because life doesn’t fit in a file folder

Coming Out of Another Closet: My Life as a Psychic Medium

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I’ve always seen and heard things that other people didn’t. Early on, I could feel other people’s energy and emotions and see people with superimposed color trails ― white, blue, red, orange ― around them. Often, I heard people’s thoughts as clearly as if they’d said them out loud, which, in many cases, I believed they had. As a child, hearing people “say” things and then being told they had not said them was extremely confusing, and I was often accused of making up stories or telling fibs.

To be honest, it was scary to experience reality in a profoundly different way than everyone around me, and over time, I learned to be quiet about my visual and auditory “hallucinations” due to the negative feedback I received.

On August 14, 1999, during the traumatic delivery of my son, I had a near-death experience (NDE). I remember feeling myself levitate from the table. Hovering above my body, I looked down at myself — and the entire room — from about eight feet above. I remember seeing the top of the surgeon’s flowered paper bonnet, and peering down into one of those pink, plastic hospital-order basins. That’s a lot of blood, I thought to myself. I wonder whose blood that is. I also remember feeling like I was being pulled away from the scene below, almost as if I was on some kind of a conveyor belt. I didn’t experience a white light or the feeling of overwhelming love and connection the way many people do. Instead, I felt something malevolent tugging at me. It was scary, and I didn’t like it.

This is a visual representation of what it looked like when I woke up.

The next thing I knew, I was back inside my body, lying on my back in a room lit only by a dull blue light.

“Am I dead?” I said aloud, to no one in particular.

A nurse reassured me I was not dead at all, and then she left me, ostensibly to locate my husband who was somewhere in the hospital.

Lying in my hospital bed, I found I could hear and connect with the consciousness of others whose physical bodies had died in that space. I felt these agitated spirits swirling around me. Many were angry about being trapped in that room, and they shouted at me to listen to them.

From that moment on, the voices followed me everywhere. It was hard to focus on nursing my newborn son with angry spirits shouting at me. And it was scary not to have anyone to talk to about what I was experiencing. The only way I could deal with the voices was to ignore them, and that is what I did.

Or what I tried to do, anyway.

I stopped talking about what I was hearing, and I tried to exist on one level of consciousness, the way everyone around me expected me to exist.

That’s when the insomnia started.

It was awful.

At night, I’d get out of bed and press my ear against the brick chimney in the bedroom I shared with my husband. “Do you hear that?” I’d ask him night after night. “Do you hear people talking?” But Mark never heard anything and, after a while, he got upset with me for waking him up so frequently.

The rest is a story that many of you have heard.

Busy with a newborn all day and tormented by voices all night, I wound up in a psychiatrist’s office, where I was poly-drugged, first with SSRIs – Celexa, Zoloft, Prozac; then with the anticonvulsant, Lamictal. Eventually, I was given Klonopin, a powerful anti-seizure medication. After seven years of dutifully listening to “experts” and taking the medication exactly as prescribed, I learned Klonopin is not supposed to be taken long-term, that it has many dangerous side effects, and I slowly weaned off of it with the assistance of a specialist. Unfortunately, this wean was a disaster. I endured an horrifying iatrogenic injury which left me disabled and debilitated for many years.

While healing from that trauma, my world blew open again. The voices returned, and this time I could see things, too. 

It’s taken me a long time to figure out what brought me to meds in the first place & I’m finally crystal clear on it.

Today, I own all of it.

I’m an artist and a writer and a teacher and a mother.

I’ve survived rape and withdrawal.

And yes, I’m a psychic medium.

Instead of being afraid of the visions and the voices, I now embrace them. Being a medium is like being a translator, decoding a universal emotional language into English ― and at times, hearing words and phrases, feeling impressions of things or watching little movie clips. It is a receiving of information rather than a retrieving of it.

Working with the amazing Chuck Dilberto

Last weekend, I had the opportunity to work with a modern-day healer who did a SIX-HOUR cleaning with me, during which time he sealed up a portal through which malevolent energy was being transmitted. He confirmed that I am plugged into something powerful. (Not that I needed his validation.)

Working with CD was transformative. All my broken soul-pieces have been integrated. I no longer hear angry voices. I’m alert & aware & whole & so very grateful.

Three months short of five years, I am here.

I am healed.

And I have a new understanding about myself and the world.

