Humor and Mental Illness

It’s no secret that comedians often come from very dark places. People often tell me that I’m funny, which I take to mean, “Tim, you should get help!” But they are completely right: I am funny. But seriously, I do think that, for me, humor and mental illness go hand-in-hand. I’m incessantly aware of life’s inconsistencies and ironies, and those provide perfect fodder for a few laughs throughout the day.

Last week, I watched a Netflix special that was so powerful and profound, and it got me thinking about this marriage between humor and mental illness once again. The show is called “3 Mics” and the stand-up comic is named Neal Brennan. It’s not spoiling anything to tell you that the whole 3 microphone concept goes like this: At each of the mics, he talks about different sorts of things. One is for silly one-liners; one is for normal stand-up comedy; and the last one is for, as he puts it, “emotional stuff.”

When he first went to the “emotional” mic, I figured he might be doing just a different sort of comedy – making fun of himself and what a crybaby he is or something like that. So when he started talking about his depression, I was intrigued. Here was a guy who clearly understood depression. I can always tell when someone truly speaks depression and when they just want to pretend like they understand to be nice. Neal speaks depression fluently. But he threw me for a loop because he never rescued the “bit” with humor. He was just plain and simply talking about his deep battle with depression. He was mixing humor and mental illness, but not by making mental illness funny as many try to do. Instead, he was giving it its full, brutal, weighty due.

Then he did more standp-up comedy (probably 70% of the show is stand-up comedy), but then he came back to the mic. This time he talked about his father. His father was terrible, but I’ll let you watch and hear for yourself. It’s horrific. But also powerful in a way that only tragic things can be.

Overall, this hour-long Netflix special felt like taking the perfect, soothing bath. I felt like someone had told it like it is in a way that made me feel like I had a new friend. I loved the comedy, too, because what else are you going to do when life can look so grim and tragic other than try to laugh a little. Brennan found the perfect marriage between humor and mental illness, giving each their proper place and weight. And while I’m pretty sure Brennan isn’t an avid follower of this blog, I felt the kinship that I hope to share with you: We may not know each other, or ever meet for that matter, but I hope you are encouraged to know you are not alone. Mental illness is a lot of things, but one of them is certainly LONELY.

So go watch Neal Brennan’s special or call a friend who gets it or email me or post a comment or whatever…find a friend because we are out here, and you are not alone.
I write this blog because I want people to feel encouraged that they are not alone. Please share it with someone who might need to read it. Thanks!
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Born with Burns

Born with Burns

Sometimes I feel like I was born with a scorched body that never healed. I’m walking around in the world, a world full of sharp edges and prickly branches and concrete landing spots. These things hurt everyone when they pass them by or fall onto them, but for me, after 41 years of observation, I feel quite confident saying these things hurt me much more than they do the average person.

At the moment my wife 14 years and I are going through a divorce. It’s not that we don’t love each other or care about each other. It’s just that things aren’t working and they haven’t been for a long time. There’s a lot of friction that causes unnecessary pain and angst for us and for our children. It’s been a hard and years-long decision, but the last few weeks as we have taken definitive steps has been brutal.

On top of that, and forgive me for complaining publicly, but most of my closest friends and family have entirely failed to offer any comfort in the midst of this. I watch as my wife’s family and friends rallied to her side day after day and just feel consumed by loneliness at the lack of calls on my phone or texts to say “I’m with you.”

Today I actually feel like I want to die for the first time in a very long time. I’m grateful that his been so long since I felt this way, but I forgot how awful it is. I’m at that point just prior to being truly in danger where I just hope something tragic will happen to me and it will all be over. Like I said, I feel like a burn victim who is more wounded by the ordinary events of life than most others would be.

Life is painful no matter who you are but when you have a mental illness what might otherwise be tolerable pain becomes virtually intolerable. What might be deep sadness turns into soul-and-life-threatening sadness. What might be Xanax-requiring anxiety about the future turns into wanting to drink yourself into oblivion even though you haven’t had a drop in over seven months, as is the case with me.

As much as it may seem so, I am not writing to air any dirty laundry or to be passive aggressive toward anyone. I am writing because it is more apparent to me and ever day like today how much we need each other. People without mental illnesses simply do not and cannot get it. They can try and some of them are very very good at trying. But unless a day like today has led you to feel what I have described it is probably very hard to relate to what I’m talking about. I could understand if you wanted to say to me “Tim, pick yourself up by your bootstraps and move forward.”

But I’m not writing to those of you who feel that I should do such a thing. I’m writing to those of you who read what I said and immediately thought “I completely understand what he is saying.”

And I have a challenge for you that I will never quit giving as long as I write this blog: if you understand what I’m talking about please find someone in or around you inner circle and make a habit of inserting yourself into their lives.

All of us need each other. But those of us whose sanity feels so tenuous need the support of others all the more. If there can be one good thing that comes out of me having a really terrible day, I hope it will be that you are reminded of how much good you can do for another human being simply by understanding what they’re going through. That’s the greatest, and really the only, gift we have to give.

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Let’s Cause a Scene

“The world will not be destroyed by those who do evil, but by those who watch them without doing anything.” – Albert Einstein

Over the past few weeks, my brain feels like it’s stuck in a death-spiral. The conversations in my head are never ending: There’s all the tweets and emails I’m crafting to tell Trump that he not only seems petty but also remarkably stupid – his life seems to be a testament to the fact that money can buy you almost everything: wives, power, prestige, and even the most powerful seat on earth; there are the inner dialogues between me and my Trump-voting friends and family members, with whom I’m still having trouble communicating; and there’s always the meta self-talk that evaluates my own idiocy for even bothering to care about these issues since I can’t change anything. And it’s that impotent feeling mixed with a brain that won’t stop rehashing things no matter how hard I try to make it quit that feels so insurmountable. Peace feels impossible.

I mean…

Can I really change anything in the minds of the old men in the cigar shop who spew racism and elitism without realizing that some of us don’t agree? Should I really say something to these men I barely know?

Can I really do anything about the enormous injustice happening with the Dakota Access Pipeline? How is it even possible that we (“Americans”) would consider doing this to Native Americans? It seems unfathomable to me that the North Dakota authorities are trying to block the roads that allow the protesters to get food and water. Yet we decimated their population once; why wouldn’t we do it again for our own gain?

