What Are You Looking For In A Therapist?

You’ve seen the title of this piece, so let me start by saying this question has been asked of me by my doctor, and it’s a long story. Overall, my best response was, “Someone who isn’t an asshole. Someone who isn’t going to waste my time, and someone whose office I will not leave more furious than when I went in.” If you’ve never dealt with a therapist before, believe me when I say these are supremely honest, reasonable requests. Then I noted my history and realized how much this traumatizes me, repeatedly.

I began talking with psychiatrists and therapists around age twelve or thirteen, as a way to combat the damage I was experiencing at home, with an abusive, controlling father. The first doctor was fired after roughly two sessions, in which he threatened to hospitalize me at the first appointment because I didn’t care to talk to him. “If you don’t change your behavior, I will hospitalize you.” First time meeting me, barely knew a thing about me, and he was already making undue threats. That’s called, “abuse of power”. There’s not a single mental health professional who should be threatening their patients. That’s illegal and, depending on the personality they are dealing with, quite dangerous. He had already openly admitted of being afraid of meeting up with someone like me in a dark alley, but he made no attempt to connect or get to know me and what I was going through.

To provide helpful background, I was in no danger of harming myself or others, but he saw fit to disrespect me, to call my mother names when he asked her to leave the room for a short period of time to “chat” with me (Asking me about her personality and disrespecting her for seeking out help for her child. Yeah, that didn’t sit well with me. To this day, despite the fact that my mother has been gone almost thirteen years, if someone disrespects her or speaks negatively about her, they might end up choking on their own teeth. I tend to warn people in advance, but I only warn you once.), and when I told her precisely what was said behind closed doors, she called and cancelled the following appointment, letting him know I would not be returning. He had the audacity to call her and ask why I didn’t show up for my appointment, pretending he had not received notice of the cancellation. She had given him plenty of notice as to why I would not be coming back, but once he called, he opened himself up to being schooled for his horrible behavior. This first introduction to a psychiatrist, one who specialized in treating adolescents, left me scarred. I was not scared of this doctor, but I did contemplate going back to his house (he worked out of a home office) and cutting his tires. I had to return to the person who’d referred me and explain why this doctor should not be seeing anyone, leave alone children. I don’t remember his name, but I hope he rots for how he treated me. I didn’t need an abusive doctor; I already had enough abuse at home.

After that, I saw a therapist for a few years, and she was all right. At this point, I was already an established writer and I was careful with my words with her. She still assisted for a while when I moved out of state.

My next doctor wasn’t much better, except that instead of abuse or threats (or a combination of both), her answer to everything was medication. For over a year, she practically force-fed me Prozac until I put my foot down and refused to take it. I was about five foot three at the time and one hundred and twenty pounds. Antidepressants in that particular class can cause severe weight gain and other health issues. I wasn’t eating any differently, nor was I eating more often, but suddenly I was trapped in a body that wasn’t my own. If I hadn’t started out depressed, I was by the time I fired her. I spent two straight years on roughly ten different medications before I finally decided to stop seeing her. She was unreachable when not in the office, she was not helping me in any way because she had misdiagnosed me, and when my therapist at the same location left, so did I. I then spent a few years obsessed with working out in my attempt to shed the medication weight. I was working out three times a day. This doctor didn’t understand that she’d destroyed my sense of self and self-esteem. Her answer for everything was pills.

After firing several more doctors, I would end up back in session with the therapist who had left, but now had her own practice. In three years, I didn’t feel she did much for me, and when she was pregnant with her first child, she decided not to see patients any more. She left me in limbo, and I’m sure this was true for others, as well.

A year or so later, I ended up in the office of another doctor. To say he was a piece of work would be a vast understatement. Don’t assume a physician who went to three Ivy League schools is better equipped at helping you than one who went to medical school elsewhere. He was a nightmare, and my neurologist at the time had referred me to him. This doctor refused to take my mental health seriously, and wanted to put me into some kind of “day program” where I would interact with other people who suffered from varying degrees of mental illness. He thought this was the only way I’d, “get better”. He even yelled at me during an appointment in which he had to fill out a form for my insurance, which took less than ten minutes of his time at the end of a session which cost roughly $500 for an hour. Mind you, this was his charge before insurance reimbursed me. This “relationship” where he refused to help me did not last long. In fact, it lead me to a new therapist who would refer me to a psychiatrist who happened to know the previous doctor.

I was under the care of the new psychiatrist for sixteen years. His treatment was sub-par, outside of when I was in his office. When my records were requested in 2016, he actually claimed I was never under his care! After having submitted my entire chart, which was over six hundred pages, which included personal notes which never should have seen the light of day, I called him and confronted him. For sixteen years, he told me I was suffering from Bipolar I and II, mixed episode. This diagnosis was one hundred percent inaccurate.

In an attempt to help myself, I did see a therapist for six months in 2012. When I lost my insurance, she disappeared. I’m still annoyed by that because I feel like she was a good therapist for me.

When I met my current treating physician, he was astounded by how much medical neglect I had endured between doctors and inept therapists. When he handed me my new diagnosis, it was a game-changer, but it also left me devastated, because there was no way to fix any of it. The damage was done, and all we could do was treat things here and there.

The day I first met him, he disclosed he’d be leaving in a month. Our last discussion, days before he left that particular hospital, he said his biggest regret was not being able to do more to help me. This stayed with me. Upon his departure, my case was handed over to another doctor who, upon meeting me, in less than ten minutes, insinuated I was an addict because I was taking medication she didn’t approve of. This woman tried to damage my medical record as part of her vendetta, and she pursued getting me kicked out of the mental health care clinic, but I lucked out with a therapist who fought on my behalf. Unfortunately, nine months later, she would also leave that particular hospital.

