Unalome Chronicles: Mattie Larson, Former US National Team Gymnast & Sexual Assault Prevention Activist

Mattie Larson was a consistent star in the world of gymnastics over the course of her athletic career, qualifying and competing for the most prestigious teams around the world at the highest levels. In 2018, along with 156 other women, Mattie courageously testified against Larry Nassar, her former US National Team Gymnastics doctor and serial sexual assaulter. As a result of this trial, which was one of the largest sexual assault investigations in US history, Nassar was sent to prison on account of hundreds of sex crimes. After the trial, Mattie went on to pass and amend bills with the US Congress in Washington, DC, to increase the protections of children from sexual assault. Testifying face-to-face with her abuser in court was one of the most difficult things Mattie has had to face, however, speaking her truth re-instilled her sense of self-worth and confidence that had been lacking for so long.

Facts & Backstory…

Mattie’s Gymnastics Career History:
In 2006, at age 14, Mattie qualified for the Junior International Elite Team, and in 2007 she became a member the US National Team, where she would remain competing through 2011. At the international elite competition, she made a name for herself as she won the gold in the Vault exercise and bronze in the All-Around (all four exercises combined). In 2007, she also competed on the international stage at the Pan American Games, where she won gold on the Floor exercise, with a show-stopping performance, as well as won the gold in the All-Around. After this competition, she was named the United States Olympic Committee Athlete of the Month. In 2008, still on the National Team, Mattie joined the US Olympic training squad, but due to a severe leg injury, she could not join the team. Competing with a double-sprained ankle at the Gymnix World Cup in 2009, Mattie still took home gold medals on both the Floor and Beam exercises. In 2009, Mattie had to sit out the World Championships due to injuries, but came back in 2010 to win the all-around title at the Cover Girl Classic, still competing on the National Team. That same year, she won the gold on Floor, the bronze on the Uneven Bars and the silver in the All-Around at the US National Championships and was selected to be a member of the US Team for the World Championships. In 2012, Mattie joined the UCLA gymnastics team where she competed through 2014 and received her BA degree in Psychology.

Sexual Assault Case & Bills Passed in Washington, DC: 
On January 24th, 2018, Larry Nassar, the former physician for the US National Gymnastics Team, was sentenced to 40–175 years in prison for hundreds of sex crimes that he committed with impunity over the course of decades. 156 brave women, including Mattie Larson, testified against the serial child molester for the sexual assault crimes committed against them. After the trial, Mattie went on to speak publicly about her experience, being interviewed on Good Morning America, Vice News, Megyn Kelly NBC News, CNN with Michaela Pereira, and Sports Illustrated. Mattie also, along with a small group of women who shared the same abuser, passed a new bill in Washington DC, with Senator Dianne Feinstein, called “Protecting Young Victims from Sexual Abuse Act of 2017” and amended the “Ted Stevens Amateur and Olympic Sports Act,” further protecting young athletes from sexual abuse.

Let’s hear from Mattie about speaking her truth…

It took an incredible amount of courage and strength to speak your truth about your sexual assault story and to confront your assaulter face-to-face in court. Describe your journey coming to this place within yourself to be able to accomplish something so courageous, not just for yourself, but for the other victims.
It’s been a very windy journey. Growing up, I was a kid who wasn’t afraid to speak her mind. However, as I started spending more time in the gym than anywhere else, I started to lose my sense of voice. I was often verbally punished by my coaches and was often not believed if I had a serious physical injury. Gymnastics is a sport where the average peak point for athletes is pretty young, especially for females — most female gymnasts retire between the ages of 18 and 21. I first starting competing at the age of 5 and at 10, I was leaving school early to train. In middle school, I was spending more time with my coaches than with my parents, so they inevitably had a huge influence on my character at that time. Unfortunately, this influence was a negative one. It wasn’t until I left for college at 19 that I realized how quiet and closed off I had become, as a result of being silenced by my coaches for so many years. Testifying against my abuser in court and talking about my past to people who make positive changes in the world, has really made me feel like I have my power back. I am no longer that little girl who’s afraid to ask my coaches to even use the restroom. I thought that if I could find the courage within myself to speak up for what is right, it may inspire others to do the same for themselves.

How has speaking your truth changed you internally?
Testifying a year ago was the first time I was proud of myself in a reeeeally long time. Being a professional athlete my whole life, I have always based my self-worth on my outward achievements — I was proud of myself if I learned a new gymnastics skill or if I won a competition. When I stopped competing about five years ago, that sense of self-worth was stripped away. Testifying in front of my abuser was one of the first times since I retired from gymnastics that I was genuinely so proud of myself and it had nothing to do with winning a medal. That was huge for me.

Talk about what speaking your truth has accomplished on a larger scale and about the bill you were instrumental in passing in Washington?
Around January of 2017 I, along with a small group of women who shared the same abuser, met with Senator Dianne Feinstein in Washington, DC. We shared our sexual assault stories with her and about two months later, a group of fifteen Senators introduced a bipartisan bill after hearing our stories. The bill was passed and requires amateur athletics governing bodies to immediately report sex-abuse allegations to local or federal law enforcement, or a child-welfare agency designated by the Justice Department. (It’s insane how that wasn’t already a law, right?!) The bill also amends the Ted Stevens Amateur and Olympic Sports Act, which governs amateur athletics governing bodies, to make it safe and easy for victims to report abuse, and also mandates oversight of member gymnasiums, to ensure that strong sexual-abuse prevention policies are implemented. For example, USA Gymnastics would implement and enforce policies to ensure hired coaches and personnel are trained in sexual abuse prevention. It was a really incredible feeling to not only be listened to and believed, but to work with people in a position of power make concrete changes to prevent what happened to me, happening to other young athletes.

