The Power of the Mask – Again

Two years ago, I wrote a few pieces about my thoughts on Dylan Farrow and Woody Allen. Here are some excerpts from The Power of the Mask:

Often times in situations like this, when the details are vague and the “facts” are not in abundance, popular opinion tends to side with the more dominant person. Often this is a man. Or a celebrity. Woody Allen is both. Many members of our culture, short of definitive proof (what exactly that “proof” could be is a mystery), has sided with him. He’s a decorated celebrity. He’s humorous and self-deprecating. He’s worked with many Hollywood icons who admire and respect him.

There’s just no way he could do something so horrific.

Our culture tends to have difficulty looking past a person’s public facade to even imagine that there could be more going on. Is everyone that naive to think even public figures potentially don’t have some scary skeletons lurking in the shadows? Could it be possible that Woody displays to the public only what he wants us to see? That he may be wearing a mask?

Woody is an expert in deflecting any blame or ownership in any aspect of his daughter’s life. He works very hard at playing the victim. He is clearly manipulating his readers and supporters to feel pity for him. Playing on the emotions he knows his supporters feel about him.

My hope is that one day soon, Woody’s supporters would be able to look past his directorial accolades and see the mask he has been wearing his entire life.

What is scary is that the masks of many more prominent people are being revealed. Change the name from Woody Allen to Bill Cosby, David Bowie, R. Kelly, among countless others, and my thoughts remain the same. The mask is powerful and present with these individuals, in varying degrees of incidents and severity.

There are differences within the details of each of these stories, however, a few themes remain constant. The prominent themes of power, opportunity, and secrecy. These themes go beyond an individual mask. These are themes that derive from an environment that encourages and enables these themes.

Rape Culture.

There is an undercurrent of Rape Culture among our overall society. It has been formed over centuries of hetero-normative and misogynistic values dictating beliefs and behaviors. I’m working on a more detailed piece on my thoughts on Rape Culture. It’s a tough piece to write and it’s ever evolving as (sadly) more scenarios are exposed.

It is vital to point out that any of these individuals would not have the power of their mask if it were not for the overall Rape Culture that allows these masks to be formed and normalized. Rape Culture supports the individuals committing the abusive acts. Moreover, Rape Culture also silences the victims.

The more (mostly) women who come forward with their stories, the more they are doubted and questioned. The situation with Bill Cosby is a perfectly awful example of this. More and more women continue to come forward with their stories. However, each woman is quickly dismissed as being “money-hungry.” Each woman is criticized, questioned for “her role” in the situation, picked apart, and ostracized for “attacking a beloved entertainer.”

Nevermind that when one woman has the courage to tell her story, it often inspires others to come forward with their own story. No, these woman are not viewed as couragous, they are viewed as wanting nothing more than money. Rape Culture is quick to blame the victim, even if there are potentially dozens of victims who share very similar circumstances.

Thankfully more and more people are coming forward and sharing their stories. It’s heartbreaking and powerful all at the same time. We are expriencing a paradigm shift with how our culture views rape, power, and secrecy. With any major shift in our collective thinking, it will not be easy. But it is necessary. We are exposing individual masks one at a time in hopes that one day (soon), our culture will no longer encourage new masks to develop.

Thoughts from My Emotional Rollercoaster

imageI’ve spent much of my life riding an emotional rollercoaster. That experience some of us have of being happy and up one moment, and then the next moment, we come down. For some, the rollercoaster isn’t too scary of a ride. Some days full of happiness and energy, followed by a brief dip of mild anxiety or grief or doubt.

For me, the ride has often been full of extreme highs and debilitating lows. I’m not a fan of rollercoasters – both the real and metaphorical ones – and much of my life I’ve felt stuck on this damn ride.

The highs can sometimes feel like I’m among the clouds in the sky with intoxicating levels of joy and energy. I’m feeling strong and confident as I climb higher and higher. The stimulation can be all-consuming as I seem to reach impossible heights. I sometimes believe I’m invincible or somehow exempt from the troubles of reality. This high that started out pleasant and productive quickly becomes unmanageable. It can be deceptive and manipulative and seductive, convincing me that I’m capable of much more than I really am. Sometimes the escalation is filled with irritation and frenzy. Sleep decreases as my mood and energy compound on each other, making me feel as if I may burst from the intensity of stimulation.

