Plato's Play-Doh

Play-Doh for the Mind

Video: Unconquerable

I dug up this spoken word poem I made back in May of 2013.  It details the struggles I have had with what I call “intrusive thoughts”, that is, unwanted thoughts that I would not be able to stop thinking about.  If you enjoy this video, please share it so we can spread awareness about mental health, while also showing people that everyone has the power to defeat their inner demons.

 

Thanks,

Russell

 

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A Recently Discovered Account of a Certain Species

Ant Short Story Pic

The following brief account will, by choice of my own, take place in 1872. Forgive me for my writing skills, for I am not, by any means, a writer.

This description will include the sights seen and the actions taken by a certain living being. Let me first, however, describe to you the attributes of this being. It is a male being of normal body type (of course this all depends on what one constitutes as “normal”) and of average size for its kind. He ventures through towns and forests alike, and is of high esteem to his fellow peers. He is also very determined and extremely pertinacious, never letting anything get in the way of the task that is at hand. He could be called a hard worker, but that would be an understatement. He is one of the strongest beings on earth, yet every second of every day he must look askance at his surroundings and be keenly aware of his presence. He is a carnivore, and devours the most unusual creatures. Furthermore, his speed and quickness is almost incomparable to any other being. He has the ability to cover over fifteen body lengths in under a second, and that is just at the beginning of such a sprint (for we all know that the start of a sprint is the slowest).

Let me now describe to you a day in the life of this being. He hunts in the early morning and is almost always successful in bringing down his prey. His peers may join in on the hunt, which usually brings about teamwork and not scuffles. Although of high intellect, he may stray off his turf unintentionally at times, which can be extremely dangerous. During such times, he may encounter perceived predators that have the ability to kill him without the least bit of effort. When times like these arise, he must use his quickness and intelligence to lead himself out of danger. Usually his peers will help him escape in such circumstances and assist him in returning to his rightful habitat. His peers are invaluable, for not only do they look out for each other, they collaborate when work needs to be done. If an area this being would like to venture to is out of his reach, his peers will build him a ladder in which he can use to access the aforementioned area. I could go on and on, but these are the vital facts that I feel you should know.

This account describes a being of exceptional merit. Although overlooked by many others, he has the abilities that almost no other living thing can measure up to. I am of course talking about Solenopsis Queritor, or the gripper ant. I am the sole discover and cataloguer of this remarkable being, having found him back in 1869 on the banks of the Amazon near the city of Iquitos, Peru.

I felt in necessary to acquaint you with such a remarkable being, and in relaying this brief account of its physical description, traits and skills, I hope that you yourself will be just as amazed as I am with its inhabitation here on earth.

 

-John Myers Philmore

Entomologist and Professor

University of London, 1883

 

©Russell Lehmann 2014

My Demons

 My Demons pic

The imps, the demons, they all live in Hell!

Alas! I live there too; their presence I seek to quell

Their actions exhaust me mentally; they exploit all my vulnerabilities

When they are unmindful, I step on coals to reach their nests

I tread so very vigilantly, for one sound could disturb their rest

I must strive to conquer every last one, for to my happiness they hold the key

 

Straight from The Inferno, they haunt me in my sleep

They intrude upon my only thoughts that I deem fit to keep

Help me Lord! For I am in frantic need of guidance from your heart!

These creatures live to prey on me

They deprive me of my solemn liberties

Help me Lord! For they are on the doorstep of tearing my life apart!

 

They pierce my soul with tridents

The pain leaves me seeking guidance

Yet I am in this fight alone; Hell is nothing more than a void of anguish

How to win this fight I do not know

I try and try, but all is woe

Still I will fight with all my heart, until death becomes my only wish

 

When in doubt, I try to run

The imps and demons think it fun

They chase me until I fall into the cavernous pits of fire

I start to melt

I cry for help

As the wicked fiends laugh and play their lyres

 

Hell is becoming hotter

My self-assurance has been slaughtered

I search within myself to find that I’m too weak to carry on

My mind has been in so much pain

I ponder stopping this fight, for it has been in vain

I pray to the Lord to help me endure, and for these evil beings to be gone

 

I will always reside in this cavern of flames

Yet I have no complaints, there is no one to blame

I hope soon that my failures will help me brew a potent vigor

That will defeat these doers of iniquity

That will crush their actions of pure immorality

And help me to live a life in which I defend my thoughts with forceful rigor

 

©Russell Lehmann 2014

Aokigahara

Aokigahara Pic

The dense forest lets little light in

Branches are chafed and scarred from ropes

The Sea of Trees drowns the people within

People who have lost everything; hope

 

Many who travel here will not travel home

Unless home to them is the shadow of death

Bodies hanging here, and over there lay the bones

Of those who came to draw their last breath

 

The forest of Aokigahara is destitute of brightness

For the trees do their best to block out the sun

One could say that these trees are full of shyness

Or perhaps they’re ashamed of what their branches have done

 

These woods of bereavement will continue to house

Lifeless bodies that were once filled with pride

The doomed entrants will continue to allow

This once beautiful forest to be chided and despised

 

*Aokigahara is a 14-square-mile forest that lies at the northwest base of Mount Fuji in Japan. The forest contains a number of rocky, icy caverns, a few of which are popular tourist destinations. Due to the wind-blocking density of the trees and an absence of wildlife, the forest is known for being exceptionally quiet. The forest has a historic association with demons in Japanese mythology and is a popular place for suicides.