I was now left with no therapist and no doctor. I signed up for waitlists with a handful of places offering therapy and either no doctor or they had someone who came in once a month to prescribe medication. After meeting with two different therapists, I lost my patience and let both of them know I would not be returning. Not long after, I bumped into my doctor in one of the medical buildings where I now go, having since changed insurance companies to one that covers a broader spectrum of things and has a larger service coverage area (the entire state, pretty much, along with parts of Rhode Island and Connecticut). In less than two weeks, I had an appointment and was “back in business”, so to speak.

My doctor actually gives a fuck about me. I am trying to keep this in mind because I’m annoyed as hell with him right now. His first attempt of setting me up with a therapist he works with crashed and burned. I wasted ten months of my life dealing with this woman, and at my very first appointment, she made the crucial mistake of threatening me. Knowing what I know about what needs to be said between clinician and patient, I tried to let it go, but I then spent the entire time waiting for her to be a better therapist, which never happened. I cancelled my last appointment with her because 1, I was going to tear her a new asshole. 2, I did not feel she would be receptive to the feedback, and more than that, did I really want her to get paid as I shredded her for being a useless therapist? No. She didn’t deserve to be paid when I was going to be angry going in and leaving. That’s not right, or fair. When I explained this to my doctor, he agreed I did the right thing by being silent, but explaining to him why it didn’t work out. She was in no way invested in my well-being, and it was obvious, especially as she repeatedly checked the clock from the second I arrived, right up until the final moments of each session.

Collectively, my doctor and I decided to shelve the pursuant of a new therapist after I called twenty different therapists, all to be told that they had full practices, which means they aren’t taking on new patients. A few had a three year waiting list to see them, and at that point, I’d had enough of the bullshit of flaky therapists.

When it came up towards the end of last year, he didn’t really have too many ideas or options for me, but was willing to keep trying. I had actually considered fighting for my out-of-network benefits to return to a previous therapist, providing she agreed.

Today is the day to go over the whole, “What are you looking for in a therapist?” question for what is hopefully the last time, and see where this goes. It gives me anxiety and makes me sick to my stomach. Because ultimately, I don’t know if I’ll ever meet a therapist and feel they are a “good fit” for me. It takes time to build trust and establish a relationship enough to be vulnerable. Anyone who truly knows me, knows I’m the least likely person in any given room to put myself in a position of weakness. I’m pretty glacial most of the time. I’m not a welcoming person; I will get to know you first. I am not overly trusting, either. These are things you have to earn with me, yet I see people give away trust like tissues all the time, and then they wonder why they’re devastated in the end.

It is so rare for me to meet anyone and feel an immediate sense of rightness, but when I do, I am much more forthcoming with them because I know I’m not being judged. Over the past year I have come to realize that, in many instances, people tell me everything about their lives, and this likely stems from being a good listener, a solid confidant, and someone people often rely on in an advisory capacity, but if asked, they would not be able to tell you much about me. This is why people often say, “Check on your strong friends.” The person who is everyone’s rock is not always okay, but by turning to them constantly, never asking about their health or life, you are diminishing them and that isn’t acceptable behavior. In fact, it’s a quick way for me to boot you out of my life. It’s not “the silent treatment”, it’s walking away from toxicity with your self-respect. That’s what I have to do to preserve my sanity at times, and I will never apologize for it.

I’ll see how this Telehealth appointment goes and make my decision from there. I know whatever happens, it will be a collaborative discussion. Having a doctor who doesn’t Lord over you is important. If you’re working on your mental health, keep this in mind through your journey.

Brightest of Blessings,

copyright © 2021 by Lisa Marino & Poison In Lethal Doses, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Yesterday

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Yesterday was one of the most jolting experiences I’ve ever personally witnessed. It might rank up in my top five. My body is still in fight or flight mode, and I don’t feel it ending any time soon. 😦 I have tried to take my anger out of the equation, but that has left me with intellectualized emotions and truthfully, a different level of anger. Make no mistake, I am traumatized by what I witnessed (I will be writing about it. I got about eleven hundred words written before I crashed from lack of sleep and the intensity of everything I was feeling.), appalled by the way the incident was handled, and I am angry. Beyond angry. Angry for the mental health community, which I am a part of. Angrier at the hateful, racist, power-hungry, assholes hiding behind a device, and those who thought, and believe, that aggressive actions were justified. They weren’t. I feel nothing for those who acted inappropriately yesterday. But I do feel they all need to be publicly punished and re-trained.

Yesterday, my cousin, brother, and a dear friend helped keep me calm-ish, sane, and unknowingly let me know they are concerned for my overall well-being, safety, mind, heart, and soul. I kept expressing my gratitude to them. 2020 has shown me a lot about who cares about me, and who will drop everything to help me in a crisis. I’m content with the lower numbers because it helps me prioritize and eliminate. Clearly being able to see people as they are is an important ability to have.

It’ll be a while before I feel I can finish writing about what happened. I did not expect to be so triggered, so angry, and so concerned for others. My response wasn’t for me; it was a response based solely on extreme concern. It was a response that will be a guiding force as I embark on a new path. It is a response I cannot hide because no one was telling the truth. It is a response, and a catalyst, to get louder about speaking the truth.

Witnessing someone experience something heinous, something you know was likely their worst nightmare, puts you in an uncomfortable position. I was attacked for my honesty. People who immediately attack honesty are well aware they are lying and covering up bad actions. Not on my watch, and this will potentially put my safety at risk. I have considered this for over twenty-four hours. I cannot sit back and remain silent when I encourage others, every single day, to stand up for their rights. How can I tell thousands of people each day to use their voice if I sit back in silence and refuse to do the same? I am many things: imperfect is high on the list, but I’m NOT a fucking silent coward, nor am I a hypocrite. No one raised me to be a punk ass bitch. If you don’t like my phraseology, take a walk.

This week my life roles were discussed. They were discussed less than a day before this incident occurred. We all have roles in life, different hats we wear, so to speak, but I’ve always been the strong protector. It’s not just a role, it is who I am. Injustice and abuse are two things that will set me off like a spaceship, and I highly recommend people step back because an honest person speaking about injustice and abuse is a dangerous person.

