Dual Diagnosis

It’s the weekend!  A time for barbecues, watching sportball, (football is the pointy one, right?)  or if you’re me at the moment, sitting on the couch with your S.O. and cat, watching the fog roll by, coffee coursing through your veins, a Boris Karloff movie shining its Technicolor glory from your T.V.

It’s also the time that many people drink.  Normally this is just fine, people can have a beer say, and go on about their fog filled summer (I live in San Francisco, it’s a thing.)

But some, like me, cannot do this.

I frequently have to explain to people exactly what this means.  “Well, can’t you have just one beer?” they ask me, adorably.  “I can’t have one six pack.  And one beer leads to one six pack.  It’s like a potato chip, only with gaps in memory and slightly more vomit.”

Many of us who are alcoholics may be dealing with underlying, undiagnosed mental illness; depression, bipolar disorder (present!) any of a myriad of illnesses that likely require medication.  It’s called “self-medicating” and it is very common.

Consider the acronym HALT, Hungry, Angry, Lonely, or Tired.  When you drink are you feeling one or more of these?  Are you drinking to forget?  To numb your mind? Are you finding yourself missing time (blackouts) or getting sick?

Are you waking up wondering what the hell you did the day before and realizing you hurt people, made a fool of yourself, or your money is gone?  Are you in a holding cell?

If you answer yes to any of these, I urge you to get help.  It doesn’t have to be like this.

You can get sober and if you are “dual diagnosis” you can be treated for that as well.  I promise you, you can do this.  I’ve been there. I survived.

I’m including two websites and numbers. Please call. Please get help.  Let yourself be vulnerable, it’s OK.

The world is a better place with you in it.

National Helpline

SAMHSA’s National Helpline is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.


National Suicide Prevention Hotline

We can all help prevent suicide. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress, prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones, and best practices for professionals.






Journaling – or – I Wrote this Whole Article and Forgot About a Title

There are so many good tools to use for self-care, like painting, hiking, meditation, cooking. These are all wonderful.  They focus the mind on a single activity, put issues on a temporary time out, and provide goals to reach.  I enjoy all of these minus the cooking.  My husband keeps me alive with foodstuffs.

I want to focus on one particular tool, journaling.  I have kept a diary (called a journal when you’re over 19 maybe 20, not sure why) since I was eight years old.  I have many volumes of hand-scribbled books, with covers of puffy stickers to unicorns to Celtic designs.

I leaf through the pages and find the traumas I survived, some of which I don’t remember, many that I do, and I shake my head that I am still alive.  There are joys I can relive, and little treasures I stuck between the pages. Some of them take me to a time and place, others had a meaning that is long lost.  Whatever it was, younger me loved it enough to tuck it away, so I leave it where it rests.

See, it is your most private sanctuary, it is yours to express yourself however makes sense to you.  Record the events of the day.  Write your dreams.  Draw pictures, watercolor, tuck things inside that are meaningful to you.

Can’t draw?  Can’t paint?  So what!  Does the act of drawing or painting or whatever make you happy?

Do you see that picture right there?  The blonde lady with floating bubbles and what yellow bubble lady paintingappears to either be a yellow aura or she’s standing in front of a blinding light bulb?  The one pained by someone who has apparently never seen a human body before?  I painted that!  That’s my painting!  And it is objectively horrible!  But I love it.  I love coming into my studio, gathering my brushes, putting up a canvas and playing artist.  It’s living a dream for me.  It just makes me happy, and that’s enough.

What about you?  Do you give yourself permission to play?

If a unicorn journal made you smile, would you buy it?

There is a truism I have found in life.  People tend to restrict themselves with “I can’t because”…I’m an adult, I’m a professional, it would be stupid…I respectfully disagree.

Here’s the thing…I have a very large collection of a certain mouthless white kitty (I don’t want to get sued.)  I get annoyed if someone refers to her as “it.”  I have only one drawer left in a 6 drawer chest for clothes.  I’m 50.

She makes me happy, and that’s enough.

So please, go out and do something that makes you happy.  If you are in a depression this will seem Herculean, but if you can, walk to the sidewalk.  Then another day to the end of the block.  And celebrate each accomplishment.  You are awesome!  You did it!

If you can’t, truly can’t, then find a pen and some paper, and try to spell out what you feel.  It really does help.

Or paint a picture like my malformed bubble lady, which I did while deep in the bowels of a pit.  Because now it makes me laugh, it makes me happy.

And right now, at this moment, that’s enough.




Women’s Day – A New Generation

It’s Women’s Day, a day to celebrate our victories, our heroes, look ahead to the future, and roll up our sleeves to help women everywhere rise to their potential and conquer adversity.

Instead of focusing on one exemplary female, though, I want to show appreciation and respect to the young women who are finding their voices far younger than I did.

These young women, some of whom are still in High School, are increasingly taking the baton from my generation and those above.  It is wonderful to see and gives me hope, a rare commodity for me these days.