©Russell Lehmann 2014

Corvus Frugilegus

Corvus Frugilegus Pic

I have always loved animals

And they’ve loved me back

My tender caresses

Make them instantly attached

 

The finest of animals

Would have to be birds

Wild birds, in fact,

For their beauty need not words

 

For several years I have observed

All types of avian

Enthusiastically watching them

Glide with the wind

 

I even feed the pests

Crows, rooks and pigeons

Tossing bread left and right

As they follow me in legions

 

But one day occurred

Such an unfortunate deed

When a rook nipped my finger

While I was feeding it seed

 

How mad I became!

I wondered just why

I wanted to strike the bird

And watch it drop before my eyes!

 

An urge of such hatred!

To see it writhe would be nice,

To hear it caw with such pain

As it gives up its fight

 

Sagacious I was

For I clenched the rooks throat

This brought me the joy

That I had such eagerly hoped!

 

As the rook grew weaker

He cawed one last cry

I felt such a release

As it finally died

 

After such an utter rush,

My vision soon left

My sense went numb

As I started to sweat

 

I soon found myself

Jumping out of my bed

Disgusted by my dream

Until I remembered what I had read

 

Just before I drifted off,

I read a short story by Poe

Which must have induced a phantasm

For it indeed induced woe

 

A story of such evil

And of delirious acts

For I feel you must be informed

If you are to read “The Black Cat”

 

©Russell Lehmann 2014

The Day I Died

The Day I Died pic

I come to relay this story from the comforts of heaven. I may be emotional at times, for I died so very young. The day on which I died was only yesterday as well, so please, please bear with me.

The day I died was an unconventional day filled with dread and gloom. Yet, if I am to indeed mix in here the truth, it was also a day filled with spectacular sights! The dread fell upon my loved ones (that is, if I can truly trust that they did indeed love me), while the gloom came from the dreary sky. The magnificent spectacles, however, seemed to pleasure almost no one but myself, for only a handful of people that I came into contact with were interested in observing such glamorous and amazing events. This truly hurt me deep down. But who am I to play such a somber song right now? Let me convey to you the acts that took place during the day on which I died!

I had opened my eyes just as the sun was creeping over the horizon. It was to be a beautiful day, but my outlook towards this was indeed pessimistic. Why, you ask? I loathed, LOATHED this dwelling I inhabited, this dwelling of the supposed “healing of the mind”, as the white suits put it. However, let us traverse back to the story.

On this particular morning, that is, the day on which I died, my body felt like a near empty shell, for indeed I could still feel my heart beating away. I was indebted to head down to the cafeteria for breakfast, for not only was my heart inside my shell of a body, but my empty stomach, too! Oh, you FOOLS! How could you not think that I didn’t have a stomach?! No matter, no matter, let me continue my story if you will allow me to. As I was saying, I was headed down to the refectory when a man, a hideous man, approached me from a neighboring room. His hands were clenched and shaking, and his eyes seemed to pierce right through my body. “You seem down today, sir. May I offer you some happiness?” the man said. I could always go for some happiness, this I indeed could. I inquired about his proposition, and without hesitance the vile man unclenched his hands, and in which appeared before my eyes a superfluous bagful of Orange Sunshine. “Take them, free of charge!” the man stentoriously shouted with a grin of such repulsiveness. I had been without such goods for an entire week, but my mind was loose with temptation and I snatched the Sunshine right from the man’s wretched hands with such force as to leave his palms bleeding. Pushing him aside, I ran down the stairs to fill my vacant stomach.

Now, as I filled my plate with food, I thought to myself, what would be more appropriate than taking Orange Sunshine with orange juice? What a superb idea that I had indeed thought of! I sat down on one of the room’s cold, creaking chairs and went right for the bag of pills. “One?” I thought to myself, “Two? Three? Four? All of them perhaps?” I decided to take half now, and leave the rest for my later enjoyment. As I placed them closer and closer to my salivating mouth, my cachinnatory muscles emitted a giggle of such delight that I can hardly remember the incredible feeling!

I swallowed them, yes! I swallowed them! Oh sweet mercy! How could I have let myself go a whole week without such a pleasurable experience?! Oh, how indeed pleasurable! I must have had the look of a beautified goddess on my face, for all others in the cafeteria turned to me with such delight! You should have seen the joyous smiles they had on their faces! How happy they must have been for me! Oh how happy!

After enjoying and appreciating the peoples’ kindness and generosity for my pleasure, I soon looked down upon my regular array of breakfast, which included a blueberry muffin, banana, a slice of rye and a blueberry muffin. My mouth, now dry as a corpse, was opposed to having enter into it such food. But oh, how I indeed craved for a blueberry muffin! But damnation! Where would I find such a thing in a place like this?! Where would I find such a thing?! With furry I tossed my breakfast off the table and, without forgetting to grab my Sunshine, ran, ran with swiftness up to my room.

As I closed the door behind me, an utter rush of heat entered the core of my body. How hot I became! Oh, how hot indeed! I ripped my clothes off with such force as to tear every article of clothing. At this moment I had to thank the Lord, for a beautiful lady of pure ice crept through my second story window. She continued on her path and embraced me with such exhilaration that her body started to melt from the heat of my own. Oh, but how refreshing this was! The Lady of Ice! THE Lady of Ice, had come to visit me, ME, in my time of need! What did I tell you about such spectacular sights?! What did I tell you?!

Not moments after I was clutched by the Lady of Ice was she but a puddle on the ground. But how, you must be asking, are these events relevant to the day that I died? You imbeciles! You worthless imbeciles! Have you not heard that patience is indeed a virtue? This is my story to tell and I will tell it as I like! As I was saying, the Lady of Ice was now nothing but a puddle, a mere puddle of uselessness. How could she leave me in my time of need? That wretched tease! To come into my room and relieve my sweltering of a body, and then disappear as if we had not made a connection of any sort! Oh! How infuriating this was! How indeed infuriating! Death I wish upon her soul! Her soul I wish death upon!