I honestly come here and talk about mental health and my own personal diagnoses. I don’t do it for myself; I do it so others know they are not alone and they, too, can seek help. Yesterday was the second time I’ve ever wished I was a lawyer and could properly defend someone. I don’t ever want to be put in that position again.

We all have things we believe in strongly. Each of us has a personal, “Don’t go there.” zone, whether we discuss it or not. For some, it is their family. For many, it’s their children, or their pets, or both. For me, it’s many things, but the line was definitely crossed and I can’t unsee a moment of it. I had to take medicine last night to ward off potential nightmares, but in the waking hours, I can’t hide what I think or feel, nor do I want to.

During many times in my writing career I’ve heard people say, “Wow, that took balls.” They have no idea. I’m currently in another “balls to the wall” moment, and I don’t intend to lie about it or pretend it was justified. I have to do what I encourage others to do. I have to use my voice and push for change. Wish me luck.

© 2020 by Lisa Marino and Poison In Lethal Doses, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. 

 

Reaching Out… What A Fucking Joke

**POTENTIAL TRIGGER WARNING**

I’ve reached a point in my mental health journey where I’m DONE. I’m not saying this lightly. I’m also not saying anything to seek attention. I’m just speaking. Period. It’s extremely important to be honest when discussing matters, such as this. 

I’m sick of people, their snide, ignorant  comments, the stigma of the uneducated, and I’m tired of all the excuses and bad behavior. I’m a human-being and I don’t want or need, “shiny, happy people” talking down to me. Who the fuck do some people think they are? 😠 At any given moment, you can be stricken, same as me. No one is immune.

In the past year, I have reached my maximum number of failed medications at around forty. Yes, you read that correctly. Forty drugs from the start of my original diagnosis, which was incorrect, until a month ago, when the final drug failed and made me wish I would just stop trying altogether. It was pointless. Perhaps I am, too.

I felt completely dead inside before starting this medication. I went into it 1000% unsure because I was preparing myself for the 50/50 possibility. This medication was an enormous risk. The failure of it made me sink. I looked around for quick sand, hoping it would swallow me up. I was, and still am, SO angry that this was other people’s “miracle medication” that gave them back some semblance of normalcy, if not restoring their lives entirely, but for me, it was yet another epic fail. If you heard me say this, you’d know I’m saying it flatly, with no inflection whatsoever. Speaking about it does not make me a “victim”; it just makes me extremely honest.

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I’m SO unbelievably sick of people saying, “I’m here for you.”, or, “If I can help, just ask.” 🙄 I’m sorry, did I just roll my eyes out loud? Yeah, probably.

If you’re, “here for me”, then I would actually be seeing you or talking to you semi-regularly. If you want to help, find something within your means and do it. I am not in the correct headspace to give you an itemized list of “things that will help”.

When someone has the flu, you might bring them soup, juice, magazines, etc. Things to help them feel better or things to distract them from how awful they feel. Or maybe that’s just me. Why do people need a guide for everything they can research? For all the advanced technological access at our disposal, people never cease to amaze me with their utter laziness.

I feel ZERO comfort in reaching out, and I’m so sick of the word, “No.” when I do ask for help. I’m constantly being told I don’t know how to ask for help. I do, and asking is one dead-end at a time. I have stopped asking because I don’t have the trust to offer up anymore. I am not going around begging for people to care about me or what I’m going through. Because here’s the truth; “reaching out” is a fucking joke. If a person cares, they will reach out to you. And if they don’t, you have to understand that the majority of people have their heads shoved so far up their own ass, they can’t see a damn thing. Their world and yours do not mesh, and that’s okay. Rid yourself of those who do not come into your life on your frequency. You’re trying to grow and better yourself, and sometimes, that means growing apart.

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In a world completely obsessed with social media, I decided to scale back quite a bit. By doing so, people did reach out to me, but ONLY so they could complain about things they’re going through. 🤦 It was very much a, “Are you okay?” and quickly became, “Because I have a lot to tell you.”, which made my head spin. It also made me angrier than a hornets nest after it has been kicked.

Why? Because the messages came from acquaintances, not my hardcore group of friends. I was put off by it, which might be slightly irrational, but I’m not going to sugarcoat how it made me feel.

If someone is expecting to see, “ALL of my posts” via social media, I’m mostly on Instagram these days. Some of those posts make it to Facebook, and some do not. It’s not the end of the damn world!

Whatever happened to asking a person directly, like a normal human-being? A phone call? A text? WhatsApp? Facebook Messenger? There’s more than one way to get in touch and stay in touch. Of course, you’d first have to prove you care and earn my trust to have access to my phone number for some of those methods of communication, but others are rather simple. 

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In the past year, I had a now former friend medication shame me. I was beyond suicidal at the time. I’m not sure if anyone knew, aside from my doctor. I wasn’t exactly shy about it, though. I was SO hurt by her comments about how I, “should stop taking that poison.” Yes, those were her exact words. If she tries to deny it, I have proof of her stupidity. I have her blocked on social media now because a REAL friend stands by you; they don’t judge.

This comment threw me for a loop. I read the initial message rule out in public, and I was incredibly insulted and hurt by it. Here I was, trusting her, and divulging something extremely painful, and she’s criticizing me. The ugliness of the comment is similar to telling a cancer patient to, “You should stop chemo. It’s poison.” 😠 No one does that though, do they? No, because they want their loved one to LIVE, to “beat cancer”. Apparently, people judge harshly when it’s medication they themselves have NEVER experienced.

Does anyone understand or realize that medication is often the difference between life and death for millions of people? I would NEVER tell someone to “Stop taking that poison.”, unless they were talking about street drugs, in which case I think we can ALL safely agree that it’s wise to get clean.

