a good fit… and who will definitely not be a good fit.

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How to Find a Therapist

Finding who to call can include getting names from Human Resources, your insurance book or Googling “Therapists.”

I find that if you need low-cost therapists, going to support agencies can help more than just Googling. I suggest the LGBTQ+ Center in the nearest town, even if you are not wanting to talk about those issues, they keep a long list of therapists who are low-no cost. You can also search the county’s social services site.

You can call the local college and ask them for recommendations. If it is a school that licenses therapists, that can be a jackpot, asking for newer therapists because they often charge less. It can seem not fabulous to ask for a new therapist, but they are often the ones with the newest ideas in research and are willing to work with you and your desires for therapy.

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Once You Have the List

It can be daunting to call the long list of therapists you have in front of you. Take your time. Call 3, then take a break and call 3 more the next hour or so. Be gentle on yourself even if you are desperate.

Desperate, of course, means NOT in a place to harm yourself or others.

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If you are in a suicidal or homicidal place, PLEASE CALL 911 IMMEDIATELY.

Calling for an Appointment

You will almost always get an answering machine when you call. That is normal. So plan out what you are going to say… write it down and read it if you want to… and then say what you need to the machine. Short and as succinct as possible. Therapist’s appointments end at 10 ’til the hour, so occasionally you might catch a person between then and the top of the hour, but not usually.

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“Hi, my name is Barb Herrera and I need a therapist for depression. Your name was given to me by the LGBTQ Center. I am in crisis, but not suicidal, so the sooner I can see someone the better. My phone number is: xxx-xxx-xxxx.”

If you are in crisis, it is important to say you are. Make sure to add the not suicidal part, please… if you are NOT suicidal, of course.

If you are a parent, needing therapy for a child, you can say, “Hi, my name is Barb Herrera and my 10-year old son William needs help with his ADHD and anger issues. We are having a very hard time right now, so the sooner I can see someone the better. Please help!”

I find the phrase, “Please help me,” brings out the codependent in just about everyone. I use it in the ER, in bookstores, and looking for therapists.

You might need to call 20 therapists to get 3 to call you back. That is the way it goes, sadly. Some will be kind and tell you they cannot help, but good-luck, but that is pretty rare.

Try with all your might to answer the phone when a strange number calls (or a blocked number even) because catching each other can be a terribly frustrating game of cat and mouse.

When You Speak to the Therapist

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While it sounds like you want that exact therapist when you left a message, there is a screening process you get to do to see if they are a good fit or not.

I encourage writing down exactly what you want help with:

“I am struggling with my marriage. My partner is distant and I don’t know why./My partner asked for a divorce and I’m scared/I’m having such a hard time getting anything done, my life is shit.” Etc.

If it is for someone else, your child for example, being really clear with what you need is good.

“My 15-year old daughter is using drugs and I don’t know what to do about it/My daughter is 13 and angry all the time. I need help understanding her/My 9-year old son struggles in school and cries a lot. I need help figuring out how to help him.” Etc.

So, when the therapist calls, this is when you bring out that paper and read to him or her what you need. Then ask, “Is this something you work with?” They might say yes (some say yes to anything), but they might tell you that isn’t their skill set and that’s great. Ask if they have a referral, thank them for calling and move on.

If you make an appointment with someone who says yes, WRITE DOWN THE APPOINTMENT DATE AND TIME and keep it handy. I say this because you want to keep talking to the therapists who call you back. Make an appointment with each one, just keep them straight (stars or ** next to the ones you like) so you can cancel  the others when you get a feel for the right therapist. It is rare you will not connect with one of the folks that eventually calls. If you do not, pick the least objectionable and start there.

When you have the appointment with the therapist, please call the others and cancel. You will get a machine again, so no worries on hurting their feelings. It happens all the time. BUT, thank them for their time and that you are holding onto their number for future reference. And then do so so you don’t have to go on the search again in the future if the one you choose does not work out.

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Appointments

The first appointment can make or break the relationship, but I highly encourage having at least 3 before deciding you are not a good fit and moving to the next one.

It is also so so tempting to stay with one that is meh because the prospect of starting over is daunting and can be really challenging when you are in crisis. But, I promise, if you give the therapist 3 sessions and you are still not clicking, the idea that you will eventually is really delaying the obvious. Best get out and start over now. The sooner you do, the sooner you will find the right fit.

When I moved from San Diego after my 28-year marriage ended, I had specific needs because of the situation… needed an LGBTQ+ friendly and knowledgeable person. The first three people I had were very young and I spent those first 3 sessions teaching them about the transgender person. I stayed the 3 hoping after session 1 and 2 that they would learn on their own and come back armed with information they could use to help me. When it was clear I was going to be the educator, I ended the relationship and moved onto the next one. With the 4th, I hit the jackpot and am still with her 3 years later. I did not have to teach her one thing about the trans community or the trans experience. She is older and volunteers as a therapist at the LGBTQ+ Center in town. It took almost a year to find the right person, but it was worth it. (A year waiting for appointments to open up and the down time between therapists when I was frustrated and was too tired to move forward.)