Western culture teaches us to seek medical help when we are sick, to visit the dentist to get our teeth un-mucked, and we think nothing of hiring specialists to assist us with personal hygiene, legal, financial and medical matters. We hire handymen to help us with things that break in our homes, landscapers to weed our gardens and plumbers to unclog our drains.

And yet, somehow we remain resistant to the idea that things can get clogged up in our heads, too. Old emotional pain can build up in just the same way that a drain can become clogged. We aren’t always great about working these things through on our own – and, in fact, sometimes we need professional help. For some people, talk therapy is enough. For others of us, with more complex trauma, we need to call in the big guns.

And guess what? There are talented practitioners who know how to unclog gunked up emotional pipes, too.

Clearing my emotional mess has allowed me to see my psychic abilities as a blessing rather than a curse. Doing this work requires a willingness to deconstruct one’s life & figure out where you got off your path. It is possible to put yourself back together, but only YOU can do it. As painful as it may be, looking at your life is an opportunity to rebuild.

If you’re interested in learning more about my experience and/or would like to meet with this amazing healer, feel free to contact me and I’ll put you in touch.

Do you believe there there’s another dimension beyond the one we see with our eyes? Or is this waaaay too woo-woo for you? Leave a comment!

SHE REMEMBERED WHO SHE WAS AND THE GAME CHANGED

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Prints available at www.rasjacobson.store

 

‘When boys hit girls, it means they like you,” she told me,

and it all went downhill from there

because slowly

over time, i learned my place

much as any dog learns the rules

i did what was expected every time

reached inside his pants pocket to retrieve the money he owed me for babysitting,

let him touch my legs in exchange for a few extra bonus points on a quiz

gave him that blowjob so he wouldn’t break up with me.

I didn’t know what to say or do back then,

when he told me he’d put something in my drink to help me relax

and another he pushed himself inside me even though i told him to stop.

and years later

when he said the length of my skirt gave him the impression i wanted to have sex

and he groped me in the kitchen while his wife was in the other room

and he sent pictures of his penis before i knew his last name

i automatically lowered my eyes, like a puppy who just shit the rug

as if i’d done something wrong

because i accepted all of this as normal

until

another he

different from all the hes before him

brought me to an isolated place by the water

a romantic gesture, i thought

until he casually mentioned

his ex girlfriend’s body

had been found

in the exact spot

we were sitting

and i knew he was going to kill me, too

unless i figured something out pretty damn fast

and in that moment

I remembered

who I was

& the game changed.

I realized

my silence made me complicit

made the hes think

I was saying yes when what I meant was

No.

Hell no.

FUCK NO.

&

GET THE FUCK AWAY FROM ME!

so I fought for my

self

in a way that I never did before

because my pain should not be linked to anyone’s pleasure

(especially not his)

and what the hell kind of madness is that?

steeping our daughters

in shame

from the moment we are old enough to walk.

Cross your legs, that’s not ladylike, girls don’t act that way, stop embarrassing me.

We take on the burden of being a woman, the guilt

we carry when our hips curve too much, when our skin

is too soft, when our eyes hold too much light

and our voice is louder than the softest timber. We teach our daughters

the way they dress, the way they walk, the way they hold themselves

are the things that could offend the kind of men who will violate them.

We teach them to gussy up and subdue themselves

until they fit into a box.

And then we teach them that girls who do not fit in that box

are the kind of girls that men like to hurt.

We use words like slut, and whore and tramp to teach our daughters

what could happen to them if they are too wild, too free, too spirited.

We teach them to treat their bodies like a crime scene before a crime has even been committed.

We teach them we live in the best country, a fair country, a country with equal rights for all.

We teach them they are lucky to live with such wonderful freedoms.

We teach them this is Truth.

But these are lies.

And none of it is harmless.

And all of it leaves a mark.

 

• • •

I was brought up to believe that men and women are equal, that all of us are as strong or as weak as we believe ourselves to be. The thing is it’s not true. Not yet, anyways. As women, it’s easy to feel powerless. (Nearly all of our institutions are designed to make us feel that way.)

It’s hard standing up on the daily for what is right. It’s downright exhausting.

Women, remember who you are are.

Who you were born to be.

Stop being a doormat.

Speak up.

And keep speaking up until you get what you want.

What were you brought up to believe about men and women? If you leave a comment, I promise I’ll respond to you. Eventually.