Instead of compassion, she showed me she’s an extremely ugly person, inside and out, which should have been the final nail in her coffin. Alas, when I schooled her, she didn’t apologize. Instead, she dug herself even deeper with her complete ignorance regarding depression and how it affects people. She went so far as to brag. “I’m ALWAYS HAPPY.”, she declared. Having written a character reference to a judge on her behalf, as she fought for sole custody of her youngest child, I beg to fucking differ, but I guess she’s not going to ever speak the truth because she refuses to see herself clearly. Denial is not just a river in Egypt. 😒

I don’t care what a friend comes to me with, they will NEVER hear me say, “I don’t know anything about it.” Let’s say I didn’t. On occasion it happens, but it takes less than ten minutes to educate yourself. That’s WHY we utilize search engines. Part of growth means constantly educating yourself. At least it does where I come from.

How is ANYONE over the age of twenty-five going through daily life without ANY knowledge about mental health? Please, elaborate. It’s 2019, and there are ZERO excuses for that level of ignorance. It’s inexcusable.

“Stop taking that poison.” Um, you admitted repeatedly that you guzzle down bottles of wine because you’re stressed, sad, not to mention, in compete denial of your true self, but medication is poison? Okay, wise one. 🙄 And by all means, FUCK OFF with your low level thought process. You’re not, “enlightened”; you’re fake and a complete fraud. I’m so glad to be rid of your drama, self-absorbed attitude, and your negativity.

Having me as a friend is something you should respect and appreciate because I don’t play games. You screw with me and my loyalty will become loyalty to myself, NOT to you.

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Another now former friend was self-harming and as a result, extremely horrible things happened. I will not disclose the deeply private pain shared with me because I’m better than that. Yes, I’m angry as hell and would cheerfully share her name, address, and phone number, but again; I AM BETTER THAN THAT.

I proactively encouraged her to seek help. I was constantly consulted for advice regarding doctors, therapists, and medication. I could go back into my phone log app and count EVERY single phone call I took when I should have been sleeping, because apparently MY well-being was never more important than her incessant dialing.

I called various mental health clinics (from across the country) to see if they took her insurance. That, my dear readers, is a TRUE friend. I’ve gotta say, no one has EVER tried to help me like that, and truthfully, I’m smart enough not to allow myself to get to that point of no return.

Everything changed after all my guidance, though.  I probably saved her life, but she thinks her part-time boyfriend is, and I quote, “Superman”. 🙄 You can think like that when you’re in single digits, but if you’re over twenty-five and have divulged an extremely abusive, manipulative, narcissistic relationship, one I witnessed in person, but you stay, then maybe, just maybe, you’re getting what you deserve because you aren’t smart enough to see things clearly, and you wrongly assume that a smart friend saying something about it automatically means that woman is jealous. Unless you live next door to a flagship Ulta, believe me when I say I’d NEVER be jealous of anything, and lately, even Ulta has lost its shine for me.

If you’re suffering, but have time to complain about how, “I gained fifteen pounds in a month.” because of depression medication, then maybe you need to sort out your priorities. I offered a list of medications where weight gain wasn’t a side effect. How did it turn out? I don’t fucking know. When a friend begs for your time and then blows you off, it’s perfectly acceptable to be silent until they apologize. It was her responsibility to make sure she didn’t permanently damage or destroy a long-term friendship. She didn’t make an effort whatsoever, though. That was her choice. Instead, she took the time one random Monday morning to “unfriend me” over a year later. Precisely who is the immature one here? I actually laughed. No one has to follow me on social media, and a real friend doesn’t announce it after years of calling you at all hours and pretending to love you like a sister. I decided this person was SO far gone that I wasn’t going to engage in the attention-seeking behavior they crave because she desperately needs this attention in order to feel “whole”. Except, the feeling is fleeting, and she will keep doing whatever it takes to get more. I should feel bad for her, but once I’m done, I’m DONE. I don’t give people the opportunity to come back, either. Friendship is a gift and a choice. If you throw it away, that’s on you.

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When I started taking medication for depression, I gained over 250 pounds in two years. It wasn’t from food, it was a side effect of drugs forced upon me, because hospitalization was always a threat if you didn’t take the medication prescribed to you. I underwent a lot of blood tests to show where my medication levels were and they NEVER reached “therapeutic levels”, mostly because they weren’t the correct medications for what I truly suffer from. I’m under 5.4″ and I’m a former gymnast. Doctors didn’t care about the weight gain, they just kept pushing drugs at me. Some of these drugs will threaten everything you hold dear before you finally put a stop to it. But now, EVERYTHING is blamed on your weight. Sore throat? You should lose weight. Ear infection? Well, you need to lose weight. Migraines? Lose weight. Unexplainable chronic pain from head to toe? I was told I should get down to “sixty pounds” to be pain free. Yeah, I’d also be dead, but the doctor repeated it three times because I gave him the opportunity to self correct his words. He just kept repeating it, like he was the smartest person in the world. I should have punched him in the throat.

Over the past eleven years, I’ve gotten closer to my goal weight. I KNOW I can achieve the final goals and have lifelong results/benefits, but I’m sick of women being negative over five, ten, fifteen, or twenty-five pounds. I understand it being frustrating, but calling yourself, “fat” is ugly and unhealthy for the mind. When people constantly do it in front of me, I automatically wonder what they say about me behind my back. Unlike many people, I don’t judge my friends based on looks, age, skin color, country of origin, education level, or weight. I’m selective; not petty. I treat my friends the same way I’d want them to treat me, and rarely am I treated as I deserve.

When I hear your self-talk and criticism, I question what you say to and about me.  I have about sixty pounds to go. It seems like a lot more on a smaller frame, but whenever I hear, “You REALLY have SUCH a beautiful face.”, it’s actually a backhanded comment about how I’d be so much prettier if I was a size zero. Zero isn’t a fucking size, not unless you’re a supermodel and play into that bullshit. Even newborns aren’t born a size zero! My NYC hair stylist disagrees with this, and once explained that my face shape (Which is oval.) is the perfect shape for a woman to have because it means every haircut will look good with her facial features. I don’t know that I agree with him, but he’s never tried to bullshit me. He’s also the only person I can trust to take me from my natural hair color to blonde in less than six hours. 

