1980 30 Rock 70th anniversary 9/11 aberration aberration nation aberration story Aberrations abortion absinthe abuse acceptance accident Acting actors ADD addiction ADHD adolescents adoptee adoption adult advocacy Afganistan Aikido Air Force Alan Cummings Alan Katz Alan Shipnuck alcoholic alcoholism Algis Budrys Allen Koszowski Allison Gilbert American Pain Society American relgion amputee And Tango Makes Three angelique price Anneli Rufus anorexia Antwone Fisher Area 23 Area 23 Gallery army art art interview art merged with painting art movements art of the nude art shows in Shreveport Art Talk artist artpop arts asperger's syndrome atheism attitude austin author author interview autisitc autism. aberration story autism. aberrations Avalon Books awareness axs.tv baby baby momma Backseat Saints Bad Blake bantam barebrush basketball Becky Hammon Behance belly dancing Beyond a Reasonable Doubt Bible Belt bicycles bipolar bipolar disorder bite size life Blonde Ambition blue man group Bob Hogge body image book Book Expo America book review book trailer Boundaries breast cancer Bridget Asher Brokeback Mountain Buckhead Buddha building blueprints for better girls bulimia bullying By Whose Hand Caesar Augustus Films Calvet Calvet movie camping cancer cartoonist celebrity censorship Centerpeices Centerpieces chairs chang and eng Charlaine Harris chasing boys Chasity Bono Chelsea Cher Chick Lit child children Chris Cleave Chris Tatevosian chrisitanity Christian christianity Christine A. Baker Christine Baker Christine Havrilla chronic illness chronic pain Cirque Du Freak claudia furlani coaching contemporary art controlled substances corporate america Cougar Town Courtney Cox Crazy Heart creation creatives creativitity creativity Cyril Connolly Da Vinci Code dan rather darin strauss Dario Posado dark fiction dark side Darren Shan David Christian David H. Burton DeAnna Cameron Deanna Nolan death deceased parents Dedication Deep South defying gravity Denzel Washington deployment depression Deuce Bigalow diets director disabilities disabled divorce documentary dominic allen Douglas Morton Douglas Preston Down's Syndrome Downtown Shreveport Dragonlance Dragons drive drug abuse Dust dysfunctional family Earth Matter eating disorders Ed McCormack editor egon schiele Elissa Schappell Ellen Degeneres Emily Lisker Endtime Magazine Eric Gipson Erich Fromm Esther Barend eugene mcbride Evelyne Tannehill Excercist expression expressionism Facebook failure faith family fantasy art feature film fiction figurative figurative art figurative art collectors figurative expressionism figurative expressionism contemporary figurative expressionism definition figurative expressionist film filmmaker Finding Fish fine art Finnian's Journey fire Flea Frank Conroy Fredric Almond functional family fundamentalist religion Gallery Gallery and Studio Gaming Gary Powell gay gay adoption gay issues gender George Bailey Georgia German Germany Bonell Gideon's Sword Gina Mollicone-Long Glamour glee Glenn Beck God God No God's in Alabama Godz Taylor Grand Central Grand Central Publishing grandparents graphic artist Greenleaf Book Group Greenspan grief growing up Guggenheim Haiti half a life happiness Harlan Ellison hero High Przekop. writing high school Hodgkin's Lymphoma Holy Blood Holy Grail homeless homelessness hope horror How to Tie a Tie Hrag vartanian human brain development human nature Hurricane Hotel hydrocephalus hyperallergic hyperallergic.com identity Ileen Skeen illness falsification illustrator imperfect endings Incendiary Incognito Witch individuality intentional practice interivew interview Interviews Iowa Writer's Workshop Iraq Irvin Baxter ishiguro Israel It's a wonderful life James Michener Jean Marc Calvet Jeff Bridges Jeff Goins Jennifer Bolen Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints Jesus Take the Wheel Jim Shepard Jimmy Breslin John Cafferty John currin John Gilstrap john K. Lawson Joshilyn Jackson journey Joyce Dibona Julianna Baggott Julie Gregory Justin Bieber Justin Bua kandinsky Karin Perez Karina Sala kathy Ostman-Magnusen Katie Holmes Kelly Brorsheim Kevin O'Hanlon kids Kimmelman kristen stewart LA large families Larry Brubaker Laura Shumaker lesbian LGBT lies life tabernacle Liimu McGill Lina Bonell Lincoln Child Linda Wisniewski Link Lisa Morguess Lisa See Little Bee Lizzie Miller loneliness loner looking for love Lori McKenney Los Angeles losing my religion lost pregnancy Lou Patrou Louisiana Louisiana art Love Love Your Body Love Your Life Lovestruck Lovestuck Summer Luiz Cavalli madness Making Ideas Happen Malcolm Gladwell man in woman's body manic depression maranatha school marc zegans Margaret Weis mari yamagiwa Marina Hadley Marisa Acocella Marchetto Mark Twain mark zuckerberg marker art marriage Marya Hornbacher marya hornbacker Master Innovation Group materialism Max's Kansas City maya angelou meaning Melissa Walker memoir mental health mental illness Miami Mice don't taste like chicken Michael Bamberger Michael Chabon Michael Cunningham Michael Seif Michael Smerconish Micheal Jordan mid-life crises middle grade fiction midlife Mikic Miley Cyrus military ministry Minya miscarriage mixed media Mojo Perry Molly Kellogg Monkdogz monkdogz urban art motherhood mothers motivation movie review MS MTV multiple sclerosis multitalent Munchausen by proxy Museum of Natural History music musicians muslim My Losing Season My Summer Friend mysteries of the universe N. E. Bode narcolepsy Narcolepsy network narcotics nature Navy never let me go New Jersey New Orleans New York City New York Times News Newsweek Ninety Naps a Day No War Norman Lear norsworthy gallery novel novels nude art nudes NYC o.y.l. Obama obsession obsessive compulsive disorder OCD Off kilter opioids Oprah Oprah Magazine Oprah Winfrey orphan Other Outliers painting Parentless Parents Paris Party of One passion pastor Pat Conroy Patti LaBelle Pearl Lounge Pema Chodron penelope Penelope Academy of Art University Penelope Przekop Penelope Przekop. writing Penelope Przekop. writing life Penn and Teller Penn Jillette perfection peripheral arterial disease phantom pain Philadelphia photography phychology Phyllis Whitney picasso Please Love Me plexiglas plus size models poem poetry Politics pregnancy Print Magazine Procession of the Dead producer progressive Prophetess Przekop przekop. writing psychedelic Psychology Today psychotic break publishing pulmonary fibrosis Purple Heart purpose of art PWN queer quilting Quote Quotes R. L. Stine R.E.M. fundamentalist rage Randy Thurman rape Raul Rudd reading reality Red Hot Chili Peppers relationships relativity relevance relgion religilous Religion religious review Reviews Revolutionary Road Richard Yates Robert Trudeau robert zemeckis rock Rock and roll Rock Band Rogue Space roller coasters Rothko Rouge Space same-sex parents San Diego Sandra Carey Cody Sandro La Ferla Santiago Betancur Sarah Maria Scarred for Life Sci-port science fiction scoliosis Scott Belsky scott heydt screenwriter sculpture Sebastien Aurillon second coming of Christ selective mutism Selective Mutism Group SETI sex change Shanghai Girls Sheffield film festival Sheila Parr Sheila Wolk Shreveport Shreveport Art Shreveport artist Sickened Simon Cowell simon schuster singer single parenting sleep disorders sleepiness Soho Soho artists solo show songwriter Sonny Sookie Stackhouse Sophie Kinsella soul southern southern culture spanish special education spina bifida sports art Sri Nisargadatta Maharaj stabbed Stephen King stillborn stubborn teen support survey Take this blog and shove it talent tales from the script Taylor Dynasty teaching teen poetry teen runaway teen stories teen suicide teenagers teens television Teresa Lauer Terri Cheney The Art of Loving The Belly Dancer The Center of Winter The Children's Aid Society The Climb The Mentor The Milwaukees The Netherlands The New York Pearl Lounge The New Yorker the provence cure for the brokenhearted The Second Coming The Swinger therapy Think or Sink Tiger Woods tim harakal tin house TM Muzik Tom Grimes Toni Morrison tough love Tracy J. 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6527212 January 06, 2014

