Don McCarthy remembers a time when he struggled with his own authenticity. He put everyone before himself and couldn't feel or express his own feelings. After working for many years to put self-care in place, he thought that issue was behind him. Then, his elderly mother had a fall and caregiving provided him with an even deeper and more challenging opportunity to grasp and learn self-care. One of the "aha" moments of this episode was realizing how self-care plays a big role in our ability to be truly authentic. Listen to find our how.
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Coach Maddox 0:03
Hello, Don McCarthy, and welcome to The Authentic Gay Man Podcast. It's nice to see you.
Don McCarthy 0:09
Hi, Maddox. Thank you for giving me space on your show. I'm glad to be here. Awesome.
Coach Maddox 0:16
Yeah, absolutely happy to share space with anybody that's got a great story. And I know you do. So to tell a little bit about us, so the listeners know, you're a therapist in the New York City area, you're 46 years old, and you came out in your late 90s. So the way Don and I know each other, and we just this is our second time to talk on Zoom. He saw the podcast on LinkedIn. And I don't know exactly, I don't remember exactly how it worked. He either made a comment, or I responded to a comment. But at any rate, we got in touch with each other via messenger on Well, yeah, the equivalent of messenger on LinkedIn, and agree that we, you know, had something that we wanted to talk about. So we did a zoom. And indeed, we did have something to talk about. And now, that parlayed into him being a guest on the podcast. So very excited. And once again, glad to have you here. Let's dive into the question that I ask all my guests. And that is, tell me how you would define what it means to be an authentic gay man.
Don McCarthy 1:32
think being an authentic a man, for me, means being honest with myself, my needs my feelings, and living my truth. Unapologetically without shame, and just just being free, just being free to be who I am without being afraid of judgment.
Coach Maddox 2:03
So well said I love that that is absolutely beautiful. Don, thank you for that. So the big question of our time today is
What is the biggest challenge that you have been through in this life that you're either on the other side of or you're still working through that challenge?
Don McCarthy 2:27
I think the biggest challenge I've had in this life so far is really coming to terms with my emotions, my needs. Again, not feeling change. I think part of growing up. I grew up in the Catholic Church, I grew up in a very European centric, Irish Italian neighborhood school, but definitely sinful to be gay, I learned that growing up. And so I learned how to hide that part of myself and deflect my needs my emotions by learning to be really good learning to take care of people putting everybody's needs ahead of my own. And as a result, I did also suffer from anxiety and depression for a little while in my life. And it was really helpful to slowly recognize that part of my experience as a child and growing up in the shame in the judgments. In this even in the self lack of acceptance from myself, that's where I was struggling with accent, anxiety and depression. And I'm kind of going to get a little bit now with my mom who's elderly, right? So she's recently suffered a fall and had hip surgery. And now it's kind of put me back into a balance of taking care of her being there for her and not feeling guilty or shame or going back into my own anxiety about myself with the situation
Coach Maddox 4:27
Hmm you know, what's popping into my head right now is how the universe I think sometimes we're on a quest. You know, you're you are on a quest to learn to put your needs first. And you've definitely it sounds to me like made some headway with that. And in an effort to further your growth, or this is my perception, you can tell me how this lands for you. In order to further your growth, the universe has thrown you another or aspect of that challenge to, you know, once again, take that take that stand and find that balance and take care of you in the midst of this. That's the beautiful thing I think about the universe is it will continue to put things in front of us to support us in the goal that we've set. You know, at some point, maybe you didn't articulate it like this or even verbalize it. But you knew that you had a history of putting other people before yourself. And you decided that was not working for you, and you wanted to try a different way. And I think it's just, it's beautiful, when we can realize that the challenges keep coming at us because that's the universe's way of supporting us in reaching our goal, if we didn't have the challenges if you didn't have reasons to continue to put yourself first. You you, you know, it's like building a muscle. It's like these things are coming into your life like the weights at the gym. Yeah, you got to lift the weights in order to build the muscle. Yeah. And that's what I'm getting that you're you're telling me just from you haven't told me very much. But just the point of you had been working on this and finding that balance, and then Mom has a fall, you know, and now oh, here we go. Again, we're back on the on the treadmill or the roller coaster or whatever, depending on what day it is, I'm sure. So tell me tell me how that conceptually lands with you. Have you considered that from that perspective?
