Not nice people don’t get nicer just because it’ll help you heal.

When someone doesn’t care about harming you they’ll care even less about apologizing for harming you. Waiting around for accountability and justice is as useless as rummaging through the shrapnel trying to piece together a bomb that’s already detonated long ago.

If ever a stronger reason exists for healing oneself, any reason conceived wouldn’t rival healing oneself from the abuse of an emotional bully. The bully erodes confidence, composure, success, joy, stability, identity, strength, and the list goes on and on and on. The list goes on even after removing the bully’s direct influence, and the list never lessens when the goal of treatment and recovery is requiring the bully understand they’re a bully; and accept they’re a bully; and recognize the harm they caused as a bully; and apologize for being a bully.

That’s most likely never going to happen. Yet Americans crave this. And Americans feel entitled to this. Americans have a cliche word for this:


Time spent envisioning the relief and satisfaction of the bully being held accountable is time better spent learning to live with the personal trauma. How is it possible to fully heal without the bully owning their consequence? The answer is self-evident and right there.

It’s not possible to fully heal from the trauma of bullying.

In my own experience with a less-than-angelic wife who was supremely creative in her range and escalation of new ways to abuse, I spent many years and went through many therapists who perpetuated that goal of closure. This went as far as encouraging me to write the ex-wife a letter explaining what she did and how it affected me. Because this is empowering, I was told. Because this would help with closure.

Not so. What I often explained to therapists certain I needed to contact the ex-wife – effectively creating communication I purposely spent years actively ignoring and avoiding – was this was in no way empowering because I was just as happy leaving the abuse in the past and instead learn ways to regulate the emotional responses caused by being married to the Queen of the Netherworld. Here is your crown, your majesty. The last time I saw her she was at the Gates of Hell in the midst of a hostile takeover, and I’m better off letting that be the last memory of her to enter my life.

And writing a letter admitting to her she messed me up is just the sort of information she would revel in knowing about me. That her abuse was lasting and still affecting me would be like Christmas morning baked into a pumpkin spice muffin served upon my subjugated back while she sits high upon her throne built of the skulls of her abused and conquered enemies.

Maybe Christmas is the wrong holiday; she was moderately dyslexic and I happened across her “letter to Santa” one year that read, “Dear Santa, You are my Dark Lord. Guide me in my abusive whims, oh Most Unclean One.” In retrospect, perhaps Santa wasn’t the intended recipient.

So here’s the thing. Eventually, after many years, I broke ties with any therapist who promoted “closure.” That’s such an American conceit, really. Will any of the children of the Israel-Hamas War ever be afforded “closure” for the horrors they’ve lived? I’m confident in saying “not likely at all.”

Moving past therapists whose therapy was “closure centric” allowed me to find self-empowering treatments that built skills for me to live with the trauma and residual traumatic responses. I can accept the trauma of abuse but not be held paralyzed by the trauma of abuse.

For me, Dialectrical Behavioral Therapy was the skill set I was looking for.

For another series of articles I’ll be talking about my DBT course, how much it helped, and how it kicked my ass big time and solid because it dredged into the muck and horror of being married to the High Priestess of Agony Desired. DBT was an expedition into emotional realms unknown, and being emotionally, physically, and psychologically prepared for the course work was absolute and essential. If I’d entered DBT soon after the divorce, I would have been messed up in a whole new way. Being prepared for DBT took time and experience.

What did DBT do for me? I like to think of it as emotion regulation. By this my take is DBT built skills where I can feel the strong emotional trauma response while not allowing myself to be adversely affected by the ingrained trauma. My worst trauma response is “freezing” in the fight, flight, or freeze school of study. Through DBT I learned to live with the trauma of abuse and still be able to function in my life and in society.

I can have trauma but I don’t have to be ruled by it.

Okay, I’ve built up the ex-wife with allusions to her evil, and I’m not going to leave it hanging without an instance of her evil. And I use the word “evil” with purpose. So here goes:

A stipulation of the divorce was she and I had 50/50 custody of my wonderful son. She wanted full custody or even majority custody so she could move him out of New Mexico and away from me. She didn’t get this because the judge just didn’t like her at all. And my divorce attorney worked extra hard for me because in all her years as a divorce attorney she never truly hated an opposing party as much as she hated the ex-wife. So I had that going for me.

