complaints, condescending twatbags, healthcare, rants

Where is Richard Simmons when we need him?

Yesterday, I read an article in The New York Times entitled “Breaking Down the ‘Wellness-Industrial Complex,’ an Episode at a Time“. It was a surprisingly interesting and disheartening read. I wasn’t attracted to it because of the title, though. I decided to read it because of a quote that was used to draw attention to the article.

A man named Scott Cave, who lives in the Appalachian Mountains region of Virginia and has a doctorate in history, is a regular listener of the podcast, “Maintenance Phase”. The popular podcast, which has existed for about a year, is named after the concept of maintaining weight loss after a successful diet. The hosts, Aubrey Gordon, and Michael Hobbes, “spend each episode exploring what they call the “wellness-industrial complex,” debunking health fads and nutritional advice.” Gordon got started because she collects vintage diet books, and realized that a lot of them were full of ridiculous ideas that ultimately don’t work in keeping people slim and fit.

Cave says he listens to “Maintenance Phase” because “he appreciates the way the podcast examines and evaluates primary sources in a way that’s fun.” He also relates to some of the topics, since he himself has a weight problem. One time, “Maintenance Phase” did a show about how people who are overweight or obese are more likely to avoid seeing healthcare professionals. Cave identified with that, as once he visited an urgent care practice because he thought he’d broken his finger. He was told, “We don’t think your finger is broken. It might be, but you’re very fat, so you should probably deal with that.”

Mortified by the shaming comment about his weight, Cave ignored signs and symptoms of an autoimmune disease for a long time. He didn’t want to deal with more negative stigma about his size. So he suffered in silence with his swollen finger, and felt ashamed. That negative comment, while based in truth, dealt a terrible blow to Cave’s self-regard and trust in the medical care system.

I can relate to Cave’s reluctance to visit doctors. I haven’t seen one myself in about eleven years. In my case, it’s partly due to not wanting to be lectured about my size or my bad habits. It’s also due to some legitimate trauma I experienced at the hands of an OB-GYN who physically hurt me as she examined me, then fat shamed me.

This doctor’s pelvic exam was so painful that I cried out, and she basically told me to shut up as she stuck me with another, smaller speculum that also hurt. I bit my lip and gutted through the rest of the exam, hoping I wouldn’t pass out. I had to complete the exam so I could join the Peace Corps. Afterwards, the doctor told me I was too fat and would gain weight in Armenia. Then she basically shamed me because she wasn’t able to get a “good look down there”. She claimed I wasn’t “cooperative”. She offered me birth control, even though I was a virgin at the time. I left her office feeling completely violated, humiliated, and frankly, like I had just been assaulted.

It took twelve years for me to have another gynecological exam by a much kinder, more understanding, and professional physician’s assistant. She let me cry, and heard my explanation about why I was so upset and anxious. Then, when she did the exam, it didn’t hurt at all. I remember being so relieved that I wasn’t in pain. Then I was very angry, because the doctor who had done my first exam had hurt me without reason. I hadn’t thought to complain about her. I now wish I had.

I was so upset and stressed out during that second exam that the P.A. thought I had high blood pressure. I ended up having to visit her several more times before she was convinced that I had white coat hypertension. Sadly, we had to move out of the area. The P.A. also changed her practice, and now only works with cardiology patients. So even if we had stayed in the D.C. area, I wouldn’t have been her patient for long.

I last saw a doctor in 2011 at Bill’s insistence, because I thought my gall bladder was giving me issues. It’s probably full of stones. But the ultrasound didn’t show that the gallbladder was so inflamed that it needed to come out just then. And then we moved a bunch of times…

So no, I don’t go to doctors. I know I should, but I don’t. Aside from mycophobia (fear of mushrooms), I also have a touch of iatrophobia (fear of doctors). And I can understand why Cave doesn’t go to doctors, either. The experience is often demoralizing, expensive (for those who don’t have Tricare), and just plain awful.

As you might have guessed, after I read the article, I read some of the comments. Naturally, they were full of people who hadn’t bothered to read the article. Some were very unkind and lacking in empathy. One guy wrote that the article was “stupid” because it was full of people “making excuses”. In his comment he wrote that “all I see” are people justifying being fat. Then he added that he’d lost 100 pounds.

He got some blowback for that comment, including from yours truly. I wrote, “All I see is a guy who is a judgmental jerk. Congratulations on your weight loss. Looks like you also lost your ability to empathize.”