Don McCarthy 6:55
Honestly, I haven't. But that's surprising, because I have shared that view, very much. I do believe the universe does provide us with lessons, opportunities to really work on ourselves. And as you're saying, then, Maddox, I'm thinking that she this was this has really been challenging me to really still dive into. I guess we're best term self care, I own self care, making sure that I am taking care of myself through rest and meals and finding balance with other relationships that I can't see other people at the moment or have to cancel or do things other than what I had planned maybe with friends, because my mom has needed me. And I think definitely in the past that has been really difficult for me to say no, even just canceling plans, like I didn't want to let people down. I didn't want to make people think that any bad things about me, I think in the past, I would have really struggled. And to a certain extent, I think that's what I've been working on. And so maybe the trigger is once in a while here, doing that feeling guilty. I've had a friend who celebrated his birthday a few weeks, weekends ago, and I had to cancel. And I just felt horrible. I felt really guilty. I apologize. I apologized to him a million times. And and he actually said, I have nothing to feel guilty about it nothing that you're doing wrong. So it's nice to have that reassurance. But that's definitely part of my inner stuff coming up. That's a good.
Coach Maddox 9:08
Yes. Perhaps you talked about that balance and self care, perhaps part of that self care. I mean, we sometimes have this thought in our mind of what self care is and what it looks like. But it's pretty broad and pretty complex, because part of that self care that you're wanting to put in place might include not being so hard on yourself when you have to cancel plans, because something is higher on the priority list in that moment. And that's a combination of managing your self care and your mom's care. Yeah. So let's go back a little bit to that earlier time. That place where you put other people was needs before your own and and didn't honor your own feelings? And what what do you think was driving that? Where did that come from that put everybody before
Don McCarthy 10:14
you saying? Well, there certainly was, I think two parts of it. I think one was just really the need for acceptance. I wasn't, certainly wasn't accepting of myself. And I learned that in the beginning. And so I just really thought that if I showed up, help out, was friendly, did everything I could, if somebody needed something I was there or and again, that's not hard. Those aren't horrible traits. But if we're talking about balance, I was doing that, to the point of, you know, again, checking in and tuning in. And I think it was really a self, part of it with the self rejection. I mean, I remember for a while I really held those beliefs that you know, that there was something really wrong with me. And if I played hard enough, as I did all the good things, if I did, what God wanted me to do with the church told me to do if I did everything, eventually, I wouldn't feel the feelings anymore. So it's kind of a way to get it was kind of way to get out of the feelings, and maybe also getting acceptance somewhere, or maybe even getting right with God, so to speak, for a little while. Thankfully, change, once I started in college and started, started going a little bit differently.
Coach Maddox 12:01
What you're describing now is where my mind went, I can recall a time when I put other needs other people's needs before my own, and can now look back and say, Wow, the majority of that was this, thought that if I did enough, if I showed up and did enough, that maybe maybe maybe they would love me. Like this belief that I had to do something that was over and above in order to be worthy of love. Rather than realizing that, just who I am and my presence all by itself without having to do anything is worthy of love. Yeah. So it was like this earning it was it was like going out and earning a paycheck, except the paycheck was was love or acceptance or like, even for some of the people in my life, does that fit?
Don McCarthy 13:00
Totally, totally. Absolutely. Totally resonates. In fact, using the word love to it when you said that, it just, again, brought me back to the memories of that like, Oh, I know. And I was always asking myself to Oh, does she love me? Does he love me? Does he like me? Does she liked me? Right? So it was always like, Oh, they're angry. So I must have did something to piss them off at me. So they don't like me or love me and. Right. So I remember that going, circling through my head a lot when I was younger. Yes,
Coach Maddox 13:39
I think that's true. For a lot of us. I certainly spent my time in that space. And I'm not so sure that I don't ever still every once in a while dip my toe back into that end of the pool. I've gotten great, I'm pretty good at catching myself. And you know, making a different choice. You know, like life is a string of, of choices. And when we have the right awareness, we can make the right choice. What do you think it was? That was maybe a little bit of the turning point, not necessarily the oh, I've arrived point. But the point where you realized that the way you were approaching it wasn't working for you. It wasn't really the healthiest way. What was that? Was there an event or an aha moment that came about that started the process of shifting to a different way of being in life.
Don McCarthy 14:56
I think that started when I was In college, and I shifted from after years of praying and being part of some religious organizations or groups and again, trying things away trying to work on it. I think by the time I came out, it just realized there wasn't. I don't think there was anything I didn't have the answer yet, really. But it just kind of felt like it's not any religious answers is not going to help. And I started interacting a little bit more, I went to Queens College in New York City, and there was a little there's more of the visible and even in the late 90s, it wasn't as maybe as visible or as open today, but there was still very much there was a gay and lesbian union. I had some classmates, who also were, at the time, proud to be out as well. And I think just some of that. Exposure. Because I had 12 years of Catholic school, prior, I think some of the exposure at least started the light bulb until I started having panic. And then eventually, I started having like panic attacks. And notice Lee was depressed. And I think what helped with when I saw my first therapist, I finally went to a therapist, trying to see what was going on. And she happened to be a very warm, supportive, kind of progressive therapist at the time. But she immediately asked me about my sexuality, and she just has such a warm presence that I felt okay to disclose that with her. And I think that was the other pivotal point was just having a really good person that I needed to really talk about and work it out. At that time.