I’m Going to Be on SURVIVOR!

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Sorry, I didn’t mean to trick you.

But I am going to be on SURVIVOR.

Eventually.

You know, probably.

Because I tried out to be a contestant on SURVIVOR.

Again.

This time auditions were held just 20 minutes away, right outside of Rochester, New York.

{So, of course, I’m thinking this is mine. Because, seriously, why would CBS come to Rochester to hold a casting call if they weren’t there to get me, right?}

I assume there would be thousands of people camped out, waiting for registration, which was scheduled to begin at 11 AM.

In anticipation of looooong lines, I get up early, eat a healthy breakfast, gather up a the necessary provisions – snacks and water — fill up my gas tank, and make the easy drive to Victor. I assume parking will be difficult, so I wear my sneakers. I’m prepared to go the distance.

You can imagine my surprise when I see the short line of people ahead of me.

Like ridiculously short.

The line at 9:30 AM. Super short.

Pulling into the lot, I learn I’ve arrived early enough to be able to park in the lot adjacent to the filming location. When they count us out, I’m #67, one of my favorite numbers.

{You know, ‘cuz I was born in 1967. Confirmation that the Universe is working for me.}

I go to the back of the line where I meet a couple that had driven in from Little Falls, New York (about four hours away), a pharmacy technician named Mindy, a prison guard named CJ , a flaky millennial who has never seen a single a episode of the show before, and some dude who has tried out about 17 times.

“When I have to go to the bathroom, will you guys save my place?” the bearded millennial asks.

We quickly form an alliance and agree to help each other out.

There isn’t much to tell.

The lines get longer.

By noon, there are probably a thousand people waiting to audition. Maybe more.

I wait 2 and ½ hours before being moved into a garage, where I wait some more. There is a nice breeze and a cardboard cutout of Jeff Probst.

Eventually, I make it inside where I hand in my release waiver, stating I allow CBS to use my likeness on social media – or for whatever purpose they like. I provide my phone number and email address.

After that, we go back outside to another area of the garage and, after another wait, we walk back inside. Some of us stand; some of us sit in blue office chairs.

This is the first moment where I start to think about what I will say. I know I have just ONE minute to make my pitch. There is no panel. Just me and a twenty-something wearing trendy thick black glasses.

This is a summary of what I believe I said. Obviously, I was nowhere near this clear or succinct. I did my best to stand in front of the camera and smile and laugh and act natural.

In August of 1999, I saw a trailer for a new show called SURVIVOR, and I was immediately interested: a show like that was right up my alley – physical competition paired with emotional challenges and a social game? Sign me up.

Then I looked down at my ankles, which were super puffy because I was super pregnant (due to deliver any day), and I realized that I wouldn’t be able to participate for a long time. I promised myself that if the show was still on the air when my kid graduated from high school, I was going to try out again.

So here we are, nearly 18 years later. I’ve never missed an episode and I’m making good on my promise. A lot has happened in my life over the last 4 years. I’ve bounced back after a brain injury, which occurred after I was incorrectly weaned off a prescription medication. There’s more to tell, of course – and you’ll have to call me back to Los Angeles if you want to learn more. Suffice it to say I’m funny, flirty, and fit. As a former teacher, I’m a good communicator, which wins me points with adults and makes me relate easily to a younger generation. As far as I’m concerned, you guys came to Rochester to get me. Here I am, pick me.

Trendy black glasses holds up his hand, indicating I have 5 seconds left.

And I break out into a little dance.

{Cuz, you know, I do that.}

Before I leave, an older gentleman tells me that I’ll only receive a phone call if the producers are interested in bringing me out to Los Angeles.

{So you know, any day.}

What did you do yesterday? Or… what show would you like to be on if you didn’t have real life responsibilities?

XOXO

 

Changing The Things I Cannot Accept: Time To Fight For Feminism, Ladies

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Feminism in Buffalo, New York, circa 1992. I am, of course, the one in the hat.  

In 1991, I landed my first job, teaching 3rd grade English as a Second Language. Kathy, the teacher with whom I worked, was smart, generous, kind, and warmhearted. She treated every child equally. She arranged the desks in neighborhoods and talked about community responsibilities. She bedazzled her bulletin boards and spent a lot of time doing little things she believed mattered to her students.