Can I really change my long-time mentor’s mind about Trump. We have been long-connected because we see the world differently; we are critical of group-think, and particularly the group think of rich white Christian people. How can I move forward without seeing him differently now? We’ve talked and said our peace, but I still feel stuck from moving forward.

The same scenario is happening with some family members: I don’t know how to express my feelings of disrespect for the choice they made while maintaining the overall respect of the relationship. So many people out there are calling for unity and what not, but I sorta think they’re unaware of what their asking for. We didn’t just have an argument about which football franchise is better, the Patriots or the Packers…We had a raging fight about which fundamental, core values will prevail moving forward. Certain matters can’t be swept under the rug, at least not by me. The list of people who want me to let these matters go is embarrassingly long. It’s not that I don’t want to, but when my screwball brain can’t make sense of something, it is incapable of peace. Whether the conversation continues in real life or not, it will continue in my brain. Some have been going on for decades, literally.

Which brings me back to my brain: It NEVER stops. EVER. When I wake up in the middle of the night, my brain picks right back up in medias res as I plan my brilliant letter to the world that will make everyone see the light. But then I read stories like the one of a man spewing racism in a drug store check-out line. A woman worked up the nerve to confront him and flat out asked her peers to join her in standing up to him. But they didn’t! At least not at first. After a few minutes, some of them joined her, but it didn’t happen quickly. So while this was a story presented as a triumph, I saw it as a story that confirms my fears: people are going to sit back and watch evil things happen because that’s what most people do. Even otherwise good people. Most people’s primary mantra in life seems to be, “Don’t make a scene!”

So I think of the Einstein quote, not just in regard to Trump; this is bigger than that. For me, the question is to what degree do I want to make my own people-pleasing life somewhat miserable by speaking up in the face of injustice. One way to look at it is that I am going to be miserable if I don’t speak my mind because of injustice, but I’m also going to be miserable if I do speak my mind because of my fear of rejection. If that’s the case, I suppose I’d rather be a pariah who speaks the truth than someone with lots of friends who don’t know how I really feel. Not quite a Sophie’s Choice but a shitty choice for sure.

I’ve been thinking out loud but I actually want to make a point and not just pontificate. The point is simply the one Albert Einstein made: our world is not endangered nearly as much by Trump’s climate science denying team as it is by those of us who think climate change is real but do nothing. Our world isn’t endangered as much by the kid who spray paints a swastika on a black person’s house as it is by the handful of neighbors who know which kid did it and don’t confront him.

On Wikipedia, they’re doing their annual fundraiser, and the banner says that if every user gave $3, the campaign would last 15 minutes. Think about that! Think about the power of doing something, even something tiny.

So, if those of us who are passionate about the environment fund environmental companies and causes, we can overcome any policy Trump’s team puts in place. And if enough of us cared about the pipeline issue to protest at Senators’ offices or even go join the actual protest itself, maybe we could do something. Our Facebook posts aren’t enough I don’t think.

But here’s the rub: it only works if all of us who might rather stay silent actually give the $3, or the like.

This isn’t, hopefully, just another rah rah speech from someone who happens to be angry right now. This election has made me feel invested in our country in a way I never have. Honestly, I have probably been as lukewarm about our country as I could be. But now that the stakes feel so much higher, I am committed to giving money to organizations that will be overlooked in Trump’s America. I am committed to being involved in causes that I think will make the world my kids inherit a better place. I’m passionate about the climate change issue; I’m passionate about equal rights for the LGTBQ community; and I’m passionate about fairness in our healthcare system for ALL people, especially those who have been overlooked in the past.

As for my mental illnesses, here’s where I (also) need your help. I get discouraged very easily. I need people who will stand with me and hold me accountable to staying this course of activism. I need other mentally ill people, who understand what I feel when I hit a setback or when I feel despondent about the state of the world, to help me keep my chin up. I need people who will make commitments that inspire and challenge me and others to take similar action steps.

I’m grateful for Facebook because, despite it’s potential for distraction, I have made new friends and reconnected with old friends who have made me feel much, much less alone, both in my political beliefs and in my mental illness. We are more connected today than ever before. That can make it easier for ISIS to organize, but it can also make it easier for us to organize. No matter what your platform is, you need to stand on it and shout. And so do I.

So whether it’s funding research for depression or raising money to educate people that Muslim doesn’t equal terrorist, let’s do something. I’m in a fighting mood. Who wants to join me?

Here’s a great place to start:

To Know We Are Not Alone is now an official 501c3 entity. Our mission is to educate, encourage, and connect people who suffer from mental illnesses. Please help with a small (or large) donation if you can. You can do so here.

More importantly, if you know someone who needs to know that they are not alone in their struggle with relationships or mental illness, please share this post/blog with them. Thank you!


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If you read my day-after-the-election post you saw my reactionary nature in action. I’m not proud of that, but being hypersensitive is a fundamental part of being mentally ill. Our brains are already on the precipice of disaster, pain, sorrow, anger, and it doesn’t take much to tip them over the edge. This same quality affects our day-to-day relationships, our careers, and our overall sense of sanity. You want proof that our brains work differently: just take a look at how poorly we handle over-stimulation of any sort. Like, say, having a possibly Fascist, certainly racist, definitely sexist man elected to run our country for the next (God, if you’re there, please make it only) 4 years.

Having a couple of weeks of perspective under my belt hasn’t helped too much. I still feel that this defeat is personal. I still feel betrayed by everyone I know who claims to care about the “little guy” and then voted into office the Great Bully of my lifetime. I still don’t know how to talk to the people in my life with whom I want to maintain relationships but at whom I’m so angry that the right words just won’t come out. I still feel crushed beyond words that the crowd I used to proudly run with – evangelicals – bought into Trump so thoroughly that it’s going to be a challenged to maintain those relationships with the mutual respect I would have hoped to perpetuate.

I’m not a little guy when you look at the outside: White, private schools, post-graduate education, wealthy upbringing…I’m privileged in so many ways on the surface. But on the inside, I’m something very different. The control panel inside my being’s core functions like a little guy’s: scared (always, even about nothing); feeling impotent when I try to tell people what I’m really feeling; powerless to change my own situation – having sat at the mercy of 8 psychiatrists and been told so many different things, I wonder if it isn’t somewhat like being kicked around the welfare system must be like. Simply put, I feel like a little guy is someone who can’t be sure her voice will ever be heard by someone with enough power to help. And in that regard, with The Great Bully as our president, I feel more like a helpless little guy than ever before.

