Dealing with Isolation After You Leave Your Job

By: Louise Nayer

As I walked down the serpentine road of City College of San Francisco, going to class, I always met students and colleagues. Some students would shyly walk past me as I smiled; others would say “Hi Professor Nayer!” and sometimes we would hug each other.

Louise Nayer

Faculty and staff, many whom I had known for over twenty years would stop and we would chat about children, grandchildren, classes, illnesses, deaths, and births. So many little chats over so many years.

When we retire, we lose those voices. Many of those we talked to we will not see again. How do we continue to be engaged with people when we leave our work places? Even though people can never be replaced, how do we create a new community? Many studies point out that human connection is by far the biggest marker of happiness. Older people who have left the workplace can feel isolated without that constant connection to people at work. Some get depressed and feel their life is meaningless. However, there are myriad ways to plan so you can have a retirement connected to others.

Before I left my teaching job, I knew I wanted to write, so I joined the San Francisco Writer’s Grotto. I rented an office space two days a week and knew I would have a place to go with a writing community. Was it easy? Not at all. At first when I joined The Grotto, I looked around at all the strange faces. Where were my friends? I felt lonely, disconnected, like walking into a new middle school and wondering if I would be liked or say the wrong thing. But slowly, that changed. Now, years later, I love this new community. I’m excited to wake up on my Grotto days and see my friends. Others, like my husband, go back to their place of work one or two days a week, to volunteer or to work part-time.

It is important to be patient with yourself and realize adjustments take time, as you find a good volunteer opportunity, a class at a nearby community college, a gym with exercise classes, a garden club or a hiking club or whatever you fancy. If you are not a very social person, it’s important to force yourself to have face-face lunches, dinners, and connections to people, along with email and phone calls!

For some, having more time with children and grandchildren gives people that needed engagement to others. My friend Dixie and her husband moved from California to Ashland so they could help their daughter who had twins. Was the move easy? No. Packing up a home full of memories and leaving the state where you have lived most of your adult life can be daunting and terrifying. But over time, they are both thrilled that they moved. They love Ashland for all it has to offer, and they help their daughter with the twins every week.

It can take a few years to settle into “retirement” and figure out ways to surround yourself with people you care about. But there is no void. There are always ways to connect—from tutoring at the local school, to volunteering to helping students write college entrance essays, to hiking clubs or to a sick or disabled neighbor who needs help with groceries. You’ll also have time to call family members or old friends who you haven’t seen for a long time.

Pets can be wonderful, too. My husband and I got a puppy that is now one year old. It has been a very challenging year as we are 68 and 74 and a puppy has endless energy. But now, our dog, Ella, a member of the family, has many moments of sprawling next to us on the couch. Pets can offer great solace, plus in walking dogs you get to meet your neighbors.

Finding a new community or filling your day with connections to others might be challenging at first, but over time and with some effort, everyone can find wonderful ways to reach out and engage with others.

Louise Nayer’s latest book, Poised for Retirement: Moving from Anxiety to Zen, part memoir and part-self help, is a guide to emotional planning before and after retirement.

Posted in Author News, Blog, Mental Health | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

How a doctor turns life into story

By: Anne McTiernan

After almost fifteen years as a research physician, I grew tired of the relentless cycle of applying for grants, failing to obtain funding, and reapplying with variable success. Conducting clinical trials was rewarding, but the responsibility seemed endless. I began to feel burnt out, scorched. It was time for a change. I needed a hobby.

Around this time, I read Frank McCourt’s memoir, Angela’s Ashes.  The author described it as a story about a miserable Irish Catholic childhood. Ah-hah, I thought, I had a miserable Irish-American Catholic childhood; I’ll write a memoir. The old medical student adage fueled my thinking: see one, do one, teach one. I had read several memoirs. I believed I could sit down and pen one of my own. It would become an immediate bestseller, a movie would be made, and I would be rich enough to fund my own research.

