theferrett: (Meazel)
[personal profile] theferrett

I knew musicals could cheer me up, but I’d never heard of one that gave me new tools to deal with chronic illness and depression. Yet when I saw Groundhog Day last Wednesday, I was so stunned by what a perfect, joyous metaphor it was for battling mental illness that I immediately bought tickets to see it again that Saturday.

I would have told you about this before, but it was too late. The show closed on Sunday. A musical that should have run, well, for as long as Phil Connors was trapped in his endless time loop only got a five-month run.

But I can tell you about it.

I can tell you why this musical made me a stronger, better person.

———————————–

So let’s discuss the original Groundhog Day movie, which is pretty well-known at this point: Bill Murray is an asshole weatherman named Phil who shows up under protest to do a report from Punxatawney, Philadelphia on Groundhog Day. He’s trapped in town overnight thanks to a blizzard. When Phil wakes up the next morning, it’s Groundhog Day again. And again. And again.

Phil goes through several phases:

  • Incredulous as he can’t believe what’s happening to him;
  • Gleefully naughty as he uses his knowledge of people’s future actions to indulge all his greatest fantasies;
  • Frustrated as he tries to romance Rita, his producer, but he’s too cynical for her and nothing convinces her to hop in bed with him unless everyone else in town;
  • Depressed as he realizes that his life is shallow and there’s no way he can escape;
  • Perplexed as he tries to rescue a dying homeless man but realizes that nothing he can do on this day will save this poor guy;
  • And, finally, beatific as he uses his intense knowledge of everything that will happen in town today to run around doing good for people.

Naturally, that’s a great emotional journey. It’s no wonder that’s a story that’s resonated with people.

Yet Groundhog Day changes just one slight emotional tenor about this – and that change is massive.

Because when Bill Murray’s character gets to the end of his journey, he’s actually content. He’s achieved enlightenment where he enjoys everything he does, toodling around on the piano because he’s formed Punxatawney into his paradise. He laughs at people who ignore him. He’s satisfied.

And when Rita, who senses this change even though she doesn’t understand why, bids everything in her wallet to dance with him at the Groundhog Dance, the Bill Murray Phil is touched but also, on some level, serene.

Andy Karl’s Phil is not happy.

We spend a lot more time in Andy’s Phil’s headspace, and at one point he breaks down because of all the things he’ll never get to do – he’ll never grow a beard, he’ll never see the dawn again, he’ll never have another birthday. Anything he does is wiped away the next morning.

Bill Murray’s Phil gets so much satisfaction out of his constantly improving the town that his daily circuit has become a reward for him.

Andy Karl’s Phil is, on some level, fundamentally isolated. People will never know him – at least not without hours of proving to them that yes, he is trapped in this time loop, he does know everything about them.  No matter what relationships he forms, he’ll have  to start all over again in a matter of hours. There’s no bond he can create that this loop won’t erase.

And so when Rita finally dances with Bill Murray, it’s shown as a big romantic moment. And in the musical –

In the musical, Rita moves towards Phil and everything freezes in a harsh blue light except for Phil.

This is everything Phil has ever wanted in years, maybe decades, of being in this loop – and instead of being presented as triumphant, everything goes quiet and Phil sings a tiny, mournful song:

But I’m here
And I’m fine
And I’m seeing you for the first time

And the reason that brings tears to my eyes every fucking time is because this Phil is not fine – he repeats the lie in the next verse when he says he’s all right. Yet this is the happiest moment he’s had in years, finally understanding what Rita has wanted all along, and this moment too will be swept away in an endless series of morning wakeups and lumpy beds and people forgetting what he is.

Yet that mournful tune is also defiant, and more defiant when the townspeople pick it up and start singing it in a rising chorus:

I’m here
And I’m fine

Phil knows his future is nothing.

Yet that will not stop him from appreciating this small beauty even if he knows it will not stay with him. Trapped in the groundhog loop, appreciating the tiny moments becomes an act of rebellion, a way of affirming life even when you know this moment too will vanish.

Can you understand that this is depression incarnate?

Which is the other thing that marks this musical. Because I said there was joy, and there is. Because when Andy Karl’s Phil enters the “Philanthropy” section of the musical (get it?), he may not be entirely happy but he is content.

Because he knows that he may not necessarily feel joy at all times, but he has mastered the art of maintenance.

