Therapy Roulette

I would not say that I am an expert at therapy, but I have certainly had my brushes with the noble art. Some of them I have written about in this very blog, like poor Marueen, others I have been rather tight lipped about. But I think, just as we need to be more open about therapy to reduce the stigma of getting help, we need to be more honest about the quality of the help we are receiving. And what to do if your therapist just doesn’t get it.

So just like with poor Maureen, the names have been changed, not to protect the innocent, but because I honestly don’t know what the protocol around that is. (And you know my love/fear of protocol.)

Let’s start with the most recent former therapist. Rodger. He was actually a fantastic counselor. I met with him after my sister suggested I try online therapy at a particularly rough time for me. She sent me to betterhelp.com, and it was not false advertising. Up until now, it was the best help I had ever had. He was a veteran of the war in Afghanistan and specialized in trauma as well as addiction. I had no problems with addiction but he also had experience with bipolar and LGBT issues, so when the website set us up, I went with it.

Like I said, he was one of the best counselors I had ever had. We would meet up online, and even though you can do video chat, I chose to text chat. That is just a better situation for me with my social anxiety. He was a bit of a typo guy, but his advice was really solid. This was so much better than the last therapist I had… His name was Jack.

Oh, Jack. I will always think fondly of Jack if only for the material he gave me. I came to him when I was in a particularly horrible phase of my mental health rehabilitation. I was going through awful medication side effects that included- night terrors, panic attacks, nerve damage, skin irritation, deteriorating self esteem, worsening ADHD symptoms, and probably the worst one of all, the sudden “fight or flight” feeling while being intimate. Essentially, I would feel like I was being raped in the middle of fooling around with my husband. It was traumatic to say the least, for both of us.

Jack was the kind of therapist that you sometimes questioned how solid his life was. He was a very nice man, don’t get me wrong. But he made huge gaffes in our sessions. When I told him about my son being autistic, he grimaced and asked, “Oh no, is he a screamer?” I honestly almost left after he said that, but I figured, he’s just like everyone else in this small town. So he might still be the best I can do.

Second gaffe came when he kept telling me about his other patients. I am a people-pleaser, so I didn’t say much when he repeatedly brought up other patients, but still, it was off-putting.

Third gaffe, or perhaps, just a bad therapist moment, was when I told him that I was LGBT, and he suddenly found ways to keep bringing up Jesus. I dig Jesus, but the conversation was suspiciously not about spiritual matters. It was definitely not WWJD.

Anyway, after several months of therapy, where I was just starting to understand my own autism/ADHD, I repeatedly tried to get him to talk to me about what I was feeling on that subject. In response, he repeatedly tried to diagnosis me with Borderline Personality Disorder. There is nothing wrong with being BPD, but it just wasn’t my situation.

Here are some of the problems associated with BPD (and why they did not apply to me)

  • Frantic efforts to avoid real or imagined abandonment by friends and family. (This is similar to Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria, but I never actually thought they’d abandon me.)
  • Unstable personal relationships that alternate between idealization (“I’m so in love!”) and devaluation (“I hate her”). This is also sometimes known as “splitting.” (Not an issue for me.)
  • Distorted and unstable self-image, which affects moods, values, opinions, goals and relationships. (Again, similar to RSD. But BPD can refer to distorted in a “delusions of grandeur” kind of way. Not my problem. )
  • Impulsive behaviors that can have dangerous outcomes, such as excessive spending, unsafe sex, substance abuse or reckless driving. (I have impulsive behavior from my ADHD but no where near this level of harm. I’m in a healthy relationship with no substance abuse and I’m a relatively boring driver.)
  • Self-harming behavior including suicidal threats or attempts. (Any suicidal idealization I had came from medication side effects and sensory over-stimulation, which I tried to make him understand, but he didn’t want to listen.)
  • Periods of intense depressed mood, irritability or anxiety lasting a few hours to a few days. (I was being treated for Bipolar so this always felt a little like lazy diagnostic thought to me. Duh.)
  • Chronic feelings of boredom or emptiness. (I have ADHD, I am not bored. I get depressed but that is different.)
  • Inappropriate, intense or uncontrollable anger—often followed by shame and guilt. (Ahem… Bipolar, RSD.)
  • Dissociative feelings—disconnecting from your thoughts or sense of identity or “out of body” type of feelings—and stress-related paranoid thoughts. Severe cases of stress can also lead to brief psychotic episodes. (This was a problem for me only in the aspects of Autistic burnout. Different animal.)