I was quickly disavowed of this dream. My first feeble attempt fell flat, as in flat on the office floor of my previous book’s agent.  “Writing that must have been cathartic,” she said. I realized I needed help. Next, I enrolled in a year-long class in memoir writing. The teacher critiqued my work. The other students critiqued my work. They loved this section, didn’t understand that one. They ripped apart my favorite character description, the one about my bald, five foot two-inch tall granduncle, leaning on his shillelagh stick at his brother’s funeral. Painfully and slowly, I began to learn the art of writing memoir. During this process, I realized that there are several similarities between becoming a healer and learning to be a communicator.

Just as it takes years of concentrated medical training to make a doctor, the path to authorship is long and arduous. Both require patience, persistence, and practice.

In medicine, without the wisdom, teaching, and support of mentors, fellow doctors, and other health experts, you will fail, and your patients will suffer. The same is true of writing. The teaching, mentoring, and feedback from other writers is critical to producing work that will resonate with readers.  In my case, help came from teachers, editors, writing group members, other students, my agent, and my publisher.

“The patient comes first,” we learn early in medical school. First before meals, first before sleep, and, all too often, first before family. Similarly, when writing, it is critical to think about what the reader will gain from your work. It is not just your story; it is what your story will mean to your readers. You need to entertain, enlighten, encourage, and energize the person who has made the financial and time commitment to read your work.

As a student-writer, I learned that memoir demands a narrative arc. One common model is the heroine’s journey as described by Joseph Campbell and Valerie Frankel. The protagonist has a problem. She needs to search for an answer, but is reluctant to enter the world where she can find the solution. Finally, she is convinced to embark, and several people help her along her journey. Similarly, physicians communicate story as they think about and share information about their patients. This might take the form of student presentations on morning hospital rounds, a consult request to a colleague, or, less commonly now, a chart note.  In the patient narrative, the physician follows the trajectory of a patient’s illness experience. The story begins with the patient’s primary problem. It includes backstory. There is a narrative arc with progressive escalation of the condition, a climax occurs, and, finally, resolution.

Over the centuries, many physicians have contributed to popular literature. Modern examples include novelists (Tess Gerritsen, Robin Cook), essayists (Danielle Ofri, the late Oliver Sacks), nonfiction authors (Atul Gawande, Siddhartha Mukherjee), and several who write across genres (Perri Klass, Louise Aronson).  These doctors bring the art and science of medicine to a general audience, giving readers insight into the otherwise mysterious world of patients, illness, medical personnel, and treatments. Drs. Gerritsen and Cook frighten us with stories of the dark sides of human nature. Drs. Ofri, Aronson, and Sacks help us recognize the complexities of doctor-patient relationships and the intricate effects of biology on our patients’ lives. Drs. Mukherjee and Gawande enlighten us about modern medicine.

As electronic records replace written medical charts, the improvements in diagnostic documentation will be counterbalanced by the loss of patients’ stories. Hopefully, more physicians will fill the void by writing medical stories, so that this aspect of the art of medicine is not lost.

Anne McTiernan is a cancer prevention researcher and the author of Starved: A Nutrition Doctor’s Journey from Empty to Full.

Posted in Addiction & Recovery, Author News, Blog, Personal Development, Prescription Medicine, Wellness | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

When an Affair Partner is a Co-Worker

By: Vicki Tidwell Palmer

Discovering that your spouse had an affair is painful enough. But finding out that the affair partner is a co-worker, supervisor, or employee can be doubly devastating.

Imagine your spouse leaving each day to go to work, and the feelings of powerlessness—knowing that he will spend the majority of his day with a former affair partner?

Affairs in the workplace raise many questions for betrayed partners:

  • Can I ask my spouse to leave his job due to a workplace affair?
  • Is my financial security in jeopardy because of my unfaithful spouse’s infidelity?
  • Does my spouse have potential legal issues as a result of a workplace affair? (He/she may be vulnerable to legal action if the affair partner is a subordinate or an employee.)
  • Is it reasonable to expect my spouse to fire an affair partner (if he has the authority to do so)?

The consequences of workplace affairs are profoundly triggering and traumatic to betrayed partners. Because each situation is unique, and the issues can vary widely from situation to situation, there are no black-and-white or cookie cutter answers to these complex and hurtful dilemmas.

However, there are options for coming to a resolution about workplace infidelity.