Because tending to the town of Punxatawney is a lot of work. He has to run around changing flat tires, rescuing cats, getting Rita the chili she wanted to try, helping people’s marriages. (And as he notes, “My cardio never seems to stick.”)

When Bill Murray’s Phil helps people, it seems to well up from personal satisfaction. Whereas Andy’s Phil is thrilled helping people, yes, but his kindness means more because it costs him. On some level he is, and will forever be, fundamentally numb.

This isn’t where he wanted to be.

Yet he has vowed to do the best with what he can. He helps the townspeople of Punxatawney because even though it is a constant drain, it makes him feel better than drinking himself senseless in his room. He doesn’t get to have everything he wanted – also see: depression and chronic illness – and it sure would be nice if he could take a few days off, but those days off will make him feel worse.

He’s resigned himself to a lifetime of working harder than he should for results that aren’t as joyous as he wanted.

And that’s okay. Not ideal, but…. okay.

Andy’s okay.

And I think the closest I can replicate that in a non-musical context is another unlikely source – Rick and Morty, where Rick is a suicidal hypergenius scientist who’s basically the Doctor if the Doctor’s psychological ramifications were taken seriously. And he goes to therapy, where a therapist so smart that she’s the only person Rick’s never been able to refute says this to him:

“Rick, the only connection between your unquestionable intelligence and the sickness destroying your family is that everyone in your family, you included, use intelligence to justify sickness.

“You seem to alternate between viewing your own mind as an unstoppable force and as an inescapable curse. And I think it’s because the only truly unapproachable concept for you is that it’s your mind within your control.
You chose to come here, you chose to talk to belittle my vocation, just as you chose to become a pickle. You are the master of your universe, and yet you are dripping with rat blood and feces, your enormous mind literally vegetating by your own hand.

“I have no doubt that you would be bored senseless by therapy, the same way I’m bored when I brush my teeth and wipe my ass. Because the thing about repairing, maintaining, and cleaning is it’s not an adventure. There’s no way to do it so wrong you might die.

“It’s just work.

“And the bottom line is, some people are okay going to work, and some people well, some people would rather die.

“Each of us gets to choose.

“That’s our time.”

And yes, Groundhog Day the musical is – was – about that lesson of maintenance, as Andy comes to realize that “feeling good” isn’t a necessary component for self-improvement, and works hard to make the best of a situation where, like my depression, even the best and most perfect day will be reset come the next morning.

And yes. There is a dawn for Andy’s Phil, of course, and he does wake up with Rita, and you get to exit the theater knowing that no matter how bad it gets there will come a joyous dawn and you get to walk out onto Broadway and so does Phil.

But you don’t get to that joy without maintenance.

And you might get trapped again some day. That, too, is depression. That, too, is chronic illness. We don’t know that Phil doesn’t get trapped on February 3rd, or March 10th, or maybe his whole December starts repeating.

But he has the tools now. He knows how to survive until the next dawn.

Maybe you can too.

—————————–

Anyway. There’s talk that Groundhog Day will go on tour, maybe even with Andy Karl doing the performances. He’s brilliant. Go see him.

The rest of you, man, I hope you find your own Groundhog Day. I saw mine. Twice.

Perhaps it’s fitting that it’s vanished.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

[sci hist] A Most Remarkable Week

Sep. 17th, 2017 12:52 am
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[personal profile] siderea
(h/t Metafilter)

This link should take you to the audio player for The Moth, cued to a story, "Who Can You Trust", 12 minutes long.

The Moth, if you didn't know, is an organization that supports storytelling – solo spoken word prose – true stories. This story is told by Dr. Mary-Clare King, the discoverer of BRC1. It concerns a most extraordinary week in her life, when pretty much everything went absurdly wrong and right at all once. It is by turns appalling and amazing and touching and throughout hilarious.

It's worth hearing her tell herself before the live audience. But if you prefer transcript, that's here – but even the link is a spoiler.

Recommended.
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[personal profile] siderea
I have a recollection of hearing a filk song, I think from a tape, that had a climactic line or repeated like in the refrain, to the effect of "And that's what cities get from trains". I have an impression it was a Leslie Fish song, but I don't know that for sure.