I stared at that despicable puddle for no less than eight hours, yet the sun had not moved a single inch during the time in which I took to stare. During the moments following my prolonged glare, I was overcome with boredom. Such ennui I was experiencing that I had intended to experiment medically upon myself, but just as I was to do so, my window shattered with such unexplainable might. My room began to shake violently, and I could hear the devil himself laughing! Laughing! At me! ME! Oh that smug bastard! How conceited he was in laughing at my own unclothed body! And the sky! The sky! How dark it became! Beelzebub’s army of imps must have been on their way to take me away, but this I could not allow. I rushed over to my torn clothing to retrieve the rest of my Orange Sunshine. Hurriedly, I dumped them into my left hand, or so I thought, for they all landed in the puddle of the Lady of Ice. Quickly I kneeled down to pick them up, but far too slippery they were! Frantically, I licked them up with three swift motions of my tongue, relieved and proud at what I had just accomplished.

The powers of God were with me now, for I was weightless, an advantage I would surely have over Satan himself. Armed with nothing other than an old scalpel in which I was to use for my experiment, I drifted up to the corner of my room, fearfully awaiting the malevolent troops sent to take me away. Not long did I have to wait, for the devil had arrived by his lonesome, with no imps in sight. He soon rushed towards me, and at once I thrust my scalpel into his jugular, but without effect. With the strength of who knows what, he snatched the instrument out of my trembling hand and with one rapid slice to my naked thigh did me in. How could God have forsaken me?! Why would he let a man of my magnitude die by the hands of Lucifer himself?! Why I ask? WHY?! Oh, if I am to meet him here in this blissful paradise in which I now reside I shall indeed tear him to pieces with the lashings of my tongue! With the lashings of my tongue I say!

The aftermath of such a battle between good and evil, in which the latter unfortunately prevailed, was sure to make me a martyr. Reinforcing this belief of mine was the sight of looking down upon my lifeless, bloodied body. Oh how regal I appeared! How regal indeed! I was sure that my family was to be as proud as could be once they laid their eyes upon my corpse, but when they entered my room (accompanied by police of course), they gasped in such horror as to make my pupils dilate with anger. They did not care! They did not care that I had fought the good fight, dying in such valor that before yesterday had never taken place before! Oh, those selfish, thick, shams of people!

The police! The police! The police I could hear! Talking to my kin, they lied through their teeth, tricking them into thinking that I had brought my death upon myself! How mad they must have been! How mad indeed! Turning a heroic act into some charade in which the deceased hero had committed suicide! Yes, I know! Committed suicide! What a farce, a farce indeed!

Now, as I inhabit this place they call heaven, I have told you the story, with much control over my own personal feelings and emotions, of the day that I died. Take what you will from it, for I have already decided what my position here in heaven is: to exact revenge on the actual devil himself; God. I shall be with you again once this next task has been completed, for indeed you will want to hear the story of the day in which God died!

 

 

Redefining the Isla Vista Shootings

I’m a fucking beast. I don’t like easy, I like hard. Not just hard, but excruciating. Painful, agonizing.  Do you know why? Because taking the hard route leaves you with scars that will forever be with you. Tiny memories of the lessons you learned when you were traveling through the deepest and darkest corners of Hell. The easy way out is for the weak. The easy way out is for people like Elliot Rodger.

After Elliot Rodger killed six college students and injured 13 others on the night of May 23, 2014, Alan Shifman, the lawyer for the Rodger family, said that Elliot had been diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome (a form of autism) at an early age. The family later stated that Elliot had never been diagnosed with Asperger’s, however they always believed that he was on the autism spectrum.

Two mass murderers in the last 1 ½ years have now been associated with some form of autism, and after watching Elliot Rodger’s YouTube video, I would have to agree with the assumption that he was on the spectrum.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear. Autism has absolutely nothing to do with a maniac going on a rampage. If it did, then let me tell you, I would be one of the most notorious mass murderers to ever walk this earth. But I am not. Why? Because autism does not define who someone is. It is merely a way of life. It gives you access to insights and perspectives unavailable to the vast majority of people. Having autism helps you in some areas of life, and hurts you in others. But with that hurt comes an opportunity to learn, an opportunity that most others don’t have the chance to obtain. Under certain circumstances, autism can be a beautiful gift. When you finally figure out how to live with the disorder, it can greatly enhance your life. It can be magical.

Circumstances. Circumstances are to blame for mass murders. I am not going to try and delve into Elliot Rodger’s past, because I have never met him, and for me to do that would be wrong. That is the (unfortunate) job for the talking heads on TV. I will say though, that hatred for women, along with the steel clasp of affluenza, seemed to play a major role in Elliot Rodger’s actions.

After I watched the video that Elliot posted online, I felt chills running down my spine. I experienced many of the things that he talked about. I didn’t have my first kiss until I was 20-years-old, and I felt ignored by women. I was envious every time I saw a guy with a gorgeous girl, and I thought to myself that he doesn’t deserve her. Here I am, a great guy, and I am all alone, while all these sleazy guys are enjoying life with their beautiful women.

I was Elliot, but Elliot wasn’t me.

Throughout his video, Elliot kept complaining that life wasn’t fair. I used to complain about that too, until I realized that it was a fact, not just for me, but for every single person on this planet. Life is just not fair. I have learned to accept this, and by doing so, I feel blessed when things actually do go my way.

To be perfectly blunt, Elliot Rodger had a pathetic outlook on life. He stated multiple times how lonesome he was, and how he “had to rot in loneliness”. Up until recently, I had been suffering from loneliness throughout the majority of my life. As I stated in a previous post:

“Perhaps the most infuriating element of being lonely is that people don’t understand how truly devastating and detrimental it is. The pain that stems from it is excruciating. My soul, the very essence of who I am, frenetically writhes as it is cast aflame by the smoldering remains of what my life could have been, what my life should have been, and is stoked by what my life is.

