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 – Megan Connell, PsyD on D&D as Therapy and Creative Burnout

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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

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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”

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.

Ego Check with The Id DM – Elisabeth de Kleer on D&D Behind Bars

Elisabeth de Kleer
Elisabeth de Kleer

Elisabeth de Kleer is an award-winning documentary producer and director that has experience working in the true crime genre. She has been working for the past two years on the subject of Dungeons & Dragons in prisons, and is attempting to Kickstart a documentary on this subject. She joins me to talk about the inspiration for this project and shares some of the stories from the 100s of inmates and prison personnel that she has interviewed thus far. We also discuss the purpose of prison, and the challenges that exist for reintegrating back into society.

I share with her my background as a survivor of a violent crime as my father was shot and killed in the line of duty when I was eight-years-old, and we discuss the murky waters of how society deals with individuals that commit violent crimes after they have served their time in prison. We explore the potential rehabilitative powers of D&D for inmates, and the extraordinary lengths they have gone to play the game while incarcerated.

Enjoy the 52nd 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.

 

Ego Check with The Id DM – Episode 46 – Ryan Kelly, Ph.D.

Ryan Kelly
Ryan Kelly, PhD

Dr. Ryan Kelly joins me this week to talk about his work on how to use geek passions to grow. He is a psychologist and speaks about his work with a variety of clients including those that use videogames in problematic ways. He presents his thoughts on how the power of videogames have increased as technology has improved and wades through some of the available data about links between videogames and problematic behavior.

We discuss the potential benefits and consequences of gaming and other hobbies, and offer suggestions for how to find a healthy balance. He highlights that games can be a useful tool and coping strategy, though that can become a problem if it is the only tool used by someone.

Enjoy the 46th episode of Ego Check with The Id DM! And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:

Listen here!

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.

Ego Check with The Id DM – Episode 45 – Greg Leatherman

Greg Leatherman
Greg Leatherman

Greg Leatherman, founder of VRECast, joins me to talk about his life as a gay man and what it’s been like for him playing tabletop RPGs since the 1980s. He details the origins of the Very Random Encounters podcast, which randomizes as much as possible for character creation and story lines.

He explains the concept of safe spaces and how his life as a gay man forces him to consider changing his behavior to blend in to decrease the chance of violence against him. We talk about the lack of male affection in popular media, and he offers a suggestion to listeners to begin to change this culture.

Many, many thanks to Greg for being willing to share his experience and life with us.

Enjoy the 45th episode of Ego Check with The Id DM! And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:

Listen here!

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.

Ego Check with The Id DM – Episode 44 – Adam Johns & Adam Davis

Adam Johns and Adam Davis from Game to Grow join the pod to talk about their years of experience running games for children on the autism spectrum and how their experience was funneled into the Critical Core tabletop roleplaying game. Critical Core is designed to teach children on the autism spectrum confidence and social skills, and it is now live on Kickstarter. Their Kickstarter runs for two more weeks and is knocking off Stretch Goals; the game is for any parent or educator that would like to use a RPG to teach skills to children. And stay tuned until the end of the episode for a bonus song by Dr. Ryan Kelly — trust me!

Adam Johns and Adam Davis 2019
Adam Johns & Adam Davis

Enjoy the 44th episode of Ego Check with The Id DM! And please subscribe to the podcast at one of the links below:

Listen here!

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.