Posts By: DrDavid

Benchmarking 1.2

In 1991, ten years prior to my working at ground zero, I was also in New York City. It was my first time being there, and while I was excited about going, it really wasn’t my decision to do go. My boyfriend at the time had begged me to take him to New York. He wanted to go back to visit, because he used to live there. The entire time of our relationship prior to that, he always talked about New York City. How much fun he had living there. How much he missed it. My most prominent memory of that trip was how miserable and depressed I was. I quickly found out that he had decided to look up all his old boyfriends during our visit, while he persuaded a platonic friend to show me around town. His friend’s name was David too, and he was a nice enough to show me around, but I was so completely miserable. I was totally in love with my boyfriend, but this trip was yet another example of me feeling utterly used and unloved in this relationship. While sightseeing, David and I went to the Metropolitan Museum and wandered around when I found this amazing room. It was a round room with a dais in the middle of it. Completely covering the walls was a 360 degree mural of the gardens of Versailles. The perspective from the dais is standing at the top of the cement stairs that go down to the main gardens and reflecting pool, with the palace behind you. It is a replica of your real view if you were actually standing there. It is a remarkable and beautiful painting. For some reason I could not figure out, I was completely enthralled with this room and sat down on the dais, looking all around. I was thinking about my life. What a piece of crap it had become. Here I was, in New York City for the first time. It should be one of the most exciting days ever, but I could only think about this horrible relationship I was in where we fought all the time where it often became physical. Now he was off doing who knows what, with who knows who, and I’m hanging out with some guy I just met yesterday all on a trip for two being completely financed by me. Now I need to point out, that I was 26 years old, I typically ran five miles every day, so I was thin and gorgeous, and because I was in the military, I was making pretty good money for someone with only a high school education. But that’s the point. I had everything to live for, but because I couldn’t see any positives inside me, I was ready to spend the rest of my life in a horrible relationship with someone who didn’t respect and/or appreciate me.

I got better.

Fast forward 10 years later, 2001. I am in NYC working at Ground Zero. I went up to the MET one day and immediately looked for that room. It’s almost if I wanted to share with it how much my life had changed since that dark day in 1991. I stood on the dais and took a deep breath in. As I exhaled, I became really excited as I connected that just six months earlier, in March, my husband and I took our first trip to Paris and I actually stood in this very spot that the dais represents: at the top of the cement stairs going down to the main gardens and reflecting pool.

Some times when we are in the middle of miserable, it seems most certain that things will never change and there is no way out. I was certainly convinced of that in 1991. I’m glad it didn’t stay that way, but I also can say that it wouldn’t have happened without me taking some sort of action for my own life. Misery, depression, loneliness, hurt, fear, and anxiety are all feelings that tend to freeze both our minds and bodies, and fool us into thinking that to do nothing is the safest way to avoid more of the same. THAT IS A LIE! When I finally ended that relationship, I was convinced I was making the biggest mistake of my life. No one else would ever want me, so the devil I know is better than the devil I don’t. This is also a lie. The urge to stay put, take no action, do nothing in the hopes of not disturbing the tiger that is your dark mood is the worst possible mistake you can make for yourself. You don’t have to have all the answers, you just need to act.

It is now 10 years after 2001, 20 years after that dark day in 1991, and my wonderful husband of 17 years and I are going to NYC this month for Pride. I hope we will go to the MET. I want to show him off to the room.

Benchmarking 1.0

Welcome To my Blog!

I wanted to start this blog to discuss ideas regarding mental health in general, information about seeking treatment, the different areas I specialize in, and my philosophy about life in general.

With the military operation against Osama Bin Laden that took place this month, my thoughts have been automatically been drawn back to the September 11th Terrorist Attacks, but even more so, about how my life has changed in the last 10 years.

I’ve always thought of myself as a pretty regular guy just trying to make it in the world, with no special talents or skills, but when I think back over the last 10 years, I’ve been very lucky to have had some incredible experiences and opportunities.  On September 11th, 2001, I was actually working on a grant review for the Department of Health and Human Services in D.C.  Much like in NYC, Tuesday, September 11th was an extraordinarily beautiful morning, not a cloud in the sky.  It looked to be like any other day working for the Office of Program Review, reading, reading, and more reading through grant applications.  After the attacks happened, the cell phone networks were overloaded and shut down and no one here in Orlando, or my family in Houston, could get a hold of me to see if I was ok.  Actually, I was on the complete other side of town from the Pentagon and in no danger.  Ironically, that week we were reviewing grant applications for programs treating children with traumatic stress.

Once I got home, I figured that story would be my only tie to the terrorist attacks.  It just so happened I had recently completed the certification to become a mental health responder for disasters for the American Red Cross, because my boss at the Mental Health Association thought it would be a good idea for all of the counselors to be crisis response certified.  Of course, it resulted in my being asked to go to New York City.  My boss wanted me to go, and I did.  I spent 3 weeks at WTC Ground Zero in October and November of 2001 working with the NYPD, FDNY, and construction workers at “The Pile”, which is what they called the work area in and around the collapsed buildings.

I think I could write a book about that experience alone, but it is not my particular point of this blog.  That period of time is a benchmark for me.  When I think back over those last 10 years, I can see so many changes. I was just finishing my Ph.D., I was still so unschooled in a lot of ways about the practice of therapy (although I thought I was pretty smart, lol), and I figured I would always be working at the Mental Health Association, because there didn’t seem to be any reason to leave.

Since then, I have worked in a residential treatment facility, served as the mental health team supervisor of an HIV/AIDS medical clinic, conducted in-home assessments for the State’s child welfare system, served as board president for the local GLBT chamber of commerce, served as board president for what is now the biggest GLBT Pride event in Florida, and built a very healthy private practice, of which I am immensely proud, all the while getting to meet some of the most interesting and inspiring people:  my clients.  I have really been all over the place professionally, trying to figure out what I’m going to do when I grow up.  Some days that gets me down. On those days when I don’t feel like I’m at my best, I try to remember what I’ve accomplished, instead of focusing on the problems.  That’s what I call benchmarking.

I remember benchmarking as being one of the first therapeutic techniques I learned that I really responded to, and began teaching my clients.  We typically spend too much thinking about what has gone, is going, and will go wrong, but not enough time thinking about what valuable things we’ve learned from those experiences and what has actually gone right.  Some days it is harder than others, but I think you have to look at it as skill development.  It is the rare person that can learn to ride a bike of the first try.  Things get better with practice.  The more you practicing indentifying and benchmarking the successes or positive moments in your life, the better you get at it.   Which reminds me of a story… (to be concluded in the next post, Benchmarking 1.2)