Wednesday, January 28, 2015

Bell Let's Talk

Have you ever heard, "You're not alone," when you're going through problems or maybe just depressed? I just think -- wow, there must be a billion-gazillion-wazillion people roaming around the earth right now and there's not one person to go to for help, or to talk to, or maybe just to vent to. I mean, realistically, there is, but how realistic is it to call up one of your friends and say, "Ugh, I am having a hard time." Generally speaking, I just imagine the other person on the phone thinking, "Umm, yeah me too. Deal with it." So, I don't call people about my bullshit because people have enough of it of their own. Nobody's life is "easy" -- 'n I don't care if you think they do diddly squat all day -- it's not. Sometimes when you're in a larger family, especially full of women like myself, telling one person is the same as blasting it out on a megaphone in Times Square. I know a few friends who sometimes blast their sadness onto Facebook status' or tweets and I think, "You're not going to get genuine and sincere help -- you're going to get busybodies all up in your bidniz!" But, there are good people out there that will take you seriously and who will help you on social media. But what's it worth?

Maybe a life...?

Just the other day, I was having a "I-don't-have-a-purpose-in-life" day. I was feeling a bit depressed and just crawled into my own little safe cocoon with the ringer off. I thought I loved what I did for a living, but it kinda made a lefthand turn into Albuquerque, where I thought, "I have no purpose. Why am I doing this?" I went through every sort of negative thought pattern that progressed and progressed:
  • I feel ugly
  • My work is shit
  • My relationship is ending
  • I feel like a failure
  • I have no purpose
  • I'm getting old
  • I'm too old
  • Life is done
  • I want out
It was then I received a comment on my profile photo on Facebook from a friend named, JoAnne. She said, "Gorgeous lady with the biggest heart. Fabulous cook, stellar writer, advocate for gay rights...and there's plenty more. Thanks for sharing, Deb. You are our gift." I haven't heard something like that in a very long time. She basically took all of my negative thought patterns and put them in a beautiful perspective for me -- a perspective that I was blind to see. I still doubt many things on that list -- call it modesty or just call it self-loathing, I just have a hard time digesting compliments sometimes. And oddly enough, as I went through those negative feelings, her comment came just at the right time. It was just a few words that turned my negative thinking a little more positive. That's all it takes sometimes -- for you to hear your worth and what people see of you -- not what you see of yourself.

Between being snowbound at home and trying to cope with SAD (Seasonal Affective Disorder), I started to realize why I was feeling this way. For me, it seems like everything kind of comes to a screeching halt in the winter. Life stops. Roads close...cabin fever sets in, and that's it. I also found a pattern with my depressive episodes. Right before February makes its round across the calendar, I go into a major funk. Then I think, "I have a birthday coming up on the 4th." I used to get excited about it, but not after I turned 39. That was the last year -- the "last dance" of being in my thirties. Even my 30th birthday somehow freaked me out. I was no longer "the baby" or "that kid" or "that girl". I was "the lady over there" and the person you'd call, "ma'am" while grabbing my attention. Some call being 40 "middle age" and others say, "Oh you're still a baby," while lying through their teeth. But, you're only as young as you feel, right? Eh. 

As an "adult" (an immature one), there's a stigma with people being "depressed" at my age. I remember back in the day whenever someone would go through an extreme depressive episode, they would say, "Oh didja' hear she went through a nervous breakdown?" What is that? 

They Mayo Clinic states that a nervous breakdown is this:
"The term 'nervous breakdown' is sometimes used to describe a stressful situation in which someone becomes temporarily unable to function normally in day-to-day life. It's commonly understood to occur when life's demands become physically and emotionally overwhelming. The term was frequently used in the past to cover a variety of mental disorders, but it's used less often today. Nervous breakdown isn't a medical term, however, nor does it indicate a specific mental illness. But that doesn't mean it's a normal or a healthy response to stress. A nervous breakdown may indicate an underlying mental health problem that needs attention, such as depression or anxiety. Signs of a nervous breakdown vary from person to person and depend on the underlying cause. Exactly what constitutes a nervous breakdown also varies from one culture to another. Generally, it's understood to mean that a person is no longer able to function normally.
For example, he or she may:
Call in sick to work for days or longer
Avoid social engagements and miss appointments
Have trouble following healthy patterns of eating, sleeping and hygiene
A number of other unusual or dysfunctional behaviors may be considered signs and symptoms of a nervous breakdown."


Aside from the hygiene part, I'm nodding my head, yes yes and yes. I think it's safe to say we all went through this. When my mother used to talk about nervous breakdowns when I was a kid in the late 70's (yes I'm old) -- I envisioned a woman (yes middle aged) shaking and trembling in the corner screaming her lungs out. But now, "nervous breakdown" is just like manic depression turning into bipolar disorder. Every term sort of shifts and morphs into another diagnosis. I truly believe that many psychiatric doctors and social workers can't pinpoint a diagnosis because we all have such different ailments, life situations and coping mechanisms. It's very challenging to sit there and give an exact "science" and answer and especially a label to what someone is going through. I'd call it, "life". What's so shameful about life? No one gets out alive anyway. Lame sarcasm, but true.

In all honesty, I think it's so unhealthy for people to keep all of their emotions and problems inside. Maybe I'm different, but even when I have problems at home, I talk about it with my family and friends. Without totally bashing whoever and whatever, it can be a healthy outlet. I never understood why some people who were having trouble in their marriages or having family issues would keep everything so "hush hush" as if they were the only ones who went through this sort of thing. "Well, it's none of anyone's business anyway." No, you're absolutely right. But wouldn't it be nice to relate to someone who's going through the same thing? And when does it come to the point of faking life? When do you finally stop saying, "I'm fine," when someone says, "Are you okay?" When do WE start telling the truth and relating to one another on a much deeper level? And at the same time, I am hearing "dysfunctional family" used a lot more than we're accustomed to -- that being a good thing. We all have dysfunctional families to some degree! And that's what makes us all relate. That's what makes us poke fun at the idiosyncrasies of our relatives and in-laws.

So today is the annual Bell Let's Talk awareness campaign. It's driving the national conversation to help reduce this stigma and promote awareness and understanding. Bell has committed over $67.5 million to support a wide range of mental health organizations, large and small, from coast to cost to coast. Today, for every tweet using the hashtag, #BellLetsTalk, Bell donates 5 cents more to mental health initiatives. So let's start the conversation!  Click here for more information and get on Twitter and be apart of the huge chitchat about mental illness. What do you go through? How can you help? Let someone know that they're not alone. Share some of your own experiences, if you're brave enough. Start letting the world know that it's OKAY to talk about it. You're not "crazy" or "nuts" for being depressed or from suffering with anxiety attacks. We're all in this together.