Not having any joy of google. Does anybody recognize it?
theferrett: (Meazel)
[personal profile] theferrett

As a reminder, I’ll be at Pandemonium Books and Games (which is an awesome store even in the absence of me) at 7:00 tomorrow to read to you, sign whatever you put in front of me, and probably go out for drinks and/or ice cream afterwards.

I hope to see you there! These donuts aren’t gonna eat themselves.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

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[personal profile] siderea
(h/t Metafilter)

I just heard about Senior House. Goddamn.

Also. I hadn't realized that dealing with the administration in his capacity as Senior House's housemaster is what drove Henry Jenkins from MIT. Goddamn.

I am surprisingly angry and sad about this, given that I'm not a SH affiliate.

The shutdown of Senior House would be bad news, by itself. This is appalling:
The questionnaire, the Healthy Minds Survey, was administered by the University of Michigan. Many schools around the country give it to students as a way to pinpoint problems on campus and decide how best to allocate resources. When MIT administered it in 2015, they told students that it was a confidential survey intended to help them. One of the chancellor’s assistants who had lived in Senior House when she was an undergraduate went to Senior House and specifically requested that the residents take it. They did, in large numbers.

What they didn’t know—and what they couldn’t have known from reading the consent form that accompanied it—was that MIT had embedded metadata that allowed the administration to pinpoint the location of those filling out the questionnaire, enabling them to segment the results by dorm. The only question about dorm type in the survey was vague—“What kind of dorm do you live in? Small, large, off campus?”—but by tracking the metadata, Barnhart and the administration were able to see exactly where respondents lived.

It was this data that enabled Barnhart to see what she called a troubling hot spot of drug use. “If it wasn’t a direct violation, it was at least a violation of the spirit of informed consent,” Johnson says.
In light of that...
As Senior House students spread out across campus this year, former advisers worry that they’ll be at even greater risk. They can reach out to MIT’s mental health services if they need it, the chancellor says.
Is there some reason that MIT students should trust MIT Med to keep their information confidential? When MIT just used the confidential results of a "Healthy Minds Survey", which was advertised as a way of seeing where resources were needed, to eliminate resources from vulnerable populations? And the relevant IRB gave it a pass?

(Dear MIT students, and alums concerned about them: it is apparently hypothetically possible for students on the default MIT student health insurance ("extended" plan) to see therapists unaffiliated with MIT, but it has a pretty punative copay:
If you are covered by the MIT Student Extended Plan, and you see a mental health clinician who participates in the Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) PPO, your first 12 visits in a calendar year are covered in full (100%). After that, you will have a $25 copay for each visit.

If you are covered by the MIT Student Extended Plan, and you see a mental health clinician who does NOT participate in the Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) PPO, your first 12 visits in a calendar year are covered at 100 percent of the BCBS allowed amount. After that, your insurance will cover 80 percent of the allowed amount, and you will pay the other 20 percent. For all of your visits, your clinician may bill you for the difference between the BCBS allowed amount and his or her charges. This is something you should discuss with your clinician ahead of time.
I don't know for certain what BCBS's "allowed amount" is, but I know they're paying master's level therapists about $85 per therapy session, so I'm guessing that's it. So if a therapist's regular fee is $100, you'd be paying ($85*0.2)+($100-$85)=$32 per session. A lot of therapists are charging rather more that $100/session these days. At $120/session that's $52/session.

That copay/cost-sharing is absurd. Obviously, many students couldn't possibly afford $25/week copay – specially the most vulnerable ones. So that's a hell of an incentive to seek care from MIT Mental Health and Counseling Service directly: as they proudly state, no copay or other fees to see the therapists that work for MIT.

Less obviously, it's not even vaguely in line with the market right now. I see people who have jobs and pay $10 and $15 copays on other insurances. That students would be charged a $25 copay to see a therapist – in-network! – is incredible. Honestly, students being charged any copay is pretty out of line.

Seriously: MIT students, the people who stock the shelves in the Star Market behind Random have better access to mental health care than you do. That grocery store shelf stocker qualifies for a subsidized Medicaid Expansion plan, which covers at least a therapy session per week, with no copay. Also, their plan has hundreds, if not thousands, of therapists to choose from, none of whom report to your landlord cum diploma-granter-maybe cum civil authority cum boss of your local police.