What can a girl who has suffered similar trauma do to feel more empowered and in control of her future?
Everyone’s experience with trauma and sexual assault is different and I can only speak from my own experience. In my case, I felt dirty, disposable, and less-than after my traumas. I started to heal slowly by setting small goals for myself, working alongside a therapist that I trusted. And when I say I started out slowly, I mean it! Things such as simply leaving my apartment, turning to healthier outlets such as exercise or art instead of booze when I felt down, and the biggest one for me…reaching out for help when I needed it. I had to get out of the mindset that I was a burden to my friends and family if I reached out for help. That’s why our loved ones are here for us — to be with us through the good and bad. Sometimes I think, “Shit, if I made it through those traumatic experiences, I can make it through (insert challenge at hand).” I remind myself that however horrific those experiences were, I have had and will continue to have so many more positive experiences in my life. We can always find small ways to empower ourselves every day. Although I felt so much stronger after confronting my abuser in court, it doesn’t have to take something that big to make you feel powerful. Unalome hit the nail on the head…authentic self-expression really IS a superpower. I think it’s important for women to share stories of their tribulations and accomplishments because I know from my own experience, other women’s stories have inspired me to keep pushing forward. I love how Unalome inspires female artisans and entrepreneurs to work with one another to create something beautiful. After all, us gals gotta stick together! 🙂

Connect with Mattie: @MATTLARZ

Photos 1 by @CAMBRIA_FODEN

March 7, 2019

(Original article from UNALOME)

I Want to Save My Marriage

I Need to Stop Being Honest With My Husband

Photo Art by Nick Brown

I want to clarify right away I’m not talking about cheating or doing anything devious against my husband.

I’ve always believed in honesty in marriage… until recently.

When we both met over twenty years ago, we were both going through some positive life changes that made us feel better about ourselves. We hit it off right away and were very happy.

Then certain situations occurred causing both of us to become depressed. We were both prescribed anti-depressants by our doctors. We changed our situation and things improved for us… for a while.

While my husband grew up in a loving home environment, I did not. Though there were many times he experienced sadness and a lack of self-worth. We’ve always understood each other in that way

My history prior to meeting my husband includes physical, verbal, sexual abuse, and suicidal thoughts and attempts for more years than I can admit without crying… or crumbling into a panic attack or screaming. I still have nightmares about my past.

I guess you could say I’ve always been mentally ill. I have been diagnosed with severe depression, anxiety, panic disorder, and Complex Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome. In addition, I have a multitude of physical illnesses.

My husband insists he loves me and does so much for me, but I honestly don’t understand how he can love such a messed up person like me, especially since my mental and physical conditions have worsened.

I’ve been crying every day for about a year now. I’m suddenly overwhelmed with deep sadness and I begin to sob so hard my entire body is shaking. Sometimes he’s at work and when he comes home and asks me how I made it through the day I’ve been honest with him. When he’s here and sees me crying, he feels it’s his responsibility to make me feel better. I’ve insisted that’s not his job. It’s my job and the job of my doctors to help me improve my mental and physical health.

Unfortunately, treatment isn’t going very well. I’ve tried too many psychiatric medications that don’t work. I’ve been psychiatrically hospitalized three times over the past six years for suicidal intention and attended out-patient treatment sessions upon discharge. Yet, I remain unable to cope with life.

I continue to have suicidal thoughts because I feel like I’m a burden to my husband. I’m unable to work or function as he does. I feel inadequate and embarrassed. My disabilities make me feel like I’m less of a person… worthless.

Still, my husband feels responsible for “fixing” me and I feel selfish for being so needy and sad. That’s not a burden he should have and I told him so. He argued that I’m his wife and his responsibility.

While I am in awe and truly appreciative of his love for me, I don’t believe I deserve it. I love him dearly and believe he deserves to be with someone who can keep up with him and who’s not so mentally damaged.

I’m trying to help myself, but we all know mental healthcare is seriously lacking in this country. The number of people who take their own life each year is staggering.

Because I love my husband more than words can describe and don’t want him to worry so much about me, I have decided to no longer tell him about my anxieties and frightening feelings. If I feel tears coming on, I will do my best to feign a sneezing and coughing attack and run to the bathroom.

I don’t believe this is being dishonest. I believe it is being kind and doing the right thing. It’s my way of doing what I can to prevent dragging him down with me. I want him to live a happier life than he is living now, even if it’s without me. It would devastate me to lose him, but I’m so mentally ill, I want what’s best for him.

I know I’m not the only one in this situation and I wonder how others handle it. I welcome all comments and suggestions.

Thank you for reading. If you are in my situation, I wish you comfort and peace.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

My husband and I began rescuing dogs over 20 years ago. They are our furry family and we do everything we can to help fill their lives with love, health, and happiness. We rescue the old, sick, unwanted, damaged, and on death row. Each special soul we save changes us and remains in our hearts long after they’re gone. I also create and sell jewelry and metal bookmarks to help pay for their veterinarian expenses. Please visit: https://samanthabeachcreations.com/ to see my items. Thank you for your consideration.

Let’s stop fighting cancer.

Today, I woke up to a deeply sad message from Alex Trebek, delivered in his trademark calm and classy fashion, where he announces he was diagnosed with stage four pancreatic cancer:

The video of Alex Trebek announcing he was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, posted on Twitter.

I wish him all the best and I hope he is able to heal and recover quickly, so he can continue to fulfill his contract to the show for another three years, as he drily quips in the video.

The language of cancer

As you’ve probably observed if someone close to you is being treated for cancer, the treatment regime has two, often three, aspects. The most obvious aspect is the physical — surgeries, radiation, chemo, drugs; the whole medical machinery rolling into action. The second is the psychological — how the patient is able to face the incredibly difficult mental journey they embark on as they contemplate their own mortality and the illness itself. And finally, there’s the spiritual/religious element that plays an important part for many.