What Erich Fromm Would Think of Please Love Me?

“Love is the only sane and satisfactory answer to the problem of human existence.” ― Erich Fromm

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6527212 July 06, 2009

Final Thoughts on Teens

It's seventeen days later, and we're all grown up.

Thanks for visiting Aberration Nation during the teen event! I'd also like to send out a special THANK YOU to all the brave folks who participated, including Melissa Walker, Lisa Morguess, the four teens who shared their writing with us, and Josh, who opened up about losing his leg.

I hope all who visited not only enjoyed reading the content, but also found it thought provoking and helpful. I was hesitant to share the thoughts I had and poetry I wrote as a young person, but doing so has been a positive experience for me. Like my friend Lisa, I don't want to loose sight of all the things that happened in my life. Good or bad, they molded me into who I am ... and continue to do so. I'm still evolving. If my life had ended on that dark, hopeless Louisiana night in 1985, I would never have experienced (to name a few):

- telling my Dad how much I love him
- giving life to two beautiful daughters
- knowing the kind of love that heals wounds--the gift my husband gives me every day
- eating a bagel or drinking a martini
- seeing and playing in deep snow
- visiting Europe, Utah, Southern California, New York City, Puerto Rico, and Singapore to name a few
- camping in a trailer
- lying on the hood of a speed boat, racing through Lake George in New York, the wind in my hair
- winning a 5K run
- painting a mural on a Philadelphia building
- writing four books
- being a Director at one of the largest and most respected companies in the world, Johnson & Johnson
- being boss to many people, and having the opportunity to help them not only develop their careers but also simply enjoy coming to work
- promoting someone deserving to Associate Director and seeing her face light up
- seeing a Kansas sunset
- seeing Wicked and Phantom of the Opera on Broadway
- reading the millions of books I've found since then
- knowing my wonderful in-laws, who have touched my life
- being an Aunt to seven awesome kids
- reading a history my grandfather wrote about his life
- earning a BS degree, and then an MS degree in my 30s
- watching my daughters learn to walk, ride bikes, run, read, write, etc.
- meeting a million interesting people who have taught me that life is an absolutely beautiful jumbled mess
- learning to love myself

With all that said, here's some advice from Lisa and me (the runaway girls) on how you might possibly help a struggling teen.

