Soup To Nuts

Siamese Twins At Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is a special time when family members, spread far and wide across this great land of ours, unite under one roof to dine, catch up, and recall exactly why it is they are so careful to avoid one another the rest of the year.

Those of us strangely blessed with mental illnesses of various descriptions are especially vulnerable, since these allegedly cheerful events feel more like crime scene reconstructions where the horrors that sent us running down the path to Cookoopantsatopolis are revisited endlessly.

Seated at the table, any progress made in therapy over the past year seems to magically melt away. Before long we find ourselves reclaiming emotional baggage we’re desperate to abandon. No matter how far we’ve progressed in life, there, seated in front of that defenseless avian carcass, we’re seven again; and it ain’t pretty.

Small wonder so many of us cringe as we witness the approach of Thanksgiving, contemplating the event with a dread one might reserve for dentistry without anesthesia.

If you are faced yet again with this psycho-emotional Armageddon, take heart!

Turn your Thanksgiving dinner table into a payback battlefield with you commanding the tanks! As soon as trouble approaches, apply one of these brass-knuckle gambits certain to turn the tide!

Take Charge Of Thanksgiving Dinner With These Psychological Grenades!

Insist on saying grace before anyone can start eating. Launch into a rambling, incoherent list of wonders that inspire you with a sense of gratitude, including, but not limited to, salt & pepper shakers, lamps, lint removers, self-winding watches and anchovy paste. Do not stop until you can see the vein in your dad’s forehead protruding.

Instead of asking your mom, dad, or sibling to pass the potatoes, say, “Please pass the resentments.”

As your sibling drones on about a recent social triumph, raise your wine glass in their direction and say, “You know, the more I drink the more interesting you become.”

Just when things are settling down, deliver a long, impassioned toast dedicated to, and describing in detail, the imaginary family you wish you’d had. Do not refer to your actual family at all.

Share odd details about turkeys. Say things like, “The fleshy growth from the base of the beak, which is very long on male turkeys and hangs down over it, is called the snood. Sometimes I wish I had a snood.”

As you listen to family members converse, randomly say “Hmmm” and scribble feverishly in a tiny notepad. When one of them asks what you’re doing, patiently explain that you’re observing them and will be reporting back to the authorities soon. If pressed simply say “Hmmmm” a lot.

Bear in mind that these techniques will not heal psychic traumas of youth, nor will they help you outgrow any damage done to you by your family. However, they will provide you with a lot of laughs at your family’s expense, and that’s got to count for something.

Self-Diagnosis With SynAPPS

crazy drawing icon

Sooner or later we are all tormented by that nagging, unnerving question. You know the one. Am I wearing my underwear over my clothes? Is my cheese slipping off the cracker? Am I marching to the beat of a different dumber? Is the diploma in my den from Whassamatta U?

Like a pebble wedged firmly in your shoe the uncertainty refuses to leave, taunting and mocking until thinking of anything else is impossible.

I’ve been troubled by these moments of existential meltdown for decades, which is why I was so excited when my friends at Kronko told me about self-diagnosis with SynAPPS® – the latest in “smart” applications for iPhones, iPads, and ay caramba. Here’s how it works.

As an intelligent application, SynAPPS® records your online activities in order to build, and regularly update, a psychodynamic knowledge base enabling it to gauge your sanity quotient on demand.

On-Line, Real-Time Sanity Checks!

Feeling a little squizzly? Starting to wonder if you’re safe behind the wheel of a front-end loader, steamboat, or roulette table? Simply let SynAPPS®determine your degree of sanity with a flurry of carefully crafted questions designed to slip through your layers of delusion and self-deception for a look at the unvarnished truth.

Below you will find some of the generic, pre-loaded questions; note that questions become more specifically targeted to your individual psychological make-up the longer you useSynAPPS®.