Here are a few of the many requests a betrayed partner may make in situations of workplace affairs:

  1. Request that your spouse move to a different position, request a change of assignment, or move to another office location if the organization has multiple campuses.
  2. Request proof from the unfaithful partner that he has communicated clearly to the affair partner that their romantic or sexual relationship is over and that he/she wants no further contact.
  3. Request that any communication with the affair partner (if unavoidable in the short-term) be fully transparent. This could include being granted access to email correspondence or phone records, for example.
  4. If a change in position or reassignment is not feasible, the betrayed partner can request that her spouse not be alone with the affair partner at any time, or have contact outside the workplace (lunch, business travel, or happy hour, for example).
  5. Request that if your spouse is a business owner, that he be forthcoming and transparent about his hiring practices, interviewing process, business meetings, and other workplace activities that have been part of his past infidelity.
  6. Request that your spouse leave his job, or even sell a business.

This last option may seem severe or extreme, but sometimes leaving is the only option. If your unfaithful spouse had an affair with the owner of the business where he/she works or had multiple workplace affairs over many years, there may be few options other than to leave the organization or sell a business.

If you’re the unfaithful spouse you will need to make some difficult—yet potentially relationship-saving—choices. You’ll need to decide what is most important to you, and avoid the temptation of thinking of yourself as a victim if you agree to a request made by your partner, or if you decide to make a change in your employment situation to repair or salvage your relationship.

Decisions like these are short-term losses with long-term gains.

They can be a component of the trust rebuilding process, and in the end are a very small price to pay to ultimately salvage your relationship. And even if the relationship doesn’t survive, you will need to address the underlying issues and reasons you are seeking sexual partners in the workplace—a practice that is at best distracting, and at worst a legal matter.

Because workplace affair situations are so complex and impact betrayed partners on several levels, I recommend that betrayed partners have at least one—and preferably several—trusted advisors to help assess any potential risks (financial, reputation, or health), sort through options, and determine any specific requests you’d like to make.

Vicki Tidwell Palmer is the author of the bestselling MOVING BEYOND BETRAYAL. Available now.

Posted in Author News, Blog, Relationships, Sex & Addiction | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Houston, we survived

By: Vicki Tidwell Palmer

There are truly no words to describe the devastation and heartache we’ve experienced here in Houston (and all over South Texas) in the past few days in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey.

I am a native Houstonian, and have lived in Houston my whole life. Needless to say—no hurricane or tropical storm ever came close to the ravages of Harvey.

For my family, friends, and clients here in Houston, I hope you and your family have weather

ed this storm safely and with minimal disruption, and I want you to know that you have been in my thoughts and prayers.

Natural disasters like Harvey share many similarities with the discovery of betrayal. You feel as though the rug has been pulled out from under you, and you know that your life won’t be quite the same again. You may lose hope, give up, or feel abandoned by God.

And at the same time, natural disasters—and even betrayal—offer the possibility of seeing your life in a new way, tapping into a strength you didn’t know you had, or discovering an opportunity you may have overlooked—or didn’t allow yourself to see—before.

At times like these we’re invited to find the blessing in the storm.

As I look over the past four days, I find that I have gratitude for many things that before last Friday I simply didn’t think about:

Today, here are just a few things I’m grateful for:

The sky is clear, and life in Houston for many is beginning to return to some semblance of “normal”

  • The countless unseen and unknown good samaritans who have literally risked their lives to save complete strangers all across South Texas
  • Houston’s mayor, Sylvester Turner—with a long history of public service—is completely prepared to manage this crisis
  • Grocery stores are open, with food and supplies on the shelves
  • Electricity
  • Houston’s new Police Chief Art Acevedo, for his courage to publicly grieve the loss of Officer Steve Perez
  • The street where I live is, once again, passable
  • Family and friends are safe

My wish is that we learn to use crises to expand our capacity for gratitude, compassion, and kindness and to not waste any more time on regret, shame, unworthiness, procrastination, or anything else that holds us back from creating the life we dream of.

May all beings live in safety, peace, and comfort.

I don’t believe we’re only motivated by our own self-interests. Often out of crisis comes this enormous wellspring of generosity and motivation.