Coach Maddox 17:32
You know, this crossed my mind when you first started your story, and I don't think I've really verbalize this or even had it with clarity in my mind until now. But I'm I'm looking at all the stories that I've heard listening to your story and listening to all the stories I've heard and realizing that there is seems to be
Unknown Speaker 17:58
Coach Maddox 18:00
symptoms that seem to show up. For all of us, there's certainly some different ones, but there's some common symptoms that show up when we are unable to be authentic. And I'm, you know, I don't know that we would ever, like necessarily go directly from Oh, the reason I'm depressed and having anxiety is I'm, I'm unable or unwilling to be authentic. I don't think our mind ever goes there, whether we connect those dots, but I'm seeing a very distinct correlation in the stories that I hear. And it was, it was prominent as you started to tell your story, the symptoms that you were having. And they all were aspects of a lack of authenticity. Yeah. Yeah. And I think that it's your story, even though I've heard many stories, there's something that clicked listening to your story. And there's the light bulb moment where I'm going well, I know that my topics are all about authenticity. But now, seeing these these symptoms that we wouldn't necessarily really think that had anything to do with authenticity. But for a moment, I'm realizing you're describing putting other people before you making their needs more important than yours. And I'm realizing for the first time, yes. When we're truly authentic with self, we don't do that.
Don McCarthy 19:45
Yeah. Does that make sense? Oh, absolutely.
Coach Maddox 19:51
And that's emerging, right. Like right now in this conversation, I'm able to see that from a perspective and articulated in a manner that
Don McCarthy 20:00
Coach Maddox 20:02
present before right now. And this is your story that's causing this to emerge.
Unknown Speaker 20:10
Coach Maddox 20:12
and thank you for that. This is beautiful, Don, what? What has it started to look like? As you have began to put yourself first? What is that
Don McCarthy 20:32
look like? Wow. Yeah, that's gonna, let me think about articulating. And thank you for sharing as you're describing that that really is the heart of the work that I've been doing. I've been fortunate to do my practicing working with the queer community and my therapy and my see the practice, I work for us. I've been fortunate to work with so many individuals who share some of the things that you just described, and trying to find our to our authentic self. I think I think what part of it looks like is giving myself the ability. Or even just No, I had a very good colleague of mine, that, that I've worked with for a while. And she would always get me to look after myself permission or space. To just understand what's coming up for me. That's a,
Coach Maddox 21:48
that's a real friend. Yeah.
Don McCarthy 21:53
A lot of my colleagues that and people that I work with, now that, unfortunately, are doing that, but this particular person also just really helps in the work, too. And I think that's so important, because then, over time, and has allowed me to, again, I still have my moments of anxiety, or getting really pissed or, you know, depressed or down. But I think the first differences is that I've learned to slowly just notice it, and bring it into my awareness. And even even identify it. And maybe even it's connected some Wounded Child part that may come up for me, I do some work with trauma. So having that work on myself to have been my part of self care is to just sit. It's an old part that feels like there's an old wound that came up. I see I just verbalize, I see you. I'm here with you. I'm here to comfort you. And I think that's part of some of what has been helpful as practicing that kind of self care.
Coach Maddox 23:23
Well, in Iowa, and I do something very similar to that. And I, when I observe others do that, and I always, I always will either acknowledge myself or others for and I always use this word for honoring themselves, the honoring the word honoring has become a big part of my vocabulary over the last few months. Not that it hasn't always been part of my vocabulary, it's become a much bigger part of my vocabulary. And that's, you know, when you were just going through the ICU part, you know, as you were honoring that part and that's such a powerful thing that we do for ourselves.
Don McCarthy 24:06
And and it's such a
Coach Maddox 24:10
for many of us hard thing to do, it's hard to honor ourselves to honor those parts of ourselves. So you know, you sharing that you're you're able to do that is
Don McCarthy 24:25
Coach Maddox 24:30
when you started talking a minute ago about you know, that honor and you didn't use that word, but you put your hand on your on your heart. What what what are you feeling when you think about that? That space that you're in when you're honoring yourself, or are those parts of yourself what's coming up, because I could feel something because you you just naturally Put your hand on your heart when you said that. Yeah,
Don McCarthy 25:03
I love doing this, because it really does help me to ground myself. And you know, at the moment I could see my younger self, I have a vivid picture of my younger self. Right now, I don't see that this hurts or upset and practice feels very comfortable with you, I think because you're also providing such a warm, wonderful, accepting space Maddix I kind of feel more warm, like, actually, like you're smiling, I can see him smiling.