I got many likes for that. The original commenter came back and wrote that he DOES empathize, but Americans are all eating their way into diabetes. And I wrote that while it’s true that obesity leads to a lot of health problems, it’s not helpful to accuse people of “making excuses”, particularly if you’re a total stranger. I didn’t see any “kindness” or actual concern in his comments, only judgment. And then I wrote…

“If you truly do empathize and want to help people, you should be kinder and more empathetic. Instead of insulting and judging, you could be encouraging and enthusiastic. You could learn a lot from Richard Simmons on how to motivate people. Richard Simmons used to be fat, and like you, he lost a lot of weight. But instead of being mean to people, he encourages them. He actually CARES about them.” Of course, I wrote that taking the commenter at his word that he’s really trying to “help”. A lot of people who make comments about “personal responsibility” and concern troll the overweight are really just getting off by acting superior and being jerks.

As I wrote that comment, I couldn’t help but remember an old episode of Fame I recently watched. The character, dance teacher Lydia Grant (Debbie Allen), decides to teach an exercise class for some extra money. She thinks it’s going to be a “piece of cake”, since these were just middle aged women trying to get into a new dress. But when she teaches, using her usual demanding style, she finds that the women in the class aren’t successful. One woman in particular, name of Renee, is about to give up because Lydia is just too demanding.

But then Richard Simmons interrupts and shows Lydia how it’s done. He asks Renee if he could have this dance. Renee nods and the two proceed to work out. Richard is encouraging, enthusiastic, and kind, and Renee responds in kind. And not only does she complete the workout, but she also leaves with a big smile on her face!

Lydia says there’s no way Renee can meet her “impossible” goal of losing twelve pounds in two weeks. So Richard says, “That’s okay. Let her lose six pounds!” I think that makes a lot of sense, don’t you? There’s nothing that says Renee can’t meet part of her goal and take a bit longer to get where she wants to be.

I’m not saying I love Richard Simmons. In fact, I used to cringe when I saw his ads for Deal-A-Meal and “Sweatin’ to the Oldies”. And I laughed when I read about how he slapped some guy who mocked him at the airport. I did like his 80s era talk show, but it was always on when I was at school.

I just think that when it comes to motivating people to lose weight, Richard is onto something that actually works. Fat people are people, too. Just like everyone else, fat people want to be valued and accepted. Nobody enjoys being insulted, shamed, and judged, especially by total strangers! Moreover, nobody wants to PAY for that experience, especially when the doctor dismisses the patient and says all of their health problems are brought on by a lack of discipline and willpower. And while the commenter on the New York Times piece may actually empathize and care about others, he has a really shitty and off-putting way of showing it.

I got another comment from another person who praised the first commenter for promoting “personal responsibility”. I think personal responsibility is all well and good. But you don’t know why someone is fat. You don’t know what their story is, or if they’ve actually done anything to lose weight. What if that overweight stranger you see has actually been losing weight? What if they’re out and about for the first time in weeks because they’ve lost twenty pounds? How do you think they would feel if you lectured them about personal responsibility and admonished them to slim down? Do you think those words would motivate them to keep going? Or is it more likely that they’d get depressed, say “what’s the use?” and go out for a double cheeseburger?

Besides being cruel and rude, fat shaming people is potentially very damaging. And a person’s weight is also none of your business.

Lydia Grant gets some tough love from Richard Simmons.

The fact that fat people have to work up the gumption to see doctors is a serious issue. I recently read a horrifying story about a 27 year old woman in Los Angeles named Amanda Lee who visited a doctor because she had lost 35 pounds, was having abdominal pain, and couldn’t eat. Instead of getting to the bottom of why Lee was losing weight and experiencing pain, the doctor said that maybe it was a good thing she was in pain and couldn’t eat. He continued the horror by saying that only being able to eat things like pureed apples was a “blessing”. And he added that she didn’t look “malnourished”. I would add that according to the photos and videos I’ve seen, she doesn’t appear to be that overweight, either. But then, it is Los Angeles. In any case, the doctor refused to do any testing on Lee, and she left his office in tears.

@mandapaints

“Maybe that’s not such a bad thing” not a time to joke.

♬ original sound – Amanda Lee

After her appointment, the mortified young woman recorded a TikTok video in her car. She was sobbing hysterically as she recounted what had happened during her appointment. Commenters encouraged her to see another doctor, so she did. That doctor did a colonoscopy on Amanda Lee and discovered a large tumor. She had surgery to remove it, and was diagnosed with stage 3 colon cancer!

As of June, she was receiving chemotherapy. I hope she also looks into suing that first doctor for malpractice! I’m grateful that the commenters on her video were kind, rather than fat shaming. I’m also glad she shared her story, because I think it will help a lot of people on many different levels.

