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[MOVEMBER]

Dr. Matt Conner

Even though Movember is over, our commitment to our readers health, mental and otherwise, is far from over. I would like to share Dr. Matt Conner’s final Movember contribution with you. If you haven’t seen his previous articles, I would highly recommend reading his take on avoidance, baggage, and boundaries. Today we learn about responsibility.

I was telling Matt that I’ve learned some of these lessons myself over the years, though I haven’t been able to articulate them as eloquently or succinctly as he has. Other insights he shared were revelations to me. Which is weird, because they are all so simple and make so much since, but unless you’re actively thinking or aware of them it is often difficult to see these simple solutions in emotionally-charged situations.

There are certainly relationships and problems I have had in the past, that it would have been wonderful to have Dr. Matt’s advice in my toolkit. But, as we learn today, I shouldn’t lament the mistakes of the past. I can only learn lessons, move forward, and apply them in situations to come.

If you found these articles helpful, please join me in thanking Dr. Conner in the comments on this and his other articles. He doesn’t know this yet, but I plan to ask him to continue contributing these on a monthly or any other temporal basis he desires; because these have been truly wonderful. I am grateful for his friendship and taking the time to share with us all here.

Jared A. Godar

In the first three weeks of Movember, we covered avoidance, baggage, and boundaries. My plan was to cover responsibility for the fourth week, I swear. But I didn’t, and Jared offered to post my last article a week late. And I’m going to explain that as an example of responsibility, but in the meantime, check out this amazing track by Ron Pope—the themes have a lot in common. You’ll see.

Remember last time I talked about the language of boundaries: I am not responsible for my thoughts, feelings, or beliefs; and I have no control over any other person’s. But I am accountable for my decisions. I can’t help it if you remind me of my third-grade teacher who was so mean. You didn’t know her, you didn’t get that haircut on purpose; but hey, I see the connections I see. What I can help is whether I choose to let my attention stay on those thoughts or make an effort to redirect to you, right now, in this space, whatever your haircut looks like. What I can help is whether I shift into closed-off body language or fake like I’m fine or say, “I’m so sorry, you remind me of someone I used to know, this is weird. Anyway, what were we talking about?” See? I can’t take responsibility for your choices, nor can I give up responsibility for mine.

I couldn’t say if I loved her
or if we were not there yet
we were young
and living on lies and cigarettes

Ron Pope—”Lies and Cigarettes”

Something I see in a lot of the people who come to my clinic is regret. Men talk about having cheated on their spouses, having gotten away with small crimes, having picked a college for a dumb reason and then had to live with that decision. We touched this in the piece about baggage, holding on to memories of the one that got away. But what happens when you’re holding on to bad behavior? When you were “young and living on lies and cigarettes?”

Well, if it’s affecting you in 2018, then 2018 is a great year to take some responsibility for it. If it’s a bad decision you’re still making, you are responsible for recognizing it and seeking the help you need to stop. One of the most frustrating challenges for a therapist is when someone wants to simultaneously maintain the affair he’s in as well as a healthy, happy, relationship with the spouse he’s lying to. It’s common practice in these situations to halt therapy until the client can make up his mind about which side he wants help with—ending the affair and fixing the problems in the marriage that made him vulnerable to it, or keeping the affair and honestly admitting to his partner that he is finding love and sex outside their agreement and that they either need to change their expectations about monogamy or break up. I know, “it’s not that simple.” But it’s not that much more complicated, Casanova.

Let’s say you’ve already done that. You made a decision, it stopped, but you’re haunted by having made it. You kept dating that person a couple months after you realized you didn’t love her. You fudged a number on your 2014 taxes. You “wasted” time on a grad degree you’re not using now. You flip through old Facebook posts and see a comment that looks so racist now. What do you do?

So I dial most of her number
and then I change my mind
our friends say she’s doing better now
so I let her live her life


Ron Pope—”Lies and Cigarettes”

You start out by looking at responsibility. Yeah, you made that mistake. You have zero obligation to change the past. Couldn’t do it even if you were supposed to. And that sounds simple, but I see so many men who don’t realize that’s what they’re asking for: a time machine. Your responsibility is here and now. Your responsibility is to acknowledge what happened, to name it as a mistake. You didn’t have all the info, or you made a bad choice based on the info you had; but regardless, it happened, and you don’t approve. Good. That’s really good. This part takes a long time to do (see the article on avoidance if you want to read more about why).