—Josh Fox

Vicki Tidwell Palmer is the author of the bestselling MOVING BEYOND BETRAYAL. Available now.

Posted in Author News, Blog, Family & Addiction, Personal Development, Relationships, Sex & Addiction | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Weary…and waiting

July 28, 2017

By Vicki Tidwell Palmer

Partners, it is so easy to become weary.

When you’re dealing with betrayal trauma and addiction, progress, recovery, and healing rarely happen as quickly and as smoothly as you’d like.

Waiting for your spouse to establish sobriety, find a therapist, engage in 12-step work, or prepare a formal therapeutic disclosure can feel like it will never end.

And the waiting can severely test your patience.

Waiting for information—or for the trust-building actions that will help you and your relationship heal and move forward—is the most difficult and painful time for partners. But it doesn’t last forever.

If you’re in a waiting pattern, here are 6 ways to make the waiting a little easier:

Be Gentle with You

This one may seem obvious, but it’s #1 for a reason. Too many partners berate themselves with negative self-talk like, “How could I not have known?” or “Why am I still with him/her?

If you’re asking yourself these questions, I encourage you to replace these questions with, “No wonder I’m feeling awful. I’ve been deceived and betrayed. What would help me feel better right now, that is in my control?

Recovery-Free Time

Partners and addicts alike often get recovery fatigue. Thinking—and talking—about recovery, therapy, sobriety, or the past can consume your life, if you let it.

If you and your spouse have a 24/7 focus on addiction, create space and time to engage in recovery-free activities and conversations. Reflect on how you spent your time and what you enjoyed talking about pre-discovery, and work toward incorporating those back into your present life. Maybe even have some fun!

If I Weren’t in This Situation, I Would . . . 

This question will help you identify areas of interest, projects, or goals that you may be able to begin or make progress on, even in your current situation.

For example, you may have been on your way to learning a new skill, changing jobs, or taking up a new hobby pre-discovery but you understandably put it on hold. While you may not yet be ready to charge full steam ahead, what parts can you do?

If you have the energy, do some research, take some baby steps, and dream. All these activities will bring you closer to your original goal.

Accepting Waiting and the Unknown as Part of Life

Although you’re in an unusually painful waiting period, the truth is that waiting and being in a place of not-knowing are simply a reality of life.

Life is a never-ending cycle of wanting what we don’t yet have, or getting what we wanted and realizing that reaching a goal—while gratifying—isn’t a final destination or the ultimate fulfillment.

If you’re committed to your own healing and growth, you will have many periods of waiting. Learning to flow with them—rather than being in perpetual, frustrating resistance—is a valuable life skill, regardless of the situation.

Make a Procrastination List

Now is a good time to make a list of everything you’ve been procrastinating about. Is there anything you’ve been neglecting or avoiding? Perhaps a new healthy habit, a hobby you were engaged in but dropped, a new business idea, or project that would bring some passion, enthusiasm, or even joy to you.

Taking care of anything you’ve been putting off will give you an instant confidence boost, and momentum for even more progress.

Remember, You are Free

As a survivor of betrayal trauma, it’s so easy to think of yourself as trapped and powerlessness.

Unless you’re in a situation of severe domestic abuse* with no access to resources, family, friends, or the independence to go where you want to go and to do what you want to do, you are free to leave your relationship.

For a variety of very good reasons, you probably don’t want to leave. So when you’re feeling discouraged, hopeless, and powerless remind yourself that you have options—including leaving.

Focusing on your freedom to choose nurtures an empowered mindset, so important for your survival, healing, and growth.

*The National Domestic Violence Hotline (800-787-3225)

Vicki Tidwell Palmer is the author of the bestselling MOVING BEYOND BETRAYAL. Available now.

Posted in Addiction, Addiction & Recovery, Family & Addiction, Personal Development, Relationships | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Baseball as a Spiritual Practice

By Diane Cameron, author of OUT OF THE WOODS: A Woman’s Guide to Long-Term Recovery & NEVER LEAVE YOUR DEAD: A True Story of War Trauma, Murder, and Madness

Sports, like religion, offer these consolations: A diversion from the routine of daily life; a model of coherence and clarity; a heroic example to admire and emulate, and a sense of drama and conflict in which nobody dies.