Also, availing yourself of the option of seeing a non-MIT therapist on your MIT student insurance, even though it's through BCBS, requires a "referral" from MIT Med:
If you are already seeing an outside clinician or have a specific outside clinician in mind, you don’t have to make an appointment at MIT Medical to get a referral. Just call the Mental Health and Counseling Service at 617-253-2916, and ask to speak with someone about getting a referral for your outside treatment.
This may be completely pro forma, but the upshot is that MIT is making it a requirement on you that you notify MIT if you're getting psychotherapy, and that you divulge to them from from whom you are getting it. That someone is in therapy and from whom they get that therapy is highly confidential information, that frankly MIT has no business knowing. You should be able to see a therapist on your student insurance without MIT even knowing about it.

So if you wanted to work for the benefit of students' mental health, there's a great target: demand that MIT's insurance for students provides off-campus, unaffiliated psychotherapy with no copay, cost sharing, or balance billing – or radically less than at present, so MIT students can freely avail themselves of treaters not on MIT payroll; and abolish the need for a referral, because info about your utilization of mental health care is prejudicial, privileged information that can be used against you. But be careful to keep a third-party insurance co in the loop, instead of MIT directly paying therapists; whomever pays the therapist is allowed to snoop in your psychotherapy records.

Or, honestly, given some of the crappy-ass general health care friends of mine have gotten through the Med Center, maybe just agitate for all students to just get a regular BCBS PPO membership instead of having to go to the Med Center, at all. Or given how much BCBS sucks, try to get students into the Medicaid Expansion, so students get a choice of providers. That would be harder.

P.S. Disclosure of conflicts of interest: none – I don't take BCBS, so even if the copay/cost-share/balance-billing were eliminated, and students started flocking to off-campus therapists, I still wouldn't benefit by any of that business, unless somehow you managed to get students into Medicaid Expansion, and then only if students were willing to travel all the way to Medford to see me – I just have it in for MIT Med, and MIT MHCS especially.)
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[personal profile] theferrett

So this fall I’ll be premiering my “You’re Far Away But Your Hearts Are Close” class on running successful long-distance relationships. And to make that work, I gotta ask y’all:

What would you like to see taught in a class about long-distance relationships?

Some of the questions I’m planning on answering to the best of my ability are:

  • How can you tell if someone’s genuine online?
  • What are the best practices for transitioning from an LDR into a “real life” relationship?
  • How do you handle arguments when you’re not able to cuddle and heal properly afterwards?
  • How does New Relationship Energy affect LDRs?
  • What sorts of relationships can LDRs offer?

But the classes I teach are for you (especially if you’re attending The Geeky Kink Event, Beyond The Love, or Indegeo Conception this fall – so I ask you, “What issues with long-distance relationships would you like to see covered in an LDR class?” I can’t promise I’ll bring it up, but in the best case you might inspire an essay or two later on.

So. What sorts of long-distance relationship issues are you curious about?

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

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[personal profile] siderea
I now have enough levels in crockpottery to recognize that this recipe, "Chicken Leek and Mushroom Casserole", is absurd as written. For one thing, there's absolutely no reason to include any chicken stock at all, unless one wants a soup as a result, given how much fluid 8 chicken thighs will express; given how much fluid winds up in it, there's no way it would ever come out "creamy", or, for that matter, at all like a "casserole". Yeah, I bet you have to thicken the sauce with cornstarch (ew).

But I really wanted a slowcooker meat dish with leeks, and I wasn't finding much, so I decided to adjust for sanity, double it (because I consider 8 servings a bare minimum for the effort), and give it whirl.

Also, I added canned potatoes to obviate later having to come up with a starch to serve it with.

Results seem pretty good! [personal profile] tn3270 seems very taken with it.

Here's my version:

4.5 lbs of chicken thighs, boneless skinless (could handle another lb)
3 cans (~15oz) whole potatoes
2 leeks (the biggest diameter ones on sale), washed really well and sliced
1 lb sliced button mushrooms
4 tsp minced garlic
4 Tbsp butter
2 tsp thyme
2 tsp rosemary
4 bay leaves
3 Tbsp mustard, dijon
1/2 C cream, heavy
2 Tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper at the table
slowcooker liner

uses 6qt slowcooker and 4 cup frying pan with lid

0) Melt butter in big frying pan. Sauté the leeks in the butter until they start to soften. Push to sides and add minced garlic; saute abt 90 seconds to golden brown, then mix in with leeks. Add mushrooms, stir a bit to get mushrooms coated with butter, then cover. Cook, stirring occasionally, till leeks are soft and their scent mellows. (Once this is done, this can be refrigerated, if you want to prep this in advance.)