With regard to the teen who looks fine and dandy, but is suffering (Penelope):

1) Listen for hints and openings offered to strike up a conversation about what's bothering him or her. (I often hinted to adults but they missed it every time.)

2) Don't assume the kid who appears to be the strongest, brightest, or most cheerful is immune to depression. Remember the signs of depression. Understand that there can be a difference between diagnosed mental illness and depression based on growing up in a depressing environment. I was taught to experience life a particular way; once I understood that I didn't have to look at life through the lens of my teacher, I began to break free of that sad lesson and find my own view.

3) Take the emotional pain a teen expresses seriously. Don't talk down to them, or treat their suffering as if it's trivial. Although they're young, they are complex individuals with deep emotion. (This happened to me numerous times, even with health care professionals.) Don't offer easy fixes to teens as if their pain is a passing phase. This makes them feel even more isolated and strange.

5) When you know a teenager is surrounded by dysfunction, don't assume they're fine just because they're smiling with a sparkle in their eye.

6) Find, create, and/or offer a safe environment where the teen can unload. Even at a young age, years of trying to keep it all together is difficult to break through. If they talk a lot about pain related to their social interactions, ask them about their family. If they smile and say they have a nice family, blah, blah, blah, dig deeper.

I was a tough nut to crack (and still am sometimes), but nobody even really tried ... I eventually had to bust my own nut.

For the obviously stressed teen who is acting out (Lisa):

There were so many obvious, glaring signs that I was troubled, and they were all overlooked. To this day, I find it just really disturbing that nobody reached out to me.

I was clearly withdrawn and depressed by the time I was in high school. My grades started to slip. I often went to school disheveled from abuse I had suffered just that morning at the hands of my mother. I even often got drunk on school grounds at lunch period and then went to classes after wards, and nobody ever picked up on it or called me on it. So, I don't know . . . I guess what I would say to adults is "Don't overlook the obvious!" I mean, it's a fine line, I'm sure. A certain amount of teenage angst and even acting out is to be expected, and I don't think adults should be right in every teenager's face offering/threatening counseling over every little thing, but I do think that adults need to just try really hard to be tuned in, to be able to recognize the difference between normal growing pains and signs of something more serious.

Thanks all!

______________________________________

Up next week on Aberration Nation, On Being Societally Disabled: An Aberration Story. If you think you have challenges, wait until you meet courageous Kev. He lives in a home for the disabled. Look around now and count your blessings. Kev does ...

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6527212 June 24, 2009

Runaway Lisa: An Aberration Story (Part 1)

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During fits of teenage rage or deep despair, I'm guessing a large percentage of you considered running away from home at least once. My guest today not only had the idea, but at 17, she also methodically planned her escape, and made a run for it--crossing state lines and childhood borders.

Lisa Morguess ran away, and never looked back.

Through determination, hard work, and a pinch of luck, she survived. She grew up. Today Lisa is an insightful mom of six, a loving wife, super blogger, and advocate. On her various blogs, she describes herself and her life this way:

I'm a 41-year-old, married to my best friend, stay-home mother of 6 children: Kevin (12), Joey (6), twins, Annabelle and Daisy (4), Lilah(2), and Finnian, born in July 2008 and diagnosed with Down syndrome. Oh, and my husband is currently battling cancer. I'm just trying to hold it all together.

This is her story.

Lisa shares her experience in three parts. Part 2 will be posted on June 29th, and Part 3 will go up on July 3rd.

You were a teen runaway. Can you tell us what prompted you to take such serious action?

I grew up in, as what has almost become a cliché, a very dysfunctional family. There was a lot of emotional and physical abuse from the time I was very young - in fact, even before I was born, as my understanding is that my father abused my mother while she was pregnant with me, and they both, in turn, abused both of my brothers and me from the time we were very small. I grew up knowing that my mother had never wanted to have me, as I was born a mere 10 ½ months after my older brother, and she told me flat out as I was growing up that she hadn’t wanted to have me, and that she didn’t actually feel like she loved me until I was about 2 years old. That was apparently an epiphany that came to her as she was about to place her hands around my throat to choke me because I cried a lot as a baby and toddler. So I grew up with that kind of start in life, and it continued all through my childhood.

My mother was generally an emotional wreck and she leaned inappropriately on me from the time I was very young, so I became her emotional caretaker. It was a lot of responsibility for a child to have. She also expected me to change roles at her will from her emotional sounding board back to a child whom she could bully. As an adult, I can see now that I suffered a lot of depression as a child, and by the time I was an older teenager, it just all got to be too much to handle. Although I was never actually suicidal, I thought about death a lot, and spent a lot of time wishing I were dead.

When I was 15, there was an incident at home during which both she and my stepfather were beating me up, and it was bad enough that my younger brother ran to a neighbor’s house and called the police. The police came , and it was basically my parents’ word against mine and my brother’s. I don’t know that my parents were cited or anything - I’m guessing not since I was not removed from the home. I did, however, of my own accord, move in with an aunt shortly after that for several months. That situation wasn’t much better, for different reasons. I ended up going back home eventually, and things only got worse. I had a boyfriend by then, and there came a point when my mother tried to force us to get married (I was 16 at the time, and no, I was not pregnant; there was no reason for us to get married, this was just another power play by my mother). We called her bluff and told her we would get married, and then she forbade us from seeing each other and threatened to have him arrested.