In the spring of 1992, as the debate over Roe v. Wade heated up, an event was planned in front of Buffalo’s GYN/Women Services. My friends and I agreed it was our obligation to ensure that women were able to make their appointments free from harassment from the notorious rabble-rousers who were coming to town. After all, GYN/Women Services provided prenatal care and regular obstetrics appointments for its many patients. It was not a killing field. It was a medical office that mainly provided routine office procedures like breast exams and pap smears in addition to providing legal abortions.

I attended the rally with two friends.

People screamed at each other from both sides of the street, on both sides of the issue. I didn’t like the things the Pro-Choice people were chanting: things like “Keep your rosaries off my ovaries,” and offensive rhymes which dragged religion into the issue. My friends and I didn’t have a problem with anyone’s religious practices, and we didn’t want to be associated with all that noise.

So we walked across the street to CVS and bought electrical tape, and we taped our mouths shut.

Reporters and photographers were busy looking for that one cool angle, that one interesting image.

Their camera lenses landed on us.

When our picture was published in LIFE magazine, I brought a copy to school to show Kathy, my teacher-friend. I wanted to talk to her about the caption, which read “Women tape their mouths shut to represent the Silent Majority who favor safe, legal abortion” — and explain how that didn’t quite capture the whole story. I wanted to tell her how — at the end of the day — when the news vans with their giant satellite dishes had driven away, I felt used, like a pawn in someone else’s chess game. How it had occurred to me everyone had an agenda and we, women, had been pitted one against the other by religious leaders and politicians, by media spokespeople who encouraged participants from both sides of the street to shout louder when their cameras were rolling.

Kathy squinted at me coolly.

“We were on different sides of the street that day,” she said.

Kathy and I worked side by side for the rest of the year, but our interactions were different. I learned so much from her: how to treat children with dignity, how to walk the fine line between friend and disciplinarian, how to integrate non-native speakers of English into the larger class: so many things. I wanted to make things right.

I tried to talk to her about her feelings regarding reproductive rights — I believed we could find some middle ground — but Kathy held up her hand.

“We’ll have to agree to disagree,” she said, shutting down my attempts at dialogue.

I never realized an issue could be so divisive that it could destroy a friendship.

Lately, when I watch the news I feel like I’m back in the 1990’s.

Issues and rights I thought long settled are being challenged again.

But this time around, it’s not only reproductive rights that are being challenged.

This time, the rhetoric is more ominous as basic human rights are being challenged.

As a feminist, I believe in reproductive freedom, and I will never accept federal, state or local rollbacks/cuts or restrictions to our access to quality healthcare services, birth control, HIV/AIDS care and prevention, or medically accurate sexuality education.

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I may be older, but my core values remain the same in 2017. 

I believe all women are free and able to care for and nurture themselves and their families, however they are formed, in safe and healthy environments. I believe women deserve to live full and healthy lives, free from all forms of violence against our bodies.

I believe it is our obligation to protect the rights of all people, including our gay, lesbian, bisexual, queer, transgender or gender non-conforming brothers and sisters.

I believe in an economy governed by transparency, accountability, security and equity; that all workers must be paid equitably with access to affordable childcare, sick days, healthcare, healthy work environments, and paid family leave. I believe civil rights are our birthrights. This includes voting rights, freedom to worship without fear of intimidation, harassment, freedom of speech for all citizens regardless of race, gender, age or disability.

I believe every person and every community has the right to clean water, clean air, and access to and enjoyment of public lands. I believe our climate must be protected, that our land and natural resources cannot be exploited for gain or greed, especially at the risk of public safety and health.

Twenty-five years ago, people kept their politics pretty quiet. But, with the advent of social media, people have become much more open about their political leanings.

I’ve taken the electrical tape off my mouth.

Now is not the time to be silent, friends.

Decades of polite silence has created a divided country.

We have to start having these uncomfortable conversations if we ever hope to move forward as a country.

I’m fortunate to have nurturing relationships with women of every race, class, socioeconomic background, sexual orientation, and religious practice. My life is enriched daily by the interactions that I have with these women. We laugh and cry together. We share food and we share stories. We celebrate each other’s successes and hold each up during dark times.

Why wouldn’t I want everyone to have the same inalienable rights that I enjoy?

Who would have thought that twenty-five years later the personal would be so political… again?