Coach Maddox 25:59
Yeah, thank you, thank you for that Don, I was laying in bed this morning, I woke really early and couldn't go back to sleep and was just in my thoughts. And somebody said something to me the other day, and I think you're, you're doing a great job of expressing it right now and sharing it. And that is I they said something about, they said, I want to give you a gift, you know, because there was a woman who had listened to some of my videos. And you know, she was she kind of know what was going on with me. And she said,
Don McCarthy 26:39
you what you're doing is brave space.
Coach Maddox 26:45
And I'd never heard those two words put together at the same time. And I thought about it. And I really thought about it. And I thought, well, for a long time. Now I have said, I'm doing everything I can to create a safe place for my guests to open up and share their story. And then it dawned on me that when she said brave space, it's the combination of me creating the safe container. And you bringing your brave to the table. And those two things combined, create brave space. And you're definitely in your brave right now I can see it, I can feel it. And it's awesome to watch that. And I'm very, I'm very blessed and honored to be able to be part of that, that brave space to do my best as create that safe container. So you can bring the brave now
Don McCarthy 27:54
I like that very much brave space.
Coach Maddox 27:59
It really resonated with me enough that I'm I'm verbally using it a lot now and I've written it into some of my, my copy. It's becoming a pretty integral part of of my whole platform. So let's talk a little bit about where you are right now. You had made some really definite progress in putting your needs first, you know, honoring, allowing yourself to feel your feelings to be present with those feelings. Allow yourself to express those feelings. And you know, mom had a foul. And now she needs care, which is there's only so many hours in the day by the time you work your job and take care of her. So it's this juggling act of trying to fit many things into a small space. So where are you right now? In of course being a caregiver for mom. But making efforts at the same time to still meet your own needs and to feel your own feelings into you know, one of the things I've learned is balance is never even, you know, all of us as coaches and therapists have seen the balance wheel you know, where is that circular thing any and it looks like a spokes on a bicycle and, and I've realized that, you know, it's never round. Hardly ever is it round? Because think life doesn't happen that way. Yeah. Life Life is always ever flowing and rarely is your wheel land round. It's you know, sometimes short term you have to adjust and take Get away from some aspect of your life over here to put more of your time and energy on a part of your life over here that is suddenly in what we would maybe refer to as urgent care. And sometimes that edge Urgent Care is just somebody else like your mom. So tell tell me a little bit about where you are now.
Don McCarthy 30:28
Wow, I think I'm still adjusting and trying to figure figuring out my balance a little bit right now, because my mother just came home last Saturday from from rehab. So I live with her now in an apartment. And um, yeah, it's been mean when thinking of just time and the amount of time that things require that I need to be present for that I need to do right now. Like right now, she's not able to heat up or make her own meals. So that's something I have to attend to. Right now. And just because of the logistics of her being in a walker and trying to navigate the kitchen and everything, so it's, it's just a little challenging worker. And also, some of the other things like making our bathroom. I haven't make time for handyman to come over and make some adjustments to our shower
Coach Maddox 31:48
this week, and to accommodate somebody that's either sitting or Yeah, yeah. During during bath time. Yeah, no, I get it. You're having to alter it probably somewhat similar to Well, I mean, right now she, whether it's full time or permanent or temporary, she's somewhat disabled.
Don McCarthy 32:10
Yeah. Yeah. Right. Right. Right. Right. And even putting together things, excuse me, like shower chair this week. Transport chair. And I had a patient, we had to order things like just immediately this last weekend to make it more comfortable for her. And then putting these things together. And, and then navigating through, she still was entitled to a couple of nurse visits. And she's getting in home physical therapy right now. So those are just things that some of most of the time that I need to be present for. And so it's really trying to navigate time plus still work. And last or relax when I can. But honestly, right now, I just been going to my goat, like I tried to do some of the timing too. But sometimes I just go to my mindless TV, sometimes or music or just my go twos, that I need to once a while just to when I just to get out of it for
Coach Maddox 33:35
you, what you're what you're describing is a form of escape. And that gets a bad rap sometimes. And I think that it can be a negative thing if we get caught up in it. But I also think it can be a really healthy thing short term, we all need a break from time to time, we all need an escape, even if things are really really good. You know, sometimes, you know, even sunshine burns if you get too much I find in my own life sometimes. I told somebody the other day, you know, I gotta love a life that I love. And even still, every once in a while I need a break from it. It's like almost too much sometimes. And that can be found in music or like you said a movie or mindless TV. I laughingly say every once in a while I need to live somebody else's reality for 45 minutes or an hour. You know, just to have a break from mine even though my reality is a great reality. It's still doesn't mean that you don't need a break sometimes. Yeah. So what about support? Talk to me about support? Because this is one of the things that I'm continually reading. I have never really been in a situation where I have had to be caregiver for another human being, unless it was just somebody that had the flu for a few days, and I was kind of tending to them. I've never really had to be, quote unquote, a caregiver. Although I've had a caregiving personality in my relationships, you know, let's talk codependency. But that's another topic. But one of the things that I consistently read is how so many caregivers don't really get the support that they need. That's, that's the the really becomes the most challenging part of being a caregiver, if you're doing it for very long, is that you really, really need support. So where are you with