Don’t use passive voice in this part. If something was an accident, okay, but let’s look at your role in it. You didn’t mean to hit that other car, and they shouldn’t have been driving in your blind spot, but you were distracted. The affair didn’t “just happen, I don’t know, chemistry can’t be denied.” You made choices. I’m not saying you should call yourself a bad person. That won’t help. That’s actually counter-productive and just makes you feel shitty. Good people make good and bad choices. Your job here is to see your role in the decision that won’t stop chewing at your subconscious.

Next, and this is the most crucial part, you fucking learn from this. You say, “I made this choice, for whatever reason, and it was bad, and I do not want to do it again.” You say, “I wanted to have sex with her, and I had sex with her, and I regret that, and I learned I am capable of cheating, and the next time I want to, I am going to tell my wife about it, even though I am ashamed, and we will talk, and we will figure out what to do together, and I will be proud of my actions because I am a good person and I deserve to feel good about myself, and I deserve to talk about mistakes I might make before I make them so I can get help to not make the mistakes.”

You say, “I shoplifted and I cannot return the merchandise but I feel bad about this and I learned that when I’m stressed, I steal, and I will talk to my therapist about better ways to handle my stress and, if I still feel guilty about what I can’t undo, I will donate a reasonable amount to an appropriate charity, and I will not steal again, and I will treat myself like someone who has served his time rather than someone in jail.”

You say, “I am appalled by the language I used back then. I won’t deny saying it, but I was wrong to say it, and I have since learned that these words can hurt people who are already marginalized by greater society and need my support, not my slurs. I now review my comments before I hit ‘send’ to make sure I’m representing myself like I want to.”

You say, “I ended that relationship badly, and I hurt him, and I can’t take my words back, but I can make one heartfelt apology and then I can stay away from him and let him do what he needs to do to heal on his own, and I won’t hurt the next guy the same way.” Like Ron Pope says, you have to “let her live her life.”

So how does this relate to turning an article in a week late? I can say, “Gosh, Jared, with Thanksgiving and all, time got away from me.” But that’s pathetic. That’s passive voice. That’s taking my responsibility and giving it to the calendar. Instead, I can say, “Jared, I’m sorry. I prioritized other things, and I didn’t get them done in time to work on this article. If you still want it, I can work on it and turn it in; if not, I understand and hope you forgive me.” Am I pulling melodrama out of a late assignment? Yep. But if we don’t practice responsibility in small things, it makes it a lot harder to practice it in big things. So the next time you say you’re sorry, really dig into it. What specifically are you sorry for? What were you responsible for that you didn’t do the way you wish you had? What will you do differently now that you know this and own your present-day actions? Because when we were “young,” it was okay to live “on lies and cigarettes.” But we’ve grown up. And we get to act like it.

Thanks to Jared for this opportunity to talk to you about mental health this month (technically last month, I admit). I hope this has given you something to think about, and I hope you’ll take that to friends, family, and/or a therapist of your own. Because man, I don’t know you, but I know you’re awesome, and I know you deserve the healthiest life you can get.

[MOVEMBER]

Last Day of Movember—Please Donate

posted by Jared A. Godar November 30, 2018 0 comments
Movember

I need your support this Movember. This is the part I hate—asking friends and family for money. I like this bit of Movember less than actually shaving off my beard (and I really don’t like shaving off all my beard). But, if I just grow a ‘mo and don’t do this bit, it kind of defeats the purpose.

First of all, thanks to you who have already donated. I will be pestering folks via a variety of channels the next couple days, I’ll try to spare you as much as possible.

Here’s why I ‘mo:

43 men die from prostate cancer every hour. Testicular cancer is the most common cancer in young men.

Globally, a man dies from suicide every minute of every day. In the United States, On average, there are 123 suicides per day and 22 of those are veterans. Men die by suicide 3.53 times more often than women. Suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the US. Each year 44,965 Americans die by suicide. For every suicide, 25 attempt.

This Movember, I’m doing something about it – raising funds and awareness for all the dads, brothers, sons and friends in our lives.

These funds will help the Movember Foundation fund groundbreaking research in prostate cancer, testicular cancer, mental health awareness and suicide prevention—changing the way men’s health is treated and talked about. And most importantly, stop men dying too young.

Will you help me by making a donation today? https://mobro.co/jaredgodar

[MOVEMBER][ORIGINAL FTNB CONTENT][THE DOCTOR IS IN]

How To Be Perfect Men

posted by Holland Neifer, LPC November 30, 2018 0 comments

Here we have another Movember guest post by Holland Neifer, LPC. Thanks for taking the time to share some insight.

