Have you ever fallen in love? Then you know what the poets, songwriters, gurus, playwrights, …
Have you ever fallen in love? Then you know what the poets, songwriters, gurus, playwrights, …
What Happens Now is a shiny new blog hosted by the American Association of Suicidology, written by and for suicide attempt survivors. Journalist Cara Anna is the editor, inviting other attempt survivors to contribute guest posts, or take part in interviews with her, as well as writing extremely insightful posts herself.
Even the word “survivor” uncovers stigma in the world of suicide prevention. Traditionally it’s been used by those bereaved by the suicide death of someone else, and does not refer to those who have survived suicide attempts.
A few savvy agencies, including the AAS and the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, are careful to distinguish between “loss survivors” and “attempt survivors,” but more often organizations will simply refer to “survivors,” and they always mean the bereaved when they do.
This might seem like a quibble with language, but in fact illustrates structural stigma among suicide prevention agencies. Attempt survivors simply don’t exist in their language, or in their activities.
Sir Winston Churchill, who battled plenty of demons, once said, “When I look back on all these worries, I remember the story of the old man who said on his deathbed that he had a lot of trouble in his life, most of which had never happened.”
Unfortunately that advice wouldn’t have been able to stop me from praying rosary after rosary when I was in fourth grade to avert going to hell, nor does it quiet the annoying noise and chatter inside my brain today in any given hour. But the fact that a great leader battled the worry war does provide me some consolation.
It doesn’t matter whether you are a chronic worrier without an official diagnosis or battling severe obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), a neurobehavioral disorder that involves repetitive unwanted thoughts and rituals. The steps to overcome faulty beliefs and develop healthy patterns of thinking are the same.
I was just catching up with the latest Lakers news and was interested to see the new drama surrounding Kobe Bryant and Dahntay Jones of the Atlanta Hawks. It turns out that Kobe hurt his ankle after Jones walked into him on a fade-away jumper, and Kobe landed awkwardly, twisting his ankle.
What does this have to do with mental health?
Well, it’s interesting listening to sports analysts talking about this as a ‘dirty play’ and debating whether Jones is a ‘dirty player.’ Similarly, people often begin to depress themselves by rating their whole self negatively for making mistakes in their lives.
This self-rating doesn’t make any sense, and is totally illogical. What these TV reports do, though, is reinforce the idea that if we do something wrong, our whole being is now judged as wrong. And because this type of reporting is on so many TV channels, repeated over and over again, it is easy to understand why we, as people, have bought into this illogical nonsense of self-rating.
I wrote in a post titled Using Meditation to Diagnose Your Mood that one of the benefits of meditation to a person with a mental illness is the ability to detect episodes early. Well, I’m in one.
It’s been hard to sit at all, let alone for the 30 minutes I meditate each day. I find myself agitated and fidgety. My thoughts are all over the place.
This is not unusual during meditation, but in taking note of the subjects of my thoughts, I can see hypomania creeping in. I’m thinking of buying stuff. I’m thinking of trading stocks. I’m thinking of another career change, discarding good ideas for more exciting, if undoable, ones.
All of my thoughts are about getting and doing. Anything. Right now I feel smarter, more creative, and more energetic than I usually do. That might be dangerous, but that’s what I’m feeling, and that’s what I encounter during meditation.
And here’s where mindfulness meditation really helps.
“You have to decide… Are you a Tigger or an Eeyore?”
That’s one of the questions Randy Pausch, famous deceased Carnegie Mellon professor, asked in his presentation “The Last Lecture.” It went viral, landing him on Oprah and a host of other afternoon and late-night shows.
I loved every other part of his lecture but that.
Because I think the world needs its share of Eeyores: solemn, stoic, realistic, pensive creatures. And I don’t think I’m saying that because I unapologetically claim to be an Eeyore.
I mean, imagine a world of hyperactive, happy Tiggers. How long can you stay with that image before you want to throw something at the striped orange guy?
Most people diagnosed with depression today aren’t depressed, according to Edward Shorter, a historian of psychiatry, in his latest book How Everyone Became Depressed: The Rise and Fall of the Nervous Breakdown.
Specifically, about 1 in 5 Americans will receive a diagnosis of major depression in their lifetime. But Shorter believes that the term major depression doesn’t capture the symptoms most of these individuals have. “Nervous illness,” however, does.
