The Body Keeps the Score, A Review

The Body Keeps the ScoreBessel van der Kolk is a Dutch psychiatrist with 30 years of experience and infinitely more compassion. Reading his work felt like a hug, firm against my railing and flailing but not constricting or threatening. I have a friend who met him, and that’s apparently how talking to him “in the face” (a concatenation of “in person” and “face to face” I made when I was young) feels, too. I’m tempted to simply repost all the quotes I’d put up on Facebook, in an effort to be seen and known, while I was reading this book, right here because they really are the best reasons to read this book. You don’t have to be a therapist or doctor to benefit from this book; its technical precision and ‘shop’ language don’t obscure the message for the lay reader and his gentle yet urgent tone belies his deep concern for those who suffer, both at the hands of those who are supposed to care for them and under the care of the system that is supposed to help them heal. Continue reading The Body Keeps the Score, A Review

Comfortableness, Part 1


First published in Real Change on Jan. 6, 2016.

Things are pretty messed up. The impending ecological cataclysm aside, that millions are fleeing their homeland to come to the country with the most mass shootings in the world (and clearly zero political will power to address that) should be evidence enough. So I’m about to say something that will probably sound offensive. You hear a lot about how fear is driving the bigoted buffonery of one of the candidates for the highest job in the land and his equally dangerous but less obviously so competitors (don’t you miss the days when Sarah Palin was the scariest Republican candidate?). How fear is fueling the sky-rocketing gun sales. How fear is behind the militarization of the police, the scapegoating and subsequent locking away of those experiencing what is commonly called mental illness and on and on. But I’d like to submit that fear is not our greatest problem. Comfortableness is. Continue reading Comfortableness, Part 1

The Herald


Constant access to a screen

makes sure you don’t miss a thing: Continue reading The Herald

Actually, We Can Understand

EmpathyMental health is getting more attention in the media lately, maybe in part because of the growing number of celebrities “speaking out” about their experiences. A lot of the more popular and mainstream-y sites like Buzz Feed, Huffington Post and similar do these “specials” – like, where they explicitly cordon off in their own little spot the articles on mental health, just like with “minority” voices and call them “features” but what they really are are the “optional” reading on the syllabus (which is where they keep all the female, black, Latina, Native, Asian, disabled, poor, gay, transgender voices) – and it all eventually comes down, in my perspective, to drug commercials. In other words, those are easy for me to write off. Continue reading Actually, We Can Understand

“Inside Out,” A Review

040915_InsideOut_CharactersPart innovation, part flagrant stereotype: just a few notes on Inside Out.

I’ll start with Sadness because I felt a lot of resonance there. I read a critique of the film that Sadness’ character “normalizes depression,” but maybe we need a dose of that. We’ve so pathologized life’s grief, sadness and feeling low that we have a whole industry around “treating” the feelings while ignoring what to me are obvious causes of them. We live in a culture where even our friends direct us to professionals (without thinking that having to pay someone to listen to you might just make you feel shittier) or police; the rate of expert deferral is keeping pace with the rate of “mental illness” diagnosis. And in my experience, it’s true that memories that sadness touches don’t “turn back.” It’s not that you can’t heal, it’s that “healing” doesn’t always mean “happy.” Continue reading “Inside Out,” A Review

What I Want The World To Know About Wanting The World to Know, Part 2

the red carpetA few weeks ago, I’d written about writing To The World and how counter-productive I think it is. That’s coming from a place of deep concern for those who experience mental and emotional distress. Not enough people are angry about the hideously broken system that is mental healthcare and I want that to change. One of the ways I see that happening is for people to raise their voices…effectively, at appropriate targets.

Most writers of the articles I detailed in my first post about this would probably vigorously deny that they commit any of the errors therein. If that’s the case, then you’re not really writing to The World. That’s fine – preferred, in my opinion, but then stop claiming to. What does “What I Want The World To Know” really mean? It seems to me that it means, “Ouch, Stop Hurting Me.” It seems to me that it means “I Want Stuff To Change.” It seems to me that it means “Can We Come Together On This Thing Here?” Those are all beautiful statements, far less presumptuous and tired than “What I Want The World To Know,” so why not say them? Authenticity is more than a buzzword. Continue reading What I Want The World To Know About Wanting The World to Know, Part 2

Pledging Allegiance

In my Paris post last week, I briefly mentioned a controversy over the pledge of allegiance not being included in the Veteran’s Day service hosted by Seattle Pacific University a week ago. The university chaplain cut the Pledge of Allegiance, as well as the presentation of the colors because “there is a diversity of views on campus” and SPU was the subject of national contention. The school’s chaplain has even received death threats. What I find interesting is that the controversy was over whether or not people should be allowed to say the pledge of allegiance, not, say, whether a Christian university has any business holding or hosting a Veteran’s Day Service at all. Continue reading Pledging Allegiance

Emotions are Not The Enemy, Part 2

flagAs I said, there is always a reason for a particular emotion. Depression, for example, means a lot of things to a lot of people; rather than ask people, we do brain scans. Then we medicate feelings with drugs that have side effects similar to the symptoms we’re trying to treat. But, as one psychotherapist says, depression is the pysche’s way of saying, “I’m not going any further until you stop this bleeding.” So how do we stop the bleeding? Continue reading Emotions are Not The Enemy, Part 2

Responding to the Crisis of Suicide

music“If you don’t know at least three people in crisis right now, you need to have more coffee dates.” This was a line from the best sermon I’ve heard all year, preached at a lovely Presbyterian church in Yakima this past weekend. It turns out, I may need to have more coffee dates. But even more importantly, I need to know how to respond to those in crisis. We collectively need to know, and, at least for one crisis in particular, we seem to be especially non-informed. Continue reading Responding to the Crisis of Suicide

Life and Death is No Laughing Matter

hand gun“No one asks you why you cry but if you kill yourself, they all ask why.” A few weeks ago, during the Friday afternoon soiree we had at my office for a co-worker’s last day, this was how she explained her capstone research project that she was expecting to spend this coming school year finishing. That line was how she introduced her plan of interviewing people who live outside around Seattle investigating the question “Can love really change the world?” That line is the first thing one of her first subjects said to her (she’s already started some interviewing) and it arrested her. Honestly, it should. That line.

Continue reading Life and Death is No Laughing Matter