1. Do all people lie? Yes No

2. Do you lie? Yes No

3. Are you lying now? Yes No

4. Are you feeling just a wee bit squizzly? Yes No

5. Are you lying now? Yes No

6. How about now? Yes No

7. Is life just a metaphor for golf? Yes No

8. Is fishing just a way to hide a drinking problem? Yes No

9. Is drinking just a way to hide a fishing problem? Yes No

10.Do you lie about the size of the fish you catch? Yes No

11.Are you the Emperor of France? Yes No

12.Do you enjoy ruling France? Yes No

13.Would this be a good time to lie about ruling France? Yes No

14.When a hoodlum approaches, do you cross the street? Yes No

15.When a hoodlum approaches, does he cross the street? Yes No

16.Is sanity overrated? Yes No

17.Okay, you’re sure you’re the Emperor of France? Yes No

18.Is “reality” just everyone believing the same illusion? Yes No

19.Is squazmogrified pontippelation inexorable? Yes No

20.How about now? Yes No

If you answer just one of these questions incorrectly, SynAPPS®  sends a comical e-card flagging your loopitude potential. Two inaccurate responses generates a warning call to the local police, and three mistakes prompts a power surge strong enough to knock you out until you’re more yourself.

SynAPPS® from Kronko. You’ll never have wonder if you’re whackadoomius again.

Mass Communication: Pox or Apocalypse?

Help Eliminate Communication Pollution

According to a recent survey, 90% of surveys referenced on the Internet are fictitious.

According to an entirely different, completely credible, survey, 87% of all information posted on the Internet is “useless, stupid, false, and/or toxic.”

Survey author, Chumley Entwhistle, Dean Of Psychology at Basingstoke University, expanded. When he was finished expanding, he explained.

“All of us remember the first time our parents caught us shooting heroin. We said, ‘But all the kids are doing it.’ To which our parents replied, ‘If all the kids were setting fire to Archbishops, would you do that too?’ After a considerable amount of soul searching we realized that we would.

“Human interaction has grown increasingly inane through the centuries,” Entwhistle stated, “but until the communication age this posed no problem. Today, however, everyone can communicate with everyone all the time; we’ve inadvertently loosed a tsunami of litter, twaddle, and dreck upon the land.”

A recent study, released by The National Association of Releasing Studies, shows that information is more addictive than crack cocaine.

(NARS officials revealed that the value of the communication makes no difference whatsoever, indeed, anecdotal data suggests that useless information is actually somewhat more addictive than valuable information.)

“It’s a perfect storm of intellectual and cultural devolution,” continued Entwhistle flatly. “Our addiction to sharing the hideous minutia of mundane lives has had catastrophic sociological effects.

“For example: A – We can no longer discriminate between treasure and trash. 2 – We have lost the ability to listen, thereby completely undermining the learning process. Next – since we are lulled into the myth of believing we are interesting, we no longer go to any trouble to be interesting.

“All addictions lead to the same place, as we know,” Entwhistle, now oozing disingenuous gravitas, brushed back a tear with his assistant’s sleeve, “one plummets into degradation like a hanged man drops through a trap door. Our cultural consciousness has already fallen to shocking depths.

“For example, Internet users seem to be amazed that bacon is delicious, coffee is stimulating, and cats are adorable – so much so that they repeat these observations endlessly as though they’d just thought of them.

“Heartbreaking,” sighed Entwhistle, “just short years ago everyone understood these rudimentary concepts.

“The first step in recovering from addiction is admitting the problem, and our society must confront its dependence on low-quality information from disreputable sources,” Entwhistle cautioned.

“In the words of Taz Mopula,” he smiled, “Our ability to broadcast the wretched detritus of daily life is no argument for doing so; restraint is increasingly precious.”

Critical Condition

Dying Gladiator Resents Critics

If a debilitating mental illness like manic depression, schizophrenia, or republicanism has stolen your ability to make rational decisions – you’ve gone through a confidence crushing emotional sea change.

For many of us, it can be months, even years, before we regain the ability to observe, analyze, and evaluate the never-ending stream of input with clarity, agility, and unwavering authority.

