Day #1 as a Suicide Survivor

Monday, June 26, 2017

My mother and her husband had flown into Minnesota from New Jersey on June 21st to see their latest grandson. My wife and I were trying to entertain them while also managing our son, Hugo, who was not even six-months old yet. We had all been attempting to contact my brother during those days and he was proving difficult to pin down by either text or telephone call. I sent him a text the night before because I was worried about him, “Busy weekend?”

I wish I would have included more thoughts – something like, “Busy weekend? We miss talking to you. Give us a call.” Or, “Are you alright? Is there anything we can do to help?” But I didn’t write any of those things. I had attempted some calls during my mom’s visit and he did not answer. It was a nice visit with my mom and her husband over the weekend, and we spoke about my brother often. She was also worried about him, and was encouraging him to get help and take medication as prescribed by his doctor. I mentioned that it seemed like he was avoiding us, and I was annoyed by that.

I should have known….

It was Monday and my mom planned to be in town for a few more days.; she and her husband agreed to stay at the house and take care of Hugo while my wife and I went to work. I had a busy day with four patients scheduled and a supervision session with our program’s postdoctoral fellow. Once in the office, I worked with a patient and then met with the fellow, who was consistently prepared and on top of things each week. The next patient was new to me and I went through the intake process with the individual. I had to write my notes for the early patients, and get ready for the afternoon.

The day was zipping along.

Things started to go sideways later in the morning when a close friend from high school, Chait, called me. Chait asked me if he could pass along my number to our mutual friend, Jazmyn, that I dated briefly in college. The only time I communicated with her these days was if I bumped into her while visiting New Jersey or exchanged a pleasantry on Facebook. I found it odd that she was asking for me, and my buddy is known to pull stunts from time to time for chuckles, so I figured he was joking.

Chait insisted he was not joking – and I got a bad feeling.

Continue reading “Day #1 as a Suicide Survivor”

Ego Check with The Id DM – Kelly Carlin on Legacy, Purpose & Resilience

I have been fortunate to be allowed to work from home since late March. During that time, I have thrown myself into a variety of home-based activities as my congenital heart condition gives me good reason to engage in social distancing to avoid exposure to coronavirus. First, our yard has never looked better! Second, I have been able to consume more slices of media that I otherwise might have missed and one such program was Laughing Matters: Carlin’s Legacy.

The program was released on George Carlin’s birthday (May 12th), and supports the National Comedy Center. The program seemed orchestrated by Kelly Carlin, George’s daughter, and she speaks about the process of donating his copious notes and writings to the National Comedy Center and carrying his legacy forward. I have followed Kelly on social media for quite some time and have always been intrigued by her. After watching Laughing Matters I thought, “Wow, it would be fascinating to speak with her!”

Kelly Carlin
Kelly Carlin

After reaching out and learning she was interested in joining me on my Ego Check podcast, I did what any anxious person with a background in research and therapy would do – I prepared and took notes! I read her memoir, A Carlin Home Companion: Growing Up with George, which was published in 2015. I watched her one-woman show, Driven to Distraction, and listened to some of her podcast episodes, which are informed by her life history and masters degree in Jungian Depth Psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute.

I also revisited the performances from her father that certainly shaped my perspective about the world as a child in the 1980s and teenager in the 1990s. I grew up going to Catholic School and had a strict father that died suddenly in the line of duty as a New Jersey State Trooper when I was eight-years-old. The strict bedtimes gave way to staying up late, watching David Letterman (and reruns of Hart to Hart if I couldn’t fall asleep) and listening to my brother’s cassette tapes. One of the tapes I fondly recall listening to was George Carlin’s Classic Gold, a two-tape compilation of various routines and were hilarious and encouraged my brain to be skeptical of conventional wisdom.

If I were to make a Top 10 List of reasons why I gravitated toward a career in psychology and helping people, George Carlin and his quest to cleave through life’s bullshit is probably on that list.

My brother and I delighted in George Carlin performances such as Carlin on Campus and Jammin’ in New York. We knew the Greatest Cheer Ever word-for-word and would laugh uproariously while quoting Airline Announcements. Those routines were a shared language for my brother and our friends, and anything that my brother and I shared took on extra meaning and significance after his suicide in 2017. I have wondered how the concept of legacy may have kept my brother from living a meaningful life with joy, and I attempt to shape my own legacy with my son (age 3) by writing him emails that he can open when he’s 18-years-old or so…. that’s of course if we’re all still on the planet at that time, “Pack your shit, folks. We’re going away!”

So the opportunity to speak with Kelly Carlin about legacy seemed too good to be true. It did happen though!

Weaving in her psychological training, Kelly speaks about her journey toward finding her own meaning while also managing the weight of her father’s legacy. She discusses basking in his glow as a child and feeling trapped in his shadow as an adult, “There wasn’t space for another Carlin on stage when my dad was alive.” She explores how we all go through confusion about our self-identity and how she pursued graduate education in psychology to further understand herself and the world around her.