It was all very crazy, and I just reached a point that I couldn’t live with my mother (or my step-father) anymore. I felt like I was really already an adult anyway; although my parents provided food and clothing and shelter for me, they certainly were not meeting any of my other needs, and emotionally I felt like I had already been on my own for years. So it didn’t feel like that big a stretch to decide to run away and make my own life. I had tried living with my aunt and that hadn’t worked out, and my father and his wife didn’t want me, so I didn’t have a lot of places to go. I could either stay where I was and continue spiraling down further and further into despair and hopelessness, or I could try to make my own way in the world. Shortly after I turned 17, I left home again, this time with my boyfriend, and we left the state, and none of my family or friends knew where I was for a year.

I'm guessing your family situation played a role in your decision to run away. If so, what was the family dynamic?

My mother and father divorced when I was 5, and it was an on-again, off-again relationship for many years after that. I had an older brother and a younger brother. When I was 14, my mother remarried, a man she had known for three months. Their relationship was horribly dysfunctional and abusive as well, and he was never any kind of father figure, he was really just one more person to abuse the kids.

Did your family search for you? Are you in touch with them now?

When I left home, I left a letter for my mother telling her not to look for me, and that if she found me and brought me back, I’d just leave again. My understanding is that she stormed the house of the parents of my boyfriend, demanding to know where I was (his father actually did know where we had gone, but he never let on to her), and she filed a Missing Person Report with the local police, and that was it. To my knowledge, no other effort was made to find me. I did call my mother periodically from payphones to let her know I was okay, but she would just scream at me on the phone.

I am not in touch with my family now, no. When I reached adulthood, my father and I were somehow able to mend fences and became very close, but he died very suddenly a little over 10 years ago. After I turned 18, my boyfriend and I moved back to California and eventually got married. I had an on-again, off-again relationship with my mother for several years, but it was never an emotionally healthy relationship. She was never able to see me and treat me as an adult, and she continued to bully me for years.

I finally reached a breaking point with her when I filed for divorce from my first husband. I applied for a restraining order against him because he was an alcoholic and a drug addict (and he ended up dying from a drug overdose shortly after I filed for divorce) and very abusive, and I feared for my own safety as well as that of our two-year old son. At the court hearing for the restraining order, my mother showed up with my estranged husband and tried to tell the court what a horrible mother and wife I was (and the truth is, my mother had had virtually no contact with me or my family for a number of years already at that point, so she had no idea what kind of wife or mother I was - this was clearly just another opportunity for her to try to hurt me). Of course, she was not even a party to the hearing, so the judge was not interested in anything she had to say, but that was the last straw for me. What kind of mother does something like that? That was almost 10 years ago, and I have had no contact with her since then.

As far as my siblings, I lost touch with my older brother about 15 years ago. He has/had a lot of problems: never able to hold a job, in and out of jail, drug addiction, etc. Last I heard, he had moved to Idaho. He and I were never close. My younger brother and I, on the other hand, were very close growing up, but I think he never forgave me for running away. When I came back to California, we re-established a semblance of a relationship for a while, but it was never the same - maybe just because we were both a little older. There was a lot of conflict between him and his wife, and me and my first husband, so after a while things just became too strained for us to really have much of a relationship. Then when my husband died, my brother and his wife, in all their new found Christian zeal, decided that I had driven him to his death with my evil ways, and that I was going to burn in hell. Needless to say, I don’t have a relationship with them.

Where did you go and how did you take care of yourself? What did you do for income? Did you finish school?

When my boyfriend and I left, we went to Utah, of all places. None of it was impulsive; the entire endeavor was carefully planned out over the course of 2 or 3 months. I was in high school, but working part-time at a pizza joint, and he was graduated from high school already and working full-time for an exterminating company. We both saved up our money until we had around $2,000. He wanted to go to Utah for the skiing, which is funny because we ended up being so poor when we lived there that I think he skied once while we were there.

We agreed on a date we would leave, and on that morning, I feigned illness so I could stay home from school. After my brothers had both gone to school and my mother and step-father to work, my boyfriend came over with a small U-Haul trailer attached to his car, and we packed up as much of my things as we could, and then we went and packed up all of his things from the apartment he was sharing with his brother at the time. He drove the car with the U-Haul trailer, and I took a Trailways bus until we crossed over the Utah border - that’s how carefully we had planned it out: we knew that because I was a minor at 17 years old, and he a legal adult at 19 years old, it would be a federal offense for him to take me over state lines, so I took the bus.

When we arrived in Utah, we lived in the car at a KOA campground for several days. We scoured the newspaper every day looking for an apartment to rent. This was in October, and it was already beginning to snow, so we were a little desperate. We found an affordable apartment listed in the paper and called the number and the manager said he was leaving town, but if we could find a way in, the apartment was ours. It turned out to be an old house that had been subdivided into three apartments. We broke in through a window, and the apartment was ours.