Well… that about does it for today’s fresh content. We didn’t go out yesterday, so I suspect Bill will want to do something this afternoon. Enjoy your Sunday.

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memories, mental health

Repost: The futility of advising someone to “let it go”…

I wrote this post in the fall of 2018. It was “born” out of a comment I got from someone who was irritated about my tendency to “trash” my husband’s ex wife. This person, who wasn’t someone who had been reading the blog for a long time, thought I was just a bitter second wife. I’m pretty sure I know who the “anonymous” commenter was, as she had been sending me private messages about moving to Germany. In those discussions, she told me she was a “first wife” of someone. I suspect that she thought I was attacking all first wives, when I was really just commenting about my situation with Bill, and how I felt about HIS ex wife. Bill’s ex wife is a special kind of terrible. And no, I certainly don’t think ALL exes are like her, and thank GOD for that!

Anyway, the offended person left me a comment telling me how “inappropriate”, “TMI”, and “negative” she felt my blog is, and advised me to “let it go”, or keep my negative posts about Ex private. She said I came off as “bitter, petty, and snotty”. I was kind of scratching my head at those comments. Was she really expecting me to take her unsolicited advice, especially when they were delivered in an insulting way? I mean, maybe I would if she was a friend of mine, but she was a random person on the Internet who had left me a comment with the moniker “Wondering Why”.

Maybe I would have considered taking her suggestion if people were paying me to write this blog… but as it stands right now, I don’t even take tips for this space. I only recently monetized this blog as an experiment. I may decide to demonetize it, since I don’t like looking at ads any more than anyone else does. But the travel blog is monetized– so far it’s raked in a big fat $1.70. I get far fewer hits on the travel blog, so I would like to see if this blog does better, and if so, how much better.

This post from November 2018 is left “as/is”. It came in the wake of a post I had written comparing Ex to “Wile E. Coyote”. I was inspired to write the coyote post after Bill told me about things his daughter had told him about growing up with Ex and some of the really fucked up shit she did (and continues to do). My husband’s former wife is legitimately toxic and crazy, and it was upsetting to hear about things she did to her own children. So I processed those feelings by writing about them in an admittedly “negative”, “personal”, and “snarky” post comparing Ex to a feckless cartoon character whose harebrained schemes never work out for the best.

Like Wile E. Coyote, Ex usually assumes she knows better… and in fact, she often seems to think she knows all. But the end result of a lot of her big ideas usually turn out to be disastrous, and they have ripple effects that harm innocent people– even people like me, who get upset at hearing about them and write blog posts that piss off clueless readers. I get rude comments, then feel compelled to write even more. 😉 See? More ripple effects!

I should mention that at the time, I was feeling especially stressed out, because we were about to move out of our last house. I knew ex landlady drama was coming, as well as the sheer pain in the ass of moving, so my mood was definitely affected. I still think there are some pearls of wisdom in this piece. I was pretty gratified that several then regular readers left comments for “Wondering Why”, advising her to move on if she didn’t like my material. I still think that’s good advice for anyone. So here goes…

About twenty years ago, I was working as a temp at the College of William & Mary’s admissions office.  While I was working there, I became friendly with an older lady named Peggy, who, like me at that time, lived in Gloucester, Virginia.  As I got to know Peggy, I learned that she had a daughter who had been friends with my older sister, Sarah, when they were in high school in the early 80s. 

Over the few months that I worked in the admissions office at William & Mary, Peggy and I got to know each other better.  The work I was doing was pretty boring.  It was mostly filing and data entry on an ancient (by 1998 standards) computer.  You might be surprised by what high school seniors were sending to William & Mary in 1998.  William & Mary is a very prestigious school, and it receives many applications from outstanding students around the country and the world. 

I don’t know if it’s still true today, but back in the late 90s, Virginia had a law that required in state publicly funded colleges to admit a certain number of students from Virginia.  That meant that gaining admittance to William & Mary as an out of state or international student was extremely difficult.  Consequently, not only did the admissions office receive stellar test scores, personal essays, and transcripts from hopeful students; it also received a lot of other supporting documents, all of which needed to be filed.  That’s where I came into the picture. 

It was really an eye opening experience to see what people sent to the admissions office in their personal quests to become members of the “Tribe”.  It was insane, and created a lot of work for temping drones like me.  I noticed that most of the extra stuff did nothing but add detritus to each applicant’s folder.  It was pretty rare that an extra supporting document would result in an offer of admission to someone who otherwise would have been rejected.  Some of it was entertaining to look at, though.