Have your relationships changed as a result of political differences? If not, how have you managed to make it through the election season without any shift in friendships?

tweet me @rasjacobson

3 Things the Universe Wants Me to Do

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I’m wicked competitive.

No matter what I do, I want to be the best at it.

I don’t mean the best that I can be.

I mean the best as compared to all the people.

As a gymnast, I was taught it was necessary and possible to be as close to perfect as possible.

As a teacher, I strove to create perfect lessons.

As a wife, I tried to make a perfect home, tidy and warm and well decorated.

I aimed for perfection as a mother, too.

(Sorry TechSupport.)

I’m not saying this perfection thing is a good thing.

I’m just saying, I tend to go for blood be outcome-oriented.

My son works differently.

(You guys remember TechSupport, right?)

He’s process-oriented.

When he was younger, we had plenty of conversations where I’d ask him about how he felt about his performance in some athletic endeavor or something.

“I learned a lot,” he’d say and shrug, as if to add, No big deal, mom.

Anyway, because I’m feeling pretty dang good, energetic and cognitively clear, and because I’m coming back to life and feel invested in living again, I’m aware that one of my less pleasant character traits has reared its ugly head.

fullsizerender-2Yup, my competitive nature flared today.

I found myself thinking that I need to be better.

That I need to take more art classes and sell more products, get my work into more boutiques, be bigger-er and more famous-er, that I need to be the best artist in the whole world.

But how does a person “win” at art?

It’s ridiculous.

When I paint or draw or create something, I’m 100% in the moment – much the way I am when I look at a field of sunflowers, enjoy a coconut ice cream cone, take a dip in the ocean, or feel a lover’s mouth against my own.

Embarrassed by my own thinking, I decided to meditate on it and, after a while, I realized that I’ve been holding onto a misperception.

I was taught to believe that one’s work is only as valuable as the money one receives for doing that work.

I think a lot of us grew up with that ethos.

It’s an old belief.

And old beliefs die hard.

These days, I operate under a completely different set of beliefs.

  1. The Universe has a plan for me.
  2. The Universe wants me to do what I love.
  3. When I do what I love, the money follows.
  4. The Universe can change its plans for you at any time.

Apparently, the Universe wants me to do 3 things: paint, write, and help people who are coming off psychiatric medications.

(they need to know the body really does know how to heal.)

So that’s what I’m doing.

It’s enough.

Tonight I’m shrugging my shoulders and laughing.

And realizing I need to dial back my intensity a bit.

It’s all coming together.

I don’t have to have it all figured out today.

(thank goodness, because i soooo don’t.)

I know the Universe has big plans for us all in the new year.

Can’t wait for 2017 to begin.

What ONE thing do you believe the Universe wants you to accomplish in 2017?

Finding Humility at the NY State Fair

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My family went to the New York State Fair every summer. We visited The Dairy Building to check out the enormous butter sculpture and, afterwards, waited in a ridiculously long line to get a free baked potato, topped with butter and sour cream. We admired the plants and flowers, the oversized fruits and vegetables, the goats and cows and swine. I looked forward to sipping fresh-squeezed lemonade out of a chubby yellow straw.

The last time I attended the State Fair was August 29, 2012.

My son and I and met my parents there. We stopped at the US Army exhibit where officers encouraged passers-by the try a pull-up challenge. When no one was participating, they demonstrated how “easy” it was to do ten pull-ups with pronated hands.

I’ve always admired that kind of raw strength.

I watched a few people struggle to do even one, and I remember thinking, “Wow, these people are really weak.” (Not so nice, I know. but that’s where I was.) And it was with great swelling pleasure, I stepped up to the bar and showed the world how a 45-year old woman could do 7 pull-ups.

No problem.

Just a few weeks later, I got sick.

Very sick.

I couldn’t go to the gym for over 2 years, and my muscles wasted away.

Now that I’m back to taking care of my body, I’ve been lifting weights again, trying to regain all that I lost.

When I was going thru benzodiazepine withdrawal, I never thought I’d ever be able to leave the house again. The symptoms lasted for months and years, and I didn’t know a single person who could tell me that my symptoms – though horrifying – were temporary. There were no support groups. Doctors told me that my illness was evidence that I needed to stay on the medication. I just keep holding on, white-knuckled.

Going to the Fair was a goal I set for myself this year.