Today’s recovering lunatic must contend with what I shall refer to as moral and emotional relativism and the insufferable twaddle known as political correctness. Anti-intellectualism is the height of fashion; claiming truth affords one as much credibility as being able to prove it. Sparing hurt feelings now takes precedence over honesty.

Fuzzy-headed social engineers would have us believe that everything is awesome, there are no losers, and all it takes to fulfill one’s wants and desires is the ability to visualize and wish with a level of naïve sincerity most frequently encountered in the puzzled expressions of unsuccessful prize fighters struggling through the final days of regrettable careers.

Faculties at last back where they belong, shoulders squared, you will gaze upon the rotting remains of what was once, at best, a mediocre culture and wonder – is this bullshit or is it me? At that precise moment, the extent of your recovery will be determined by your ability to say – this is bullshit – with confidence.

Like a muscle gone weak from neglect, the courage required to repudiate social stupidity must be rebuilt. To help you do so, I have prepared a diverse assortment of questions that call for snap judgments. Remember to trust your visceral responses. Good luck!

QUESTIONS

1. The meek shall inherit the earth. True_ False_

2. Quentin Tarantino once had an original idea. True_ False_

3. Everything happens for a reason. True_ False_

4. Harmony and joy will return to this troubled world of ours only after Garrison Keillor has been pecked to death by a duck. True_ False_

5. You are unique. True_ False_

6. Sacha Baron Cohen is funnier than syphilis. True_ False_

7. All men are created equal. True_ False_

8. In hell, all elevator Muzak is by Pink Martini. True_ False_

9. Creationism should be taught in high school science classes as a legitimate alternative to evolution. True_ False_

10. In Narcotics Anonymous, describing The Grateful Dead as – “a hideous shambles of talentless wing-nuts I can no longer endure” – is considered a pivotal breakthrough moment in recovery. True_ False_

ANSWER KEY

1. Sadly, this is not true, except to the extent that they will be buried in the earth.

2. False. No evidence supports this, although there is a remote possibility that he had one and kept it to himself.

3. True – frequently a bad reason.

4. True.

5. True. You are indeed unique; it’s one of the few qualities you share with everyone else.

6. True. Sacha Baron Cohen is a tiny bit funnier than syphilis.

7. False. Nobody believes this.

8. True. While no one has returned from hell to validate this, the force of logical deduction seems irrefutable.

9. True. In addition, Bozomism (clown worship) should be preached in all churches as a legitimate alternative to Christianity.

10. True. There is no record anywhere of a person listening to the Grateful Dead while sober.

Time Loves A Hero, But Crowds Like A Fall

angry mob

If you’ve ever gotten divorced you know that, as soon as it happens your married friends start avoiding you as if the inability to maintain a relationship is some sort of bizarre, highly contagious skin condition. The fate of those fighting serious mental health issues, including addiction, is far worse.

The road leading out of Bedlam seems endlessly challenging but we trudge it all the same, then, at the finish line, in place of that brass band we expect there is an angry mob. It seems beastly unkind, especially after the hard work, but before you start nursing a grudge (“No amount of nursing will ever make a grudge healthy.” Taz Mopula) understand a few things about who and what you’ve become and why the new you is bringing out the very worst this wretched refuse has to offer.

The day you went skidding off the road and right into downtown Cuckoopantsatopolis was the day you reminded every straight arrow of your acquaintance that none of us is ever truly safe. Sanity itself, that sine qua non for the bourgeois, mediocre, pointless life ostensibly guaranteed by the Constitution, is as vulnerable as a Fabergé egg. Nobody wants to be reminded of that, and yet you do.

“But wait,” you say, in that adorably naïve tone of voice you apply to questions that illustrate your innocence, “do I not also teach, i.e. show, that by facing down these unholy perils one can evolve spiritually and grow stronger, actually emerging as a better, more morally grounded person in the process?”

Yes, yes you do, Sparky, and this is precisely why that mob is roughly as happy to see you as they were to see Frankenstein.