I collapse on the floor and soak the carpet with my tears multiple times a week. I become so enraged that I have to keep myself from literally tearing down my house with my bare hands. LITERALLY. I oftentimes think about putting a bullet in my brain, and wonder at what sweet rest there must be in the grave. I pray every motherfucking day that I’ll meet someone who understands my pain, for I have never met a soul who can relate to me. I suppose this is what keeps my heart beating, because although my life has been absolute shit, I somehow believe that one day I will encounter somebody who can comprehend my fucked-up life. Somehow, someway, I believe.”

Elliot had a choice. He chose to rot in his loneliness. I have come to find that being alone for most of my life did me wonders. I didn’t choose to rot away, although it would have been quite easy to do so, but rather I chose to find out what I was made of. I became strong, and I was at my best in my darkest moments of solitude. I realized that being alone gave me the chance to think and to learn, so I pondered about relationships, life, death, everything under the sun, while I crammed my brain full of knowledge, for knowledge is the one thing that can be given to you, but never taken away. Instead of rotting in my loneliness, I blossomed.

In one of his videos, Elliot also stated that “All I’ve ever wanted was a girlfriend”. I know that feeling all too well. For the past ten years, having a girlfriend was all I could think about. I finally entered into a relationship with a woman for the first time when I was 22-years-old, but that relationship only lasted two months, and the woman ripped my heart out and crushed it with her bare hands.

I want to end this post by oiling your mind with some lucidity. Autism, Bi-Polar, Schizophrenia, Borderline Personality Disorder and any other mental condition that you might now be afraid of due to the actions of those who are affected with such disorders, PLAY NO PART when it comes to rampages and/or shootings. These appalling actions boil down to one’s outlook on life, and the circumstances surrounding that outlook. Lack of family support, refusing to ask for help, and other similar variables are the largest reasons behind mass violence. It is inexcusable to have the aforementioned conditions be the sole scapegoat behind such atrocities. Just as every dog doesn’t attack their owner, every person with mental struggles isn’t “crazy”, “insane” or “psychotic”.

 

REMEMBERING THE VICTIMS

WEIHAN WANGWEIHAN WANG, 20-YEARS-OLD

CHENG YUAN HONGCHENG YUAN HONG, 20-YEARS-OLD

GEORGE CHENGEORGE CHEN, 19-YEARS-OLD

KATHERINE BREANN COOPERKATHERINE BREANN COOPER, 22-YEARS-OLD

CHRISTOPHER ROSS MICHAELS-MARTINEZCHRISTOPHER ROSS MICHAELS-MARTINEZ, 20-YEARS-OLD

VERONIKA ELIZABETH WEISSVERONIKA ELIZABETH WEISS, 19-YEARS-OLD

Girl, Interrupted

Girl, Interrupted

I saw a movie the other night. The movie was titled “Girl, Interrupted”, and it brought back memories. Awful memories. Memories of what my life was like when my very essence was ripped from the fibers of my body. Memories of when the fundamental nature of who I was shattered within me, piercing my viscera with the shards of who I once was. It brought back the unbearable feelings of being emotionally and psychologically mutilated, of being mentally raped and of being spiritually murdered.

Girl, Interrupted” takes place in 1967, when an 18-year-old girl is placed in a mental hospital after downing a bottle of aspirin with vodka. The movie follows her 18 month-long stay at the hospital, capturing her struggles, aggravations, friendships and escapades, all the while giving insight into what a mental institution was like back in the 1960s. A few examples: One woman kept roast chicken carcasses under her bed, while another patient had previously thrown acid on her face, thus assuming a friendly persona to distract people from her appearance. The nurses regularly forced the patients to take their medicine without letting them know what medication had been prescribed for them, and punishments included solitary confinement and being strapped down to a bed, while free-time consisted of mundane checkers and lousy TV. The doctors were aloof and condescending, and reveled in the power and authority they asserted over their patients.

NEWSFLASH: Not one damn thing has changed in these institutions in the past 40+ years.

I have been admitted to a mental hospital two times in my short life. The first time was in 2003 when my OCD had taken over every aspect of my being. I would have to look at every single object I set my eyes on 128 times before I could look at anything else. I was petrified to leave my house, for there were far too many objects that would be subjugated to the tyranny of my compulsions. I constantly checked locks around the house, and washed my hands so often they would drip with blood. I wasn’t living, I wasn’t even surviving. I was merely existing.

My second trip to the psych ward occurred in 2012. I was festering in an extreme depression, all the while contemplating suicide and battling anorexia. I hadn’t showered or changed clothes in two months, had lost a massive amount of weight while also losing my hair, and was too ashamed to even look outside, let alone take a step out the front door.

Girl, Interrupted” was a somber movie in and of itself, however the realization of how little our mental institutions have progressed in the past half-century subdued my hope for any steps forward in the near future. This apprehension of insight encapsulated my soul, leaving my anticipations and expectations of our society’s competency to wither away in a tangled web of indignity and apathy.

There was a particular scene in the movie that really struck me, that lit my hippocampus ablaze with the blistering memories of reality. I was no longer watching a movie, I was reliving one of the most detested moments of my life.

One of the patients, Lisa, had escaped from the hospital and ended up staying with a former patient named Daisy who had been recently released. Lisa had noticed that Daisy seemed very distant and exuded a somber affect. This, along with fresh cuts on Daisy’s wrists, led Lisa to believe that Daisy was not even close to being in recovery. Sensing Lisa’s vitriol toward her, Daisy tells her “You’re just jealous, Lisa, because I got better. Because I was released. Because I have a chance, and a life.” Lisa responds “They didn’t release you because you’re better. They just gave up.”