But I don’t want this to be a political post any more than it already is. The deed is done. Now what?

This rally cry may sound very worn-out and even trite, but most cliches have a lot of truth wrapped up inside: We need to band together. Not just to fight for mental health research and reform in our government, but on a more basic level than that. More than ever, we need to let each other know we are not alone.

I wrote a post in a Hillary Clinton fan group the other night, and as a result 5 or 6 people who I do not know from Adam sent me friend requests. I accepted them and have already felt encouraged to see their posts in my feed. I’ve liked their’s, and vice versa, and voila – I feel like I’ve made some new friends who see the world in a similar way as I do. All of my problems aren’t solved, but I feel more connected to people I believe in and genuinely like. So, (I hate the words I’m about to use)…I “challenge” (that’s the one I hate) you to use this site to do the same thing: find some friends on here. If you keep seeing someone’s name pop up, send them a friend request. Hell, send me a friend request and let’s get to know each other beyond this forum.

I need you guys. I need you to survive. Literally. I need people who get it and who see the same quandaries and dilemmas in the world around them as I do. My core belief throughout my entire life has been simply this: We need each other. We don’t know who God is or where God is or if God is. We don’t know which political system is going to be best for us. We don’t even know if butter is going to turn out to be good for us or if it will kill us. We don’t know much. But I know that humans are pack animals, and I know that I need you. Reach out to each other; support each other; love each other. Start here. Or start somewhere. But be brave…do it.


To Know We Are Not Alone is now an official 501c3 entity. Our mission is to educate, encourage, and connect people who suffer from mental illnesses. Please help with a small (or large) donation if you can. You can do so here.

More importantly, if you know someone who needs to know that they are not alone in their struggle with relationships or mental illness, please share this post/blog with them. Thank you!


Want to know when there’s something new here? Sign up for the blog below. Tim also has a Facebook community called To Know We Are Not Alone and frankly, so if you’re on Facebook, join us there, too. [jetpack_subscription_form title=”” subscribe_text=”” subscribe_button=”Sign Me Up”]

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Mental Illness and Relationship Problems

There’s a sign at the Zaxby’s near my house with a quote from John Wayne that reads, “Life is hard; it’s harder if you’re stupid.” I’d like to make a similar sign that reads, “relationships are hard; they’re harder if you have a mental illness.”

I’ve come across countless people since I started this blog who have basically the same story: I’ve lost friends’ and family members’ support because of my illness; I have no one left.

My friend who battles profound depression had a group of friends tell her they couldn’t go through one more bout with her and they walked out of her life.

My friend with severe OCD had a decades-long friend ditch her because she couldn’t get over her germ obsessions to take the dog to the vet when it was sick.

Some don’t get dumped so precipitously. It happens slowly, too: This week I came across a great article by a college student about how anxiety is an unacceptable excuse for not being able to go out with friends. Most people will put up with an anxious friend who often backs out of plans at the last minute, but few will do so indefinitely. They give up and move on to people who aren’t worried about ridiculous things.

My own friendships have been harmed or lost due to my hypersensitivity. Over the years, more times than I can count, I’ve gotten upset by things that wouldn’t upset other people. I am incapable of just “moving on” and so I tend to tell the other people how I feel. Often I do this nicely; sometimes I don’t. But surprise, surprise…a lot of people don’t enjoy this quality of mine which is a mixture of OCD (I can’t just let it go) and anxiety (a fear of abandonment that leads me to wonder why other people have treated me a certain way).

Sometimes just telling another person they’ve upset me, even nicely, makes them distance themselves from me. Thankfully, many of my friends have been able to handle that version of me. What’s harder to handle is the anger that sometimes rears its ugly head in my confrontations. On an aware-of-the-world-around-me scale, I’m living at level 9 out of 10 all the time. So when something causes you to go from your normal 3 to an angry 6 (call it a normal argument level), I would then be at a 12. I say things I shouldn’t say; I get more angry than I should probably ever get; and our argument goes from something normal and irritating to something that might end our friendship.

I’ve had more of these arguments than I care to list. I’m incredibly ashamed of them, and I’m not even willing to go into much detail here because the shame is still so palpable. But over the past few years, as I’ve really struggled to maintain my grip on sanity, these blow ups have been painfully prevalent.

Those on the receiving end of all this perceive it as simply bad behavior. They can’t fathom why you’ve taken a “small” conflict and turned it into something enormous. The reality is, you can’t either. But you keep doing it because your brain doesn’t have a normal baseline, and sadly, your illness doesn’t show up on an X-ray; it shows up as “behavior that you should be in control of.”

If you are mentally ill in some way, I suspect you have stories of your own. Often the trouble comes from people who think you should just “get over it.” Sometimes it comes from your own quirky (I refuse to call it “bad”) behavior. Regardless, mental illness makes relationship more difficult than they already are. My hope is that this blog can in some small way be a touchstone to let you know that you are not alone and that you deserve better: You deserve understanding, patience, grace, and kindness. You are some of the most caring and tender souls in the universe and it’s a cruel joke that you often can’t find the understanding you need. Keep fighting; I hope you will find someone(s) who let you be you, quirks, relationship difficulties and all.

To those of you who are the supporters, this is where you have the chance to help erase the stigma. When someone you love has a mental illness, accept the very real truth of this…just as you would if they were in a wheelchair or had a chronic disease or even something like cancer. You’d change your expectations to accommodate for the illness. You don’t have to quit holding them accountable: you can still tell them when they’ve stepped over a boundary line, but you might start from a different place than consuming frustration or raging anger. Start from the same place you would if your friend in a wheelchair got frustrated navigating the park and just gave up and decided to lag behind for the rest of the trip. Maybe they were whiny; maybe they took their frustration out on you or blamed you for wanting to come to this hilly park; maybe they acted like an ass. You can tell them that, but give them a little grace, too. You’ve never been to a hilly park in a wheel chair.

Finally, please remember this if you take nothing else away: the quote at the top about those who cease to be friends is true. If you give up on a friendship when the other person is still willing to work on it, your part of the friendship wasn’t as genuine as you may have thought. I don’t say this to shame anyone; I use strong words here to drive home my point. Truly caring for a mentally ill person means there are going to be some tough waters to wade through. Please stay the course. We need people in our lives who will do that.