The language often used around the treatment of cancer might be helpful for the tactical aspects of cancer — the medical side of the treatment. But for the two others, it is problematic.

Trebek says “I’m going to fight this,” and “I plan to beat this disease,” and “We will win”. I fully understand the sentiment; he’s about to roll up his sleeves and do everything he can to get healthy again.

The language of cancer is the language of war.

While Trebek’s language is relatively mild, it hints at something that is pretty common in our society: The language of cancer is the language of war. It’s ‘the battle against cancer.” We hear “I’m going to kick Cancer’s ass.” It is “I will fight.”

The top reply to Trebek’s post is a great joke — but also relies on fighting metaphors.

The problem with this type of language is that wars have a loser, and while humans have some somewhat sophisticated anti-cancer weaponry on our side, cancer is a formidable foe.

As a patient, you’re about to disappear into a foxhole with dozens of cancer-weapon-wielding doctors who don’t always agree on how to treat you, a bewildering jungle of information available to you on the internet and in the medical literature, and a dawning realization that as a species, we’re not as proficient at curing cancer as we’d like to admit to ourselves.

All of which is to say… When people who are diagnosed with cancer take on the war metaphors, it is reassuring to those around them. “Oh, good. Alex is a man with access to great health care, and he’s going to fight hard. He has a” — dare I say it — “fighting chance.”

I don’t know Trebek, but I do know that most people I know who are diagnosed with cancer are facing a battle at three fronts: Spiritual, mental, and medical. My problem with the language of war is that it is only potentially helpful on the medical side. To mental health and spirituality, war metaphors are anathema and deeply counter-productive.

Facing mortality

When we are talking about cancer as a ‘fight,’ it is problematic because if it looks like someone might fail to recover from the illness, they started the treatment process by promising to ‘fight’, and they put the responsibility to win on themselves.

It’s a very short step from realizing that you are losing the ‘battle’ against cancer, to blaming yourself for not ‘fighting hard enough’.

They promised to fight. They were going to war. They were going to beat this. If things do not go to plan — and they often do not — it has a tremendous psychological impact on the patient. They are being let down by their doctors with dwindling prognoses and deserted spiritually because it turns out the prayers didn’t work as well as they might have. And now, as they are feeling the weakest they have in their whole lives due to a combination of the illness itself and the treatment thereof, the language of war is doing real mental health damage. It’s a very short step from realizing that you are losing the ‘battle’ against cancer, to blaming yourself for not ‘fighting hard enough’.

Undergoing cancer treatment is hard enough without having to blame yourself for it potentially not working. I would like to invite us all to stop using the language of war when it comes to medicine. It is unfair to expect of people to ‘fight’ or ‘battle’ or ‘beat’ a disease that has claimed a great number of human lives — especially as you’re already weakened from the very illness you’re fighting.

Let’s leave the door to self-forgiveness ajar, and leave the war metaphors safely locked away.

Dolores Claiborne

Ho scoperto che esiste una patologia che si chiama narcisismo perverso. L’ho scoperto dopo mesi di violenze psicologiche: non ricordo neanche come sia accaduto, forse per caso, forse perché stavo cercando spiegazioni a quello che stavo vivendo.
All’inizio era tutto normale. Forse sì, c’erano piccoli segnali anomali, ma niente che non potesse essere giustificato con un: “nessuno è perfetto”. Sembrava una persona buona, persino mite, a tratti remissiva.

Un giorno l’ho visto prendere a calci un cartello stradale. E non mi è piaciuto. Ma si è scusato quasi piangendo, era stata una reazione nervosa.
Poi sono iniziate le critiche a tutto quello che apparteneva al mio mondo. I miei amici, la mia famiglia, la casa in cui vivevo (l’unica che potessi permettermi all’epoca), le mie passioni. Persino i miei vestiti, a volte non andavano bene. Se indossavo le scarpe basse o non mi mettevo in mostra per i suoi amici diventavo “un cesso”.

Una sera litigammo, non so nemmeno perché, e mi si scagliò addosso come una furia. Mi picchiò e mi sputò in faccia, insultandomi. Io ero piegata a terra e non potevo reagire perché non capivo come potesse essersi trasformato così: chi era quella persona dagli occhi vitrei che mi faceva quelle cose? Da lì iniziò il periodo peggiore.

Per un anno ho sopportato di essere picchiata ogni volta che i litigi si inasprivano: una volta, mi ruppi il dito del piede. Un’altra, mi picchiò con una tavoletta di legno. Io dimagrivo, mi disperavo e non potevo reagire: non potevo credere che quella persona fosse lui.
In quel periodo capii che la violenza sulle donne non è cosa da retorica televisiva e che non capita solo nelle situazioni di estremo degrado: anzi, più una persona ha capacità introspettive, più rischia di scivolare nella trappola di un manipolatore.

Il narcisista perverso ti fa credere che sia tu a sbagliare, a costringerlo a comportarsi come un animale perché tu e solo tu hai le colpe di tutto. Se tu non fossi quella che sei, lui non sarebbe disumano. Oppure, e fa ancora più male delle botte, minimizza: “non è successo niente, ti stai inventando tutto, ti ho solo dato uno spintone”.

Ti porta a pensare di essere pazza, ti convince che ti stai inventando le cose, altera la tua realtà: si chiama gaslighting. Ti ritrovi a vivere un mondo che non ti appartiene, non ha senso, eppure pensi di meritartelo, inizi a credere di essere davvero pazza.