I remember one girl’s mother sent a photocopy of her out of state nursing license and a picture of a younger version of the girl standing in front of the Wren Chapel with her family.  There was a supporting document from the girl’s dad, a police officer, stating that the family planned to move to Williamsburg to support their daughter in her academic endeavors.  I recall that this young lady didn’t gain acceptance to William & Mary.  I hope she found a school that she liked just as much.  Having been rejected by my first choices when I was a high school student, I understand how rejection feels.  But then, I did manage to find a great school for my purposes, so it all turned out fine in the end.

Anyway, this story comes up in the wake of yesterday’s minor drama on this blog, in which a first time commenter advised me that I need to “let it go”, regarding my husband’s ex wife.  Telling somewhat to “let it go” is kind of akin to telling them to “get over it”.  Personally, I think it’s an extremely rude, dismissive, and short-sighted thing to say to another person, particularly someone you don’t know.  I do understand why some people think it’s constructive advice, although frankly, I think it’s futile to tell someone they need to “let it go”.  Sometimes, it’s just not possible.  I came to that conclusion while I was working with Peggy.  She offered an analogy that I’ve not forgotten in the twenty years since we met. 

I was sitting on the floor next to a giant filing cabinet and Peggy’s cubicle.  I had a huge stack of essays, drawings, certificates, test scores, and the like, that I was stuffing into manila folders dedicated to each new applicant.  It was mindless work that numbed my brain as it chapped my hands.  Peggy helped me pass the time by telling me about her upbringing.  It turned out that, like me, she was raised by an alcoholic.  However, while my dad was the alcoholic in our family, in Peggy’s case, it was her mother who drank too much.  Peggy’s mother was extremely abusive to her.  Consequently, Peggy grew up suffering from depression and anxiety, and she had lingering feelings of hatred for her mother.  There was no love between Peggy and her mom, because Peggy’s mother had repeatedly beaten her up mentally, physically, and emotionally.

I felt sad for Peggy that she had those feelings toward her mom.  I may not always love the way my own mom behaves, but I do love her very much.  She was the sane parent; which isn’t to say that I didn’t love my dad.  I did love him, and mostly try to remember him fondly.  He did have a good side.  But he was often mean and abusive to me, and those memories are hard to erase.  I am now kind of “saturated” when it comes to abuse from other people.  I simply can’t tolerate it.

Peggy explained that as the years passed, her depression lingered, even though in 1998, she was probably in her 60s and her mother was long dead.  Peggy didn’t seem depressed to me in person.  In fact, she was bright, funny, friendly, and cheerful.  A lot of people have described me in the same way.  More than one person has told me they think I’m “bubbly”.  Some people even think I’m hilarious.  In person, I joke a lot and laugh and giggle.  A lot of “funny” people are like that.  Humor is a way to mask depression and anxiety.   

In 1998, I, too, was suffering from significant clinical depression and anxiety, and at that time, it had gotten really bad.  I had actually had these issues for most of my life, but in 1998, it was especially severe.  That was the year I finally decided to seek professional help, and got prescription medication for the depression that had dogged me for at least ten years.  I was not under a doctor’s care when I worked at William & Mary, though.  At that time, I was too poor to get help, and I had no health insurance.  Also, I didn’t know I was depressed and anxious.  That was the way I’d always been, only it was much worse in ’98 than it was in the preceding years.  That year, I thought of suicide fairly often.  I still sometimes have those fleeting thoughts, but it’s not nearly like it was in those days.  I’m probably more dysthymic now than anything else.

I remember Peggy explained in detail what she’d endured during her formative years at home, when she’d had no choice but to endure her mother’s constant insults, taunts, and physical abuse.  She got away from her mother as soon as she was able to and married a man with whom she was not compatible.  They eventually divorced, and Peggy was left alone to raise her daughter, which was very difficult for her.  At the end of her story, I remember Peggy telling me that having clinical depression is a lot like trying to function with a broken arm.

If you met a person with a broken arm, would you tell them they need to “let it go” and “get over it”? Would you assume that you know what the timeline should be for them to “heal” from a physical injury?  I’m sure there are cases of people who heal from broken bones very quickly.  Maybe you’ve had a broken bone and bounced back in just a couple of weeks.  But does that mean that someone else can heal in that same timeframe?  Maybe the other person has mitigating circumstances that make healing more difficult for them.  I think it’s often the same for depression and other mental health issues.  Some people heal faster than others.