If you or someone you know feels suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You'll be connected to a skilled, trained counselor at a crisis center in your area anytime 24/7.  I'm not ashamed to say that I needed them a couple of times. It helps.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Friday, January 23, 2015

A Thread of Hope

It was another sleepless night as I lay there awake holding my dog while she was wrapped up in a warm fleece blanket. I sometimes use her as a teddy bear when I'm feeling very emotional. She doesn't mind either, it just means more warmth for her. Any time my mother has to go in for a procedure or for a check up to see if her cancer has lessened or worsened, I get that same feeling as I did when my dad went through this ordeal. I remember coming home from a long day of sitting with Dad at the hospital. He was screaming in pain and I didn't know how else to help him other than to hold his hand. The nurses weren't quick enough to fulfill his pain medication on a time. His IV bag was empty and well, so was my patience. I went out to the nurses' station and screamed at them, letting them know that they were making my father suffer and that it was just inhumane. They all rushed in with extra IVs and bags of morphine, scared that I would've made more of a psychotic scene. When Dad nodded off to sleep, I packed up my stuff and headed back home to get some rest. It was early June of 2012 -- a beautiful day despite what transpired in that hospital. I grabbed a glass of wine and my new rescue puppy and just sat outside and cried. I cried my fucking eyes out. Lola looked up at me for the very first time noticing that her new mama had tears. I snapped this photo of her because ever since that day, Lola had become my only source of comfort in this world.

Fast forward 2 1/2 years, and now my mom has to endure all of these tests, procedures, chemo and radiation. She was finally discovering her own independence and a newfound outlook on life. Have you ever felt when things are going so great, that there always has to be something new to throw a monkey wrench into the works?  That's how it felt when we first heard that Mom's tumor was cancerous. The doctor didn't even say, "You have cancer." He said, "Well, the biopsy showed that the tumor is cancerous." I mean, I guess a lesser of a blow than "You HAVE cancer" -- but nonetheless. Our world was flipped upside down once again. It was a very long day and so, we headed back home. I took care of Mom, but she had developed a very high fever. She began to shake and shiver. The doctor suggested that I should call for an ambulance. Once again, shuffling back up to the hospital, but this time, with all of us being so incredibly distraught and stressed out over Mom's diagnosis, there began an influx family drama on top of it all. And so, I drove back home and went straight to my only source of comfort in this world.

Are my prayers being heard? 
There's really not a whole lot you can do to fix things, other than just try to do the best you can with what you have. And when it comes down to taking care of yourself while trying to take care of someone else, that can be very tricky. I'm lucky if I get 3 hours of sleep a night. I worry. I jolt out of a deep sleep, or even right before I'm falling asleep from hypnic jerks. It's caused by stress. My insomnia is through the roof, so you can imagine all the informercials I come across. I'm extremely tired during the day, barely making effort because I'm just too incredibly weak. My ability to pray has even come to a screeching halt. I don't know how to pray anymore! I don't even know what to ask for. I mean, God has already made up His mind about our fate and what's to be -- so what good would it do to pray about it? I can't change God's mind if his will is to do something that would crush my entire world. Nobody is immune to fate. Nobody. So why would my pleads be any different than anybody else's?

"Oh God, please don't take away my parents!"
"Please God, heal my mother!"
"Dear God, please take the cancer away."

I prayed for Dad too.
"Keep on asking, and you will be given what you ask for. Keep on looking, and you will find. Keep on knocking and the door will be opened. For everyone who asks, receives." - Matthew 7
That's what the bible says. Every unanswered prayer or a prayer that goes in the opposite direction makes me lose a little tiny bit of hope each time. My ability to trust anything in this world and beyond has declined a great deal. I don't even trust that my prayers will be answered. So how am I supposed to trust anything here on earth? I don't know if I'm being tested, but any time I pray or ask for anything -- anything -- it goes so far from my grip that it's merely impossible for whatever it is to ever happen. But maybe I'm not supposed to be "here" -- or supposed to be asking for "this" or "that" -- it's just. not. in. the. plan. And to constantly go around the same mountain again and again is just plain insanity. See, my problem is, I know that without a doubt, there is a GOD -- and I know HE is right here listening to me tappity-tap-tappin' away on my laptop right now telling the angels, "Ugh boy, we have a lot of work ahead of us."


God's "no" isn't a rejection, as much as it is a redirection. Maybe I just need a different approach, a different path, a different outlook.
"When you go through waters of great trouble, I will be with you. When you go through rivers of difficulty, you will not drown! When you walk through the fire of oppression, you will not be burned up; the flames will not consume you." - Isaiah 43-2
And so, I've come to the conclusion that this is life. You do not get 'what you want' or rub some shiny vase for your genie Jesus to come out and grant you all of your desires in life. I guess I need more patience, more understanding, more endurance, more 'storms' so I can be stronger for the next hit. Maybe God's just trying to toughen me up a little, since I always run back home to hug my dog instead. (That'll never stop though.) For now, I may take different routes to help me cope, but my understanding of God and prayer is quite different now. Sometimes, the answers are more evident in the silence after we've gone through the storm. And most of the time, it is only one set of footprints, but for a very good reason. I'm just hanging onto a thread of hope here.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Religion Roulette

On a few occasions, Dad would chitchat about his faith on 'the other side' and how he believed that there was definitely something out there. He never went into specifics, like talk about Jesus or the trinity-based beliefs, but more so from an agnostic viewpoint. My mother always had complete faith in Jesus and Catholicism. It was an interesting mix of beliefs. Dad would talk about his experience seeing his deceased friend as a ghost in between drags of his cigarette. "You kiddin' me? There hasta' be something out dare'. I saw Bobby walk right up to me while I was working -- you wouldn't believe it, Deb!" His friend died while inspecting a house that he was going to flip for a profit. The structure was very unstable and collapsed right on top of him. He was only in his mid-thirties. His son who was around my age saw the entire thing when he was around 8 years old. He was traumatized beyond belief, as only you can imagine. It was a tragic loss for his family and for our family as well because we were all so close. My father would also tell me stories about my grandpa (his dad) coming to wake him up at night shaking him out of a deep slumber. "Charlie! Charlie! Wake up!" And in an instant, grandpa was gone just. like. that. Dad wasn't sure what the message was, but it sounded urgent. Or, was it just a dream?

Lately, I've been thinking about my faith, my spirituality and the 'what ifs' -- i.e., the possibilities of more to believe. For instance, in the bible, it really doesn't say much about past lives or reincarnation. In fact, I think Christianity itself goes against that sort of belief system. But "what if" there were certain circumstances, to which the soul had more work to do, more missions to accomplish or, hadn't completed the mission it was on? I do believe in heaven and hell. No doubt. But what if there are situations that deem a soul to go back to the third dimensional world again? And, would that be a "sin" for a Christian to believe? Then again, many things thought to be a sin, really isn't in my opinion. 