Ogni giorno ti svegli con il petto oppresso da una morsa, con l’angoscia di sentire squillare il telefono perché dall’altra parte c’è lui e potresti farlo arrabbiare, con il tuo essere sbagliata, dicendo una frase che non vuole sentire, usando un tono che non gli piace.
E quando si arrabbia riversa su di te le cose peggiori, le parole più affilate, le cattiverie più terribili: salvo poi dirti che tu esageri, che non era nulla, che era solo un momento di nervosismo. E comunque hai sbagliato tu.

Smetti di essere te stessa e vorresti solo dormire per sempre: per evitarlo.
Il narcisista perverso NON GUARISCE: prima di tutto, perché è ancora più difficile per lui riconoscere di avere dei problemi, essendo convinto di essere sempre nel giusto e INCAPACE DI AUTOCRITICA.
Se pensate di essere in una relazione con un narcisista perverso, non sperate di cambiarlo, non sperate che le cose migliorino. Scappate e chiudete TUTTI i contatti. NO CONTACT è l’unico modo per uscirne e ricominciare a vivere.
Io ce l’ho fatta. E sono qui per aiutarvi.

I’ve Made a Plan

I take not being serious very seriously

Yesterday I opened up some more about my mental health issues, especially how I continue to fall in the same cycle over and over again. Instead of writing all that again, you can read that post here.

I am writing this post as a journal for myself on how to break through this cycle, or at least taking the proper steps to get better. I have a doctor who has been working through Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) with me in the past, and it can work for me, but I have to do more than just read about it and acknowledge what I need to do. I need to make a legitimate plan, so I am going to share that in this post, and will write a little summary after.

THE PLAN TO BREAK THE CYCLE:

STEP 1 — WHAT IS MY ISSUE TO BE ADDRESSED?

Ok, so I am openly admitting that I struggle with depression, anxiety, social anxiety, ADHD, etc. I make irrational decisions sometimes without thought, and it has hit many aspects of my life over the year.

My issue that I keep finding myself in over the last few years is that I have a mental breakdown, followed by taking a break from work and take time to work on myself. In the middle of this I will find something to obsess about, and that begins to overtake me working on myself. After this I start to freak out about money and I will just take any job I can find, and it is never the job I should be taking in my situation, at least not now. Then after a period of time my mental health goes to shit again, and I repeat this cycle over and over again.

STEP 2 — DIG INTO WHY I DO THIS

I can take a step back and look at all my issues, and I think I can break things down as much as I can.

  1. I suffer from low self esteem. I always have. It’s actually pretty bad, and Ive never been open about it. Because of this, I tend to always take the easy way out of things, or cut corners then give up because whatever it is that I am doing doesn’t turn out how I think it should be. I never think I am good enough, even though I know that is bullshit. The only reason I am not good enough at certain things goes back to me cutting corners, or just being lazy and scared.
  2. I tend to freak out about things easily, especially money. My wife has told me time and time again that it is ok for me to take time off of work to both make sure I am healthy, to build up my skills for what I really want to do, and to make sure I find the right opportunity for myself. She is very supportive, but I still freak out even though I know we can tighten up our budget and make it work. So I always give up whatever it is that I am doing and find a job that is ultimately not right for me, and I tend to just devote all my time and energy to being the best at that, which is not a bad thing, but I know I cant do that, especially with something I know deep down that I don’t want to do. Lately these jobs have been working with the public, and it sets my social anxiety off, and I can only deal with it for so long before it really affects all my other issues too, then affects my job performance, then my behavior outside of work.
  3. I make goals for myself, but I tend to only focus on what I want the end result to be, ignoring the fact that anything worth while wont be easy, and I have to take certain steps to make things happen. This goes with my web development. I know it takes a lot of time to learn and to build something big, and I cant cut corners. This also goes with my fitness. I am trying to reach a certain goal physically for myself, but I tend to ignore some of the important steps and then get discouraged by the fact that I have yet to meet my goal after all this time.

STEP 3 — WHAT CAN I DO TO CLIMB OUT OF THE CYCLE OF THESE ISSUES

Ok, so I have acknowledged what some of my current issues are. Those aren’t all of my issues, but these are ones I need to focus on at the moment, and they do tend to relate back to all my listed behavioral issues anyway. Each number will relate back to each number in step 2, just to make this easier.

  1. My low self esteem is a feeling that stems back to many moments through life, like being picked on for how I looked physically, or my behavior, or growing up religious where were taught to believe that were never good enough anyway. I always tried to make up for my low self esteem by being a push over to please people. I am better than how I view myself, and capable of more than what I have allowed for myself. I can’t worry about making others happy, and I need to be concerned with being a healthier and happier person. I acknowledge that I give up too easily, so I need to make a daily schedule for my self improvement in all the areas of my life, and I need to stick with it.
  2. I can’t always be worried about finances, which I know is easier said than done. Abby and I have gotten through tight financial times before and we can do it again. When it comes time for me to look for work again, I need to push myself to find the RIGHT opportunity for me, even if it takes longer than expected. This might mean meeting with a recruiter or even the county jobs program on how I can pursue something worth my while that will be a healthy situation. I also want to note that the jobs I have had are not ones I am bashing, I am just stating that these were not right for me in my state of mind.
  3. I touched on goals already, but I am making a daily schedule for myself, and I have to make sure I don’t fall in the obsessive traps that I do, and try to devote the right amount of time to each thing, and to just try to have free time to enjoy life. I can’t let my coding overtake the time I devote to self improvement and healing, and I cant let little life obstacles get in the way of my exercise. Exercises makes me feel better physically and mentally, and I need the challenge. I will set monthly goals to try to hit in coding, personal development, and in fitness. I can break this down into chunks, and post the schedule up at home, where I know my wife can help keep me accountable on these things.