The lows can feel like a never ending free fall of despair and hopelessness. Often I experience a dramatic crash as a result of my extreme high. All the energy is stripped from me. It’s as if I did explode from the stimulating pressure and I’m left with an empty shell of myself. Now I sleep like my body has been deprived of sleep for years. Some days I don’t leave my bed much at all. My movements are slow and lethargic.  Awful, destructive thoughts can infect my mind, convincing me that I am worthless. Hope and humor escape me.

For much of my life, I felt completely helpless to these extreme highs and lows of my emotions. The ride was always too unpredictable for me to feel any sense of control. I couldn’t see far enough ahead to know what to expect. When I was at the height, or stuck down in a deep valley, it felt as if I would stay there forever. Then, in an instant, the path would whiplash me in the opposite direction. It was all so confusing and scary; not only the ride itself, but also not knowing what  was waiting for me up ahead.

Riding an emotional rollercoaster is hard enough. Riding it in the dark is unbearable.

Recently, I have come to realize that I have more control over this ride than I was aware of. I’ve become more attune of the patterns of this ride. Over time, what was once unpredictable is starting to make more sense to me. I’ve also accepted the fact that, given my mental illness, I will most likely ride this thing for the rest of my life. I’m more at peace with this now. This acceptance has eased much of the fear and darkness I previously experienced.

My rollercoaster now also has a new feature – more flat, even stretches. A smooth, bearable pace on an even terrain. It’s calm and lovely during these moments. I feel more myself, present in the world around me, able to function at my best. Enough energy to feel happy, without escalating up. Enough rest to feel serene, without spiraling down. Before, these peaceful patches were fleeting. Sometimes non-existent for far too long. Now they are my new normal. They are such a relief, allowing me to live my life and be better prepared for the next phase of the ride up ahead.

The highs and lows continue to come, they will always come. I am not quite able to predict when the next deep, dark cave will send me spiraling down again. However, now I may only spend a few hours surrounded by darkness. I may not fall as drastically or deeply as I have previously. My rollercoaster now has a control panel. I can take a few deep breaths to slow down the decline. Not fall so helplessly and drastically. Maybe even discover a new path out of the darkness that I would have never noticed before. Allow myself to not only see the path, but also take action to put myself on that path and get out of the darkness. Get back to even ground more quickly.

What I have realized is that while the ride itself may be out of my control, the dips and inclines can be adjusted and made to be more bearable. I can ride my rollercoaster without as much fear or powerlessness. I can open my eyes and even enjoy some of the ride.

Holidays Aren’t Always Full of Joy

imageIt’s that time of year again: weeks of red and green, candy canes, snowmen, hundreds of Santa Clauses, happy holiday messages, and fake snow made of a (possibly toxic) curious substance. For many people, this is a glorious time filled with joy, hot chocolate, radiant light, and family members smiling around a fire, toasting marshmallows. Good for those people.

For many others, the scene is not quite as jolly. Not everyone has a loving family to spend the holidays with. Maybe a loved one was lost and the holidays are harder to face with that emptiness. Money can be tight (or non-existent) for so many, and the idea of purchasing holiday meals, forget gifts, can cause anxiety. Some people grapple with increased mental health issues and/or substance use issues during this time of year.

In addition, there is a simple, scientific reason some of us are less happy during the colder winter months. A vast number of mammals hibernate during the winter. They escape from the outside world and sleep for the entire winter season. I don’t know about you, but there are days when I wish we were one such mammalian species who slept for 3 months straight. Our bodies, out of instinct, slow down to conserve the energy that is quickly lost to the cooler temperatures and shorter days. Some of us may even experience SAD – Seasonal Affective Disorder – a winter-specific depression that is caused by the decrease in sunlight.

These are just some of the reasons why many of us are less likely to declare joy to the world.

Yet, with the ever increasing commercialism and consumerism of the holidays, it’s almost as if we are all supposed to LOVE THE HOLIDAYS or else we just not good enough. I blame Hallmark. The unattainable ideal of caroling and laughing and gifts and bountiful food can leave many people feeling incompetent, lonely, and depressed.