Don McCarthy 35:48
that? Hmm, well, I do have a good amount of really nice friends, supportive friends, I can't thank my practice again, and I work with enough my therapy. I mean, we have some really good therapists. And my director, Joe is just been really understanding and amazing. I mean, talking about feeling guilty, or, you know, that part of me that doesn't want to cancel sessions with my clients that I've had to occasionally in the last month. And so I think that's been enormous. I've been very thankful to have to work at a place that does have that kind of understanding support, because I know so many people may not have that luxury either. If they have jobs that they have to still go to or perform. And it's kind of forcing him have to look into resources for mom, I live in a co op apartment. And so I was actually just looking this weekend, and if there's anything any I'm a licensed social worker, but I might have to look to another social worker to see if there's any other services that my mom qualifies for, even would be helpful for like some even just basic companionship or something that can be helpful for her, especially on days that I do ask to go into the office or just even need to leave the house for a little while. Yeah.
Coach Maddox 37:35
Beautiful. Had you thought of that before now? or is that coming up in the moment is we're talking
Don McCarthy 37:42
a little bit about. Okay,
Coach Maddox 37:45
so you said something else that I'm curious about? You've mentioned it a couple of times, you know, canceled on your friend's birthday because your mom needed you and you felt really, really guilty and you apologized a bunch? And you just talked about feeling guilty when you had to cancel some of your therapy clients because you needed to be with mom. So
Don McCarthy 38:11
what? What do you think
Coach Maddox 38:18
needs to happen for you to?
Don McCarthy 38:21
Coach Maddox 38:24
I want to call out and I'm gonna back up for a minute I want to call out for a moment that the way you were languaging that I cancelled on his birthday, I felt really, really guilty. I cancelled their therapy appointment, I felt really, really guilty. And what was coming out for me in that moment was maybe this is a language thing, but I think language is really really important. If you change your language from I canceled on my friend for his birthday, you changed your language to I declined going to my friend's birthday in order to take better care of myself.
Don McCarthy 39:12
How would that affect the guilt? Or,
Coach Maddox 39:22
or maybe, oh, I'm sorry. I'm gonna let you speak. Okay.
Don McCarthy 39:27
I think it has a difference. Because it does.
The way you said it, Maddox, it doesn't have I guess there's more like that doesn't have to have a shame there.
And it's, it's, I guess the weighting of that even using the word decline I noticed that a little bit of a difference instead of I cancel like there's a little bit more of a less of a weight there
Coach Maddox 40:17
well there you have a little bit of a thing going on here and that that is that you describe guilt when you take care of yourself when you put you first so I guess my question would be what would need to happen for you to be able to take good care of yourself and not go to that guilty place Yeah, think it's dropped down into your body for a minute and just ask that question and see what your body says What would you need what we need to happen for you to place your needs first take care of you honor your feelings express your feelings and not
Don McCarthy 40:57
go to guilt
Yeah, it feels like again, it feels like a little bit of an old no I need to again going back to I need to show up I need to be present I still feel like that needs of their they're not going to have any ill feelings. Or they're not going to be angry they're not going to be upset so it feels like an old perhaps Yeah. Yeah, I would.
Coach Maddox 41:56
I would bet you know somewhere back there you you may have made an effort to take care of yourself and you got a negative reaction out of somebody and it's stuck with him ever maybe.
Don McCarthy 42:09
Yeah, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. Even Yeah, even now there are a couple of really too many but a few people that were upset that for the most part, I think I understood that my mom was in the situation she is and I think excuse me I think doing what you said what would help is really diving in like we're doing and giving me giving more space to talking this out making time to talk with somebody that I trust I'm currently not in therapy at the moment myself but that's something that I've wanted to do soon my own insurance is pretty lousy. So I'm trying to seek protection get hopefully over time get a little better insurance
Coach Maddox 43:22
Yeah, that would you what you're describing as another form of of support as you care give you know in support some of it can be paid support and some of it you know, would be people that are just willing to love the ones that are just willing to pitch in in whatever way they can. So when you when you think about self care because that's that's the theme of your challenge
Don McCarthy 43:55
what where does
Coach Maddox 43:59
asking for what you want to name play into
Don McCarthy 44:02
that I think another thing as you're saying that is, again, something I've worked on that maybe it's a reminder that I could be a little bit more vocal about that with friends even with some family members, I can find those any support or how can I can get or now even if I just need two hours or three hours just to connect with somebody just a little bit.
