Monday, September 22, 2014

At What Age is Considered 'Too Young' for Gender Transitioning?

Me at 8 years old.
Mom caught me kissing a girl one day after school. I was only 8 years old. We were playing "house" and well, I was the husband and my friend was the wife. We played this a lot. "Stop that!" Mom shouted. Soon enough, my friend's mom found out and we weren't allowed to play together anymore. "Normal" kids rode bikes and played kickball. "Normal" kids played with their Barbie Dolls and played "dress up". At the age of 8 years old, I rode ATVs and hung out with a lot of boys. I had a few female friends, but I was never interested in the things they were. I played video games and went off to the sandpits to jump off ramps with our motorcycles. We did pretty dangerous things. One night, I prayed to God asking for something strange. I wanted to wake up with a "pee-pee" - a boy's "pee-pee". I always remembered Mom saying, "Ask and you shall receive - pray to God about whatever it is you want." I took that pretty literally. So, knowing God would answer my prayer, I went to sleep with high hopes. The moment I woke up, I ran into the bathroom - almost as if it was Christmas morning. I checked. My prayers were not answered.

I overheard my teacher talking about how gays and lesbians were not welcomed into heaven. So, my biggest fear was God not loving me because I liked girls. See, I was a girl and I liked girls 'that way' - so I must be a lesbian, right? But in my mind, in my heart, in my entire being - I was all male. I didn't want to be a lesbian when I grew up. I wanted to be a straight man married to a straight woman. But, I wasn't born that way so it must be wrong to dream that…right? Back then, nobody, and I mean, nobody spoke of transgenderism or even the ability to have your sex changed. It wasn't an option for us. There were drag queens and butch lesbians - not. the. same. thing. I didn't want to be neither. I just wanted to be a normal straight man…I wanted to be, "me". 

Although those feelings and desires were very real, it wasn't until I was 13 years old that I discovered being a girl wasn't so bad after all. My friend used to do my hair and make up and tell me how pretty I looked. I began liking myself more…as a girl. I began dating boys too. I developed a lot of friendships in high school and managed to be content with being who I was at that time. I changed. And it seemed like I changed every single day. Nothing was constant - not even my little relationships with boys. I even had a little girlfriend too. So, was I bisexual? Was I a lesbian? Was I bi-curious? I had no clue, even when I was 18 years old. At that time, I was also engaged to a man who loved me deeply. He was handsome, had his own business and treated me with respect. He opened doors for me, we went to church together and planned to marry one another one day. But, I had to let him go because I wasn't "in love" with him. He was like a best friend to me. It was then that my desire to spend my life with a woman took over. 

I changed, once again.

Through my experience comes my opinion on whether or not young children should be able to transition before the age of 18 years of age. 

"My son wants to wear pink sneakers."
"My daughter only wears boy clothes."
"My son loves to put on make up." 
"My daughter refuses to wear a dress." 

Let it go. Let them wear what they want until they find out who they are. That's the only way. Nobody ever said anything to me about wearing work boots and flannel shirts to school. I had short cropped hair and I was always mistaken as a boy. I didn't care. But if I were to have transitioned during those crucial years of "figuring it all out", I probably would have regretted it today since I embrace every single part of my femininity. But, I had to grow up first. Kids at the age of 12 - 18 are still in that awkward phase - still trying to sort things out. Some people don't even know they're gay or lesbian until their 50's. They just didn't put two and two together. But when they look back, they notice certain patterns. That's a bit different, but yet the same concept. 

I am a huge transgender advocate. I think people should be who they are. The only stipulation I have is encouraging children under the age of 13 to suppress their hormones so that it'll be more of a better assimilated transition. It's so that their breasts don't develop and they don't develop a menstraul period. I guess in many ways, it would just be easier on them so that they don't have to go through certain medical procedures and surgeries. In the same breath, I also believe there are a few people who actually are 100% positive that they're living in the wrong body since birth. But how do you know since there are people like me who used to be like that and now have embraced my feminine side? I remember at the age of 4 years old, I demanded everybody to call me "David". I even stuffed socks down my pants so I could feel like a real boy. I knew ever since I was a tiny little tot. I wanted to be a boy - not a lesbian. Now, I want to be my naturally born gender (cisgender) who happens to prefer the same sex. To be completely honest with you, I'm not sure what I agree with or if I even have a 'right' to agree here nor there. It's up to the parents to decide on the final outcome at a very tender age. I'm just concerned that they may one day say, "Hmm, maybe I shouldn't have done this…" 

Arin Andrews taken from iVillage
The hardest thing about writing this post is that I have quite a few transgender friends who may disagree and/or get offended. The thing is, I'm not speaking out of my ass with this. I'm speaking through my own personal experience. I remember a former transgender friend of mine who was always extremely combative with me used to tell me, "Your situation is different. That's like saying you want to be a black man." I never quite understood what that meant, but nevertheless, she downgraded my desire to be a boy since birth because I changed my mind after the age of 13 years old. The point being: I was way too young to really be sure if I did want to be a boy. And if you want to state that it really wasn't an option back then so that's why I drifted over to my feminine side - then you're wrong. Those feelings would have still festered within me today. I have all the means to transition just as my friends have done who are all over the age of 50. I just want to be "me". I realize that it was a simple matter of just changing my mind. I just hope that other kids who have these same feelings as I once did have the opportunity to either transition (at the right time) or have the ability to change their mind if need be. It's only fair. 