Now, if you know anything about RSD or autism, you can understand how Jack might have been confused. Especially because of the longstanding psychiatric idea that women are not autistic, and men do not have BPD, which has lead to misdiagnosis all over the place.

My problem with Jack was not that he misdiagnosed me, but that he wouldn’t even listen to my objections to that diagnosis. Then he made the mother all gaffes, that allowed me to leave him without any second thoughts…

He told me all about his former patient that was “just like” me. More and more I agreed with his description, until I finally asked with hope, “Well, what did you do for her? Did she get better?”

His face went white, he gave this very old man clearing of his throat and said, “Well, she told me that she would always remember the time that we shared together, and that made me feel better after she… uh… passed.”

That’s right, folks. His patient killed herself. And he forgot about it right up until I asked about her.

So, even if he were not so incompetent, I would still say that he just didn’t get me.

Before Jack, was Marueen, who you can read about here. I only had two appointments with her a year apart. And neither were helpful. Not only because Maureen didn’t get me but because I wasn’t telling her the truth. I didn’t know it at the time, but I was masking.

Before Marueen, there was Debrah, when I was about twelve years old. She told my mother that I was depressed from the novels I was reading. Yeah. That was over before it started.

So that brings us back to today, where I made the difficult decision to leave the best therapist I have ever had. Why? Did he compare me to his other patients? Did he try to diagnose me with a disorder that I didn’t have? Did he compare me to a tree? (Again, check out Maureen’s story.) Did he completely ignore my autistic diagnosis?

No, he was a great counselor. But he just didn’t know enough about autistic people to help me with my atypical relationships and problems. He was great for emotional regulation and RSD, but when it came to my autistic traits, he dismissed them. Purely from a lack of knowledge on the subject. He fell for all the usual tropes, assuming that I had a lack of empathy, that I don’t understand emotions or that I would be unable to understand facial cues (I do not have this particular problem, some autistic people do, I don’t. Don’t make assumptions.)

STILL, he was the best I’d ever had. But was that “best” good enough to keep seeing him, even though his advice was becoming more and more neurotypical? No. It wasn’t. So I took the chance that I might hurt his feelings and asked for a new counselor on BetterHelp.

Again, it delivered. I am starting with a new therapist, let’s call her Donna. She is LGBT with personal autistic experience (!!!) And I am hopeful, if not confident, that she will get me. And I would have never met her had I not had the strength to stop using Rodger’s services.

So like the title of this post says, therapy is a bit like Russian Roulette. Counselors and therapists are still just people. And people can be both good or bad at their jobs. They’re either the bullet you need to take out your problem, or they’re just an empty chamber. (And the damage from an empty chamber is worse in this scenario, in case my metaphor is mixing you up.)

My point… If the therapy you are experiencing is not right for you, get a new therapist. There is no shame. As always, reader, I implore you … demand help.


Check out any of the internet based therapies out there, but I will always suggest betterhelp.com. They really made a difference in my life.

Also, if you are interested in the fun “finding yourself” journal check it out in Emily McDowell and friends shop. She’s one of my favorites. Like she says in the product description, technically that journal is a lot cheaper than therapy.

I weigh…

As you know, I’ve recently started exploring the wonderful world of Instagram. Yes, I’m in love. Not just with the platform, but with several new faces and hashtags that I am following. #effyourbeautystandards is both delicious and nutritious for my mental health. That’s where I found the downright glorious Tess Holiday. (It’s also where I have had to practice my “no flame wars” rule, because damn, people are mean.)

But it’s also where my love of one Jameela Jamil has been forever cemented in my heart.

I did not find Jameela on Instagram, though. No, I first really heard of her, Jameela Jamil, the person, not just a character on “The Good Place”, because people were being so damn shitty to her. Oh, and that hasn’t stopped by the way, just look at what her boyfriend James Blake had to say recently…

Good man, James. Good man.

No, the first time I heard her name it was because the LGBT+ community was outraged that she had been cast on the HBO ballroom show “Legendary.” For those not in the know, ballroom does not refer to the dancing you are picturing right now. This is not dancing with the stars. It’s referring to the ballroom culture started in the 1980’s (check out the documentary Paris is Burning, then you’ll know.) Now this is not my scene so I am not going to say that she was the right person for the job, that’s not what drew me into this particular media splash.