1) Measure the herbs into a mixing bowl. Add mustard, cream, and lemon juice, mix. (This can also be refrigerated, if you want to prep this in advance.

2) Line slowcooker. Open and drain the potatoes, and put in bottom of slowcooker. Put in half the chicken, half the leek-mushroom mixture, the other half the chicken, and the other half the leek-mushroom mixture. Pour the mustard-cream sauce over it.

3) Cook on LOW for 6 to 8 hours. Remove bay leaves before eating.

ETA: Outstanding mysteries:

1) Is powdered rosemary just not a thing? Little rosemary bits isn't the same thing.

2) How much leek is "one leek"? When I got to the store, I had my choice of: a leek the diameter of my wrist, a leek about 2/3s the diameter of that, and lots of leeks the diameter of my two thumbs put together. The original recipe called for "one leek", and I'm like, "What does that even mean in this context?"

3) Is frozen pre-chopped leeks a thing? I love leeks, I do not love chopping leeks. I don't hate it – at least, being cylinders, they're much easier to chop than onions – but there's something to be said for convenience.

4) Even without the added two cups of fluid, it came out with a thin broth. Maybe next time thicken with tapioca. Or maybe reserve the cream for the end, and only add it in the last half hour? Slow cooking cream just seems to break it down.

The Archaeology Of My Posture

Sep. 10th, 2017 10:36 am
theferrett: (Meazel)
[personal profile] theferrett

Salvatore doesn’t remember me.  I’d lay money on that.  I was merely one of his victims, and probably not the most interesting.

He terrorized an entire middle school, after all.

Salvatore won the adolescence lottery – while the rest of us were still waiting on deliveries of impending hormones, he got his testosterone nice and early, shooting up to six feet tall before he finished sixth grade.  He dwarfed teachers.  And he wore wifebeater shirts to show off his muscular arms and had one deep, bellowing call:

“OPEN CHEST!”

If Salvatore saw you, and you weren’t clutching books protectively to your chest, he would punch you in the chest as hard as he could.

I got hit twice.  All it took.

So I clasped my books against my chest like it was a baby, hunching my entire body around it, as did everyone else around me.  People in the halls scurried, because when Salvatore hollered his call even the teachers mysteriously disappeared.

I’m forty-eight years old.  It has literally been thirty-five years since I had to worry about Salvatore.

But my body has still not unclenched.

I know this because I’m in personal training right now, and they are panicked about my posture.  They point out all the muscles that have atrophied because I am a habitual slumper, the damage I’m doing to my spine.  They give me exercises specifically to strengthen my neck because my head hangs forward.

It’s been a month, and when I walk the dog, it’s now uncomfortable to slump.  I have too many aches in those clusters, so it’s easier to stand straight up with my spine properly aligned.

And I feel like an idiot.

I don’t have some crazy worry that Salvatore will appear out of nowhere and punch me – that’s the sort of simplistic one-to-one bullshit that bad writers think up.  No, Salvatore’s crumbled into a finer sediment.

What I feel when I walk properly straightened is foolish.  Because I grew up in a middle school where, because of Salvatore, “standing straight” was a form of pride.  Few kids stood up straight, and those that did usually got cut down something fierce by Salvatore, or had their own unique middle school qualities that made them unappealing to Salvatore’s form of bullying.

I’m not afraid of standing straight.  It feels preposterous.  I feel like people are staring at this idiot walking by with the puffed-out chest and the straight-ahead vision, this Frankenstein bodybuilder’s swagger, and who the hell does that guy think he is?

Yet when a photo of my recent book signing – which, I should add, I’m doing another one in Boston next week, and in San Francisco the week after – surfaced on Facebook, people didn’t recognize me at first.  “You’re looking a lot younger and you seem to be more comfortable standing,” said a friend who’s known me for a decade.  If people notice the way I’m standing, it’s probably a positive impression.

Yet there’s Salvatore.

