Browsing Tag

therapy

Guest Posts, Mental Health

A Horse Brought Me Back To Life

April 26, 2019
horse

By Sarah Van Sciver

As I exit my car I notice the unseasonable warmth on this early February day at the farm. I don my black and white wool Persian hat over the two braids in my hair but decide I can ditch my coat and get away with wearing my hooded, gray fleece.  The welcomed warmth mirrors the inner thawing that has begun to occur within me during the past couple of weeks. The urge to keep painful emotions tamped down still remains but just as the winter clouds make way for the sun I, too, feel a small opening.

For the past five months, I have stayed committed to coming to a farm once a week where I have been participating in Equine Facilitated Psychotherapy, a type of therapy where horses play an essential role in healing trauma. Most of these days I’ve wanted to quit and run as far as I can to escape the frightening sensations that have finally begun to loosen their hold in my body. Like placing a healing salve on an open wound, the process has been painful; bringing to light what caused the pain in the first place.

Throughout the experience, bitter and painful as it’s been, I’ve come to realize that what I fear the most is also what I crave the most: touch and true connection. As if I had a blindfold over my eyes most of my life, I never realized the constant feelings of isolation, loneliness and disconnection I experienced were due to living with unprocessed and extensive trauma. Somehow through some kind of magic, the horses have brought me face to face with this pain while simultaneously healing the broken places inside of me. Continue Reading…

Fatherhood, Fear, Guest Posts

All Fathers Want to Hurt Their Sons

June 17, 2018
hurt

By Brian Zimbler

“I feel like you’re doing everything in your power, verbally and non-verbally, to tell me not to say anything negative,” I say to Randy, my therapist.

We’re doing a phone session.  I’m propped up on Nora’s side of the bed against an ornamental IKEA pillow.  Nora and Myla are downstairs, watching Elliot.  It’s his 12th day.  It’s a snow day.  I have my jeans on, which is a total Nora no-no (no outdoor clothes can touch the duvet) but I am being passive aggressive because I want her to love me more than the baby.

“I’m not forcing you to be positive,” Randy parries, “If anything, I’m asking you to stay in — “

“I know, I know, stay in the good feelings.  I am.  I’m trying.  You gotta admit, I could’ve spun into the real dark telling you the parents-at-the-bris story just now, but I stayed good.”

Elliot’s bris was last week.  My parents came down.  The mohel, in the prep documents she sent us, let us know she would need an assistant to stay by her side throughout the process.  Nora and I decided this would either be my father the doctor or my mother the therapist, we would decide day of; however, day of, I decided – though I can’t really call it a decision, more a clear loud message from inside – that I would never ever let either of my parents be with my son at his most vulnerable, ever, and that I would be the one to usher him through.

“It’s never the dad,” said the mohel.

“This time it’s the dad,” I said.

And I did it.  I stayed with my beautiful new son even through the part upstairs where she pulled my beautiful new son’s foreskin back and clamped it, to prepare him to be cut.  Even through the part where he was brought downstairs covered in a tallis on a sick infant’s gurney.  Even through the part where all the sugar water in the world could not put my strong son to sleep. Continue Reading…

Guest Posts, Therapy

A Therapist Confesses: “I Really, Really, Really Can’t Help You”

November 10, 2017
therapist

By Sherry Amatenstein, LCSW

Strands of white hair erupting from her scrunchie, *Evelyn perches on the black pleather chair, greedily gulping from her Poland Springs water bottle and says: “Sherry, yesterday I had one of the worst experiences of my life.  No, probably the worst.”

In the ten plus years I’ve been a therapist I’ve heard numerous variations of this sentence, often followed by a statement like: “The neurologist confirmed my mother has Alzheimer’s. I feel guilty that I still hate her” “I caught my fiancé making out with my best friend” “Maybe getting fired for the fourth time in three years is a sign the world is better off without me”…

This is Evelyn’s latest ‘worst experience’: “I was at CVS buying shampoo and this Chinese guy brushed up against me. I know he did something to the shampoo to hurt me. Should I use the shampoo or return it? I’m sooo anxious.”