Jared A. Godar

As a mental health professional, my days are filled by stories of abuse, loss, trauma, and the various ways people cope with such realities—often the problematic use of alcohol and other drugs. Despite the circumstances, I am humbled to witness clients take courageous steps towards recovery and their hope for a brighter future. For this piece, I chose to write about singer-songwriter Jason Molina, an artist who knew all too well the power of the bottle.

Jason was unable to triumph over his own battle with alcoholism, dying of multiple organ failure at the age of thirty-nine, but his music lives on to remind us that we are not alone in our struggles. When I hear a song such as “How To Be Perfect Men” from the 1999 album Axxess & Ace, I can feel pure emotion, pouring from this Lorain, Ohio native and his project Songs: Ohia.

This song begins subtly, withdrawn, and subdued. I love the shift in dynamics as it prepares the listener for Jason’s brutal honesty, as well as the driving instrumental end. The lyrics are unpretentious while achieving depth.

Of all that I should be
And perfect men would never be
Jealous or desperate
My ghost and I in our graves will lie

Jason Molina, “How to be Perfect Men”

Although I am unsure of Molina’s mental health history, I am reminded on an almost daily basis that it is nearly impossible to separate mental health from substance abuse and subsequent dependency. Working for a non-profit that treats dual-diagnosis clients, it saddens me that few agencies exist to manage both concurrently. Whether that stems from a lack of resources or not, I can tell you that nearly every client I assess uses substances to self-medicate an otherwise untreated mental health condition or that they have now developed a mental health disorder from the consequences of their drug use. I approach all substance abuse from a mental health lens to explore what is really going on.

I have heard Molina’s art referred to as “Depression Music” and I cannot say that I disagree. “How To Be Perfect Men” appears to be a declaration of one’s own shortcomings and a sense of powerlessness that comes with failure. Unwanted, invasive, self-sabotaging negative cognitions can cripple people to the point of total despair. We have this expectation of how we “should be,” a large product of our environment, confronted by our actual selves, which often sets us up for feelings of worthlessness. These thoughts can truly make us feel like ghosts. In fact, as Jason later wrote in the song “O! Grace,” that he felt “as lonesome as the world’s first ghost.” Wow!

Meeting people in this headspace is heart-wrenching, but so REAL. So real that a whole manual, the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders exists to describe those very feelings that so many of us experience. My copy is spineless, missing the back cover, and tattered from use matching symptoms to disorders.

Some clients take comfort in the label that this book provides. People like to know that they are not “crazy,” but that they are exhibiting common symptoms in reaction to their circumstances. The label normalizes a stigmatized experience. Others would rather focus on the symptoms at hand.

At the end of the day, my goal is to simply help people feel better and to legitimize their experience when they might otherwise not able to do that for themselves. Music is such a powerful vessel that can accomplish the very same task. Everyone deserves to have their reality recognized. We are not perfect men. Thank you, Jason, for sharing this truth.

If you ever find yourself feeling “as lonely as the world’s first ghost,” questioning your place in this world, or merely needing someone to talk to, please call the confidential National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, available 24 hours every day. You can also use their Lifeline Chat,  https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/chat/

Additionally, if you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse, you can contact the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration’s (SAMHSA) National Hotline at 1-800-662-HELP (4357) for resources in your area.

[FTNB EXCLUSIVE][MOVEMBER]

Happy Thanksgiving from Fighting the Nashville Blues

posted by Jared A. Godar November 22, 2018 0 comments
Happy Thanksgiving

Hope everyone is having a wonderful Thanksgiving with wonderful food and the company of those you love, whether that be your biological family or the family you have acquired along life’s journey.

I am fortunate this year to be doing both. Lunch with dear friends then dinner with my folks and nieces. Thanks to all of those who have adopted me in years past.

Last Thanksgiving was my last day in Nashville before heading back to Texas. I had the pleasure of yet another Thanksgiving dinner with the Rees family, who always took me in on holidays I couldn’t travel to wherever my family was.

When things aren’t going the best, the holidays can be especially tough. If you find yourself in this situation, don’t suffer alone. Reach out. Call that friend or family member you have been avoiding because you haven’t felt like talking and now it’s been so long that you don’t want to have to explain your absence. I’ve been there. It’s tough. If you don’t have anyone to talk to, follow the contact links on this site and get in touch with me.

I long to be a happy man
In this life that I am given
In this life that I am given
I long to be a happy man

And when the noise turns to stillness
I see I have the makings
I see I have the makings
To be one happy man

Darrell Scott “A Crooked Road”

Here is one song I would often return to when things were not going the way I thought they should. When you can’t see any path, clear or murky, from your current state to where you want to be or feel like you should be.