STEP 4 — WHAT CAN I DO TO PREVENT THIS CYCLE FROM HAPPENING AGAIN?

First of all, I can acknowledge that there is no way to be fully prepared for anything in life, and I have to be ok with that. I can only be in control over so much, and I acknowledge the things that I can control will take some hard work to make better, but it will be worth it.

I need to slow down, and take smaller steps in each thing I am doing, and not get discouraged about not being at the finish line immediately. If I get discouraged, I can pause and look back at what I have accomplished up until that point. If I am in a situation where I could easily panic or get upset and make an irrational decision, I have to remember that feelings are ok, but it is also ok for me to NOT rush into a decision that could really affect things in a bad way. If people are not ok with that, I must simply move on from the situation if I feel that I will only make more irrational decisions in the particular situation.

WRAPPING THIS ALL UP…..

I have to remember that getting better will be hard work, and I cannot get discouraged about it. I also know I am better and I am capable of more than I give myself credit for. I also know that I can no longer be all talk and no play, and I have to make a solid effort to become a healthier person. It will be hard work, but it will be worth it. I also have to remember that I am not weak because of my issues. I just need to set some boundaries for myself and others, and start out small, and as I work my way out, so will those boundaries, and I will be capable of even more….but that will come with time, and the best thing I can do know is to admit that it will be ok.

On Lee Smith’s ‘Dimestore: A Writer’s Life’

Dimestore: A Writer’s Life explores the concept of what happens to memory and identity when the place of one’s youth becomes displaced by corporate big-box stores and the influx of university students in a small town that becomes a college town. The fast-paced and jarring evolution of Grundy, Virginia, serves as the catalyst for Smith’s writing career, as well. Although Grundy is known to most for its coal mining and sprawling mountains, it is Smith’s father’s dimestore that she equates the most with her hometown and her ‘truest’ writing material:

“This is an enviable life, to live in the terrain of one’s heart. Most writers don’t — can’t — do this. Most of us are always searching, through our work and in our lives: for meaning, for love, for home.

Writing is about these things. And as writers, we cannot choose our truest material. But sometimes we are lucky enough to find it.”

(p. 74).

These fifteen interconnected essays build a memoir whose beauty mimics the natural grit of the Appalachian South and prose that is poignant, engaging, and — at times — heartbreaking. The narrative is nostalgic without dripping in sentimentality, and remarks on loss of childhood spent assisting her father at the Ben Franklin dimestore that is washed away — figuratively and literally — as Grundy is relocated out of the flood zone. This is also a book about family. Smith’s mother suffers from depression, her father bipolar disorder, and her own musically gifted son has a mental illness with symptoms that show up in his twenties, where the only way to stabilize him is with medications that dull the music and his spirit.

Books, reading, writing, and teaching, all play a pivotal role in her essays as she shares the simultaneous surge of energy and anxieties she has about herself as a writer:

“And actually, I’m feeling a little intoxicated, the way I often feel here, the way I always feel when I’m starting a new novel, which I am — or will, as soon as I get up my nerve. It’s that old disorientation, that scary lightness of being, that moment before you spring off the diving board straight out into the shining air, head first. You could kill yourself, and you know it, and you’ve got to get to the point where you don’t care.

I’m not quite there yet.”

(p. 192).

However, it appears that she is there, but it’s not a novel where she takes the plunge; it’s Dimestore. There is a natural and lyrical cadence to Smith’s writing, and she doesn’t hold back in sharing the intimate details that inspired her to become the writer she always wanted to be.

DToC

Most readers of my blog will not have heard of this term. I suspect most of those working inside the NHS don’t know of its existence either… DToC — Delayed Transfer of Care.

This is how groups of mostly older people are categorised once they are deemed medically fit — (another NHS neologism which too readily induces objectification), before they go home.

I know the people who invented (discovered/created?) this term probably didn’t intend for it to be used in a negative way — a little like Alfred Nobel and TNT; you think-up something novel, a new way to consider the workings of a system — even a person-centred interpretation of what it is to be prevented from getting home from hospital and suddenly it becomes a weapon, where the person is forgotten and the process (usually called pathway) takes-over.

Delayed Transfers of Care (I really can’t cope with saying ‘DToCs’) happen, in hospital, when a doctor deems a person fit for discharge. That is, in the eyes of the hospital, or the clinical team, there is nothing more that can be done to improve an individual’s health or wellbeing — indeed, the longer they remain in hospital the greater the likelihood of harm from all the risks of being somewhere you shouldn’t — medicalization, over-diagnosis, over-investigation, falls, hospital acquired infection and so on.

From the point the doctor says ‘MFFD’ (Medically Fit for Discharge — another term I don’t really like), the clock starts, with discharge teams, collaborations of health and social care, management and pathway staff rushing around in flurries of waiting times, lists and numbers to ensure that the usually older person is moved out of their hospital bed as quickly as possible.

Sometimes the next step is a discharge lounge — a sort of transient Neverland between hospital and home, or rehabilitation, intermediate care or step-down bed — alternatives which are a little longer lasting but just as discombobulating to older people, particularly those who have delirium, dementia or cognitive impairment:

‘Can you tell me where you are?’

‘Hospital’

‘No, actually we are in an off-site Discharge to Assess (D2A!) care facility somewhere in the North of England.’

‘Oh’

The reason some people have begun discussing Delayed Transfers of Care (which on reflection is a bit of a mouthful), is because of the Tory government’s crippling squeeze on social care — councils across the country having millions of pounds taken from their budgets which is an indirect cutback on healthcare; I know this sounds cynical — it is hard not to be a cynic when people are dying in hospital instead of living at home.

Because of this financial emasculation (too extreme a word?) of health and social care, older people are stuck in a limbo between hospital and home, with the delays becoming DToCs.