I’m never happy to hear that someone is suffering.  I became a therapist in midlife after a career in journalism because I feel driven to be an easer of pain, in a small way to make a permanent, positive stamp on the life of another. Continue Reading…

Addiction, Dear Life., depression, Guest Posts

Dear Life: I Self-Medicate! What Should I Do?

January 26, 2015

beauty-hunting-jen-logo-black1-300x88

Welcome to Dear Life: An Unconventional Advice Column.

Your questions get sent to various authors from around the world to answer (and please keep sending because I have like 567 writers that want to answer your burning questions. Click here to submit a letter or email dearlife@jenniferpastiloff.com.) Different writers offer their input when it comes to navigating through life’s messiness. We are “making messy okay.” Today’s letter is answered by Shannon Brugh, whose previous essay on the site did phenomenally! 

Send us your questions because there loads of crazy authors waiting to answer ‘em. Just kidding, they aren’t crazy.

Well okay, maybe a little.

Aren’t we all? xo, Jen Pastiloff, Crazy Beauty Hunter. 

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her annual Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being.

Jen Pastiloff is the founder of The Manifest-Station. Join her in Tuscany for her 2nd 2015 Manifestation Retreat. Click the Tuscan hills above. No yoga experience required. Only requirement: Just be a human being. Sep 26-Oct 3, 2015

Dear Life,

I have gone through hell and back since I was born. I will save you the gory details and tell you that I am about to be 27 and have finally arrived at the most peaceful place, spiritually speaking, that I have ever been. But as I am finding peace in my work, family and friendships, a new career opportunity suddenly presented itself. I have been a bartender for the past eight years and, after graduating from college, am trying to move on to a more secure career that is conducive to raising a family. Two days ago I received an email for a lead on a job as a liquor rep in center city Philadelphia. I live about an hour from there currently but lived there for three years during my undergrad. I am perfect for this job. 100%.  But one requirement is that I must submit to a drug test prior to being hired. I have suffered from severe anxiety, depression, OCD and PMDD for at least the past ten years and smoking pot has significantly relieved my symptoms. I am nervous that if I get a call for an interview in the next couple weeks, I would definitely not pass the test. What do I do?? I am a good hearted, intelligent and motivated young woman. I have spent time in Rwanda. I want to save the world. I know I would be an asset to any company in the world, but I smoke pot to relax. I don’t know what to do. Please help me.

thank you, J

Ps… That was a complete free flow of thought. I apologize if it was long-winded.

Continue Reading…

courage, Guest Posts, healing

Still Breathing.

November 20, 2014

By Tara Allen.

I think I started cutting when I couldn’t write anymore. I stopped writing and harbored the demons within, trying in vain to keep them locked up. They crawl around inside me, lurking in the shadows, waiting to show themselves. I thought drinking would numb it, keep them at bay. But the demons had to escape somehow, and since I no longer let them flow out through words, I watched as they flowed out in my blood.** *Just gave away my guitar. Only I don’t think of it as mine, I think of it as his. How he played, how he loved to play. How he created songs for me. I’m sitting here, with a glass of wine nearby, tears streaming down my face. I am a mess. Does this get better? I want to bleed, I want to rage, and I want to do anything but feel this. Am I so fucked up that I am unlovable? Pretty enough to get the guy but not good enough to do what it takes to keep him? Pretty fades. It’s fading fast. I am toxic.

I choose to write my way out of this. To put it out there, how this shreds me. How I’d rather be physically in pain than emotionally.

I bring out the worst in men. I destroy people, I break them. They walk away so easily.
Time to put it on the page and leave it.

** *

“What are you here for?”
“I’m cut and I can’t stop the bleeding.”

Continue Reading…

Beating Fear with a Stick, Eating Disorders/Healing, Guest Posts, Vulnerability

About Knowing What I Don’t Remember.