Reason I ask all of this is due to a conversation I had with my psychologist. I explained to her that all the talk therapy in the world isn't going to help me. She is wonderful and she does help me by figuring out solutions to whatever issues I'm facing (and I don't mean to sound cocky about this), but I know psychology inside and out. I know the answers. I know the suggestions that may be given and usually are. The reason I have stayed longer than usual with this particular therapist is that she gives me unconventional suggestions, including her own life experiences. That's huge. So, it feels like someone really knows what I'm going through and isn't sitting there bullshitting me while staring at the clock the entire time. I have actually seen her cry for me, whether from a commonality or just simply being an emotional and compassionate person. Nonetheless, all good qualities. 

Since I explained that all the 'talk therapy' isn't going to help me, because I feel like it's something deeper, she suggested for me to see a colleague of hers. She specializes in both talk therapy as well as holistic and spiritual practices. One type of service she provides is past life regression therapy. As a Christian, I'm taught to 'cringe' at these things, but what if there is something out there that needs to be addressed from a past life? Or is it dangerous to tread through these past waters? Will it conjure up bad memories or add on more trauma? I'm worried and scared that this is a place that I shouldn't tap into. And it has nothing to do with the therapist being a psychic or telling you some strange intuitive reading. From what I read, it's basically hypnosis (really meditation) and memories that aren't exactly "yours" so to speak. I've never tried it, I'm not knocking it, but I'm afraid that this may be too 'out there' for me. 

It's not clear in the bible what's good and what's bad. It does state that we shouldn't rely on psychics and prophets, yet it does say that God gives the gift of intuitiveness -- the gifts of a prophet. Sometimes I wonder why the bible contradicts itself a lot. In one chapter, drinking wine is bad. In a few other chapters, one says that drinking a little wine may help with digestion and in another, of course you heard that Jesus made water into wine. So how can all of this be in one big book of rules, and which passages are to be taken literally -- or to be taken as a "command"? God gives people the gift to speak in tongues, while another person in the church will interpret it. I have experienced this in a previous church and I have to say it's amazing. I really didn't know what was going on because some guy stood up talking in this strange language I've never heard before. After he spoke, another person rose up and started interpreting what the gentleman before him said. Was is real? Or what is a show? 

Our journey is our own.
I guess instead of asking everyone what they think I should do, because everyone will have an opinion basing it on their beliefs which isn't concrete to begin with, I should just pray on it and see what feels right for me. Isn't it strange when you have faith in something, that it can sometimes dwindle down into a bunch of unanswered questions that leave you sort of doubting your beliefs? We're never gonna get straightforward answers to black and white spirituality, because I think spirituality is a bit more complex than we thought. It's not about rules and regulations. It's about your journey, it's about my journey, and how to handle our struggles as human beings. There is no "right" or "wrong" -- but there are mistakes, corrections, forgiveness, understanding and endurance. Maybe reincarnation is about getting it right the second, third of fourth time around? Maybe it's God's way of showing us how to do it better this time around -- a second chance, if you will. 

The psychiatric use of regression was first popularized by Freud in the 1890s - at first he used hypnosis on his patients, but discovered that he could make them regress equally effectively by talking to them. Today it is used for conditions including depression and sexual dysfunction by psychotherapists, psychiatrists, counselors - and in particular hypnotherapists, for whom regression is one of the main tools. I've heard that going to an amateur hypnotherapist for these sort of practices can be dangerous. Some remain in a traumatic state of a hypnotic trance that they cannot get out of unless they are taken to a trained professional. Not only can this cause mental illness, but it can also cause (FMS) 'fake memory syndrome', which can be detrimental in situations like, blaming a relative for sexual abuse when they never did such a crime. I vaguely remember seeing something like this on Dr. Phil and the woman truly thought that her father had molested her after going through a past life regression therapy session. Truthfully, I wouldn't want to know what my past life was like. I don't think I'm supposed to know. I'm not sure if I could handle it. Some report that their past life was so much better than their present life, that they fell into a deep depression that they couldn't snap out of, wishing they were who they once were in another lifetime.

No wonder there are so many atheists and agnostics out there. It gets so convoluted, doesn't it? There's really no "heaven" and "hell" -- what about purgatory? What about spirits roaming the earth because they had a sudden death or suicide? Doesn't it make you wonder about the afterlife? With everyone believing in such extreme and different ideas, beliefs, faiths, etc. -- I wonder if someone out there got it right. Or maybe after we leave our bodies, we'll see Jesus, Allah and the Buddha all sitting up on a cloud laughing at us saying, "Nobody's wrong. Everyone has a right to believe whatever they'd like."  It's all a game of religion roulette.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Friday, January 16, 2015

What Happens When Our Fears Override Our Faith?

Not a care in the world as we walked barefoot over to the area underneath the Japanese maple tree. My sister would lay out a big flannel blanket so we could all sit and read a book as we flicked off ants from our ankles. My other sisters would eventually join in and occasionally, my mother would come out and park her little lawn chair down to read the paper or to clip out coupons for her next shopping spree. I remember looking out into the view where the mountains meshed into one another while the lake below glistened from the sun. Sometimes my oldest sister and I would have deep conversations about God and religion, and more so, about the new age book she was reading about spirituality. It dawned on me right then that "religion" was the scare tactic, and that having a relationship with God was much more important. It wasn't about rules and regulations or the counting of how many sins were under my belt. It was about love, forgiveness, acceptance and understanding. It was on a much deeper level than I had ever known or learned in some religion class. My deepest fear as a child growing up was that I was going to hell for all the bad things I got punished for at home or what I thought or perhaps, who I was and who I would like when I grew up. I didn't want to go to hell for being gay. I tried so hard to be straight...for God. I had imageries of the devil crashing up through the floor and coming up to grab me down into hell because I went against God. I thought about the fiery hell that awaited me. I was terrified. Even though back then my sister didn't know I was gay, she made me feel safe. I remember I fell asleep while she read her book.

Recently, I overheard two women talking about their friend's daughter who didn't get baptized as a baby, nor did she go through the motions of a Catholic: CCD, communion and confirmation. One lady said, "But she's Catholic. Why isn't she teaching her about God and having her go to religion classes? She needs some sort of fear against bad behavior in life."  And it struck me odd, that she would say that because isn't that what it is? Religion I mean. Religion is the fear that society puts into us so we can adapt to a "perfect society". Religion teaches us that "this" is wrong and "that" is an abomination, so umm, don't do it. And if you do it, you'll go right down to hell, and that's that. So simple, isn't it? I know plenty of people who give their children the choice to learn about religion or -- "spirituality" on their own or push them toward something without the brainwashing techniques.

Everyone's worst fear is dying. You can't tell me that you're not afraid to die or I'm just gonna say bullshit. If you held a gun up to a holy rolling church pastor's head -- he's gonna cry, plead and beg you not to shoot. Why?  Isn't there something better waiting for him? Is it the 2 seconds of pain that he'll have to endure? Why is he crying? His "eternal life" is waiting for him -- a better life -- a life without agony. We fear the unknown. So, you can safely say that our faith system is flawed a bit. Our level of faith depends. But in those final seconds of thinking you're 2 seconds close to death, we face our own worst fear: our eternal fate. What happens when we die? Who takes us? Is it "lights out" and is science correct, that when a person dies, the brain releases all sorts of hormones and electric currents that make us see that little white tunnel? Is that why people who go through near death experiences all report similar findings? What about "my whole life flashed before my eyes" theory? It did! Your brain shuffled through the archives. There've been reports of seeing our deceased loved ones. Of course there is if you go by science which tells us our brain brings back the oldest of memories through our final moments.