However, my main point is that you aren’t going to physically be 13, 14, 15, or 16 years old for the rest of your life. Jeez, I thought I was “fat” then, and I wasn’t. At all. Our bodies change. Our hormones change. We all age differently. But I’m not okay with hideous negativity and societal pressures. And I’m REALLY not okay with “friends” who have, “first world problems”.

Your health is your wealth. Weight should NOT be what you’re focused on when you REALLY need the medication keeping you alive. It can be a goal when you’re feeling stable, not before.

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I called my doctor late last month, wondering if he’d noticed that I’d cancelled on him. I legitimately do NOT cancel or miss appointments, even when I would much prefer to remove my eyeballs first. When he called me back, he said he trusts me to know when I need to come in and when I don’t. So, he clearly didn’t hear what I was saying, either. I won’t lie; I didn’t call him back because I was annoyed. I could easily slip back into not seeing someone for a year, or three. I told him that at my most recent appointment. Not only did he give me extra time, which he didn’t have to do, but he was in agreement with me about severing ties with a therapist who wasted a year of my life by being useless, and that’s me being civil. I’ve grown and I’ve changed, but she was not a part of any of that growth. I’m disgusted beyond words by her treatment of me.

I cancelled my final appointment with her because I knew I’d walk in, “hot”, and that means I knew my temper would flare into flames. I knew she could not accept the truth, so I decided that I don’t require closure in this particular matter. I decided that my sanity was more important than telling her what a useless sack of skin she is. I decided that insulting her and telling her how much her, “help” did NOT help, wasn’t worth me losing my temper. However, her one star rating on Healthgrades makes me feel better.

Will I go back to therapy? I don’t know. My doctor is going to do a deep search of all hospital employees and see who knows who. He knows if he screws up a third time, I’ll paint his office hot pink while he’s on vacation.

Have I reached out to anyone about what I’m going through? No. After recounting my father’s fifteen year battle with cancer to my best friend, who was unaware of all I’d gone through, I found myself in tears. I’m not generally an emotional person, meaning I don’t cry, unless it’s something serious, and even then, I might not. My reactions to things that bother and upset most people are not the reaction anyone is looking for, so I keep my mouth shut. And yet, I’ve written over three thousand words here, explaining myself when I don’t owe anyone an explanation.

Those of you who reach out with messages and comments, and thank me for writing things like this mean a LOT to me. If my words help you confront your pain, then that’s a positive takeaway.

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Ultimately, mental health is a personal, painful journey. It’s a road often taken solo, for obvious reasons. Support may come easy for many of you, but for me? Well, I’m lucky to be a force to be reckoned with. It was my mother’s wish for me, and my strength is deeply engrained in who I am. Sometimes, I just need to remind myself who the fuck I am and where I come from. Hopefully, someone reading this will understand EVERY word.

Also, we don’t lose friends. We simply learn who our TRUE friends really are.

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Copyright © 2019 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED. Written work by author may not be shared or posted anywhere without express written consent from the author. Excerpts and quotes from the material also require consent. This authors’ work and personal photos are protected under U.S. and International copyright laws. Further protection is under the Digital Millennium Copyright Act. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

Privacy Isn’t A Setting

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A few days ago it dawned on me precisely what bugs me most about some of my family members. To be fair, it’s probably in my top ten things that bug me about them. It’s not just the fact that their combined I.Q. is my shoe size (I’m a nine, in case you were wondering.), but their flagrant use of personal information and photos on social media makes me cringe. Their motto seems to be “put it on social media, and that will make it true”, when in reality, photos are often artifice.

A year or two ago a “friend” pointed out that I have zero photos of myself on Facebook. She had actually gone through every single album of mine (Who DOES THAT?!) before messaging me to demand that I send her a photo of myself “because we’ve been friends for so long and she has a right to know what I look like”. I nearly laughed myself onto the floor at her audacity. My response went a little something like this: “I’m an EXTREMELY private person. I utilize social media for work and to keep in touch with close friends who live far away, but that does not mean I owe anyone the rights to my private life, and that includes personal photos.” In response, she claimed she was “super private too”, which is laughable because she is constantly posting photos of herself, as if she’s trying to prove something. I went on to describe myself as a “little old lady with blue hair and no teeth” and further stated I was “somewhere between age 10-100 and she could choose one she felt best fit the profile.” She hasn’t spoken to me much since, and I’m good with that because the truth is, it’s not a deep, personal friendship, nor has it ever been. She’s mostly an acquaintance, despite “knowing me” for over twenty years. This chick couldn’t tell you a damn thing about me without Facebook to remind her, so I wouldn’t exactly call her a friend. The fact that she feels the need to report that her new dog farts more than her husband is really unnecessary. I cannot imagine saying or sharing something like that on social media. It’s inappropriate, but to each their own? :/

My best friend Marion flew from Germany to meet me after we’d been friends for several years. She had zero clue what I looked like, other than knowing I had long dark hair and light eyes, and that I’m very fair on the complexion side. When I met her at the airport, it was like we’d been friends forever. My hair color has changed so many times during over 20+ year friendship, and she will swear up and down that I’m stunningly gorgeous. I’m concerned she has cataracts. 😛 I simply do not see what my friends see when they look at me. They will all say I’m not what I describe. Other than stating my current hair color, height, and the best description of my eyes I can give, there’s no other way to say “short and pale”. There’s a reason that when I wear heels, they’re at least 3-6 inches high.

But I digress; privacy is crucial to how I live my life. I write the truth, I speak my mind, I say precisely what others think and may not have the courage to say, but I don’t even mention my cat’s names on here. I made that decision for privacy’s sake, and because a friend started calling them Cat and Kitten and I thought it was cute. Suffice it to say, they have very unique, creative names that I’m proud of. When someone does happen to hear their names and the story behind them, they’re impressed. I am always complimented for my creativity in pet names. Fluffy, Mittens, Pumpkin, Princess, Muffin, Buttons, Cookie, etc., that shit does NOT fly with me. I also don’t use human names for pets. It’s a rule.