On March 7, 2003, I was released from Seattle’s Children’s Hospital after a five week stay. I was admitted because I was suffering from severe social and separation anxiety, as well as extreme OCD and depression. I was a confused and scared 12-year-old boy, whose world was caving in on him. My parents sought answers to my problems with all their heart, yet never seemed to find any.

My experience at Children’s Hospital was the worst of my life. Most of the staff was friendly and caring, but the doctors were evil in the way that fire is hot. It was not intended, it just was. I was lied to day after day by these physicians, and they imposed sanctions and punishments upon me that were completely unjust, amoral, unethical and undeserved. I was deathly afraid of bugs back then, so they would lock me in a room and order me to touch dead flies, bees and wasps that they had collected (how they collected them I do not know). It was their form of exposure therapy. However, I was a child, and they were forcing me to participate in this “therapy”. “If you pick up the bugs and smell them, we will release you”, they told me. And so I did what they said, and the emotional wound I was dealt still, eleven years later, has yet to heal.

The doctors ended up releasing me from their “care” without having solved or tamed a single problem of mine. They discharged me and left it up to my family to decide how to re-immerse myself back into society. There were no scheduled follow-up visits, no outside resources given to us and no support system. As Lisa would put it, they didn’t release me because I was better. They just gave up.

As mentioned above, I was also admitted to the psych ward in October of 2012, this time in Reno, Nevada. I was in the worst depression of my life, and the mental anguish was unbearable. During this period in time I was literally a shell of my former self. My family had not seen me smile for months, I walked with no purpose and I slept hoping to never wake up. I would break down in tears every single day for 67 straight days, and at night the only thing that would bring me comfort was thinking about the never-ending peace that comes with sleeping in a bed of dirt.

In the middle of my depression. Little life existed behind these eyes.

Let me make one thing perfectly clear. If I did not have the extremely loving and supporting family that I have, my life would have ended on October 1, 2012, at the age of 21. I would no longer be on this earth. I would be gone forever, my body rotting in the dirt that I had so often dreamt of. I would have never entered the life of all the great people I have met in the last 1 ½ years, and memories of me would be confined to just my mother, father and sister.

The hospital I was admitted to in 2012 was not at all the right place for me to be if I was ever going to hope to get better. I was the only patient there who was struggling with depression. Many of the patients were admitted by the order of a court because they were addicted to drugs and/or alcohol, while the others either had schizophrenia or dissociative identity disorder. To give you an example of how chaotic the hospital was, there was one woman who would routinely take off all her clothes and run around naked. She thought that she could climb walls whenever she didn’t have her clothes on, and attempted to do so at every chance she got. There was also an elderly man who would pull down his pants and start going to the bathroom anywhere that he felt the urge to do so. I am not at all trying to stigmatize or put down those with other disorders or hardships in their lives, I am just letting you know how the atmosphere of the hospital was not at all beneficiary to the recovery of a quiet guy with autism who was suffering from severe depression and suicidal thoughts.

My whole stay at this hospital was a complete nightmare. The doctor who was in charge of my recovery ended up earning my hatred after he blatantly lied to me, while one of the nurses insulted and attacked me for being too depressed to come out of my room. I ended up being discharged just three days after I was admitted.

Ironically, although no single person contributed to my well-being while I was there, in addition to the whole experience being traumatic to say the least, I am very thankful for the occurrence. I was so grateful to be reunited with my mother and father, and it dawned on me that first night back home that I am the lucky one. Albeit I still craved the tranquility of eternal sleep, I realized that I was already equipped with more than enough tools to break out of my slump. I was in a peaceful household, with two unbelievably generous, selfless and loving parents who would do anything, absolutely anything, to see me get better. The universe put me in this diabolical maze with the expectation of seeing me find my way out a better man. I knew right then and there that I was going to defeat my demons with all the love and support my family offered, and that I wasn’t going to be lowered into the ground anytime soon.

Not one month later I was leaving the house by myself, interacting with strangers, and best of all, I learned to smile again.

Back to life.

Now to revisit the film “Girl, Interrupted”. This movie came across as a theatrical spectacle of what life was like for patients in a 1960s mental hospital. However, for those of us who have had first-hand experience with mental institutions, the seemingly histrionic performances were not far from the truth. I have come across nurses who were distant and cold, and who only see the patient as an encumbrance that comes with their paycheck. I have encountered doctors who were massively manipulative and gorged themselves on the insecurity of their patients. I have been locked in solitary confinement and have seen many patients tackled in the hallways of the hospital and subsequently strapped down to a bed. I have been kept awake at night by the horrifying screams of patients in their rooms, and I myself have clawed at windows in a futile attempt to escape the horrific conditions of my environment.

Girl, Interrupted” was a movie. However, for me, it was more than that. It was a subtle insight into how broken our mental health system is. As mentioned above, the movie takes place in 1967, and 47 years later there unfortunately has been little to no progress made in how we treat certain individuals with mental illnesses. The fact that I was admitted to the psych ward during the two lowest times of my life, and was released both times without having recovered, devoid of the smallest bit of relief, speaks volumes.

America is expected to have the greatest healthcare in the world, yet when it comes to caring for our brains, the most important part of our body, we fail miserably. Those of us who are lucky enough to have “insurance” are denied access to the top doctors and mental facilities and are left subject to the mercy of such insurance companies. I myself was a victim of this. Back in 2012 my doctor and therapist recommended that I be admitted to Rogers Memorial Hospital in Wisconsin. They specialized in eating disorders, OCD and depression, the exact triple threat that I was facing. After doing hundreds of hours of research, my family and I agreed with the recommendation that was given to us.