What do you think? 

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, September 19, 2014

What Happened Once We Became Adults?

On a clear day, without a cloud in the sky, we'd run over to the sprinklers in our one piece bathing suits, hopping around carefree. It was usually while waiting for the pool to officially open. Grandma would be plucking peas out from their pods in a huge cast iron pot and husking corn outside on the patio while watching us all play. It was a simple life. Our greatest concern was running out of iced tea. Mom would be inside preparing dinner and getting everything ready by the time Dad came home at 5pm. Dad would start the barbecue grill up and if you weren't already sitting around the picnic table, you'd hear him yell, "C'mon! It's gonna get cold on yaz'!" After dinner, we'd usually wash up and get into our PJs and then gather around the living room television set to watch All in the Family, Carol Burnett and Happy Days.

Happy days…
I don't remember a sad one back then.

I wanted to grow up so bad. I wanted to drive a car and do adults things. I didn't want to be a kid - I wanted to be their equal. I was the only baby - the youngest of four siblings. So to me, everyone was an adult, because the next oldest was by seven years. I'm not saying it was bad, but it made me want to be older before my time. I never thought my adult 'me' would ever want to exchange ages. Now I sit and wonder, wouldn't it be nice to be 5 years old again? No worries. Nobody getting cancer. Nobody leaving. Nobody dying. Nobody hurting us. I remember the days when I would get an 8 hour night's sleep. I felt so safe in my bed, tucked in, all warm and cozy excited to see another day.

Another day…
Another day meshes into another.

And of course, I'll have another.
Well, I guess one of the many perks about being an adult, is
that we get to "have another". The soothing affects of the alcohol numbs us temporarily. We self-medicate, we seek ways to relieve our anxiety and emotional pain as adults. Anxiety as a kid meant that your cartoon got interrupted by a briefing from the president. Our relationships get more and more complicated. We become more complicated with developed opinions and beliefs that sometimes separate us from the people we love and of course, those we don't particularly care for. We find ways to avoid certain situations, events and people. As kids, we had to face the music whether we liked it or not. We now have a choice. And sometimes, having that choice alone can make you feel pressured and guilty. What if others don't like your "choice"?

What if…

What if the choices we made yesterday brought us into a life we don't want today? Well then, change it…right? With change comes sacrifice - something we learn as an adult. Ask any career person what they majored in college and 90% of the time, it's not what they're doing as a career right now. It's not uncommon or unheard of. People change their minds. People change their career paths. People change their marital spouses. People change…period. We're not fickle - we are ever evolving, discovering and searching. It's when you stop searching that becomes the problem; when you stop asking questions and taking chances on whatever it is that interests you. They say that in heaven, one day is equivalent to 10,000 years here on earth. 10,000 years! We are wasting our time with the wrong people, the wrong jobs, the wrong living arrangements and the wrong mindsets.

Mindsets…

It's easy for someone without anxiety or depression to say, "Hey, life's too short to be depressed! Get out there!" And that's where I'm at right now. My anxiety disorder has really gotten worse these past few months. I'm not gonna lie - my mother being diagnosed with the big "C" freaks me the hell out. I think part of my anxiety and depression right now is due to this whole fiasco. When I was just a child growing up, my worst fear was losing my mother or watching her get sick. And even though her prognosis looks good, I cannot fathom the "C" word over her head. I can't. She's my everything. She's my best friend. I. just. can't. deal. with. it. But I have to. I have to be strong for her and for my family. So, the mindset has to be "full steam ahead and ready for anything" at this point.

At this point…
What's is my point..? 

I'm at the point where I'm trying to take good care of myself, mentally, emotionally and psychically. Some days, I can't even get out of bed. As a child, I didn't even know what the word, "emotionally" meant. "Oh, put on a happy face? Okay! Cheese!" (And I still do that oh so well.) As an adult, I'm riddled with emotion every single day of my life. I have a lot of stifled anger issues that need to be resolved. The other day, I went to a new therapist who sat up forward, put her notepad on her lap with her hands pressed together and said, "Wow. You seem so 'put together' and very personable. I can't imagine you being depressed." I have a strange coping mechanism when I feel nervous. I start smiling and becoming very sociable - more than I'm comfortable with. I laugh a bit harder, smile a little wider and I'm conscious of my body language at all times: never fold arms or tuck them under my lap. I've been trained to never, ever, ever, even if I'm on my deathbed, to give a limp, dead fish handshake. I can look you straight in the eyes, appearing to pay full attention to you as I'm daydreaming about the end of our meeting. Even on the phone, I've been trained to "smile as you talk" by various seminars. I've become a robot.

I've been programmed to be strong for everybody else. I've been programmed to take care of everyone around me. I've been programmed to "not cry" or at least, in front of other people. I have been programmed to not. be. myself.