But what about faith?

What about fear?

Can our faith reach a higher level of fear? And if so, can we get rid of the fear of death? Would we live more productive lives, crossing off notches on our bucket list? What if ALL religious people were to find out that hey -- your religion is just as fake as mine? What would happen if that was proven? Would we be angry? Scared? Embarrassed? Would we be morally corrupt and go about life hurting one another knowing that there aren't any repercussions from an "angry god"? Or would we start to love one another a little more knowing that we're from the same 'cloth' and that we are all in this together, no matter what god we had worshipped? Would all of the holy wars end? Would Muslims hold hands with Christians? Wow. Imagine.

I digress. My faith in God is a huge factor in my life. I want to even say that it even dictates who I spend my time with. Science vs spirituality is a very tricky thing, because if you have faith in God, you already know that science (GOD) made what we all see before us. God made science. God IS science. How can we even argue with it? I sometimes find myself cringing whenever someone tells me to pray to the universe. I'm just like, "Who do you think made the universe?"

I remember copying this passage into my book. As I was typing this all out, my hands just went by themselves, without my even looking at the words. I called Madelene in and said, "Look!"

She saw me typing without hesitation, without one error, fast, furiously and with angst. It wasn't my angst, it was God's.

And so, He wrote:
“Who is this that questions my wisdom with such ignorant words? Brace yourself, because I have some questions for you, and you must answer them. Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth? Tell me, if you know so much. Do you know how its dimensions were determined and who did the surveying? What supports its foundations, and who laid its cornerstone and the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? Who defined the boundaries of the sea as it burst from the womb, and as I clothed it with clouds and thick darkness? For I locked it behind barred gates, limiting its shores. I said, ‘Thus far and no farther will you come. Here your proud waves must stop!’ Have you ever commanded the morning to appear and caused the dawn to rise in the east? Have you ever told the daylight to spread to the ends of the earth, to bring and end to the night’s wickedness? For the features of the earth take shape as the light approaches, and the dawn is robed in red. The light disturbs the haunts of the wicked and it stops the arm that is raised in violence. Have you explored the springs from which the seas come? Have you walked about and explored their depths? Do you know where the gates of death are located? Have you seen the gates of utter gloom? Do you realize the extent of the earth? Tell me about it if you know! Where does the light come from, and where does the darkness go? Can you take it to its home? Do you know how to get there? But of course you know all this! For you were born before it was all created, and you are so very experienced! Have you visited the treasuries of the snow? Have you seen where the hail is made and stored? I have reserved it for the time of trouble, for the day of battle and war. Where is the path to the origin of light? Where is the home of the east wind? Who created a channel for the torrents of rain? Who laid out the path for the lightning? Who makes the rain fall on barren land, in a desert where no one lives? Who sends the rain that satisfies the parched ground and makes the tender grass spring up? Does the rain have a father? Where does dew come from? Who is the mother of the ice? Who gives birth to the frost from the heavens? For the water turns to ice as hard as rock, and the surface of water freezes. Can you hold back the movements of the stars? Are you able to restrain the Pleiades or Orion? Can you ensure the proper sequence of the seasons or guide the constellation of the Bear with her cubs across the heavens? Do you know the laws of the universe and how God rules the earth? Can you shout to the clouds and make it rain? Can you make lightning appear and cause it to strike as you direct it? Who gives intuition and instinct? Who is wise enough to count all the clouds? Who can tilt the water jars of heaven, turning the dry dust to clumps of mud? Can you stalk prey for a lioness and satisfy the young lions’ appetites as they lie in their dens or crouch in the thicket? Who provides food for the ravens when their young cry out to God as they wander about in hunger?” ~Job 38:1-39 
It was as if God was trying to say, "You stupid, stupid people!" But, this being my belief and that's all there is to it. So whenever I hear someone talk about the scientific evidence over the lack of religion, spirituality and so on, I just go inside my mind, my soul and my faith and realize there is so much more than what we live in -- this shell -- this huge slab of meat we live in day in and day out. We are so out of touch with our faith that we're now looking at everything in third demential outlooks. We can't see beyond it. We won't, because we need proof. We need God to prove to us that He's real.

"You believe because you have seen me. Blessed are those who haven't seen me and believe anyway." ~John 20:29

As for us getting along whether we are Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus -- why not demonstrate the love that your religion teaches? All of our books (bibles) have "scary stories" and threatening messages. But all of our books include acts of love and accepting one another as is.

Accept Christians who are weak in faith, and don’t argue with them about what they think is right or wrong. For instance, one person believes it is all right to eat anything. But another believer who has a sensitive conscience will eat only vegetables. Those who think it is all right to eat anything must not look down on those who won’t. And those who won’t eat certain foods must not condemn those who do, for God has accepted them. Who are you to condemn God’s servants? They are responsible to the Lord, so let him tell them whether they are right or wrong. The Lord’s power will help them do as they should. ~Romans 14:1-4
We're all so confused on this long journey of ours. We don't know whether to believe in 'this' or believe in 'that' or just not believe at all.  We become some sort of pessimistic philosophers roaming the world trying to prove to everyone that everything is real and all acts of faith are just out of mere fear. We can have answers to any quacky religious experience, even at times blaming it on mental illness. The most brutal of them all are the angry atheists who constantly bash us with insults, telling us that we're crazy or simpletons for believing that there is a god. So anyone who is a believer is thought to be "stupid" in their eyes. To atheists, believers have no other intellect other known to be all wishy-washy-tiptoeing-through-the-tulips kinda spiritual freaks. We're all living on some kinda cloud passing the time and spreading the fictitious joy.

When I woke up from my nap under that Japanese maple tree, I once again took a glance at the view where the mountains all meshed into one another and the lake below glistened from the sun. And so it was then I believed. I believed that there is no "science" to convince me otherwise. There has to be a GOD. My belief is so strong, that it's more of a knowledge. Nothing else can convince me otherwise.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Tuesday, January 13, 2015

It's Out of Our Control

For those of you who read me, you know I rarely write about the latest news or current events, unless it's for reasons of human rights and such. But today, for whatever reason, a story in the news hit me where I just can't shake off that feeling of "what if". A local reporter named, Blaise Gomez wrote, "Yesterday's Rt 94 fatal car crash victim has been identified as 32 year old Raymond Heine, from the Village of Florida. Police say he was headed home to his wife and baby girl Monday when his car skid on black ice. Officials say the icy conditions also contributed to a second fatal crash in Wallkill that killed a 22 year old from Middletown." I couldn't help stare at the photo -- people just like ourselves who have families, loved ones and a seemingly good life. What gets me is, something so tragic like this can happen to any us at any given moment. This morning my wife was getting ready to leave for work. She was tired and groggy with little to zero sleep. She can hardly mutter out, "goodbye" as she opened up the door to the bitter zero degree weather. The roads were icy and she was on her way to another full day of work. Usually, she kisses me goodbye, but today we were both in our own little worlds, tired and consumed with the everything around us. What if that was the last time I was ever going to see her walk out the door?

