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A Punny Story

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Having been in a creative career most of my adult life, I know how long the process can be and how much end products generally differ from the starting vision.  Drafts of blogs I’ve been composing in my head for weeks or months always come out strikingly different once my fingers start flying over the keys.  Sometimes I watch in amazement as these other thoughts I didn’t know I had just seem to form on paper.  Recently this phenomenon happened in a simple, clear way that  while I was working on a simple art project I conceived of years ago.

I have an affinity for being “punny, ” much to the dismay of those who must spent time with me.   About 4 years ago I thought it would be funny to get an old weathered board and just paint “I’m bored” on it.  A board is saying it’s bored, get it? The picture in my head was a piece was a piece of weathered white board like it had been part of a fence.

The idea has never left my mind but for whatever reasons I never did it.  When I saw a board I liked in a friends driveway, the project was finally underway.  It wasn’t white though, so I had to think about things for a while.  I drove around with it for weeks before getting myself to storage to pull out my paints and painting tools and found a place to set it all up.  During this time a smaller brown board caught my eye.  It wasn’t the rough kind of wood I wanted, but I said to myself “Ruth, you really should try this out before you paint the board you spent 4 years looking for. You should do a practice one.” I agreed with myself.

I tried painting it white and but it wasn’t working for me – at least not on that kind of wood so I had fun with paint and then when I went to write my funny, punny words, I suddenly thought “would it be funnier if I did the accurate b-o-a-r-d spelling and the pun is made in the head, not thrown in your face.” And so I did.  All who I’ve shown it to or told about it agree that is punnier.

What fascinates me is the spontaneity of the change, given that I’d never thought about doing that before.  And that I immediately committed to try.  I wonder if I’d done it a year ago would it have come out different?  Was the wait necessary for my brain to make the shift?  I wasn’t ready to create this masterpiece?  I have no answers but am in awe of the creative process, whatever it is.  And the painting does make me happy – because it’s funny.

Talking About Dawnel DeRubeis

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When I started volunteering with the Greater LA chapter of the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention, I found an incredibly diverse group of people from all walks of life, occupations, and backgrounds.  Like with survivors everywhere, the details of our stories varied drastically, but the distinct pain and problems suicide loss brings united us. I told the chapter director I wanted to jump right in and do any and everything to help.  She told me about another volunteer who said the same thing and was already doing it – Dawnel DeRubeis.

When I met her, Dawnel had just been crowned Mrs. Hollywood 2016 with a platform of mental health and suicide prevention stemming from her own struggles and attempt, as well as the loss of her grandmother to suicide.  She was the emcee of the first AFSP Out of the Darkness community walk when I was on the chapter board so we chit chatted and became friendly. When I heard her explain what brought her to volunteering for AFSP, my mouth feel open because her words were my words – from looking for volunteer to try and avoid falling into a depression to finding our life purpose and making it a mission. 

Since then our friendship has grown and she has made a huge impact in the Santa Clarita area of LA, with her tireless work to bring educational programs to the community.  In Spring 2019 she chaired the first ever Out of the Darkness Campus Walk at the College of the Canyons there. Dawnel also fulfilled her pageant dream of winning Mrs. California 2017, allowing her a large stage for her mental health platform.  

I aspire to be as effective as Dawnel in spreading the word and see her as an inspirational role model.  Dawnel DeRubeis is a beauty queen inside and out!  Check out her Talking About Suicide Loss With segment here.

19 Years and 196000 Miles

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I have always loved to drive and am always up for a road trip.  For a time I thought about being a truck driver so I could just drive and listen to music all day.  Unfortunately, that dream died due to my aversion to driving large vehicles, discovered when I was forced to drive the family ’73 Chevy Station wagon instead of the ’72 Chevy Malibu I was used to.  That was big enough. Thirty-seven years later I have owned 3 cars in my life.  Two were small Toyota Tercels from around ’86.  Then on July 3, 2000 came the Rav4.  My dream car.  My travellin’ buddy. My rock.

As soon as I moved to LA and became aware of Rav4s I wanted one.  I had never been in one but they were cute.  I liked that they had the SUV style and sat higher than cars, but seemed to be of car-like size.  When the used Tercel I bought upon arriving in LA gave out, I went to Toyota, sat in a Rav4 and knew I had found “the one.” The all-important-to-me feature of seat to dashboard height was perfect and when I drove it, it handled just like a car.  I was ready to buy.