I never thought I’d ever be able to do it, but there I was doing it.

I parked my car, figured out how to get in, walked to The Antique Tractor display…all by myself. I met some people and, together, we walked to the Iroquois Indian Village, watched men and women dance in slow circles as elders beat a drum and chanted. We walked around the midway,  saw the cows and goats and horses.

It was as if nothing had changed, not one moment had passed.

I remembered how I’d once easily completed those pull-ups, how my father had commented on my strength, how the men and women in uniform had praised me and joked that I could have a career in the military, so when I saw the familiar US Army exhibition, I was curious to see if I could still do it, three years later. Tossing my purse on the ground, I stepped right up. The bar was higher than I remembered, but I grabbed it.

There was no turning back.

I’ve always prided myself on my physicality. I was a dancer, a gymnast and a cheerleader. I was graceful and strong. Just a few weeks earlier, I’d helped my father use a chainsaw to take down some thick branches.

Using all my strength, I found – to my horror – I couldn’t complete a single pull-up.

Not. One.

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The Agony of Defeat.

So there I was.

And here I am.

Feeling humble.

Realizing I’m not be as strong as I once was.

That it is unlikely I’ll ever be that strong again.

And yet feeling strangely grateful.

I mean, at least I have arms.

I can embrace people that I care about fully.

I can touch and hold and offer.

And I’m laughing.

Because it’s important to remember to laugh at ourselves.

(Y’all, I looked like a doofus.)

And I’m realizing that despite my lack of physical strength, well… I can celebrate the fact that I’m growing my inner strength, how all this adversity has proved that I am a survivor.

(Even if I never make it on the TV show.)

It feels good, this coming back to life.

I’m a baby phoenix.

This time, with each failure, I realize I’m learning to fly.

When is the last time you embarrassed yourself in public?

tweet me @rasjacobson

The Truth About Identity Theft: A Cautionary Tale

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If I had been paying attention, I would have seen that Universe was making plans to kick my ass.

After three years of being too sick to travel, I was excited to go somewhere new and connect with other creative souls.

I’d imagined sitting poolside in the hot sun. I’d planned it for months.

images-1Instead, I arrived in a monsoon.

The airport was shut down due to flooding, and somehow, one of my bags was misplaced. Losing ones belongings is stressful enough, but I was attending Art Unraveled, an art conference, and the missing bag held all of my specialized supplies: my paint and brushes, the papers, beads and baubles that I’d been collecting for months.

The airline representative with whom I spoke smiled broadly and assured me that they have an amazing track record when it comes to recovering lost bags. “We’ll call you the moment we locate your suitcase,” he promised.

Once at the hotel, I went to the bar to eat a light, late supper. Exhausted, but craving company, I wanted someone to listen to my tale of woe and tell me that everything was going to work out. That night, one other woman sat at the bar. Beverly wanted to know all my details: what was my name, where I’d come from, and how long I’d be in Arizona. She asked if I was attending Art Unraveled, and which classes I’d signed up for. She finished one pear martini and ordered another. I thought Beverly was funny, and I appreciated how she helped me forget my lost bag.

Setting my cell phone on top of the bar, just off to my right, I’d only taken one or two bites of my salad when Beverly, gesturing broadly, knocked over her drink with her elbow, submerging my phone. Surveying the damage, I burst into tears.

“I want to check on you tomorrow,” Beverly said, touching my hand. “What room are you in?”

I gave her my room number and excused myself for the night.

Once in my room, I realized my phone was worse off than I expected, and there was little left to do except brush my teeth and go to sleep. The phone would have to wait.

Just after 5 AM, I awoke to the sound of an unfamiliar phone ringing. It was the hotel landline, its red light flashing furiously. A man on the other side of the line identified himself as the hotel night manager. “I’m sorry to call so early in the morning, but there seems to be a problem.”

He told me my credit card had been rejected and that it was hotel policy that every guest had to have a valid card on file. When I asked if I could come down in a few hours to handle things in person, he was polite but firm. “I’d prefer to handle things now,” he said.

Over the next few minutes, I sleepily proceeded to give all my most private information to the kind night manager who kept apologizing for the trouble. In addition to supplying my name, address and phone number, I offered my email address, my credit card number, the 3-digit code off the back, my birthday, and my mother’s maiden name.

And then I rattled off my social security number.

In its entirety.