To Know We Are Not Alone is now an official 501c3 entity. Our mission is to educate, encourage, and connect people who suffer from mental illnesses. Please help with a small (or large) donation if you can. You can do so here.

More importantly, if you know someone who needs to know that they are not alone in their struggle with relationships or mental illness, please share this post/blog with them. Thank you!


Want to know when there’s something new here? Sign up for the blog below. Tim also has a Facebook community called To Know We Are Not Alone and frankly, so if you’re on Facebook, join us there, too. [jetpack_subscription_form title=”” subscribe_text=”” subscribe_button=”Sign Me Up”]

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Colin Kaepernick and Brock Turner

Stanford swimmer Brock Turner was released from jail this week after serving only three months for “sexual assault,” also known as rape.

This is precisely what we wanted.

Yes, us.

Meanwhile, NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick has been raked over the coals for sitting down during the National Anthem this week. He says he’ll stand when minorities are treated like human beings in our country. As we chastise him and try to silence him, we should carefully consider that what we are actually doing is trying to perpetuate a system wherein a rapist like Brock Turner can get out of jail after three months – a system that privileges rich white people over everyone else – minorities, immigrants, and women.

I once saw a bumper sticker that read, “Don’t pass on my money; pass on my work ethic.” In case that doesn’t make sense to you, the person is saying that poor people are poor because they are lazy. When we live in a society where that person doesn’t have enough friends who tell him how horrific his bumper sticker his, that means we live in a culture where we’d rather allow someone to be a bully than to put ourselves through the discomfort of confronting a bully. And that’s what causes the bullied to end up dead by their own hands, raped by their peers, and silenced when they would like to protest. All because many of us don’t want to be put through the trouble of defending those whose voices are smaller and weaker. And really, just imagine the opposite situation: if a black person from the inner city drove around with a bumper sticker that said, “If it weren’t for those elitist white racists, maybe I could get a better job,” it scares me to think of the reaction that might invoke.

So what does this have to do with mental illness? A lot.

My friend who has been incapable of working due to depression for over five years has every doctor on planet earth say that she needs government disability, yet she has been denied twice, forcing her to hire a lawyer she can’t afford in the hopes of finally getting the whopping $1,400 a month she hopes to get. She’s the little guy; she has no power. Yet she is lucky enough to have connections who know a lawyer who can help her. Most aren’t so lucky.

There are those who criticize “all those lazy people looking for a government handout.” To them I say please try living off of $1,400 a month for awhile…after living off of $0 while you fight the system for a few years trying to get that meager sum. Think how defeated in spirit someone has to be to “live” off the government when that life means subjecting yourself to a life of poverty because you have no other option besides homelessness or death.

This site is called “to know we are not alone” because my passion, even more than speaking out about mental illness, is to speak out against loneliness. And one of the loneliest places on earth is being the little guy whose voice doesn’t really matter – the inner city mother living on welfare, the mentally ill person living on disability, the black kid whose life doesn’t seem to matter as evidenced by the people trying to silence someone who stands up for him, the girl who gets raped by a peer but whose voice doesn’t matter because her rapist’s parents have means…these are all the same.

The troubling reality, though, is that once we dress bullying up a little bit as adults, many of us unwittingly become a part of the crowd that bullies and oppresses. Our victims don’t usually end up hanging themselves in their parents’ basement, like the victims of a middle school bully. Our victims get sent back to the projects, further convinced that it’s impossible to climb out of the hole they’ve been born into. Our victims get sent back to Honduras or Haiti or Guatemala, separated from their wives and children who, for some reason, got to stay here. Our victims get raped and then told that their rape doesn’t really matter that much to the rest of us. And our victims sink further and further into the mental nightmare that won’t end – as trapped in their mental health hell hole as the kid from the projects who knows he’ll never escape.

This isn’t where I tell you who to vote for. It’s just where I tell you that there are a lot of people whose voices don’t seem to matter. If you want to know what happens to those people over time, just go visit an Indian Reservation. The fact that we’re still calling them “Indian” Reservations shows how little their voices matter. You wonder why the inner city looks like it does? It’s not because those people are lazy; it’s because those areas are just another version of an Indian Reservation… “Let’s put them there and then blame them for failing to rise above their situation,” is what our society has said from day one.

Please, I beg you, there are a lot of “little guys” out there, and they need for you to mount a protest on their behalf. If you don’t, then please don’t post things on Facebook about how awful it is that Brock Turner just got out of prison.
Please help if you can…everything helps. You can do so here.

More importantly, if you know someone who needs to know that they are not alone in their struggle with anger or mental illness, please share this post/blog with them. Thank you!


Want to know when there’s something new here? Sign up for the blog below. Tim also has a Facebook community called To Know We Are Not Alone and frankly, so if you’re on Facebook, join us there, too. [jetpack_subscription_form title=”” subscribe_text=”” subscribe_button=”Sign Me Up”]

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Podcast: Christianity and Mental Illness


Religion and Mental Illness Podcast Show Notes:

Psyche (root of psychology): originally viewed as the human soul, mind, or spirit. Today we view the psyche as essentially rooted in our brains…something distinctly separate from our spirit. However, in religious circles, these two are still decidedly overlapped. Herein lies the problem/issue that is addressed in this podcast.

No matter how you slice it, we have a serious problem in that religion and psychology are usually seen as being at odds with each other. Many religious people refuse mental health treatment, believing that God can/will cure them.

Early 20th-century interest in religion and mental health was sparked by Freud’s view of religion as intrinsically neurotic. Freud described religion and its rituals as a collective neurosis, which, he suggested, could save a person the effort of forming an individual neurosis. For example, in an early paper, Freud (1907/1924) spelt out the similarities between religious rituals and obsessional rituals. He argued that guilt is created when rituals are not carried out, and assuaged when they are, so a self-perpetuating ‘ritualaholic’ cycle is set up.

Freud’s views prompted furious reaction from the religious establishment, leading in some circles to the dismissal of psychotherapy and psychotherapists as worthless atheistic frauds; but there were parallel counter-movements. Within psychodynamic theory and practice, and in the social scientific and psychiatric arenas, there were serious attempts to explore religiosity and spirituality and their mental health implications.

A recent LifeWay Research survey produced some interesting statistics related to mental illness…48 percent believe serious mental illness can be cured by prayer alone.


