Finding Peace in Chaos

By Original by Ridpath? Restoration by Equazcion. - Print From John Clark Ridpath (1840-1900): "Cyclopedia of Universal History", 1923 found on and image at, Public Domain,

A lot of the time, I feel like the world is crashing down around my ears.  Furnace problems, car repairs, emergency vet visits, more car repairs, layoffs at work, sick family members, Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, PULSE, Las Vegas, a political system bent on self-destruction – I feel the weight of all of it, as if I, like Giles Corey , was being pressed to death in the town square.  Like Corey, it seems as if the audience looks on bemusedly, like a circus act, while I suffocate.

It’s hard to believe there is any sense of fairness to this world.  Crushed under piles of rocks, it’s damn near impossible.  Equity implies order. Order implies a sense of symmetry, of uniformity, even if it doesn’t necessarily imply equality.  In an ordered world, you would know what to expect.

There is no order to this world.  It is unfair, tumultuous chaos.

Now, before you accuse me of being negative, let me say this:  chaos isn’t intrinsically bad. It’s also not intrinsically good.  Chaos is only a descriptor for what is.  There is no white hat/black hat here.

I know many people disagree.  They believe in a creator and a world of systems and rules.  Many people find comfort and hope in that, and I don’t desire to take that from anyone.  So let us say, then, if there IS an order to the universe, it is so indecipherable to humanity that it is virtually indistinguishable from chaos.  I think that most people can agree that the world appears chaotic, at the very least.

People like me (that assumes, of course, that there ARE people like me, which is very much in doubt, but I will continue on the premise that they do exist) are as likely to be the chaos as we are to be affected by it.  We tear through life, whirling dervish style, only to look back and be baffled by the devastation.   While we may think we cannot bear to be bound by Order, we in fact cannot survive without it.  I, in fact, need to have a bedtime, a daily ritual, a certain time of day for each task.  I veer away from this schedule at my peril.  It’s my own little pocket of structure in a sea of disorganization.

Well.  It’s supposed to be.

Truth is, I’ve never been very good at imposing structure on myself.  I have the best of intentions, don’t get me wrong.  I can make lists and schedules like I have trains running on my watch.  And if i plan everything just right then maybe I can fix everything and my life will be perfect.  Well, close, anyway.

So I keep trying.  I keep listing, scheduling, nit-picking my days away until I get it just right.  Sometimes I’ll even stay up to 1 am to do this.

Somehow I don’t think that’s helpful.

So I’m going to stop the planning.  No more late nights up with spreadsheets and calculators as my only companions.  No more grids drawn on notebook paper.

I’m going to do what I can to find peace in the moment.  If that means I get to the gym at 7pm instead of 6pm, then so be it.  Instead of fighting against the chaos, maybe I can find peace within it; a leaf floating on the surface of the river doesn’t try to bend the river to its will.  If it did, the currents would rip it apart.  There is peace in letting the river guide it.

My path might not be a gently flowing brook.  It’s more like the Rocky River rapids.  I think the principle is the same, though.  Fighting against the current is pointless.  Instead, I think that it will be better to travel with it.  There’s a mental exercise that comes to mind.  Instead of fighting against the tidal wave of your emotions, the goal is to allow them to crest and fall on their own – to see them without judgement and simply acknowledge their existence, accept them, and let them fade naturally.  I’ve tried this before with some limited success.

Maybe allowing myself to skip the planning will lift a few of those rocks off of my chest.




Episode Four – O’s Story

In this week’s episode:

  • Becky feels stable!  It’s a miracle.  She’s going to make the most of it.
  • In News and Reviews, we take a look at the news coming out of eastern Pennsylvania regarding the use of ECT on children.
  • In our first listener story, we hear from O.   It’s a truly visceral story, so be warned.  Includes graphic depictions of suicidal ideation.

I still need listener stories!  They don’t have to be long like O’s, either.  Sharing is Caring, people! 🙂

News Links:

State Reps. Tom Murt and Stephen Kinsey Introduce Bill to Ban Electroshock Therapy on PA Children


Email: OR

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You’re Not Alone!




Kids will be Kids

It took a minute for me to parse what she was saying.  “I just want to have more friends,” she whispered. Friends she couldn’t have as long as she was friends with me, she meant.

The lunch line where we stood stretched out down the stairs beneath the school stage.  The gymnasium/theatre also doubled as the cafeteria, so the line would form on one side of the stage, then weave underneath the stage, where the kitchen was, and then out the other side, where tables had been set up.  The building was old and labyrinthine, and housed only the sixth grade, so there was no need for more than one lunch hour.  Everybody was there at the same time.

My best friend, Anne, and I were in the lunch line together, just as we always were. For three years it had been us against the world.