My boyfriend got a job very quickly in a sales position. I lied about my age and got a job first working as a cashier in a little Greek diner, and then later at a microfilming company. I was always afraid of being found out - after all, I provided my social security number on the W-2 forms I filled out to be employed, and I lived in constant fear that somehow through that they were going to discover that I was actually an underage runaway. But it never happened.

When I left home, I was about a month into my senior year of high school, so that meant that to leave, I dropped out of school. I had always been a bright, hardworking student, so it was certainly a shame to throw that away. However, at the time, it just seemed like a price I would willingly pay for my freedom. After I returned to California, I eventually earned all of my missing high school credits and got my diploma.

Was there a turning point in all this? Did anyone in particular help you?

As I said, I left with my boyfriend. We had a plan, and we had saved up some money, so I think in many respects my story was different from many teen runaway stories. I never lived on the streets or had to eat out of garbage bins or sell myself into prostitution. Alt hough we were very broke at times - I remember having to scrounge for change between the sofa cushions to come up with enough to buy a loaf of bread and some bologna - we both had jobs almost the entire time we lived there, we had a roof over our heads, and clothes to wear. I don’t think I would have attempted to run away on my own. I was well aware of the stories of teen runaways and how they could end up. Having somebody to go with made the whole thing seem a lot more doable and less frightening.

Looking back, do you believe there were better options? What advice do you have for teens teetering on the edge you found yourself on?

I don’t have any regrets about what I did, although I am well aware that my story turned out a lot better than other teen runaway stories. At the time, I really didn’t feel like I had any “better” options. I had tried to live with my aunt, and that was not a positive experience . My father and his wife didn’t want me. The situation at home with my mother and stepfather was unbearable. My high school guidance counselor knew what was going on, at least to some degree, but never reported anything to the authorities or tried to reach out to me in any meaningful way. So I really felt very alone and hopeless, and then this guy, my boyfriend, comes along and wants to save me and suddenly I saw a way out, so I took it. Even now, almost 25 years later, the only alternative I see to my running away was to have stayed in an intolerable living situation with my mother and step-father.

I guess the best advice I have for any teenager teetering on such an edge would be to get help. Find a trusted adult - through church, through school, a neighbor, somebody - who will listen and, if not help you, then at least give you some direction as to where to find appropriate help.

What did you learn from your experience as a teen runaway, and how were you able to use those lessons as you came into adulthood?

I’m not sure that I learned any great life lessons in my experience as a runaway. I think sometimes, experiences are just that - experiences. I survived. It was a chapter in my life. I think if anything, it confirmed the underlying feeling that I grew up with, and that has to do with a sense of self-reliance and not believing that I could really ever count on anybody except myself.

Many teen runaways do not survive either physically or emotionally. How were you able to do so? Life is a long road. Did it get worse before it got better?

As I said, we found an apartment when we arrived in Utah, and furnished it using the money we had saved with thrift store furniture and necessities. We both found jobs, but even so, it was a very hand-to-mouth existence. We were usually very, very broke. His car broke down shortly after we arrived in Utah, and we couldn’t afford to have it fixed for more than a year, so we walked and took the bus everywhere. We ate a lot of Top Ramen and bologna sandwiches. We often couldn’t even afford the laundromat and washed our clothes by hand in the bathtub (I still remember the blisters on my hands from wringing clothes out).

I will say, also, that ours was an extremely rocky relationship from the start. He was abusive to me very early on, but there I was, an underage runaway, hundreds of miles from any friends or family. I didn’t have anywhere else to go, and besides, I had grown up watching my dad abuse my mother, and being abused by both of my parents and my mother’s boyfriend and new husband, so abuse was familiar to me, almost normal in a sick sort of way.

What top three things would you say to parents who are dealing with flight risk kids?

Listen to your kids. Take them seriously. Take responsibility as a parent and realize that as long as your child is a child (and even a teenager is a child) you are responsible for his/her emotional and physical well-being. If your family is out of control, get help. There is help out there.

Do you think the average adult takes teen emotions and issues seriously enough?

In my personal experience, no. However, I realize that I only see things through the very small and jaded window that looks out onto my own past. I don’t know what the statistics are, but obviously not every teen ends up so profoundly unhappy and desperate, so clearly there are good parents out there who are taking care of their kids, listening to them, and taking them seriously.

Of my six children, my oldest is on the cusp of teenhood at twelve years old. I see already that he is changing, and that parenting a teen will not be an easy task. I hope that I always remember my own past and that it will be a reminder to me to make sure my kids feel loved, valued, and taken seriously as they make their way to adulthood.
________________

Come back on June 29th for Runaway Lisa (Part 2).

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6527212 May 12, 2009

Gasping for Air: An Aberration Story

Now I focus on the wonderful gift of just being alive and it has changed my life.

I've always thought that drowning, basically smothering in water, would be the worst way to die. At least if I burn to death, I can still scream. I can open my mouth in a wide and agonizing circle and let my animal nature escape for one last moment full of blaze and glory. For me, suffocation brings to mind all the metaphors of a life not fully lived ... squelched, under a thumb, in a box, misunderstood, twisted and prodded and poked into molds often created by culture, society, dysfunctional families, caustic or abusive relationships, and even religion.