They say in the rooms that a pickle can never return to its previous incarnation as a cucumber. While you may be a reformed devil transformed into an angel, one thing is certain, you will never again be just another Bozo on the bus in the eyes of outsiders; the tired, the poor, the slow, the dim. Fellow insiders know better, they know that all of us are merely Bozos on the bus, but that is another story.

Your very existence says to these apple pie bakers and flag wavers, “My experience is larger than yours, I know terrible truths you dare not admit. Though horribly handicapped I have emerged morally grounded, fearless, strong, and (most upsetting of all) happy.” Trust me, they will never forgive you for that.

You have become a teacher, a leader, whether you care to admit it or not. As ever, peace of mind lies in embracing the inevitable, my advice is – learn how to lead by example, make your life a poem, a prayer.

Look around you; we desperately need leaders. Today we have none, instead we have celebrities who only lead by being cautionary tales, they show us what not to do.

Gallows Humor Swings

Fearless Frontiers Of Ventriloquism

“Be nice to your enemies; you just might be one of them.” Taz Mopula

If you’ve been blessed/cursed with Manic Depression (Bipolar Disorder) you’ll be spending time off the beaten track, in some cases, far off – for example, you might find yourself lying face down in a drainage ditch paralleling the beaten track, being pecked on the head by an irate duck.

At moments like this you can weep and shake your fists at the sky, or you can scratch your head in wonder at the dizzying, diverse smorgasbord of experience life has set before you, and laugh with bemused disbelief. Both options have merit, but healthy bipolar bears benefit from developing a resilient sense of humor predicated on perspective.

“The world is most certainly not a fair place, which, for the vast majority of us, is very fortunate indeed.” Taz Mopula

Laughter sheds light on a dark situation, creates distance, and generates power. Indeed, seeing the absurdity and irony of threatening situations is a great way to make them less intimidating. Courtrooms, prison cells, mental hospitals, distraught loved ones, and the offices of therapists are not intrinsically funny – however – the most beautiful lotus emerges from the darkest mud.

“People are always finding God in prisons and mental hospitals; but try finding a gift shop.” Taz Mopula

Becoming better at doing this means developing an ability to find humor in the most unpleasant, disagreeable situations life has to offer, because these will be the moments when it is most desperately needed. This may serve to further estrange you from those who have never strayed onto the shoulder of the beaten track, much less off of it. At this point you can pretend that your view is not as wide as it is, or acknowledge the distinction and let them deal with it.

“Pretending not to know the obvious is exhausting.” Taz Mopula

In a politically correct environment like ours, where the consensus holds that pretending a duck-billed platypus is a swan will make it so, there are those who believe Tourette’s Syndrome is comedy gold, ripe with satiric potential – and those that believe it is always wrong to make fun of the disabled.

“Political Correctness: An experiment in social engineering which holds that renaming dung mousse au chocolat makes it edible.” Taz Mopula 

The problem with this, dear reader, is that bipolar bears ARE disabled, we have already learned that, when it comes to comedy, all of life is fair game, especially ourselves. Indeed, we know that being able to see the humor and absurdity in our own pain, our bizarre affliction; is a key ingredient of healing.

“The better your vision becomes, the harder you laugh.” Taz Mopula

Truth And How It Got To Be That Way

spelunker in giant cave - light

The truth is we are born into a world of pain and devote most of our brief existence to satisfying base needs. Over time we are damaged, diminished, and ultimately destroyed. Instead of coexisting peacefully with the earth and each other our best energies are consumed by hatred, fear, violence, greed, and self-destruction.

The real tragedy of political correctness is that it has given lying a bad name.” Taz Mopula

We abhor truth and love lies. Lies are the air we breathe, the earth we tread upon, the foundations of our buildings. Most are so deeply ingrained we no longer even think of them as lies, indeed, we no longer think at all. Politicians, priests, and corporate representatives spoon-feed lies to the masses because people want to be lied to; lies win elections, build cathedrals, and sell soap.

“You can’t fool all of the people all of the time; but why would you even try when they’re so eager to do the job for you?” Taz Mopula

This is human nature, and I am not so foolish as to attempt a modification of that. However, I will frame it in a context of recovery, because, for the likes of us, recognizing and facing truth can be a matter of life or death.