And how was she evil? When she dropped my son off for my 50 percent custody she was fond of saying, “I know how to push all your buttons and then you’ll kill yourself and then I’ll get full custody.”

You see? Evil. Never a doubt.

Reprinted with kind permission of Steve’s Thoughtcrimes.

I have bipolar. Is my life hard? Yes. Is my life harder than other people? Who cares?

I have bipolar. Keeping my symptoms in check so I can function in society following the same rules of the same social contract we all agree to is really hard for me. Perhaps it’s harder for me than others who don’t have bipolar. I can’t determine this. I don’t live their life and don’t know their challenges.

What I do know is I’m responsible for my life and how I live my life. I’ll never disempower myself by believing in “their privilege” and “it’s not fair” and “it’s so much harder for me.” All of these things may be true and to that I say “So what?”

If I have fewer opportunities and have more challenges, that’s my life to contend with. What we all share is the social contract implicitly signed by taking part in community, society, and civilization. So I work hard to live up to that, because in the final run through only I have authority over me. Anything less is disempowering and I work too hard to let that happen.

Musing on the quality of suicidal thoughts over the years

With bipolar depression, there’s a sooper sucky quality to suicidal thoughts. The harder I try to quiet the suicidal thoughts the more pronounced the suicidal thoughts become. Why is this?

The reason is easy. Because I’m actively thinking “Shut up, suicidal thoughts” I now have the original suicidal thoughts plus additional thoughts of thinking about suicidal thoughts. It’s doubling down on the suicidal thoughts creating an amplifying Suicidal Thoughts Feedback Loop. Sooper sucky.

This is along the lines of micro-epiphany after many rounds with suicidal thoughts over the years. Wisdom borne of bipolar misery. That’s kind of cool.

The University Interviews: Mental health peers to mental health providers.

In the months to come, STS is interviewing a number of peers pursuing university degrees in the mental health field. The unique challenges of college education for peers are illustrated in their experiences and stories shared, including how existing accommodations must improve to ensure peer success in their studies.

It’s a growing community of mental health peers returning to college to become mental health providers. There is a built-in benefit in this trend: Mental health peers taking primacy in the mental health provider market results in ongoing successful treatment for peers. Peers treating peers just makes sense.

Encouraging enough peers to enter degree programs is difficult, though, because these programs continue to lack properly enforced scholastic accommodation for the unpredictable nature of symptomatic episodes. The “wash out” rate is significant because the structure of degree programs value benchmarks and expected completion scheduling over the individual needs of candidates.

While university accommodation services are more available, the parameters are so ill-defined by administration and repercussions for non-compliance by educators is so inadequate, scholastic accommodations for mental health peers are easier to ignore than honor.

A prime concern is mental health peers aren’t involved in developing scholastic accommodations. Having peers develop mental health degree program scholastic accommodations for successful completion and graduation is critical, and not as an abstract talking point for consideration, this is required right now and going forward.

Given a choice, peers choose providers who implicitly understand with a unique-to-peers lived-experience empathy. And we peers deserve more providers who are peers. The time is right to change things up. Let’s create an ongoing education environment to support mental peer students. The upcoming interviews have lots of excellent insight on just how to do this.

Conspiracy theorists and mental health peers share a strong similarity.

Conspiracy theorists are upset that their views are dismissed and they thesmelves are marginalized. I say this is an excellent dynamic and I’ll tell you why, as a mental health peer advocate.

When I first started this peer advocacy thing – ten years ago – and began attending community behavioral health meetings in New Mexico, I was continuously “complimented” by others for “being so articulate… for a peer.” Yes, this is incredibly ignorant, biased, discriminatory, and just plain mean, and I could have gotten upset and demanded peers be treated with professional and basic human respect.

But I didn’t.

Why? Because as long as these minimizing well-wishers underestimate peers, we can get through all sorts of necessary change with little bureaucratic pushback. Being seen as intellectually deficient and less capable is a stigma worth capitalizing upon. So I did and I encourage fellow peer advocates to do the same.

The point is:

Now, my conspiracy theorist friends, a number of your ideas seem absolutely whack to me, but that’s a good thing. I take you seriously AND I think you’re nuts (at times). Folks like me are primed to accept your conclusions when we’re shown otherwise and logical proof. And to let you in on an observation, theorists friends. You’re more right that wrong, it just takes most of us longer to catch up.