And there’s all sorts of other memories churned up by walking properly.  I’m not craning my head down to see my feet, so I can’t see where I’m stepping directly, which makes me anxious because I had issues in gym class that caused me to self-identify as a clumsy kid and oh God I’m going to trip why am I walking like this.  I read while I walked on the way to school, and subconsciously I’m angling myself to read the book – or, now, the phone – that I should be looking at while I bumble along.

(Note that #2 contradicts #1.  The archaeology of my memories do not have to make sense when combined.)

And I’ve never thought about these.  It’s just ancient history silently bending me into another shape.  It’s only once I struggle to break free of this that I see how many influences I’ve quietly absorbed to make me believe that this is how I should be.

And I remember a friend of mine, when I told him, “We’re all controlled in part by subliminal impulses we don’t quite understand” and he said, confidently, “No.  Oh, no.  I know every reason I do everything.”  And I thought, even then, that this was a comforting lie he told himself in order to maintain the illusion that he was a being of pure rationality, because the alternative – that much of what we unconsciously decide is shaped by forces we had no control over – was terrifying to him.

But the truth is, we do have our own archaeologies.  Even something as simple as standing is the sum total of a thousand memories, and a few wrong inputs at the right time can change your position forever.

Imagine how complex it gets when it comes to relationships.  Or sex.  Or sex in relationships.

And that’s not to say that you’re powerless to fight these forces.  You’re only powerless if you deny their existence.  I’ve watched my rational, knows-everything friend make exactly the same mistakes across two divorces now, headed towards a third, in part because he can never see how his unconscious habits are undercutting his stated desires.

I’m not saying I’ll learn to stand properly.  This may be a lifelong battle, as it is with my weight, as it is with my mental health, as it is with my writing.  But it’s another tool I can use to battle back something harmful.

And I keep watch. I wonder what other aspects of myself got concretized without my ever knowing it.

I wonder what parts of me I get to dig up tomorrow and replant.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

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[personal profile] siderea
0.

So there's this thing called, "GiveAnHour.org". It's (I have recently learned) a non-profit organization which exists to convince psychotherapists to provide pro-bono treatment to servicemembers and military family members.

Now, there's a number of reasons one might raise an eyebrow at this, but lets set that aside to grant at least for now that this is an attempt to address a legitimate need through legitimate means.

The way it usually functions is that volunteer therapists sign up, the org checks their bona fides to make sure they're in proper license status to work in their jurisdiction, and then the therpist get listed in their geographically-based directory that clients can use to find pro-bono therapists.

Well, apparently, they are moved by the plight of Houston to start a Hurricane Harvey relief project. I know about this because my national professional organization, AMHCA, just posted about it on our extranet. Leadership exhorted us to go sign up as volunteers, because GiveAnHour is expresssly and exclusively recruiting licensed mental health professionals as volunteers to provide remote care to people impacted by Hurricane Harvey.

I'm a little perplexed as to how this could work. Texas, as big as it is, does not hold a majority of mental health counselors in our professional org. What with there being 50 states and some-odd other jurisdictions, the vast majority of us AMHCA members are licensed someplace not Texas. We are licensed in our home states (plus a few over-achievers who have multiple state licenses for reasons).

It's not legal – AFAIK – for CMHCs who are not licensed by Texas to practice in Texas. Duh.

This is, in fact, the classic problem with CMHCs being volunteer professional responders to catastrophes. We're not allowed to cross state lines to help. Or rather, we can, but we have to not practice when we get there.

And, yes, we've thought of that: we have to be licensed where the client is, so, no, telecommuting to the disaster doesn't help.

(I have no idea how other medical professions handle this, or if they do.)

So I go poking at the GiveAnHour.org site to see what's up with their Hurricane Harvey volunteer therapist project.

Read more. This and two other eyerollers. )
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[personal profile] theferrett

Kink and BDSM Podcast Off The Cuffs had me on to discuss what it’s like writing on FetLife, but somehow I wound up talking about the time I dumpster dove for porn.

Okay. Yeah. That’s on-brand.

But there’s some good meaty conversations involving questions like “How do you accept negative feedback when people are screaming at you?” and “What is the value of engaging with people who are clearly beyond being convinced?” and “How did you get into kink?” And there’s also a great Patreon level where for every dollar you donate, they hit their in-house masochist with a new toy.

So anyway. I’m rambling over here, perhaps too honestly. You can go listen.