Darrell Scott “A Crooked Road”

Darrell Scott reminds us that life takes us down many a crooked road. In time, we look back and learn how the dots get connected. So, just because you don’t see the way, doesn’t mean the path from where you are to where you want to be doesn’t exist. Just get up, face this day then the next and keep moving. Enjoy.

Dr. Matt Conner

Kesha has probably had a worse few years than you. It’s not a competition, but if it wer, her cards to play include a loss in court against her accused rapist, an eating disorder, and a rehab stint. But she came back a healthier artist, dropping the hottest album of 2017. Rainbow is dripping with extremes of up-tempo rock anthems, glitter-snarl attitude, and thoughtful ballads. I didn’t stop dancing or singing along once when her tour hit Raleigh.

But more than great music, her album proves she has learned a lot in her recovery. I could write a post about easily half the tracks on this record. The one I’m picking for Movember, the one I think best applies to us men and is so rarely actually taught to us, is “Let ‘Em Talk.”

That’s right—it’s Boundaries week here on Fighting The Nashville Blues!

Shake that ass
Don’t care if they talk about it
Fuck all that
haters, just forget about them

Kesha, “Let ’em Talk”

“Boundaries” is a word us shrinks use to talk about the essential rules of communicating in relationships. It’s a little tough to define, so I’ll give you some examples instead.

I’ve got a lot of thoughts, feelings, beliefs, opinions, attitudes, etc. Some of them, I can choose. I can, like we covered last week, opt to spend my attention on the past or the present. I can recognize that thinking about old mistakes is more likely to get me in a sad mood compared to thoughts of my present-day options. But I’m not ultimately responsible for my feelings. I can’t help it if I feel sad seeing a picture of a refugee camp, or if you remind me of that jerk in middle school, or if a plate of olives makes my stomach twist up and my nose do that scrunchy reflex thing my mom told me was rude and that I had definitely inherited from her mother-in-law.

What I am responsible for is my actions, including what I say and how I say it. “No thanks” is probably going to be better for my relationship to my host than, “Olives are gross. I won’t eat them, and I think less of you for thinking I would.” Even if that’s true. And it is.

Remember, that same rule applies to every other person in your life. People are responsible for their actions, not their thoughts or feelings. If somebody’s putting you down, it’s absolutely okay to point that out to them. But if they’re generally cool to you, you can stop analyzing why. That’s on their side of the boundary.

Here’s where that gets awesome: As long as they keep their comments civil, their opinions don’t actually mean anything. It’s good to know them. Part of an authentic friendship is a curiosity about a person’s inner world. But if they don’t like how you do something, well, “fuck all that.” You want to tell me I stepped on your foot? Please do, I need that feedback. I’ve affected you. You think I need to take a few lessons and lose ten pounds before I share your dance floor? Thanks for letting me know your thoughts, that’s cool, I’m still dancing until I decide not to. Maybe you won’t like me. A risk I’m willing to take.

Do your thing
don’t care if you make ‘em jealous

Kesha,”Let ’em Talk”

So does that mean we get to say whatever we want? Like, if your hurt feelings aren’t under my control, why should I even think about you? No, and here’s why:

We are all people together. We’re existentially alone, it sucks. We’re all going to die and probably not together; and until that day, we’re just walking each other home, my friends. That shared community, however loose or arbitrary, means we have a responsibility to each other. We have to take ownership of our side of the health of our relationships.

If I said something and it pissed you off, you may be overreacting. I don’t know you. Maybe you take everything too personally. But if I want a relationship with you, I owe it to both of us to ask what happened. “I have no idea if this is because of something I did, but you look/sound angry; and since I haven’t tried to piss you off, I’m confused. If you tell me what’s bugging you, I can explain or apologize for my side of it. If you need time, that’s cool, too, but message received, you’re mad, I get it.”

Because I don’t have a responsibility for you. I’m not in charge of reading your mind or predicting your emotional reflexes. But I have a responsibility to you. I factor in what I know about you when I talk to you, and if I step in something, I apologize or ask about it.

Until then, what do I do when I freak out that you’re judging my dancing or hurt by my speaking up for myself when we tried to pick a movie for our next date? I get to remind myself of the boundaries. The freak out is on my side of the boundary and not controllable. What you think about the situation is on yours and is just as far out of my control. What I say to you or where I put my attention, that’s up to me. So I’m going to talk myself down as many times as I need to. And we’re going to be just fine.