‘You are experiencing a DToC because there is no room in the intermediate/ rehab/ interim care/ step-down facility.’

You see the problem?

The person slips from experiencing a DToC to being a DToC.

You can spend lots of time and effort re-educating staff on the meaning of a word — for example, DNACPR — Do Not Attempt Cardio-Pulmonary Resuscitation, which does not mean ‘don’t treat/care’ — just don’t defibrillate or chest compress, or you can change the word and then work on the grammar, terminology and meaning later.

‘I’ve come to visit my dad, you know — bed six’

‘When is the next appendix?’

‘How many DToCs today?’

I don’t really have an answer to this, beyond a new government who doesn’t interpret balancing the books as screwing the sick, old and disadvantaged; in the meantime, perhaps, we can collaborate on finding a workaround to DToCs and a better way to keep the patients and staff people.


Originally published at almondemotion.com on December 13, 2017.

How to Find Cryotherapy Machines for Sale in NY

The quality of cryotherapy machines is one of the most vital assets in a cryotherapy wellness center. You are only as good as your equipment. For a therapist to become expert, and take care of his/her patient by perfectly well; cryotherapy machines play a decisive role. With the availability of so many tools and equipment types available to treat clients, it however becomes a lot of effort for a therapist to choose the machines that cater to the evolving requirements of wellness center. We enlist some of most advanced and popular machines widely used today for their simplicity of use and effectiveness in treatment.

Kriosan is one of the most effective machines used for cryotherapy. It is easy to use and simple to handle. This machine is equipped with a technologically advanced control system and then it has a simple, effective and easy to read and easy to understand liquid-crystal display screen. The screen with its vastness and brightness make for an easy to read and simple to feed in content.

The CRYO Penguin is a redefined work of art, which is aesthetically designed. It is extremely sleek, smart and simple. Features as unique and important as embedded programming, sensors, ergonomically friendly design, and optimized operational availability are simply some of the most important deciders that make this machine awesome.

Kriosan Plus has everything Kriosan has and then it is equipped with a host of unique features. The front panel and LED accent lights make forth reading the content easy and simple.

Always make sure to opt for a product from a trusted brand, which has developed a reputation on its own in the market. Opting for product from a little known brand, which is yet to become an established brand or prove its authenticity in the market isn’t a good idea.

  • Business Modeling

Please make sure the machines you buy come with expert customer care so that if you have any issues, they can resolve it.

Finding Myself by Losing it All

“Shame is a soul eating emotion”~ Carl Gustav Jung

Shame: It is such a small word, but such a loaded one.

It somehow does not describe the all-encompassing feeling of existential dread to be seen, to feel that somehow your very existence is enough to cause others to look away, to feel you do not deserve to take up space or even breathe.

Shame is all-encompassing when it envelops you.

For someone who has been a perfectionist in everything, to be seen as “failing” by others in a significant way, where I felt entirely at fault felt like it was not survivable.

I nearly did not survive.

What led up to going bankrupt?

After spending nearly seven years in a government job, where for the last three years I worked ‘acting up’ in a supervisory position I was completely burnt out.

Suffice to say, I had a boss who “gaslighted” me.

She also used me to further her career by getting me to do most of her work as well as everyone else’s work in the office who was not performing.

The overall “stats” for our office had to be perfect and if that meant I was there before dawn and left late at night, then so be it.

However, no matter how many hours I did, how great my work, or even that our office “stats” were far superior to any other office in the region, I was belittled, harassed and demeaned. Never in front of anyone else. This behavior always occurred behind closed doors but it wore me down emotionally and ended up nearly destroying me.

I had raised some of the issues with an independent body of people tasked with investigating bullying within our particular organization (set up after an Employee Opinion Survey revealed devastating stats on workplace bullying).

An anti-bullying panel was set up (within the same organization and not independently) which should have been a red flag for me. My boss had cultivated friendships and relationships with people all the way up to government level, and I felt that whoever I spoke to, I would not be believed.

I had no direct evidence of what was occurring.

It seems naive and unbelievable now, but she had convinced me to mark my time sheets with the typical 9–5 pm workday and all the extra hours I did every week she would honor by giving me the occasional day off on full pay in lieu.

However, as I might only take one day a month “off” in lieu, this never amounted to the seven hours a day I was working “overtime” without pay.

I was too ashamed at the time to tell anyone.

I kept thinking if I worked harder things would work out.

However, the 14+ hour work days often six days a week and more importantly the emotional toll from constant criticism wore me completely down.

I had zero job satisfaction.

I worked at a frenzy all day, and could not even eat lunch away from my desk as we were so understaffed and busy.

When everyone else was home, I was still there, finishing work that had been “tasked” to me to do by my boss that others were meant to have finished, so that her “stats” could look good. Granted, she nearly always was there with me in the early hours and late nights, but she was not married and had no children living at home.

I repeatedly tried to talk to her about what was happening, to no avail. She would deny conversations and reality and in the end, I started to believe I must be the one totally at fault. I became completely confused, lost all confidence at work and doubted my abilities but hid it all behind a facade of pleasantness.

I also went through a period where I praised and complimented her, which now looking back, I see was irrational but I was trying to stop the abuse, and so was doing everything I could to protect myself.

The supervisor position I was backfilling was going to be advertised as a ‘permanent’ job and my boss said she would support me if I wished to apply.

I told her I would be willing to go for the interview if I came in at 9 am and left at 5 pm and only did overtime a couple of times a week. That is what all other supervisors around the state did, as I had talked to them, and knew this.

She said that was not her expectation for our office, so when she offered me the job, I turned it down.

That is when the disparaging comments, the cold-shouldering, and the criticism ramped up significantly.