Because I can be impulsive, the friend I brought along to check me on that strongly suggested I test at least one other vehicle to be sure.  I reluctantly agreed and went to Isuzu because of the cute-factor of the Amigo.  The second I sat behind the wheel I knew it wasn’t the one.  It felt truck like and it drove truck like.  

Back at Toyota, I was checking out all the options, mentally prepared that it would have to be ordered.  When I decided on Mystic Teal Mica for the color, I was stunned that they had one on the lot, with the basic package I wanted and 7 miles on the odometer.  It had arrived that day or the day before. I drove it off the lot, rolling it into double digits to 11 on my way home.

Over these last 19 years and 196,000 miles, the car has become a significant part of my life and my identity.  It is a comfort zone and I am emotionally attached.   I think about all My Rav and I have seen and done together.  It has taken me on many adventures, especially when my dog Riggs was alive.  We went to the snow, the beach, the desert and cross country for a job in Florida.  It’s transported me to numerous jobs, meetings, events, and driven through many fast food restaurants.  Most of my California memories include my Rav4.

It was the first big thing I bought and paid off, securing it’s place as the one , and made the car the one and only  tangible piece of stability I had as a freelancer.  It represented freedom and escape.  If I had enough money for a tank of gas, I could get somewhere else.  I had no plans of where I would go or how that would help, but knowing I could calmed me. Now that I mostly petsit in other people’s lovely homes while they are away, my car is home base.  It helps carts my things from place to place.  I pack it up, drive the 5 or 10 minutes to the next house and unpack it. We are a team with a system.  It gets me.

This year, more than most, this anniversary also has me thinking of all that has happened since I got the car.  I had it before 9/11.  I had it before my dog and he has since gone to the Rainbow Bridge.  I had it before my cousin who is going into her sophomore year in college was born.  And at 19 years, I think how that was my age when my mother died.

The few problems I’ve had have been the expected problems that come with an aging vehicle, but costs have still been much less than a new car payment would be each year.  I am firmly attached and hope to drive the car forever.  We just drove up to wine country for a 2 week cat sitting job (I am a lucky, lucky girl!)  Ours is a true love story.  We’ve come a long way, baby!  Let’s keep rolling – I can’t wait to see where we go next!

_________________________________

When I moved to Los Angeles in ’97, I bought a used Tercel because it was familiar and I had loved my first one.  It came from Memphis, TN, bought when I left school after my mom died and moved in with my dad. It was cute (very important to me), easy to drive, and had a small turning circumference.  That’s the selling point I remember the dealing pushing and still think about anytime I’m trying to do a u-turn. 

My attachment to the car – and the freedom it represented – convinced me to take it to NY when I moved there and store it near the studio I shared with a friend, a move which essentially doubled my rent.  But I made use of it, leaving the city frequently for mini-adventures to Connecticut, New Jersey, or the Hamptons because the girl with the car gets the invites when friends with rich bosses get the housekeeps for the weekend!  I used the trunk for extra storage.  Finally I sold the car to the guy that ran the garage where I parked it.  After a few years, my work became life-consuming and I rarely used the car.  About the third time I had to get the battery jumped, he pointed out to me how much money I was wasting and offered to buy it for a niece going to medical school.  He made it easy and for a nice reason, so I let go.

The LA Tercel lasted about three years and died a sad radiator involved death along Santa Monica Blvd just past Highland.  Luckily I had just started a new job that gave me good standing with the car loan people so all I had to do was choose.

Before I moved to LA, I was certain I’d get a Mazda Miata, but as I saw them on the roads they just seem small and vulnerable.  All the SUVs made me want to be high up but I didn’t want a big vehicle or anything that felt like I was driving a truck. It felt like an overwhelming decision right off the bat and I didn’t come to LA with a job, so I quickly defaulted to the Tercel.  And I was happy.

195,000 Miles + 19 Years

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I have always loved to drive and am always up for a road trip.  For a time I thought about being a truck driver so I could just drive and listen to music all day.  Unfortunately, that dream died due to my aversion to driving large vehicles, discovered when I was forced to drive the family ’73 Chevy Station wagon instead of the ’72 Chevy Malibu I was used to.  That was big enough. Thirty-seven years later I have owned 3 cars in my life.  Two were small Toyota Tercels from around ’86.  Then on July 3, 2000 came the Rav4.  My dream car.  My travellin’ buddy. My rock.