As I was sitting on the couch watching Sesame Street, I heard the sounds of my mother's flip flops coming toward the living room area. She brought me a chicken roll sandwich, with cheese, lettuce and mayo on white bread along with some Hawaiian Punch to wash it down with.  It was my favorite lunch. As soon as I heard her flip flops - I was already sitting on the edge of my seat. I didn't care what was in the chicken roll - it was just good and Mom made it. So how can it be bad? I didn't care about all the sugar in my fruity drink. Mom made it…or at least poured it. I didn't worry about the white bread - in fact - nobody did back then, until the "food rules" changed when we became adults.

When we became adults.
How ironic.

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, September 16, 2014

Hellish Bout of Misery

"There's nothing wrong with you. It's just anxiety." Those words linger inside my mind, "it's just anxiety," as if it were nothing - as if it doesn't keep me up all hours of the night to the point of being nonfunctional the entire following day and eventually, tearing down my immune system. So, I'm left lying in bed for the next week or so sick with a fever. I've asked a million and one times, "How do you fix it?" They all want to throw pills at me, but they don't want to work for their pay - I mean, really work, like helping me cope with this disease. And it is a disease.

Crying hysterically to my psychiatrist, "I. just. don't. want. to. live. anymore."

They usually jot down onto their notepads, "She's very 'put together' and knows how to deal with this. She'll be fine. She's just venting again."

"Again." 

The seizures keep me up at night. The sleep study techs all confirmed that it was anxiety-induced seizures. They assured me that psychogenic seizures aren't real seizures. When I look at my bedroom, all I see is a torture chamber - a place that I'm mentally and physically tortured by my own mind. I wake up, jolting up into the middle of the bed and then start seizing, sometimes even stuck paralyzed because I can't get any air in or out of my lungs. My dog crawls up next to me, to see what's going on. She lays with me until the shaking stops. When I fall asleep, she resumes into a little ball cozied up under the covers with us.

My poor Madelene wakes up with me too. She doesn't know what else to do other than snuggle up next to me until I fall asleep…if I fall asleep. The jolts are so shocking that it scares her out of a deep slumber. I'm not sure if she even has deep slumbers anymore since these have started. Neither have I. I'm so sleep deprived. There are times when I am so sleep deprived that I can't possibly drive the next day. It's become debilitating. Nobody ever understands it.

It's affected every aspect of my life: work, social, leisure, hobbies as well as trying to help my mother the best to my ability. But I'm so tired all the time. I feel so incredibly weak that I feel like the insides of me are shaking. Even just to play fetch with my dog has become a triathlon for me. Just to pick up a ball and throw it is my biggest source of exercise because I. just. can't. move.

For the past few weeks I have been on a strict Paleo regimen. It has helped me lose a bit of weight, but not the fatigue. I come down with the strangest ailments too - to which I ignore now because all of it is somehow psychosomatically related. At night, my face turns bright red with my chest flaring up in a strange rash-like something or other. My blood pressure is 110/70 - perfect the doctor says. My blood work is fine.

So then…what?

I have been called "selfish" and "self-absorbed" because I finally want to start living life with my wife. We were trying to have a baby, with two failed attempts. My body just can't hold onto 'life'. My hardest efforts to help my family in a now crisis situation usually goes unnoticed. From cooking meals, to helping out financially. It's all I can do right now. Our lives have changed since Dad fell ill with cancer and passed on. Now, Mom has cancer and it's all we can do to try and get her to her appointments. It's also very difficult to deal with this while walking on eggshells and avoiding loose canons by emotional outbursts from other people. I cannot emotionally handle that and it has become my biggest fear, so I avoid it at all costs, even if it means pushing away certain family members.

I have had to decline (or perhaps delay) some great projects with other amazing writers and also had to decline a few business opportunities with my video production part of work because I just can't focus. I don't have the time and when I do, it's trying to play catch up on sleep, which is impossible as you know. So please bear with me as my posts are lessening as the weeks go by, but I'm still here hoping that this hellish bout of misery subsides.

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!

Monday, September 01, 2014

But Isn't That What Marriage is Supposed to Be?

In a recent conversation I had, the person looked at me in amazement and said, "Wow, it must be so cool to live with another woman!" Although it wasn't an insult, I sort of felt the need to poke her ribs a little. I asked her why she felt that way since I view it as any other marriage. She said, "It's great, because it's like having your best friend be your spouse."
"But isn't that what marriage is supposed to be?"
"I mean, it must be really cool to share everything with your wife."
"But isn't that what marriage is supposed to be?
"You know what I mean, girls communicate more and do things together more."

If you're straight and reading this and thinking, "Yeah, she's right," I have to beg you to reevaluate your own marriage. Marriage is supposed to be two people, two best friends, two lovers, two people who are able to communicate with one another and share everything together and plenty of heated arguments. (Had to add that one in there.)  By no means do I have the perfect marriage, but I honestly feel that if you can't be your spouse's best friend as a foundation of your relationship, then your entire 'structure' will eventually crumble. I realize I could have avoided the obvious ignorance, or maybe I should say, the lack of understanding for all couples who are married, but I couldn't help it. I am so tired of hearing, "Oh that's so cool you're with a woman," because I rarely go around saying, "Wow, it must be super cool to be with a man!" (I think men are great, mind you.) But can you imagine me saying, "Must be cool to see him chop wood outside and plow your own driveway without calling someone. It must be so cool to have him build an extension onto your home without the help of carpenters." You get it. And of course, some men don't do these things. And in the same respect, some women don't communicate or share everything. Marriage is the same for both sexes.