It was enough to break me.

Confidential interviews with anti-bullying committee

Over the next few months, I started the supposedly “confidential” interview process with the anti-bullying people. They flew up to visit our office as we had been one of three offices “picked” to interview staff to determine satisfaction with management and bullying.

Within two weeks of my interview, I was told that my boss had decided to “review” all my caseload. I knew this was in retaliation and from comments made to me by her I realized nothing had been kept confidential.

I walked out of the office and never went back. I took all my sick leave, long service leave and holidays, and when they were used up, I resigned.

Experiencing a mental and physical breakdown

I could not get out of bed. I felt a complete failure.

I was paralyzed with fear over the future and what I was going to do for work.

I worried about how I was going to get a reference from the person who was the reason I had left in the first place.

My boss had covered her tracks well.

  • Nothing was in writing.
  • My time sheets never reflected what she had demanded.
  • Nobody was ever in her room when she criticized, berated and demeaned me.
  • Nobody knew the pressure I had sustained for such a long time.
  • She had taken “credit” for most of my work, and so people thought “she” was the one who had completed reports instead of myself.

I ended up with no trust in others and most importantly I completely lost faith in myself and my judgment.

The breakdown manifested as physically shaking, my body feeling like concrete, with tiredness so severe it was like my brain was in a fog and I could hardly think or string two words together. I lay or slept for most of the time. I constantly cried.

Fear paralyzed me.

Making the decision to go bankrupt

I knew that if I could not get up, get out, get a job and start earning, we would not be able to pay the mortgage. My husband’s income could not pay for everything. We got behind in our mortgage.

We had a second house we had tenants in, but their rent did not entirely cover the mortgage. It was in a semi-rural area where land had “decreased” in value, so we owed more money on the house than what it was currently worth. I could not pay the extra.

We had one credit card in my name that we had used a year previously to complete some home renovations. I had been paying it off. I could not pay installments.

I did not work for ten months. I hit rock bottom.

We negotiated with the bank but there was little they could do when I was not working.

We sold one house and gave the other house back to the bank after having tried unsuccessfully to sell. The bank sold the second house within a few months and most of the money covered the arrears leaving a small deficit.

The constant day in and day out pressure of dealing with the bank, and falling further behind in payments was not helping my mental health or recovery. I cannot emphasize enough over this period of time how incapacitated physically and mentally I became. For many months I was a shaking, quivering and terrified mess of an individual, that moved in a fog of fear, constantly crying and unable to string together a conversation or make decisions.

Making the decision to go bankrupt was one of the hardest decisions I have ever made, but it was a life and death decision. My very life was at stake.

No matter how “good” I looked on the outside, inside I felt like I was dying and could barely breathe.

The shame was always there, it enveloped me, wrapped around my heart and crushed it like a snake.

No one in our families knew what was going on as I did not want them to know.

I was suicidal. I put a rope in the ute and drove out to hang myself. It was only because I stopped and rang a 24-hour suicide hotline and a lady talked me out of it, that I drove home.

I felt completely to blame for our financial situation. I felt my husband deserved better than me. I felt unable to “fix myself” to be able to get back to work.

Taking little steps towards recovery

  • I went to the doctor and went on medication as I realized I was not getting better and was not going to survive unless I started to do things differently.
  • I focused on improving my diet.
  • I started walking daily.
  • I started regular meditation. Practicing meditation slowly got me trusting in my intuition and self again.
  • I started praying again. For people who follow my writing, you will realize this was a big deal as I had been shunned after leaving the religion of my childhood and I had lost faith in God. I prayed and prayed. But God felt silent.
  • I started to see a psychiatrist (I had seen one 20 years previously when I had left Jehovah’s Witnesses). She was into yoga and meditation, and she referred some books to me that she thought I might be interested in reading. I read a book by Michael Singer entitled “The Untethered Soul,” and it was a turning point.
  • I attended a self-compassion workshop for women held in my local area by a counselor who specialized in body somatic therapy.

During the self-compassion workshop, I had a breakthrough in understanding what I needed to do to protect my heart and build up boundaries.

Boundaries: Emotionally Exhausted
Becoming a Gatekeeper For My Heartmedium.com

I realized I had given and given and given in the mistaken belief that eventually by giving I would be rewarded, and people would STOP hurting me and stop being unreasonable.

It was a step towards trusting my intuition and my connection to something greater than myself.

I started to see the counselor whose self-compassion workshop I had attended and learned tools in body somatic therapy to treat the symptoms of PTSD that had been reactivated from the bullying.

Housing, walking, nature, and connection

We moved 20 minutes further out of town to a seaside village where the rents were cheaper and rented a little cottage for $120 a week.

We are less than 50 meters from the ocean, and we can hear the sea where we live. We have myriads of trees and birds around the house. Being surrounded by nature, and immersed in it, I started to “notice” all the little things around me that previously I had taken for granted.

In the noticing of these “little things,” I started to find great peace and happiness.

Being within nature was healing.

Time spent in nature and wild places connected me to “something” more significant than myself.

Resting in Wild Places
The Liberating Paradox of Melding Into Naturemedium.com

I knew that going back to fulltime work was not something I was well enough or wanted to do.

I gained part-time employment with a man with paraplegia who needed someone to help him run his business. I work 3 to 5 hours a day five days a week for him. By working part-time I can spend more precious time with my husband.

My income last year was one-tenth what I earned when I worked my government job for seven years. Despite it being well below the poverty line, we have saved money by renting a much smaller house, and by being good at budgeting.

I am by choice isolated within the community and from other people. This is my next goal to work on. It feels quite scary and insurmountable at times. Because of everything that has happened I get stressed and anxious around people.

I have had to learn acceptance, self-compassion, and forgiveness.