It used to hurt me
Used to bring me down
But do your worst
Cuz nothing’s gonna stop me now

Kesha, “Let ’em Talk”

Special case: People in relationships with people using drugs or alcohol to avoid emotional pain may have an extra-tough time with this “responsibility to versus responsibility for” thing. It can be hard to trust a person to take care of himself when his substance abuse keeps him from really doing that well. So people can end up thinking it’s on them to keep the family going, to keep the neighbors from asking questions, to make sure she doesn’t have a bottle hidden in the bathroom. If this sounds familiar, please check out Al-Anon, a free group that meets all over the world and even on Skype. There’s no better way to learn boundaries.

Let’s all take a lesson from Kesha this Movember. Let’s dance, not like nobody’s watching, but like we don’t have to take responsibility to keep them entertained. Let’s use our boundaries to give ourselves a break for the natural moods we feel and to get closer to the people we love. And let’s let ‘em talk.

Movember

I have mentioned each year I do Movember that I have personal experience dealing with depression. Each year I plan to elaborate on that, but to date, I haven’t. It still isn’t an easy thing to talk about. I have suffered from four major depressive episodes in my life over the last twenty years. Not stretches of time feeling sad, but months at I time where I don’t get out bed, shower, put on pants, answer my phone, or really talk to anyone. This cost me an academic scholarship to Southwestern University, my Ph.D. from Vanderbilt, and has put a strain on both romantic and family relationships .

The first time I was diagnosed with depression was the summer between high school and college. I had been manifesting some strange neurological symptoms after being under general anesthesia for the extraction of my wisdom teeth. There was a bit of aphasia, where I spoke in short, choppy sentences and sometimes forgot words I should know. After a series of escalating doctors visits, I ended up at a neurologist’s office. At some point in our personal history interview he discovered my girlfriend broke up with me a few months prior, so he jumped to a diagnosis of depression, wrote a couple scrips, then decided it was a done deal. Mystery solved.

I was still far from 100% when my Freshman year at Southwestern University began. The admissions counselor I interviewed with observed and noted the differences between the bright, energetic young man he talked with and my current condition. He looked at all of my existing college credits through AP and Dual Credit courses and told me I’ve already done my first semester and then some. He advised me to take some time to get better and to come back in the spring and hit the ground running. I followed this advice.

Eventually, things returned to more or less the way they were before. I don’t recall how long I took the drugs for depression. I suppose it is hard to determine when something like that is “working.” I didn’t notice it “working,” but I did notice some unpleasant side effects and, eventually, I stopped taking them. My return to University was uneventful, and I started my time at Southwestern doing quite well academically.

Things were humming along until Spring 2001. Looking back, I wonder if my first diagnosed episode of depression was indeed that or something related to the anesthesia from my surgery. With this second bout, there is no doubt that I was suffering from a classic, major depressive episode; though I did not realize or acknowledge this at the time. This was the first time that I was bed-ridden, don’t put on pants, or even leave my room for days at a time.

My GPA plummeted from a respectable cumulative 3.6 to a 1.2 on the semester. (Damn Southwestern lowers your GPA for an A-. Side note, when looking at colleges, check out their holiday calendar and the +/- policy on the ole’ GPA). I was able to withdraw from a couple classes, somehow managed a C+ in Spanish, got an A in wind ensemble—I was able to put pants on by noon three days a week to go play my horn for an hour. Failed both neurobiology and an elective called “Parenting: Theories & Realities.” (I can’t wait for when I have kids, and they are teenagers and think I’m an asshole to remind them that I did fail Parenting in college, so deal with it.)

When I say this was a classic, major depressive episode, what do I mean? The DSM-V has eight criteria for such incidents. If you experiencing five or more symptoms during the same 2-week period and at least one of the signs is either depressed mood or loss of interest or pleasure, guess what? You’re clinically depressed. Here are the criteria:


1. Depressed mood most of the day, nearly every day.

Yep.


2. Markedly diminished interest or pleasure in all, or almost all, activities most of the day, nearly every day.

Ah. Anhedonia. From the Greek an-, “without” and hēdonē, “pleasure.” A diverse array of deficits in hedonic function, including reduced motivation or ability to experience pleasure. This is my personal number one indicator of depression. From this publication, you can rightly assume I enjoy music and going to live shows. When I am depressed, I can’t get it together to go to shows I would otherwise never miss. And it isn’t that I want to go, but just can’t do it. The desire to go is absent. And if I do get drug out to
I would usually love by friends, I don’t really enjoy it. It isn’t bad, it’s just whatever. No emotional response whatsoever and I’m the type of guy that generally can’t stop grinning at a concert and gets goosebumps from music on a regular basis.