As soon as I moved to LA and became aware of Rav4s I wanted one.  I had never been in one but they were cute.  I liked that they had the SUV style and sat higher than cars, but seemed to be of car-like size.  When the used Tercel I bought upon arriving in LA gave out, I went to Toyota, sat in a Rav4 and knew I had found “the one.” The all-important-to-me feature of seat to dashboard height was perfect and when I drove it, it handled just like a car.  I was ready to buy.

Because I can be impulsive, the friend I brought along to check me on that strongly suggested I test at least one other vehicle to be sure.  I reluctantly agreed and went to Isuzu because of the cute-factor of the Amigo.  The second I sat behind the wheel I knew it wasn’t the one.  It felt truck like and it drove truck like.  

Back at Toyota, I was checking out all the options, mentally prepared that it would have to be ordered.  When I decided on Mystic Teal Mica for the color, I was stunned that they had one on the lot, with the basic package I wanted and 7 miles on the odometer.  It had arrived that day or the day before. I drove it off the lot, rolling it into double digits to 11 on my way home.

Over these last 19 years and 196,000 miles, the car has become a significant part of my life and my identity.  It is a comfort zone and I am emotionally attached.   I think about all My Rav and I have seen and done together.  It has taken me on many adventures, especially when my dog Riggs was alive.  We went to the snow, the beach, the desert and cross country for a job in Florida.  It’s transported me to numerous jobs, meetings, events, and driven through many fast food restaurants.  Most of my California memories include my Rav4.

It was the first big thing I bought and paid off, securing it’s place as the one , and made the car the one and only  tangible piece of stability I had as a freelancer.  It represented freedom and escape.  If I had enough money for a tank of gas, I could get somewhere else.  I had no plans of where I would go or how that would help, but knowing I could calmed me. Now that I mostly petsit in other people’s lovely homes while they are away, my car is home base.  It helps carts my things from place to place.  I pack it up, drive the 5 or 10 minutes to the next house and unpack it. We are a team with a system.  It gets me.

This year, more than most, this anniversary also has me thinking of all that has happened since I got the car.  I had it before 9/11.  I had it before my dog and he has since gone to the Rainbow Bridge.  I had it before my cousin who is going into her sophomore year in college was born.  And at 19 years, I think how that was my age when my mother died.

The few problems I’ve had have been the expected problems that come with an aging vehicle, but costs have still been much less than a new car payment would be each year.  I am firmly attached and hope to drive the car forever.  We just drove up to wine country for a 2 week cat sitting job (I am a lucky, lucky girl!)  Ours is a true love story.  We’ve come a long way, baby!  Let’s keep rolling – I can’t wait to see where we go next!

_________________________________

When I moved to Los Angeles in ’97, I bought a used Tercel because it was familiar and I had loved my first one.  It came from Memphis, TN, bought when I left school after my mom died and moved in with my dad. It was cute (very important to me), easy to drive, and had a small turning circumference.  That’s the selling point I remember the dealing pushing and still think about anytime I’m trying to do a u-turn. 

My attachment to the car – and the freedom it represented – convinced me to take it to NY when I moved there and store it near the studio I shared with a friend, a move which essentially doubled my rent.  But I made use of it, leaving the city frequently for mini-adventures to Connecticut, New Jersey, or the Hamptons because the girl with the car gets the invites when friends with rich bosses get the housekeeps for the weekend!  I used the trunk for extra storage.  Finally I sold the car to the guy that ran the garage where I parked it.  After a few years, my work became life-consuming and I rarely used the car.  About the third time I had to get the battery jumped, he pointed out to me how much money I was wasting and offered to buy it for a niece going to medical school.  He made it easy and for a nice reason, so I let go.

The LA Tercel lasted about three years and died a sad radiator involved death along Santa Monica Blvd just past Highland.  Luckily I had just started a new job that gave me good standing with the car loan people so all I had to do was choose.