August 26, 2014

By Kit Rempala

I’ve never been “normal” – if that word means anything at all. I see and speak to dead people. On occasion I read people’s minds and have prophetic dreams. Souls and emotions are as tactile to me as the fur on my cat’s back. I hear messages in nature, be they from water or fire or wind or earth or the moon in the sky or the rustling of leaves. I feel everything.

So, to sum things up: I’m pretty darned good at believing in things I don’t see, things I’ve never seen, and things that can’t be seen. Sometimes, I worry I’m too good at believing.

I never believed I’d been sexually abused until my therapist asked me. I thought I’d answer “no” and the session would move on. But instead she asked me another question, one I’d never expected: “Are you sure?”

What did that mean, am I “sure?” How could I not be? How could I not know? How could anyone not know?

Continue Reading…

Anonymous, depression, Guest Posts, healing

Both Sides Now.

August 9, 2014

Hi guys, Jen Pastiloff here. I am the creator of The Manifest-Station. This gorgeous essay was submitted but asked to remain anonymous. 

Both Sides Now.

And I a smiling woman.   

I am only thirty.

And like the cat I have nine times to die.

There are dark, blood red spots on my right Top-Sider. They are, in fact, spots of my blood. I cannot bring myself to wash them off. I will occasionally look down at my biohazard shoe and think, oh yeah. That happened. This time last week. Oh yeah. A week ago today, I walked into my therapist’s office at 4pm, apparently still stoned out of my head on the 48 Klonopin I had taken the night before.

I didn’t mean to, exactly. I don’t think I did. I told her I took 47, but I had brought the bottle, giving it over to her, and as she counted the remaining yellow disks, one more was added to the total, creating a dosage of 24mg, 48 pills total. The week before, after a long period of clean time, I had taken 10. I hadn’t learned my lesson. Again.

Continue Reading…

funny, Guest Posts

Shrinkage.

November 5, 2013

Shrinkage by Malina Saval.

There are many reasons that sleeping with my shrink would be a really bad idea, namely that he’s my shrink. My old shrink in grad school once slept with a patient and wound up getting his license suspended; if that happened to my current shrink, I’d have to switch shrinks again and I know from past experience that’s way too much effort.

My shrink is tall and athletic-looking, with eyes so blue you could dive inside them and swim a lap. He was on the varsity swim team during high school and college; his stroke was the Australian crawl. At night, I like to imagine him clawing his way through an Olympic-sized swimming pool wearing swim goggles and a green Speedo, drops of chlorinated water rolling off his pale, muscular back. My shrink is strong, virile, German. He’s got a tumbling crest of golden Gestapo-esque curls and comes from one of those upscale Midwestern suburbs with Methodist churches and lots of rosy-cheeked white people. He looks like one of those high school history book Vikings, with a small visible triangle of tangled blonde chest hair when he wears wool v-neck sweaters.

Because I’m Jewish and my shrink is everything that I’m not supposed to have, I want him even more. I like to pretend, and in various different historical periods from movies that I was forced to sit through during USC film school, that we’re madly, madly, madly in love.

In one fantasy it’s 1944. It’s winter. The end of the war is near.  I’m Jewish, he’s German, but it makes no difference. We’re standing on a dock on the shores of Hamburg late at night, the icy wind whipping through my long, smooth mane of retro Rita Hayworth curls, my bangs swept to the side, secured with a platinum-and-rhinestone hair pin (My real–life Jewfro is miraculously absent). My shrink is wearing a thick wool scarf and one of those terrific World War II-era pea coats that figure prominently in J.D. Salinger stories. My skin is dewy soft and my lipstick is perfect even though my entire family has just been wiped out by the Nazis.

“I’ve arranged a fake passport,” says my fair-haired, Aryan shrink, clutching me against his chest, guarding me from the sweeping gusts. “I’ve arranged safe travel to Sweden.”

“And what about us?” I whimper.

“Don’t worry,” he says, brushing a pear-shaped tear from my cheek. “I’ll come for you as soon as I can. We’ll be together—I promise.” He pulls me slowly toward his ripe parted mouth. “I love you,” he tells me.