3. Significant weight loss when not dieting or weight gain, or decrease or increase in appetite nearly every day.

I think my most substantial weight fluctuations in college were my freshman year (got the freshman 50 instead of the 15, going from 175 to 225) then when I was getting ready to enlist in the Army. When I am depressed, my weight tends to remain relatively stable, but my eating habits go to shit. I won’t be hungry or interested in food for days, but when that changes, I’ll house an entire pizza with half a bottle of ranch in one sitting. So, no real net gain or loss; but not a healthy, ideal nutrition plan.


4. A slowing down of thought and a reduction of physical movement (observable by others, not merely subjective feelings of restlessness or being slowed down).

I am definitely sloth-like when depressed. This manifests mostly through my remaining in bed until motivated by hunger to forage for food around four in the afternoon, but even when I am ambulatory, it is at a snail’s pace.


5. Fatigue or loss of energy nearly every day.

Yep.


6. Feelings of worthlessness or excessive or inappropriate guilt nearly every day.

Oh yeah. This wasn’t particularly the case during this particular episode, but my most recent two incidents in graduate school, this was definitely a daily thing. The tape on repeat in my head was how I have made all the wrong choices and irreparably screwed up my future and damned myself to continued poverty and worthlessness.


7. Diminished ability to think or concentrate, or indecisiveness, nearly every day.

Oh yeah.


8. Recurrent thoughts of death, recurrent suicidal ideation without a specific plan, or a suicide attempt or a specific plan for committing suicide.

This one is tricky, and also difficult to talk about even though I am trying to be completely open and transparent. I never contemplated suicide in any concrete manner, though it would be inaccurate to say it never crossed my mind. When it did, it was always a transient, fleeting thought. Nothing that I got fixated on or planned out in any specific way.


If you are contemplating taking your life, call someone. Call me. Call The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. The Lifeline provides 24/7, free and confidential support for people in distress and prevention and crisis resources for you or your loved ones.


To receive a diagnosis of depression, these symptoms must cause the individual clinically significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. The signs must also not be a result of substance abuse or another medical condition. I would say straightish As to straightish Fs counts as a significant impairment to functioning.

Looking back, this was so obviously a major depressive episode. I had no idea what was happening at the time. I knew something was up. I knew it wasn’t good or healthy. We had free counseling services available at the university, but it never crossed my mind to take advantage of them. Shrinks are for crazy people. I don’t know what’s up, but I’m not crazy; so I don’t need a shrink.

I didn’t seek treatment. Eventually, things returned to normal. I had enlisted in the Army National Guard the Fall before and left in May after my atrocious semester for Basic Training. Not entirely sure where I was on the depression spectrum when I left for basic, but wallowing in bed until four in the afternoon was not an option there.

I returned to Southwestern in Spring 2002. Three As and one B was a significant improvement from my last semester, but a C in Molecular Genetics (docked an entire letter grade for missing one lab), and a D in Frank Guziec’s Organic Chemistry II course meant my GPA was just under the threshold that I needed to maintain my academic scholarship and my days at Southwestern were over.

Since this tell-all account is growing longer than even interested parties would care to read, I am going to wrap this up for the day. We will have the next installment soon.

If you have ever felt this way, please comment with your story if you feel comfortable. If you are feeling this way right now, please know you are not alone. Even though people don’t talk about it, this is more common than you think. There are resources out there and you do not have to suffer in silence alone!

If you are still reading, please consider making a donation to my Movember fundraiser. Thanks!

[FTNB EXCLUSIVE][MOVEMBER][THE DOCTOR IS IN]

The Doctor is In: Matt Nathanson “Mine”

posted by Matthew Conner, M.D., P.L.L.C. November 12, 2018 1 Comment
Dr. Matt Conner

Here’s the second installment of the FTNB “The Doctor is In” guest series by Dr. Matthew Conner. This one really spoke to me. If you missed his first article, read it here.

-Jared Godar

Matt Nathanson has been a favorite of mine since 2003’s amazing, sensitive collection, Under These Fireworks. Lightning usually only strikes once, but last summer’s Sings His Sad Heart is arguably his best one yet. It’s only fitting that the disc is a ten-song collection about a man who can’t let go of the past.

I got a text from your sister

it’s been a while

I see this a lot when men come to therapy. Sometimes, like the song says, you’re on your own and get a sudden reminder of your ex—that song on the radio, you bump into her sister, the reunion invitation that comes in the mail. Occasionally, your current partner does something that gets on your nerves and you just know that never would have happened with the one that got away.

