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Sunday, September 17, 2017

I am the Adult Child of a Hypochondriac

We could talk about being that small child whose parent makes a mountain out of a molehill. But let's move forward a few years. You are now the parent yourself and your child is coughing, or febrile, or has a stomach ache. Do you know how to respond or does your stomach clench at the knowledge that you aren't equipped to determine appropriate parental response to such a normal, childhood thing?

I read on that "the Greek word hypochondria translates as 'below the ribcage'. It was first used to explain indigestion, then melancholia, then neurosis and finally, 'a misplaced fear of illness based on misinterpretation of bodily symptoms' and while almost no one will own up to it publicly up to one in 10 people suffer from anxiety problems and doctors are seeing more cases in which this shows up as health anxiety or hypochondria. The DSM-IV defines hypochondriasis according to the following criteria: Preoccupation with fears of having, or the idea that one has, a serious disease based on the person's misinterpretation of bodily symptoms.

Enter anxiety. If your own parent has a hypochondriasis-type disorder or pattern of behavior, then your parent presents with major anxiety much of the time and you, as the adult child, probably go through periods of crisis and periods of disconnection with that parent. Because that would be normal in this not-normal situation.

Growing up with a hypochondriacal parent makes it difficult, as a parent yourself, to know when illness truly exists, to determine levels of illness, and to figure out appropriate treatment options. You might consider ill people to be fakers or to be exaggerating. You might have a difficult time knowing when to intervene with medications with your children. You might not know when to take their somatic complaints seriously.  If your parent is a hypochondriac you might not even know when to take your own illnesses seriously.

  • Have you thought that your daughter was faking a headache?
    Have you assumed that your child was exaggerating their illness?
  • Have you doubted your own knowledge about basic medical care?
  • Have you ignored your son's complaints, thinking them nonsense?
  • Have you counted on your partner's medical knowledge to determine appropriate treatment options?
  • Does a simple illness in your child make you feel inadequate?

If you can relate to this, then know this.
You won't find information online because this is a genuinely understudied thing. But you can re-parent yourself. You can learn basic illness symptoms and how to treat these illnesses. You can remind yourself that your children are honest reporters of their own illness. You can share these struggles with your own medical professional and with your child's pediatrician. You can intervene with your own maladjusted thoughts and remind yourself that you can trust your own senses.

It's real and you have the ability to retrain yourself and to pass healthy patterns on to your own children. Clarity will happen.

Thursday, July 20, 2017


It was a hundred years ago, back in my twenties, I was in a class where we were talking about guilt. Everyone in the class was talking about their various experiences of guilt, telling their stories, talking about the times they felt deep senses of guilt and shame. I remember sitting there in that moment racking my brain for times when I felt guilt. But I couldn't come up with one.

Weird, right?

When I was asked for a response I essentially reported that, that I couldn't think of any significant guilt. The response I got from the class really stuck with me.

My peers in the class reacted with doubt, essentially saying Of course you feel guilt, that's bullshit. One guy even looked right at me and said, Maybe you're a sociopath. Sociopaths don't feel guilt. Well, I heard that, sat, and waited for the class to be over.

A hundred years later, and something sparked that moment for me today. Of course I'm not a sociopath. And I still don't experience guilt much. Or shame. And there is a good reason for that. 

According to one online definition I found Guilt is a cognitive or an emotional experience that occurs when a person believes or realizes—accurately or not—that he or she has compromised his or her own standards of conduct or has violated a universal moral standard and bears significant responsibility for that violation.   

Reread that. Compromising one's own standard of conduct. Guess what, I just don't do that. I know I am weird; I talk about things like this and I run the risk of coming across awkwardly, like one who is kind of self-centered. But it's really more the opposite. I simply think too much. I have the need to pick apart my own authenticity, my own ethical standard. It's fricking exhausting sometimes.

The thing is, I know that I try hard to do the right thing. I make mistakes. I definitely do the wrong things sometimes. But I can not carry guilt around. When I do things wrong, I do as much as I possibly can to learn from it, to correct it, to make amends. So why oh why should I feel guilt or shame about errors? Why should you? What is the use of guilt?

Learn from your mistakes.
Make amends.
Forgive yourself.
And fricking move on - because carrying guilt around helps no one.

What is the value or benefit of guilt?
Religions often use and abuse the administration of guilt to control people. Other institutions often use guilt to motivate or shame. But I am here to go out on a limb publicly to say that I find guilt POINTLESS. I REFUSE to wallow in it. I refuse to act like it is a useful emotion. I refuse to condone anyone carrying it around. And I encourage you to let your guilt go too.

Saturday, January 14, 2017

Self Loathing

I don't know how I missed it or how it missed me.
Around me people were stressing out about their appearance, their weight, their skin, their hair, their general look. But I didn't stress. 

Growing up, I noticed that people were hating themselves for the appearance of their face, legs, ass, weight...and I didn't hate myself. I don't hate myself. How did I not get it?

Don't get me wrong, I've added weight; I've added chins. I'm not delighted with the lesser health associated with the weight and I am working out now, down a few pounds. But that's not what I want to talk about, the pounds.

It's the self loathing.

How many people do you know, perhaps you yourself, who seriously and tragically loathe their own bodies. Are disgusted. Hate the skin that they live in. Can't look in the mirror.