We learn about home in recovery. We have home groups and we talk of feeling at home when we find our meeting and our recovery fellowship.

In baseball, we begin and end at home. Home plate is not fourth base. Home is a concept rather than a place. Our goal in this game is to get home and be safe. Home implies safety, accessibility, freedom, comfort. It’s where we learn to be both part of and separate. The object in baseball is to go home, and to be safe.

So too in Twelve-step recovery.

In baseball, when a runner charges home we lean forward hoping to see the home plate umpire slash his arms downward signaling that the runner who may have crashed onto the ground in, in fact, safe. Isn’t that what we all want? I do. In my daily life, I want whatever is bigger than me to see how fast I run, and how precariously I slide, and to say boldly, “She’s safe!”

Those who believe, whose faith is strong, accept that umpire/God at his gesture and stand up relieved. Some, like me, despite wanting it still struggle to trust. I have –over and over– sensed that “safe” signal, but I am often still unsure. It’s as if I go back and run the bases again, skidding and scuffing. Again, he signals, “Safe!” but again I go to bat.

And in recovery, as in America’s pastime, we keep coming back.

What baseball offers that life does not is the agreement that we will believe it when we are told that we are home and that we really are safe.

Available now!

Available now!

Posted in Addiction, Addiction & Recovery, Addiction News, Author News | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Recovery as A Rule of Life

By Diane Cameron

Back in the 5th century, monks began to live and worship together in communities. They were called Monastic Orders and they followed various schools of thought on how to live a spiritual life. They called their plans, or sets of instructions, a “Rule of Life”.

A monastery’s “rule” organized the monk’s daily life and it dictated times for prayer, for meditation, for gathering together as a community, for meals and for how to behave during meals etc. The monastic rule of each Order also dictated how the monks should behave with each other.

Some of those early rules have come down to us in church and spiritual practices. For example we know the Benedictine Rule—from Saint Benedict—and the Ignation Rule from Saint Ignatius. Some of the spiritual practices that recovering people use today are taught to us on retreats or by a spiritual director and they come from these ancient rules of life.

Recently I have been reading Margaret Guenther’s book, “A Home in the World” which is about how to make spirituality a part of daily life and I now see that recovery—via Twelve-step programs—is itself one of the finest rules for life. Our steps and our traditions offer guidance on prayer, meditation, community life and a tradition of sponsorship and teaching. We jokingly say these are “suggestions” and they are, in the same way that the early monks received suggestions to pray five times each day.

Over time in recovery we incorporate these practices into our recovering lives. We also follow the suggestions to improve our relationship with God or a Higher Power. The reminder that this program of ours is ultimately about a spiritual way is noted in our Twelfth Step, which reminds us that the previous eleven steps are intended to result in a “spiritual awakening”. The steps are not to get us abstinent or sober but rather to get us to God. But sometimes we miss that point.

It makes sense that we have ancient roots. Our 12 steps come from the six steps of the Oxford Group—the spiritual tradition that enabled Bill Wilson and Dr. Bob to get sober. We sometimes forget that Bill and Bob got sober through the Oxford Group—not in AA. There was no AA when they first got sober. It was after their recovery began that they adapted those six Oxford steps to be more inclusive—and more palatable—to men and women of wider faith.

There is something lovely in realizing that we in Twelve Step recovery share a tradition that monks lived by ages ago. It is a rule of life costing not less than everything.

Diane Cameron is the author of OUT OF THE WOODS

Posted in Addiction, Addiction & Recovery, Author News, Blog | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Move a Muscle Change a Thought

What happens to our bodies in recovery?

By Diane Cameron

We know a lot more now about the brain and addiction. We’ve seen those PET scans that show an addict’s brain on drugs. They are not so different than the public service announcements we saw years ago that were meant to scare us away from drugs: “This is your brain on drugs” and the TV visual was an egg scrambled scrambled in a frying pan.

We know that detox is about the brain and the body. And we get calmer as years of recovery tick by. Part of the getting calmer is from making better choices; putting ourselves in better situations; not around people that we want to fight with; we are sleeping and eating and exercising. And our brains get better.