Whatever the cause, the end result is dissatisfaction. How could you have made this choice? Why are you with this person? Maybe you should just text…

NO! Consider this your intervention. I’m going to talk to you a little bit about hanging on to old things, and I’ll teach you how to let it go.

All the ways I try to rewind when you were mine

The fantasy of “the one that got away” comes up all the time, and I think it’s going to lose some of its hold on you once we talk about where it comes from. The usual cause is anxiety: there’s a “right” answer, the one person you’re supposed to be with. If you don’t guess right or keep that person, that’s the reason why anything feels wrong in your life. If you feel bad, or anxious, or unsure, well, that must be proof that you just haven’t found the right person. But what happens when you find the right person and then you feel bad, or anxious, or unsure?

Most of the guys I see take that as a sign that they must have guessed wrong and dig into things like breaking up, affairs, or even trying to blame or change their partners. Gotta find the next right person. But I try to help these men by telling them two secrets: There is no such thing as a right answer here and everyone feels bad once in a while. It’s going to happen with this person, or the next, or alone—it’s not her, it’s you.

I know this isn’t always the case. There may not be right answers, but there are wrong ones. If you’re in a relationship that feels controlling, withholding, or cruel, you need to run that by friends you trust or a good couple’s therapist. Couple’s therapy is not forcing you to stay together, nor is it a sign you’re breaking up. It’s just asking a neutral third party to apply their understanding of relationship patterns to your situation and if there’s something toxic you need to know that.

But the answer isn’t that your high school sweetheart should never have dumped you for that skinny guy with the guitar at the first college party. Let’s work on letting that one go.

First, recognize that it’s completely normal to wonder what might have been. You were with your ex for a good reason, and it’s fine to remember those good times. It’s normal to feel dissatisfied and go back in time for a few minutes.

But then, tell yourself that not every relationship has to last to be successful. We all hit spots in relationships where we aren’t going to learn or grow anymore and most of us have that experience when we’re too immature to deal with it without hurting each other. It sucks, but it happens, and it’s how we learn. No amount of playing that tape over is going to make you feel okay that it’s over. She may be funnier than your wife is, he may load the dishwasher the way your husband just can’t figure out; but remind yourself that even with the good parts, this wasn’t your last relationship, and it ended. You can learn from it and make better choices now, but you can’t undo it and you don’t have to.

In the end I was practice

Yeah, you kissed me like an actress running lines

Here’s the last step: be in the now. You’re here and you’re with your partner. You may feel dissatisfied, but you’re both still in it. If you stay present, you can’t be in the past. Sounds oversimplified, but it’s true. We don’t multitask the way we claim to.

Think about things you like about the person you love and build up to things you love about them. Try to stick to the positive—more “She saves me the corner piece of the lasagna, which sounds lame, but I like that best and she remembers” rather than “Umm, she doesn’t sweat too much, I guess.” If that’s too hard, remember what first attracted you. Make a list. Write it down. Or better yet, write it to her. Say it to her. Make it part of the daily routine until it doesn’t feel awkward anymore. Don’t you want to know what your partner loves about you? Why not make that the last thing you say when you separate in the morning? I have had plenty of arguments with boyfriends, but if I can say, honestly, “I’m mad, but you are usually really considerate, and I want to remember that before I say anything else.” I stop comparing them to the exes.

I’m not saying you can’t think about them. This is your story, you’ve learned from it. But when you’re nodding to Matt Nathanson singing, “All the ways I try to rewind when you were mine” remind yourself that part of the tape is over, and hit “Play” instead.

[MOVEMBER][THE DOCTOR IS IN]

David Dondero “Real Tina Turner”: The Doctor is In

posted by Matthew Conner, M.D., P.L.L.C. November 5, 2018 3 Comments

This Movember, FTNB is hosting a series of guest posts by mental health professionals addressing mental health in song.

Movember is a charity started in Austraila to raise awareness
and funds for men’s health issues including prostate and testicular cancer with a focus on mental health, depression, and suicide. If you are interested in learning more or helping out, please join or contribute to  the Fighting the Nashville Blues Movember team.

Our first post is by Matthew Conner, M.D., P.L.L.C. Matt and I have been friends since I moved to Texas in the eighth grade. He completed his medical degree at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center in Dallas, his residency in psychiatry at Duke, and has been practicing in the Research Triangle area for over a decade.