A long-suffering loneliness sits deep within those who feel unable to express their individuality. Like those who suffer from serious respiratory illnesses, they often grasp at whatever they can find--to just breathe. It's this suffocation of life that frightens me the most; in my circuitous head, such a condition represents a tragedy worse than death. We will all experience death, a natural progression of biology, but some of us will fail to experience or celebrate our distinctiveness. In the end, death isn't always the real catastrophe.

And so--me and my new friend, Max Kai, are here to suggest that you can't just sit back and wait for someone to pry your lips open, punch you in chest, and get that sucker going. It takes personal bravery and determination to bust through the walls of suck life builds around us.

With all these metaphors swirling in my head, coupled with my own chronic allergy-related coughing thing that chokes me up from time to time, I can't imagine how folks like Max must feel. Max has Pulmonary Fibrosis, a lung disorder characterized by a progressive scarring--known as fibrosis--and deterioration of the lungs, which slowly robs its victims of their ability to breathe. Approximately 128,000 Americans suffer from Pulmonary Fibrosis, and an estimated 48,000 new cases are diagnosed annually. It claims the lives of 40,000 people each year--the same number as breast cancer. There are currently no effective treatments or a cure for Pulmonary Fibrosis.

One thing I particularly admire about my new friend Max is his intensely positive attitude in the face of such a suffocating disease. He's lived through the sad outcomes of seeing the glass half full but was ultimately able to tap into the overwhelming positives he still has. For Max, the turning point came when a close friend suggested that he study the Japanese martial art of Aikido.

Aikido was developed by Morihei Ueshiba as a synthesis of his martial studies, philosophy, and religious beliefs. Aikido is often translated as the Way of unifying (with) life energy or as the Way of harmonious spirit. While I'm about as far away as one can get from being a martial arts expert, this small amount of information about Aikido suggests that a its powerfully combined focus on physical, philosophical, and religious balance can only result in great outcomes.

You struggle with pulmonary fibrosis. Can you explain what it is and how it impacts your health?

Pulmonary Fibrosis is newly understood. It's basically an autoimmune disease that impacts the ability of the lungs to function properly. Over time, the lungs deteriorate and you essentially strangle to death.

When and how were you diagnosed?

I was basically born with this thing. At nine years old, I was diagnosed with asthma. The disease evolved throughout my life, as did knowledge about it, until I finally received a correct diagnosis.

How did you cope as your life progressed?

So little was known about it when I was younger. It screwed up my life in a real bad way--mentally, physically, and emotionally. When I got older I found drugs and alcohol. WOW! Speed and coke helped me to breath, and the alcohol helped me come down from the high. With that said, I lost both my kids and my marriage. It was a sad way of life that took me through many years of hell.

Has your struggle with pulmonary fibrosis changed your view of yourself and life in general?

Well, after all my struggles and negative thinking, I finally came to a realization. I thought, "What the hell? I can still breathe!" Now I focus on the wonderful gift of just being alive and it has changed my life.

You are into martial arts. Tell us about that.

After having a stroke, I stopped self medicating. Then I got a doctor who prescribed Singulair and Advair which, in my opinion are both killers (might as well have coke). About this time, my friend of 11 years, Ruth suggested that I try Aikido. I took the plunge at her Dojo and got a green belt and now go at my own pace. My doctor always says, "Max, you're dead and don't know it." I love that message. I've been at this for five years now with no alcohol or drugs. I feel great!

How have martial arts helped you cope with your health challenges and with life in general?

Aikido keeps me amazingly focused on the positives around me. It gives me positive, achievable physical and psychological goals.

Does a less than perfect health profile have to keep us from accomplishing our goals? How do you keep moving forward?

To those who live in Fear, DON'T FEAR! I'm alive because I want to be alive! Believe me, I know fear very, very well. Once I got used to it, it dropped away, and its power over me was gone. No more doctors -- all gone for me. And I must stress me because I chose a holistic health approach. My Aikido partner Ruth got me involved in Waiora. Seolite and the other nutrition products are helping me.

Things get easier when you decide to take control of your own life. Remember the movie, Highlander? There can be only one! You're the One! Don't let anything stand it your way.

What would you say is your life motto, and why?

"YOU ONLY LIVE TWICE" - Ian Fleming. It means that you only live twice. Once when you are born and once when you look death in the face. These are the words I live by. I will not waste my days trying to prolong them! I shall use my time.

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6527212 March 26, 2009

NOTE TO ... Glamour Magazine

I’ve read Glamour for over 25 years. Some of those years I had a subscription, and some found me paying big bucks for a grocery store copy. This week, I happened to pick up a copy at the Philadelphia Airport. I admit that I couldn’t resist finding out what your 700 Dos, Don'ts & Deals were. While Newsweek remains my favorite magazine, like many women, I not only want to be educated, I also want glamour. In fact, one of my ongoing fantasies is to write an article for Newsweek as I sit feeling and looking glamorous in my apple green office.

It just so happened that the issue I picked up was your latest celebrating Glamour’s 70 years on the stand. The issue was filled with pats on the back regarding your journalistic and artistic ground breaking feats, many of which brilliantly pushed women forward. For example, Glamour used the first black cover model in 1968 and feminist icon Gloria Steinem hailed as a contributing editor from 1963 to 1970. More recently, Marianne Pearl reported on women working to change the world in her award-winning column, Global Diary.

Congratulations!