Before I moved to LA, I was certain I’d get a Mazda Miata, but as I saw them on the roads they just seem small and vulnerable.  All the SUVs made me want to be high up but I didn’t want a big vehicle or anything that felt like I was driving a truck. It felt like an overwhelming decision right off the bat and I didn’t come to LA with a job, so I quickly defaulted to the Tercel.  And I was happy.

Talking About Kelly O’Malley

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As much comfort, validation, and healing I’ve gained from opening up about my mother’s suicide to other survivors and then getting my family to speak for The Silent Goldens documentary, it is hard sometimes to think about having “lost” 30 years to the issues that arose from her death and (not) dealing with it as a family in silence.

With full understanding that I may not have had the capacity to be helped back then, that everything I have done and gone through makes me the person to do this project now, or my passion about focusing all my efforts on this subject may not have been there without the long silence, but I can’t help but wonder at times what road I might have taken had I been open to the subject from the start.  

When I was young I never had a clear vision of what I wanted to be when I grew up.  I’m not sure I was actually aware I had very many choices other than one of the helping professions my family were all in,  like doctor, social worker, or teacher.  I’ve always believed that had my mother not died, I would have defaulted to following in her social work footsteps.  

That didn’t happen, but the sense of purpose I felt when I was hit with the idea, and the sense of how it could help others shares their own stories, helped reconcile the path I chose in television with the social service element I always felt was missing and hope this film is a platform for me to continue to serve the suicide survivors community.

Over the last couple of years working for suicide prevention and awareness, I have been amazed by those who have been able to speak so much sooner and to find ways to combine their work or passions with the lessons from their loss much, much earlier than I was.  I am also lucky to have become friends with some of them.

One of those people is actress/producer Kelly O’Malley who lost her father in 2011.  Her studies The Stella Adler Academy of Theater and Acting inspired her to use theater reach those affected by suicide and in the Spring of 2016, she premiered A Light In Dark Places, a play festival showcasing 5 one acts pieces related to suicide and loss. The festival, now performed every September during National Suicide Prevention Week, has grown exponentially every year in submissions and attendance and raises money for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.  The show also run in Kelly’s hometown of Dallas in Fall 2019.  Kelly also started producing music events for suicide awareness in LA and hopes to get other art forms involved to“create a community that breaks isolation, one where there is no stigma about suicide or mental illness and where reaching out for help feels safe and even necessary.”  

I have had the privilege of attending most of the performances the last two years and the plays are illuminating.  The dedication and sensitivity to the subject of the entire crew and cast has also always been impressive. Brava Kelly!  I’ll be back this year!

For more information or to donate go to alightindarkplaces.org and be sure to check her out in the latest installment of Talking About Suicide Loss With.

The Golden State

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Last year I wrote a Part 1 to this blog about a new pair of socks.  I thought I’d have a mini-series of random things I find that give a true spark of joy in my day.  I’ve probably had a few such moments, but none significant enough to  inspire me to write until I found this lovely $1.49 reusable shopping bag at a grocery store that simply said “The Golden State” with simple imagery of palm trees on the beach. 

It’s not uncommon to run into things that use the word golden.  Since it’s my last name I often notice and make jokes about owning it all.  And that Molson Golden is my uncle.  I know the bag was referring to my current home state of California, but the fact that I strive to be in the serene state the bag depicts, I decided to buy the bag, hoping it would transfer that feeling to me.  It hasn’t, but I still have hope and it constantly reminds me of that goal.

A Little Trauma, A Big Reminder

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Recently I faced a situation that was highly traumatic for me.  What happened was not life changing, is not uncommon,  and it is something others easily cope with or even, I discovered,  laugh off.  It was, however, nightmarish for me and it left me shaken for a full day.  

My story involves a cat. I have never owned a cat, but through living with people who did, friend’s cats, and the ones I care for in my life as a petsitter, I’ve come to appreciate them and truly do love the ones in my life.  Recently, however, one of my little charges brought me a surprise gift at 1:30am that horrified, disgusted, and traumatized me.  Without getting too graphic, when I went to see what was up, I almost stepped on a large rodent in two very defined pieces.  

Rodents in general are problematic for me to cope with, and I’d certainly never been that close to one that big except from a distance walking at at night in NY, and I’d never seen anything freshly killed and bleeding like that in that condition.  Luckily it was outside and I was able to find two buckets to cover the remains until the owner returned later that day. I was not capable of dealing with it any further.