“There are two kinds of people, those who believe there are only two kinds of people and those who dislike oversimplification.” Taz Mopula

Lunatics, wing nuts, and whackos – like me – are incapable of distinguishing reality from fantasy. We don’t want to live in an abandoned funhouse full of wavy mirrors misrepresenting reality; we just can’t help it. Dipsomaniacs, drug addicts, and adrenaline junkies – like me – are capable of distinguishing reality from fantasy, but we steadfastly refuse to try. No one hates truth quite as passionately as we do, and when it comes to lying, well; we are the masters.

“Pretending not to know the obvious is exhausting.” Taz Mopula

Mental health involves a long, arduous process that begins by identifying the truth about yourself. This is followed by a hard look at where you are, where you would like to be, and what it will take to get there. Brutal, often painful, honesty is an absolute requisite for this journey. For many of us, living a life of constant self-examination and ruthless honesty is rather like learning a new language. But, we tend to be determined, sometimes obsessive, people and what was once anathema can become a familiar, valued way of life. The benefits of rigorous honesty are everywhere, so we grow to love it.

“Don’t forget to wash up after losing your grip on reality; hand sanitizer is strongly advised.” Taz Mopula

Then, we get a horrible surprise. Mental illness and addiction have already marginalized us, we have always lived on the outskirts of town. But our newfound commitment to honesty and truth has put us in a ghetto on the outskirts of the outskirts of town. Remember, you have changed but the world has not. You have benefited from merciless self-evaluation and willingness to address your faults, but the world has not. Your modus operandi has changed, but take it from me, truth is just as unpopular on the outside as it has ever been.

“It’s not that I don’t love you, I do love you; I just don’t love you enough to lie to you.” Taz Mopula

Enjoy the quiet satisfaction and peace of mind it affords you, but, as ever, your ticker tape parade has been canceled.

Until You Have Had Nothing You Have Not Had It All

badlands

It was the great Taz Mopula who observed, “You just haven’t lived until you’ve had nothing at all.” This counter-intuitive proclamation is quite possibly enigmatic to many, but for those of us who’ve wandered the uneven cobblestones of Rue Whassamattavous, the meaning is only too familiar.

Madness – and the madness of addiction – will continue to pick your pocket as long as you let them. If you’re stubborn – (and so many of us are, preferring to do things our way rather than the easy way, much less the way that results in minimum damage to ourselves and others) – then it is likely you will proceed in your folly until there is nothing left at all. The question is – how high does the pain level have to get before you are willing to ask for help?

Mania and addiction have both pillaged my life like marauding Visigoths. It is astounding how quickly the fruits of one’s labors can be destroyed, if one is truly unhinged. I have closed my eyes on a bourgeois Shangri-La only to open them and discover a desolate, tortured landscape…no home, job, family, property, money…zero, the null set, a goose egg.

Absolute zero is terrifying, of course, but it is also exquisitely beautiful – because what you lack in life’s comforts you have gained in vision and truth. Your existence has become binary, you consciously make the choice that nearly everybody else makes unconsciously every day – shall I live or end it? Bear in mind that 1 out of every 5 bipolar adults attempts suicide, and succeeds.

If you are fortunate enough to find even a scrap of resolve, you get up off the canvas and wait for the stars and chirping birds to stop circling your head. Then you get back into the game, no matter how damaged and humbled you may be.

Mania completely wiped me out three different times – after a while, even the end of the world isn’t the end of the world anymore. One proceeds. As Churchill – whose battles with depression are legendary – reminded his countrymen when the very existence of Britannia was questionable, “Never, never, never, never give up.”

The name of the game is resilience.

Why You Should Care About Not Caring

Looking For Self-Worth Eyes Of Others

Many years ago my daughter came crying to me with a tale of cruelty involving her tight circle of very-best girlfriends. In-between sobs she relayed a saga of vicious betrayal unique to the mysterious world of adolescent girls. I listened quietly and, when she was done, took her into my arms and said this.