I'm interestingly aware of my own thoughts and words right now as I write this blog post because parts of me want to assure you that I am quite cognizant of my weight and girth. It's no secret. I would like to lose some pounds and I'm working on it. Similarly I'm aware of the loss of my true attractiveness. I used to be quite cute. Losing that was shockingly and embarrassingly difficult to accept. It took me about a decade to come to terms with no longer being cute. I had to seriously consider the value of beauty and youth in American culture and how fleeting, even how false, that genuinely is. Still I mourned my loss of it. 

But during that entire decade I never hated myself.

Self-loathing doesn't happen organically. It grows within a family, a community, a culture. It comes from celebrations of bodies that are absolutely perfect, or Photo-shopped to look that way. Both men and women are exposed to thousands of images day after day of human bodies that are so digitally-edited and manipulated that there is no reality left in the image. Yet we see those images and feel inadequate beside them.

Additionally the culture reveres, weirdly worships, youth and slimness. 

This is not news to you. We all know this and have known this for decades. The first time I ever knew of it was sometime in the 1980s when TV Guide took Oprah Winfrey's head and put in onto Ann Margaret's body. Ann Freaking Margaret. I'm certain such deception wasn't new even then. Now the ability to bend and change and misrepresent images is so pervasive I doubt we ever see a pic that isn't somehow, butchered.

Yet even knowing this so many of us, mature men and women, and the next generations of our children are wandering around feeling inadequate, unworthy, and full of self-loathing.

How this passed me by is completely beyond me. Not only was the female image actually taped to the wall (pictures of naked women...yes, you read that right; pictures of naked women were a part of my childhood), not only did our father jokingly call his adolescent daughters Thunder Thighs and Truck Butt, not only was there no strong female lead in our home, not only was my appearance one of the major roles that I played in the family identity, and not only were we a strong TV- and movie-viewing family, but the culture of the time was strongly slanted toward extremely thin, sickly looking young men and women in all of the teen magazines and popular womens' mags. How did I miss the body image distortions, because important people around me caught it?

One person very close to me can't believe I can be happy with myself when I have lost that beauty that I was once noted for. Yet I am. I am happy with myself and I think I've figured out some of the reasons why the self-loathing skipped me.

  • I am aware that my value does not lie in my appearance. I am deeply loved for the person that I am and I deeply love myself for how strenuously I fight to be honest and authentic.
    Because the quality of character means everything to the world around us, THAT is what we owe the world.
  • Self-loathing and a distortion of the reality of body creates an inability to see one's self clearly. Once you are into the hatred of your own body, no reality of self actually gets through. Many, many men and women who struggle with this are entirely unaware of their own beauty, inside and outside.
    In fact, I know that you are saying to yourself that there are things that I don't know about you and that is why this one does not apply to you.
  • And, weird as this may sound, having been pretty, I know that having it does not make me a better person. I know that having that thing that so many people long for is a total fools trap because having beauty doesn't bring happiness, joy, or fulfillment at all.
    Being happy, joyful, and doing fulfilling things does.

I can't offer solutions or secrets on how to turn Self-Hatred into Self-Worth, though it is possible. But I can contribute this small thought exercise to the discussion. If you struggle with the distortions of body image, please reread the three points I made above. 

Our society as a whole, not the American culture, the Global Popular Culture worships thin. 
Beyond healthy thin.

Be the change you need to see in the world. Recognize the bullshit TRAP you have bought into and are being controlled by. And do everything you can do to change the way you talk to yourself...because the world needs people who are kind and who know how to love themselves.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Lost in the Night

It's that deep night where their words circle in my head...and I lie in the dark repeating, refining, getting it perfect. Those words that I will never actually say to them. The exact, most perfect way of explaining their misconceptions, their inaccuracies, their complete fabrications.

My night is consumed with what I could have, should have, didn't say. In my fantasy diatribe I bust every falsehood and bit of slander and I dash each and every story told against me. In the dark I am successful.

Today in the light I realize that I, again, lost the sleep as they laid sleeping in a peaceful haze of bullshit and lies, a haze of their own construction. Another night lost...but do they win the night? 

NO for I am solid and healthy and not as fragile as I once was.

Today in the light I rinse off the residue of the night and I look myself in the mind and heart and remember that my self worth and beautiful life is not dependent on their understanding of truth. While they powerlessly flounder in a false world of their own construction, my ascent into the light is by my own power, with my own truth, and by my own hand. I do not need, require, or even want their filthy, beleaguered mind in my life. They are as oblivious as ever and I am empowered through the complex and genuine alchemy of self care, personal nurturing, and truth.

Tonight I will sleep soundly.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

End the Bah Humbug

A gift I give to you.

You have the power to make the holidays what they are. Have they been traumatic, contentious, divisive, drama? Do you carry holiday baggage? Past harms? Unshed tears? Unvoiced crimes and times?

You can end it right here and right now. You can change everything.
You can take the Decembers into the next generation as a family/lovely time.

Do it.
Your descendants won't know who to thank.
But it will be you.

A gift you give yourself.

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Good Words

“We can spend our lives letting the world tell us who we are. Sane or insane. Saints or sex addicts. Heroes or victims. Letting history tell us how good or bad we are. Letting our past decide our future. Or we can decide for ourselves. And maybe it's our job to invent something better.”
Chuck Palahniuk,