One Christmas carol, It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, is especially directive and judgmental. With lyrics like “It’s the hap happiest season of all … everyone telling you be of good cheer … hearts will be glowing … When loved ones are near …” it’s practically demanding the listener to BE HAPPY, DAMMIT or you are just a huge failure at the holidays. This level of pressure to be full of good cheer can be quite intimidating.

The good news is that you are not alone. Far too many people struggle this time of year, yet most do so in silence.

I had the unique pleasure of being a guest on the HTD Express, a podcast hosted by a dear friend and fellow writer, Tim Davis. We discuss some of the issues people may face during the holidays and share ways you can get help if you are feeling lost, and/or ways you can help someone you know.


One of the most valuable resources available is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline. 1-800-273-TALK. If you are having suicidal thoughts or a plan, or even if you are feeling down and may not want to hurt yourself, please consider calling them. The supportive staff is available 24/7, 365 and can provide you with resources, positive thoughts, and a loving voice who understands what you may be going through. You can also call to get support and guidance to assist a friend who may be depressed.

Social media can also be incredibly helpful to those who struggle. Twitter has many communities that have grown out of shared pain and a basic need to build solidarity and hope. Here are just a few of the valuable hashtags to search if you need some support and a virtual hug:






For information on suicide warning signs and prevention, please click here.

To access the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, please click here.

For information on depression, including every day strategies to help you cope, please click here.

For information on SAD, please click here.

For additional information on substance use disorders, please click here.

To access the HTD Express podcast, please click here. Also, please take the time to visit Tim Davis’ website and listen to more of his podcasts.

While many people may not attain the Hallmark ideal of the holiday season, we hope you may find some sense of peace and solidarity during this time of year.

The Crisis of Addiction

Stone Temple Pilots’ frontman, Scott Weiland, died on December 3, 2015, from cardiac arrest. Years (decades) of addiction to various substances no doubt wore down his body. Addiction is a debilitating disease that, without treatment, will absolutely result in death.

Scott Weiland also struggled with mental illness. Together, his addiction and mental illness (known in treatment circles as Co-Occurring Disorders), severely impacted his functioning and his relationships. In some instances, his diseases helped fuel his creativity. His ex-wife, along with their two children, poignantly articulates these experiences in a letter published in Rolling Stone. Co-Occurring disorders, when not adequately treated, can incite intense creative bursts in the short term, yet often at the long term cost of destroying valuable relationships and, eventually, ones own life. Scott Weiland’s struggle, and its impact on his family is not unique. Countless families are currently in a state of ongoing crisis due to the effects of the disease of addiction. Unfortunately, they most often struggle in silence, as Scott’s family did.

Stigma and misinformation continue to perpetuate the myth that addiction is an untreatable and morally wrong, character flaw. Addiction, whether isolated or co-occurring with mental illness, is not any of these things. Many people try alcohol, marijuana, or are prescribed pain medications on a daily basis, however, only a fragment of these individuals develop a dependence on these substances. To be clear, prescription pain medications are DEA controlled, highly addictive substances. As a class, they are known as opioids. There are prescription opioids, such as Percocet or Oxycodone, and there are synthetic opioids, such as Heroin. They are all opioids and regardless of the form they come in, or if you are given a prescription by a medical professional or purchase them on the street, the potential euphoric effects and addictive dangers are the same. Yet, we all know which one also has a pervasive stigma attached to it. Anyone can be susceptible to addiction to any of these substances. It is not because of a person’s lack of willpower, or their defect of character, or their questionable morals. No, it is because their brain is wired differently.

A few years ago, I wrote some observations I had while at an addictions conference in Las Vegas. Many of my thoughts and visions for addictions treatment have not changed since I wrote that piece three years ago. I share them again, below.

… [An addictions conference hosted in Las Vegas may seem like a glaring oxymoron, however, it really isn’t.] Vegas is a vast land of extremes. Everything is exaggerated beyond all realistic representation. Gluttony and capitalism to the tenth power. Vegas represents (with casino credit, show girls, and glitter) what most people think and feel about addiction. Anyone is allowed to have a few wild nights, along with endless alcohol, drugs, and sexual exploits, so long as “what happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas”. Vegas is where denial was born and now thrives. Leave your secrets in the desert. No one will know.

