A controversial opinion on the supernatural

For five years, while I was married, I was a member of a paranormal investigation team in Colorado. My ex-wife started the club because she was really into those ghost hunting shows that were really popular at the beginning of the 2000s. She even got a TAPS affiliation, which meant that the group was referred to by people with cases they got from Colorado for the show that they didn’t want to come out and produce. But they didn’t want to look like dicks for ignoring either.

After five years of weekends sitting in cold, musty basements, hanging out in dark rooms in people’s houses, and listening to anecdotes of hauntings, it is my experience that people might have had weird things happen that are difficult to explain, ghosts are 99% not the explanation. Maybe even 99.99999999999999999% not the explanatioin.

The majority of what I saw out in the field was the majority of people being mentally ill (diagnosed much of that time and on medication–like hard core psychotropics), lonely, bored, or just businesses looking to get attention because they had a ghost story with a little provenence.

Probably the most valid reason for a “haunting” was living near high-test powerlines, which can really screw with your body’s fight or flight reactions and in worst case scenarios cause halicinations.

You know what else causes people to see ghosts? A whole team of people running cables and cameras through their house, asking questions to the open air to play back on a voice recorder, and even the biggest crock of shit ever…the ghost boxes that pick up electromagnetic fluxuations and spit out random words. Note too that the words are always spooky words.

There’s all sorts of cool things that might explain ghosts. Quantum entanglement is one. So is “place memory” but that seems a little bit more woo-woo than it probably deserves credit for. Basically the entire world has the potential to be a big memory stick that can play back events on a loop, like Princess Leia asking Obi-Wan for help.

I love the idea of a good ghost story though. The thought of it gives me chills. But after seeing so many people out there who needed help in other ways and instead got a bunch of nerds with cameras validating their halucinations, I’m not a fan anymore.

I live in a 110 year old house, which my aunts, my grandma, my cousins, etc. claim was haunted. It’s not. Like many of the “clients” I see a couple generations of people who needed attention for those stories and also needed to feel important, like they were chosen by the ghosts who revealed themselves unto them. The house is not haunted. It’s just old. It was practically built old.

The only thing that haunts it is my aunt who acts as though everyone within a mile vicinity of her has to do everything she tells them to do. Because she will throw the biggest fit if they don’t. She’s the originally flopper. The original “Karen.” She called the police on me the other day for putting a lock on the back gate while I was doing laundry so she wouldn’t accost me. Unfortunately she still lives next door. She respects no boundaries, digs through my trash and tools, and cries to the police about it when I object to these shenanigans.

Much like people with religious hysteria, it stems back to a need to be important. These are the same people who have told everyone in town for the last 70 years that they are Native American, even creating a myth of “Grandpa Whitefeather” when the DNA results always come back the same. You are NOT Native American.

From my mom’s side of the family–you know, the side that was always looked down on and treated like trash–I do get some Native American DNA. That and $5 will get you a coffee at Starbucks. They also went around for a time telling people they were Irish and that’s why they were “fighters.” Again, Maury Povich would say their DNA is about as Irish as my DNA is American Indian.

I ran DNA and geneology a long way back, but nobody seems to care about facts. They just care about their narrative. Just like with hauntings. And other BS people will die on their hills for.

I’m tired of dealing with people who pull this crap. It makes me so tired.

Scooby-Doo was right all along, people. There are no ghosts. Probably. Only people with nothing better to do that cause drama with glow in the dark Halloween masks, bed sheets, and old film projectors. Most hauntings are just a means to get someone’s way. If there is anything supernatural going on, you can bet what people are capable of is much worse.

Now, shop elves, the fae, and other things…well, there’s some reason you can never find that 10mm socket.

Edits

Today I mostly edited. I woke up to discover some articles I had written for a company had been purchased, and a fifth received an edit request. I got that taken care of, but it didn’t make the invoicing deadline at noon. So, it will have to go onto next week’s invoice.

This evening I worked on the book, editing a very hard chapter. Most of my edits have been removing stilted language and killing adverbs. Chucking some truly bad writing. My passive voice has gotten out of control, so I’ve been trimming that. Flipping stuff around to knock out those be verbs. It’s making my prose stronger at least.

I finished a whole chapter and a short scene that went with it. The trick is to keep at the mind-numbing process of editing long enough–and without distractions–to get a feel for the story, the tone, and where you want to take it. Somehow you have to do this without being on social media, hitting friends up to see what they are doing, or eating everything you can in the house.