She talks about the powerful forces of “shame and greed” that hold us back and how we can overcome those forces to led meaningful lives, “I had to want the outcome of being seen and heard more than my fear of failure.”

I feel quite fortunate to have had this conversation with Kelly. I hope you find some meaning in it as well.

Listen to the episode here:

Please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:

And please consider leaving a review on iTunes and help spread the word about the show. 

If you are interested in coming on the show for an interview, or would like to become a sponsor, contact me to make arrangements and take a look at my Patreon.

Ego Check with The Id DM – Tomo Moriwaki on Designing Epic Tavern

Tomo Moriwaki
Tomo Moriwaki

Tomo Moriwaki talks about his career in videogame design and how his experiences led him to the latest endeavor, Epic Tavern. In Epic Tavern, players are tasked with building up a tavern to cater to adventure needs AND with sending those adventurers on quests. Tomo talks about his goals to design an engaging gameplay loop that encourages players to spend more time with Epic Tavern; it was fascinating to learn about the decisions that are made to create a successful gameplay loop that cultivates that “one more turn” feeling for players!

He discusses obstacles to creating a game “like fantasy football for fantasty fantasy” and how the small team has overcome those challenges. Tomo educates me about the logic behind Epic Tavern gameplay, including the encounter system involved in questing.

And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:

Please consider leaving a review on iTunes and help spread the word about the show. 

Listen to the episode here:

 

If you are interested in coming on the show for an interview, or would like to become a sponsor, contact me to make arrangements.

Ego Check with The Id DM – Stacy King and Andrew Wheeler on Dungeons & Dragons: Wizards & Spells

Stacy King
Stacy King
Andrew Wheeler
Andrew Wheeler

I’m joined by Stacy King and Andrew Wheeler, two of the minds responsible for the wonderful Dungeons & Dragons Young Adventurer’s Guide series. They talk about the latest entry, Wizards & Spells, and detail how they took the vast magical information in D&D and organized that into a clean framework for young readers (and us creaky adults!) to absorb. They talk about the joys of creating new Legendary Characters for the D&D universe and how choices were made to highlight specific spells and magical items.

Stacy and Andrew speak about their contributions to all books in the series and explain how the books fit together to form a coherent and warm invitation to all readers to play D&D. They respond to the glowing reception the books have received by an audience ranging in age, and briefly mention plans for the next two books in the series. These books are a treasure for any fan of D&D!

I previously had the pleasure of interviewing Jim Zub about the Young Adventurer’s Guides, so certainly check out that episode as well if you missed it when it first released!

And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:

Please consider leaving a review on iTunes and help spread the word about the show. 

Listen to the episode here:

If you are interested in coming on the show for an interview, or would like to become a sponsor, contact me to make arrangements.

 

Ego Check with the Id DM – Keith Ammann on The Monsters Know What They’re Doing

Keith Ammann

Keith Ammann joins me to discuss his book, The Monsters Know What They’re Doing, which provides highly-detailed tactical guidance for monsters in 5th Edition Dungeons & Dragons. He speaks about the his interest in strategy games and how that influenced his approach to running gaming sessions.

He discusses how to run monsters realistically to further engage players and make their achievements at the table more meaningful. He provides examples from his book on creatures such as goblins and highly-intelligent monsters such as the mage. We explore multiple aspects of combat including complexity, difficulty, and morality.

The Monsters Know What They’re Doing reminds me of the write-ups for early 4th Edition D&D monsters, and that information is sorely missed in 5th Edition. I recommend the book strongly for anyone running 5th Edition sessions.

Image

Enjoy the 58th episode of Ego Check with The Id DM!

Listen here!

And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:

Please consider leaving a review on iTunes and help spread the word about the show. 

If you are interested in coming on the show for an interview, or would like to become a sponsor, contact me to make arrangements.

Ego Check with The Id DM – Megan Connell, PsyD on D&D as Therapy and Creative Burnout

Image
Megan Connell, PsyD

Dr. Connell comes back to Ego Check to (first appearance was in 2017) talk about the developments in the therapeutic use of Dungeons & Dragons in therapy. She talks about how the game allows players to achieve personal growth through exposure.

She offers insights into how to manage an improv-heavy campaign and discusses the use of several resources that she have found useful to handle the stress of running multiple campaigns. We talk about balancing a professional life with hobby goals and values, and explore how to navigate the fatigue and burnout that can arise from generating content.

Enjoy the 57th episode of Ego Check with The Id DM!

Listen here!

And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:

Please consider leaving a review on iTunes and help spread the word about the show. 

If you are interested in coming on the show for an interview, or would like to become a sponsor, contact me to make arrangements.