When I refer to a guy, I often use his middle or last name. That might very well be what I call him in every day life, but again, it’s very much a privacy thing. I’m not posting photos of him and invading his personal life, or bringing direct attention to his place of employment. If you’re in a relationship with a writer, you know you’re going to be written about in some capacity somewhere along the line, but you also need to know ahead of time to be on your best behavior before I break out the Taylor Swift songs. 😉

I’ve written about a lot of people in passing, and I’ve never named names. My brother’s name is not a secret, but that’s an entirely different story and YES, I struggled with that SO MUCH. Ultimately his health is so much more important than my protecting him. Spreading the word about what he’s going through and getting him some much-needed help is far more important. He has yet to have anyone approach him and ask if he’s my brother, so I think he’s good, at least on that level. The fact that he no longer looks healthy might have something to do with that. 😦 As for the rest, not so much. It seems people are much more apt to helping an animal than a human-being. I’ve never understood that. It makes me cringe to see how much humanity humans have lost.

I don’t remember exactly when I started my Instagram account, but I can tell you that it’s original intent was for my work as a makeup artist. It isn’t attached to this platform because they’re separate, for obvious reasons. Thus far, it is full of photos of flowers, food, a few makeup items, and one or two cat photos. Like I said, not my original intent. But again, I struggle HARD with posting photos of my completed work on myself, often deleting forty photos every day I put makeup on because they’re “not good enough” or because I’ve deemed the angle “weird”, which it usually is. I don’t mess with the filters, either. If you don’t look good the first time, then retake the photo and keep going until you get the most accurate portrayal of your work. Thus far, I’ve shared exactly two photos with close friends, and no one else. Posting it online crosses such an immense personal line for me because privacy is mandatory in my life, and once you throw yourself into cyberspace in such a manner, privacy is dead and buried. It becomes a setting, and nothing more. I’m not okay with that.

So to see my family posting hideous photos of their newborn genuinely makes me cringe (I’m not exaggerating. I know cute when I see cute. That baby is NOT cute.). Why do people feel the need to post announcements on Facebook to thousands of their “closest friends and family”? Anyone can snatch up those photos, especially the ones that had personal info on them in the background, and the baby’s wrist band, and track you down. It’s a simple fact. If I could zoom in on them, which I did not because I don’t care to do so, what would a stranger do? If that occurred to me, why did this NOT occur to them with a newborn in their arms?!

When did birth announcements go out of style? Is it too hard to mail a fucking envelope? I would NEVER publicly put a newborn on display like that. Not online, not en masse, and certainly NOT because I feel the need to show off. I’ve never posted a photo of my Goddaughter for that precise reason. Not her baby photos and not a current photo. She is a CHILD and it is my job to PROTECT her. The Internet is a place of exploitation; it does not promote the healthiest “sharing” experience for photos of babies and children. Let’s call that my detective brain, but it’s also common sense, which is something sorely lacking in today’s society. I’d rather be slightly paranoid than the stupidest person on the planet.

My cousins needs to STOP. Give the kid a few months before you show me photos (Upwards of sixty per day. Honestly, he hasn’t gotten better-looking since being born on Friday and hasn’t done anything even remotely interesting, so please save the photos for yourself! Stick them in an album until he’s thirty.), and PLEASE, pour me a double shot of Kentucky’s finest bourbon first because, EWWW! Yes, I have very high standards on newborn cuteness. They’re called “my baby photos”. If you can’t compete with them, you’re not a cute baby. These are the facts. I’m just being honest. I truly lack the ability to lie and tell you your baby is cute. My face will give it away in half a second.

It’s wonderful that the baby is healthy, despite being born three weeks early. My cousin actually looks like he’s going to puke in a few photos holding him. Again, I feel like there should be some semblance of privacy there. Keep SOMETHING to yourselves. He’s not the one posting them though; it’s his wife. Whatever she wants, he acquiesces to. I find it unnerving.

I had to make an executive decision to block everything from here on in because I cannot abide by what they’re doing. On top of making me uncomfortable from a privacy perspective, you’re letting people know precisely where you are at all times. We don’t live in the safest world and it’s important to be smart about what you post and how you go about it. Announcing “Home from the hospital.” was one of the stupidest things I’ve seen him do, but I ignored it. I’m going to ignore a lot from now on because these are not people who enjoy the truth. They’re people who want what they want, when they want it, and genuinely seem to enjoy burying their head in the sand.

The other decision I made was to prioritize my health, and in doing so, I will not be attending the Bris. My cousins don’t know this yet, but after being told it would be the end of this month earlier this year (the due date was the 25th), that was what I’d prepared for. First babies are usually on time or late. Based on his healthy weight and size, I can only assume the due date may have been miscalculated since my cousins’ labor was induced due to high blood pressure. Instead of the Bris being the original date I was given, it is this Friday. In the middle of the day. I am battling migraine after migraine with no break. I am dealing with too much pain within my body. I am NOT okay to be in a space with the nearly 200 invited guests (I shit you NOT! I’m baffled by this. 100% a “Facebook event”. I’ve decided to not respond at all. They won’t even notice I’m not there.) and a newborn. I can’t do that to myself.