All the digits.

“I think I have everything I need, “ he said, thanking me for my patience.

The next day, after a full day of workshops in day-old clothes, I finally made my way to my cell phone provider. My new phone beeped and buzzed indicating missed email messages, phone calls, and texts.

Right away, I saw that my credit card company had communicated with me via voicemail as well as email.

Something to the effect that my account may have been compromised.

Still, I’d received notifications like that before, and they’d always turned out to be nothing.

So I went out to dinner with an old friend from high school and on my way back, I stopped at the front desk to confirm that my credit card was now working.“You know, because I received that early morning wake up call,” I laughed.

The clerk at the desk tilted her head. “We would never call a patron in the middle of the night,” she said. “Ever.”

The little hairs on the back of my neck stood up.

The very first call I made from my new cell phone went to the fraud department at my credit card company. From there, I learned that numerous charges had been made to my account: $950 to 1-800-FLOWERS, alone.

My credit card was canceled. I was instructed to call the police, to call the Federal Trade Commission, to notify Social Security, every one of my financial institutions, as well as the consumer credit card bureau. I put an extended freeze on inquiries into my credit, and I doubled up the security on my most vulnerable accounts.

The police officer who took my report told me that it was likely the nice woman at the bar was involved in what turned out to be an elaborate vishing scheme.

“You established yourself as an easy mark by giving out a lot of personal information,” the officer said. “I’m guessing you won’t do that again.”

(Thanks for the shame, Officer Lutz.)

Over the last week, I’ve spent dozens of hours on the phone, trying to figure out how long it may take to recover from this breach in security. The unpleasant reality is that it will likely take years, and I will probably always need the services of Lifelock, as my information is already floating around out there.

I’m sharing my humiliation in hopes that I can prevent someone else from falling prey to a scheme like I did.

I’m guessing most of you have heard this before, but it bears repeating.

Outside of your employer, never, under any circumstances, give anyone your full social security number.

Not your spouse.

Not your doctor.

They don’t need it.

It’s yours.

You get one, and it’s a huge hassle to try to rebuild after it has been compromised.

Additionally, don’t share personal information with people you don’t know.

I tend to operate under the assumption that there are more honest people in the world than dishonest ones. While in Arizona, I learned that con artists walk amongst us, that there are people who get a thrill out of hurting other people, just because they can. I learned that people lie, cheat, and manipulate to get what they want. And I learned that I made myself vulnerable to this type of attack because I have been protected and cared for most of my adult life.

I left Phoenix in a dust storm. The airport was shut down as a cloud of brown rolled over us, the air smelling of sulphur and dirt.

And yet.

I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that during my darkest hours, wonderful people showed up for me: strangers offering food and clothes and kindness; an art teacher who allowed me to use all of her materials; an old friend who brought me money and clothes and flowers; another friend who offered hugs and emotional support; my parents, offering their love over the phone.

I’m focusing on this last part of the story because the gratitude piece is crucial.

I could focus on being victimized, but I’m choosing to focus on the other stuff.

The good stuff.

The wonderful people I met, the old connections that were restored.

Because that has truly been the story of my life. No matter how lost and alone we might feel that we are, we are never truly alone.

And by the way, the Art Unraveled conference was amazing.

If you can believe it, I plan to attend again next year.

I’ll just stay in a different hotel.

Probably.

Ever had your identity compromised? What was your takeaway from the experience?

tweet me @rasjacobson

 

 

 

 

 

Unfinished Business

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On the day we met, we were damaged.

Bruised fruit, I heard someone say,

and yet I could see how delicious

we could be, if we focused

on our sweet parts. And, for a time, we did.

Each morning after coffee and canned peaches, we

paced the perimeter,

with each step I learned more about

the nature of your heart. So broken,

both of us, there, in captivity,

love-notes, plopped clumsily

into my hands, your lap,

the perfect place for a head to rest,

if only we could have tabled together, found a patch of green

under that hot Arizona sun.

 

At least we had popcorn and iced tea,

that one full moon,

when our bellies pressed

against each other, gleaming

side by side. That night, I imagined

eating chocolate animal crackers

on Wednesdays

the sifting sun

through your windows

an old denim couch

in an endless summer, the two of us

cool and cuddled for hours

back rubs on bad days

when you would kiss

the freckles on my shoulders.

 

Now look at us.