Or is it? 

Many people feel that marriage should only be between a man and a woman and that it ruins the sanctity of marriage. I think the sanctity of marriage was ruined way before gays and lesbians. I have heard the most ignorant remarks about why gays and lesbians shouldn't get married and it led me to believe that there are a lot of people out there that need a little more schooling if possible. One reason was, "Well, we were here to procreate and that's not possible with dem' gays." Procreation has nothing to do with marriage. There are ways of making a family, through artificial insemination or better yet, adoption. Another reason was, "Well, a child needs both a male and female role model."
This basically tells me that all of those hard working single parents are ruining the concept of a "traditional life". What about heterosexuals who cannot reproduce? If marriage is about procreation, then what happens to those people who can't have a baby? Do they have to get a divorce before they ruin traditional marriage?

I'll never forget another sad moment I had with experiencing small-minded people who were so sheltered from the outside world that they didn't even realize that it was finally legal here in New York for gays and lesbians to be able to marry. My wife and I were going to another couple's house for dinner (heterosexual couple) and they were having a few friends as well as their parents who were attending. I called my friend up to see if she needed any extra wine or dessert, that sort of thing. She said, "Oh, before I forget, can you refrain from saying that you and Madelene are married or, even a couple for that matter? My parents don't understand it and are against that sort of thing because their religious views are very different from ours." I suggested that maybe we shouldn't go. I also reminded her that Madelene and I aren't the sort of people who scream, "We're here & queer" while walking into a dinner party. She understood and knew that we were very conservative in public -- not "in the closet", but not all up in each other's snouts trying to make some political or "equality" point. Although I understood exactly what my friend meant and how she truly felt, I was still slightly taken back and offended, yet expected it in some strange way.

This morning when I logged onto Facebook while having my coffee, Ryan Nickulas had posted an article from Raannt that truly touched my heart. It was about Indiana's gay marriage ban. Peter Ronn wrote this beautiful piece about his own marriage. Part of it reads: "And the really sad part is that all I want to do, is protect the person I love the most. After all, isn’t that what love is all about? I just want to grow old with the person I love and know that we can protect each other and our home for the rest of our lives. But apparently, that’s terrifying to some of these people."

He also explains his daily life with his husband, which is no different from any other heterosexual husband and wife I know.

He writes, "Before starting, let me explain a typical day in my life. My husband Alex wakes up and takes the dogs out before leaving for work. He always wakes me up and kisses me goodbye. This is something we started long ago, always kissing as we say goodbye, because we never know if it will be the last time we see each other. We don’t have the same luxuries as some couples. He goes to work and I usually go back to sleep for a few hours. I get up, clean the kitchen and get ready for work. Alex and I run a business together, outside of our “normal” jobs, so by the time I wake up, he has usually already emailed me or texted me several tasks needing completion. After doing these things, I leave for work, always stopping by Starbucks on the way. The barista I usually see at Starbucks typically asks me 'how are you guys'. I go to work and meet with my clients. In discussing relationship problems, I share similar issues Alex and I have had and how we have worked through these relationship issues. None of my clients have any difficulty comparing their heterosexual marriages to the same details of my marriage. It is all the same." ---read more here.

On a personal note, I remember years ago my father stopped me in my tracks and said something so beautifully in his botched up Brooklynite accent. He held up his hand and said, "Yanno' sumptin', Deb? You n' Madelene have it made. You do! Youz' two do everyting' tugetha'! You both help one anutha' all da' time. It's like an old fashioned marriage. Nowadays, couples do everyting' apart and wonder why their marriages go to shit. You two are sumptin' boy!" Then he paused for a moment and let out his wiseass comment of, "But I still think yer' fuggin' crazy kid," as he laughed and gave me the "go away" hand motion.

(Mad's gonna kill me for posting this one!) 
Without even acknowledging people who ask, "Well who's the man and who's the woman in the relationship" --- our relationship definitely has certain 'male' and 'female' dynamics generally speaking. I guess you can say Madelene has her share of "manly" duties, like lifting heavy things and fixing things around the house. (See photo on left.) While Madelene works outside of our home in sales, I work from my home office doing freelance work. I have more time to do things around the house, like clean, do laundry, cook and do the grocery shopping. I don't mind it --- I love our arrangement. As soon as we wake up, Madelene walks our chihuahua outside while I make breakfast and coffee. We always have our breakfast every single morning so we can talk and connect before she leaves for her 8-12 shift. When she comes home, I make sure she has a drink waiting while dinner's brewing. After dinner usually on a week night, we'll watch our favorite shows together, hop onto our iPhones and social media and go to bed at a reasonable time. We spend time with family, go to our friends' house together on weekends or have dinner parties at our place. We also do things separate from one another, such as hobbies and things of interest. On our days off, we love to go to the dog park and local farms to get fresh produce. We can talk for hours upon hours because we have the same spiritual faith and love for God. If this offends anyone or if you think our relationship may ruin the sanctity of marriage, then I beg you to look at other heterosexual marriages…


  • Marriages that have infidelity.
  • Marriages that are abusive.
  • Marriages that divorce within a year.
  • Marriages that demonstrate hate to their children.
  • People who have more than 5 divorces under their belt. 