But what else?

Recently I participated in a workshop with Bessel van der Kolk, M.D.—Director of The Trauma Center in Boston. Bessel is considered one of the top experts on trauma. He talked a lot about what happens to soldiers of course, and what happens to people that experience terrible sexual traumas or who are in horrific accidents. Those folks come to him for help.

But he also talked about the relationship between trauma and addiction. We’ve known that intuitively, of course, and some recovery literature touches on that linkage. In Adult Children work we talk about trauma, and we process those memories with lots of talking and sharing. But van der Kolk also said that we need to change the body to significantly change the brain: “Calm the body to calm the brain.”

That helped me to understand why I can’t always talk myself out of my feelings, and why it’s frustrating and ineffectual when someone says, “You don’t need to feel that way” when I am mad or sad or scared. We can’t get at thoughts with other thoughts—we need to go through the body.

What trauma experts like Bessel van der Kolk recommend are breathing, yoga, walking, stretching, dancing (not any formal kind of dance but mostly moving around to some music)—all kinds of movement. Now, it’s been studied and documented: Changing the body can change the brain.

Doesn’t that make you smile? It’s one of AA’s oldest slogans: Move a Muscle Change a Thought.

Diane Cameron is the author of OUT OF THE WOODS

Posted in Addiction & Recovery, Author News, Blog, Mental Health, Mindfulness, Personal Development | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Coming to terms with trauma, as a couple

Shonna Milliken Humphrey addresses sexual abuse in a new memoir.

About 1 in 6 men has experienced sexual abuse before age 18, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Maine writer Shonna Milliken Humphrey addresses the issue in her new book, “Dirt Roads & Diner Pie: One Couple’s Road Trip to Recovery from Childhood Sexual Abuse.”

It’s an account of her husband’s experience with the American Boychoir School of New Jersey, where Travis Humphrey says he was molested as a student in the late 1980s.

Photo courtesy of Port City Photography Travis Humphrey is a local musician who performs regularly at venues in Portland and Biddeford.

Photo courtesy of Port City Photography Travis Humphrey is a local musician who performs regularly at venues in Portland and Biddeford.

Travis Humphrey is a well-known Maine musician, who mostly kept his story to himself until Hollywood decided to make a movie a few years ago starring Dustin Hoffman called “Boychoir.” It was a feel-good movie about the power of music, based largely on the American Boychoir School.

The movie did not mention the many allegations of abuse that have been leveled at the school. That angered Humphrey and emboldened him and his wife to speak up. Shonna Milliken Humphrey has written about the movie and her husband’s experience at the school in national publications, including The Atlantic and Salon. This book, a memoir published by Central Recovery Press, tells the story of one couple’s fight for justice and how they reconciled the abuse in order to save their marriage. It is based on a road trip they through took after speaking publicly about the allegations for the first time.

Humphrey, who lives in Gorham and works as foundation relations director at ThomasHumphrey, who lives in Gorham and works as foundation relations director at Thomas College in Waterville. Travis Humphrey performs regularly in Portland at Gritty McDuff’s and the Dogfish Bar and Grille, and in Biddeford at Champions.

Shonna Milliken Humphrey Photo courtesy of Shonna Milliken Humphrey

Shonna Milliken Humphrey Photo courtesy of Shonna Milliken Humphrey

Q: This is an incredibly honest book about a very difficult subject. Why was it important for your husband to tell his story?

A: “Dirt Roads & Diner Pie” is honest, but I want to emphasize that it is not graphic. Those details – what happened to my husband when he was a little boy studying at the American Boychoir School – are his. Those details are not mine to share, so readers should not fear being confronted with them on the page.

That’s what sets the book apart, I think. It is a difficult subject, but I focus less on the abuse details and more on the long-term effects. Until I met my husband, I had no idea how insidious and long-reaching those effects can be. Child sex abuse among boys is more common than hunger, but there is reluctance to discuss the issue. Any time a strong, brave man acknowledges this experience, it makes it easier for other strong, brave men to acknowledge their experience, too.