Can Christianity Cure Obsessive Compulsive Disorder

The author shows that Luther, Bunyan, and Therese had textbook OCD and overcame it by trusting in God with their obsessions. They gave the obsession and outcome into God’s hands and trusted in Christ’s righteousness as being their righteousness. I struggled with the Calvinistic bent Bunyan and Luther have. They seem to trust more in God’s sovereignty over ALL areas of life, whereas I still allow for free will. I admit that my OCD would be less intense if I were a Calvinist, but I’m not still not convinced. I do believe this would be a great read for a Christian with OCD. The author doesn’t push “trust therapy” (my own term) to the exclusion of other therapies (medication, cognitive-behavioral, etc.) but mentions that “trust therapy” leads to spiritual growth. This is a very important point. I think the book could be reduced in length because the “trust therapy,” but it’s still a fairly quick read. It is written on a layman’s level. If you suffer from OCD, may God show his grace to you. And remember, don’t give up.

Scrupulosity: A form of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder (OCD) involving religious or moral obsessions. Scrupulous individuals are overly concerned that something they thought or did might be a sin or other violation of religious or moral doctrine.


It hasn’t been easy. There are times when Earle is angry and withdrawn. He is often exhausted. I often feel overwhelmed with having to shoulder much of the responsibility for running the home and family. And I sometimes get discouraged knowing we serve a Lord who could reach down and heal this in an instant — but has chosen not to do so.

Finally, it might be that in some cases overcoming depression requires nothing more than praying for the will to be joyful.There’s a woman I know whose health has failed in many ways. She can only breathe with the help of oxygen tanks; her husband has deserted her; she needs charity to survive. But she is determined to be happy—and she is. Lincoln once said that most people are about as happy as they decide to be. In the end, you may have to pray for the grace and courage to decide to say “yes” to life and, by so doing, prove to the world that you have indeed been saved: “by grace through faith.” To make such a decision is not to be a Pollyanna. It is willing to will the will of God.

As we consider the causes of depression, those of us in the church must face the ways we might be responsible for creating it. Supposedly, we offer a gospel that delivers people from guilt, but often, when we think people do not feel guilty enough to take our gospel seriously, we preach to them in a way that makes them feel guilty. Sadly, we do a much better job of making people feel guilty than we do of delivering them from the guilt we create. We need to confess this and change our ways.


God may be using anxiety to draw us closer to him, allowing us to recognize our need and limitations as anchors to the One who is sufficient. Focusing on the way Jesus set boundaries in community and kept a constant line of communication open with his Father, (The Anxious Xian by Rhett Smith)Smith helpfully and practically reconciles the experience of anxiety with the reality of God’s goodness.

6. Anxiety is pointless.

Matthew 6:27: “Which of you by being anxious can add a single hour to his span of life?” [Answer: no one.]

7. Anxiety is worldly.

Matthew 6:31-32: “Do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the Gentiles seek after all these things. . . .”

James 4:4: “You adulterous people! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.”

8. Tomorrow has enough to worry about and doesn’t need my help.

Matthew 6:34: “Do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Lamentations 3:23: “[God’s mercies] are new every morning.”

Studies have gone back and forth on the benefits of religion for mental health, but all that’s really clear is that the relationship is very complex.

This supports my belief that it’s an individual issue – some are helped and some are hurt.

The controversial ruling comes after a 5-year study by the APA showed devoutly religious people often suffered from anxiety, emotional distress, hallucinations, and paranoia. The study stated that those who perceived God as punitive was directly related to their poorer health, while those who viewed God as benevolent did not suffer as many mental problems. The religious views of both groups often resulted in them being disconnected from reality.

A 2010 study by Newberg and colleagues that included brain scans of Tibetan Buddhist and Franciscan nuns found that these long-term meditators had more activity in frontal-lobe areas such as the prefrontal cortex, compared with people who were not long-term meditators.

Strengthening these areas of the brain may help people be “more calm, less reactionary, better able to deal with stressors,” Newberg said. However, these studies can’t say that prayer changed the brain — it’s possible that these differences existed before the meditators took up their prayer practice. [Mind Games: 7 Reasons You Should Meditate]


Well, the time has come to ask what I hate asking because I am pathologically afraid of annoying people. But if I am going to have the time and resources to keep writing, podcasting, and researching possible methods and models for small groups dedicated specifically to helping mentally ill people know they have company, I need some additional resources. Now that I have 501(c)(3) status, I can ask you for help while offering you a tax deduction. There are 3 ways to donate:

  1. You can transfer money directly from your bank via PayPal donations (seriously, why don’t you have a PayPal account by now, people?!).
  2. You can use PayPal to make a credit card donation.

  4. You can write an old-school checks (ask your grandmother to show you how to write one, and then email me at for the mailing address).

All covering-up-my-discomfort-with-humor aside, I want to grow this endeavor into something that helps more people and helps them in more of a variety of ways. Anything you can contribute would be profoundly appreciated.


More importantly, if you know someone who needs to know that they are not alone in their struggle with anger or mental illness, please share this post/blog with them. Thank you!



Want to know when there’s something new here? Sign up for the blog below. Tim also has a Facebook community called To Know We Are Not Alone and frankly, there’s a lot more dialogue and group interaction that goes on there than on this blog site, so if you’re on Facebook, join us there, too. [jetpack_subscription_form title=”” subscribe_text=”” subscribe_button=”Sign Me Up”]

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Trolling for Columbine

I have a mighty struggle that rages within me as I write these posts. On the one hand I can write something that will inspire and motivate you. Those posts always perform much, much, MUCH better than the other ones. But here’s the problem: the other ones are, frankly, more honest, more real, more raw. But you don’t seem to like those as much, unfortunately.

You don’t like my anger or my confrontation or my aggression. And I get it. I would skip those posts too. But if you want the news from the front lines of mental illness, you’ll have to read those posts. This is one of those posts, I’m afraid.

I’ve been sinking lately…hard and fast. Everything hurts me. Everything upsets me. Everything makes me want to be done living this life. Everything.

A former student posted a picture of herself holding up a rebel flag. I confronted her. She got upset. Others saw the encounter. I don’t know if I should be embarrassed or proud of myself.

Another person called me an intolerant liberal who criticized those who defended gun rights while allowing those such as gays and transgender people to shout their opinions from the rooftops. He thought this was inconsistent.