Toward the end of the issue was a lengthy piece under your Health & Body category detailing your latest survey of 16,000 women telling their body confidence secrets. You were so sad and shocked to report that your readers, 75% of us, still think we’re too fat. And, darn it, we still don’t seem to grasp the overwhelming stats that men prefer real women to super skinny anorexic types. You were happy to report that the younger set are more comfortable with their bodies then my generation was 25 years ago. Your last big survey on this took place in 1984, the year I graduated from high school. Yes, I wanted to be skinny then, too.

There’s one big issue with the issue highlighted in the issue.

Several pages back, under the Glamour Fashion category, you include two fabulous fashion shoots, The New Happy Clothes and What to Wear this Weekend. The fantasy inspiring pages beautifully display skinny models in red, white and blue garb, and wholesomely sexy farm clothes. Also, under the Glamour Beauty category, you've given us The 10 Best Hair & Makeup Looks. And they're all so pretty! We're shown the looks that are timelessly beautiful modeled by women who look strikingly similar to those I gazed upon as a starving-myself-to-be-beautiful eighteen year old in 1984. Good Lord! I have less chance now than I did then. Thank goodness I had the sense to give up on starving myself years ago. What's a girl to do? Fantasies are supposed to make life fun--kick it up a notch not give you a deflating punch in the gut you're trying to get rid of.

If Glamour is so concerned and saddened that our attitudes haven’t change enough in the last 25 years, why do you continue to reserve your thinnest, youngest looking models for your arty fashions shoots, the one’s reeking of fantasy-feeding images? In this particular issue, you diligently inserted various articles throughout preaching to us “love your body just the way it is,” and praising Beyonce’ and the Hollywood set for pushing well-rounded choices of beauty icons and role models, yet you can’t seem to adjust your own super stylistic fashion shoots to match that heartfelt message of love for us and our imperfect bodies.

Why not put your money where your mouth is, use your power, and show some real ground-breaking balls in your own industry? Take the average size clothes sold in this country (or at least the healthy norm according to our healthcare professionals), find beautiful, photogenic women who can wear them, and take some arty shots of that. I triple-dog dare you to try it for three months. Wait! Are you telling me that your fashion designer buddies don’t make clothes in those sizes, or that you have industry pressure to display these clothes on bones so that they hang just right? Well, if you must show us these super smallish threads, perhaps you could include a disclaimer. It might say:

Caution: The following clothes are specifically created to fit young women between the ages of 13 and 15, those with eating disorders, and those genetically bone-thin (a small percentage of the population). Do not try this at home.

Then in juxtaposition, provide us with fantasy-pushing, glamorous shots of women just like us.

Aberration Nation Newsflash: As long as you keep feeding us this particular fantasy, changes aren’t gonna come.

We know that you’re a business, not a healthcare outfit. Our fantasies fuel sales. But if you truly care and have the guts to do some cutting edge fantasy adjusting, we’ll still buy the magazine. You may even pick up a new reader or two. On top of that, more of us might have time to read if we’re not so darn busy trying to be perfect.
___________________

Aberration Nation Readers, Did I get this right? Let me know what you think?

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6527212 February 16, 2009

Psychotic Break: An Aberration Story

I have more empathy for the suffering of others and for the mentally ill, who are not bad or scary people ...

Are you depressed today? Did someone stab you in the back? OMG, are you addicted to coffee? So ... if you don't get a break, or have a vacation soon, you're going to lose your @#$!x& mind, right?

Wrong!

Norman Vincent Peale's book, The Power of Positive Thinking, written in 1952, was the first to teach me a thing or two about the power of positive thinking. I read it in the 80's. In the 90's, Tony Robbins emerged, saying that the way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives. Using strong words out of context can create an unintended, negative mindset. This insidious drama queen language, in itself, can be damaging. And now we have Rhonda Byrne's The Secret! When are we all finally going to get it?

Lost in both our blatant and more subtle negativity, we often forget that there are people out there who actually have a real disease called depression, and are in jeopardy of losing their minds on any given day. Heck, some people actually grew up in neighborhoods where people were stabbed every now and then. When we take their words are we downplaying the seriousness of their history and/or ongoing struggle? Does it make their experiences somehow less severe, and therefore worth a bit less attention from those of us lucky enough to simply be a little down from time to time?

And it's not about political correctness. It's about language, and the powerful messages we feed ourselves--mental loops that influence our emotional programming.

I often wonder who those truly depressed, mind-losing, struggling people are. Surely they aren't my neighbor, the soccer mom with the fake nails in line at the grocery store, or my co-worker who just got promoted. They must be tucked away somewhere having problems or trying to recover.

Wrong again ...

The more I come to appreciate that normal is a farce, I realize that these people are all around me, at times weaving in and out of my life on a daily basis. Maybe you are one of them. If not, are they listening to you talk about your so-called depression, and your emotional stab wounds, wondering if you actually know what those words mean? If you have experienced some of these serious issues, hopefully you've come to appreciate the words you use to describe your life, being careful to avoid those that should be reserved for the emergence or re-emergence of those heart-wrenching challenges you manage to keep at bay.