“The nervous patients of yesteryear are the depressives of today,” he writes.
And these individuals aren’t particularly sad. Rather, their symptoms fall into these five domains, according to Shorter: nervous exhaustion; mild depression; mild anxiety; somatic symptoms, such as chronic pain or insomnia; and obsessive thinking.
Malcolm Gladwell capitalized on research conducted by Roger Barnsley (et al., 1985) by suggesting in his 2008 book, Outliers, that there is an “Iron Law of Canadian Hockey.” This theory is also known as the relative age effect in psychological research and it suggests that the older a player is when they begin training for a sport, the more likely they are to achieve success in that sport.
In fact, in a talk posted on YouTube, Gladwell goes even further, saying, “In absolutely every system in which hockey is played, a hugely disproportionate number of hockey players are born in the first half of the year.” He says this in the context of a talk about society not taking advantage of opportunities to improve human potential.
“Logic tells us there should be as many great hockey players born in the second half of the year,” suggests Gladwell, “as born in the first half. But what we can see here, there’s almost no one born it the end of the year, everyone’s from the beginning.”
But is this actually true — are more elite hockey players born in the first half versus the second half of the year?
Over the weekend, I read David Rock’s very interesting book, Your Brain at Work: Strategies for Overcoming Distraction, Regaining Focus, and Working Smarter All Day Long.
One strategy particularly struck me. He suggested that if you’re feeling a negative emotion, you can work to reduce it simply by labeling it in one or two words.
Note, however, that thinking or talking at length about the emotional state tends to intensify it, while simply observing and labeling it helps to quell it.
I do this myself, instinctively. I find myself thinking, “I’m overwhelmed” or “I’m frazzled” or “I’m feeling defensive” — and it’s odd how calming it is. Just putting a label on a feeling helps me to master it.
I have been practicing mindfulness meditation for many years. However, bringing it into my life as a daily practice can still be a challenge, especially when things get busy.
This has made me wonder why we struggle to maintain those things in life that we know are good for us. In a world where choice is overwhelming, and access to possibilities via the Internet are creating an obsession with connectedness, it has become harder to stay focused. And it is through this hyper-connection to the external world that we are losing the connection to ourselves.
Meditation offers a way to unplug from the incessant stream of information and noise, whether external or internal, and be reminded that there is a place to reside that is beyond time and beyond needing to be somewhere else. Meditation brings us close to the simple miracle of consciousness without needing a tragic shakeup to get there.
How often do you stop in your day and feel gratitude for the mere fact that you can see? Did you actually taste the last meal you ate? Were you really listening to the last friend who was speaking to you, or were you already thinking about what you wanted to say next?
Imagine that you’re taking a stroll in the countryside. Everything is going well. The trees are in bloom; the sky is blue; the cool breeze is refreshing. You’re humming your favorite tune when suddenly you hear a blood curdling scream — EEEEOOOOWWWW!!!!
Now imagine that out of nowhere, a repulsive creature has stepped into your path. He’s got a grotesque body, horns on his head and a menacing smile. You freeze in terror as this hideous face stares into yours!
Though you desperately wish to flee, you find yourself helplessly frozen. Your heart is racing. Your chest is pounding. You can’t catch your breath. You feel lightheaded. You feel faint. You think you might die right there on the spot.
Now imagine feeling this very same terror when there’s no creature in your path. What would your experience be? Would you feel mystified? Bewildered? Embarrassed? Wonder if you’re going crazy?
Have you tried to lose weight?
More than one third of U.S. adults currently are obese, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Physicians and other health care professionals urge us to lose weight or risk becoming vulnerable to a host of diseases, including diabetes, high blood pressure and heart disease. Weight loss has become a national conversation.
On an individual basis, most of us either have tried to lose weight or are actively engaged in maintaining a healthy weight. Why we struggle with weight and how best to lose weight are hotly debated topics. The nation’s current weight struggles have been attributed to a range of biological, societal and personal problems such as unhealthy school lunches, media advertising, too much corn and corn syrup in our diets, sugar substitutes, lack of willpower, overreliance on fast and prepackaged foods and many more.
But what gets in the way of your ability to lose weight?