-Jared A. Godar
David Dondero – Real Tina Turner

The song’s a catchy one, a deceptively upbeat song about loss, missing the New Orleans and the “real” music of his youth. And of course, his life right now sucks, with the last of his worldly possessions (even his “voter registration card!”) stolen last night. But his sad lyrics have the curve of a smile at the edges, and it’s easy to miss the first two lines.

Men have a reputation when it comes to taking care of themselves. We know unmarried men die younger than married men, and we have reason to assume that’s because left to our own devices, we prefer to cultivate a stoicism rather than go to the doctor. As a result, our cancers don’t get caught early enough. Our bad habits get entrenched and out of hand. And we commit suicide, possibly because we don’t trust that talking to someone can help.

If it wasn’t for the liquor and the weed

We never would have made it through the winter.

-David Dondero

So how do men cope with stress? Well, according to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, we abuse substances, with SAMSHA’s latest report that twice as many male adults have had a drinking binge in the past year compared to women the same age and twice as many males over age 12 reporting illicit drug use. (https://www.samhsa.gov/specific-populations/age-gender-based)

And what’s the problem with that? If it gets you “through the winter,” who cares, right?

It’s avoidance. We can talk about the long-term health consequences of chronic alcohol use, the liver scarring, the memory problems, the weight gain; but I think everyone knows that, and we do the denial thing about it. On some level, we can all point to that alcoholic over there with the shaking hands and know that’s not us, never will be.

But chemistry and physiology aside, when a person hits a lot of stress and drinks it away, he’s not learning about it. He’s not figuring out what he can do to support himself, he’s not building up the support network he needs, he’s not proving to himself that he can feel uncomfortable for a while and that it’ll pass. He’s giving himself the message that he doesn’t have to acknowledge feelings. Shut those down. Do it now, do it fast, don’t let it register, I’m just getting through.

Developed the habit of washing your hands to the point that your fingers would bleed.

-David Dondero

And the hand-washing thing, that’s avoidance, too. If I can make it about the germs, even subconsciously, then it isn’t about my life being out of control or my regret for my decisions or the responsibility I’m going to end up having to take. It’s hand-washing. I can do hand-washing. I can do hand-washing until my skin cracks.

And when the skin calms down, when the buzz wears off, when the bill comes due, everything I’m avoiding is right there. So I guess I need to go back and do that thing that didn’t work in the first place. Gotta make it through the winter.

What’s the alternative?

Approach.

Talk to someone who might understand whatever “winter” means to you, and if you don’t know, talk to someone about the patterns you’re using to cope. If you only cope with stress in one or two ways, those are going to get overloaded, and I promise you, investing in a social network is the best way to develop a broad range of healthy responses to stress. Including joining a book club. Including joining a class at the gym. Including signing up for the open mic night and putting your struggle to music and talking to the people who go on before and after you. Including Crossfit or kickball or the yoga studio. Including paying a counselor. Including going to free 12-Step programs like Alcoholics Anonymous, Narcotics Anonymous, or Al-Anon for people who recognize a need to support healthy boundaried relationships.

Because hey, I don’t know you. But I know enough about you because of the work I’ve been doing with men for ten years. I have yet to meet someone who really lived down to his fear that he can’t handle talking about his pain. Your emotion may be bigger than you right now. I get that. But it’s not bigger than us.

Put the bottle down. Turn off the hot water at the sink. And make it through the winter with the people who hear your music instead.

[MOVEMBER]

Movember is upon us…

posted by Jared A. Godar November 1, 2018 0 comments
movember

Globally, a man dies to suicide every second. This is often preventable. 

Movember

I took a couple years off—last November was crazy as I lost my job and house in Nashville—but, I am back in the Movember swing of things and I would love your help.

If you aren’t familiar, Movember is a charity that was started in Australia to raise money and awareness about men’s health issues. Topics include prostate and testicular cancer with a large focus on mental health—particularly depression and suicide. I have personally suffered from several major depressive episodes and they have been quite debilitating.

Here is what we are doing this month at FTNB. I will be featuring guest posts from mental health professionals who select songs related to various mental illnesses and comment on them. Music is also a great coping mechanism. Every Friday, I will feature a song or two that helps pick me up when I am blue.

There are several ways you can become involved and help. I have created a Fighting The Nashville Blues Movember team that I would love you to join. You can do so here. “But, I can’t grow a mustache?” you may say. No worries, our Mo’ Sisters can sign up and help out too. If you are too attached to your facial hair to part with it for a month, please consider making a donation.

Thanks in advance for your support! Stay tuned for a more detailed personal essay about my experience with these topics.