I have never forgotten Peggy’s comparison of clinical depression to having a broken bone.  In either case, the condition is crippling and painful, especially without treatment.  I was especially clued in to how astute the comparison is when I did seek medical help in 1998.  It took about three months, but I finally found an effective antidepressant that literally changed my life.  When I got my brain chemicals straightened out, I was amazed at how much better and more competent I felt.  It really drove home to me that depression is a real illness and not just made up bullshit in my head. 

For so long, I felt so guilty about who I am.  I thought there was something truly “wrong” with me.  When I finally took the right medication and eventually felt the way non-depressed people feel, I realized that I didn’t have to feel guilty about being depressed.  Depression was, indeed, a sickness that was beyond my control.  I couldn’t will myself not to be depressed.  I needed help to move beyond it.  In my case, potent antidepressants and counseling from an empathetic psychologist did the trick.

Now… this does not mean that a person can’t learn techniques to combat depression, and it doesn’t give a person an excuse to be a jerk to other people.  However, I did finally realize that depression is real, and it will probably always be a part of my life.  Being negative, grumpy, and bitter is a part of having depression.  Maybe some people don’t find that side of me pleasant and they think all they need to do is tell me to “get over it” or “let it go”.  I’m sure it seems that easy to them.  It’s not that easy for me.  I write in this blog to process those feelings instead of acting on them in a destructive manner.  In other places, I try to be less negative and bitter.  Some of my readers interact with me in other places and have seen that I’m generally not as “bitchy” there as I can be here.  It’s because I have a place to put most of the bitchy stuff, and that’s here in this blog. 

I realize that some people don’t like me or stuff I write.  Fortunately, I’ve gotten to a point at which I no longer feel the need to try to please others.  I do wish I were a more likable, positive, friendly, and popular person.  I have accepted that I will never be those things, and that’s okay.  I don’t take antidepressants now.  Maybe I will again at some time, but at this point, I’d rather not.  So I write blogs and publish them, and I make music.  Sometimes people like my efforts, though I think more people are either indifferent or think they can fix my problems by telling me to “let it go”.  My own mother has, more than once, told me to “let it go”.  I actually love my mom and I haven’t been able to take her advice.  What makes you think you’ll be more successful at giving me that advice than she’s been?  And why does it even matter to you if I’m “inappropriate” or share too much information?  It’s not your life, is it?  You don’t have to read this stuff.

I suppose I could make this blog private and I have openly suggested doing that before.  However, I have had several people tell me that they enjoy reading my blog.  So I leave it public for them and anyone else who understands.  If you don’t understand, and you find me unpleasant, I won’t be upset if you move on to another place on the web.  You’re certainly not the first one to find me unpleasant.  But please don’t glibly tell me to “get over it” or “let it go”.  That is a very dismissive thing to say to another person and it’s not right to discount other people’s feelings, particularly when you are a guest in their space.

As for my husband’s ex wife, I’m sure it would be amazing if I could simply “let it go” that she did her best to destroy my husband’s happiness, career, and connections to people who love him.  I wish I were that mature and magnanimous.  I’m not there yet, and I don’t think I will ever be there.  How do you forgive someone who sexually assaulted the love of your life and then denied him access to his children while spreading vicious lies to his parents about the kind of person he is?  I’m sure if it had happened to me, my husband would be equally angry.  So, you’ll have to excuse me for not “letting it go” where she’s concerned.  It will probably take a much longer time than I have left in life to completely get over it.  But with every day, there’s fresh hope. 

Don Henley’s good advice… but has it worked out for him? He’s still pissed at Don Felder, isn’t he?
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athletes, book reviews, celebrities

Repost: A review of Dorothy Hamill’s A Skating Life

And here’s another as/is reposted book review… It was originally posted in 2013.

I was three years old when Dorothy Hamill won the Olympic gold medal in ladies figure skating in Innsbruck, Austria in February 1976. She was nineteen years old and immediately became America’s Sweetheart. I don’t remember watching her win, but as a child of the 70s and 80s, I sure remember her. For awhile, I even had her haircut (my mom’s preference, not mine). So, when I recently saw her 2007 book A Skating Life on Amazon.com, I decided to read it.

This book is Hamill’s second autobiography. She wrote her first one in 1983, when she was just 26 years old. I did not read her first book, but I’m guessing that A Skating Life is an uglier book in terms of the realities of what Hamill endured on her way to the top. Although Dorothy Hamill has always seemed like an All American kind of athlete who would be right at home at Disneyland, the truth is, she has been through a lot. 

