RISK! Podcast
  • Episode:#732
  • Date:May 23, 2016
  • Run Time:1:05:36
  • Download: MP3

Stumbling Blocks

Andrew Ritchie, Grant Robinson and Christine Gentry share stories on facing obstacles.

Song: RISK! Theme by Wormburner and John Sondericker

Song: Capricornus by Austin Peralta

Live Story: The Sham Identity by Andrew Ritchie

Interstitial: McLovin’ It (excerpt from Superbad)

Live Story: Defusing the Bomb by Grant Robinson

Song: The Tide Pulls from the Moon by William Fitzsimmons

Live Story: Making the Chain by Christine Gentry

Song: Elevator Love Letter by Stars

27 Comments

  1. Grant Robinson, I don’t know if you’ll see this but I got chills just listening to your story while I’m sitting at work. I’m 27 and seem to have similar reactions at moments in my life – although, I don’t have a child yet…my wife and I have our small dog who has pushed me to those limits, especially as a puppy. I talk to him as you did your son and then I think of myself and how terrible I am for acting in such a way…I’ve just never known WHY I do it. One time when he was just months old, he wouldn’t stop whining and I picked him up and practically slammed him in his bed…reminded me of your last reaction. I can’t remember seeing or hearing anyone in my past act and talk the way I do when I get to that point. I would never act this way if my wife were with us, only by myself…I just don’t know how to talk about it with anyone because I’ve never understood it.

  2. Kenneth, thank you for your input. I screamed incoherently at a puppy we bought years previous, and I too only did it when I was by myself. I thought that having gotten past that phase with my dog would allow me to transcend the same thing when dealing with an infant. With my second child, it has, thankfully. The first, you’ve heard about. The process of self-discovery toward my own motivation to rage is one of the most difficult, painful, rewarding, and mysterious journeys I’ve ever taken, and it’s still going. Thus far, I’ve found that it’s a result of a combination of things. 1. Being raised by an alcoholic parent with anger issues of his own. This tends to lead me (and others) to have an intolerance for anything needy and/or helpless. It can also keep me in my own head and isolated, reducing my ability to look at a situation from the third person point of view and reducing empathy. 2. Bad boundaries. Without the ability to take a step back and re-evaluate a situation, I can instead feel so powerless that the only response I have is to fight back against the feeling. That reaction takes the form of anger. 3. My pleasure centers respond to anger. Big time. To the point that I wonder if there’s a genetic component involved.

    Thankfully, therapy and the right medication (that can hopefully be reduced with more therapy) have helped me control my rage. It’s hard, but it’s possible. Kenneth, I’d recommend finding a good therapist. A psychiatrist will most likely just diagnose you and prescribe meds. There’s nothing wrong with that, but in my very non-medical opinion, it just treats the underlying issue instead of curing it. Therapy will help you find the cure. As to not remembering anyone in your past exhibiting this same behavior, maybe someone did when you were too young to remember and cleaned up their act by the time you came online. A good therapist will help you unravel all of that.

    Again, thank you for your input, and I hope my story helped. If you would like further correspondence privately, let me know, and I’ll see what can be done.

    Thanks!

    Grant

  3. I get angry too. I also have severe ADHD, and it can be very related. I’m thankful that at some point in my life someone said to me that it’s okay to leave a crying baby in a safe place and walk away when you are angry. My daughter was a very easy baby but one time she wouldn’t stop crying and I did feel that surge of anger. I put her in her crib and walked all the way out to the driveway where I couldn’t hear her and I sat on the ground in my driveway and breathed until I was calm. It was probably 20 minutes. I’d rather not leave my 6 month old crying in her bed for 20 minutes, but it is better than handling her while feeling that angry.

    I deeply appreciate your willingness to tell your story. I try to put the message out there as much as possible to anyone who will listen that it is better to walk away and get your sanity in order than to angrily handle the baby. Go take a few minutes for yourself. The baby will be safe in their crib. Come back calm and handle the situation.

    I cried listening to your story. I’m so impressed at the lengths you have gone through to not be that angry person. I admire that you didn’t just say “I can’t do this” and put all of the responsibility on your wife because of your anger issues. Even more impressive is you putting aside your preconceived opinions of the medicine and giving it a chance for your family’s sake. Your wife and children are very lucky to have you, and (from your descriptions of him), you are definitely not your father.