Ego Check with The Id DM – Elizabeth & Jared Kilmer on Therapeutic D&D for Veterans

Image
Jared & Elizabeth Kilmer

I’m joined by Elizabeth Kilmer (soon-to-be PhD) and Jared Kilmer, PhD this week as they discuss their use of Dungeons & Dragons in clinical settings with military veterans. They present how the therapy gaming groups are structured and the themes that come up during gameplay. They present examples from past sessions including stories of how veterans have processed through challenging emotional content with the help of in-game situations. They talk about their ambitions and plans to gather more data about their therapeutic D&D approach with veterans, and how they might expand this in the future with other populations.

Enjoy the 55th episode of Ego Check with The Id DM!

Listen here!

And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:

Please consider leaving a review on iTunes and help spread the word about the show. 

If you are interested in coming on the show for an interview, or would like to become a sponsor, contact me to make arrangements.

High School Legacies & The Resonance of Cobra Kai

Folks, strap in because the following article is going to connect some threads that may leave you thinking, “Wow, he’s really thinking too much about Cobra Kai.” In fact, I already received this feedback a few months ago while writing about my enjoyment of the show on Facebook:

Cobra Kai The OC

I was seven-years-old when The Karate Kid was released in 1984, and like many others I grew up with it being a touchstone movie of my childhood. I certainly saw The Karate Kid Part II in the movie theater and I enjoyed various callbacks to the series in pop culture over the years such as Sweep The Leg by No More Kings and the video essay presenting the case that Daniel was the real bully in the original film. And I still get fired up whenever I hear ‘You’re The Best Around’ by Joe Esposito.

Resurrecting those characters and that franchise over 30 years later should not work. It did not work out well (for some) in Star Wars last month, and as Randal remarks in Clerks, “Let the past be the past.” And yet, Cobra Kai works on multiple levels and I remain delightfully dumbfounded by how effective it is. In an era of sequels, reboots and retcons, Cobra Kai manages to pay homage to the source material and give a slight wink to the audience while also taking the current premise seriously.

How do they manage this feat? And why did this show resonate with me?

Continue reading “High School Legacies & The Resonance of Cobra Kai”

The Rise of Skywalker’s Audacious Cynicism

It has been quite the ride in recent years following Star Wars. What started out as a standalone film a year after I was born evolved into a trilogy of films that captured the hearts and minds of a generation. After a long hiatus, the creator of those films returned for another trilogy – and whether you liked those six movies or not – there was no argument about which individual was making decisions about the events taking place, “A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away….”

Star Wars was the brainchild of George Lucas and of course he was influenced by countless stories that came before him and benefited from the amazing talents of those around him as the films were created. If we had a problem with the events that played out on screen, then it was easy to point to Lucas as the individual responsible. And many people did hold him responsible after the conclusion of the prequels. So much so that he sold the franchise to Disney and moved on with his life.

The sequel trilogy announced by Disney produced excitement that perhaps the old magic of Star Wars could be recaptured. They brought on J.J. Abrams to direct a script that was written by at least three people including Abrams, Lawrence Kasdan (The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi) and Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3). It was announced that the original cast would reprise their roles, and fans were tentatively hopeful the new films would positively jolt the Star Wars universe.

The Force Awakens accomplished that by stylishly redoing the plot of A New Hope with an enjoyable cast of characters. We got an emotional end to the story of Han Solo and a major tease for whatever might have happened to Luke Skywalker. For whatever reason, Luke’s reveal in the new trilogy of films was held for the second installment; The Force Awakens hinges on the story of Rey, Finn and Kylo Ren. It produced memorable scenes, funny lines of dialogue, great visuals, and offered intriguing questions:

  • Who is Rey? Are her parents anyone special? Is she a Skywalker, Solo, Kenobi or Palpatine?
  • Is Kylo capable of redemption? Will he turn to the Light Side or go further to the Dark Side?
  • Who is Snoke? 
  • What’s the deal with The Knights of Ren?
  • Why was Luke hiding? What’s he going to do when he finally speaks to Rey?

As the start of a new trilogy and purposeful jumpstart to the flagging Star Wars franchise, The Force Awakens worked well. Critics and fans alike embraced the movie, and it set the stage for two more films that could go continue to mirror the original trilogy or do something a bit different.

Continue reading “The Rise of Skywalker’s Audacious Cynicism”

Ego Check with The Id DM – Dr. Rachel Kowert on Video Games & Mental Health

Dr. Rachel Kowert
Rachel Kowert, PhD

Dr. Rachel Kowert is a psychologist with years of published research examining the mental health effects of video games. She details how her research has NOT supported a variety of commonly-held and spread myths about video games. She discusses her role as Research Director for Take This, whose mission is to decrease stigma while increasing the support for mental health in the game-enthusiast community and inside the game industry. She talks about her history as a video game player and how she manages her personal use of games and that of her young children.

Enjoy the 55th episode of Ego Check with The Id DM!

And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:

Please consider leaving a review on iTunes and help spread the word about the show. 

New episodes are (typically) released the 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month!

If you are interested in coming on the show for an interview, or would like to become a sponsor, contact me to make arrangements.