A Skating Life starts at the beginning, as Hamill writes about how she came to be a skater. Hamill had a difficult time with her mother, whom she describes as being hard to satisfy and difficult. It turns out her mom, who was very athletic, had suffered from dysthymia for most of her life. For those who don’t know, dysthymia is basically a low grade depression that makes it very difficult for sufferers to enjoy their lives. They aren’t at the point of not functioning, though. You might say they are perpetually cranky. Hamill’s father loved music and passed his love of music to Dorothy, who used that gift when she created her skating programs.

After Dorothy won the gold, she was expected to pay her parents back for all they did for her. For awhile, that was okay. She had the money. As time went on, the money started drying up and Dorothy had to cut her parents from the payroll. It caused a lot of hard feelings. 

In the midst of her problems with her parents, Hamill fell in love with her first husband, Dean Paul Martin. He was the love of her life. Sadly, their marriage didn’t last very long… and neither did Martin, who was killed shortly after their divorce. Martin did live long enough to see Dorothy get involved with her second husband, Dr. Kenneth Forsythe, who was a good looking man and the father of two kids from his first marriage. Sadly, he was not the most hard working fellow in the world. She shares a lovely daughter named Alexandra with Kenneth Forsythe, who is now her second ex husband.

I could go on, but that would ruin the book for potential readers. The point is, Dorothy Hamill has led a difficult life fraught with betrayal and financial problems. She has always had a very sweet reputation and is the very picture of adorable elegance. But behind the bright smile and sparkling eyes, there’s a woman who has coped with a lot of trials.

A Skating Life is reasonably well written. I thought it was an interesting read, even though it is a bit negative. Dorothy Hamill does try to look at the bright side of some of the situations she’s been in, including her purchase of the now defunct show The Ice Capades, which folded two years after she bought it. Ultimately, I think it’s a triumphant book, but some readers might find it a bit of a downer. Others might see it as a plea for sympathy.

Also, it’s important to realize that this book is already six years old. When A Skating Life was published, Hamill’s daughter was 18 years old. She’s now 25 years old. Dorothy has since remarried and was on Dancing With The Stars, but had to withdraw due to spinal issues. You won’t read about this in the book, though, making it a bit dated.  

Overall 

I think Dorothy Hamill was brutally honest in her book A Skating Life. I also got the sense that she wrote the book for financial reasons. However, as someone who has suffered from depression, I commend Hamill for writing about it and explaining that it’s a real phenomenon. Her mother suffered from it; so did Dorothy during the worst years, when she was considered “over the hill” and had a husband who was bilking her for money as he cheated on her. I also commend Dorothy Hamill for respecting her daughter’s relationship with her ex husband. I really have high regard for parents who, when they decide to divorce, don’t try to alienate their children from their exes. It sounds like Dorothy Hamill did her best not to do that, although she definitely doesn’t paint her second ex husband in a good light.  

I hope the ensuing years have been better for her.

As an Amazon Associate, I get a small commission from Amazon on sales made through my site.

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book reviews, mental health

Repost: A review of Suicide: the Forever Decision

Here’s a reposted review of Paul G. Quinnett’s book, Suicide: the Forever Decision.  I found it helpful reading back when I was suffering from clinical depression.  Fortunately, I haven’t needed to read this book in a very long time.  I am reposting the review so it doesn’t get lost and, perhaps, to help anyone reading this blog who might need help. If you are feeling suicidal, please call the Suicide hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). This review was originally posted for Epinions.com on October 2, 2003.

Suicide is a solution.

Does my review’s title shock you? Well, if it does, I’m sorry, but I write the truth. If you think about it, suicide is a solution for the the person who commits the act. It creates all sorts of problems, however, for the people he or she leaves behind. I learned that tidbit of wisdom in the 1997 edition of Paul G. Quinnett’s book Suicide: the Forever Decision. I read this book quite often during my own depression back in 1998-99 and I found it to be quite helpful. Quinnett comes across as a very wise counselor. He doesn’t write a lot of trite, mushy “you’ve got your whole life ahead of you” stuff that depressed people have heard a billion times before. Quinnett writes the truth. And despite what I wrote at the beginning of this review, he doesn’t condone suicide. After all, I’m still here, aren’t I?

The first chapter of this book is entitled “You Don’t Have To Be Crazy”. What a fitting way to start off a book about suicide prevention! Depression is a lonely, painful state of mind and people who are thinking about suicide often think they’re crazy to want to end it all, or other people think they’re crazy to want to kill themselves. In reality, the act of suicide is usually more often a case of frustration and desperation, rather than genuine craziness. Besides, most people have had at least a fleeting thought of suicide.