  4. Man, what an episode! I laughed and cried. I don’t do either of those things often.

  5. This show never ceases to amaze me and this episode is no exception. Grant, your bravery to speak of your hardships with an infant is so honest and I cannot remember a single moment in my life where I’ve encountered such a brutally sincere story of this nature. I appreciate it so much because I too faced the exact same hardship when I was raising my daughters. I found myself losing control far more often than I ever dreamed, and while I learned how to cope it remains one of the most shameful things I’ve ever done. Thank you so much for opening up and talking about something like this. You do not know how much it means to me. Thank you Grant and Risk!

  6. The comment reminding us that “it’s okay to leave a crying baby in a safe place and walk away when you are angry” is so important. I am a mother of two, was lucky to have a loving upbringing, and as far as I know I have no personal history of anger or behavioral issues. All this is to say to Grant, what you described sounded to me like the extreme end of a “normal” experience as a new parent with a baby who cries a lot. I have reacted in anger towards my children in ways I never though I would (and that I don’t think I experienced), whether it was putting the baby down more brusquely than lovingly, rocking back and forth faster than at a soothing pace, or raising my voice at my toddler while putting her back in to bed for the 20th time in not the most gentle manner. And, my thoughts have been worse than my actions, which has scared me too. However, I think a lot of parents have been there. Your strength to recognize what you wanted to change, and taking the steps to do so are commendable. I have realized that yelling and being brusque doesn’t make anyone happy (parent nor child) and usually it does not get the response you want from the kid anyways (i.e. STAY IN BED). I do my best now to stay calm, tap-out when needed and get my partner to come in as back up, and, like your therapist said, realize that I am not perfect. Thanks again for sharing.

  7. Wow. Thank you for the supportive comments, everyone. When I saw my name on this week’s show, I was really nervous. I’m glad the story resonated, and if it can do some good, all the better.
    For those curious, here are the other things that my therapist told me to do to help heal the root cause of the behavior (as told in her voice):

    1. Reward yourself when you react the correct way to your son’s screaming. (Covered this one.)
    2. When you’re giving your son love, affection, and attention, imagine a younger version of yourself there in the room and tell that small version (out loud or silently), “this is for you too, little Grant, because you didn’t get this when you were his age.”
    3. When you’re about to yell, have lost your patience, or have already yelled, do your best to laugh at yourself.
    “I’ve just yelled at a baby, and I’m supposed to laugh at that? Isn’t that trivializing the trauma that I’ve just inflicted?”
    “No. That’s the fastest and best way to break the emotional state that’s causing the trauma, and it allows you to forgive yourself instead of carrying the shame.”

  8. Grant, I can’t express how much your story resonated with me. I am a mother of 3 girls, and have similar past experiences with my mom. I have done what you explained in your story, and gone through the cycle of guilt and sadness…etc. you really helped me connect some dots in my own life. Thank you for your honestly and extreme bravery.

  9. Grant, I just wanted to take a moment to thank you for responding to not only my comment earlier but following up with tips to help.

    I want to also thank the other people brave enough to post about their feelings. It makes me feel BETTER knowing that it’s not only us guys that get these feelings and act out in ways that we never thought imaginable at one point in our lives.

    I will use your tips and try to reward myself more often, no matter what anyone says…a small win, is still a WIN and deserves recognition!

  10. Grant’s story is one the most difficult stories I’ve listened to on here. I am so glad Grant had the strength to tell this story that highlights his demons. I had a father much like the way Grant described his and it struck an familiar chord. I say I had a father like that because my dad has grown a lot and has changed a lot and our relationship has changed so much and I can happily say he is far less reactive and far more mindful. I am a father to be and this story horrified me, but the strength Grant found to see his demons right in the face and to battle them is absolutely inspirational and I thank you Grant for having such courage and for fighting so hard for yourself and for your family.

    Christine’s story literally brought me to tears of joy. She said that she felt honored to bring 28 people off of the wait list. Honor! That is beautiful. This story is inspirational. Christine is a beautiful woman and has changed the world in at least 52 different ways. Thank you so much for sharing, you are a beautiful human being. Stories like this help me see the glass as half full. Silly wonka’s lyrics come to mind: if you want to view paradise, simply look around and view it. Christine, once again, thank you for your beautiful story!

    I’d lastly like to say that Andrew Ritchie also brought me to tears, but for a very different reason. This story had me full belly laughing out loud that I had tears in my eyes!

    Thank you all so much for such a wonderful RISK! week! I love the podcast more than any other and its stories like these that help me maneuver through this sometimes daunting world. I say that because this podcast has helped me identify a huge community of people like me that the world feels far less daunting. Thanks to Kevin Allison and everyone at RISK! for the phenomenal work they do! I cannot wait to see the show in NYC at the Bell House on June 22nd 🙂

    Cheers and love,

    David

  11. A person decides to take the easy way out and take a pill instead of mediate and/or consciously focus on and working toward becoming a better person. Unfortunately, that pill is just masking anger, burying it deep down. That anger is going to come back because it was never dealt with through work and effort. And when it does come back, sooner or later there will be a snap. Only a matter of time. People will say to the blonde newscaster, “I could have never imagined something like this could happen here.” People will wonder, “how could such a thing happen?” And we will know that a man took a short cut, a pill, and it cost dearly.