Rogers Memorial was very expedient in their admittance process. The head doctor at the hospital learned about my condition and desperately wanted to help me. Once I was approved for admission by the hospital, they wanted me to fly out the very next day. My insurance company told me that they were approving the treatment, and I was absolutely ecstatic! I was so relieved that help was on its way, and I started packing immediately.

Later that night I received a call from my insurance company that crushed not only my hopes, as well as my soul, but the quintessence of who I was as a person. I was told that because I was 21-years-old, the insurance company could not approve my treatment at Rogers Memorial. However, if I was just one year younger, my treatment would have been a sure thing. They did not explain to me why such an illogical and ludicrous statute existed, nor did they even offer a simple apology. I remember that after I hung up the phone, I told my parents what I had just learned. I subsequently dropped to my knees on the kitchen floor with tears streaming down my cheeks and, looking them both in the eyes, said “I’m just going to kill myself.”

We eventually had to resort to my admittance to a low-budget hospital in Nevada, the only healthcare facility that my insurance would approve of, and where my aforementioned experiences took place.

I suppose I intended to write this post to let others know how fractured out healthcare system is. I may have prattled on a bit too much, but I want you all to know this: At this very moment there is another person in the United States who is on their knees contemplating ending their life. Why is our country not putting everything we have into helping these individuals? Our congress argues about the most mundane and idiotic things and it seems like they just don’t have the balls to tackle the real issues that face our population. Who knows, our government may act on this issue tomorrow. But guess what? That person who was on their knees? They just blew their brains out.

The Unfortunate Situation of the Blind Nudist

Sharon and Laura

(MyFoxAtlanta)

I have two words for you: Nudist. Colony. My apologies. Nudist. Resort. I’m sorry. Naturist. Resort. Well, whatever the hell the PC term is for not wearing any clothes in public (nauseating?), there are apparently many reasons behind one’s choice to join such a, ahem, club. Among them: To be pure and in-sync with nature, to say good-bye to tan lines, to strike up conversations with strangers (e.g. Wow, are those real?), to give the finger to the tyrannical, oppressive nature of clothing and to feast on a never-ending buffet of eye candy. I would assume that it would be safe to say, however, that this last reason had nothing to do with one woman’s choice to reside in a clothes-free zone.

In 2011, Sharon Fowler, a woman who had been battling Vasculitis, lost her vision due to the illness. In May of that same year, Sharon was notified of some good news. Being legally blind, she was qualified to receive a seeing-eye dog. As you can imagine, this made Sharon quite happy, as evidenced in her Facebook post:

FB Post

(Facebook)

In 2012 Sharon and her husband, Craig, along with her service dog (now named Laura), moved into the clothing-optional Paradise Lakes Resort and Condominiums in Lutz, Florida. A short while after they moved in, however, Sharon received a letter from Paradise Lakes Condominium Association, Inc. In the letter, they notified Sharon that she must get rid of her dog because it exceeded the 25 pound weight limit. She was also told that Laura was out of control and that if she did not remove the dog from the premises she would be fined $50 dollars a day. This, after Laura had already been approved to move into the condo with her dog by the very same association. As the Tampa Bay Times remarked, “Before Fowler moved into the community, she was required to fill out an application and pass a background check. She disclosed her need for Laura and the dog’s weight. Her application was approved.”

As it turns out, Sharon is the kind of woman who doesn’t take shit from anyone, especially a bunch of cocky nudists (pun intended). As she told local Fox affiliate WVTV, “I am legally blind. Laura is a trained, certified guide dog. You cannot bully us. We will not leave. This is our home. I won’t be embarrassed. I won’t be intimidated. We will go all the way with this, and we’ve done nothing wrong.”

I had the privilege of talking to Sharon and her husband Craig, who are both very nice individuals. They desperately want to resolve this situation, so they have filed a lawsuit against Paradise Lakes Condominium Association, Inc. (It is important to note that the lawsuit is not against Paradise Lakes Resort, but rather a separate, independent association that is responsible for overseeing the section of the condominium complex that Sharon lives in.)

Court Document

(WTSP)

Although many local media outlets are said to have contacted Paradise Lakes for a comment, they have apparently heard nothing back. Even Yahoo stated in an article that “The various media outlets down in Florida covering this story have reached out to Paradise Lakes for comment, but so far the property and its management has kept quiet on the manner.”

That’s funny, because I called Paradise Lakes and spoke to its owner, Jerry Buchanan. He was a nice man and was sympathetic to Sharon’s situation. However, he was quite miffed at all the bad press his resort was receiving, when it is an independent association that has done the wrong doing. He was kind enough to send me a press release detailing the nature of the lawsuit, which so many media outlets seem to find rather confusing. Spell it out for them, Jerry.

In recent days there has been a large amount of misinformation about Paradise Lakes Resort regarding a service dog for a woman who is sight impaired. In an effort to clear up this misunderstanding we would like to make the following statement:

Paradise Lakes Resort is a 56 room “Clothing Optional” Hotel and Resort situated adjacent to 525 privately owned homes, town homes and condominiums. These 525 units are not under the control of the resort in any capacity but are controlled independently by 6 different condominium associations. The lawsuit in question is against one of these condominium associations and the resort is not named in the complaint.

Due to extremely sloppy reporting by a newspaper and local television stations Paradise Lakes Resort has been falsely accused of denying a sight impaired person the right to use her service dog on the premises. If proper due diligence had been performed by the media outlets prior to the publishing and broadcasting these stories they would have discovered that this accusation against the resort is completely false.

To our knowledge the woman and her service dog have never been denied entry to the resort for any reason.