The murderous kitty had jumped on the bed and my guilt over not appreciating the act of love I’ve often been told these types of gift show, wouldn’t allow me to kick her off, but I couldn’t cuddle.  I also wasn’t able to sleep the rest of the night as every time I closed my eyes, I saw the scene in my head.  Being the middle of the night, on both coasts, I felt this trauma was not truly significant enough to actually call anyone.

The next morning, I had my weekly meditation class and was afraid to settle in for the practice as the picture of the carnage was more and more present since the shock had worn off. Even when I was driving or actively focused on other things, the image lurked in my brain, circling in the back but ready to jump to the forefront again.

I told my teacher of my experience and fear of the picture in my head so he suggested I pull up a happy picture on my phone to stare at and absorb during practice. I made it through with a little help from that for about 3 minutes and then a more help from some meditative Match-3 games on my phone.

All day I felt a little bit off, a little bit in a fog.  Luckily it was a busy day and I saw a number of different people, all of whom got to hear about the unpleasantness.   After my friend got home that evening, we spoke about the cat’s gift and my resulting trauma.  She pointed out that I was even starting to joke about parts of the experience and that just talking about it helps process it.

While the effects of this trauma were short-lived and mild, it reminded me how it affects the mind, body, and ability to function at full capacity.  It also proved how sharing is key to coping with the impact of any difficult situation. Even though I am on a mission to promote this idea through The Silent Goldens documentary, I still need to be reminded of this simple premise when it comes to my own reactions to things other than suicide loss.

Talking About Dana Fuchs

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Dana watching Kevin and Jon perform in NYC’s East Village at Jesse Malin’s Coney Island Baby.

 

May is  Mental Health Awareness Month and I’m so happy to have Dana Fuchs as the guest on this month’s Talking About Suicide Loss With segment for the occasion.  She is a powerful singer/songwriter who has added her voice to the conversation about suicide loss, sharing her story from the stage and her loss through her music.

Dana’s soulful voice was touted by Classic Rock magazine as “juke-joint dirty and illicit, evoking Joplin, Jagger and a cigarette bobbing in a glass of bourbon”.  She actually played Janis Joplin off-Broadway in Love Janis, and is often recognized from her role as Sadie in Julie Taymor’s 2007 Beatles-based film Across The Universe, singing “Helter Skelter” as one of her solos. The Dana Fuchs Band had become a top live act in the NYC blues scene when  her debut album was released in 2003.  Along with a very busy international touring schedule, Dana currently serves as an ambassador to the JED Foundation, a non-profit focused on suicide prevention and providing mental health resources for teens, in honor of her older sister who died by suicide. Her song “Songbirg (Fly Me To Sleep)” was written about that loss and is on her first album Lonely for a Lifetime. In 2018 Dana released Love Lives On, inspired by the music of Memphis, TN and recorded there.  All the info about Dana, her albums and tour dates can be found at danafuchs.com.

I conceived of the Talking About series because of all the amazing people like Dana I’ve been meeting who have also been affected by suicide loss, and the silence that follows it.  I’m constantly in awe of the very different and creative ways people develop to use their loss for the benefit of others, as I am about to do with The Silent Goldens documentary.  Their work has inspired me on my mission, giving me the confidence and motivation to keep pressing on, and I wanted to create a platform for those who have opened up to explain why it has been such an important part of their healing while gently encouraging others to speak.  My story of silence, sadly is not unusual and though the details of all our experiences are worlds apart, the pain and problems we face are sadly all too common.

Survivor support groups often talk about “being in a club nobody wants to belong to.”  I’m sure other groups use that expression too, as it applies to all situations (I think) that one would seek out a support group to deal with. The bonds forged through common experience are often due to horrible experiences. War, natural disasters, crime, loss and all kinds of events that change us deeply.  But bonds are also made through good times. “Families” are formed because of togetherness, common goals and interests.  Working in television production – or any project-based job – can easily produce that connection because you often give your life over to the project for periods of time,  you travel together, you find yourself in unique situations and dealing with personalities that only other people on the production can truly understand.  