  12. Point taken, and I agree. As I mentioned in a comment up the thread, “A psychiatrist will most likely just diagnose you and prescribe meds. There’s nothing wrong with that, but in my very non-medical opinion, it just treats the underlying issue instead of curing it. Therapy will help you find the cure.”

  13. Wow. Grant. What a beautiful, moving, and honest story! One of my favorites of all time from this show. Thank you for being so open and raw. I really admire your level of self awareness and ability to seek help when you needed it. That is not and easy thing to do. I think that your shared experiences are going to help many of the listeners at the very least to understand that we aren’t all perfect parents, spouses, friends…and at the end of the day that is okay.

  14. Christine,
    I about fell off my chair when you mentioned Brunhilda. I KNOW HER!! Twenty-six years ago, when I was lived in Boston, she made my wedding dress based only on a picture from a magazine. I laughed out loud when you described her physically, and her brutal honesty. I experienced that honesty more than a few times. Small world.
    You are an ispiration and a better person that most. Great story, thank you for sharing.

  15. Maybe we should get Brunhilde on RISK!

  16. You guys. This episode is possibly one of the best episodes I’ve heard through Risk! in the year that I’ve been listening to new episodes. So many emotions, so much raw truth and vulnerability and hilarity in unexpected moments and without fear of judgement or unnecessary justification (and an excellent interstitial after the fake ID story)! Simply amazing. Also, can confirm about Evanston.
    This episode is why I listen, and why I inform everyone looking for new podcasts about Risk!. You are all incredible. And thank you, Kevin, for lovingly shepherding and collecting these stories for us! Forget those haters who are of the “Pro-Risk, Anti-Kevin” camp. They are misguided.

  17. Christine’s story made me cry. It made me remember there are good, brave people put there, whose contributions never make the news yet have such a great impact. I’m so glad she shared her story with us. The scene with her mother was incredibly touching as well.

  18. Christine — Wow. Thank you for donating, and thank you for sharing the story too. Made me cry. I donated for my son several years ago, just before Father’s Day. Didn’t work out due to other health problems, but we’re hoping for another try. He’s only 29. I hope you have healed completely, and it sure sounds like it made an incredible difference in your relationship with your mom. You are a wonderful person and I’m sure you make a huge difference as a teacher. May God bless you.

  19. Christine, thank you! Your story is an inspiration! This was the most beautiful story I’ve heard on Risk. Thank you for your compasstionate donation and for your bravery to tell the story!

  20. Grant–I’m going to be very honest: your story really, really disturbed me. While I applaud your bravery and courage to talk so openly about the anger issues you faced with your son, every hair on the back of my neck stood up when I heard you repeat the eerily familiar mantra used whenever someone abuses a child or a spouse: profuse apologies, promises never to do it again, and then a repeat of the same cycle. You made it sound as though you and your wife basically shrugged off these awful episodes as part of a learning process. FWIW, as an abuse survivor myself, I don’t think you were nearly hard enough on yourself.

    It also disturbs me that you only feel anger towards your son and not your daughter: if you had siblings and one of them was favored over you, try to remember how damaging that was, how horrible that felt. You may trick yourself into thinking that your kids won’t notice if your son gets the brunt of your anger more often than “daddy’s little girl”, but they absolutely will. And the resulting damage between them as siblings and in their relationship with you will be catastrophic.

    Grant, by no means am I saying that you’re an abuser. And you will never be your father, because here’s the thing: you recognize how wrong it is to treat a child that way, and you cared. What I AM saying, though, is that it would be a grave mistake to somehow think that you’re “cured”. You are always going to have to be extra vigilant around your son, because the times when he will do things to frustrate or anger you are only going to increase as he gets older. If you could fly off the handle because of an innocent baby crying , then what will you do the first time his misbehavior is intentional?

    Just please–for the sake of that innocent little boy–PLEASE keep getting the help you need, whether it be through therapy, meds. Do whatever you have to do, and do NOT fool yourself into thinking it’s over–you seem like a good man, and I sense you will do just that. But if you aren’t vigilant about this, if you assume the battle is won and that you’ve completely laid your anger issues to rest, then I can promise you: there is a very, very good chance that you’ll one day find yourself apologizing to your boy for hitting him…right before promising him that you’ll “never, ever do it again”.

