Thursday, October 18, 2018

Not Good Enough --for Recovery?

How many people reading this blog feel they're not good enough? You might be asking, Good enough for what? Fair question, but for me it's an across the board answer: I never feel good enough about anything, whether it's writing, cooking, grooming my dogs, or anything that involves a skill or talent.

I always make comparisons, and this is one thing that Recovery Inc.(based in Chicago, IL) tells you not to do. I make comparisons with appearance, scholarship, humor ability--you name it and I've done it.

But there's one comparison I've never made, and that's using the Recovery Method. I am just as good as the average member of  Recovery. Developed by Dr. Abraham Low, an American psychiatrist, Recovery is a self-help program that uses peers to effect change and relief from symptoms.
Nervous patients are invited to support groups that meet weekly throughout the country. It costs nothing and gives a lot in return.

Every meeting is conducted in a similar way. First, the members read aloud a passage from the Recovery book that Dr. Low authored and then members give examples of how they used the method  (called spottings) to dissipate their anger or fear.

Much of the spottings can be compared to cognitive behavioral therapy, and both methods are equally useful. For example, a member may give the following illustration of a nervous reaction to an incident:

"I was shopping for a gift for my nephew who is barely 6 months old. I know very little about infants and less about their sizes. Looking at the racks of pastel-colored onesies and pajamas, I became afraid that I would make a poor choice. I started thinking that I never come in with the information I need--I should have asked my sister what size to get. I also blamed myself for not taking a knowledgable friend with me. I got so upset that I felt like rushing out of the store and driving home, but I knew that was wrong."

In a Recovery group, the leader would remind the member to state how he or she began to work themself up. The member would agree that the example involved both the fearful and angry tempers. Then members help the narrator cite spottings that would help that person to react less fearfully or angrily. Some of the spottings are: feelings are not facts; they rise and fall and disappear if you leave them be; be group,minded, not focused on the self; nervous patients never should compare themselves to others since they always come out on the losing end. Another important spotting is to endorse yourself for staying in the store and making a gift choice and not giving in to the impulse to run.

Before SSRIs and other meds entered my emotional world, I attended Recovery Meetings. For a while I might have gone to as many as two or three meetings a week. In NJ, there were many meetings since hospitals would refer their patients to them. That's how I learned about Recovery, and for a long time it was my lifeline. I read the materials over and over, and tried to apply them to my OCD, but it was a battle. One of my favorite spottings I used to calm myself was that my thoughts "were distressing but not dangerous."

But the best spotting of all is one I still use today: We know that we don't know.
This means that sometimes nervous, anxious people make their own torture by drawing incorrect conclusions and manufacturing problems that may not actually exist. Even cancer patients could use this spotting since no one really knows if one chemotherapy or similar treatment will work. We are not doctors or oncologists and what may not work for one person may work for another.

Monday, October 15, 2018

Names and Self-Esteem

I love my first name--Janice--but hate my last name--Arenofsky. One sounds like a Gothic romance; the other sounds like a Russian biography.

I think it's important that you like your name since you're using it every day and others know you by that moniker.

 What can you do if you hate your name? Well, you can legally change it. Or use your maiden (family surname) name. If I chose the latter, I would be known as Janice Moster, which was what I used all through high school and college. At first when I wrote humor I planned to use the Moster part as my surname. I was afraid that if I used Arenofsky, people would either not realize I was being humorous at times or would believe that all my magazine articles were funny and not realize the content was often serious. So I bit the bullet and now I'm Janice Arenofsky, for better or worse.

But back to the self-esteem issue. Some people are so low in confidence that their name rankles them. I wonder about a third-grader I once taught. Her name was Gina Catena, and I'm not sure if the musical, rhyming quality got on her nerves. I didn't mind it especially, but maybe she did. Then there are the people with porno-like names like Dickie Shitz or Shari Putz. You've got to wonder if the parents were just not thinking that day or they did it purposely. Perhaps the feeling was if the kids can overcome this negative in their life, they can do anything.

Do you think that's a good rationale? I don't. Forcing a weird first or last name on a little kid is not going to toughen the child up. It's apt to make a sensitive kid even more self-conscious and he or she might retaliate by bullying other kids or retreating inwards and becoming one of those aggressive little devils who run off to Sears and buy a gun for mass murder.

Of course I'm exaggerating the effects of a rotten name, but you never know. If you give a child the name "Satan," for example, he might live up to it. You may be tempting kharma and live to regret your choice although naming a child "Angel" is no guarantee this kid is going to win a Nobel Prize. There are probably dozens of "Angels" in state prisons serving time for major felonies.