Liimu does just that. She's a young consultant with a bright smile and quick wit. If you met her for coffee, or crossed her path at the grocery store with her three young children, you'd never guess that she once dropped acid and lost her #$#%x@ mind. She has joined the Aberration Nation. Her name is Liimu and she's an alcoholic ... she's also your neighbor.

Your past includes a psychotic break and time spent institutionalized. Can you tel
l us what happened?

I was 24, and was finishing up my final year of college. Over the Christmas break, I went to see my boyfriend in New Mexico. We met in Las Vegas, and then for some reason, he thought it would be a good idea for us to drop acid before we made the 17 hour drive back to New Mexico.

Flash forward two months: I wake up hearing voices. I swear I can communicate with my cat without opening my mouth. I can think “come here” and he come s prancing into the room. I start writing letters like crazy, all the while showing up wherever, whenever I please. I miss appointments I've had for months and sit for exams without opening a single book. When my mom finally comes looking for me, she tells me we were going to see a doctor. We go to the mental health clinic on campus. They lock me in the ward, only releasing me to have an occasional cigarette.

When I was locked up, my mom visited daily. Every time she came, I had my bags packed and ready by the door. Every day, I was told I could not leave; they didn’t know when I’d be released. What was supposed to be a couple days’ stay turned into a five weeks of lock down. I finally agreed to go to rehab, and was released. I found out later that if I hadn’t agreed to the rehab program, they would have sent me to a long-term facility where my chances of getting out would have been slim to none.

Like myself, you were raised in a dysfunctional home. How did that environment bear out on your mental health as a teenager and young adult?

There were so many ways that have a dysfunctional home played out for me, the most impact probably being that I was raised in an alcoholic home. I didn’t learn any real coping mechanisms, and certainly didn’t learn that it was okay to be different, or to have feelings, or to be scared or sad. You just put on a good, strong front and muscled through, or you gave in entirely and were a complete loser drunk. So, although I finally realized I was a drunk and had to get sober, I put on a brave face for many years. It was that pressure, in part, that led to my breakdown. I have to be careful about that to this day.

You’ve said that being institutionalized changes a person forever. How so?

When someone else says, “If I don’t get a vacation soon, I’m gonna have a breakdown,” they don’t really mean it. For me, it's truly a deep-rooted fear. In the same way that a person is changed forever by the experience of seeing a violent crime or losing a loved one or becoming a parent, a person is changed forever by losing his or her mind. Suddenly, the idea that the mind is a thing that can be lost takes on new meaning. I'm always aware now of where that line is and how close I am to it. I know what lies on the other side of sanity.

Can you describe your mental break?

I was completely removed from reality. Until I entered the mental institution, it wasn’t scary at all. I had this overwhelming sense of calm, actually. Like I was completely in tune with the energy of the Universe. But, once I got locked up, it was a whole different story. If you’ve ever seen one of those movies from the 1950's where they show a funhouse with scary looking faces flying in and out of the camera, and people laughing and screaming at the same time while the room is spinning around and around--it was sort of like that, only scarier. I remember at one point (during a drug-induced, fitful sleep), dreaming that I was literally standing at the gates of Hell, facing the Devil Himself. When I woke, I felt like I had very narrowly escaped Hell.

You recovered from your psychotic episode, and went on to finish college and begin a successful career. How were you able to walk away from such deep pain and mental disarray? How are you now?

For me, it was a simple process of recovery--not easy, but simple. I surrendered to my alcoholism and addiction, and began to work the principles of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA). Soon after, I developed my own understanding of a Higher Power and since then, it has been easy.

Were there any particular individuals who influenced your recovery, or was it ultimately a case of, “I will survive?” Did it take a combination?

Each person is unique. What are the key success factors in your ongoing mental health? My sponsors, my mother, my therapist, my husband, and my female friends have all been instrumental. The key success factor in my ongoing mental health is my commitment to recovery--in all the ways it manifests in my life, whether it's workshops, recovery programs, friendships, therapy, exercise, etc. My commitment is to improving myself, and improving my relationship with God. As long as what I do is fundamentally based on one or both of those priorities, I’m doing fine.

Having grown up in the shadow of mental illness, how much of your own issues do you attribute to nature versus nurture? How does one stop the vicious cycle of familial dysfunction? Is it possible?

I definitely believe that it's possible to break the cycle, though for me it's impossible to deny that I had it in my blood (my father and mother were both alcoholics). What I hope to pass on to my children is how to recover, so that if they are afflicted with the disease of alcoholism, they will know there is a solution. I also think there is a line between teetering-on-the-edge-of and full-blown addiction, and for some people, that is where environment plays a role. In my case, I've had an addictive personality from as far back as I can remember.

Looking back, can you tell us if and how your experience being institutionalized, and the associated struggles, have changed you for the better? What are the positives you’ve found in yourself and in others as a result of your unique life?

I don’t take anything for granted. My commitment to recovery is strengthened by how much is at stake for me. I have more empathy for the suffering of others and for the mentally ill, who are not bad or scary people, they are just ill and need help. I have a complete awe and love for my Higher Power for having taken me to the depths and brought me back again. That’s what it took for me to fully accept my alcoholism and recover. And ever since then, I have been committed to serving God and others.

When I start to feel sorry for myself, I immediately look for ways to be of service to others. That’s the quickest way to get over anything that is causing me pain.

For more on Liimu, visit here and here.

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