People die unexpectedly. That's something we cannot control. I know many of us say that we never take anything for granted, but realistically, we do when we put off another day or another week from seeing our loved ones, or when we say we're gonna be in touch and then never reach out until one day, it's too late. And no doubt, life gets in the way and there's usually too much on our plates, but when is too much, too much? When do we stop and realize what is truly important in life? 

What about balance? 

Think about this: God forbid an officer comes to your door and says your loved one is gone. What would your first thoughts be after hearing that, besides "how, who, when, why and....what"? Will you regret anything? Will you regret not spending as much time with them as you "should have". Will you backtrack to things that have possibly made you absent in their lives or perhaps, wonder if you could have been a little bit nicer? A little more patient? A little more understanding? Hopefully, Mrs. Heine has nothing to regret, but the tragic loss of her husband is just too surreal. From one day your life being 'seemingly' normal to the next, not knowing how to cope with life at all. 

We're so much more than writers, salespeople, accountants, lawyers, doctors, cashiers, waitresses, famous actors/actresses and artists. We're so much more than what our bank statement says, so much more than the home we live in or the car we drive. But we're all so incredibly "busy" -- too busy to enjoy life with the ones we truly love and want to be with. We're too "busy" to pick up the phone and see how our family and friends are doing. A text here and there can be done in between spaghetti bites, but a phone call or a visit can do wonders for a relationship between family and friends. Time is more valuable than money, but sadly, we need it to survive. If I were rich, I'd buy more time spending it with the people I love the most. 

And on that note, we're so disconnected from life and society that we don't even have real relationships with anybody unless we text them or find them on Facebook. I swear -- I do not know child who is above the age of 12 years old who can form complete sentences. They're so consumed with their gadgets, iPhones, video games and social media that their ability to verbally communicate is merely impossible. They all sound like they're having incomprehensible outbursts of gibberish -- only understanding what the another is talking about. Try listening to them. You'll think that they're speaking Greek. They don't know how to have a conversation -- a real one to one conversation on a serious level. When I was growing up at the age of 12 or so, I remember sitting with my best friend in the bedroom listening to music and having deep conversations of what we liked and who we liked and of course, what we hated. But it was a two way conversation. 

As adults, we're having almost the same problem, more so, having the desire to communicate rather than having the ability to do so. Even in relationships and marriages, when was the last time you really sat your partner or spouse down and told them how you felt about a certain situation? I'm not talking about yelling and screaming to high heaven -- I'm talking about sincerely asking them to change something that would improve both of your lives? And if the person truly listens to you, they'll make an effort. What if that person doesn't make an effort? Have they even listened at all? Will they regret that one day, things could have been different say, after you're gone? I guess the story above reminds me of circumstances where it's just like, "Welp, it's too late now" sort of thing. I don't want regrets or having something be "too late" when it can be done now. I don't want to be in my 70's saying to my wife, "Wow, we really should have lived life more." 

And maybe, that's just out of my control. 

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Friday, January 09, 2015

We Hate What We Are Taught to Hate

There are many heterosexual parents who feel that telling their kids about gay, lesbian and transgender people is just not their job. In most cases, they're really not knowledgeable on the topic, unless of course if they know someone who is gay. And still, that doesn't make them an expert on the community itself -- it just makes them more aware. The ramifications of not teaching your children about people of different lifestyles can be deadly, if not suicidal if they are gay, lesbian or transgender. If our youth doesn't learn that this is the norm -- that this is also part of society, then they will have no choice other than to think that it's a "freakish" thing. And how to kids react to "freakish" things? They bully and harass them in school with a pack of friends, or they get so depressed about being the victim that they go as far to commit suicide. Sadly, there have been many cases where the bullying escalated to even beating young gays and lesbians to death. Years ago back when I was in high school, there was this really nice kid named, Chuck. My friends had picked him up while we were driving going to go to another friend's house. After we dropped him off, I asked who that nice boy was, and they all said, "He's a faggot, Deb." Although they were nice to him in his face, the word "faggot" stuck in my mind. It was so vile and nauseating that I just remained quiet. I also couldn't believe that there was a kid my age who came out of the closet. So imagine my relief. "Thought-to-be" lesbians were called, "lesbos" or "dykes" and were shunned from social groups. There was no way in hell I was coming out in high school.

What about parents who have faith in Christianity and solely base their acceptance on what the Bible teaches them? They surely wouldn't want their children growing up to be gay or lesbian or even, transgender. What's worse about being transgender is, you don't need religion to be condemned for it -- so they have gotten more flak for being who they are. I've heard all sorts of religious blathering from, "Men shouldn't wear women's clothing and vise/versa" to biblical scriptures about mutilation, which religious folk relate to changing one's gender. All thoughts are based on physical attributes rather than the set base of anyone's gender being in one's mind.

In fact, in Galatians 3, it simply states this:

"There is no longer Jew or Gentile, slave or free, **male or female**. For you are ALL Christians--you are one in Christ Jesus. And now that you belong to Christ, you are the true children of Abraham. You are his heirs, and now all the promises God gave to him belong to you." 

The Bible isn't concrete. Your relationship with God however, should be. Nothing is in black and white and every single thing in that Bible can be misinterpreted, misunderstood and of course, it has been translated a billion and one times. One passage from another translation can mean something entirely different for somebody else. You cannot prove religion, you can only believe in it. Religious people also have to come to terms that there are other faiths out there as well as atheists and agnostics. Your religious propaganda does not apply to all people. Even if everyone was of the Christian faith, you cannot sit there, dictate and judge. Those are big shoes to fill if you're trying to play the role of God. It just doesn't work that way. We hate what we are taught to hate. Maybe it's time to change that around.

Early this morning I received a tweet from Malynda Hale,  who is a singer/songwriter/actress & model who put together a beautiful video for the entire LGBT community in memory of Leelah Alcorn. Please watch this video till the very end. She has an important and touching message that left me in tears. Thank you, Malynda for making a difference.

Please keep in mind that she uses all gender pronouns to include everyone.


If you cannot view the above video, please click here.