“Sweetheart, despite your best efforts, people will always talk about you and 90% of what they say will be wrong. I know it’s not fair but the best thing to do is let go.”

I am polishing this chestnut from the McHarg family vault for one reason. No matter where you are in your recovery – (or if you love and support a person with mental illness) – you need to know this:

There is a beautiful place out there beyond fear, beyond shame, beyond inferiority, beyond jealousy, beyond regret, beyond denial, beyond self-loathing and the name of that place is – I Just Don’t Care.

America is a land of immigrants and consequently it is also a land of xenophobia and prejudice. We blow trumpets in praise of democracy but don’t be deceived, there is a very definite pecking order in our culture and the mentally ill are way down at the bottom.

Take it from me, no one is going to give you respect, no one is going to give you equal rights. Square America can’t even understand you; much less know how to bring you inside out of the rain. Do not look to others for your redemption. (If you doubt me, just look to the history of America’s other minority groups.)

I went public as a bipolar person 23 years ago; I even wrote the first bipolar memoir,Invisible Driving. (Click HERE to order.) Nothing could have prepared me for the wave after wave of rejection, fear, and marginalization I faced. (Really, I did expect at least a little respect for what I’d done!)

The point is, if you tie your emotional well being to the opinion others have of you disaster will certainly follow. Keep growing extra layers of skin until stupid comments and remarks bounce right off.

Today I tell people I’m bipolar the same way I might tell them I’m right-handed, it’s a detail that helps them understand me but I am not defined by it. I have absolutely no shame about my history of mental illness and neither should you when it comes time to talking about your particular challenge.

They say that guilt is when you feel bad about something you did but shame is when you feel bad about something you are. You’re a teacher now; let them know just what you are – shamelessly.

If Mental Illnesses Had To Recruit

Autism Rocks

I am proud of all the brave individuals who help stamp out stigma by going public with the details of their mental health challenges. However, lately I’ve been tormented by the strangest hypothetical scenario. What would happen to the most popular mental illnesses if everyone simply shed their embarrassment and shame, opting out of quiet suffering in favor of actively seeking out qualified help at the first sign of trouble?

The potential impact on emotional damage resulting from mental illness would be incalculable, leaving behind a small army of unemployed bartenders, phlebotomists, drug dealers, psychiatrists, bookies, self-help gurus, pharmacists, escorts, acupuncturists, and life coaches. One man’s meat, as the old saying quite possibly goes, is another man’s foul; and in the land of unintended consequences no good deed to a model home goes unpunished.

In the interests of clarity, I digress. It may surprise me to tell you that the military was not always voluntary, indeed, young men were arbitrarily entered into a draft and called upon to serve whatever global mischief the government was indulging in at the time. Those who refused were given three options, jail, Canadian citizenship, or conversion to Quakerism – (sometimes known by the more formal handle – Society Of Friends). Faced with such horrific alternatives, even the most weak-kneed raw recruit begged for immediate transfer to Paris Island.

Back then the military did not need to advertise the way it does now. With the arrival of an all-volunteer army came a brand new form of advertising. In a mad scramble for America’s youth, Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and the really creepy military branch we’re not supposed to know about – whoops – outdid each other with ludicrous and disingenuous promises of advanced degrees, travel to exotic vacation spots, all night poker games, and retirement packages so lavish they would bring a blush to the cheeks of even the most avaricious and bloodthirsty Fortune 500 CEO.

And so, he said, arriving at last at his point, I wondered what it would be like if mental illnesses became so unpopular they had to advertise. Then I imagined ad campaigns with headlines like these:

Bipolar Disorder: See How The Other Half – Of You – Lives

Odds Are You’ll Fall In Love With Compulsive Gambling

People Can’t Stop Talking About Tourette’s Syndrome

Discover Narcissism – You’ll Find It’s Everything I Thought It Would Be!

Depression! Expect The Worst And You’re Never Disappointed

Come to think of it, might be nice to see these hideous monsters go begging for a change.