In the second chapter, Quinnett challenges readers to remember where they got the idea to kill themselves. Did someone in their family kill themselves? Did a friend commit suicide? Did they get the idea from a famous person? People have been committing suicide for as long as there have been people– it’s very likely that someone somewhere gave the reader the idea to commit suicide. Quinnett cites statistics that show that when someone famous kills themselves, the suicide rate rises. It seems to be a contagious phenomenon.

To the question “Don’t I have the right to die?” Quinnett’s frank reply is that he doesn’t have a very good answer to that question. But his final answer is, “No. You don’t have an absolute right to kill yourself.” At least not from a legal standpoint. He explains that there are laws against attempting suicide and if readers try it, sometimes unpleasant legal consequences may follow. He also explains that as a psychologist, he is trained to save lives, not help people end them. But if all of this information comes across as harsh, it’s also very honest. Quinnett explains that there are a couple of schools of thought about a person’s right to die– some people believe that everyone has the inalienable right to die whenever they want to and others believe that people should be kept alive at all costs– until every last breath of life is beaten out of them. An interesting discussion about this topic ensues. But then he also offers a reassuring pledge that while there are people out there, even some mental health professionals, who don’t care if readers live or die, there are other people who do. They will be the ones who won’t sit on their hands and do nothing when they see a person who is obviously suffering.

Quinnett then asks his readers once more if they are absolutely sure this is the decision they want to make. He makes an interesting comparison of a depressed, suicidal person to a bug in a cup. We can see around the insides of our cup (ie; depression), but we can’t see over the lip. Moreover, a suicidal person generally doesn’t have all the information he or she needs to make a wise decision about whether or not they should end their lives. The suicidal person may not know that their depression is time limited and that they will feel much better in a matter of weeks or months– probably even sooner with treatment.

Quinnett also addresses anger, loneliness, and stress and provides methods on how to deal with them. One of the chapters in the book is entitled “They Won’t Love You When You’re Gone, Either”. This is intended to address those folks who want to kill themselves to punish other people, particularly parents whom they feel didn’t love them. Quinnett reminds these people that they are the ones who matter now, not their parents. And if their parents didn’t love them when they were kids, chances are good that they won’t love their children when they’re dead, either.

Quinnett speaks to his readers confidently and personally. He also asks them to put the book down if they are high on drugs or drunk on alcohol. He says that he expects his clients to come to therapy with their whole brain ready for use. He expects the same of those who read his book. Quinnett offers somes commentary on those who have already attempted suicide, warning that those who have attempted to kill themselves are now at a higher risk of attempting to kill themselves again or actually succeeding in the act. He asks these people to consider what could happen if they don’t succeed. He relates stories of some of his clients– people who have wound up paralyzed, disfigured, vegetative or maimed because they attempted suicide. Quinnett also reminds would be suicides of the people they would be leaving behind– family, friends, perhaps children. He writes that the day that a reader commits suicide will become a day of infamy for his or her family. The family will never be able to enjoy that date again without thinking of the horror of how their loved one died by their own hand. Quinnett reminds readers that it’s not fair to put family and friends through that kind of guilt.

At the end of the book, Quinnett offers tips on getting help for depression and suicidal ideation and points his readers in the right direction. He explains the difference between psychologists, social workers, psychiatrists, psychiatric nurses, and master’s level clinicians. He also emphasizes the importance of getting a physical in order to rule out physical reasons for depression (aside from brain chemical imbalances).

I found this book to be very comforting when I was feeling depressed on a regular basis. Quinnett’s tone is empathetic, insightful, and respectful. The book is not overwhelming or overly long. He’s used a comfortably large sized font that’s easy on the eyes so the book is easy to read. In my opinion, it would be easy for people with depression to pick this book up and read it– it was for me, anyway. Those who have the will to read this book have most assuredly not conclusively decided to kill themselves. I believe that Paul G. Quinnett’s book may help these people tip the scales in the direction of choosing life. Yes, suicide is a choice that people are able to make to solve all of their problems right now and forevermore. But this book is very likely to show readers why they shouldn’t make a choice that will solve all of their problems forever. For that reason, I recommend it wholeheartedly. 

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mental health, musings

Ahhh… Two more full days of this crap.

Today’s featured photo is of Arran, who misses Bill more than I do… Bill is Arran’s favorite person on Earth. He’s getting older and more crotchety by the day, like I am.

It’s Wednesday, which means it’s a light housework day for me. Not that I go crazy with housework on a typical day. It’s just that I don’t have a specific chore that I always do on Wednesdays. For instance, on Tuesdays, I do the bathrooms. On Thursdays, I vacuum. Mondays tend to be laundry days, and I often do the sheets on that day, too, but that’s not always a given. This morning, I was awakened at almost 4:00am. Arran needed to pee. By the time he’d done that, I was awake, even though I went back to bed. I fed the dogs about an hour later, then a couple of hours after that, I took them for a walk.