Me, a shadow in your life:

A lonely girl on a lonely journey

In a land peopled by strangers.

I could be holding your dusty hand

Laughing and loving so greatly

But you asked me to let you go

And not wanting to violate

your boundaries, I did.

Still, I can’t help hoping

That someday I’ll convince you

It’s better to enjoy one bruised piece of fruit,

Than no sweetness at all.

Did you ever have an unrequited romance? Do you still think of that person? That moment? How long has it been? And how do you let it go?

tweet me @rasjacobson

 

 

 

 

My Video for #WorldBenzoDay

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Today is World Benzodiazepine Awareness Day.

This is my contribution.

Note: I should have probably taken a moment to think about dressing up, or putting on makeup, or doing something with my hair.

But you know what? This is 100% authentically me, speaking honestly about a topic I know way too much about.

I respond to all comments left here on my blog. Please feel free to leave one.

NOTE: It is potentially dangerous to come off medications without careful planning. Please be sure to be well educated before undertaking any sort of discontinuation of medications. If your MD agrees to help you do so, do not assume he/she knows how to do it well even if he/she claims to have experience. Doctors are generally not trained in discontinuation and may not know how to recognize withdrawal issues. It’s important to educate yourself and find a doctor who is willing to learn with you as your partner in care. 

tweet me @rasjacobson

 

 

World Benzo Awareness Day: Coming Soon

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Monday is World Benzodiazepine Awareness Day. Below, you’ll find information about Monday’s event and a video featuring individuals from around the globe who have been injured by benzodiazepines. My own video will go live on Monday, July 11, 2016. 

•   •   •

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Instead of teaching us to slow down and take time to care for ourselves, our culture teaches us that we’re supposed to hurry up as quickly as possible so that we can get back to work. We believe doctors have our best interests at heart, and we are taught to admire them  – not question them. We have put our faith in science, and with drug companies now pimping their wares on television, it’s only natural that we’ve grown to believe that doctors and their prescription pads possess the key to salvation.

These beliefs are flawed.

I recently read that 91% of patients leave their psychiatrist’s office with a prescription in hand. . . after just one short 15-minute consult.

That’s what happened to me.

When going through a difficult time in my life, rather than being encouraged to talk about it, I was given a diagnosis and handed a 75-day prescription for Klonopin, a serious brain-altering drug.

Seventy-five days.

This, despite the fact Klonopin is intended to be used for the short-term relief of symptoms, due to the ease with which the body and brain can become tolerant to its effects, even when used exactly as directed. The British Journal of General Practice (BJGP) reports that benzodiazepine medications may induce tolerance within four weeks of regular usage.

My doctor never informed me about any of the dangers associated with long-term use of benzos.

But I trusted him, so I continued to take these drugs for seven years.

Big mistake.

H U G E .

So why am I going on and on about this?

Because Monday is National Benzo Awareness Day.

Twenty-hour hours devoted to raising awareness regarding the dangers around commonly prescribed benzodiazepines like Xanax, Klonopin, Valium, Ativan.

  • to provide victims with an opportunity to unify so they aren’t left alone in the dark, as has been the case for so long.
  • to educate people about this decades old problem that has been swept under the rug
  • to encourage the provision of ‘specialized’ withdrawal facilities for those who desperately need them.
  • to give a voice to those who have been criticized and abandoned, and left alone to suffer
  • to recognize those who didn’t make it.

To be fair, I don’t believe that doctors mean to cause harm to their patients. I believe they are truly uninformed about this issue, as pharmaceutical companies are not releasing accurate information regarding these drugs.

As a result of my own independent research, I now know more about how to wean off of psychiatric medications than most doctors who make six figure salaries. (PS: It takes a lot longer than they usually suggest. And it is a lot more involved than they know.)

Part of my life’s mission has become educating the general public and doctors about the dangers of psychotropic drugs and the repercussions of unintentional chemical dependency.

NOTE: It is potentially dangerous to come off medications without careful planning. Please be sure to educate yourself before undertaking any sort of discontinuation of medications. If your MD agrees to help you do so, do not assume he/she knows how to do it well even if he/she claims to have experience. 

What’s your experience with psychiatric medications? Have anti-anxiety medications/antidepressants helped you? Harmed you? I’m interested in your experience, even if it’s different from mine.

tweet me @rasjacobson