I will go on my own, at another time, and bring them gifts. Forty-five minutes, maybe an hour, and I won’t have to deal with an over-crowded apartment and loud noises. I fully intended to be there for him, but his parents and all of his siblings will be there, so he should be fine. I absolutely won’t be missed. If he’s annoyed, angry, or disappointed, so be it. I asked myself if he’d drop everything to be present for anything in my life and the answer is no, he wouldn’t be, so I shouldn’t feel an ounce of guilt. In the year and a half I’ve lived here, we have not seen each other once. The one time I asked him for help, he said no, after having said he’d do anything for me because I’m family. We live thirty minutes away from each other. Clearly I’m not much of a priority. Any time I’ve suggested doing something, he’s told me coming up this way “makes him anxious” or he’s made an excuse, like saying he wanted to do something with me, but he’d only “fall asleep” while doing it. Really?! I’m great company, I’ve never had anyone fall asleep on me, When his wife decided we should all do something together, I wanted to tell her that I’m no one’s third wheel, because that is genuinely how I feel. I can spend an hour with you, but I’m not meeting a couple for dinner unless I am bringing someone with me. Yes, I can go alone and I’m fine in doing so, but do I want to deal with a couple and their nausea? Not so much. Do that with your couple-friends, not with family. My cousin should be allowed “out to play” on his own without a babysitter/chaperone. How much trouble can he get into with me?! #1- We’re related. #2- I’m NOT going to steal her husband! Refer to #1. #3- Couples should have healthy individual relationships with other people as well as relationships with other couples. #4- Please refer to #1. If she can go out on her own with her family, then he should feel confident to do the same. Pretty soon, he’s going to be BEGGING for breaks from being trapped at home with a wife, dog, screaming child, overbearing mother, and overbearing mother-in-law. Call it a hunch. I’ve just become extremely unsympathetic and incredibly unavailable. I refuse to go over there until his mother returns to Florida. If I have to spend five minutes in her presence, she won’t survive it.

A close friend, who is very secure in herself, casually mentioned to me that any woman would be intimidated by me being close with their husband. She’s fine that her husband and I talk. She knows he’s like a brother to me and that I have zero interest in him. A wedding band on a man’s hand is like a big red EUNUCH sign on his forehead. LOL. While I find that utterly baffling (other women being intimidated by me), I took a good look at that particular side of my family and realized that compared to them, I am basically a supermodel. One cousin asked what foundation I was wearing in a recent photo because “your skin looks so flawless.” When I replied that I wasn’t wearing foundation, she asked if I’d used a filter on the photo. No, I hadn’t. Without outright saying it, she let me know I looked a little too good, and again, I thought it was so bizarre, so yes, I could understand the comment my friend made, if we weren’t related! Basically, my cousin is an extension of my brother. I don’t see either of them as men; I see them as little boys. They could have twelve kids a piece and they’d still be little boys to me, and eunuchs. There’s no sexual component to being friends with a sibling or a cousin. I find that utterly ridiculous. However, I’m not going to argue with a petty woman or my cousin who thinks she’s his savior. If he wants a relationship with me, he’s going to have to work for it.

On a much sadder note, late Saturday night my Great-Aunt, the last of sixteen siblings on my Dad’s side, passed away. My five cousins are deeply upset, as they should be. The funeral is today and then Shiva begins for seven days. Four of my cousins are sitting Shiva and I have agreed to do it as well. My Great-Aunt had a rich, colorful life and was an interesting, groundbreaking woman. The funeral is going to be a fight because four of my cousins are arguing with their Uncle about the cemetery choice. I agree with them; she would have preferred a Jewish service and a more religious burial. She sacrificed a lot being married to my Uncle. She left her Orthodox Jewish family and rigid tradition to marry him. However, she still lit Shabbat candles on Friday night and baked lasagna and made meatballs every Sunday. She never truly forgot where she came from.

I spent most of yesterday fielding their issues, trying to help them, taking a call from the lawyer’s office, etc. I’m amazed I didn’t have a stroke. By the time I was ready to make dinner, I was a shaking pile of lunatic. Her funeral is in less than nine hours and I’m still awake, typing this, unable to sleep, dealing with severe pain in my upper back and ribs.

So yes, you get written glimpses into my life, and I do share photos here and there, but the chances of me posting thousands of photos simply to show off or look like an idiot are slim to none, and slim just left town. I have yet to find a single reader that thinks “Man, she doesn’t write enough about herself.” The comments I get that are the most profound are when I am as honest as I’ve been today. Or when I am writing about specific subject matter.

If you’re close to me, you know who I am. If you’re a friend or a family member I deem worthy enough to have a relationship with, then you know I have nothing to prove. People always tell me they love me because I’m always real, all across the board, and they don’t have to question if I’m different outside their presence. I’m just me, in all my craziness. It’s okay to be low-key and real. It’s okay to be private.

Am I judging my family for oversharing like they’re the fucking Kardashians? They’re new parents, and they’re stupid, so yeah, maybe a little, maybe a lot. Do I think what they’re doing is dangerous? Absolutely. There is no doubt in my mind that it is unsafe. However, I’m smart enough to keep my mouth shut. When it comes to babies and parents, their first thought will be that I am jealous. They won’t hear the knowledge and intelligence in what I am saying, they will simply think I want what they have. Do I want to be a moron who doesn’t know when to stop? Fuck no! Do I want to tote around a hideous little child that everyone keeps saying is adorable and handsome? G-d NO. When I have children, I don’t think anyone will have to lie about their looks. I’m good breeding stock. 😉 And yes, I just laughed at my own joke.

P.S. Apparently I’m not the only smart person on this planet. A sweet friend of mine just posted a photo of herself and her infant son at the beach. For his safety and protection, she used a filtering app to shield his face with an emoji, so the only thing you can actually see are his lips, and nothing more. I praised her for being SO smart and protective as a Mom and she agreed with me that it’s the highest priority. So, she got to share the photo, which is a sweet photo of mother and son, but she in NO WAY exploited her infant by putting his face all over the Internet. Brains, class, and beauty. Yes, we’re out there. 🙂

copyright © 2017 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity, LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Irritability Isn’t Cute

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I HURT. There’s no getting around that. After nearly two straight weeks where I haven’t missed a single dose of Topamax, a migraine broke through last night. I was waiting for it. I expected it. It wasn’t nearly as bad as a migraine without a preventive in my system, but after almost two weeks with just an occasional mild headache, it was still an awful lot of pain during a time when the rest of my body was flaring up something fierce. It was only made worse by the fact that I couldn’t sleep.