And if you live in Cleveland, don’t forget I’m signing my new book The Uploaded at Loganberry books tonight! Show up and get free donuts! HOW COULD YOU GET A BETTER DEAL

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

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[personal profile] siderea
MassHealth, are you still reading? Maybe you could pass this on to DMH?

I am admittedly feeling cranky and dispeptic to begin with. But I got a forwarded email today, advertising 2.5 hours of free Continuing Ed credit – as I've mentioned, one of my favorite phrases is "Free CEUs" – in suicide prevention training sponsored by the Massachusetts Department of Mental Health.

In Worcester.

So I poked around a bit on the relevant websites to see where and when else the DMH was offering trainings.

There are two trainings scheduled so far, both in Worcester.

And that's the point at which my molars started grinding.

Look. I totally get how one might think it's maximally "fair" to hold trainings in the geographic middle of the state.

But it's, like, two hours by car to get to Worcester from: Salem, Gloucester, Newburyport, Fall River, or Pittsfield. I'm not even going to hazard an estimate from the Cape, and we all know Martha's Vinyard and Nantucket don't even count as part of Masschusetts for this sort of thing.

The only people who are going to be willing to do four hours of round-trip driving for a three hour class are those who are super into the topic, which are usually the folks who really don't need a 101-level class like this.

And, DMH, as an aside, there are plenty of us within Rt. 128 who don't have cars. I appreciate that your event is accessible by public transit! But getting to your 9:30am event by public transit takes – I checked on Google Maps – over two hours of transit time and gets you there at 9:01am. Which is to say, I'd have to leave home before 7am, and I'd get home after 2pm, and your 2.5 credit hour course would take over seven hours out of my day. I'm not willing to give up an entire work day to a 2.5hr training[*], even if it is free.

DMH, what are you trying to achieve? Are you actually telling yourselves that you're serving the entire Commonwealth by offering free courses in the middle of the state? Are you telling yourselves you're doing something effective for promoting suicide prevention by dumping a little pile of education in just one part of the state?

Maybe I have this all wrong, and you're actually responding appropriately to some horrible uptick in suicidality in the Worcester area. Or maybe it's been detected that Worcester-area clinicians are comparatively bad at safety planning, and this is a surgical strike to remedy a regional training problem. In which case: good job!

And maybe this is some sort of charity: free CEUs for clinicians out in the hinterlands who don't have access to as many training opportunities as those of us in Boston. Which, well, I suppose that's fine. You could say so somewhere. You could explain this is part of a mission to support clinicians in underserved areas, and then I'd be like, "Oh, okay then".

But if you have – as your website suggests – some sort of state-wide charter to improve suicide prevention, you aren't going to do that – state-wide – by only holding trainings in Worcester. You simply are never going to reach the vast majority of Massachusetts clinicians. Because we are so seriously not showing up for something over an hour and a half away by car, that's only 2.5 credit hours long.

If you are serious about promulgating to the whole of Massachusetts whatever this training promulgates, you're really going to have to hold it in a whole bunch of diverse locations around the state.

Also, DMH, while I have you here, is there some reason I have to hear about these things from word of mouth? I mean, you're a state agency, I'm a state-licensed mental health professional. My professional mailing address is a matter of public record! I understand postage costs money, but I'm pretty sure there are fewer than 10k LMHCs, so for less than $5k you could do a one-time mailing to all of us, notifying us that you have free trainings you're offering us, and how we can get on your email notification list; then just mail the new licensees as they're licensed. Admittedly, you have other professions to care about, too, and it would cost money to mail them, too. But if you're serious about getting clinicians to take your trainings, they have to know about them, and you need to do a better job at notifying them.

Assuming you ever hold them some place they can get to them.

[* Okay, I've done it – but it was a road trip with a friend for kicks and giggles, and it was a much more interesting and specialist topic than this.]
theferrett: (Meazel)
[personal profile] theferrett

I told my daughter there was only one skill you needed to perfect in life: Doing shit you don’t want to do.

“You get that one skill down, and you can master all the rest easily,” I told her.

Because it’s true. I don’t wanna exercise… but I’m doing the shit I don’t want to do. This novel’s a pain to write… but I’m doing the shit I don’t want to do. Work’s a bug-filled helltangle snarl this week…. but I’m doing the shit I don’t want to do.