And then we kiss.

In another fantasy my shrink holds me naked in his arms and that’s all that ever happens.

And then I wonder, are lapsed German Methodists from the Midwest even good at that sort of thing?

I wonder if he’s in bed with someone, or if there’s a pretty girl’s long blonde hair draped across his arm.

It’s ridiculous, I know. But I’m a ridiculous person that’s been in therapy for the past thirty years, even since I was six years old. I was a neurotic kid, my parents were constantly fighting, and I never slept. Now, I’m a neurotic adult, my husband and I are constantly fighting, and I never sleep. When my husband was away in a drug rehab program, my shrink was a place that I could go to in my head where everything was serene, peaceful, perfect. Therapy, like my escapist daydreams, has always been a constant.

I’ve told myself a thousand times that I should terminate our relationship and take up with some octogenarian Jungian with a Ph.D. from Harvard and two failed marriages behind him, but from Pasadena to Santa Monica, I’d still have to trek the two hours once a week back and forth on the 134, 101 and 405 freeways in the height of LA traffic, so I figure, what’s the difference?

Everyone knows that all the good shrinks are on the Westside.

Every Wednesday at one p.m., my heart thumps uncomfortably as I climb the stairs to his office.  Beads of sweat collect between my breasts in the crevice of D-cup cleavage. Blood rushes to that lonesome place beneath my underpants as I press the button next to his name.

He swings open his office door and motions me toward the lime green loveseat. Clean lines, metallic legs, and squared edges, it looks like it came from the set of Mad Men and, like the rest of the tidy, well-planned space with its trendy 1960’s aesthetic, makes me wonder if my shrink is gay. That and the fact that he went to the George Michael comeback concert in Vegas; saw Wicked at the Pantages and Avenue Q at the Mark Taper; and parties every New Year’s Eve with guy friends at a Palm Springs spa. Season One of American Idol he voted multiple times for Kelly Clarkson, but season eight was suspiciously anti-Adam Lambert. He also knows that baby wipes are great for treating sofa stains. And he once mentioned that he could easily eat his way through San Francisco.

Still, I’m not convinced, and I would never ask him to confirm. Because if I know for certain that my lovely German shrink is gay I’ll need to make some pretty major changes to my go-to damsel-in-distress sexual fantasies for those dim, depressing days when being married to a underemployed, sober alcoholic who recently got his 6-month chip, and raising two feral toddlers that piss in their beds and shit in the bathtub, becomes a classic textbook bore.

Technically, my shrink is a cognitive behavioral therapist, but mostly we just talk about Hall and Oats and our dogs. Occasionally, he’ll draw a diagram on the yellow legal pad he uses mostly as a prop, drafting concentric circles with the letters A (Activating Event), B (Beliefs about Activating event) and C (Consequences) inside them. Once we did an exercise where he wrote a series of open-ended sentences: When I think____ I feel______ I do_____.

I sometimes want to plug in the words and tell him exactly how I feel, but I don’t want things to change between us. I’m nervous that he’ll make me get another shrink or worse, send me home with Xeroxed copies of long, boring articles about Freud and erotic transference. Because this is where Freud gets it wrong: it has nothing to do with self-love. When you want to sleep with your therapist you really do want to sleep with your therapist. Truth is, he’s the best conversation that I have ever had.

Because my Gentile, likely-gay, flaxen-haired shrink is serious about his career and isn’t interested in throwing it away on a married girl with boundary issues, two kids and a thing for one-sided relationships, he tells me scant little about his personal life. I know his astrological sign and that he drives a Toyota hybrid. But I don’t know if he wears boxers or briefs or what he’s like going down on a girl (or boy) or whether he’s slept with anyone else in the four years that he and I have been together.

Sometimes I GOOGLE him, but nothing much comes up except lecture dates at mental health conventions, and he’s not on Facebook, which limits my access to private information considerably. He is, however, on IMDB, because, like most shrinks in Los Angeles, he used to freelance for an independent movie studio.