Our culture views addiction in this exact way. Those who have the money and ability to live it up in Vegas and then immediately return to the status quo are the only ones we find acceptable to use drugs and alcohol. Those who can’t handle the sweet seduction of all things Vegas are “bad, sick, damaged, wrong, and sinful.” It is their problem and they deserve all the consequences that go along with using drugs. They certainly do not deserve our help in any way. They brought this on themselves.

Being at the AATOD conference within the Sin City demonstrated the clear divide between drug use and drug treatment in our culture. We welcome the use of substances, so long as a person can keep it to themselves and not bother anyone (or, even better, can be the life of the party). The moment addiction becomes a problem and a person seeks treatment, now this same person is morally corrupt and undeserving of our help. It is a sad reality since drug and alcohol addiction is a disease. If our society viewed it more as the true disease that it is, and embraced the true care and treatment needed to manage this disease, and even prevent it, there would be far less negative consequences of prolonged use.

Keynote speaker William White articulated this phenomenon powerfully. He stated, “We know addiction is a chronic disease, yet we continue to treat it like a broken arm.” Addiction is not about forcing a person stop using and never look back. Quitting “cold turkey” does not work. Rather, addiction is a debilitating disease that needs to be managed with a variety of therapies and services. There needs to be a comprehensive approach to treatment that includes family involvement, addressing mental health issues, past history of trauma, HIV risk and treatment, intimate partner violence, housing, employment, finances, and many others. In many instances, a person may turn to drugs and alcohol as a reaction to a past (and/or current) traumatic situation. Substances can be very powerful coping mechanisms – just ask anyone walking on the Vegas Strip after a night of partying! When a person takes steps to reduce or eliminate the use of substances, the memories of abuse may come flooding back. These nightmares and real memories can be debilitating and terrorizing. The fear of the memories could be a reason why people do not “get clean” or why they tend to relapse. In instances like this, we cannot blame the person for being “weak” or “immoral” or “criminal”. This person needs further care and treatment to develop healthier coping skills to deal with the fear and pain. Yet, since our culture does not view substance use in this way, this person only gets a band-aid, not the full surgery he may need.

We have a lot of work to do. Our culture devalues those with an addiction of any sort. We frown upon anyone doing anything in excess … even in Vegas.

Yes, there is hope. This conference exemplified the hope and inspiration we all have and all need to improve how our society treats those with addictions. More awareness is being raised about this disease, especially with more and more people coming out with their struggles. People are beginning to realize that denial is not enough. Denial is not working, even in Vegas. It’s not so easy to just leave our worries on The Strip and pretend they don’t exist. Or to dismiss those struggling as undeserving of assistance. We all need to face this disease, show compassion to those who are living with it, and treat it comprehensively. …

Unfortunately, one major change has occurred in the past several years. The number of fatal overdoses from opioid use has continued to increase at alarming rates. In 2013, overdose became the leading cause of injury death, surpassing both car accidents and homicide. Addiction is not just a disease; it is a public health crisis. We need to face this crisis and work toward reducing stigma and increasing access to treatment. If we don’t make drastic improvements now, thousands more will continue to share the devastating experiences of Scott Weiland and his family.


STP & MSG: A Love Story

imageI’ve been working on this story off and on for years. One of the many unfinished pieces, lingering in my Drafts folder among the other 3am ideas that I have. Today seemed like a good day to finally finish it.

Today the world learned that we lost one of the most iconic rock frontmen ever, Scott Weiland. He fronted many bands, most notably, the Stone Temple Pilots. His earthy, raw, low pitched voice and his emotional lyrics paired poetically with lead guitarist Dean DeLeo’s graceful melodies and piercing riffs. The result was some of the most hauntingly beautiful music to ever have been composed.

My husband, Rich, and I are huge STP fans and have seen many of their shows over the years. We were lucky enough to catch a show during what would be their final tour together, in 2014, which was also a reunion tour as Scott and the band had parted ways years earlier. The above picture is from that show, at Revel in Atlantic City.

This is the story of one of those STP shows – the very first we saw together.

RIP Scott Weiland.