No I came in, when a lot of people basically decided to “cancel” her as a judge on this show because she is not LGBT+… BUT SHE IS… She’s queer. And after being forced to correct a lot of misplaced anger, she decided to come out as queer, even though she shouldn’t have had to do it at such a time. Did this appease the community? NO, they turned on her more. A large portion of them pointing to the fact that she was dating a man, again erasing bisexuals from the “authentically” LGBT+ community.

As a queer woman, madly in love with her cisgender husband, you can bet that this put Jameela on my radar. I decided then and there that I would go to war for this south asian queer goddess, any day. (That’s how you know I love something, my loyalty is unparalleled.)

So to find her I_weigh movement on Instagram, well, my pledge for war in her honor went from a skirmish to a full-body measure of devotion.

The I_weigh movement is about “body neutrality.” Trying to turn the focus from bodies and looks to interior beauty. I know, I know. She’s not the first to do this. But I think that she might be the first to have the tenacity, and the platform, to really take it somewhere.

She has a new podcast by the same name coming out on April 3rd and you better believe that I will be listening.

Just like Jameela, I had some health problems that made me gain A LOT of weight. (I also fell in love with a man who introduced me to the idea of takeout. So it wasn’t all side effects.) Then like most women I had a tough time with yo-yo dieting. I lost weight when I worked for Jenny Craig but then gained it back when I left to start writing full time. I lost weight when I started protein and LCHF diets, but then gained it back after emotional meltdowns dropped my manic ass right off the wagon. Around the same time I had a baby, and well, hormones + wrong medication + medical emergencies + carbs = big FAT mental breakdown. (You can read more about it in my post about my chronic illnesses.) I’m losing steadily again now that I have finally found the right medication, but it’s a journey for sure.

So in the spirit of I_weigh, I want to share some images of myself that I would normally not want the world to see. These particular images were taken when my body was at it’s most endomorphic, or you know… fat. (I’ve lost some weight but I’m actually not that far off from these pics, either. So these are not “before” pictures.) Like you will see on the I_weigh Instagram page, I’ve superimposed some of my more important attributes.

Well, I’ll let them speak for themselves.

Like I said, they speak for themselves.

Sick While Anxious

DEALING WITH TWO ILLNESSES AT ONCE

In the interest of not burying the lead, I believe that I have COVID-19. I say believe because getting tested is not something I am interested in. My symptoms are still relatively mild; I have a big boot of pressure on my chest, a dry cough, and a mild fever. It’s painful, but I can still get air. So I have no interest in leaving the house to endanger vulnerable people just to get a cotton swab shoved into my brain cavity.

But it’s got me thinking about what it’s like to be physically sick when you have an invisible illness at the same time. You see, whenever I get ill, that RSD inner critic starts to eat at me. It calls me a hypochondriac, a drama queen, it savagely whispers, “No one will believe you. No one will care.”

This is, of course, because I spend the majority of my time trying to convince others about those differences that I live with- those “illnesses” that require some occasional accommodation, i.e. ADHD, agoraphobia, autism, OCD, etc.

Now, you might say, but COVID-19 isn’t invisible. You are coughing, you have a fever. You look like shit. (Thanks for that last one.) And still I find myself on my phone, texting my sister about what else it could be. And then the obvious, irritating, always on the edge of my tongue question- Is this just anxiety?

It should be an honest and innocuous question, and it would be, if it weren’t for the ungodly amount of real life illnesses and complications that I have had that were blamed on my anxiety. And I know I am not the only woman to have this problem. Let’s get real. Female hysteria was a “legitimate diagnosis” for a very, very long time. And not that long ago, unfortunately. Ask me about Rosemary Kennedy’s lobotomy if you want a real medical horror story. Or do yourself a favor and read all about it.

TRIGGER WARNING: The article I’ve linked to about Rosemary Kennedy discusses an extreme form of ableism, medical assault during her mother’s labor, medical malpractice, and special needs abuse- abuse, in general. Even if you aren’t sensitive, it will effect you. If you have trauma in any of these areas, you might want to research a different source on Rosemary’s story.

A bright, beautiful woman failed by the medical profession from the time of her birth to her death.