She cried and left the house today 
running lost along the interstate 
and she never imagined she'd be 

He knew no one accepted him 
So he planned to leave the world again 
with a message that someone would see
they're not in the world alone 

All he wanted was an open mind 
All she wanted was to take some time 
to stop falling 'cause she kept falling 

He never wanted to be just like you 
She only wanted you to learn the truth 
to stop falling 
cause she kept falling 

It's time for her to win the war 
cause she knows just what shes fighting for 
For a chance just to wake up and be 

And if we never see his face again 
is that how you'll let the story end? 
You just wake up one morning and read 
that he was in the world alone 

Cause all he wanted was an open mind 
All she wanted was to take some time 
to stop falling 
Falling 

He never wanted to be just like you 
She only wanted you to learn the truth 
to stop falling 
cause she kept falling 

Don't look down don't look down no 
Just keep down that open road 
Don't look down, don't look down 
or you'll keep falling 

Don't look down don't look down no 
Just keep down that open road 
Don't look down, don't look down 
or you'll keep falling 

'Cause all he wanted was an open mind 
All she wanted was to take some time 
to stop falling 
'Cause she kept falling 

He never wanted to be just like you 
She only wanted you to learn the truth 
to stop falling cause 
she kept falling 

Don't look down don't look down no 
Just keep down that open road 
Don't look down, don't look down 
or you'll keep falling ~Malynda Hale

Trained counselors are here to support you 24/7. If you are a young person who is in crisis, feeling suicidal, or in need of a safe and judgment-free place to talk, call The Trevor Lifeline now at (866) 488-7386.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Thursday, January 08, 2015

Methylchloroisothiazolinonephobia

There's gotta be a better way to connect with someone, whether or not you've known them for 5 minutes or 10 years.  Platonically speaking, have you ever felt that sense of mutual comfort with a close friend when you know that without a doubt, that you can call this person after midnight if you're dwelling over something? Or, have you felt comfortable enough with someone whereas you can contact them at least more than 3-4 times (sometimes 20 in some cases)? And how do you know for sure, that this person is welcoming your phone calls, texts or emails? If you say, "Well, they answer back," then I'm going to say, "Well maybe they're just being polite and then pulling their hair out afterwards."  I sort of become leery once I see the red flags, especially with a new friend. At the risk of sounding seasoned in my years, I sort of become reclusive once someone tries contacting me more than a few times out of the day, unless it's my wife of course. Granted, if a friend needs me a few time out of the day because he or she is upset or going through something traumatic, then yes, please call, text or message me however you'd like. But when is too much too much?

"Seen!"
I have no idea who this poor soul is...
With social media and the advanced technology of smartphones letting people know that your message has been "read" -- it's hard to say, "Oh, I didn't get your message." The message, "Seen at 10:45am" can cause some people to flip out once their friend hasn't responded in .09 seconds. We want immediate response! 99% of people have their phones right in their pockets or hands, so there is no reason to not respond right?

Wrong.

One word: Methylchloroisothiazolinonephobia.

What?

The word above -- not typing that again.

It's a fear of texting. It can apply to those who get anxious texting first, or just texting in general. In my case, it is responding or (not responding) to texts I receive. I haven't gotten yelled at (ok that's being a bit dramatic) -- I have gotten the third degree whenever I don't respond right away to a text. If I don't respond, I get the wrath of, "Why didn't you respond? You saw my message!" I also have the fear that some are secretly stewing over the fact that I am taking over 20 minutes to respond to their text message. It's crazy. Most of the time, I receive the message and I just can't text back right away for whatever reason, OR I just don't feel like responding ---period. We are in a world where we need instant gratification either by checking our emails, texts, phones, and I don't like to feel obligated to respond ASAP.  Wouldn't it be nice if people responded when they truly wanted to? Many people would 'get the hint' if they never received a response, but wouldn't that be a good thing overall? And what about the ones who have a hard time ending the text message conversation? It's not like the good ol' phone where you can let them know by a simple, "ehhh, okayyyy" type of sigh, indicating you need to go.  We literally have to say, "Let me text you later" or "Oh sh*t, phone!" (Don't you have to answer the call before saying you have a phone call? Think...

The biggest pet peeve of mine is receiving an MMS group message. They're text messages by your smartphone (or mostly your friend's) where they include a whole bunch of people within that one text. The worst offense is that you hardly know anyone on that list in the group. What happens here is -- let's say your friend says, "Happy Holidays" and sends it to you and 10 random people. Each response gets delivered to each phone it was received on. So you'll get a random message saying, "You too, happy holidays" by an unknown number. It gets better... You have those idiots that think it's okay to respond after midnight. I had one friend of mine who included me in a mass MMS group text messaging fiasco. The responses kept coming in even after 3am. I finally wrote a longwinded response to everyone on that list asking why they felt the need to include strangers on a text message, and why on earth would you respond at 3am if it wasn't some sort of booty call? In the same breath, I don't mind group messages with REAL friends on Facebook. I actually enjoy that. Plus, it makes it easier when we set up plans to meet up for parties or dinners. That's entirely different. There should be some sort of special place in hell for those who feel the need to MMS group message people. That's just my opinion though.

Recently, I went through a messy phase with a friend where if I didn't respond, she would keep typing massive paragraphs until I texted her back. The other night while sitting in a meeting, my friend kept texting me. The second alert, I thought it was just because I didn't check the first alert. So I silenced the phone. When I got out of my meeting, I checked my phone and saw over 10 text messages which were 10 full paragraphs talking about random everyday bullshit that she could have just told me over the phone or in person. She was bored and thought by texting me, that I could just read it over later and get back to her. I was overwhelmed!!! How do you respond to 10 paragraphs? So of course, I called her instead. There should be a 2 text message limit before a response. Get on that, Apple.

The Annoying Notification Alerts & "Seen" Messages


(Click off the mute button to hear this Vine video.) 

Facebook messenger is no better either. It's a goddamn nightmare. Not only does it notify you of a message by a loud and annoying clank of a wine glass, but it's another reminder that your friend has the capability of knowing what time you've seen their message...and have not responded. Another beautiful feature is that it lets you know if the person you are contacting is "active". Let me just tell you how mortified I was to know that I was still "active" although I hadn't taken out my phone in over 1 hour. (That's a huge feat for me.) I asked my sister, "Check my Facebook 'active' status and let me know for how long..." She laughed and could hardly mutter out, "You're active right now!"  So my question is: is Mark Zuckerberg making people a little zealous knowing that their "friends" are active? Is it giving the itch to some to message them since they're already online? There's a psychological madness behind it when you see someone "active". "Well, they're online anyway so lemme' just throw them a message." NO! For me, I get high levels of anxiety if my messenger, or text message notifications go off too much. The video above is hysterical. Shows your how attached we are to our devices and how much our younger generation is going to be even more glued to our instant messages, literally "instant".

So my question to all of you who always have a smartphone attached to them like an appendage -- when is too much too much? And will this bring us to a new level of methylchloroisothiazolinonephobia?