The worst thing about editing is even if I text someone, or post something stupid on someone’s Facebook, I look back at it and think of how I could have said it better.

I think the best way to keep myself honest and effective with editing is to prepare myself to share whatever I’ve written with someone else. It’s a lot like inviting a stranger into your house. Do you want them to see the usual mess? Or do you want them to see the best version of you?

Today was a strange day too, when I realized I don’t really miss some people anymore. I just miss the feeling of missing them because it was a little bit of hope to hang onto. In some ways, hope has been my undoing for a very long time. It has been something I’ve been holding onto just to keep my mind occupied. There’s an emptiness left behind now. Like cold rain under the streetlights.

I’m going to talk about mental health

I’ve been going to therapy for years. Most recently since about a year before I filed divorce and then steadily after that for the last going on eight years. There’s a lot to talk about here, so if you are an old salt at mental health or if you have questions about getting started with it, I hope I can tick some of the boxes to help. I’m not a professional, but I might be an expert at the process from a patient’s perspective. The last couple years have been rough on everyone. Mental health is very real.

It’s not just about childhood trauma

The old trope of “Tell me about your childhood” exists, but therapy isn’t limited to just this. A lot of the time they want to know how you feel about something right now. You can bring childhood trauma into it, which often plays a part, but it’s not the whole picture. Sometimes it’s your current situation. Stress about money. An abusive partner. Your own anxieties or stress. A sense of meaning or purpose you seem to be lacking. It’s not always going to be about your past, though that will come up if you think it’s important and want to talk about it.

They aren’t your friends

The crazy thing (sorry, pun not intended) about getting therapy is it is a relationship of sorts. It’s not a friendship, though you will be sharing some very personal things with someone who will listen and offer feedback. They aren’t your friend, but I don’t mean that in a menacing way, like I would say about co-workers or the police. Friends tend to…indulge us sometimes. Enable us. Therapists don’t. At least they shouldn’t, but they will often listen and empathize with us to get the full story. Let them. This is good. Our friends like to see us Happy. Sometimes that means if we are lying to ourselves about stuff. I had a therapist tell me it was her job to hold up a mirror. Sometimes we don’t like what we see in that mirror. And no, life isn’t always about being Happy. Whoever told us that probably made their fortune off selling billions of hamburgers. Or oxycontin.

It’s a relationship

Just like any relationship, you have to find the right fit. I’ve been to therapists who just didn’t listen. Or others who thought they had me figured out. Others were such a soft touch with my feelings we got nothing done, because they were afraid to ask the tough questions. Others became more like friends and too familiar, and let me get away with bullshitting them for too long. Others just weren’t very good. I’ve probably seen a dozen different therapists. This happens. People come and go. It’s weird spilling your guts to someone only to hear later that they have taken another job someplace else or are retiring. But the important thing is finding someone that you click with…and not in a way that you click with friends. Someone you trust to share with, but also trust that they will call you out and you will feel safe with that. Even if being called out is uncomfortable.

But if the relationship is working, and your treatment isn’t, you can pick a different therapist.

Don’t self diagnose

I have a friend who is a psychologist. She gets so mad about TikTok and how people are using the app to self-diagnose ADHD, BPD, Narcissism, etc. Though I get the validity of her statement, that an app designed for teenagers to show off their dance moves is NOT a therapist…the problem with this country is we don’t have a lot of resources for mental health. It’s either prohibitively expensive or like I mentioned above, our choices are limited in who will be effective in our treatment.

As much as I have been going to therapy, my personal therapist has never run a DSM-IV or DSM-V on me. I have taken the DSM twice, however. Once due to a Parental Rights Evaluation due to my divorce, and another which was done because of a CPS investigation I got sucked into. That’s a whole other story, which I’ve talked about a few times. Here’s the thing. Both evaluations said pretty much the same thing. The things I was struggling with were due to the trauma I had endured during my marriage, and were likely treatable. But I wouldn’t have ever learned this just by going to therapy once a week. And a DSM isn’t just some online test you can take, like finding your Enneagram or your horoscope. It asks over 300 questions and the answers are interpreted by the psychologist to come up with a diagnosis.

Start somewhere

So, no. You can’t tell if you have ADHD or Borderline Personality Disorder based on TikTok, but it’s a good place to start asking the right questions. Anyone who says “Only 1% of the population is a clinical narcissist! Stop saying your ex has narcissism!” The only reason the stats are that low is because you have to be diagnosed, which in and of itself is rare. So your sample size (especially for a disorder where the person thinks nothing is wrong with them) is going to be skewed.