Yet another friend told me I was “willfully ignorant” because I didn’t want to shoot his AK-47. He was convinced that, if I shot it, I would realize how much fun it is and would thus quit calling for it to be outlawed.

The fact that I felt the need to respond to these posts, some call “trolling”…someone who goes around looking for fights on the internet. And maybe that’s what I was doing. Or maybe I was just reacting to all the evil in the world, the police shootings, the massacre of police officers, or just the run-of-the-mill racism I hear every time I go to my once-favorite cigar shop and am forced to listen to both Fox News and the real-life people who think Fox News is the only truthful news. Lately, though, I can’t take it. All I hear are racist and anti-liberal comments spouted as if there’s no way anyone in that shop could possibly disagree. I disagree, but I keep my mouth shut. I know an unfair fight when I see one.

I’m angry. I’m hurt. I want to run away from humanity because so much of humanity seems to suck a giant dick. I can feel you cringe when I talk like that, but it’s how I really feel.

In 2002, filmmaker Michael Moore made a movie called “Bowling for Columbine.” If you’re not familiar with Columbine, you should be. Go look it up. But the movie calls attention to the problematic gun laws and attitudes in our country. Moore is an unpopular figure, at least in conservative circles, because he unabashedly calls attention to the ways that the conservative agenda (never heard that one, have ya?!) is perpetuating the problems in our country. And I agree with him.

I often feel like Michael Moore: someone who feels compelled to point out the absurdities and atrocities that so many people seem to ignore. I once heard Moore interviewed, and he claimed that he didn’t really want to be the whistleblower for these issues, but he felt like he had no choice. That’s a bit how I feel in this post. I don’t want to be an angry asshole, but I want to be honest with you: All of the negativity in the world takes a giant toll on me – from the obvious negativity of the recent news to the micro-negativity of people who don’t listen, don’t understand, don’t care, or don’t have the first clue how to interact with someone who is mentally ill.

I’m tired. I’m tired of being more sensitive than everyone else about the horrible things that happen in this world. Being mentally ill is really fucking hard. It’s hard to walk through the daily morass of idiocy that bombards us each day. I might be oversensitive and mentally ill, but I’m not stupid. I have a right to be angry. Sometimes I think everyone else is stupid for not being more angry.

So I take my anger out on my Facebook friends for posting pictures of rebel flags and pro-assault rifle propaganda. It’s easy to say, “Tim, you’re not going to change anyone’s mind on Facebook.” And you’re right, undoubtedly. But my brain goes fucking crazy, wanting to be heard, wanting to have a voice, wanting to be listened to.

I suspect many of you have quit reading by now. This post is too angry, Tim! We want more of the posts that encourage us…that tell us how to get over those speed bumps in our lives. But this post is one of those that acknowledges that the speed bumps can be insurmountable. The anger can consume us. The outrage can be too much to be contained. The hurt feelings, even when no one was aiming their hatred in our direction, can be so painful that all we know how to do is to direct our anger at the next person who does something stupid – a driver, a Facebook poster, or a family member who just doesn’t seem to “get it.”

It’s hard, having these fucked up brains. They don’t work right. And even if we know they are malfunctioning, just like someone with Parkinson’s who knows his leg won’t behave properly, we still can’t seem to get them under control. Please bear with us. Please forgive us. Please love us. We know we are angry and spiteful, but we want, more than anything, to be someone worth loving. We are trying, trying, trying…in both of the ways that can be taken. Please be patient with us.
Friends, I need your help growing the reach of TKWANA. Its aims are to 1. encourage 2. educate and 3. connect people with mental illnesses and their supporters. Beyond blogging, podcasting, and speaking, I ultimately hope to develop a small-group model for those with mental illnesses – something not too different from what AA is for alcoholics. If you see the value in this endeavor, please consider sharing TKWANA with your Facebook friends or with someone in particular who might need it. Thank you!
Want to know when there’s something new here? Sign up for the blog below. Tim also has a Facebook community called To Know We Are Not Alone and frankly, there’s a lot more dialogue and group interaction that goes on there than on this blog site, so if you’re on Facebook, join us there, too. [jetpack_subscription_form title=”” subscribe_text=”” subscribe_button=”Sign Me Up”]

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Faking It

When-Harry-Met-Sally-when-harry-met-sally-restaurant-1200x675If you’re like me, you’re plagued by the fear that the people you’re with think you’re faking it. Whether it’s someone new, someone you’ve been with many times, someone you love, or someone you just met at a bar, there’s always that question: Do they think I’m faking it?

I’m referring to mental illness of course.

If you’re a paraplegic, I don’t think it crosses anyone’s mind that you were just tired of standing up. If you have cancer, I don’t think anyone says, “let me see those x-rays, please.” But mental illness is completely invisible, other than in one’s behavior.

If I can’t get out of bed because of depression, it would be easy for someone to say, as many do, “What you need is some sunshine (or exercise). You need to get up and get moving. Then you’ll feel better.” Would they ever say that to a cancer patient?

If I am consumed with anger and lash out at someone I love, it looks like I’m being a jerk. It looks like bad behavior. In reality, it is a symptom of a brain that won’t cooperate. I know I shouldn’t be angry, but I still am. I still lash out. And then I hate myself for it, convinced that I could “do better” if only I would try harder…try different.

And I know that sometimes my loved ones think the same thing: that I could behave differently if only I would get my act together…quit hiding behind my diagnoses and just make different choices.

A dear friend of mine is financially supported by a family member. Recently, this family member has grown frustrated. He has told her to exercise more, to get outside, to act healthy so as to become healthy. He’s even gone so far as to tell her that his support won’t last forever and she should find a rich man who will enable her as she lays in bed and “refuses to leave the house.” Would this family member ever say this to her if she had cancer? If she had ALS? If she was paralyzed? Obviously, no.

The fact is that it’s easy to worry that people think we’re faking it because, well, they do. Those who have never battled their own brains, understandably, think they know the answer(s) to our problems. When they feel a little sad, it helps to go for a run. When they feel like staying in bed, they are able to overcome that feeling and reap the rewards of getting up and moving.

But that’s like me telling someone with terminal cancer that I understand how they feel because I’ve had the flu. Imagine if I tried to tell someone with cancer how to get better based on my experience with the flu. That would be offensive in every possible sense of the word.