Leaving the gender issue behind, people with diagnosed mental health conditions, including autism, are also being under-treated when it comes to physical health problems. (Judging from the information available about Rosemary Kennedy I think she was most likely autistic, if not intellectually disabled from her traumatic birth. So she had two “conditions” going against her.) In my life alone- where I was mostly only recognized as “anxious while female”- gallstones, pancreatitis, allergic reactions, dermatographia, and chronic infections were all vaguely blamed on my “stress.”

In one stunning moment at the ER, someone had the gall to blame my physical symptoms on my son’s autism diagnosis. I’m a very, very polite/timid person, mostly because of my RSD and anxiety, but I believe my direct quote was, “Are you shitting me?”

Maybe I just said that with my eyes. I’m not entirely sure. I was in a lot of pain.

The point is… and this is pretty much my continual, all-consuming, message… is this:

Demand help. If you are sick, take up the space that is necessary to protect yourself and others. Even if someone wants to downplay your symptoms, it’s on you to not only get help for yourself, but in this time of contagion, it’s on you to protect others. (Not just medical help either. Demand it from your family, your friends, your roommate, whomever. I’m not going to the doctor yet but my husband and I took the time to recognize my symptoms and make a plan if it gets worse.) Anxiety may lie to you and call you dramatic, but a virus will still infect your loved ones, whether they are willing to believe you or not.

A virus does not need outside confirmation to be legitimate, it just is. So in this case, just this one time, be like corona. Rear your ugly head (I told you I look like shit) and demand to be noticed.

It’s the only way we can live.


For interesting information on the effects of COVID-19, check out this New York Times article: What Does Coronavirus Do the the Body?

ASMR and Autism

As some of you may know two very pivotal things happened in my life, I was diagnosed with autism at the age of thirty five AND (this one most of you won’t know) I also discovered ASMR. Don’t know what ASMR is? Oh man, you’re gonna love it. Or not. Me? It’s one of the best tools I have in my mental health toolkit.

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Agoraphobia, COVID-19, and the Zombie Apocalypse

Like you, I have been watching what is happening to the world from the view window that is my computer screen. And I will admit, it’s making me a bit extra. One facebook thread from a man in the Chicago area made me very worried for all those infected with the virus. (It reminded me a lot of my allergic reaction to macrobid antibiotics.) And an instagram post from a pregnant woman made me feel so compassionate for those experiencing huge life changing experiences at the same time as a global pandemic. And the rationing of medical treatment in Italy… well, let’s just say, that broke my heart.

Last year, when my former therapist was diagnosing me with a plethora of new disorders (I sometimes question these diagnoses because they all seem to be just indicators of my autism, but nonetheless) he also diagnosed me with agoraphobia. I think it was my panic attacks while driving on bridges that was the deciding factor for him. That and perhaps my anxiety in stores? Or taking busses? Or the post office? Oh wow, I just checked out a layman’s definition of agoraphobia- it says, “you fear an actual or anticipated situation, such as using public transportation, being in open or enclosed spaces, standing in line, or being in a crowd.” Well, then. My apologies to Jack. That’s right on target.

So, I have agoraphobia. Which means on any given day, the world outside of my house has always felt incredibly dangerous. Now that it potentially is dangerous, that agoraphobia has gone into overdrive just a bit.

So how do I deal with that?

Continue reading “Agoraphobia, COVID-19, and the Zombie Apocalypse”

Watch this now…

No seriously, I can’t say this enough. Watch this now.

This TED talk from Hannah Gadsby last year would have transformed my life had I seen it sooner. If you are a woman, a neruolurker, or even a person who has experienced trauma- watch this. If you are a comic, a writer, or a person who has interest in either- watch this. If you are a human being- watch this.

Hannah Gadsby is a true lifesaver. She is a hero in every aspect of the word and I am so proud to be a fan of hers.

So without further ado… Hannah Gadsby.


Comments Part 2

More than a year ago, I wrote a post about how I had closed the comments on my blog. This is mostly due to 1) my Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria and 2) my problems with letting people be wrong.

I have decided though, to open up the comments.

Why? Because I am over it? NO! Oh my no! I am so not over it. But I am working with a counselor almost daily on my RSD. Honestly, we’re working more on the emotions that come up from my RSD, like, the fear of conflict, the hurt of rejection, the pain of judgement, et cetera, et cetera… So, if you suffer from a fear of the comments section, or maybe an obsession, pull up a chair. Welcome to my support group. I’ve got some tips to share with you…

Continue reading “Comments Part 2”

Poor Maureen


This post was originally written in May of 2018. Continue to read to the end for an update from today.