Paradise Lakes Resort does not prevent a person with a service dog access to our facility. In fact Paradise Lakes Resort has several sight impaired guests that visit our facility on a regular basis. We have, on many occasions, and will continue to allow persons with guide animals access to the resort. Not only do we allow persons with disabilities, we also have a very valuable staff member of 15 years who happens to be sight impaired employed in our spa services area.

These accusations are completely without merit and are completely false!

Paradise Lakes Resort would like to thank its thousands of guests and members and assure them that they are always welcome and will continue be treated with respect.

We feel the charges and accusations made in these media stories have been very misleading and damaging to our guests and our reputation as a first class clothing optional resort and expect a full retraction of these charges and an apology by the parties involved.

Jerry Buchanan

Owner – Paradise Lakes Resort

Well, there you have it. Apparently a novice blogger does better research than local and national media outlets.

I wish Sharon the best of luck in her endeavors and hope that she will once again soon be able to live in peace with Laura without having to go through any more discrimination.

As the lawsuit continues to move forward, I was informed by both Sharon and Craig, along with their lawyer Jessica Thorson from the Orlando law firm Morgan & Morgan, that they would not be able to make any more comments on the matter. So, I thought it would be fun to end this post by exploring what actually goes on at Paradise Lakes Resort.

Paradise Lakes has many amenities, including “an upscale restaurant, a rocking nightclub, our Key West Bar at poolside, a fitness center with a gym, a day spa, a boutique featuring the hottest in clubwear, two RV parks, tennis, sand volleyball, water volleyball, hot tubs, a heated conversation pool and huge all-season pool”. I spoke to a few residents of Paradise Lakes who occasionally rent out their condo, and they clarified to me the precise meaning of “clothing-optional”. It basically means that you can be naked anywhere within the resort. ANYWHERE.

(Paradise Lakes Resort)

(Paradise Lakes Resort)

That’s right. That couple who are trying to get into better shape together? They’re in the gym, running on the treadmill. NAKED. That upscale restaurant you wanted to try? Well, just be sure not to drop your fork under the table. Want to try your hand at volleyball? At least you won’t need to worry about getting sand in your shorts.

There is also no need to worry about being spotted naked by anyone other than your fellow nudists, for Paradise Lakes has an eight-foot high “privacy wall” surrounding the whole community. What better way to be one with nature then by being confronted with an enormous concrete wall everywhere you turn?

I was interested in seeing how far Paradise Lakes pushed the envelope, so I asked my informants if public sex acts are allowed on the resort premises. Alas, they are not. As my friends told me, “The resort doesn’t allow public sex acts.  Social nudity and public sex are not the same. What people do in the privacy of their accommodations is up to them…assuming that it is legal.”

However, in the FAQ section of Paradise Lakes’ website, they do have a few tips for when men become “visibly excited”: “On occasions where this occurs, simply don a towel, turn over, or take a quick dip in the pool.”

Before I end this post, I’ll leave you with one final question answered by Paradise Lakes Resort:

 

Q: What’s the one thing a first-time visitor to Paradise Lakes should remember?

A: Above all else, have fun. You’re in for a vacation to remember. We look forward to seeing more of you soon.

 

I’m sure they do look forward to seeing more of you soon. I’m sure they do.

My Interview with Jacqueline Laurita

Image

 

Many people who are unfamiliar with the Real Housewives series believe that the women who make up the cast are conceited, selfish and spoiled. One woman, however, is anything but those unflattering adjectives. Her name is Jacqueline Laurita, and I would like to introduce her to those of you who are unfamiliar with her. To the mass that do know who she is, perhaps you will become even fonder of her after perusing this interview.

Jacqueline is a very strong-willed woman who has a magnificent outlook on life. A loving mother who is not afraid to back down from any challenge, she actually takes the time to learn about somebody before passing judgment, unlike many of us. Jacqueline is also very ambitious when it comes to her multiple careers, yet she somehow manages to always make time for her beautiful family.

Jacqueline’s son Nicholas was diagnosed with autism back in 2012 at the age of three, and in the years since Jacqueline has become a leading campaigner for increasing autism awareness. I asked her about views on autism, her goals for the future and how she grew into the amazing woman that she is today.

Russell Lehmann: You are revered for being a thoughtful, down-to-earth woman who loves to give back to the community and spread welfare. Where do these impressive principles and traits of yours stem from, and what have you learned from your experiences of helping those who are less fortunate than you?

Jacqueline Laurita: I think that my parents had something to do with that for sure. I was always encouraged to be honest, stay true to myself and to stay grounded. I think it also comes from my life experiences. I’ve been through a lot in my life and it has always been the support of others that has got me through the obstacles in my life. I want to be there to support others because I know how it feels. Others have been there for me. It’s a way for me to pay it forward.

You exited “The Real Housewives of New Jersey” after season five. What have you been doing with your time since?

I have been enjoying time with my family and focusing on Nicholas’s recovery, writing books on beauty and autism, which are both passions of mine. I help out my husband with his beverage company while also trying to get my beauty website launched (www.altruisticbeauty.com).
I have also been a very active advocate in the autism community by answering emails from families affected, attending autism related conferences, benefits, doing public speaking engagements and writing featured articles for magazines. I will continue to do that.

You have said that early intervention is the key to recovery. For the first half of my life I confounded doctors with my symptoms, until I was finally diagnosed with autism when I was 12. Your son Nicholas was diagnosed when he was three. You are a woman who emits vibes of positivity and optimism. Nicholas is almost five now, and so I pose this question to you:

If Nicholas wasn’t diagnosed for another seven or eight years, and you and your family were left in the dark with no idea as to how to help your son, what actions might you have taken, and do you think this hypothetical situation would have changed your bright and confident outlook on life?