This morning I decided not to punish the medication. It didn’t fail me, there will always be migraines that break through, so I took my dose, managed a little water, made a quick phone call, and now I am sitting here waiting for that call to be returned. I have documents to proof for printing later today and honestly, I am OUT after that. Just put my whiny, bitchy ass to bed and leave me here until my attitude improves. No one ever said irritability is cute, but when you can hear yourself sound utterly miserable, all you want to do is duct tape your mouth shut. Or maybe that’s just me?

Update on Maggie: This poor dog is STILL being mistreated. Apparently her paperwork checked out and the father backed off, but my next door neighbor (the husband) is expecting to be sued over the dog bite. He never added the dog to his insurance when they agreed to take the dog on temporarily for six months. His wife’s son is across the country doing some sort of mandatory USMC training and left the dog with his mother. I’m not sure if he’s ever MET his mother, but last night, while I was trying to do I don’t even remember what in silence, all I could hear was her screaming “Maggie, NO!” at the top of her lungs. I was already sick, or I would have gone outside and said “Hey bitch! What the fuck is this poor dog doing that is worth yelling at her for? Have you ever heard of a dog trainer? Perhaps they can take you for a few weeks and train you how to behave. All the dog ever does is bark and run away from you. That should tell you everything you need to know.” Alas, I was stopped because someone (not me) thought that was “a bit harsh”. I truly don’t think it could be harsh enough. Yelling and screaming at an animal is tantamount to abuse. Surely there are other family members that could take her and care for her until November/December. If you love an animal, you don’t leave it behind with an insane person. You also don’t name it like it’s a person, but hey, to each their own. People do tend to do that with dogs.

Animals don’t understand or respond to yelling. It is simply traumatic for them. I’ve seen animals run and hide if a person is simply speaking loudly, not even yelling, so some animals are more traumatized than other from being in a shelter, foster situation, from being re-homed, etc. Much like people, animals have triggers too and it is important to pay attention and be able to identify them.

In this, animals are a lot less dramatic and wishy-washy than people are. They either love you or they don’t, but once they do, they are with you ’til the end. Animals understand loyalty far better than people do.

When I come back in my next life, I am coming back as a cat.

copyright © 2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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Lisa’s Unwritten Rules #1

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I have a very long list of ‘Unwritten Rules’. Most of them pertain to manners and common decency, but the rest, in my opinion, center around basic common sense.

If you’re a writer and you’re in need of an editor, PLEASE do not expect me to work for free. I cannot tolerate being approached for developmental editing, which is extremely time-consuming, only to be told “I have no budget”. Okay, I get that. Which is precisely why I let people contract me out via a payment plan. It’s so easy, you’d have to be a moron not to be able to follow it. If you would buy things on a credit card that you have to pay off monthly, then look at editing as a much more important investment in your future. If you have it done right, you never have to spend additional funds to have it re-done after it’s published and you suddenly find it riddled with unimaginable, not to mention embarrassing, errors.

Very few editors with experience are “inexpensive”. If I charged by the hour, no one would be able to afford me, so I charge based on the type of editing needed. If someone wants a flyer done, that’s not expensive. If you need an editor to critique or simply proofread, again, that’s really not expensive. But a book manuscript? If it were “cheap”, I wouldn’t hire me, I’d run for the hills! I go so far as to hold a spot for you in my schedule if you say “I will need you by a specific date.” The payment plans work out for me too because they help pay my bills and like everyone else, you cannot ignore a mortgage, rent, utilities, the cost of food, etc. They’re basic facts of life.

I am flat-out DONE working for peanuts. Been there, done that. I’m NOT going in reverse. I’m not a teenager or college student who needs to pad her resume or gain experience. Do not bring me a 100,000+ word, 300+ page manuscript and expect that to cost a few dollars to edit, or that I’ll listen to the story of how you desperately want to succeed, but cannot pay me. I can only do so many random acts of kindness before I start feeling like a moron.

It’s perfectly okay to say I don’t fit into your budget and look elsewhere for someone who is stupid enough to work for nothing going to take the job, but don’t disrespect me and then expect us to be “friends”. If you think a monkey can do the edit, then by all means, hire the fucking monkey.

I am one of the easiest people to have edit your work. I am highly communicative, I fact check, I make sure your work is going to grow and be solid down the road. I do a LOT and I’m always available to you. I came up with the idea of payment plans because many people have budgets and I understand that. Not every editor is okay with that though. I know many that ask for the entire amount up front (this could be several hundred dollars or several thousand, depending on how they price things. In-house editors make all of us look inexpensive as freelancers.), or, like me, a percentage to take the job and the rest by the time the manuscript is finished. That’s not an unfair request, especially if I’ve never worked with you before. I do a lot of first edits and final edits for people. When I give someone a price I have to factor in that I proofread it several times, provide extensive notes, and all the other things I previously mentioned. I also have to factor in that I often do research for certain clients. It doesn’t take two days. You have to respect that you’re hiring someone for their talent and ability, and that they’re taking the time to help you become a better writer. You get what you pay for, but many of my clients are astounded by what I have to go through simply to be paid like a human being. When it insults them, it reaffirms that my prices aren’t unreasonable.

When looking for an editor, look at the character of the person. I’ve had many people tell me they got a friend to help them, but that the friend “didn’t push them to be better”. As someone who strives daily to be better, I understand the need for a fresh set of eyes and someone who will be honest with you. I’m going to point out plot holes and other issues, that way when you re-write it, you know what your strengths and weaknesses are. If it were my work, no matter how much editing I’d done on my own, I’d STILL require an editor myself because I’d need someone who could be detached and push me to be greater. That’s one part of the artistry of being a good writer. Knowing when to detach and allow someone to further along your talents.

NEVER expect that person to A) Do it for free or B) Not have bills to pay. Courtesy and respect begets courtesy and respect. And if ever you don’t mesh well with an editor, do not be afraid to move on to someone else who might be the perfect fit.

Rant over.

copyright © 2015 by Lisa Marino & Blackbird Serenity LLC. ALL RIGHTS RESERVED.

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