Judge them. Otherwise, stop trying to justify your bigoted views on people who just want to marry the person they love.  And that's all we're trying to do -- to love one another. Isn't that what marriage is supposed to be? (And I didn't even get into religion on this one.)

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, August 29, 2014

Before You Take Another Selfie…

'Bout to have mah' baby, but first, lemme take a selfie!
No doubt, the ability to take a selfie with the reverse cam option on your phone was such a great invention. Nobody has to take your picture for you. I love seeing people post up shots of themselves or post up a really cool seflie for a profile pic. That's great. But I have to say, there is one thing that makes me nervous: multiple selfies. I know what you're asking - why would that make me nervous? Because it's narcissistically psychotic. There is no other way to put it. You know through the 4, 5, 6, 7, 8 pics that they took of themselves in a row, there's about 298 more of the same shots. It's like throwing a bunch of proofs up on Facebook and asking your friends, "Which smile or duck face looks better on me?" Below are some shots some girls took while feeling 'pretty'.
America's Got Talent - definitely.
2nd pic proves that duck face isn't an option for her.
"According to psychiatrist Dr. David Veal: 'Two out of three of all the patients who come to see me with Body Dysmorphic Disorder since the rise of camera phones have a compulsion to repeatedly take and post selfies on social media sites.' A British male teenager tried to commit suicide after he failed to take the perfect selfie. Danny Bowman became so obsessed with capturing the perfect shot that he spent 10 hours a day taking up to 200 selfies. The 19-year-old lost nearly 30 pounds, dropped out of school and did not leave the house for six months in his quest to get the right picture. He would take 10 pictures immediately after waking up. Frustrated at his attempts to take the one image he wanted, Bowman eventually tried to take his own life by overdosing, but was saved by his mom." - See more of the article here.

There are so many young girls and boys looking to gain approval from their classmates and friends. In the same breath, there are just as many adults doing the same thing, even some over the age of 50 years old. It's nice to hear, "You're beautiful" or "You're so cute!" No doubt. But when does it come to the point of relentless trigger happy shots just to see if you "still" look good?  Selfie madness ranges from the very insecure (less attractive) person to the very insecure gorgeous and athletic workout buff.

"But I work hard to get this body and proud of who I am."

That's great. But you're still looking for approval by taking a million and one selfies. (I'm talking obsessively only.)


You know you look good. You know you're fitter than the average Joe or Jane. And while everyone wants to be fit, and as some would exclaim, "Oh you're just jealous," yeah, maybe so! I would definitely replace my keg for six pack abs, but even if I had a gorgeous figure, my friends would be secretly laughing at all the neurotic selfies being posted up on social media. How many shots did you take before you decided 'this was the best pic'? We have this one friend who's a total gym bunny. She works out so much - God bless her. She's muscular, she has a ton of energy and she loves to take a million and one selfies. When she was over having dinner with us, she was showing me pictures of her new puppy. In her camera roll, I accidentally saw - not even exaggerating - over 50 of the same selfies. I wonder which photo got to be lucky enough to be posted. I admit, I had to look at them, pretending to look at her puppy. Each face, each pose was different. I was almost scared to give the phone back. This was totally cray-cray. I flat-out asked her, "What makes you think you're not good enough or pretty enough?" She knew exactly what I meant. She said, "I have to be the best at what I do, Deb. I have to." 

And she is.

But she doesn't think so.

I'm not saying people who take selfies are all neurotic - I'm saying there is a level of 'selfie-ism' that goes far beyond the average, "Oh I just want a profile pic" sort of thing. If you hop onto a dating site, you'll see a slew of them, but that's to show others who you are with a clear shot of your face. That's totally fine. The online dating site needs to have those types of photos. But what about the photos that reveal 'dat' ass'?  
I must admit, very nice! 
I get it. Very nice. These are called, "booty selfies". These days, having a little junk in the trunk is preferred. Every time I open my Instagram account, I'm seeing so many people at clubs and parties sticking out their big ol' booty. They face the camera, but their booty does as well, almost twisting around like a cobra. I've never seen this type of fad before, but I'm curious to know if these same girls would want these shots up when they're 30 or 40 or 50 - when they have a family, kids, a career…? Which brings me to my next topic: nude pics. If you have ever taken a nude pic and sent it to someone, your pic may still be lurking about. And to make matters worse, I remember being at my friend's house watching her two kids swim in their pool. We were just hanging out talking while the kids played. When her daughter came out of the pool, she sat next to us and asked her mom, "Why does Uncle "Steve" has pictures of his wee-wee on his iPhone?" My friend's jaw dropped to the floor. She was speechless. 

"What?"
"He has pictures of his wee-wee on his phone." 
"What?" That's all she could say.