Coach Maddox 44:51
You know, or maybe even just a listening ear sometimes. They don't even need to do anything or say anything. They just listen on the other end of the phone while you just kind of, you know, talk and let some of it out. Yeah, because let's face it any way you slice it, caregiving is not an easy thing. Doesn't matter who you're caregiving for a parent or a partner or child. Caregiving is really tough when it's ongoing. When it's longer term, it's really tough. And that's why we need so much so much support.
Don McCarthy 45:31
Yeah. So, tell me
Coach Maddox 45:40
where you'd like to be. We've kind of talked about where you've been, where you are.
Don McCarthy 45:47
Let's talk about
Coach Maddox 45:50
where you'd like to be if you could draw the picture anyway, and have it be any way you liked. Because we do I mean, we are the creators of our, our own life, life is a self fulfilling prophecy. If you fulfill that prophecy in a manner that really worked for you, what would it what would that look
Don McCarthy 46:15
like? Where like now or in the near future?
Coach Maddox 46:21
Yeah, in the future, like lit like, let's say, I mean, we've got to be reasonable mom, Mom's got you know, recovery time here. But
Don McCarthy 46:33
if you had self
Coach Maddox 46:37
care down whether it be three months from now or three years from now, when you have self care down
Unknown Speaker 46:47
what does it look like
Coach Maddox 46:54
you know, I want to point out right now, because the audience can't see as he kind of went within for a moment and pondered that a big smile came out on his face, I just want everybody to know that so what was coming up for you when that big smile came on your face?
Don McCarthy 47:13
Well, a couple of things. You know, once you there's artists self care, one of the things that I want to do is, is doing some travel again and then a few months, maybe next winter, hopefully if mom's in a good space would love to travel to Palm Springs or California never actually been. So I think part of it is travel. Part of it is think is also just still I love what I do, I'd love to expand a little bit more I really do enjoy working with the queer community and part of me is thinking like what would it look like outside of therapy either workshops or weekend like that I don't know if that would be in six months but definitely enough longer term looking inside of working with the peer community and you know different avenues outside of therapy that excites me
Coach Maddox 48:41
You know, I want to point out as you talk about these things, your energy is different.
Don McCarthy 48:48
Do you feel that
Coach Maddox 48:50
your facial expression is different your body language changed somewhat by merely focusing on you know, your desires, your true desires, travel a broader way of of serving the queer community what else in that what it would look like when you've got it all down? What else?
Don McCarthy 49:23
Question now? What else? Think just feeling a little more at peace. I mean, not that I'm not but I feel like that could be a little bit more
confidence on the right path, doing what I need to do. I guess maybe there's a part of me that's can feel a little bit more The situation I definitely feel like I'm still adjusting. Which makes sense. It's only been a week.
Coach Maddox 50:09
It makes perfect sense and things like that that adjustment. It's like, it's like any well I quilt quick, I equate it to grief. Grief is a different animal completely. But grief takes as long as it takes we don't have any control over how quickly we get to the other side of grief and adjustment is a form of grief. You know, when we've, when we're having to adjust that generally means we're having to give something up. Yeah. And we're having to do something different. And there's some, there's, we don't refer to it necessarily as grief, but it is grief. You know, we've we've lost something and we're now we're having to embrace something new. And that's hard for most people. Yeah.
Don McCarthy 51:02
Yeah. So, I would agree, actually, I think I've have kind of felt that emotion coming up the last few weeks. So I think that's a good point.
Coach Maddox 51:17
You know, I have come to realize that I've coined the phrase micro griefs, you know, we think when we just people talk of grief, immediately you go to great loss, a job loss, or a partner loss or a parent loss or a child, somebody you love loss, we think of loss, but we have micro losses every day, somebody made lunch plans with you, and they canceled at the last moment, or they know showed or you know, somebody said something to us that kind of stepped on our toes. And we're feeling a loss of respect in that minute. Grief is like, present in moment to moment aspects of our lives in those micro doses. And I think that when we can see it that way. We can treat it that way. You know, somebody said to me, a tip wise teacher said to me one time, what got you here,
Don McCarthy 52:26
won't get you there. And so,
Coach Maddox 52:33
and I love this, I love this. And I really believe this. So there's been a dawn that got you through
Don McCarthy 52:42
Coach Maddox 52:43
got you up to right here, the present moment that you've just drawn kind of a picture
of something new, that's not currently your experience. And the dawn that got you here won't get you there.