At the beginning of my television career in the early 90’s I was very lucky to work at MTV when it was still focused on music, was only on the cusp of getting a corporate vibe, and a lot of the stuff we were doing was still new – and generally very fun to be a part of. I am still good friends with many people from those days, and they are friends with others, and we all hear about each other and communicate online. Even if you don’t totally remember someone, there is still that automatic “in” for having worked in those halls at that time and always knowing at least a few people in common.

Kevin Mackall worked there.  We didn’t work together on anything or know each other well, but I remembered who he was when asked.  As we were starting to develop my film, he and The Silent Goldens director, Jon Bendis (my former MTV boss) reconnected and re-clicked as both are musicians and ended up in a band together.  Their catch-up conversations then led to the discovery that they were both working on projects for suicide awareness.  

My “celebrity lean-in” shot with The Dusty Wright 5 (l-r) Kevin, Bendis, Dusty at NYC’s Jesse Malin’s Coney Island Baby.

Kevin is now the Executive Creative Director of the JED Foundation and is married to Dana!  And that is how this very small world brought us together and now has bonded us in shared experience and purpose.  I communicated with Kevin via email a bit before I went to NYC a few months after the “suicide thing” came up and when we met in person, it was one of those conversations that was comfortable and natural, like we had known each other forever – even though we probably hadn’t ever had a full conversation because we “grew up” at MTV together.

  I’ve been able to spend a little time with Dana in NY and got to see her perform in LA last year, but she’s a busy, busy lady and even though we have yet to have a good sit down story-swapping session, I’m thrilled she’s in my orbit.  Both she and Kevin have been incredibly supportive of all I am doing, which is a huge layer of validation that makes me very very happy!

Here is a link to her very compelling story

New interviews will be posted every month on the 15th.  Please subscribe to the page to keep up with the latest guests and help us grow our numbers!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCOmPFumUvgHp-ZE-06DOYig?

 

 

 

The Right to Not Help

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Since May is Mental Health Awareness month, I’m going to share a bit more about one of my struggles and a recent revelation I had about it.  Asking for help is one of the hardest things for me to do, but giving help is a driving force in my life and part of my self-identity. I consider being a helper one of my virtues and honestly enjoy being of service, however it is a trait that causes a great deal of anxiety in my life.

I attribute this trait to growing up in a family of social workers, doctors, and teachers.  My father was often on call.  My mother went out of her way to help her clients, even if it interfered with family plans. I got it. I couldn’t resent it because I understood the whys of what they were doing and had compassion for the individuals in need.  Even as a bratty teenager, I knew my desire to get home in time to watch a tv show could in no way surpass the need to drop baby formula off to a family without a car (even though it was before VCRs).  Any resentment I did feel led to guilt because what they were doing was important and what I wanted generally was not.  

Recently during a conversation with a friend about whether or not we were people-pleasers, I articulated my theory about my compulsion to offer assistance with a word that I hadn’t used before, one that both of us remarked on had hit the nail on the head.  This is what I said – 

I don’t think my motivation is people pleasing, it’s more like if I’m able,  I don’t have a right to say no.

I saw helping as a duty – I help because I can.  I help because I pathologically put other people’s needs before my own.  Saying no with the only reason being I don’t want to only leads to feeling guilty about it for much longer than it would have taken to help, so often it’s just easier to do whatever is asked.

My helping tendencies become a curse because I am still working on my boundary issues and continuously overextend myself at the expense of getting my own things done or trying to stick to a schedule I’ve set.   Feeling overwhelmed unfortunately shifts my mood to anger.  When I connect the dots, I recognize the anger is fully at myself for not making my own wants and needs a priority. 

Articulating my feeling that I don’t have a right to say no explains my anger to me.  I don’t like being told what to do.  I’m frustrated that I don’t stand up for my needs.  I feel trapped.  

I’m not looking to stop helping others – I honestly like doing it and it gives me purpose. in doing It’s just never felt like a choice and I need to balance what I say “yes” to with my own   My inner voice reminds me I have no rights.  I certainly didn’t have rights as a child to my parents attention or time when someone was in crisis.  I’m sure if I did put up any fight I lost it and the idea of helping others was reinforced.

I don’t yet know how this new revelation will affect my relationship with my helping issues, but I’m hoping the “have to” feeling dissipates and I will not just intellectually understand that I do have a choice and all my offers of help come from a true desire to do so.