Q: What is the central message of this book? What do you want people to walk away with?

A: Marriage is an absurd endeavor, but with a sense of humor and perspective, it can also be pretty awesome. I think the central message of “Dirt Roads & Diner Pie” is that marriage brings people to weird places, literally and figuratively, and you have to laugh. My favorite literary passage is when Henry Miller quotes Rabelais in “On Turning 80”: “For all your ills, I give you laughter.” It’s true.

I also hope readers walk away with an understanding that there are good reasons why it can take a long time for victims to acknowledge traumatic experiences, the current justice system can be really messed up, and institutions with reputations for sex abuse must change their approach and philosophies.

Q: Your story was fairly public before “Dirt Roads & Diner Pie” came out, because of the “Boychoir” movie. You wrote about it for Salon and The Atlantic as long ago as 2013. What was it like to go public, and how did things change for you and Travis after that publicity?

A: When I had the opportunity to write the piece for The Atlantic in 2013, it was a huge leap in Trav’s healing. We invited that publicity, and while it was a little uncomfortable, the end result was very positive. We received hundreds of encouraging notes.

With the movie and the 2014 Salon essay, it got trickier. We were ready to be done, but also, Trav did not want the American Boychoir School experience to be glamorized in a major motion picture. The idea of it being a recruitment and revenue tool for the school made him sick. So I wrote more, and that’s when the publicity got a little ugly. People affiliated with the Boychoir said some very unkind things about us and our motives.

However, Trav’s big fears were fears that many victims describe: not being believed or having the experience minimized. When those things actually happened in a very big and public way, he was able to step back and observe that, while not exactly pleasant, it also was not as bad as he’d imagined.

The backlash was brief and intense, but – I really believe this – good wins. Anyone who knows Travis understands that he is one of the good ones.

Q: You went up against a major Hollywood studio – and won, or so it appears on the surface. Do you feel like you won?

A: I don’t think there are any winners with child sex abuse. Two years after its initial debut, Hallmark acquired the original film, renamed it, and CBS planned to broadcast it this past April during National Sexual Assault Awareness Month. That seemed like a bad idea, so we went back to what had worked before: writing the truth about our experience. I also invited others to do the same.

When CBS abruptly pulled the movie from its schedule, we were happy with that decision, so yes, that part felt like a win. But, that victory also emphasized how those affiliated with the Boychoir and similar institutions deal with victims, and that is where nobody wins.

Q: I imagine this wasn’t a book that you planned to write. I presume it presented itself after all the publicity surrounding “Boychoir.” What’s next? Will you return to novel writing?

A: That’s true. I suppose no writer wakes up and says, “Today I plan to expose my marriage’s weaknesses, my personal anxieties and my husband’s deepest shame in a funny memoir.”

When we took the road trip, our biggest goal was to find some sun and step off the crazy train for a few weeks. The idea of writing a book came after we returned home and assessed our list of options. Trav could sue the school in a years-long process that would be handled largely by the school’s insurance company, or he could continue to stay quiet. Neither of those felt particularly satisfying, so we chose to make a new option and own the narrative. Basically, to just say what happened, let a little light into the experience, and hope it might do some good.

As for what’s next, I am working on a nonfiction book proposal about the early years of one particular AmeriCorps program, as well as finishing up a second novel. Once those are finalized, we will see which project my agent can sell first.

Q: And what is next for Travis?

A: He recorded his latest project, “The Roadhouse Gospel Hour,” locally with Jon Wyman’s Halo Studios almost immediately upon our return from the road trip. It’s a collection of Americana standards and powerful original material. Travis is currently contemplating some new project ideas while he continues to perform locally.

Q: You are doing a lot of radio interviews. What has the reaction been to the book?

A: My novel, “Show Me Good Land,” was simpler to promote. I showed up, read aloud or talked about craft, and sold books. That resulted in some nice honors, too, like the Virginia Commonwealth University Cabell Award for first novels semi-finalist list.

For “Dirt Roads & Diner Pie,” it is a little different. I do think the book is powerful as a piece of literature, but I can create some social change with this project in a way that is limiting with a traditional novel. The publisher, Central Recovery Press, is a resource for all manner of healing, and having me speak directly with radio audiences throughout the country is an effective way to promote that social change aspect.