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Wednesday, January 07, 2015

The Minds Behind Conversion or Reparative Therapy

It's just amazing how this world works. You have religious bigots who think homosexuals and transgender people are going to hell, while committing another "biblical sin" of their own. Their own radical hypocritical views twist every single biblical scripture there is for their own agenda. Their agenda being: to change society to all heterosexual and "moral" people. They want everything and everyone uniform, in fear that the world they live in will be one filled with different people. Bigots hate change. They want "their own kind" only.  But then there's a whole other kind of bigotry going on in this world, and sadly, it's from our own gay and lesbian community. I have encountered more than a handful of lesbian women who have all stated that they would feel very uncomfortable, and would not welcome transgender women using the same restroom as they would. In fact, they also stated that they would feel "invaded" that a transgender woman would want to be part of their "community" -- as though a "man" was trying to pass for a "woman". I find it so disturbing on so many levels, because here they are as a lesbian community seeking out acceptance from society, all the while not giving acceptance of their own. It's downright hypocritical. No matter if they're a cisgender woman or a transgender woman the fact remains, they ARE all women.  Same should apply to cis/transgender men.

There's this huge wave of self-absorbness, self-righteousness as well as self-loathingness with those who reject anyone out of what they call, "the norm" -- i.e., a threatening sense of their reputation and even, their own sexuality and identity. There is a lot of truth in that we hate what we see in ourselves. We fear what we may become. We are threatened when we're faced with our own possible inner conflict. And of course, the concept of, we hate ourselves so much that we can't possibly show love to anyone --period. There's a psychological reason why some people are so incredibly proactive in bigotry. There is this Facebook page called, Support for Joshua Ryan Alcorn's Family. I don't believe the Alcorn family runs this page or has anything to do with this, but the people who run it were exposed as sex offenders. There was even a slightly distorted photo and profile of the sex offender named, John S. Bulla. This hate filled page is still up and running, so if you would, please trek over there and report it as abusive. We don't need this kind of hatred, especially when we have lost Leelah Alcorn from the torture of being bullied by her own family. It's one thing to be against something or to not believe it's "right", but when you force a child no less to "conversion therapy", it exceeds all sorts of boundaries. I can understand if a parent does not understand why their daughter or son wants to be another gender, but isn't bad enough -- torture enough to feel that way at such a young age? And then on top of it, be made to feel bad about who you are. It's disgusting really. But my point is, here you have these sex offenders on a "religious" page still referencing Leelah as "Josh" and disrespecting everything that Leelah stood up for, in the name of God. Meanwhile back at the ranch, someone's getting sexually molested because of these same creeps. It speaks volumes on how sad this society really is, especially the religious society.

I've told this story once and in brief, I will tell it again. In a church that my wife and I were attending about 15 years ago, we were approached by an older lesbian couple in their sixties who had been together for over 25 years.  They instantly knew we were a couple, even though we walked in appearing as "friends" -- we didn't show public displays of affection, I guess it was just obvious though. They stated that there was a lesbian ministry. I was thrilled because they had an LGBT support group from what it sounded like. But that wasn't the case. It was a "pray your gay away" type of group -- where they would try and convert you to be heterosexual. When the couples each gave their testimonials separately on the stage, they sobbed, as if they lost the love of their lives. And they did. They were living a lie. They were living their life because other people felt that their lifestyle was "wrong" and "sinful". They even had a minister travel from a far distance to speak about the dangers of homosexuality for two whole hours. It was so sad to see them focus on this particular subject, that I had a few words with the head pastor of that church. It was at The Trinity Assembly of God in Middletown, NY. The couple (who said they were celibate now but just living together) had thrown a ton of scriptures "proving" that our lifestyle was wrong. Thank God I knew the bible, because I gave her many scriptures and rebuttals to prove her wrong. Her eyes widened as though she may have made the wrong decision. I'll never forget that look. She got quiet on me and then looked over at her partner.

My point is: they were "converted" by false teaching. They were made to feel guilty for who they are. God does not give the feeling of guilt, fear or depression -- his counterpart does. They had started their celibate relationship for more than a decade, denying their true desires for one another. Somehow, they still remained together, living together, restraining all thoughts of physical intimacy due to what some religious holy roller had to say about it. They were completely brainwashed into this conversion group that they couldn't possibly go back to...their "sinful" ways again. But I could see that the thought of 'what if' was there once I showed them my interpretation and understanding of the bible scriptures. The look of confusion, indecisiveness, and even hope came across their faces as if they found a lost treasure. I left that church after my long meeting with the pastor who kept repeating himself with, "God loves the sinner, but not the sin," and still continued my own relationship with God -- the god that wasn't present in that building.

I'll leave you with this passage from the Bible...
"Jesus said: 'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.'" ~Matthew 22:37-39
For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!

Friday, January 02, 2015

Leelah Alcorn Should Have Stayed Here to Teach Society About the Importance of Tolerance

Leelah Alcorn's parents are not "bad parents" -- they are just unexposed and consumed in religious teachings, which can be interpreted a million and one times. They know "Josh" and refuse to know the real person, Leelah -- their daughter who has always been their daughter. But think back to 10 or maybe even 20 years ago or more. Think about what the word "transgender" meant back then. Some, perhaps even today, still get "transgender" confused with "transvestite" because they have no education about the lifestyle. It's not just a boy wanting to dress like a girl or a girl wanting to dress like a boy. It has zero to do with "crossdressing". It's not a "phase" to most who are truly transgendered -- it is something that is as much valid as it is for you and I to be able to breathe every single day of our lives. It is not something to be taken lightly. These are people who want to be who they are. I like to use these below questions for straight religious folk to get my point across, especially when someone tells me that being a lesbian was a choice for me.

"Did you choose to be straight...?"

Same applies to those who are transgendered.

"Did you choose your gender...?"

Most answers will be, "No! Of course not! God made me who I am!"

Exactly.

Let's not forget about the unexposed (I really dislike using the term ignorant because it gives a very sour feel to it). But focus in on people who are unexposed and saturated with only narrow-viewed religious teachings.

Leelah Alcorn, 17, committed suicide Sunday by walking into traffic on Interstate 71 in Warren County. Leelah, born Josh, posted a suicide note outlining reasons why she took her own life.

Here are the statements made by the parents of Leelah:

“We love our son, Joshua, very much and are devastated by his death. We have no desire to enter into a political storm or debate with people who did not know him. We wish to grieve in private. We harbor no ill will towards anyone. ... I simply do not wish our words to be used against us.”

“We don’t support that, religiously, but we told him that we loved him unconditionally. We loved him no matter what. I loved my son. People need to know that I loved him. He was a good kid, a good boy.”

Here is the suicide note left by Leelah Alcorn. I know many have seen it, but I need to post this in case someone hasn't read this story and this heartbreaking suicide letter.