I discovered a love of painting during my breakdown. Art became a focus in my recovery that has brought me immense joy.

I started to write again.

Most importantly, I regained faith and connection not just within myself, but with this earth, with nature, and with something “higher” than me (a God of my own understanding).

I FEEL it in me, and it gives me a feeling of safety and reassurance that I have lacked for a long time. It feeds an inner hunger I had inside of me.

Why has bankruptcy been such a pivotal moment in my life?

My husband has seen me at my worst, stuck by me, never blamed me, and loved me DESPITE knowing all my weaknesses.

There is strength and a feeling of acceptance, safety, and wholeness when someone understands and sees the worst of you, and still loves you.

I love him more now than I ever did before.

I thought the worst that could happen to us would be losing the home we lived in, our money and my livelihood. We lost our house, we lost all the money we had saved, and I lost my job.

But we have survived it all.

I discovered that the most important thing in life is LOVE and CONNECTION.

Love and connection to self, to others, to this world and to something greater (call it God or whatever).

It is the connections we have, maintain and keep in life that makes life worth living, gives meaning and purpose and it is where we derive and maintain our inner strength.

I am still fragile about associating with people, but I can genuinely say that losing my job, and going bankrupt was a pivot point that although deeply painful has led to greater self-awareness and happiness.

I am blessed.

The Only Prayer I Will Ever Say
Is Thank Youmedium.com

Thank you for reading, if you have got this far! Thank you to LaMar Going for his March prompt on writing about something that has profoundly changed your life.

Where is God When There is Only Silence?
Asking And Not Receiving: Strugglingmedium.com

Why Do We Skip Over Praise And Focus On The Negative?

My husband was going through some papers the other day, trying to put our taxes together.

He texted me from his office. Mixed in with some old paperwork, he found one of my first annual reviews from Wall Street.

He told me that in my review, my first boss (we’ll call him Bill) thought the world of me. Apparently I spearheaded a big project that did incredibly well. Bill gave me credit for that project, and agreed that it was great.

I remember none of that.

Granted, the review is over 15 years old. But do you know what I remember about Bill? Working with him almost four years later. When he had dangled a promotion in front of me for months without ever giving it to me. About how he didn’t flinch when I told him I found a job elsewhere. After working directly for and traveling with him for 12+ hours a day for years. And then Bill’s later firing from our giant investment bank a short period later for a scandalous reason. (That had nothing to do with me).

Not only that, but as soon as my husband mentioned Bill, I couldn’t bask in a positive moment from the past. The mention of Bill brought back all the negative memories of him, and few of the good ones.

Why do the negative thoughts feel so much bigger?

Why does the negative seem so large and loud? And the beautiful happy moments seem like tiny little anecdotes. That job ended with more drama that I wanted, but I learned a lot from Bill. He was a brilliant man and taught me many skills that I still use to this day. He was supportive of me for a long time. Why do I only remember the last 6 months of bad after 3 1/2 years of good or great?

According to Stanford Professor Clifford Nass in the New York Times, we need “more thinking” to process our negative emotions and experiences than our positive ones. Basically, we chew over the unpleasant events for much longer than the good ones. So they feel bigger in our heads.

I’ve thought about, ruminated over, and told the story of the end of my job with Bill far more times than the rest of the 4 years. And so, that’s what I remember.

But it’s not telling the full picture of what went on in the past. And more importantly, I’d like to remember all the nice wins that I had today at some point in the future.

Is there a way to change the size?

In the article Bad Is Stronger Than Good by Roy F. Baumeister and Ellen Bratslavsky, they suggest proactively taking the time to think about the good things. And even more, they believe that because bad things are stronger than the good things:

the ratio should be at least five goods for every bad. Likewise, individuals can make an effort to recognize and appreciate the goods that they have — celebrating each small success, being thankful for health, and having gratitude for supportive others.

I’m not sure its worth painting a rosy picture of a job that ended over 10 years ago at this point. But it’s something to think about going forward. There are many uncertain elements in my life right now, and I’m sure there are in yours too. So I spend a lot of time thinking through, chewing on, and ruminating on all the negative parts. The stuff that could go wrong. The things that already happened that I could have done better. All the while giving my positive experiences a soft pat on the back and sending them on their way.

Can I flip that?

I’m not sure that I’ll go as far as a gratitude journal (although it’s great to know that there is a science behind those things). But writing down a few good things each day will help solidify them in my mind. We’re all in complicated phases of life, for different reasons. Mine includes work and kids and family and ownership and friendships and obligations. It’s easy to run 1,000 miles an hour and only stop to think about what could go wrong, which ball I will drop next. But I want to more intentional about my thoughts. As a way to change the size, change the focus.

Today, I’ll remember the good things too. As I write this, I realize that an old startup client just got funded. They called me up out of the blue on Thursday and paid me a bonus for a job well done that I completed months ago. It happened two days ago and I had already put it out of my mind. I enjoyed the news while I was on the phone, overflowing with gratitude. And then minutes after I hung up, it became tiny, tucked into a drawer, while the unknown of how I will do on a new client project looms large.

When I take a minute to focus on the good things, those negative possibilities recede from view. If only for a moment. Interesting.

And the best thing of all, and one of the easiest to take for granted. The cow-licked, gap-toothed 8 year old who walked into my office just now and gave me the biggest morning hug in the world. It happens every day. But one day he’ll be too old, too cool to hug his mom. I don’t ever want to forget those hugs because they’re easy right now. And negative memories or future worries should never feel bigger or more important.

My 8 year old’s hand on my desk. That’s the Denver Nuggets Mascot. Photo by me.

What easy wins have already left your mind? Can you remember them, write them down? How will they change the size of what you remember in the future?