Apparently, the daughter was trying to take a photo of their dog swimming, so she went into his camera roll on his iPhone and saw numerous amounts of nude photos of his bottom half, as well as other photos of naked women. How embarrassing! Well, my friend ran inside the house and ripped "Steve" a new one, yelling and screaming about how inappropriate it is to keep nude pics on his phone. He was so embarrassed that he couldn't even talk. He was busted. Obviously, he was sending these pics to somebody. At least keep a security code on your phone if you're going to be around kids or anyone for that matter. So now, the daughter is still curious of why he takes pictures of his 'wee wee' and I'm pretty sure she has it figured out since she's 11 years old. But still - ew. 

We have so much technology at our fingertips. We have the beauty of texting, taking pics of ourselves and others. We share almost everything on social media. My motto is, if you feel that one day you'll regret posting up half naked pictures of yourself, or something that would be very detrimental if you are trying to get a top notch position at your dream job - then step away from the smartphone, because one day, you're going to wish you never shared what you did. "Steve" is not only humiliated, but he can't look his niece in the eyes anymore. And although he's pretty much mortified about what he left on his camera roll, he learned a valuable lesson, leaving his niece still traumatized by the images of his 'wee-wee'. 

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, August 28, 2014

Abusive Relationships: Why Are They Addicting?

Recently, a friend had written a post entitled, "A Twelve Step" which spoke about addictive friendships/relationships and I wanted to expand on it through my own experiences. Let's use some fun clich├ęs first: "No two people are alike", "each person is like a snowflake, unique in their own way" - true true true, blah blah blah. But there is a common denominator among unhealthy relationships, and that being the addictive part. Like in an intimate relationship, the break up to make up scenario is one I think we all have been through. We hate em', we love em', then we hate em' again. It definitely takes two to mingle and two to really brawl. I am grateful that my wife is the polar opposite of me. She defuses when I'm up in arms. After seeing her calmness, that alone calms me. I'm learning through her how to be calm. It's really not in my nature, but I try.

When you have two people who are friends or in a relationship, who have both been through emotional abuse, or if they both have some sort of "emotional issue" (and I don't mean to sound cruel with that) - it will be a volatile relationship and most of the time, it doesn't end, or it does after a long haul of duking it out. Any relationship needs some sense of balance: one calmer mate and perhaps one who is a bit more 'exciting' (hopefully in a good way). But even if in a bad way, the calmer mate will definitely help in these types of situations. But one thing we can all agree is that nobody deserves to be abused or treated poorly.

But it happens.

"I'm sorry" doesn't cut it. You can't just hurt someone emotionally or physically and wash it away with an "I'm sorry". I mean, a sincere apology goes a long way, but the actions behind the apology, like proving yourself worthy is better. I have forgiven people who had hurt me in the past just with an "I'm sorry", to only have them come charging back at me in a raging fit. So when they say "I'm sorry" once again, I say, "Don't worry," with frightening predictions of another hurtful event. The trust is gone, but the offense has been forgiven.

But what makes an unhealthy relationship addicting?

As my mother would say regarding an intimate relationship, "She must have sugar." In other words, the sex must be amazing. And sometimes, that's the case. I won't admit to it, but yeah, that's the case. (Insert creepy wink.) What about an unhealthy friendship though? What makes us go back to that friend who has hurt us terribly? Do we think they'll change? And as I discussed with my author/friend who wrote the article mentioned above, they can't change. I don't believe people can change their genetic makeup - which I believe it is. They can stifle it for a while, but eventually, it will come to a head again. Restraining the inner madness that someone has - the temper - the jealousy streaks or even, the controlling issue will always be proverbially swept under a rug somewhere until further notice. That's a scary thought - that one day, it will happen again. So do you keep your friend with the acceptance of "if" and more so, "when", or do you leave the situation entirely?

For me, I had to personally remove a couple of people out of my life due to the insanity of it. When you keep toxic friendships (for whatever reason), you create a world full of stress, anxiety, panic and fear - all things that you should not have in your life because life can be full of that anyway. It's unnecessary strife - unnecessary hurt - unnecessary chaos. Nobody wants that. Now think of it like a drug. Hypothetically, let's just go with heroin. The withdrawals are awful, always craving more and when the body absorbs too much, we almost die or in some cases, we do die. We get infections and abscesses at the injection site. We look withdrawn and we're disoriented. When we quit, the drug shakes our bodies, makes us sweat and convulse with fear and anxiety. We cover our arms and legs with long clothing to cover up the track marks. We vomit until we can't vomit anymore. But we need more. …Why? 

I almost want to say that people have this self-deprecating way about themselves that they feel they deserve these "bad side effects" - like verbal and physical abuse. I remember a close friend said to me, "But it was my fault, I shouldn't have said that to him," after she was hit by her husband. Battered woman syndrome is awful. We feel we deserve to be in abusive relationships - we don't deserve something better. People with low self-esteems usually surround themselves with toxic people. I know I did for quite some time, until I started liking myself better. I got rid of all the toxicity in my life and focused on the people who truly cared and loved me…because I deserved it. Plain and simple.

It's hard when you're really in love with someone who has extreme emotional issues. It's unpredictable. Each day holds something new. Will they get upset today? Will something new set them off? Will they accuse me of something I didn't do again? (Again) - and it will happen again. With friendships, I usually keep certain people at arm's length due to their potential toxicity. If I detect it, I'm pretty scarce. I mean, we all have our moments and whatnot, but what happens when after you hang out with your friend and you come home hurt and exhausted from the drama? Do you still continue to meet up with them again? Do you absorb the negative words being thrown at you? And even in jest (because I think all jokes have a side dish of truth to them), do you allow them to torment you with underlining insults? Most importantly, why would you want this type of friend or partner in your life to begin with?