Ordinarily, I like to write early in the morning. I couldn’t think of anything pressing I wanted to write about today. I mean, sure there were things I had read and even commented on yesterday, but I just wasn’t in the mood to write about them. A couple of topics were of the variety I’ve already bitched plenty about this year. One was about T.I. (Clifford Harris), the rapper who was in the news for forcing his teenaged daughter to have “virginity” exams at the gynecologist— exams that he also attended. T.I. and his wife, the R&B singer “Tiny” (Tameka Harris) are in the news for drugging and sexually assaulting women. I mean, sure, when I’m in the right mood, I could opine about that, no problem. But I just didn’t feel like it today.

And I could always write more about the dreaded pandemic… but I think we’re all tired of that subject. I know I am. Besides, some of my opinions are kind of controversial. I share them mainly for those who feel drowned out by the pro face masks forever brigade. I like that I can write about this on my page and not wind up in a sarcastic argument with a stranger. Or, I can, but it’s easy enough for me to banish those people. Can’t do that as easily on other parts of the Web. But I don’t feel like writing about that, either… and especially didn’t this morning. So instead of writing, I decided to do other things.

After I walked the dogs, I decided to use the trimmer to cut the grass, since the robot mower is still on the fritz until Bill gets home and lays new boundary wire (AGAIN). Hopefully, that will fix the problem. Otherwise, I think I’m just going to get a regular mower. I’m tired of fucking with the robot mower, even though it’s great when it works. Then, I practiced guitar for a short while.

After that, I realized I was kind of tired, so after having something to eat, I laid down to watch the most recent episode of The Handmaid’s Tale and read my latest book… which promptly put me to sleep. I could have played with new toy– an Apple Watch I bought last week that got here yesterday. It took me awhile to figure out how to work the strap. It looks like a buckle, but it’s not one. And then, as it happens with every new peripheral you get, there’s the obligatory setup, which takes time and effort. I don’t really need an Apple Watch, but I thought it would be nice to have it if and when we ever travel again… which I’m sure we will at some point. Right now, I’m annoyed because setting up cellular and adding credit cards to Apple Pay is also more crap than I want to deal with right now. However, I will admit it’s a pretty cool gadget.

This cost more than a month’s rent when I was in graduate school! But it was either this or a wine fridge.

Bill will be home sometime between late Friday night and Saturday afternoon. Although he’s been gone plenty of times during our marriage and, in fact, was even deployed to Iraq at one point– for some reason, I have been having a harder time with this latest absence. I think it’s because this past year has been so strange. It hasn’t been all bad– but it has been very strange. I don’t mind being alone, although I don’t like being bored. I find Facebook annoying, even if it is a way to keep in contact with people. But I also find that lately, I’ve been sleeping a lot. That kind of worries me a little bit, since it’s a sign of depression. Also, someone my age shouldn’t need to sleep so much, although I do get awakened in the middle of the night by cranky Arran.

The other day, I caught myself daydreaming about where we might go when we can travel again. In about a month, we’ll be done with COVID vaccines… at least the first round of them. I am not convinced we won’t need boosters. I used to really enjoy shopping for trips, but now the idea kind of stresses me out. A lot of countries over here are hungry for tourists, but there are a lot of conditions put on everything. It’s even worse than last year. I do expect we’ll go somewhere, but I’m kind of overwhelmed as to where we might go.

Hell, I moved Bill’s Volvo the other day, making it easy to get my car out of the garage. It could use a spin in the worst way. But I just don’t feel like getting out. I don’t feel like driving just to be driving. Maybe I would if the weather was nicer and I could put the top down, but it’s still cold here. And before I go out, I have to dog proof the house, which isn’t a huge deal… but it does require some effort that I don’t feel like expending right now. Maybe tomorrow, I’ll take the Mini out if the weather is better. Lately, we’ve had a lot of sleet/hail, especially in the afternoons.

Yes, it’s May in Germany…

I just want to see Mr. Bill again and have someone to talk to and hug… someone to massage my back, fix me dinner, and take the dog out in the middle of the night. 😉 I’m kidding… but I have really missed him. I hate it when he goes away, especially when he’s gone for weeks. This latest one has been especially difficult, for some reason. I hope this is the last TDY for a good long while, even if the trips are lucrative. Money can’t buy happiness, and I’m happiest when we’re together. I feel very fortunate that we still get along so well. With any luck, brighter days are coming.

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