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.

Pain

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?

I’m Depressed (Again)

Due to a glitch in my insurance and the Latuda company’s lack of medication, I went about a week without it. Might have been more. I have been back on it for 4 days now, but have fallen into depression. I wasn’t sure at first, but after sleeping 20 hours a day 3 days in a row, I think that qualifies as depression.

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And the crying.

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I hate the crying.

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The welling up of tears for (seemingly) no reason. The way they fall unabated, no amount of logic stopping them. They just turn on and off at their own whim.

What am I sad about? Nothing. There is no precipitating factor here, merely biochemical.

I want out of it.

NOW.

Snatch with Prompt

This was the Prompt:

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This is what I wrote in 30 minutes (unedited):

When Colors Run

Deep inside my colorless cocoon, I have a vague sense of other lives nearby.

I slither through their reality; where is my own? Surrounding myself with the darkness of my depression.

My mirror’d existence bursts into color, fireworks exploding with energy that drains my body, but never my mind.

Having Bipolar Disorder 1 is, quite literally, opposing colors of my brain. I see auras anyway, but during a manic episode, the colors scream off my body, tsunamis of energy crashing into my brain again and again. Voices screech… or whisper… I, never knowing which will be next… raging about how I look, feel, need to act, need to fly, need to find this or that, things that are elusive even after hours of mentally and physically searching.

Exhaustion never comes.

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When the electricity finally dissipates after months of zapping me, I collapse into that dark world once again, struggling to keep breathing and not smother myself with the thought that this will go on forever.

Reaching outward, always outward, needing several hands to keep me alive, I am fed my medication, waking only to swallow, then sleeping yet another 23 hours.

Writing is my emotional gauge. By how many words I write in a day, I’m able to see where I stand psychologically.

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Not writing for days, weeks, months… I am in that dark place and need help. Too often, because I am alone, I do not recognize the need for many weeks and, by then, am buried by the pain.

However, when I write 20,000 words in a day… several blog posts for me, blog posts and essays for work… long emails to friends and family… run-on sentences with divergent topics… it is they who sense my need for help and their well-rehearsed phone calls are made to see who can get me to the doctor the fastest.

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Walking the tightrope, umbrella in hand, I teeter, side to side, always searching for that inaccessible balance.

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Who Is “45”?

“45” is what I call POTUS, the 45th president of the United States, that horrid man who squats in the White House tweeting (LYING) about random topics to divert our attention from the fucked up bullshit he does that will, PLEASE GODDESS, get him impeached.

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Intersectionality

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I am watching the Women’s March on Washington and while I had learned about Intersectional Feminism previously, seeing how women’s lives overlap with race, religion, genders, abilities, histories (jail, being on welfare, etc.) and more, live right in front of me, is profound.

And then, as I am writing this, I see that intersectionality itself has been a controversial part of the Women’s March! Well, the organizers made it clear, to me at least, that intersectionality is a major part of the event.

It did not come without conflict, even causing white women to stay away from the March after they felt left out of the planning and implementation of the event.

These reactions reflect an ongoing debate about intersectional feminism — the idea that many women are members of other marginalized groups, which affects their experiences — that is bigger than the march. The issue has especially heated up since social media has democratized and made public conversations about issues affecting women.

“Intersectionality simply means that there are lots of different parts to our womanhood,” Brittney Cooper, an assistant professor of women’s and gender studies and Africana studies at Rutgers University, explained. “And those parts — race, gender, sexuality, and religion, and ability — are not incidental or auxiliary. They matter politically.”

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So, reading about intersectionality in general and the March in particular, I am learning the history.

Kimberlé Crenshaw, a law professor at both UCLA and Columbia, is credited with coining the term intersectionality. She did this in her 1989 paper “Demarginalizing the Intersection of Race and Sex: A Black Feminist Critique of Antidiscrimination Doctrine, Feminist Theory, and Antiracist Politics.”

Crenshaw also pointed out that she came up with intersectionality to address a specific legal problem: As she put it, “To capture the applicability of black feminism to anti-discrimination law.” An example she frequently cites in explaining the need for intersectionality is the 1976 case Degraffenreid v. General Motors, in which five black women sued General Motors for both race and gender discrimination.

I know that understanding where intersectionality comes from gives me context from which to pull.

I Am Intersectional, Too

I have written about how I collect descriptive labels. Interestingly, many, many decry labels and refuse to inhibit their identities with them. But, how does one eschew labels yet embrace intersectionality? Is that possible?

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I was raised completely different than who I am now. As a young girl, I learned the ways of the white, heterosexual, cisgender, able-bodied and middle-class world. Yet  I am a super-fat mother & grandmother, a femme Dyke, Cubanx/Latinx (knowing virtually nothing about my culture), mentally ill, disabled, a-theist, sex worker, non-TERF feminist who loves a Muslim man and who learnt Spanish as an adult. I don’t know how I would figure out my intersections without all those labels… and the ones I forgot to list.

Watching the end of the March’s rally, I am incredibly happy to see the wide variety of women represented , many of whom do intersect with my identities.

I’m sure the arguments for and against the Women’s March on Washington are being formulated or written about even now, but I am extremely pleased… more than that… excited, energized, inspired… by the speakers, poets, musicians, singers and leaders who were on that stage today.

I wish I was there.

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Bipolar Mania Redux

Yeah, the Mania has returned.

Once again, I am a live wire that hums like a fluorescent bulb, sleeping 2 hours a day, am a writing banshee and logged into work for many hours at a time.

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See-Saw Up & Down

From mid-September 2016 to early November 2016, I was in a pretty intense Manic State. The last Manic Episode I’d had before that was 1998.

It seemed to take forever to get control over the hallucinations and be able to sleep, and when I did, I slid into Depression mid-December. The fight to find balance between soaring highs and plunging lows has eluded me. Just when I think I am finding stasis, I slip by it and move to the next level of distress.

And here we are, mid-January 2017, and I am, once again, having hallucinations, staying awake for far, far too long.

Will I never find balance?

Hallucinations AGAIN

I’ve had increasing hallucinations for at least 2 weeks now. They aren’t terrifying yet, but they are on their way there.

Today I was visited by a bat!

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Fucking thing was flying around the room then dove right for my head. I ducked and covered myself, but, of course, it wasn’t real, so if someone had been watching, it would have given them a hearty laugh. Other visual non-existent treats have been my clothes on the back of the door lifting off and swaying back and forth a couple of times and nondescript somethings sitting on the dressers or on my bed.

(I feel like a crazy woman sharing these things. How can I talk about what is going on so casually? I think it is just getting to be so normal, I am more shrugging than freaking out about it.)

The auditory hallucinations have returned, my hearing all sorts of crazy noises from windstorms to doorbell chimes. And the incessant whispers, always just out of earshot and too low for me to understand, but they are not happy noises. “Ominous” is the word I would use to describe them.

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artist, Nguyen Hoang Hiep

Oh, the goddamn tactile sensations. Again, feeling like I have bugs crawling on me. Not lots so far, but just enough to make me slap myself periodically.

Not smelling anything (yet) – olfactory hallucinations – but those are probably what’s up next on the Manic menu.

Writing writing writing

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And so I write. Here,  in my work blog, in Facebook. The words tumble out of my fingers even when I am meditating trying to sleep. I cannot keep them still as they search for a keyboard upon which to create.

This is the part of the Mania that keeps me from telling my doctor or taking more Risperdal because the deliciously creative period would be fleeting and, right now, the negativity of hallucinations is balanced by the verbosity of my words.

So shhhhh. Keep my secret quiet for now.

And watch the words spill from my psyche.