Simple solution: if it doesn't feel good or make you feel loved, move on. If it doesn't enhance your life, move on. If you're crying more than laughing, move on. If you're terrified of the next argument, please move on. If you think your friend or lover is treating you poorly…well, you get the gist by now. Easier said than done, but through experience and by letting go completely, I cannot tell you how 'freeing' it feels to be without toxic people - to not allow the abuse - to now allow the drama. It's just amazing once you finally step out of that box and step onto the 12 steps needed.

Thanks, Myriam. You're my little muse and always provoking some thought in this lil' noggin of mine.

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, August 27, 2014

Mental Illness: Break the Stigma

Through years of being in and out of therapy and numerous psychologists, psychiatrists, LCWs, PhDs, MDs, XYZs - I have discovered something fascinating: the internet. It's no secret that I suffer from anxiety and panic disorder, and along with it comes that brutal wave of depression. But depression is not my root problem. Anxiety is my enemy. I've had it ever since I was 16 years old. I have PTSD. Plenty of doctors have tried throwing antidepressants to get rid of my…anxiety. Why are you giving me an antiDEPRESSANT for my anxiety? They said that anxiety and depression go hand-in-hand. The only thing these antidepressants did for me was give me more anxiety by creating that little 'boost' when you're are in a funk. I have coffee for that. There are too many unqualified "doctors" bringing in suffering patients for only 15 minutes, giving them a diagnosis and a script to boot. That's not enough. Big pharma gives these doctors kickbacks and usually, some of these new medicines are borderline experimental.

People suffer in many different ways when it comes to anxiety and depression. It doesn't affect everyone the same exact way. In the same breath, many people handle their emotional issues differently. What works best for them may not work best for you, and vise/versa. What frustrates me the most is when someone who has periodic and random anger bursts, will "suggest" that I should try an antidepressant for my anxiety attacks. Right there is a total contradiction, an antiDEPRESSANT for anxiety. Another contradiction is that his or her form of anxiety manifest into random anger outbursts.

"Well it works for me."
"Umm, no it doesn't."

Listen, it all comes down to "my crazy is different from your crazy" and that's that. If a behavior is potentially harmful, abusive or destructive in any way - then that needs to be addressed ASAP. But if someone is having a random panic attack here and there or depressive episodes from time to time, there are natural remedies that will ease pain and suffering. There are so many things people can do, from getting blood work to check if your body is deficient in a nutrient to turning to holistic practices, like acupuncture or even massage therapy. I prefer Reiki. Another thing is, many people are deficient in vitamin D which is a huge factor in being depressed. SAD, (Seasonal Affective Disorder) is due to a lack of sunlight and shorter days in the winter. It's a lack of vitamin D. You can take supplements, sit in a tanning bed for 10 minutes at a time, or you can just walk outside and face the sun for 15 minutes. Vitamin D comes in many foods, especially eggs and milk, but if you are deficient  - you may want to take a supplement like I do. I take 3,000 IUs of vitamin D a day. Vitamin D is even more important than vitamin C for immunity and it helps prevent heart disease as well. This is what I've learned these past couple of years.

Talk therapy is important, but keep in mind there are a lot of quacks out there in the psychology field. I'll never forget one therapist who revealed something she really shouldn't have. She explained her experience in being adducted by aliens in. full. detail. My jaw was on the floor and my last check was made out to cash grudgingly. I can't even count how many times these psychologists would talk about their own lives while trying to "help" me. I should have gotten paid for all those visits. I used to walk out thinking, "What was that?" And "Why did I have to know all that?" Recently, a well-known psychologist took it upon himself to show me his collection of Ani DiFranco albums -- vinyls! Impressive, but there was so much wrong with that scene. First, only a lesbian would show you her collection of Ani albums. Secondly, Ani's music came out well after the LP era. That's neither here nor there, but my point is: why are you treating me like a guest?

There's always a certain type of stigma around being in therapy. You either have to be "crazy" or have a whole lotta' issues brewing. But in my opinion, if someone is volunteering to go to therapy, that only means that they got their shit together even more so than the average cray cray. And let's just admit that we are all crazy in our little (or big) ways. Life would be boring if everyone was normal. I once got offended while being on the subject of anxiety and depression with a friend because he mentioned "mental illness" - and I was so in denial, that I actually got upset over it. Well, isn't anxiety and depression a form of mental illness? We all have issues, baggages, and carry a lot of crap in our hearts that may affect how we treat other people. But we can also control those little zingers if we try. While on the topic on how we treat other people, sometimes we just have to suck it up and forgive. But what if the offense was so large, that the forgiving part was doable, but the forgetting part is a bit harder to do? When you replay a traumatic event or an offense that happened to you in the past, the flashbacks are just too vivid for you to literally "forget". And that's okay. Forgetting comes with time. And by due time, those offenses can't be remembered if you truly forgive someone.