I have been talking a lot about my Avoidant Personality Disorder. Which has made me feel like an ambassador of some kind. But then I started thinking about my diagnosis, which was less than facebook official, and became suddenly wary.  (Which ticked my anxiety into high gear ironically—feelings of inadequacy, “I’m a fraud,” blah, blah, blah)  I don’t want to go into how I was diagnosed and subsequently medicated (boy, that sounds nefarious) but technically, well,  I’ve already mentioned it once before on this very blog so you probably already know… Cutting to the chase, I got my anxiety disorder diagnosed by my general doctor and not a psychiatrist.

Psychiatrist seems more legit, right? That’s what I thought too. So after a confusing series of emails to my doctor, the poor nurse may have thought I was some kind of nut (nothing’s wrong I just need legitimacy. No, I don’t want to hurt myself or others to get it. She wasn’t wrong about the nut part, but that’s not the point) I get an appointment with a counselor. They must deal with worse because she gave me a referral to the same counselor I saw when I first started my meds with very little hubbub. A counselor is like a psychiatrist, right?  I think to myself. Either way I don’t want to be too much trouble, so I take it.

Continue reading “Poor Maureen”

I am not a worm

AVOIDANT PERSONALITY DISORDER OR REJECTION SENSITIVITY DYSPHORIA? OR BOTH?

At the start of this blog, I thought I was suffering from Avoidant Personality Disorder. I had found the diagnostic criteria, brought it to my doctor, not a psychiatrist, and thought I had my answer. Once I finally went to a psychiatrist, he called that a misdiagnosis. I thought, What a big mistake I’d made. Surely, yes, you should bring your ideas and research to your doctor, but bring it to the right kind of doctor. Your gynecologist should not be setting your cast, and your GP should not be diagnosing your mental health issues, right? Maybe. Maybe not. Years later, after much tumult and strife, not only did I find out that I was autistic, I was also diagnosed with Inattentive ADHD. And part of that ADHD was a lovely thing called Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria.

So now, that my meds are working, and my diagnoses are hopefully settled, I’ve been looking through old posts with my supposedly 20/20 hindsight. And I couldn’t help but notice just how similar the symptoms for Avoidant Personality Disorder and Rejection Sensitive Dysphoria can feel. So this sent me searching for a connection between the two. One of the more interesting ideas I have found is that Avoidant Personality Disorder is the result of untreated childhood ADHD, much like my own. How interesting would that be? If I had been on the right path after all?

So with that idea, I’ve brought up an old post I called “I am not a Worm” where I looked up the definition of Avoidant Personality Disorder and responded to each symptom. Now the fact that I tried to refute any of it may tell you that I was misdiagnosed BUT you also have to understand the power of masking when you are autistic. I fought against these traits because I was “supposed” to… because I was supposed to be offended, not relieved. Anyway, let’s take a look…

Continue reading “I am not a worm”

IT’S ALIVE!

So, can we skip the awkward part? Because that is why I tend to ghost my problems. The awkward part where you quietly think about how flakey I am for not writing for almost a year, and that you’ll never trust me again.  Yes, that whole thing.

Or really, I’ll explain as quickly as possibly.  I haven’t written… because I thought I killed you.

Continue reading “IT’S ALIVE!”

Here comes trouble part 2

So, a few weeks ago I went to see Incredibles 2 with my husband. And before the show Holly Hunter, Coach, and Sam Jackson himself appear and say, “We know it’s been a long time since The Incredibles, but these movies take a long time!”

I lean over to my husband and say, “So, are people complaining that animated movies take a long time to make?” John gives me an emphatic, “Yes.” I humph. Which roughly translates to, “People suck.”

Another example, one of my favorite book series, Newsflesh, about bloggers in a post apocalyptic zombie age, says that “waiting doesn’t actually create suspense, it just loses viewers.” I am paraphrasing, but all this comes down to…

I know it’s been a long time since the first part of this post. But something happened…

Continue reading “Here comes trouble part 2”

Fifty feathered headbands

I just finished several months work with a wonderful production. Much Ado about Nothin’, my jukebox musical inspired adaptation of the Shakespeare play had a great run. The kids were adorable. The show, fantastic. The goodbyes, tearful but happy.

So, why am I still crazy? Why am I still anxious? Why am I depressed?

Continue reading “Fifty feathered headbands”