A couple of years back when I was a staffer at a celebrity news magazine, I found my shrink’s address using a database program favored by the CIA and entertainment reporters when tracking down stars to construct fake stories about. I only did a drive-by once—ok, twice—and quickly realized as I sped past his Mexican stucco house in the Santa Monica Canyon that psycho girl behavior is really only cute in your 20’s. Now when I happen to be in the area, I venture no further than the street perpendicular to the one he lives on.

But lest you conclude that I am completely crazy, please consider this: because my HMO doesn’t cover out of network providers, my shrink charges me on a sliding scale. Naturally, I fell a little in love with him. You would too.

Not long ago, I finally mustered the guts to ask my shrink why he doesn’t wear a wedding ring, to which he promptly responded: “Because I’m not married.” I laughed and laughed, and he kept asking what was so funny. That day, he was wearing the powder blue sweater that matches the color of his eyes and makes me want to run away with him. And for a split second, I thought about coming clean, admitting that I was madly in love with him and that I would do anything to leap into his arms. But then I had a truly frightening thought. What if my shrink is in love with me, too?

After all, that one year when I sent him a Rosh Hashanah card, he called to thank me and we spoke for five minutes on the phone, during which time I corrected his pronunciation of the Jewish holiday and he practiced it until I told him that he’d gotten it right. Another time, we saw one another in the parking lot outside his office and he waved at me and smiled; he was carrying a Brita pitcher and we both giggled a bit about what a nerd he was toting his own water to work. And then there was that time when I suggested he read a certain book on depression and not only did he read it but recommended it to his other patients. During one session when I was feeling especially down, he said to me, “I care about you.” So when he told me that he wasn’t married, I kind of freaked out. What if he told me everything there was to know about him, including the fact that he wanted to run away with me, too? What if we got to know one another outside the confines of a square office space and discovered that we didn’t like one another? What if suddenly my shrink wasn’t there for me, unconditionally, no matter what I did or what I said or how I acted, no matter how crazy it sounded?

Since then, I haven’t asked my shrink anything, because if I’m honest with myself, I’m not sure that I want to know.

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Malina Saval is the author of “The Secret Lives of Boys: Inside the Raw Emotional World of Male Teens” (Basic Books, 2009) and the novel “Jewish Summer Camp Mafia.” She has been a featured guest on NPR’s “Talk of the Nation,” Fox News, the Patt Morrison show and Tavis Smiley. Her work has been published in the Los Angeles TimesGlamourLA Weekly, the Jerusalem PostForwardVariety and “Now Write! Nonfiction: Memoir, Journalism and Creative Nonfiction Exercises from Today’s Best Writers and Teachers” (Penguin, 2010). Her website is www.MalinaSaval.com.

healing, Inspiration

Shame.

January 13, 2013

I used to see this therapist when I was in 5th and 6th grade. I can’t remember his name for the life of me, but he was kind, and he would abide by my silly laws of I will talk if you ____. 

He let me bring friends to my session. I would talk for 30 minutes without them and then he’d let me bring them in for the remaining 30. He would take me across the street to this candy store and buy me these wax filled Cola candies that I loved (and sometimes gummy bears). He let me play board games in our session and also this weird leap frog game with little plastic pieces. I thought I was way too cool to go to a psychologist and I would tell my friends that my mom made me go. I would clarify that it was not a psychiatrist. Somehow that made a difference to me at the time. As if I was less damaged.

I never opened up to him. Not once.

I hated him for it.

When 7th grade came and I went to the middle school, which might as well be called the middle level of Hell, he’d started working at my school. I would see him in the hall and walk by him like I had never met him before. He’d say hello to me and I would cruise past as if I had no idea he’d been talking to me. I never once acknowledged him.

I had stopped seeing him the year before after 6th grade had ended. I called my mother tonight to remind me of him and she couldn’t remember much except that he was helping us in some way. He was either not charging us or was billing us through some weird system where we weren’t actually paying.

He’d wanted to save me. And he’d failed.