A lot of anxiety can come from being bitter and not forgiving others as often as you should. One of my favorite quotes from the bible is this one:

"Peter came to him and asked, 'Lord, how often should I forgive someone who sins against me? Seven times?'
'No!' Jesus replied, 'seventy times seven!'" ~Matthew 18:21-22

There are times when you feel anxiety, panic and depression and don't know why. This is why so many people are in therapy today - to try and figure it all out. Usually, it has something to do with a hurt in the past that wasn't quite forgiven or resolved. Unresolved issues brew and brew until it manifests into a full blown anxiety attack or a deep depression. You don't even have to be consciously thinking about it. I'm am NO expert, but this is what I have experienced myself. So whenever I find myself tense, or full of anxiety, I try to evaluate each relationship I have with every single person in my life. I usually come up with the answer. And usually, it's my hardened heart that needs to be softened a little. Conflict and war causes tension. Even if it's hard to forgive, do it anyway. Eventually, the forgiveness will turn into peace, both externally and internally. This is not to say let people keep taking advantage of you. Sometimes, forgiveness means even walking away sadly.

Recently, I read an article in the Huffington Post. I rarely comment on these things because you have to comment with your Facebook account, but it was on depression and anxiety, so I felt the need to chime in. I explained that I prefer the natural route and the one thing that works best for 'me' was praying to God. I remember a time when I was having a full fledged anxiety attack. I couldn't breathe, my heart rate was sky rocketing and I felt like I was having a heart attack. I grabbed the phone, but something told me, "Why are you relying on people to help you? Why are you using others as a crutch?" I realized that when I'm in a crisis mode, I always fail to trust my faith in God. So, I laid down and started to breathe and pray. I meditated on God and I cannot tell you how much this helped me. A calmness overcame my entire being that I was completely at peace. I used all of my faith, not just, "well it may work" type of mindset. I used every bit of faith I had. And call it psychosomatic or call it crazy - but this is what works for me. Some commenter who claims he's also a Christian said, "God is not going to help you if you have anxiety or depression."

Well, He did.

May I remind him of these scriptures:

"I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world." ~ John 16:33

"Don't be afraid, for I am with you. Do not be dismayed, for I am your God. I will strengthen you. I will help you. I will uphold you with my victorious right hand." ~Isaiah 41:10

"We are confident of all this because of our great trust in God through Christ. It is not that we think we can do anything of lasting value by ourselves. Our only power and success come from God." ~2 Corinthians 3:4-5

I was able to cope with my technique and leave the antiDEPRESSANTS behind. Hmm, it would be interesting to learn if he was one of these psychiatric pill pushing doctors.
If you believe in God, you should trust in God. You should never underestimate the power you have inside of you, which is God, that is, if you believe. So by this guy telling me that God's not going to help me, I just have to chuck it up to one's opinion, that's all. I can't convince him that my technique will work for everyone. It works for me, so I share it in case it helps someone else out. I want to even say he sounded angry that I used God to help me relieve my anxiety - as if someone would jump aboard my way of coping and leave the anti

Feel free to buy me these glasses.
Self-medicating. I do it. She does it. He relies on it and she sometimes caters to those who need it. Get me? People are so reliant on alcohol. You know, I have learned a few things about alcohol and people. There are certain types of people where on one hand, you have the occasional drinker, where they have 1-3 glasses of whatever, and they stop. Period. It helps them relax, unwind and forget sometimes. But then you have those who totally abuse the substance. One drink turns into three, turns into five turns into "I can't remember what happened the night before, ugh my head hurts" types of scenarios. Is it genetic? Is there anything scientifically proven that some of us have some sort of addictive gene within us that prevents us from stopping at 1 or 2 drinks? And everyone drinks - unless they're recovering alcoholics. Everyone drinks. I don't care what you say - everyone self-medicates in some way or another. Maybe they smoke cigarettes, pot, or they open a bottle of wine and call it a night. We deal with it the way we feel appropriate. But when does "appropriate" become a dangerous situation.

I kept reading this scripture that says, "Stay sober, stay alert!" in 1 Peter 5:8. I kept reading this over and over again. I had just found out my mother was diagnosed with colon cancer and we were back and forth to procedures and hospitals. But thank God I decided not to finish my glass of wine I was having with dinner one evening. Mom needed me to take her to the ER…sober. I had to be there…sober. But what if I sucked down the entire bottle (which is quite easy to do since it's like 3-4 glasses of wine)? I would have been incapable of helping her in any way. But I do love my wine when I come home from a very stressful day or event. It calms me, but I also know when to stop. Some people, it's just not the best thing to do. For me? It's my choice, but I want to be functional and be available whenever someone needs me.

My point is: for anyone to judge how they self-medicate or professionally medicate themselves is absolutely ridiculous. I'm not going to judge you for not going to therapy and I expect you not to judge me for going to see a therapist. It works both ways. This entire stigma of going to therapy has become so crucial in getting proper help because too many people are embarrassed to say that they need help. So whether you decide on getting professional help or you decide to do it on your own with natural remedies, remember that sometimes it's very healing to talk to someone from an outsider's point of view. The cost may be high, but if you at least go once a month to someone who does not know you, who is a qualified specialist in whatever it is you are dealing with - it may just save your life.

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!