But mental illness is still a mystery. I even went to a talk recently where a psychiatrist talked about how to avoid weight gain when on bi-polar meds, which notoriously cause weight gain. Every ounce of his advice was the exact same advice you would give to someone who just likes to eat: snack on nuts, not donuts; don’t eat after 8; etc.

This was a doctor who treats bi-polar people all day every day. Yet he treated us like we were normal people who just overate, not people who were on medication that makes it nearly impossible to lose weight.

Honestly, I’m not complaining, at least I don’t think I am. I’m just stating the reality that, for those of us with a mental illness, it’s easy to feel like those around us must think we are faking it. Every single day, as I battle my frustrating brain, I wonder what people think. I know that some of them think I should exercise more often. Others think I should pray more. Some think I should fake it till I make it. The vast majority of them have the good sense to keep their opinions to themselves, thankfully. But that doesn’t change the fact that mental illness comes with a healthy dose of insecurity, at least for me.

I guess the takeaway is simply that those of us who struggle in this way need to be bold enough to be honest with people about how we feel no matter how they respond. Maybe they’ll think we are faking it. So what?! Some of them, thankfully, will actually believe what we tell them and will grow a little bit more sensitive to the issues we face on a day to day basis. Either way, some will get it and some won’t. We might as well speak up.

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Happy Birthday to this Blog!
Cupcake decorated with chocolate frosting and a green candle

Happy Birthday to this Blog!



Cupcake decorated with chocolate frosting and a green candle
Cupcake decorated with chocolate frosting and a green candle

I started writing this blog in July of last year. If my math is correct, that makes this blog just about one year old about now. Some reflection is in order. Bear with me as I recount the details of a difficult year. My point, ultimately, though, is to share with you what good has come from it, not just to complain. But first, I need to seem like I’m complaining.

The past year, as it turns out, is one that was probably well-worth documenting, though I didn’t know it would be quite so dramatic when I started writing. I started writing because I found myself in the depths of the deepest and most prolonged depression I had ever experienced. I still remember the moment it hit me like a Mack truck. It was April 30, 2014, my birthday. In retrospect, I had been somewhat manic for a few months – full of energy and enthusiasm for life. Anyone who has ever been around the private school where I taught knows that the spring semester is insanely busy, and I was feeding off of the frenetic energy around me. Also, my family and I had moved homes a month before, and despite all the stress that comes with that, I kept telling my doctor how great I was doing. She looked at me, month after month, appointment after appointment, shocked that I was doing so well. We both thought we had finally found the right medication cocktail. I thought I was fixed for good.

It all changed when I got called into a meeting where I got thrown a curveball. Nothing terribly dramatic or worth detailing here, but the short version is that I felt like my boss backed out on her word about something, and it really pissed me off. I walked out of that meeting an entirely different person from the one who walked in. Within that thirty minute span I had gone from celebrating life to everything in the world looking dark and foreboding. Every person seemed like s/he was out to get me. Every comment seemed to be a subtle jab directed at me. By 11 p.m. that night, I lay despondent on my basement couch. As Ann headed up to bed, she asked what she could do for me. The answer, as always, was “nothing.” Then she asked this: “Do you promise me that you’ll still be here in the morning?” As in, “will you be alive?” not “will you be out partying?” or “you’re not going to your mistress’s house again, are you?”

I don’t even remember what my answer was, but I can honestly say that it felt dark enough in my head that I was hoping I’d be dead by morning, though I didn’t have the guts to do it to myself.

I didn’t climb out of that hole for a few months. I believe it was sometime around when I started writing this blog that I began to feel some sense of hope again. I was pulled out of my depression, to some degree, by deciding that my work environment was no longer suitable for me. Despite the fact that every last practical reason told me to stay put in my job, I knew that I had become a square peg in a round hole. My Christian faith had been waning for years, and I wasn’t sure I could even pretend anymore to offer students the answers I was supposed to give.

I rallied, but when I returned to work in August, I was immediately dragged back into the depths. I hid from people in my office, eager to simply put my head down and get through the year and move on. I felt like some sort of a circus freak surrounded by people who saw the world so differently from how I did that I didn’t even know how to make small talk anymore. The loneliness of mental illness was reinforced by the loneliness I felt spiritually. The “family” of Christians I had always been a part of felt more and more foreign to me. I didn’t speak the language as fluently as before, if at all. The ten thousand small references to various Christian ideas and ideals no longer made sense to me. One doesn’t choose to walk away from everything he’s ever believed; one doesn’t choose to find himself half way through life no longer sure of anything he had staked his life on. My loneliness and depression got deeper than ever.

And then my dear friend Riley overdosed on drugs and alcohol and died on September 1st, 2014. This didn’t help matters.

I spoke at his funeral. I spent three weeks completely numb to his death, not shedding one tear, not having my voice break even once as I recounted his death. Then I sat in a Mexican restaurant in Dunwoody and fell apart in front of my friend, Mike. He couldn’t have handled it any better. He asked me what I would tell someone to do if I knew they were feeling like I felt. I knew the answer immediately: I needed a break from my work environment – a place where I couldn’t process my friend’s death because the pat answers and explanations were so infuriating to me. I was suffocating. I took three days off. When I went back the next Monday, I could only stomach an hour of work before I walked out the door for a “prolonged break”…which turned out to be a permanent one.

And then I spent the rest of the fall trying to climb out of the goddam hole once again. People who have never been depressed can’t possibly appreciate how exhausting it is. A week or two into my sabbatical from work, I decided to try to be productive by cleaning my garage. I only had enough energy to take a hammer from one side to the other side before I needed to sit down for half an hour, head in my hands, trying to work up the physical and emotional energy required to stand up and put one more thing in its proper place. I never managed to do anything else to the garage that day…or the many days or weeks that followed.

I climbed out of the hole to the point that I decided to start a business doing handyman work, something that had been a hobby for a decade. I survived the winter, but by the time my birthday rolled back around, I was back in the deep, dark hole. At this point, my wife wanted to put me in a hospital. I agreed to do whatever she wanted me to do. I was desperate.

So I entered a long-term, outpatient treatment program. I found a new job and a few new friends. I moved into an apartment to give my family some space from my ups and downs…to try to get my shit together, not that I had a clue how it fell apart in the first place or what getting it “together” would look like.

It’s hard to start putting a new life together when you aren’t sure of the rules anymore. It’s not like I went looking to abandon everything I once believed. Why would one intentionally tear up the only road map he owns when he’s already feeling lost? Now I was lost without a map.