"If you are reading this, it means that I have committed suicide and obviously failed to delete this post from my queue. 
Please don’t be sad, it’s for the better. The life I would’ve lived isn’t worth living in… because I’m transgender. I could go into detail explaining why I feel that way, but this note is probably going to be lengthy enough as it is. To put it simply, I feel like a girl trapped in a boy’s body, and I’ve felt that way ever since I was 4. I never knew there was a word for that feeling, nor was it possible for a boy to become a girl, so I never told anyone and I just continued to do traditionally 'boyish' things to try to fit in. 
When I was 14, I learned what transgender meant and cried of happiness. After 10 years of confusion I finally understood who I was. I immediately told my mom, and she reacted extremely negatively, telling me that it was a phase, that I would never truly be a girl, that God doesn’t make mistakes, that I am wrong. If you are reading this, parents, please don’t tell this to your kids. Even if you are Christian or are against transgender people don’t ever say that to someone, especially your kid. That won’t do anything but make them hate them self. That’s exactly what it did to me. 
My mom started taking me to a therapist, but would only take me to christian therapists, (who were all very biased) so I never actually got the therapy I needed to cure me of my depression. I only got more christians telling me that I was selfish and wrong and that I should look to God for help. 
When I was 16 I realized that my parents would never come around, and that I would have to wait until I was 18 to start any sort of transitioning treatment, which absolutely broke my heart. The longer you wait, the harder it is to transition. I felt hopeless, that I was just going to look like a man in drag for the rest of my life. On my 16th birthday, when I didn’t receive consent from my parents to start transitioning, I cried myself to sleep. 
I formed a sort of a 'f*** you' attitude towards my parents and came out as gay at school, thinking that maybe if I eased into coming out as trans it would be less of a shock. Although the reaction from my friends was positive, my parents were pissed. They felt like I was attacking their image, and that I was an embarrassment to them. They wanted me to be their perfect little straight christian boy, and that’s obviously not what I wanted. 
So they took me out of public school, took away my laptop and phone, and forbid me of getting on any sort of social media, completely isolating me from my friends. This was probably the part of my life when I was the most depressed, and I’m surprised I didn’t kill myself. I was completely alone for 5 months. No friends, no support, no love. Just my parent’s disappointment and the cruelty of loneliness. 
At the end of the school year, my parents finally came around and gave me my phone and let me back on social media. I was excited, I finally had my friends back. They were extremely excited to see me and talk to me, but only at first. Eventually they realized they didn’t actually give a s**t about me, and I felt even lonelier than I did before. The only friends I thought I had only liked me because they saw me five times a week. 
After a summer of having almost no friends plus the weight of having to think about college, save money for moving out, keep my grades up, go to church each week and feel like s**t because everyone there is against everything I live for, I have decided I’ve had enough. I’m never going to transition successfully, even when I move out. I’m never going to be happy with the way I look or sound. I’m never going to have enough friends to satisfy me. I’m never going to have enough love to satisfy me. I’m never going to find a man who loves me. I’m never going to be happy. Either I live the rest of my life as a lonely man who wishes he were a woman or I live my life as a lonelier woman who hates herself. There’s no winning. There’s no way out. I’m sad enough already, I don’t need my life to get any worse. People say 'it gets better' but that isn’t true in my case. It gets worse. Each day I get worse. 
That’s the gist of it, that’s why I feel like killing myself. Sorry if that’s not a good enough reason for you, it’s good enough for me. As for my will, I want 100% of the things that I legally own to be sold and the money (plus my money in the bank) to be given to trans civil rights movements and support groups, I don’t give a s**t which one. The only way I will rest in peace is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say “that’s f***ed up” and fix it. Fix society. Please. 
Goodbye, (Leelah) Josh Alcorn" 

It's not enough that people suffer in silence, no less get tortured by the nonacceptance of those around them, especially their own loved ones. To make matters even worse, they are treated unfairly, bullied in school and at work and have built up walls against people because...people hurt more than anything else.  A brilliant life was taken away from us -- someone who could have helped the LGBTQ community with heart -- someone with a passion to help others. But she couldn't take the pain anymore. She couldn't absorb the lack of support by her own parents. I wish she could have just realized how unexposed and uneducated (in that aspect) her parents were. I wish she could have seen the situation like an outsider and said, "Eh, silly religious people," and then moved on. But sadly, there are more "silly religious people" all around us. They're everywhere, and with that, you need a thick skin to plow through the ignorant and misguided society.

And yes, I said "she" and "her", because that's who she was.

To echo the words of Leelah, "Fix society. Please."

Now let's just zero in on the parents for a split second: they were once proud parents of a bouncing baby "boy". They were proud they had a son -- probably as proud as they would have been if Leelah had been born a girl.  The initial anatomical gender is what they are fixated on. The "God-given" sex is what Leelah's parents are stuck on. Then add religious teachings on top of that -- "people's religious teachings". They haven't been given the opportunity to learn or educate themselves on something so taboo or "sinful".  In many cases, the majority of society cannot differentiate sexual orientation (like being gay or lesbian) vs. sexual identity. I have even heard some people call transgender people "homos".  They cannot wrap their heads around the differences. But it's all out of being on the outside, now knowing, not understanding and sadly, fearing. What does fear do? Provides the world with a whole lotta' "phobias".

Even my adorable mother was once introduced to a dear friend of mine.

"Ma, this is Samantha."

Her eyes widened, realizing that Samantha was a transgendered woman. Of course, she states Samantha as a "transgender man".  I was also asked if Samantha had a boyfriend.

"No, she still prefers women."

"What?"

In this case, it had nothing to do with religion nor did it have anything to do with nonacceptance. She had to learn what was happening outside her own door. Since I brought the situation inside her door, she is now understanding and educated about transgenderism and very accepting. You're talking about someone who grew up in the 1930's, 40's, 50's, etc.

My point is: maybe we should focus less on Leelah's parents and their lack of understanding and zero in on society itself. Put yourself in Leelah's parents' shoes for a moment, even if they didn't do it for their own daughter. See how it feels to be in a closed-in world with only religious propaganda to go on. View the world through a biblical telescope and then tell me if you understand what it means for a boy wanting to be a girl or a girl wanting to be a boy. Religion can be very blinding.

"That's not normal."
"That's not natural."

Neither was making water into wine.
Neither was bringing back someone from the dead.
Neither was making a blind man see.

I believe our entire society needs to be taught, instead of closing our eyes and only opening them up to religious textbooks. I used to think it wasn't really a big deal that people needed to educate themselves on topics that were way out of their lifestyle, but seeing how close this can hit home, or in this case, hit your home, maybe we should all learn. Maybe we should all educate ourselves on every lifestyle since one day, our own child may tell us, "I don't wanna be a boy anymore," or "I don't wanna be a girl anymore." What then? Don't chuck it up to "Oh they're probably going through a phase," or "They're probably gay." Dig deeper.

You can weigh in on the topic of transphobia on the FB page of "Support for the Alcorn Family" here. I wrote a comment to which the owner of the page responded with, "...it makes no sense!" 

Maybe one day it will.

For more of Deb's articles, please visit: www.debrapasquella.com or join her on Facebook and Twitter. Check out her cooking blog for some of her famous recipes!