So keep speaking your truth, register to vote, help your friends register; you are a tidal wave of potential.  You are capable of changing the world.

If you have any doubts about that, please look up Malala Yousafzai.

Happy International Women’s Day to all of us.  Here’s to a brighter future for everyone.
women's day group

Goats are Hilarious.  It’s Just a Fact.

I have mentioned goats a couple of times here and there.  On the front page I mentioned writing about them and I haven’t and that does make me a liar.

Since I strive to be unflinchingly honest with you, I will talk about goats.  This is not because I currently have no other ideas, it’s solely to be accountable for my words.  Yes.

There are any number of ways that I can see myself checking out.  When I laugh hysterically – which is often for no apparent reason – I become nearly incapacitated.  I ugly-face laugh, snort, stop breathing (seriously,) shake my hands in front of me (what my husband calls the “funny drums,”) lose the power to remain standing (I have landed on my behind on the sidewalk,) and fall up two flights of stairs (no seriously, not kidding, I’ve done that twice, there are witnesses.)  But if there is any single thing that consistently tries to kill me, it’s goats.

I’ll explain.

Goats are, without question, the most absurd, adorable, and singularly ridiculous animal in existence.  I love them, but they are.

What?  Why are you so annoyed? Did you burn the roast?  Lose your keys?  What?

Look, they have beards.  They have rectangle pupils. They chew sideways – yes I know lots of animals do, but they look annoyed like all the time.  Just always.  They have knobby knees; their knees are knobby you guys!  They climb trees like a bunch of little bearded, sideways-chewing cats.

Is that not enough?  Can we talk about the jumping?  Can we talk about the sideways jumping, like they can’t quite walk because they are playing an eternal game of “the floor is lava?”

They eat like, cans and bags and things!  Have you ever watched a goat eat a can?  Looking at you with those weird eyes, a label for string beans stickin’ out of its mouth as it sideways chews?  And I know that isn’t true, I know they’re not eating that can, I know this.  But it doesn’t make the whole situation less hilarious!

Bleating.  There is no more intrinsically funny sound.  Well, the “sproioioioioing” of a spring or “thooop!” of something shooting out of an air cannon I suppose.  Pretty much anything Wile E. Coyote does.  But bleating is right up there.

I think I’ve made my case.

Let me tell you this, I would like to die the way I lived, so my death should be funny.  And I want people to ugly-face laugh, snort, stop breathing, shake their hands in front of them, lose the power to remain standing, and fall up two flights of stairs when they think about it.  I want to make people laugh from beyond the grave.  I’m going to haunt my friends with Warner Bros. cartoon sounds and bleating and giggling at things I think are funny, like the word “duty.”  (Fifty years on this earth and that word is still funny.)

Now, go look at a goat and tell me it’s not funnier than a bug playin’ a slide whistle.

Oh hell, now I’m seeing a bug playin’ a slide whistle.

Slide Whistle
Slide Whistle – Always Funny


Ritual is for Everyone

A couple of years ago I left a job that was making me physically sick.  I shall spare you the details, you’re welcome, but suffice to say it was no longer healthy for me to be there.

This was difficult for many reasons, from “I’m leaving so many people I care about” to “I may live under a bridge holy shit what have I done?” but it was necessary.

Leaving a job and people that had been a part of my life for 14 years did leave me with very conflicting emotions that were difficult to ease.  Then I found in my purse the keys to all my cabinets.

And I had a thought.

Now, I’m not religious at all. Whatever gives a person comfort is a beautiful thing, but for me, I don’t believe in any gods or supernatural forces, I don’t use words like “aura” or “chakra,” I don’t use the word “universe” in a non-astronomical sort of way, but…I do know the power of the mind.  The placebo effect is very real, as is the human appreciation for ritual.

One may light an incense and imagine the dissipating smoke takes a particular fear with it, if only for that moment.  Or find peace in meditation and Buddhist practices.  In any case, it comes from within, and it can be very powerful.  So, I decided that the keys needed to go, but in a “cleansing” way.

I decided to throw them in the ocean.

I walked out toward the Golden Gate Bridge and found a lovely spot of roiling water, churning round and round inside a small crevasse.  It’s there in the photo, to the right.  I don’t have a full picture for you on account of my desire to not die.

Release spot

It was loud and dramatic and sort of spooky…huh…I just described myself…anyway, I held the keys in both hands, thought about what they came to represent to me and the pain they brought.  I took a deep breath, filling my lungs with salty mist.  I quickly exhaled and threw the keys and they disappeared into this rocky tomb never to be seen again.

It was as satisfying as I hoped and for a moment, as I stared at the water swirling and gurgling and roaring and crashing on the rock, for just a moment, I felt free.

And that is my actual point.  Whether one is a believer or not, there is a place for ritual in our lives.  There is value to it.  And for those of us with mental illness it can be especially good to have a routine of some kind, something we do for ourselves, something we have control over. Something to help release.

Just for a moment.  Breath.