However…while it has been quite a year, I am writing this post as a celebration of my growth, not as an attempt to elicit your pity for the difficult year I’ve had. I’ve actually learned some amazing things over the past year.

I’ve learned that when your friend Frank, from Chattanooga, finds out you’ve hit the bottom (again), he’ll drive the four hour round trip (on Father’s Day) just to hang out with you in the hotel room you’ve checked into so as to spare your family another “episode.”

I’ve learned that when your friend, Steve, finds out you’ve been struggling for awhile, he’ll fly to Atlanta and help you navigate one of the harder weekends of your life. He’ll sit in your car with you while you sob uncontrollably over the loss of just about everything you used to think and believe and hold onto. And he won’t judge you one bit. (And the next day, he’ll ask who drank the whole bottle of bourbon, surprised to find out that it was, in fact, him.)

I’ve learned that some of your religious friends, even the really conservative ones, will tell you that they still love you no matter what you believe these days; they won’t even mind it when you tell them you don’t want the Christian label applied to you anymore. They’ll stick with you when you tell them your views on God’s love for gay people and Caitlyn Jenner…even when you tell them you’re living in an apartment, separated from your wife and kids, in an odd effort to be a better, not worse, husband and father.

I’ve learned that the people whose lives are the most supremely fucked up are some of the most amazing people on earth:

  • The alcoholic friend who you don’t really know all that well will call you every time he hears that you’re struggling again. He’ll offer to do “what the fuck ever,” in his words, to help you through this time.
  • The friend who was routinely molested by her dad, who spent some time as an exotic dancer, will be the best listener you’ve ever talked to. She will understand you more fully and more quickly than just about anyone else on earth. She will truly “get it.” She will love you simply because you exist and your paths have crossed…no agenda other than friendship.
  • The guy who read your book, who lives across the country, who you’ve never met face to face, will write you one encouraging email after another when you post on your blog. He, too, gets it. He, too, is very much “with you,” even though you may never meet face to face.
  • The parents-in-law and sister-in-law and sister-in-law’s boyfriend will encourage you even as you navigate your difficult marriage. They will send you books and blogs and quotes, not to get you to be someone you aren’t, but to get you to love yourself better than you’ve been in the habit of doing. They will accept you even though they are directly involved in the complexity of your messy life.
  • The wife who keeps on loving you as you even when you move out. She’ll get pissed at you, but she’ll keep telling you that she’s on your team even when her friends tell her to kick you to the curb, as they think you deserve.
  • The parents who will offer unconditional support even as you walk away from most of the things they raised you to be.
  • The strangers and long-lost friends who will read something you wrote and take the time to reach out and tell you to keep it up.

These “ordinary” people are actually remarkably extraordinary. They are the folks who are far more equipped than your “together” friends to offer you a listening ear and a sympathetic hug without telling you how sad your life is or how often they are praying for you.

I’ve learned that admitting you don’t know the Answers doesn’t mean you lose your sense of right and wrong. Admitting you don’t know very much at all, actually, can be a pretty damn good starting point for figuring out what is important to you at the most fundamental level. I don’t know much these days, but I know I love my kids unconditionally and that I’m committed to fulfilling my obligations to the people I love most even if it looks different from what I originally envisioned. I know that I was made to teach and to write and to think about things that most other people don’t think about very often. This doesn’t make me better or worse than anyone else. It just makes me…me.

I’ve learned that I might as well start figuring out how to like who I am rather than continually trying to change who I am. I am who I am, for better or worse. I can hate it or love it or resign myself to it, but I CAN’T change it, and I don’t need to. I don’t need to be perfect to offer something to the world. Maybe I am a bit more emotionally volatile than others…maybe I am a little (a lot) maddening to try to be in a relationship with at times…maybe I’m not the Ward Cleaver of fathers…maybe I’m not as great of a husband as Hosea (who married a prostitute…even though she kept on hookin’)…

BUT I’m pretty good at plenty of things…like caring about the people in my life immensely, even painfully…and wanting everyone in the world to understand me and to like me and to see things the way I see them. This, too, leads to a lot of frustration for me, but it’s not such a bad thing to want world peace, or at least interpersonal peace, is it? I think my new year’s resolution (at least in terms of this blog’s fiscal year) will be to see the good parts of my complicated personality. As one of my literary heroes, Walt Whitman, said, “Do I contradict myself? Very well; I contradict myself. I am large; I contain multitudes!” He also said, “I exist as I am; that is enough.”

You see, people, if this year of losing pretty much everything I once staked my life on has taught me anything, it has taught me this: I am still here; still kickin’; still dancin’; still trying; still hoping. What’s left of me is less and less of the grime and dirt and tarnish that had built up over four decades of pretending to be something I was not…am not. What’s left is very, very raw and real. I used to be a tell-it-like-I-think-you-want-to-hear-it sort of guy. More and more I’d like to “sound my barbaric YAWP over the rooftops of the world” (more Walt Whitman) sort of dude. I like this new dude a lot more than the old one. I’m still learning, still letting go of the old version of Tim Blue. But today I can say honestly that I think Tim Blue 2.0 has plenty to offer the world. I used to want to offer answers, but now I am content to offer my questions instead. I used to want to show you my shiny parts, but now I’d be happy to show you the dull, scuffed, and scarred ones because they come with better stories than the shiny ones. I used to want to offer others a way out of their pain, but now I just want to sit with them in their pain because that’s all I can really do.

And to you, my friends, I’d be happy to keep you company in the midst of your pain. That’s what this blog is for: to let you know you are not alone. Feeling alone is worse than depression or anxiety or spiritual malaise. Feeling alone is probably the number one cause of every bad thing that happens on this earth. I’m pretty sure that the reason people join every institution from the Nazi Party to the Unitarian Universalist Church to a college fraternity is quite simple: People just want to be belong…to be WITH others who are at least somewhat like-minded. Hell, people will even join groups that they have nothing in common with just so they can belong. We are hard-wired for belonging. We are herd animals through and through.

So, I hope you’ll keep reading. I plan to keep writing. But most importantly, I hope that this blog will somehow encourage you that you are not alone, and I hope it will inspire you to tell others that they are not alone, either.

Happy Birthday, bloggy-poo. Thanks for walking me through a tough year!




***Please share this with someone who might need to read it. Thanks!




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