Available now!

Available now!

This is an edited version of an article first appearing in the Portland Press Herald

This is an edited version of an article first appearing in the Portland Press Herald

Posted in Author News, Codependency, Relationships, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Helping Loved Ones With Anxiety and Depression Survive the Holidays

As the holiday season’s spirit and cheer kick in, it can be hard to imagine feeling glum. But for the 3.3 million Americans suffering from anxiety — plus millions more suffering from related conditions like depression and OCD — the expectations of joy and merriment can backfire, triggering hopelessness and causing symptoms to flare.

bodyThat’s because the mere thought of trying to meet these expectations can be overwhelming, explains Maggie Lamond Simone, award-winning columnist and author of her third book, “Body Punishment: OCD, Addiction and Finding the Courage to Heal.” People with anxiety and related mental health conditions imagine that others have found “perfection” in a special day, meal, gift or moment and that they are experiencing immense, unbridled joy.

Not experiencing this joy themselves, those suffering feel frustrated, flawed, ashamed and left out, which, in turn, aggravates the symptoms of depression, anxiety and OCD.

Unfortunately, as is often the case with what NPR has called this silent epidemic, the result is a dangerous downward spiral where the individuals suffering say nothing about what they’re going through — and nobody around them thinks to ask.  Feeling isolated, they prefer to be alone when, in fact, withdrawing will only make the situation even worse.

But there’s a way to help, said Simone:

Be aware
In the frenzied lead-up to the holidays, it’s easy for all of us to forget about anything other than our own to-do list. So it’s more important than ever to intentionally think about those we know are struggling, and to be aware of the challenges this season brings them.

Step Forward
Don’t wait for your loved one to talk to you about what they’re experiencing. On top of feeling unwell, they may also be feeling shame at the idea of putting a damper on your good time if they open up. Start a dialogue. Mention you’ve noticed they’ve been staying in the house more often. Let them know you care.

Keep Engaging Them
Keep your loved one engaged and involved as much as they are willing to be. It will help them feel supported and included. Invite them to bake cookies, go shopping or talk a walk. Even if they refuse, it still gives them an opportunity to feel connected and to know you care.

Schedule Some Exercise
It may sound strange, but exercise can seriously help augment difficult feelings and compulsions during the holidays. With the boost in serotonin that just a short jog can illicit, most people who are suffering are brought at least some relief. Start a weekly exercise plan with your loved one in order to prevent a severe dip in their emotional landscape.

maggiesimoneMaggie Lamond Simone is an award-winning columnist and author. For as long as she canrecall, she has been plagued by self-loathing and urges to harm herself physically while emotionally sabotaging her life. In “Body Punishment: OCD, Addiction and Finding the Courage to Heal” (Central Recovery Press, April 2015), she reveals it all: The obsessive thoughts that drove her to cut, starve, pick, drink, pluck, purge, and otherwise hurt herself. The profound shame, the utter despair and the confusion over her own inner workings that prevented her from establishing stable, long-term goals and healthy relationships.

Through this poignant story of her painful, eye-opening journey she explores the issues of substance abuse, anxiety, and depression that commonly occur with OCD, all in an effort to further the dialogue around mental illness and eliminate the shame and help others find a way forward toward healing.

With two titles already to her name, her third book, “Body Punishment: OCD, Addiction and Finding the Courage to Heal” (Central Recovery Press) was released in April 2015. It traces Simone’s journey struggling with obsessive-compulsive disorder, anxiety, and depression. Simone has been a guest on NPR and is a regular blog columnist for the Huffington Post. An an adjunct professor in the department of communications at SUNY Oswego and Onondaga Community College in Syracuse, she lives in Central New York with her husband and two children.

Body Punishment is available now!

Body Punishment is available now!

This article first appeared on the December 19, 2016 EdgeMediaNetwork webpage

This article first appeared on the December 19, 2016 EdgeMediaNetwork webpage


Posted in Addiction, Addiction & Recovery, Author News, Blog, Family & Addiction, Personal Development, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment