Beyond Blue

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Larry Parker: How Do You Move Beyond Blue?

posted by Beyond Blue

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If you’ve been reading Beyond Blue with any regularity, you know Larry Parker, because Larry is my most, um, vocal and frequent, commenter. He is extremely intelligent. Philosophical and sophisticated brains like his are the reason I kept my mouth shut in theology class. I let boys and girls like him duke it out with the professor over original sin or the problem of evil or how God can be both compassionate and just as I sat back and doodled in my notebook—or scribbled the different symbols of the Holy Trinity–saying to myself, “It’s all a mystery anyway, guys.”
Minds like his remind me why I should have studied harder for the SAT.
If you want to know more about Larry, you should check out his blog hosted on Beliefnet’s Community at http://community.beliefnet.com/doxieman122. There he has written some fabulous posts that give Beyond Blue readers a wider context with which to understand his comments here. I have included two of his journal entries or posts following this interview. i
So, dear Beyond Blue readers, here is our friend, Larry!
1) Okay, Larry. You’ve expressed your complicated relationship with God on many Beyond Blue posts, but it wasn’t until I read your journal or blog entry called “Wrestling With G-d” that I fully understood your perspective on faith. In that entry you write this:

I guess you’d have to say I’m still a theist, and more of a lapsed Catholic/Christian than an agnostic or atheist, simply because 1. I do care, badly, whether there is a G-d and 2. I believe there is a soul, whether it is destroyed on earth (if there is a h*ll, and people go there upon death, I don’t think Satan even has a soul to destroy by that point …) or preserved and elevated to heaven. And some theologians would say that the very fact that one doubts means that one admits there is a possibility of G-d; therefore, look at the positive — one actually has faith. . . . OK. Nevertheless, my faith is a weak one right now. Or — at most — one that is constantly wrestling with G-d, as Jacob did famously in Genesis 32.

You do wrestle with G-d so much in your writing. It’s wonderful. I hate to point to you and say “Believer. Believer. Sticks and stones may break my faith but you’re still a believer. . ., ” but isn’t it the people who DON’T wrestle with God who get into trouble? Isn’t the wrestling itself a form of prayer?


First of all, Therese, with the number of books you have written about Catholicism, and the posts I read on BB, you sell yourself WAY short on your theology expertise ?
I want to preface the entire interview by saying I’d like to focus on the event-based causes of depression. I strongly believe depression has a major biological component, but I think it would be interesting for BB readers to hear one man’s life journey and the stresses that helped kindle the brain chemistry already lurking. (My late grandmother had bipolar disorder most of her life; and there is a history of mental illness on my mother’s side of the family.)
If you go to my Beliefnet page, the first description you will find of me is “I’m a Jesuit-educated ex-altar boy who was seduced (in a good way) by Catholic ritual …” To paraphrase Robert Duvall in “Apocalypse Now,” I love the smell of incense in the morning. Even today.
But I have always had trouble with male authority figures – and in Catholicism, isn’t G-d the ultimate male authority figure? – because my own earthly father was more like Robert Duvall in “The Great Santini.” A military man, alcoholic, constantly traveling, and a martinet when he was home. (And who, I later learned, never wanted kids because of his own horrific childhood – but went along with my mom’s desires for a family.)
Being an altar boy was kind of a refuge for me in pre-pubescent days. That’s how G-d was to me then – a “higher father,” in President Bush’s words, guarding me from my own father and his dysfunctions.
But Catholic doctrine is, shall we say, not very friendly to the hormones raging in pubescent boys – or, for that matter, in post-pubescent “boys” and “girls” of any age who are unmarried. (Particularly if they are not, as I am not since my depression diagnosis, interested in having children.) So – although I was an obedient Catholic on sexual matters through high school (and actually college as well) — I was having doubts about my religion by the time I went to Georgetown.
There, I saw other people wrestling with G-d, who were themselves authority figures. Often the issues involved sexuality and gender – my Jesuit advisor who was gay and ended up having to leave the order (not because he did anything wrong – he wouldn’t hurt a fly, let alone a child); the ex-seminarian who grappled daily with whether he made the right decision to leave the track to priesthood, even though he dearly loved his wife; the radical feminist bitterly opposed to Humanae Vitae who was an equally fervent member of her parish. And my own doubts deepened.
Where the doubts extended from religion to spirituality itself, obviously, came with my depression. As you hinted in your introduction, what is the role of evil in the world? How much is free will and how much is fate? How do you balance compassion and justice? The Jesuits are wonderful educators, but their Socratic methods can lead to constant questioning and especially self-questioning – which is perhaps not the best mindset for someone with depression to have.
Many people, if they think of existential crisis in literary terms, go to Robert Frost’s great poem “The Road Not Taken.” But there is a short story by the magnificent Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges called “The Garden of Forking Paths,” that notes that life is really “The Road Not Taken” over and over and over and over and over again – like a flow chart gone mad.
Until life becomes a labyrinth, and you feel lost in it, and you want to find your way back out but don’t know how.
That labyrinth image, I think, sums up my relationship both with G-d and with my own brain. And, perhaps, that of many people with depression.
2) I also loved your journal or blog entry called “The Best Da*n Support Group in the World.” It was very endearing, and by the way you’ve described it in your comments on Beyond Blue’s message boards, I know how important it was to your recovery from depression. You were the group leader (facilitator) for six months before moving. So you’re basically combining two of my 12 steps of recovery: find buddies (or support), and helping others (or service). I realize your symptoms aren’t going to go away with facilitating a group, but do you think having to be there as their leader helped distract you from feeling so lousy on nights you wished someone else had raised his hand and volunteered for your job?
You’re exactly right, Therese – being a group leader could be wonderfully therapeutic, sometimes especially on the nights I could barely stand to go.
I call it the George Bailey and Clarence factor. Remember the scene in “It’s a Wonderful Life” when George is on the bridge, his car crashed, at his lowest point and ready to end it all. Suddenly, he sees Clarence the angel drowning in the river. What does he do? He forgets his own troubles and saves Clarence – just as he had saved his brother from drowning so many years before.
And thus begins the story of how all the “little things” George had done in life that he had forgotten about added up to a life that was literally priceless to the people of Bedford Falls. It’s a lesson I tend to forget about myself that I need to constantly relearn (and in fact, the lessons of “It’s a Wonderful Life” in general, about how “six degrees of separation” are real and priceless, are ones that I also need to relearn). I’m having transportation issues right now having moved further away, but I hope to be active again in the group in 2008.
One sad irony of 2007 is that, thanks to my own work in support group, with a new medication and exercise regimen, and with my increasing activism in the consumer community – not just here on BB, but in New Jersey on a number of levels – I have been more stable mood-wise than at any time since my diagnosis of bipolar disorder in 2000, after my second suicide attempt. Yet I have needed every bit of that extra effort just to survive emotionally – let alone materially – since I have been unemployed much of the year. (All of your kidding aside ?)
3) One topic I hope to address more on Beyond Blue and get more honest about in my own writing is the lack of confidence in the workplace and how you handle the professional rejection you encounter when severe depression begins to debilitate certain cognitive functions (like thinking, for example). I know you’ve struggled with this. Any advice for the guy just now unable to perform professional tasks and fearing a lay off?
I’m lucky in that, other than the occasional aftereffects of a sleepless night, I’ve never really lost cognitive function on the job. Even Topamax, a.k.a. “Dopamax” which so many people complain about, did nothing to hurt my work skills.
Even so, I can only hope you have a boss or human resources department (preferably both) who respect the Americans with Disabilities Act not only in letter but in spirit. Otherwise, yes, you could be in big trouble.
Let me give you examples from two of my recent jobs. I was the spokesperson for a school district in Virginia. I told the H.R. department shortly after my hiring of my condition. They said they could certainly make an accommodation. The “accommodation” was allowing me to come in a ½ hour late the morning after a night event. Which, it turned out happened two to three nights a week in the district – not to mention the fact I lived an hour’s drive away. It was literally punishing.
For all that, I thought I was doing great work for them until my annual review came up, and I was told – you have a few too many absences on your record (we’re talking 12, not 30) so we’re going to have to let you go. I asked point blank if this had anything to do with my depression; they smiled sweetly and said no.
I was discharged on the very same day I won a major award for my public relations work on behalf of the school district. And the local newspaper wrote an editorial attacking the school district for their decision. So you tell me.
But, I didn’t want to fight it with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC), so I moved back to the New York/New Jersey area for my next job. Where the exact same thing happened. I disclosed my condition to H.R.; this time they declined to make an accommodation; and shortly thereafter I was downsized – ostensibly because my functions would be picked up by an outside public relations firm.
Fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice, shame on me. So I fought this with the EEOC. They agreed I had a preliminary case.
A few months later, I received a giant FedEx binder at my apartment, carbon copied to the EEOC. In it was every single memo and every single e-mail I had ever written for the company. The sections with quotes like “I need help with this project” or “I’m not sure which direction in which to go with this assignment” or “This might not work now that the parameters have changed” were highlighted to make me look incompetent. Needless to say, the EEOC denied my claim. Ugh.
Of course I’ve had good bosses as well. But perhaps not coincidentally, two of my best ones had depression or bipolar disorder as well.
4) Suicide attempts. You’ve had two and at very vulnerable times: one when you were thirteen and your parents split and your mom was remarrying, the other shortly after your separation from you ex-wife, having come down hard from a manic spell and for which you were hospitalized for a week. This points to what so many psychiatrists and psychologists say about an emotional or psychological trigger. It is also what I struggle with when journalists respond to the suicide attempts of celebrities like Owen Wilson—“Ahh, but he had just broke up with Kate Hudson” says the press. How do you explain the formula—how much illness, how much emotional trigger–of what happened inside you at those two times—why you were more desperate or more ill than at other times?
Well, it might be illustrative to say that, as much as I complain about E. (my ex-wife) on BB, I still consider my wedding day the happiest day or my life. Why do I say that? Because marriage is an occasion when families come together to celebrate a couple’s new life, their ideals, their hopes, and their dreams. I realized that day why many girls and young women – even self-styled feminists – look forward so much to their wedding days, years or even decades before they actually meet their future husband.
So imagine the horror when that life and all the ideals, hopes and dreams come crashing down. Even with my father’s absences and punishments and alcoholism, he was still the only father I had ever known. To see him suddenly, literally replaced by a new stepfather within months of my parents’ divorce (while completely understandable on my mother’s part) was nevertheless devastating. (Of course, my dad remarried within weeks of the divorce becoming final, so at least my mom showed more discretion — I guess.)
And all that much more is the horror when the ideals, hopes and dreams destroyed are not those of parents, but one’s own. Particularly in my Catholic guilt – and my desire, now ruined in failure, not to repeat my parents’ divorce – it felt like an end of life, far more than marriage. (Well, that and the fact in my hyperstress I averaged about three hours sleep for six weeks on end – mania, much?)
But one other factor must be mentioned with the earlier suicide attempt – I was being tormented by a group of boys at my middle school, a bit like young Megan Meier in Missouri was heartbreakingly pushed to suicide at age 13 last year by people around her (including adults) using online messaging. (See http://community.beliefnet.com/blogs/2583 for more on this tragic case.)
Back in the old days, it was getting pushed into lockers (in the hallway and the locker room), having gum put on my chair, having my book bag constantly stolen if I let it even a millimeter off my body, etc., etc.
The leader of the gang was a guy named R. He invited me to his bar mitzvah in the middle of this, but said that his parents insisted and that he would make sure I was ostracized during the party and in school afterward from here on out. He lived up to his word. Eventually, we ended up getting into a fistfight in front of the school and both getting suspended.
What stopped the hazing was something very similar to what was mentioned in BB recently about others’ deaths dissuading one from suicide. When two of R.’s dear friends were killed by a drunk driver a few months later, yes, it taught me about death and the finality of what I had tried to do – but it made him conscious of the error of what he was doing as well. Or so I thought, anyway.
For the next three years, he begged forgiveness. I finally gave it to him. We became friends of a sort – though, given his constant “advice” to me that I was ruining my life, peculiar ones. It was when I went stag to his wedding in 1992 that he gave me the advice to use the personals (the Rupert Holmes “Pina Colada Song” kind, not the online kind back then) – which was how I met E.
R. and E. hit it off immediately. They were closer friends than I was with R., who again was constantly criticizing me and saying, “Your wife has all the right ideas, you should shut up and listen to her.” In fact, at the time of my second suicide attempt, R. – who was and is a highly successful entrepreneur — and E. were finalizing a business partnership. It was definitely a factor in my state of mind that people close to me were seemingly ganging up on me.
E. refused to see me when I was in the hospital – “You made your bed, you lie in it.” But when I got out, with my new, far more serious diagnosis of bipolar disorder, openness and self-disclosure became very important to me. And I had never told E. what happened to me when I was 13. So when tempers cooled, I did.
She was stunned. I know I’m beginning to answer your next question ? but it’s as if a light went on in her head to say, aha, this isn’t something he’s been doing to me, it’s something he’s been trying to keep from happening to himself – for most of his life.
She broke off the business partnership and supported me in confronting R. with the truth about just how close his hazing had come to tragedy all those years ago. His reply – “I don’t remember any of that” – was not very convincing, given how we had originally reconciled. I haven’t spoken to him since.
When I tell people the story of my bizarre two-decade relationship with R., they say it has a literary quality to it – like Valjean and Javert from “Les Miserables,” or Mozart and Salieri from “Amadeus.” I think there’s something to that.
5) You’ve talked about your marriage many times in your comments on Beyond Blue. From what I understand, your ex-wife had no understanding of the physiological basis of depression, and repeatedly urged you to “Buck up” or “Snap out of it,” that your symptoms were signs of a moral weakness. I don’t really see how you could make it work with someone so unsympathetic as that. What would be your advice to a depressive in a marriage with a spouse who doesn’t get it and isn’t willing to learn about the illness alongside his partner?
In my quote you posted under question #1, about “Wrestling With G-d,” you omitted a very important excerpt:
(… probably the most spiritually lost person I have ever known — she was not a bad person at all, just lost; that’s the best way to describe it — was quite intentionally raised by her parents without any religious training. A wag once said that you send your kids to Sunday school — or Hebrew school, or what have you — so they’ll have something to rebel against one day. But I’m not sure it’s such a joke.)
Of course, I’m talking about E., my ex-wife.
BB readers probably think from my characterizations that E. was … um, the technical name for my beloved dachshund. E. could be a witch, no doubt, but then again I was probably a warlock in the worst of my depression when we were together.
No, I think what drove us apart more than the depression is that we married for the wrong reasons and didn’t have enough in common. (And not just us … my own parents still have nightmares about my ex-in-laws, who for the most part were lovely people, but who were also unbelievably different from them – think “Meet the Fockers,” with my albeit divorced mom and dad as Blythe Danner and Robert DeNiro and E.’s folks as Dustin Hoffman and Barbra Streisand.) E. and I had dated for two years and gotten to a point where we said we should either break up or get engaged … and, visiting a jewelry store one day, on a whim we decided to get engaged.
That’s not the basis on which to build a marriage. Especially when we had different ideas about G-d, kids, careers, money, you name it. That’s a house of cards – and my depression was just the stiff wind that blew it away. But it would have collapsed eventually of its own accord.
And something that should give a small bit of hope to BB readers is that from what I’ve heard in my support groups, and read on BB, if you start with the kind of commitment and commonality a marriage should have and needs to have, you can survive one partner’s severe depression.
Since my divorce, I’ve met two women I could have married. One was like the Jenny Curran to my Forrest Gump – a blonde-haired, blue-eyed Southern gal who I adored, and who had a giant heart and even bigger problems (similar, tragically, to Jenny’s if you recall the movie). That wouldn’t have worked, to say the least.
The other was almost my soulmate – exotically beautiful (she is the child of immigrants), intelligent, understanding of my condition, sharing most of my values (including my sarcasm!) … except she badly wants kids and I badly … don’t. My heart breaks that I would and could not compromise on that, but I don’t feel I can risk repeating a cycle of dysfunction. I believe that to have stayed together would have eventually devastated her, me, our potential marriage – and obviously badly affected any future kids.
Yet I still love her, and probably always will. We’re still good friends – maybe that’s what was meant to be. (And she has taught me a lot about Catholicism, her religion as well, and reinspired me to a degree.)
I still believe my true soulmate is out there; this probably isn’t the time in my life for me to meet her, but I know I will someday. As I’ve said before on BB, I’m an incurable optimist – and if depression hasn’t cured me, nothing will.



  • Jennifer

    Thanks for sharing with us Larry!

  • Larry Parker

    You’re welcome, Jennifer.
    As I said to Therese, if I hadn’t lived it myself, I wouldn’t believe it either …

  • Cully

    Wow, Larry, you’re a star! What a great interview. Therese, I think that this meant more to me since we *know* Larry. Very very cool :-)
    re:”seduced (in a good way) by Catholic ritual …” To paraphrase Robert Duvall in “Apocalypse Now,” I love the smell of incense in the morning. Even today.”
    Absolutely true for me as well, but I wonder if *seduction* can ever really be “in a good way”.
    re: “But Catholic doctrine is, shall we say, not very friendly to…”
    and that is where I took the road less traveled and found G-d (exactly as I had known/believed when I was a child – before Catholic school).
    There are two things you spoke of that I would like a little more insight on (if you are willing):
    #1 ” I was having doubts about my religion by the time I went to Georgetown.
    There, I saw other people wrestling with G-d,…”
    Here you mention two very different things – Religion and G-d. There are hundreds of Religions but there is only one G-d. Do you think that you might be wrestling to get G-d to fit your religion?
    #2 [speaking of your parent’s divorce]”So imagine the horror when that life and all the ideals, hopes and dreams come crashing down.”
    [then speaking of your divorce & marriage in general]”I think what drove us apart more than the depression is that we married for the wrong reasons and didn’t have enough in common…. if you start with the kind of commitment and commonality a marriage should have and needs to have, you can survive one partner’s severe depression.”
    First let me say that I am totally blown away at your insight (but then Therese did say you were a genius or at least had a ginormous brain ). Most of us are tripping over the same romantic/marital mistakes 4 or 5 times before we realize that if we do the same thing over and over and expect a different result… then we are nutz! Anyway, do you now think that those ideals, hopes, and dreams that were your parents marriage were as mis-matched as yours and E’s and that you simply repeated what you had seen/learned as a child?
    Once again – Thank you both for a great interview :-)
    hugz,
    Cully

  • Larry Parker

    Cully:
    Thank you so much for your kind words. To answer your questions:
    1. Fair point. You do have to remember, though, that Jesuits are a breed apart and do not embrace (for the most part) the most orthodox version of Catholicism; I think I was simultaneously attracted to their heterodoxy and struggling with how it fit into my more orthodox (small “o”) upbringing. And then, of course, the depression hit …
    2. One word: YES!!!!! (As loudly as it can possibly be screamed from the mountaintops.)

  • Belle (Marie)

    Thank you for inviting me to your post Larry .It does remind me that I too struggled with God for many years and that could have been alleviated
    if a caring person had come my way and accepted me the way I was .I thank God that my mother actually took a step towards me and asked my forgiveness before she died . In time I forgave the brutality that I still suffer from today

  • Larry Parker

    Thanks, Belle.
    Although in my case, I don’t think my struggles with G-d are over. Because it’s not just one person who has hurt me or who … well, I don’t want to say I’m angry at, it sounds bad and it’s not even true … I have issues with.
    Which means, I know I need to do some looking in the mirror as well and not just await an “I’m sorry” that may never come or, if it does, may be insincere.

  • Sharika

    I am so proud of you, Larry! Kudos to you for taking this step. (((((Larry)))))

  • April

    Dear Larry,
    The only way you can be a brain on spiritual things is your a pastor. and if childhood trauma is there, When your too youge to understand Mom and Dad braking up. I would go to Deliverance. I hope your a spirit-filled pastor ready with your word. they are full-gosple. Pray chains I will put you on. I think you should write Dear God in a Journal and tell him you want a job, it’s all His anyhow.
    http://www.delmin.com
    Prays Always,
    April

  • Cully

    re: “You do have to remember, though, that Jesuits are a breed apart and do not embrace (for the most part) the most orthodox version of Catholicism”
    ahh the Jesuits… little story about when I was in convent school… in my senior year (1965) on of my classmates got “with child” (hey, they let us run free on the weekends) and the nuns (Sacred Heart) were beside themselves with scandal, shame, guilt etc. and were going to *make an example* of this girl. Our priests were Jesuits and the most fearsome, ferocious, and loving one (Father Alfonse – G-d bless him) stepped up and put a stop to all the “gnashing of teeth” and when the girl began to show (about two months before graduation) she went to live off campus and he made sure that she kept up with her studies and got her diploma at the same time the rest of us did. Compassion… just got to remember that sometimes we are the windshield and other times we are the bug.

  • Larry Parker

    Cully:
    Were you actually studying for the sisterhood, or just in a school run by nuns out of a convent?

  • Larry Parker

    April:
    You very simply yet eloquently express the views of Rev. Greg Boyd, the evangelical preacher from Minneapolis-St. Paul I discuss in the “Wrestling With G-d” post.
    It’s a tough thing for me. My secular education is so logical, and my religious education is so Catholic, that it’s tough for me to fully embrace Boyd’s highly Protestant model. Yet I wouldn’t have written about Boyd if I didn’t think there was something … well, tempting is the wrong word :-) … intriguing about his idea that this world is merely a fun-house mirror of the next in heaven.
    So of course it will confuse us. It’s supposed to.

  • Cully

    “Cully:
    Were you actually studying for the sisterhood, or just in a school run by nuns out of a convent?”
    Posted by: Larry Parker | December 1, 2007 12:47 PM
    Larry, it was/is a convent (the nuns were Dominicans) and a high school. The next step after high school I wanted to take was to become a sister – a Carmelite… me, who can’t shut up!! G-d had other plans. LOL

  • Larry Parker

    Cully:
    LOL!
    Even if you (the general you) didn’t like my interview, one of the things I hope it illustrated is that our lives can take some mighty strange and unintended paths at times …

  • Lynne

    How nice to finally attach a face to your name Larry. You know my older brother is going through the divorce thing now and my DOES-NOT-GET-IT sister outlaw told my Mom his 30 odd tranquilizers were just to get attention. Oh yeah! Sounds like a great idea till you hit the E.R. I will see if I can get him to check out this blog. You’ve survived intact.(or mostly) I can see that you have a lot to offer and are’nt condescending in your explanations. How refreshing!!!You’ve got a hell of a story to tell, and you’re right about the strange paths. Well it keeps things interesting.

  • Lynne

    On a more personal note Larry…I can read your story and see all that you’ve struggled with and overcome and I am impressed…encouraged…and inspired to keep on trying to reach my goals and not give up on my dreams. It’s really hard for me to express my gratitude ,but know that you’ve been very helpful and a great source of information. Thankyou!

  • Jenna

    Larry,
    Great interview! I can relate to so much of what you have been through , and appreciate you being willing to share so much of yourself with others. I am on disability now, but also worry what will happen when I return to work…which I plan to do after going back to college in a year or so.
    One thing I have been told many times is that I NEVER QUIT! You sound the same, and I will keep you in my thoughts and prayers.
    God bless, Jenna :)

  • Cully

    Larry
    how do I sign up to be a Bnet friend?

  • Larry Parker

    Cully:
    My name in the Beliefnet Community is “doxieman122,” just as it says on Therese’s hyperlinks to my journal/mini-blog.
    If you have your own Beliefnet Community name/home page, just send the request to be a Beliefnet “friend” — and please, everyone from Beyond Blue, I’d love it if you did too!!! — and I’ll gladly “accept” and we’ll go from there.

  • Larry Parker

    Jenna:
    Thanks so much for your kind words (and prayers!!).
    One note on your disability filing:
    Remember what I said in the interview about being lucky not to suffer any cognitive defects (at least anything particularly noticeable) either from depression itself or from the medication? This is so true that my psychiatric provider/therapist has refused to sign any form for me to file for disability — she has said, by medical ethics, she is bound not to lie and say I’m not capable of working professionally when I am. Which actually is quite a compliment, I suppose. (She just sent me a note congratulating me on this very interview.)
    And you remind me that I am VERY, VERY lucky, despite my current unemployment, because I know not only you but so many people in my support group in New Brunswick and so many people in general with depression are forced to go on disability — it is too paralyzing, at least at times. I hope you are in a good place in recovery since you are in college now.
    If you don’t mind me asking, Jenna, what are you studying? Is it a subject that you are excited about making a career in once you graduate?
    Because I think that’s the key. In my case, the best way to put it is that I couldn’t NOT be a writer.

  • Larry Parker

    Lynne:
    I am so sorry about your brother, and that he has such lack of support from your sister-in-law. Since our blog-mistress is Catholic (and her most famous book is “Why I Like Being Married” — and why wouldn’t she; for his goofiness Eric clearly adores Therese) I never want to explicitly ENCOURAGE divorce, but … ;-P
    As I said about my ex-wife, the light bulb went on in her head a few months too late to save our marriage. But as I also said in this interview, we had too little in common anyway; it was still for the best, I think, that we went our separate ways to make our own lives.
    Lynne, here’s a very odd coincidence. You complimented me, basically, for explaining my beliefs and experiences in an intelligent way without being condescending. (And thank you again.)
    You may recall a few months ago, when Therese introduced us to her SEF (“self-esteem file”), where she keeps every written compliment she ever gets to remind her of her worthiness on her worst days.
    I replied to that post that E., my ex-wife, gave me my own “self-esteem file” in the form of a framed plaque for my 30th birthday, composed of dozens of compliments by my friends and family. (Her own comments were quite diffident for a spouse, which should have rung alarm bells for me, and actually sort of did.)
    Anyway, someone wrote on the plaque just what you praised me for — that I know how to relate to people in an intelligent way without being condescending.
    Guess who wrote that comment?
    R., my lifelong “frenemy.”
    As Margaret Thatcher famously said, “It’s a funny old world.”

  • Larry Parker

    Lynne (and everyone):
    When I agreed with Therese to do this interview (she asked me, but I’ll admit, I have enough of a writer’s ego that she didn’t need to threaten me or anything …), I was never aiming to “inspire” people. I just wanted to offer some empathy — that all the five-letter-word-starting-with-C-and-ending-with-Y things that have happened to you thanks to these conditions have happened to someone else too.
    And then some.
    Or so I thought, anyway.
    Both in the comboxes and in my e-mail, I’ve heard stories that, I admit, have made my hair curl — people simultaneously thanking me for writing yet sharing horrors that I could never imagine, let alone have had to experience. And it reminds me that I’m lucky — or even, in the spirit of BB, blessed — in some ways, for all my difficulties. So it is really I who should thank you, not the other way around.
    Although saying I “inspire,” while it’s generous and appreciated, is probably a bit overboard. What I think I’ve realized I do — in the process of doing this interview, in hearing all of your wonderful words, and frankly in all the terrific writing Therese has done recently on the subject — is **persevere.**
    It’s a skill I’ve had to learn the VERY hard way. Remember, since many of you have praised my intelligence, it’s a curse in a way when you figure that my education from kindergarten to graduate school REWARDED me for perfectionism. I was the perfectionist’s perfectionist, and I still have to work on it.
    Yet I’m also like one of those weighted Bozo inflatable dolls. If you knock me down, I go down (and, thanks to this disease, I may stay down for awhile); but eventually, even if takes a long time, I bounce back up.
    And even if, as Smokey Robinson might say, I also cry the tears of a clown. As do we all at times :-(

  • Cully

    Cully:
    If you have your own Beliefnet Community name/home page, just send the request to be a Beliefnet “friend” — and please, everyone from Beyond Blue, I’d love it if you did too!!! — and I’ll gladly “accept” and we’ll go from there.
    Posted by: Larry Parker | December 2, 2007 12:04 AM
    Larry… and everyone…
    http://community.beliefnet.com/cully

  • joanna

    Help? I’m trying to sign up for the self-esteem group on saturday. How do I go about it.

  • Doug

    Larry, I always enjoy seeing the wizard behind the curtain. This was a joy to read.

  • Another Larry

    Thankyou for sharing your story with me.

  • susan

    Larry,
    Tis an honour to know you in real life.

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    I love your blog.. very nice colors & theme. Did you
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