Don McCarthy 53:04
Does that make sense? I think that makes perfect sense. And I like how you're phrasing. I agree with you. Noticing that little, you know, little things that I witnessed this week. Certain things that mom couldn't do, that I had to take care of, even if it's things that she can't do yet. It seems like a loss. It seems like okay. It's really sad to witness not being able to microwave her own to clean up after herself sometimes. Well, yeah,
Coach Maddox 53:49
there's a whole different layer of, of grief going on there probably in and I hadn't, I hadn't thought of that until just now. But you're watching somebody you love, lose their faculties, some of their faculties. She's lost some of her faculties and we hope it's temporary. But we don't really know. And I remember watching my own parents lose their fat faculties. Both my parents are deceased. And there's great grief and loss involved in that. And oftentimes we don't even recognize that and for that, you know, there's a lot of controversy about labeling. And I see sometimes the labeling is like pigeon holing us, but I also see the value in labeling that because if we can't really really grasp what we're up against, we can't come up with a solution. I mean, if you if you know its grief, you may treat it really different than if you thought it was anger. You know, And so we have to know, with some awareness what's going on with us before we can actually take responsibility and take.
Don McCarthy 55:12
Take some action. Yeah.
Coach Maddox 55:14
So you described this vision of what you want the travel, the expansive way of working with the community, the gay community, the queer community, in a way that you're not currently working. And if you set and spent some more time with a journal, drawing that that what do you want? You know, what's, what's that vision? What? Where do you want to be? It would it would expand out into even other areas of your life friendships relationship, it would go into all kinds of places, perhaps. We just talked about? What Got You Here Won't Get You There? Who do you see? Or? Yeah? What way of being Do you see Dawn needing to
Don McCarthy 56:05
Coach Maddox 56:08
In order to realize that vision that you just shared? That I like phrase my question in a manner that's clear.
Don McCarthy 56:21
If I understand who I envision myself embodying in order, so
Coach Maddox 56:26
you know who you've been to get here? Who do you have to be not? What do you have to do? Who do you have to be to get there? That vision?
Don McCarthy 56:46
It's going to require some, no a work?
Coach Maddox 56:53
Well, and yes, that's what that's worthy of some journaling. But if you were going to just drop into your body and come up with one new way of being just the first thing that comes off your head, what might that be?
Don McCarthy 57:05
Um, I don't know, hopefully, this answers the question, but one of the things that I've wanted to do lately was to get my nails done. And getting even getting some nail polish. So things like something like just to get like a different color, even, like, you know, I'm a child of the 80s. And so I was even wanting to get like some kind of neon color, like a green or even like an hour. And so I don't know, some people might not really dig 80s fashions, but you know, that would be something that I that comes to mind.
Coach Maddox 57:57
Well, and that would be a different way of being. I mean, there's a visual aspect to it. And it's a doing, you're getting your nails painted. But you got to be a, I got my nails painted for the first time here a few months ago, I did them in a matte black. And it took a whole new way of being for me to be able to sit down in that chair and have my nails painted. Yeah, it wasn't just an off the cuff, I did something. I had to reach into myself and be a different person in order to do that. And so I get it completely. And I love that you've called that out and that's for and there's many, many steps probably to visualize, to to realizing that, that vision of, of travel and expanded work with the queer men. That's maybe a step that merely gets you out of your comfort zone and and wakes you up a little bit and makes you feel a little more alive.
Don McCarthy 59:02
Yeah. You know. So,
Coach Maddox 59:06
you know, I love that you call that out. That is a different way of being that is a different dawn that then got you to right here at this moment.
Don McCarthy 59:15
Yeah. Yeah. Right. I think that really does speak to real deep acceptance of myself, just honesty, commandments, not caring what other people think,
Coach Maddox 59:37
well, and if you're having this desire to put neon paint on your nails, that's part of your authentic evolution. Now, if you're doing it, because somebody else wants you to do it, that's not part of your authentic evolution. But if you're feeling now troll draw on a desire to paint your nails, that's leaning into your authentic self leaning into your authentic desires, no matter how complex or simple they are.
Don McCarthy 1:00:16
Yeah. So let's, let's,
Coach Maddox 1:00:20
let's bring it home. Okay, Don, what based on all of our conversation, the journey that you're on, and some of the challenges that you are still continuing to to you're not you're not on the other side of this, you're still in the midst of this challenge. And that's a beautiful thing. But you have come a long way.
Don McCarthy 1:00:42
Coach Maddox 1:00:44
the one wisdom bomb that you can drop on me and my listeners that you've gotten out of your journey so far? What's What's the one wisdom balm for those other people that are, share your challenge,
Don McCarthy 1:01:09
and putting you first, honoring your feelings,
Coach Maddox 1:01:16
feeling them, expressing them all those things that you listed? What would you say to that person that's on the same journey you are, but they're a few steps behind you.