The point here is if your name has been bothering you, don't be afraid to change it. The legalistics of name changes aren't that hard. In fact there's probably some kit on the Internet that helps you through the court and judicial steps. Of course if it's only your first name that you despise, you can take an informal approach and give yourself a nickname like Butch or KJ. That can work just as well. You just can't use it to sign documents and serious stuff like passports or drivers licenses.

Tuesday, October 9, 2018

Memoirs that Hurt

Since I started this blog a few months ago, I've been reading the humorous memoirs of other writers. I was curious what they spoke about, how much they confided to their readership, etc. Most of the memoirs reveal insecurities, bad decisions, and other frailties, but one writer admits to having great self esteem. And I believe she is correct in her self assessment.

The more I thought about this strength, the greater my envy grew. I've always wanted to earn self esteem but I've thrown down so many obstacles in my path that I'd have to be an Amazon to hurdle them. Of course many psychiatrists have told me that people don't have to "earn" self esteem--it's part of the package of being human. You get free will, usually a fairly healthy body and a brain that respects your abilities and accepts your defects.

I must have gotten onto the wrong line when "esteem packages" were being handed out since ever since I was a kid, I've lacked confidence. I remember when my favorite expression was "I've got so many problems, even my problems have problems." It really isn't funny in any sense of the word, but I do recall that my sister got a big rush out of it. I guess this was part of her OCS (only child syndrome). Never give an inch to the other guy, even if she's your one and only sister.

Have you ever been lucky enough to have one person in your life you can count on to bolster your self esteem? Well, until my husband came along, I had no one. Mom tried a bit, but her gestures were feeble at best. Once I remember her saying, "Your sister is pretty, but you're attractive." Obviously that maternal evaluation was supposed to pump me up, but somehow it didn't. "Attractive" (if she really meant even that) seemed the ugly step sister to Cinderella's "pretty."

Meanwhile my father recused himself from the case--there was no help there except when I'd overhear him bragging to others about me. When it suited him and he needed something to inflate his ego, he did defer to his daughters. As a dentist, he practiced in a wing added onto our old colonial home. Sometimes if I were sitting nearby (in the kitchen, which led to the dental wing), I'd hear a few positives about myself: that I was a teacher, that I had married well, etc. Somehow, though, it was hard to believe his brags since I felt they were conveniences rather than praise. He needed me to be a five-star daughter, but since I lacked the necessary components, he would play pretend. At least that's how it came across to me.

Basing my self esteem exclusively on family and teachers (grades) was my downfall; it also was a habit that I still find hard to break. I'm always looking for compliments but when I receive them, I often don't  believe them. Editors are notoriously stingy about positives and they don't give you grades like in school. I sometimes wish that life graded you on a daily basis because then I might have a fighting chance for self esteem. For me, the grading system helped buffer the zero credits I received from family members.

But enough whining! I still have many other memoirs to read, and with any luck, I'll download one that matches me to a T. Misery loves company--it's a cliche I both hate and love. But my options are few: I don't think I'm going to win a Nobel Prize for Literature, I'm definitely not going to qualify for membership in Mensa (the high-IQ club), and the universe has made it eminently clear to me that emotional intelligence trumps IQ every time.

So unless I win the lottery or hear from David Sedaris or some other celeb that The Dysfunctional Family is the best thing since sliced bread, I probably will have to bear the discomfort of perusing certain memoirs that hurt like hell!

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Medical Melanoma Alert: Better You than Me!

I'm disgustingly average. I can get off on someone else's medical misery, say a hip replacement or orthopedic surgery, but I'm god-awful afraid when it comes to my own health woes.
Which is why I don't go to the doctor too often or submit to colonoscopies, MRIs, mammograms, urinalysis, gynecological exams, bloodwork, or any other 21st century diagnostic tool.

 I figure the less information collected, the less everyone has to worry about. And it works for me, except in the area of dermatology.When I was younger, I cried and carried on--and also went regularly to the dermatologist--due to acne. And it wasn't the easy, primetime Hollywood type where you look in the mirror and see a zitz and say, "oh my!" and squash it with a tweezer or something equally unhygienic. Oh no, I had to get the full-blown variety. I never actually counted the number of pimples or blackheads, but they had to fight for room on my face. It was what you'd call a mob scene. Naturally my older sister had a mild case, and my friends didn't seem to be among the afflicted. Perhaps they were the precocious types that fought the good fight in high school. I don't know because if there's one thing teens don't kid about, it's their faces. So, while I was duking it out with my zitzes, they were probably signing up for nose jobs and ear pinnings.