I do those unwanted things because they make my life better: work gets me money to live well, writing gets me the career as a novelist I’ve longed for (hey did I mention I had a book come out yesterday?), and exercising keeps me from falling face-first dead into my minestrone soup.

I don’t have to necessarily like doing any of those things. Life’s full of maintenance tasks, little uncomfortable bits you need to do to keep the genuinely fun ones rolling.

I don’t have to want to do them, I just have to recognize that I need to do them.

“Working through jealousy” is a thing I do not want to do.

Now, I could remove the jealousy by removing all competition. We’re polyamorous, so I could tell my wife not to have any other lovers – but monogamous people often conveniently forget that dysfunctional relationships get jealous of anyone with a close emotional bond. I could start bumping her friends out of the way.  Hell, I know folks who are jealous of their spouse’s mother, and man, is that a fun place to be.

But I could trim all that down. I could have that Mike Pence rule where we agree not to ever be alone with anyone of a gender we could potentially be attracted to. I could guilt my wife into calling her daughters less often, punish her by sulkings and silence when she dared to call them. I could do my best to trim out the competition…

And life would suck in new and different ways, because my wife would be a lot unhappier and less willing to be generous to me and there we’d be, locked in a cage of our self-making.

No. My wife having a vibrant social life with close friends and lovers and relatives means that she brings back all sorts of interesting gossip and new movies to watch and just genuine happiness from seeing people she loves. And in turn, that makes her willing to let me go hang with the people I love.

So time to do the shit I don’t wanna do, and handle the jealousy when she’s out on a date with someone else. Maybe I go for a long walk. Maybe I flirt with someone else. Maybe I need to find a friend with a shoulder I can sob into.

Yet I’ve had well-meaning partners who’ve witnessed my mopiness and blackmailed me.

“I can’t stand seeing you unhappy,” they say. “So unless you can manage to become ecstatic about this, I’m going to lop off all the portions of my life that inconvenience you.”

Don’t you fucking dare.

Look. Part of who I am is “occasionally insecure.” And the partners who try to blackmail me into joy mean well – because they don’t feel jealousy, and they genuinely believe that if they did everything right then I’d dissolve into a cloud of brightly-colored butterflies and do the dance of the galactic unison.

That’s not me.

I’m insecure, but I do my best to own it. And over years of dating, I’ve learned that for me, the choice is “Swallow back some insecurity from time to time” or “Wall off my partner’s options until they’re so miserably captive they break out and leave me.”

I choose to swallow back some insecurity because it’s objectively the better call. I spend a few mopey nights, but in return I get a jazzed-up partner who adores me and comes bouncing back into the room to squirt love all over me and who doesn’t want that?

And I know you mean well, but telling me “I can’t do anything until you’re not just willing, but rhapsodic about it” is a form of emotional blackmail. I mean, sure, if I’m so constantly miserable that our relationship dynamic becomes entirely about reassuring my insecurities? Then maybe it’s time to go, because that shiz is unhealthy. You can’t have all misery.

But I can’t have all happiness, myself. Life can be fulfilling for me and I can still have those nights of “You go have a date, I’ll find some way to compensate for my loneliness this evening.” Because that’s normal, man. Nobody likes sitting at home alone when there’s fun times that you can’t attend.

(And that subtle “YOU MUST BE HAPPY” emotional blackmail often extends into the twisted logic of “WELL THEN MY PARTNERS ARE INVITED TO ALL THE FUN TIMES” and the concomitant “We only date as a couple” shitfall that often leads to forcing attractions that don’t actually work and third-wheel syndrome and the terror of disappointing your partner by not being into someone… but that’s a whole other essay for another time.)

But no. Look. My life is filled with shit I don’t want to do, that I do do because the payoff’s greater than the grump. I don’t like being frumpy and jealous, but the reward for handling the occasional discomfiting emotion responsibly is way better than creating a relationship that rests entirely on a thin crescent of our Least Common Denominator.

And I know you mean well. But don’t try to armwrestle my emotional maintenance into unfettered joy. It’ll just make me more miserable because now I’ll feel like something’s broken within me as opposed to this grungy task I gotta do to clear the pipes.

I would instead suggest, tentatively, that perhaps your learning to not require paroxysms of euphoria with my every acceptance is the shit you gotta do that you don’t wanna.

Maybe get to work on that.

Cross-posted from Ferrett's Real Blog.

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