Don McCarthy 1:01:48
I would say I think one of the things I kept the press was something that I maybe I don't know. But it's something that resonated with me, something that Maya Angelou once said, and you know, better you do better. And so when I knew more about what it was like to love myself, I knew what it was like to give myself that space and permission. I didn't have to blame myself or hold myself or my past self accountable as much anymore. I didn't know. I didn't know what it was like to really accept myself and love myself in the past, where I think that phrase from Maya Angelou always kind of stuck out with me. I love that.
Coach Maddox 1:03:02
Don, you know, to recap, you're talking about self love loving yourself, accepting yourself. And giving yourself permission. That is huge. why many of us spend so much of our life waiting for someone else to give us permission? And that's their responsibility. It's ours. The buck stops here. That's beautiful. I love what you just shared as the wisdom bomb. Now, you know, your challenge is to, to write that down when we get off this call and live by it. Yeah, to drop the same wisdom you dropped on us to read drop it on yourself, right?
Don McCarthy 1:03:51
Yeah, yeah, yeah. Yeah. Yeah. That'd be a definitely have to be kind with yourself and realize, remembering that it's something that I've forgotten and then just gently come back to.
Coach Maddox 1:04:10
Yeah, because when we're shaming ourselves or getting ourselves, we're not being kind and gentle to ourselves. We're not giving ourselves grace. Guilt and shame are a form of self flagellation, if I'm saying that word, right, it's a we're beating ourselves up, basically. And we have been socialized in a society that has taught us that from a very, very early age. Yeah. So it's about completely, you know, completely reprogramming ourselves. It's kind of a default setting, like on your computer. I talk about this a lot. You know, we all have a default setting just like the computer, but when you don't want to use the default setting You go into the custom settings and you set it any way you like. And we're the same way we can go into our personal custom settings, and set those settings any way we like.
Don McCarthy 1:05:12
Like that I might steal that.
Coach Maddox 1:05:15
You are welcome to steal that. Well, I thank you, Dawn, so much for sharing your story and for going on that journey with me the wisdom bombs and all. I know that this is going to land for a lot of people that are that are listening to this. So thank you so much for that. And let's, let's move now into our rapid fire questions. Okay, I think I, I may or may not have told you I was going to do rapid fire questions. Guess what, Don? I'm going to do rapid fire questions. Which which means don't think about it too much rapid fire answers. Okay. Okay. So, what are you most afraid
Don McCarthy 1:06:03
Coach Maddox 1:06:08
Well, okay, I get that. But yeah, something more. That's a phobia. Let's let's Yeah. Well, what are you afraid of?
Don McCarthy 1:06:20
Oh, like, a more emotional here. Yeah. Losing my loved ones. Okay. At the end of your life,
Coach Maddox 1:06:35
when you're about to take your last breath, you're 112 years old, you've had this long, long life. And you know, you're about to go deathbed moments before your final breath. In that moment, before you check out before you leave, what is the thing that you most want to feel?
Don McCarthy 1:07:04
It's time excuse me, that it's the right time that it's time and got it done that I needed to do in this life. Awesome.
Coach Maddox 1:07:17
In other words, that just a readiness. Yeah, it's time it's time go by. Got it. Love it. And final question. What matters most to you? And why?
Don McCarthy 1:07:32
Well, I think that's just the universe language. Universal Language is love. You know, love for myself, love for others, the world around us just hoping and hope that people are living in really difficult times. I wish people can just love each other a little bit more.
Coach Maddox 1:07:59
That's beautiful. I'm holding space for you with that. I love that too. Yeah, we all need to be holding space for love right now. Because Wow. Well, thank you for that. Don, this has been awesome. I've loved every minute of it. Thank you for being real and sharing your story. And I want to leave you with one thing. And that is just to tell you that in my eyes, you are indeed an authentic gay man.
Don McCarthy 1:08:33
Thank you. Thank you, Maddox. I really appreciate again you making this space a warm and welcome and I do feel I do feel the warmth and the love and connection to you. And I thank you so much for allowing me time on your podcasts.
Coach Maddox 1:08:51
Well, and I thank you for your willingness to come on and be on the on the podcast and I thank you and honor you for bringing your brave
Don McCarthy, LCSW, is a proud member of the LGBTQ+ Community and identifies as a cis-gender gay male using he/him/his pronouns. Born and raised in Queens, NY, Don enjoys hiking, cooking, spending time with family, friends, and our pets. A huge fan of Madonna, the NY Mets, and Pizza!!! Professionally, Don is a trauma and experiential psychotherapist who is trained in CBT, EMDR, and AEDP( Accelerated Experiential Dynamic Psychotherapy) and enjoys supporting his clients in rediscovering and accessing their authentic selves.