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Lastly

Trust your instincts.

If you are able to be CLEAR about your needs… even if it is merely describing your child’s most difficult behaviors or your most intense emotions about your job… that is a fantastic way to start.

Others who have made these choices, do you have other ideas on how you choose therapists?

Consensus

I have belonged to two groups of women… lesbians in the 1980’s and early 90’s… and midwives in the 2000’s… who swore by consensus, believing it was the way to run a group. A definition is important. Governing by Consensus is when everyone in the group has to agree with the topic at hand or the issue is not finished/closed/settled until everyone does agree. This means that in a group of 1000 people, if one person disagrees, then the solution offered does not pass muster.

Until that last person agrees.

If the last person never agrees, the subject is tabled for another time. Usually until the last person leaves the group or keels over.

I am not a fan of consensus. I’m just too skeptical to believe everyone in a given group is altruistic enough to really listen to the issue at hand and leave their own egos out of the equation in order to find a conclusion to a problem. That would be because I have been around enough people in these groups who get off on being contrary and don’t give one whit about the group as a whole or even the pieces parts (the others) in that group. Instead, they have a life goal of annoying people, seeking attention and wreaking havoc wherever they are.

I’m a majority rules kinda gal. The feminist separatists reading/listening to this are shrieking, “That is so patriarchal!” Whatever. Majority rules works whereas consensus does not.

 

For example, I was part of the San Diego Lesbian Press Collective in the late 80’s/early 90’s. A “collective,” pretty much by definition, is governed by consensus. The politics of the lesbian community during that time was extremely separatist… men were persona non grata to the lesbians. Now, I had 2 male children so was immediately suspect, but they let me into the collective because they needed writers and I can write some good controversial shit.

The Press was always needing money. Finding advertisers was a never-ending job for some of the womyn (spelled w-o-m-y-n) in the group. Thankfully, all I had to do was write.

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That was until a potential advertiser came along who happened to be a MAN, then I was required to attend the collective meetings.

This MAN was going to be a major advertiser, affording the Press to go for at least a year without begging others for money. But, his being a man… using money that a man made… was a serious breach of the way the Press worked.

But some wimmin (w-i-m-m-i-n), myself included, felt okay about accepting the dude’s money because it would mean the Press could stay operational for a long time and our (collective) lesbian voices would be spread further and wider. Many others, of course, did not agree.

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So, discussion ensued.

I committed to abstaining from the beginning, but was required to listen to the discussion lest I not understand what I was abstaining to. Therefore, I began the interminable task of listening to the back and forth of why we should take the man’s money or why we should not.

In the beginning, the arguments were typical and have already been mentioned… we could operate for another year without worry and we could have our message spread further and wider. But the “discussions” began to get heated.

“Talking about a man at all is polluting our environment!” So we moved outdoors so the Universe could absorb the negative energy of the masculine discussion.
(You think I am kidding. You would be wrong.)

MEN have so much ANGER wrapped into their money-making! I don’t want that energy anywhere near our paper.”

(Never mind the really loud, and not always polite, discussions occurring at that very moment.)

You also might be thinking this meeting would have been a couple of hours long. One would have hoped, yes. But, this topic was a couple of hours long, carried over, every week, for THREE MONTHS.

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It was worse than that tennis match feeling, watching ideas lobbed over a net only to be returned nearly identically a few moments later. I lost count how many times I said, “I abstain.”

It was clear the issue was becoming desperate when creative ways were developed for how to accept the money even though he was a man. My absolute favorite was that he give the money to his wife and she be the one to gives us the money out of her bank account. Seriously. This was a topic of discussion. FOR WEEKS.

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There never was consensus on what to do. The lesbian separatists refusing to give in to THE MAN and those with more mission-minded thoughts knowing that, in order to keep going, we needed that money. Because there was no consensus, the money was not taken and the San Diego Lesbian Press folded a mere two months after the end of the discussion.

See? It should have been majority rules… they might still be in operation today.

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Endearing vs. Invasive

I have had about enough of this discussion about former Vice-President Biden invading women’s space. I know I know… women need to be heard, believed, etc. etc. I know! I am a rape survivor… I got it.

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But that their SPACE is being invaded?!? Give me a fucking break. The man is amazingly endearing!

Seriously, my space is regularly invaded in the buffet line!

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I have had teachers in my face, friends nudging me over inside a booth, girlfriends smelling my hair, male and female friends touching my boobs (which, by the way, women do a whole lot more of than we talk about), and much of those made me “uncomfortable” (or more).