The following story is mostly true. The full details may or may not be completely accurate due to the fact that (1) It happened almost 20 years ago and (2) There was alcohol involved. There are two versions of the events as they happened, and I share both throughout. This story is symbolic of our overall relationship and it continues to fuel many of our arguments to this day.

Picture it: New York City, late November 1996. Me and my (very new) boyfriend, Rich (who is now my husband), travelled on the Long Island Rail Road from his hometown into Manhattan to see the Stone Temple Pilots at Madison Square Garden. We were (are) both huge fans.

On the ride in, we enjoyed alcoholic beverages and got to know each other even better. We had only been dating less than 6 months. Everything about each other’s lives was still new and exciting. He was in his second year of law school and I was in my junior year of college. We shared details of our current lives, along with visions of our wide-open futures.

At some point during this ride, Rich proposed to me.

Now, if you ask each of us about this, you will get different versions of what actually happened. Mine – he distinctly told me that he loves me and wants to marry me one day when I’m done with college and he’s done with law school. I heard him also say the words “will you marry me?” I heard you say them, Rich. His – he was intoxicated and did really like me and sure, he could maybe see himself marrying me, but NO he did NOT formally ask me to marry him.

Either way, he proposed to me.

I may or may not have laughed out loud and said that while I do love him, we are way too young. It was true, I had just turned 21 and we had been together for like a minute. I could tell at that point that we had a strong future together, one that probably would include marriage, but were we ready to be engaged? Nope. (Awkward silence).

We went back to talking about everything else but what he just asked. Or didn’t ask, in his mind. And we kept drinking. Of course.

Fast forward a few hours to the show. It was amazing. We were among the general admission standing only mosh pit. Singing along to every song, having a blast. STP was at their height. They had just released their third album. It was a fantastic show … at least it was for the first half.

Then the entire night kinda became a big blur.

Rich has filled me in on the (vast) missing pieces of the rest of the night. I remember enough of it to give Rich a HUGE amount of credit for not only still marrying me many years later, but for also not dumping me on the spot and leaving me to fend for myself at MSG.

I would have totally deserved it. Here’s why.

Towards the tail end of the amazing acoustic portion of the show, the alcohol I drank took a stronger effect on me than I had anticipated. I could say I didn’t eat much, or the dancing and loud music made my stomach churn, but I think I was just really bad at holding my liquor. So I gave Rich a look that made him look back at me with a mix of concern and disgust and he helped me get through the crowd and to the nearest bathroom. Good times.

Well. As if that weren’t bad enough, as I’m hugging a toilet in a very public MSG bathroom, I hear the band announce the next song they are going to play. A cover of Aerosmith’s Sweet Emotion. Nice. BUT THEN THEY SAY “AND HERE TO JOIN US ARE STEVEN TYLER AND JOE PERRY FROM AEROSMITH!!!”

WHAT?! Oh come on! They couldn’t wait until I was done?! Let’s just say I felt even more sick to my stomach at that moment. I WAS MISSING AEROSMITH AND STP!!!

And Rich. Holy canoli, Rich. The gentleman that he is, he stayed outside the door of the bathroom until I was done. I told him to leave me and save himself, but no. He insisted on staying with me while I was otherwise occupied. WHICH WAS THE ENTIRE DURATION OF THE TWO SONGS STEVEN TYLER AND JOE PERRY PERFORMED WITH THEM.

Believe me, I’m disgusted with myself too. I keep shaking my head at re-reading my own damn nonsense. Ugh.

Being that this was the mid-90s, the internet was just an infant, and we didn’t have cell phones, nevermind smart phones. So I don’t have any live pics or video from that night. However, with some digging, I was able to find the exact set list from that night. Reading over the list again, I’m reminded of just how incredible a show it was … even if I only heard a muffled version of the STP / Aerosmith duet. Hey, at least I can say I was there, right? RIGHT?!

Again, how he didn’t just leave me hugging that gross toilet bowl and go crowd surfing, I’ll never know. If this isn’t the definition of true love, I’m not sure what is. Even if he still holds a grudge from that night. I guess I can’t really blame him.

So while Rich may have gone from wanting to marry me to wanting to throw me off that damn train on the ride home, I fell in love with him just a little bit more. A guy who waits for you while you yack rather than abandoning you to see living legends in a once in a lifetime performance?! That’s a pretty big deal. And why I just smile and nod when he reminds me, yet again, for the 4847th time that he missed an epic performance.