So being tagged as a conspiracy theorist is a gift, not an insult. Let it ride. And, you can perpetuate their self-constructed myth even further with primely chosen words. For example:

Mental health community stakeholder: “Steve, you’re so articulate FOR A PEER.”

Me: “I’m sorry, I don’t know what half of those words mean.”

Just know going in, invariably the gift is rescinded when they figure you out. This gift to peers hasn’t been available to me for years. In fact, I’m seen as “too functional,” and because of this, mental health colleagues either didn’t recognize or simply ignored that I was falling into a seriously dangerous suicidal episode by volunteering to help the Albuquerque Police Department. But that’s a different tale for another time.

For now, always keep this chestnut cliche firm to the chest, ready at mind, and primed at the fore: Self-care, self-care, self-care! And this is a great number of articles for another time.

And again, let them underestimate you. It’s a great way to get things done with little resistance.

Modern parable: Flattery always gets you somewhere.

You ever have that one someone on Facebook, that one someone you know only as text and don’t recall how they got on your friends list, that one someone who posts a cute comment and smiley reaction to your photos and words almost every time you share any ol’ thing on your profile, and that one someone guaranteed to give you big hearts on your stories? And then you check out their profile to learn a little more about them, see what they like, check out a few pictures. And then you start wondering:

“I wonder what they’re really like? What are they really like in person? What things do they do? What thoughts do they carry with them through the day? What dreams do they dream? Should I? Do I take the chance? Should I . . .

“Should I just block them?”

And then I block them.

Gawd, how I despise Facebook stalkers. Creepy. Ew. Ick. Blech.

If a parable is to be had here, it’s that social media is a great place to practice setting emotional and mental health boundaries. Grimm Bros, eat your heart out.

Reprinted with kind permission of Steve’s Thoughtcrimes.

After an intrusive pat down by TSA any mammal can fly

A very many years ago at STS Game Night, whilst playing Trivial Pursuit, the question asked was, “What is the only mammal besides bats that can fly?” We’re taught only bats can fly because they propel themselves by flapping their wings, and mammals like a flying squirrel merely glide.

The question was mine to answer and I conceded to, “Weird question, no idea, here’s the die, let’s move on.”

This dude named Dan (who had not one wedge in the contest) proclaimed, “Duh! It’s humans. That question was soooooooo easy. I can’t believe you didn’t get it. Duh!”

A human doesn’t flap its arms and achieve flight. Push enough friends off the Huntington Beach Pier (friends who aren’t the most graceful or successful swimmers) and you learn this. A human can ride in a plane, and a plane is propelled with a mechanism producing thrust, and this thrust allows the plane to take flight, and this human is now considered “a mammal that can fly.”

Okay, then.

So my response was, “As soon as you put a dog or a hamster or a giraffe or a wallaby or a manatee in a plane, and the plane is propelled with a mechanism producing thrust, and the plane lifts off into flight, these are now ‘mammals that can fly’ by your standard. So there are many mammals that can fly other than bats. Shall we play Semantics Pursuit?”

Dan didn’t get any wedges that evening.

Reprinted with kind permission from Steve’s Thoughtcrimes.

Scenes from our AT&SF Steam Locomotive Field Trip – Albuquerque, New Mexico, August 26, 2023.

Stand Up To Stigma had a rippin’ cool time at Tractor Brewery and the AT&SF 2926 event. Later this year the 2926 will be at the Albuquerque Trainyards for a full weekend of events. Yes, we’ll be going to that event, too!

AT&SF Steam Locomotive Event -Albuquerque, New Mexico – Saturday, August 26, 2023

It’s time for another field trip! Do you like trains? This Saturday we’ll be meeting at Tractor Brewery on 4th Street in Albuquerque, New Mexico, to view AT&SF Locomotive 2926 in action!

New Mexico Heritage Rail is having their second outing for the fully restored historic locomotive. STS peers met at the first 2926 event last spring and we had such a stellar experience we’ll be there again!

AT&SF Locomotive 2926 Event


12PM Saturday, August 26, 2023


Tractor Brewery
1800 4th St NW
Albuquerque, NM 87102
@ 4th & Hannett
We’ll meet at the tour ticket booth (you aren’t required to purchase a tour) at noon. Parking is curbside on 4th St. and adjoining city streets. 4th St. is closed at the train tracks for the event.

For more information:
Text – 505.310.5070
Email – or
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