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Men… let’s talk about men, shall we?

Men catcalling, not giving one holy fuck if women hate it, want to cry, want to run but cannot… fear walking around construction sites because of… and that is just ONE example of men making women uncomfortable THAT WILL NEVER EVER EVER CHANGE. No apologies. No “Gee, I didn’t realize that made you uncomfortable,” NONE of that. The whole fucking goal of men yelling at women is to make us uncomfortable.

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And then that evil-soul person we have in the White House and HIS horrific behavior towards women. Sexual abuse, sexual assault… invading my space my ass. He is purposefully sexually attacking women. Where is THAT demand of apologies? Where is THAT caring about those women he has abused?

When someone “invades our space,” is this going to become new school rules? New office rules? “Do not stand behind me when I am working on my computer or I will turn you in to HR… I am uncomfortable with you there.”

Or “Stay 6 inches from me when we are in the receiving line at Sunday service,” (is this going to be a sign at the door of the church?!?).

I am not one to roll my eyes at women’s feelings, but this is so ridiculous I just cannot keep my fingers quiet anymore.

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Who knew I would agree with the political right and think that Political Correctness has finally gone too far.

Way, way, way too far.

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Surgery Done! Yay!

Surgery turned out to be a joyous experience. The team all laughed with me… I implored them all to have fun during surgery… to be mindful,  but have fun! They were all wonderful.

During pre-op, I asked the surgeon if he listened to music during surgeries and he said he did… any requests? I said questioningly, “Hamilton?” His eyes lit up and he said he had it on his phone, no problem at all. I was so happy to know I would fall asleep to Lin-Manuel Miranda singing to me.

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I am a really hard poke, but the 40-year experienced nurse got me on one stick. YAY! My BP was awesome, I was doing great.

My daughter Aimee hung out with me and was the epitome of great support.

Once in the OR, we all continued laughing and then the surgeon came over, masked as everyone else was, and said, “Now here is the most important question.”

I braced myself.

“Do you want the Soundtrack or the Mixtape?” I laughed loudly and said, “Play the fucking Mixtape!” So I went to sleep listening to Busta Rhymes belting out “My Shot.”

I woke up great and easy. My mom came to say hi, which was nice.

I guess the main tumor on my arm had some roots to it, so they had to dig 1.5 inches further than they expected. Oh, well. The place on my back was smaller and closed with Dermabond (Superglue) and does not hurt one tiny bit. Yay!

Yesterday was my 58th birthday. WOO HOO!

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My voice was somewhat hoarse after surgery, normal apparently. I’d never had that happen before, but whatever. Now, however, I am completely mute. A laugh sounds like a mouse squeak.

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I called the doc and they said that sometimes intubation can scratch the vocal cords. Yeah, it can take ONE to EIGHT WEEKS to be able to talk again. I asked for a referral to a whomever one sees for vocal cord injuries. For those that do not know, my JOB is talking. A LOT. I cannot NOT work for 8 weeks! Let’s all visualize my vocal cords bathed in healing juices. Oh, and happily, my throat does not hurt at all. So, there is that.

I am doing well, 2 days postop. Am glad it is done, looking forward to the Path Report.

Thanks for laughing along with me!

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Surgery Scheduled

Excision Surgery to remove the malignant melanoma and the dysplastic nevus is scheduled for next week, March 28th, 2019… the day before my 58th birthday. I keep thinking I am okay, not nervous or worried, but my behaviors say differently.

I was in pain a few days ago so bought a bottle of amaretto. In a 24-hour period, I drank the entire bottle. When I was done, I thought, “Hmmm, this is not a good way to cope,” so called my therapist and had an emergency session with her that night. She offered other ways of coping… distraction being the main one… playing more in Second Life, writing more and finding a good book to read.

(Please don’t tune out the next section!)

I considered calling the psychiatrist for some anti-anxiety meds, but thought that wasn’t a good strategy for a former addict either. Instead, I bought Full Catastrophe Living by Jon Kabat-Zinn.

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This is the basis for Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, the course I took in San Diego several years ago that helped me with a great deal of pain, depression, anxiety and then later, with getting clean from opiates.

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When I was in all that liver pain, I meditated a lot, but when the pain was pretty much gone, I stopped (like a goofball). Now, here I am again, needing to meditate and I am having to relearn the skills I knew so well not so long ago. I am not worried, but BE-ing in the moment (did you who meditate chuckle like I did?) and going with where I am and doing it. Talk about the Beginner’s Mind!

In anticipation of next week’s surgery and not using pain meds afterwards to help with pain management, I am going to stay “In the Moment” and meditate to work through the pain I will surely have. Although I am not trying to anticipate it. laughing I sound like an advertisement for MBSR.

Next week, here I come!

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