    And the vicious cycle of abuse would then continue.

    Good luck to you–I sincerely hope you and your family will be ok.

  21. Jacob, thank you for your comments and concern. Treatment for my own childhood abuse (albeit verbal) and anger issues is a continuing endeavor. So long as someone else’s anger is a trigger for my own anger and so long as my pleasure centers get a kick out of being angry, I will (and do) continue therapy in all of its applicable forms. My son is 2, and he’s got bad days where he’s uncooperative and defiant. If I’m not mindful on a daily basis, there’s a risk of falling back into yelling. Last week, I yelled his name at him at the dinner table when he tried to pour his apple juice onto the floor. I took the cup away, and he started to cry. I could tell it was more from my yelling his name than me taking away the juice. I immediately apologized (of course) and put it in my head that no mess at the dinner table is worth yelling about. From now on, he can smear my face with putrid ranch dressing, and it’s okay. It’s just food. Food can be cleaned up. That was the first time since December that I’ve yelled at him. While I didn’t lose control, per se, it took me by surprise and really brought your point home. I wasn’t under the illusion that I’m cured of getting angry and yelling, but that incident reinforced the reality that this is something I will have to be aware of for the rest of my life.

    That incident aside, Jacob, I wish that you could see how I’ve been doing with my son. Do I still get frustrated, annoyed, impatient, and angry with him? Absolutely. He’s a two year old, and his aim is pretty good. However, as a result of therapy and medication, I’ve completely changed how I deal with him, and we’re closer than ever now. We smile a lot at each other, I make him laugh at least once a day, I praise him when he’s done a good job, and I calmly but firmly correct him when he needs correcting. He’s thrown some pretty epic tantrums since then. Recently, he tried to karate kick me for the first time. Ironically, it was because I had taken away a Japanese fan that he was using to hit my wife. I took an authoritative stance, looked him in the eye, and said, “Excuse me?” He understood. Overall, he has fewer tantrums, he’s calmer, he’s more confident, he’s happier, and most importantly, he trusts me. I continue to do whatever is necessary for however long is necessary to keep that trust and keep my temper in check.

    I’m so sorry to hear about your own experience with abuse (and make no mistake about it; I know that what I did to my son was verbal abuse). I completely understand why you feel like I wasn’t hard enough on myself. I completely understand why it sounds like my wife just shrugged it off. Were I in your position, I’d think the same thing, and I’d worry about the safety of the boy in question. No one deserves what I did to my son. What I did was wrong, and my actions may still have long-term implications. That’s on me, and I think about it every day.

    So far, I’ve been actively practicing different behaviors that have shown good results, continuing treatment, keeping control of my temper, and am mindful on a daily basis. I pay attention to triggers and always have an exit/calming down strategy when things start to escalate and I can feel my temper start to rise. Things will never be perfect, but I will always work hard to continue becoming the father he deserves and the father I deserved.

    Again, thank you for your comments and concern, Jacob. Your perspective is invaluable.

  22. Wow, Christine, you’re an incredible person. What an incredible story, truly an inspiration.

  23. I am a long time Risk listener and this was such a great episode! Thank you, Kevin!

    Grant, thank you for taking a risk and sharing your struggle. Everyone deserves a space to share their hardships and you did it so publicly. That is a huge inspiration to so many of us that struggle with facing the difficult parts of who we are. Thank you for that.

    Christine, the anxiety of what if? what’s next? can be so crippling- thank you for reminding me how to ask for help and how we may find comfort in the most random places. Keeping doing amazing things.

  24. I hope you all know that we’re reading these comments, and that your kind words mean so much. THANK YOU for reaching out.

  25. ^^^

    Such amazing support. That’s why I support this podcast: Its listener-base is as great as its host. After telling my story, I wasn’t afraid until the comment section. Thankfully, the feedback (even the critical feedback) has been supportive and constructive. Thank you for your comments!

    Also, Christine’s story wins the Internets. 🙂

  26. As a misophonic, I literally cannot handle the mouth sounds when people with dry mouths use the microphone or talk too close into it. I love to hear these stories, though. I hope that you find time to teach a 2 minute microphone etiquette crash course in your lessons (which I intend to take soon!).

    God bless

  27. Grant–thank you so much for your reply. While some of the specifics of your story really disturbed me, your genuinely good intentions shone through very clearly in both the segment and the comment section.

    As you can see, your story has really stayed with me (even a year later); I hope that you’ve continued on the path towards inner peace, and in so doing have enabled your son to experience the happy childhood he deserves. If you ever read this, would you mind posting an update? Hope all is well.

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