It was pretty epic. All of STP’s performances were epic. Rest easy, Scott Weiland.

Balance – A Poem











Nature is the expert of such things
Watching her masterful flow among energy
Seemingly simple, attainable

A massive, consuming thunderstorm rolls in
Blinding lightning, deafening thunder
The sky is electric with extreme energy
Everything in its path impacted

Or the ocean’s calm rhythm
Waves following an expected pattern
Then the eruption of large, engulfing waves
Violently crashing upon the shore
Racing beyond the limits of the beach
Flooding everything within its massive reach

Yet, within a few hours, order is restored
Balance, almost magically, returns
Nature recovers from the drastic surge of energy
The ocean once again assumes its calm rhythm
All is, once again, as it is meant to be

Such a gift of nature
An ability to be admired
From an exceedingly intense burst, to calm serenity
Or to lay dormant during the long winter months
No growth, barely any indication of life
Then Spring awakens all that has been asleep
Equilibrium achieved again
The cycle continues so effortlessly, so simply

A cycle not as easily achieved among most
Some often vacillate between extremes
Intense swings from zenith to nadir
The middle seeming to not exist
Or perhaps not as easily attained
Or, maybe, not as comfortable as the extreme highs and lows
While the extreme movement is not ideal, it is known

Balance may present an uncomfortable challenge
To somehow flow with the energy
Not swing so severely
Perhaps move between highs and lows more gracefully
Not seek the intensity or utmost reach of each side
Rather swirl with the energy as it is
Restore equilibrium, recover in the middle
Seek to achieve and maintain balance

Such an obstacle for those who tend to violently vacillate
Allowing a more graceful flow among the surrounding energy
Not an automatic rush to extremes
Not an avoidance of the more blended middle
A struggle needing to be overcome

Nature has achieved this lovely balance
A soft movement between energy states
Always seeking the healthy balance
Nature will teach and guide those not yet as skilled
Inspire those eager to stop the violent swinging
Teaching us to thrive in the tranquil

Changing Seasons


Walking among nature is one of my most treasured self-care strategies. Whether it’s a hike in the woods, a brisk walk in a park, or walking along a body of water, the combination of moving my body and the movement of nature both calms and invigorates me.

When the seasons change, the experience is even more powerful and inspiring. The changing colors of leaves, the slight chill in the air, the sky seeming to be a more vibrant blue than any other time of year. It’s as if nature is bursting with life just before its long slumber of winter. Even the animals seem a bit more active in their attempts at stocking up on food.

While walking recently, I noticed something that I hadn’t seen before. The above picture was taken as I walked by a patch of woods that I have passed dozens of times. Yet this time, as I approached, I was compelled to stop and absorb my surroundings. The beauty and meaning struck me.

During the summer, this patch of woods looks like a lush wall of green leaves. Some brown trunks are visible, and there is a slight sense of scale, yet I often walked right by, noticing little else besides the endless green leaves, sprinkled and suspended like living confetti.

Now, the patch seemed more alive, even with many of the leaves now yellow and falling to the earth. The depth of the woods was revealed. What was once a one-dimensional wall was now a three-dimensional habitat. My gaze did not stop at the edge of the path as it had just a few weeks ago. Now I could see endless layers of leaves and trunks and once hidden nooks. The expanse was consuming and breathtaking. I felt the woods revealing itself to me, showing me new depths that were previously concealed. While some may see nature slowly falling asleep, I felt an intense burst of life and energy.

I stood and marveled at this gift nature was presenting to me. The colors, the expanse, the soft swaying among the cool air, the layers that I could now see. It was poetic. A whole new perspective on the familiar.

This is why I walk among nature. To admire the endless beauty that presents itself to the world. To remind myself that even nature goes through a multitude of changes. That there are cycles and phases and transformations necessary for survival. That without these changes, balance can never be acheived.  To remind myself that I, too, must change and adapt to survive and thrive. To reveal the vital balance within myself.

Walking among nature is a powerful experience for me. The energy and beauty and symbolism provide me with inspiration. With perspective. With the knowledge and hope that even among the constant change, balance is possible.