There’s a good chance your ex is a narcissist. If it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck… And if that is what helps you deal with their bullshit, that’s not a bad place to start either. Unless you are using it to excuse your own bullshit of course.

If a diagnosis is what they need to show they are a narcissist, well, good luck with that, because in order to get diagnosed, you have to be evaluated. Anyone who is a narcissist is likely going to think they are the only one in the world without a problem. So good luck getting them in for a diagnosis. Unless a court orders it.

Don’t self-diagnose, but go into it with some good questions. Ask them to test you. I was involved with a narcissist who made me feel like I was the narcissist. I have two tests showing it wasn’t me. So I’ve got that going for me. Which is nice.

It’s not just about meds

People are worried that if they go to therapy they will be medicated. Some stuff needs medication, such as bi-polar disorder or things that your tendancy to self-harm has to be regulated with controlling your bio-chemistry. Some forms of depression, insomnia, and schizophrenia are like this too. But if your life sucks and you are depressed, there’s a good chance they can’t throw a pill at that.

In all my years of going to counseling, I’ve only been offered meds once and that was because my depression was so acute they were worried that something had to be done right now. The problem is it takes weeks to regulate with meds like that, and even then your body chemistry adapts. One day it all could stop working. And if you don’t have good insurance…well, you’re up shit creek.

But they will respect your wishes to be medicated or not. I know what my problems are, and CPT and other types of therapy have worked better than pills could. Same goes for self-medication. All the booze, weed, and hard drugs you throw at a problem won’t fix it. You have to do the work.

Do the work

It’s hard work sometimes. But it is worth it. It’s like coming out of a fog, even if it’s just for short bursts sometimes. But that fog gets less frequent until you start to forget the familiarity of the fog. It can be scary at times living without that fog. It’s a whole other way to perceive the world around you. You tend to act more instead of react. And sometimes that feels like you aren’t doing anything. You’ve lived so long the other way that you might backslide into dysfunction, or gravitate towards people with problems because you know what that is all about. You just have to keep doing the work. Chaos can be cozy, but you know what is better? Not having to deal with chaos. Trust me.

What comes next?

At some point, you might feel fine. It’s not a time-share, you aren’t stuck in it forever. It’s treatment. Just like how you wouldn’t keep going back to the doctor for that leg you broke in the third grade, at some point your visits will become less frequent. You’ll start to realize that something that would have gutted you a couple years ago just ruined your day and you were able to get on with your life. You no longer spiral. You cope. You overcome. You might even thrive. Your relationships are healthier. You cut out the toxicity voluntarily.

Every day isn’t going to be sunshine and lollipops, but you no longer feel that darkness consume you over little things. You are striving for balance. Not bliss. We all have good days and bad days. Therapy helps you avoid turning those good days into shitstorms because that’s all you know. You trust that life has an ebb and flow. Today might be good. Great even. Tomorrow might be bad. Knowing that one extreme or the other isn’t going to last forever has helped me immensely. At some point, you might decide you don’t need to go anymore, because you’ve got this.

Like really actually got this this time. And if you don’t, you can always go back.

What mental health isn’t

Mental health, unlike going to church or temple, isn’t about judgement. Unless you are hurting yourself and other people. There’s a stigma attached to seeking mental health. Like you’re “crazy”. We equate sanity with morality in this world. Being crazy isn’t about good or evil. It’s more like what you do with that crazy that matters. Someone who is psychotic or sociopathic has the capability to do bad things to other people without remorse. But treating that tends to curb the damage they can do to others.

There’s nothing that bugs me more about mental health than when people use their religion as a substitute. Why? Because a pastor or whatever the hell runs the place will just tell you to pray more, and it’s your own weakness and lack of faith that has caused this. Just pray. And tithe. Don’t forget to tithe. Bring your friends. Tithe.

Some personality disorders–like the ones I have experienced by proxy–are things that if they were treated would have meant the lives of their loved ones would have been better. But when you don’t treat it, it’s the same as letting someone have access to firearms who doesn’t possess the empathy or mental maturity to not walk into a school and start shooting.

There’s a guy I follow on TikTok who is a diagnosed, self-aware narcissist. He knows what he has done, and he understands how he has hurt people. Guess what? He’s doing something about it. That’s pretty badass right there. You are not your diagnosis anyway. You get to choose how you want to live.