I was an outcast, and that was putting it mildly.  In the second grade my classmates decided that I was somehow “germy” and disgusting, from my hair to my shoes, and I was ostracized completely.  A few of my tormentors made a great show of using mock-lysol on any surface I touched before they would use it.  At times, when I was standing too close to someone, they would use the “cootie-spray” on me, sometimes with the admonition, “get back, alien-woman!”

I tried everything to get “in”.  I begged my mom for new clothes (which we couldn’t afford), I styled my hair like they did.  I scrutinized every tiny gesture I made, every sentence I uttered, so  that I said nothing that could be used against me and I acted normal, please, god, just let me be normal. Why was I different? I began to suspect that I was deformed in some what that was invisible to me, but that everyone else could see clearly, and my parents didn’t want to tell me.  Was I hideously ugly never told until it was screamed at me on the playground? There certainly seemed to be a consensus among my peers.  It must be true. At the time, the prevailing wisdom was “kids will be kids” and bullying was to be expected.  Maybe it even builds character. Unless it became a physical fight, there was really nothing that needed done.

Anne and I met at Sunday School, so maybe that’s why we became friends. Before long, we were inseparable.  Any class we didn’t share was interminable. I did my best to make myself invisible until the bell rang for lunch and I could spend time with the one person who treated me like a human being.

Now she was abandoning me.

She couldn’t take it anymore, she said.  She had to stop talking to me, she whispered to me while we waited in the Longest Lunch Line Ever. Despite the pain, I understood.  If I had the chance to stop hanging out with myself, I probably would. In fact, I had a few theories about that. So in spite of how painful it was, I nodded my assent. What I didn’t realize was that she meant right that very second.

I stumbled.  Pushing me away, she started yelling “You’re disgusting.  Don’t talk to me anymore!”

And I just broke.

Suddenly I was behind and above myself, looking over the proceedings, numb.  Someone spoke, but their words were garbled, as if I had suddenly been thrust into a deep pool of water.  “…you okay?” I managed to make out.    I spent the rest of the day walking around in a daze.  It was the first dissociative experience that I can actually remember happening.

I can’t say for sure that all of my mental health issues were borne out of this incident, or even out of being bullied, in general.  There’s a strong genetic component, to be sure.  Mood disorders come down to me from both sides of my family.  There are other environmental factors outside of school that I’m sure played a part. I’m sure, though, that bullying played no small part in my mental health woes, beginning as a child and going all the way into adulthood.  There’s science to back this up, too: one researcher likens it to a form of PTSD.

The common thinking when I was growing up was this was, well, normal.  Kids will be kids.  What’re you gonna do.  Kids can be cruel, but you get over it.  It’s a rite of passage.

Only you don’t, not really. Traumatized children grow up to be traumatized adults. A wounded self-image doesn’t just grow back like a worm cut in half. It’s a deep wound.  Without treatment, it festers, and eventually infects even the healthy tissue surrounding it.  There are other long term effects of bullying, too,  including an increased incidence of continued bullying or victimization and an increased suicide rate, as adults, ten times the rate of those who weren’t bullied.  It increases avoidant behavior.  It interferes with your ability to maintain healthy relationships. I’m often grateful that I didn’t grow up in the age of Social Media, where bullies’ access to their victims is virtually 24/7.  I seriously doubt I’d be alive if that were the case.

I’m sometimes amazed at how how it’s taken us, as a society, to even begin dealing with this issue.  I can only assume that previous generations believed that it seasoned the more “thin skinned” children, somehow toughening them to better endure life’s challenges. Maybe they thought that if they lived through it, so would their children.  I don’t really know. It’s likely not something my modern mind would be able to understand, even if someone told me.

But at last! It’s part of the conversation. October is National Bullying Prevention Month.  School systems from all over have instituted “Zero Tolerance” bullying policies. Even Burger King is getting in on the action. Still, I hear stories from my friends with kids about how ineffectual the anti-bullying rules are, and maybe they’re right. If you look at it in the larger scheme of things, however,  it’s miles from where we were even 20 years ago.  If nothing else, perhaps now that the truly damaging effects of bullying abuse are known, parents and teachers can act more quickly to help nullify some of the effects.

Maybe, just maybe, one of those student pledges to stop bullying will take.  If even one life is saved, then it’s worth telling this story a thousand times over.


Episode Three – A Conversation With Ace

In this week’s Episode:

Becky has a new medicine she’s not too sure about. In news, stop the presses – losing sleep can make you manic! Also: When can you NOT request reasonable accomodations?

Ace from the Normal Bipolar Guy Podcast is here! I let the interview techniques fall by the wayside and opt for a good old fashioned conversation instead.

You can find Ace’s podcast at or on iTunes.


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Episode Two – Las Vegas and Jay Chirino (fixed)

Episode Two

In this episode of That B Word, Becky tackles the Las Vegas Shooting and interviews Jay Chirino, author of “The Flawed Ones: A story of Mental Illness, Addiciton, and Love”.

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