Except tonight in yoga, the first time I’d moved my body in a while if I tell you the truth, which I am committed to doing, I realized that he had saved me. That what I’d needed at that time wasn’t someone to force me to talk but to let me be. He did that. He let me be without a word. He let me do whatever I’d wanted and express my disdain at having to go see him and he’d let me eat candy and be mad. I really just wanted to be mad.

I wish I could remember his name so I could look him up, maybe on Facebook even, and thank him.

So much of my life has been spent being ashamed.

I had this boyfriend in high school. My first love. I loved him like you can only love that first one. In that way that seems so small and ridiculously large at the same time when you look back on it twenty years later. That I am going to be with you forever and I will die if you leave me and I will never leave you and I will go to the same college as you and we will get married even though most of you knew it wouldn’t ever end up that way. The part of you that felt it was larger than the other parts and outweighed the facts and the This won’t lasts.

My mother (G-d bless her) would let him sleep over. We were in high school! I think about this now and cringe and, at the same time, bow to my mom for trusting me like that. I wouldn’t even lock my door. She just wouldn’t come in if he was over. Like we were 30 somethings. Because her trust in me was so big, I lived up to it. I was an adult at 17. I was serious and proud and in love with someone who stayed in my room on school nights.

When I would see him in school though I would walk by him like I didn’t know him. I wouldn’t even bat an eyelash. I knew I was doing it and I would beg myself as I saw him coming down the hallway Jen, reach out. Hug him. Hold his hand. Do something. But I didn’t. I couldn’t.

It was like I was drowning in the Lake of Shame. I couldn’t let anyone see that I could feel anything. I was stone. I would walk by him and we’d silently agree that it was the normal thing to do. To be in shame, as it were.

I was ashamed of any feelings I had. I tried to starve them out of myself most days.

Twenty years later I am a pretty affectionate person. I still battle it though. With my family, my mother and my sister, for example, it’s hard. I wall up. I am a solid thing and I will not collapse and you can’t make me either.  

Where does this shame stem from? What elephant have I shot in the wake of my growing into a woman?

I have always been sad. Look at my childhood photos. I never smiled. I was always asked why are you so sad, why don’t you smile, what could be so wrong? To which I didn’t know the answer until I did. Until so much heartache and heartbreak fell upon me that I wanted to bop people over the head and ask them How dare you ask someone how they can be so sad when you have absolutely no idea what it is like to be them? Maybe their father just died? 

I was always ashamed of my grief and my sadness. I would not talk to any therapist. When my dad first died and I was maybe 8 or 9, I had gone to a therapist in Philadelphia and when she’s asked me how I felt, the best I could do was scribble on a 3 by 5 card with 5 different colored pens and then write This is How I Feel in all capital letters.

That was the best I could do.

And everyone was always tssk tsssking me about how sad I looked.

I was ashamed. I was ashamed of anything I felt. Sadness, love, sexuality.

It makes sense now when I think back on how I ignored my first boyfriend in the hallways at school. I loved him so much and I could not let anyone see that. I would walk by him in my cute green leather vest and Doc Martins and overly skinny body and not even look in his direction. I wouldn’t even nod. And he loved me still.

How guilty I felt!

Eventually I learned how to reach for a hand. How to hug. How to be vulnerable.

I have always had a grief stamp on my forehead, even before my father died, as if my body knew what was going to happen and had prepared me. As if my mind had known all along and was simply waiting, which is perhaps the worst thing in all the world. I have always had a certain sadness and grief and have always been made wrong for it until recently.

I write about it and so many people say Yes Yes I get it. I understand or me too!

Am I validated all of a sudden? Is it okay to be sad and happy at the same time? Well, yes. It always was okay. The thing is, when you find a tribe, as I have done, it feels as if all along you had reason to feel such sadness. That were a slew of others like you in the world just waiting for you to say Our Place Is Here. Just waiting for you to crack open the pattern of days, splitting what’s solid and finding that underneath it all, underneath the shame and sadness and grief is love.

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