Not only did my blemishes have an all-over oozing look of red blotchiness, but I even hurt when I washed or applied the expensive topical ointment the doctor gave me. Nothing was too good for my acne. Between the vitamins and the antibiotics and, of course, the office visits, I must have spent a fortune on my face and not in a good, spa-facial kind of way. I got ultraviolet and dry ice treatments on a biweekly basis, and the doctor indulged in a bit of pimple picking himself. Since I was not one of his best behaved patients (oh, thank you dear doctor dermatologist for your efforts on my behalf), he fired me when I got married. His stated reason? Well, you got a guy now, so you can let your face go to wrack and ruin. He actually said that in not so many words, but I was too young and stupid to realize how unethical he sounded. So I quit the medical "aid" cold turkey and turned my face over to God and the pledge to never eat chocolate and fries.

The only mildly interesting part of going to the doctor was the waiting room. I never saw another acne patient--did they hide them in special cupboards? Everyone's face looked perfect--no pimples, no red skin from dry ice applications, no prescribed antibiotics clutched in their hot little fists, no nothing. I consoled myself by rationalizing that they probably had bigger fish to fry than pimples. Hideous things I only had read about like psoriasis and gasoline burns.

Well, I'm back in the dermatologist's office again and have been for the past 20 years. It seems that when I was sunbathing on the New Jersey beaches in my twenties in a vain attempt to cook those sucker pimples to a quick death, I was subjecting myself to too much UV light. The result? Skin cancer. Buckets of it. My dermatologist--let's call her Susie Psoriasis examines my body in minute detail every six months and likes to slice and dice at least once a year. I've had dozens of in-house surgeries for my legs, arms, thighs, even my ankle. Fortunately these were all basal cell cancers that I could joke about. "Oh another one," I'd say to Susie. "I guess my bikini days are over! Wouldn't want to scare those life guards at the Royal Hawaiian!"

I managed to joke my way through a ton of surgeries until Susie said the magic word: melanoma. She said the lab wasn't sure what this particular skin biopsy was. Oh great, I thought. If they don't know, and Susie doesn't know, what's my option? Google? How's a person supposed to react? Well, when in doubt I revert to semi-hysteria. I remembered a friend who had something similar, but I only half recalled her fears and anguish since it wasn't happening to number one, so big deal! Yup, that's how I think, and that's how a lot of people are. If it's not happening to them, then they don't want to hear about it, spare the details and let's go have a beer. I was not that bad, but since she had a baby doll complexion,  blue eyes and blonde hair, I was less than sympathetic. Call me crazy (which I am) but don't call me overly empathetic.

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Sunday, September 30, 2018

Ch. 30 Forgiving the OCS Person

Forgiveness rather than revenge has recently become a hot topic, and most religions and philosophies side with forgiveness. Revenge is rejected as being unChristian, bestial and a bygone behavior that existed in earlier centuries. Now the trend is to forgive almost everything, although some people still reserve the right to reject the perpetrators of, for instance, the Nazi Holocaust in the 1930s and 1940s and 9/11 in NYC. Naturally forgiveness has a variety of definitions, but the one we will use here maintains that there is no forgiveness unless the person apologizes and takes responsibility for whatever misbehavior occurred. As I mentioned earlier, in the case of my sib, I do not expect that I will ever confer forgiveness on her because she basically laughs off the idea of a sincere apology. She thought that by repeating meaningless words of apology to "satisfy" my "weird" need that she could get us back on an even footing. I'm not sure her motives for reconciliation were purely positive; they might have been attached to ulterior reasons--I don't even want to speculate what they might be except money might play a distinctive role. She doesn't always say what she means, and in this case, I am highly suspect. Still, many people can and do forgive the OCS person who hurt them in various ways. Of course this entails sitting down and having an honest discussion with the OCS adult. If apologies emerge, you are on the right track and I heartily endorse your efforts and encourage you to persevere. As people mature, sometimes they are able to reflect more objectively on past actions. If this is so, apologies are more liable to flow naturally. I'd like to end on a positive anecdote, since reconciliation plays better than revenge. I was in revenge mode for several years, and it does not enhance your relationships. You are liable to become more suspicious of others' actions, and this is not pleasant. What I can say honestly regarding my OCS sib is that in preventing the execution of revenge I became more realistic. Not everyone can have a perfectly loving family--the kind immortalized in TV sitcoms like "Father Knows Best," but you can modify that fairy-tale thinking to reflect your own imperfect situation. Which is why this blog is dedicated to the Dysfunctional Family, a large group of people whose high hopes and dreams have in some way been diminished by internal demons such as anxiety and depression and external forces such as OCS adults. If you read all these 30 blogs you now are a mini-authority on the OCS child and adult, but beware, they're all around you. You may be sitting next to one right now!