I think that I would have taken each challenge as it came with the best of my ability. Regardless, I would have focused on enhancing Nicholas’s strengths and do my best to give him the tools he needed to get around whatever obstacle or challenge was in his way and to bring out the best in him. I’m all about focusing on the solutions rather than the problems. Otherwise, life can get too overwhelming.

With or without an actual diagnosis, the challenges would have eventually presented themselves and we would have had to address it and find a way to make progress by giving him the right tools he needed in order to thrive.

There is no doubt that the diagnosis definitely gave us more clarity and understanding to what we were dealing with, while also providing us with a better road map of what active steps we could take to help Nicholas, including knowing our legal rights. Regardless, I would continue to try to defy expectations. It’s never too late for anyone to learn and improve. Always believe things can get better, because they can. In coping with anything, it’s all about perception and keeping a positive attitude. Focus on the amazing “abilities” our children have and not so much on their “disabilities”. Everyone has special skills, and everyone has challenges.

Have a clear vision of what you want your future to look like. Believe you can manifest it. Make short and long-term goals while focusing and following through on them with tunnel vision and perseverance. Block out all the negative talk and choose positive thoughts and actions. Have gratitude. Continually try to defy expectations while focusing on the solutions rather than the problems when hitting any obstacle. This will help you achieve anything in life… if you believe it’s possible!

What lessons of life have you learned from having a first-hand experience with autism?

I have definitely learned patience and understanding and what’s important in life. I learned to still remember to make time for myself so that I don’t get too overwhelmed. Those small breaks help me to go back in and fight harder for my child. It’s also important to make special time with your spouse and other siblings that are not diagnosed. The experience has also taught me to be more accepting and understanding of others’ idiosyncrasies. It taught me to have gratitude and celebrate each and every accomplishment my child makes, and not take anything for granted, because I see first-hand how hard he works for those accomplishments.

I myself do not think that autism should ever be fully cured. I believe it is a gift that one must learn to live with. I couldn’t agree with you more when you say Nicholas doesn’t need to be fixed, because he isn’t broken. When did this philosophy of yours come into being and what do you think made you come to this conclusion?

I don’t see autism as being something bad or something to be ashamed of, and I never want my son to be ashamed of it either. It’s just one piece of who he is as a whole individual. He just has a different way of processing things. I know my son is brilliant and I have heard of many well-known successful people at the top of their fields who have either been suspected to have or have been diagnosed with autism. I know it’s a gift, I know my son is happy and I know he loves me. People with autism just learn and view the world differently. Different does not mean bad. It’s just different. When I say “recover” my child, I want him to recover all the skills he lost when he regressed and for him to continue to learn things that will help make his life a little easier in the future. I’m not trying to “fix” him or even make him “typical” but I am trying to give him all the tools I can provide for him to help him to become more independent. If I can do that for him and he is going to benefit from it, then I am going to keep fighting to give him what he needs. His quirkiness makes him unique and adorable and I wouldn’t want to change that for anything. He makes me smile every day. I think everyone is a little quirky. I know I am.

Autism definitely has an ugly side to it, but with that ugliness comes the opportunity to learn and grow in a very unique and special way. When times get tough and Nicholas is having a bad day, do you sometimes wish that Nicholas never had autism? Or would you rather live with the emotional wounds dealt out by the disorder, knowing that you have an ability to be much more insightful about life than the average person?

Don’t we ALL have an ugly side as well as the opportunity to learn and grow? Someone with an autism diagnosis is no different. Autism is not something that I ever wished my child would have, and it’s a different journey than the one I had expected, but it is still just as wonderful. I think it’s difficult for any parent to watch their child, typical or not, struggle with anything, so when Nicholas is struggling with something and is having a bad day, it breaks my heart.

Nicholas has struggles that my other children don’t have, but they each have their own unique struggles in life and have challenged me and themselves in different ways. I’ve hurt watching all of them struggle at one point or another. That’s a parent’s love. We all have struggles, they are just different struggles. You learn to adjust and cope. We all learn, grow and evolve. We all get frustrated with life, we all hurt at times and we all feel joy. Support from others is really important during these times.

I honestly love the journey that my son’s autism diagnosis has taken me on. I have learned so much and I have met so many wonderful, supportive people along the way. My son has brought me so much joy each and every day. All my kids are unique and I love them all.

What is your biggest stress reliever?

Venting to someone who “gets it”, then meditating while listening to positive affirmations. I like going into the Hyperbaric Oxygen Chamber to relax and walking outdoors when the weather is nice. Sex works, too. (Laughs)

What do you like to do for fun, and what kind of activities does your family enjoy doing together?

I enjoy our crazy family gatherings every Sunday because they are very entertaining and always a lot of fun. I enjoy date nights with my husband as well as with other couples. We enjoy good food. My kids enjoy watching movies together. We also enjoy hiking. In the summer we rent a beach house with many of our family members. We also do a lot of fun activities in the fall at local farms. Road trips anywhere are always fun.

What do you have your sights set on for the future?

I want to continue to raise autism awareness any way I can in hopes that I can help educate people to be more understanding and compassionate toward others with autism or other idiosyncrasies. Different doesn’t mean bad, it’s just different. Acceptance is so important. Everyone can learn from each other if you allow yourself to be open to it.
I want to make a difference in this world. I have a few things in mind that I’d like to accomplish. I’ll share those at a later date.

I also have several books I’d like to write. Two of them are being written and published right now.

I have a beauty website (www.altruisticbeauty.com) that I can’t wait to launch. It’s definitely taking a lot longer than I thought to get it up and running.

I want my family to stay healthy, happy and very connected with each other. Oh…and world peace.