Sunday, June 30, 2013

The other "N" word

Driving down the highway, listening to the radio this week, a news story caught my attention.  In fact, it has caught the attention of several major companies:  Target, Home Depot, The Food Network, Walmart, Caesars, Novo Nordisk (a diabetes drug maker)…and more!  
The fourth highest earning celebrity chef in 2012, from the southern United States, is famous Paula Deen.   She was a spokesperson for all of these companies….was.   She was dropped immediately.  Why?  It was discovered she committed a repulsive sin for which, later in the week, she pleads innocence for.  If you’re interested, here’s a video link:
What is Paula guilty of?  Quite frankly…she used the “N” word. In my complete innocence and ignorance, I had a momentary sense of relief….the “N” word is no longer acceptable…yeah!  Yes, it was momentary as I realized that we were talking about the “N” word that that relates to the colour of skin which should have long been erased from our vocabulary.
My hope was that the world’s reaction was to the other “N” word….the kind that rhymes with “huts” and is used regularly to describe persons we don’t wish to understand: persons with a mental illness.  When will there be stigma associated in using the other “n” word, the word that should only appear on labels of jars or packages of the food we eat: nuts!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Happy Birth-day!

It has been a “happy” weekend. We had the opportunity to join my son, and his girlfriend, as he celebrated his birthday.Friends of ours celebrated their father’s 90th birthday…that’s 90 birthday cakes over one lifetime. My math skills aren’t good enough to calculate just how many candle that would be in a lifetime….can you tell me how many?

The custom of lighting candles  began with the Greeks who worshipped Artemis,goddess of the moon. Her birthday was celebrated once a month with a round cake and lighted candles to represent the glowing moon.And, of course, the delicious handmade birthday cake I indulged in was accompanied by the Happy Birthday song which began early in the 1900’s.

Research shows that rituals increase positive feelings of satisfaction:a sense of belonging and a stronger sense of identity. Families who develop rituals function more effectively. What I know, most definitely,was that I had fun…. and by the smiles on my family, so did they….right down to the dog! It was great to watch the girls decorate the cake, and my son showing off the costume that went with it (I’ll keep the details private….but I do have pictures!)

It’s times like these that make me wonder why we don’t “party” more often? Instead of just celebrating and remembering the day we were born, what would happen if we celebrated each and every day? Perhaps our “figures” mightchange with the indulgence of daily cake….or would we simply get accustomed to the celebration and not enjoy the party if we did so more often? I had a lot of time to think on my way back home….and I think the secret for me, to this “happy” weekend was the anticipation of having a good time. In fact, I’m going to try to have a year of “happy”!

As I wake up each day ( and I hope I will)…it will be a new birth-day, an attitude of anticipation and a reason to celebrate! Happy birth-day!

Sunday, June 16, 2013

If you love your coffee...?



The Diagnostic and Statistics Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) is used by psychiatrists to diagnose mental illnesses and addictions in both adults and children.  The first edition came out in 1952 and the latest revised edition came out in May.
Why should you care?   Actually, you might find yourself classified in the revised manual….really!
Were you one of people in the massive line ups at Tim Horton’s and McDonald’s last Sunday?  Why last Sunday?  Well, it was the commencement of the annual summer Sunday morning “no coffee at home because Hydro is repairing the lines and has shut off the power” weekend.  For those not familiar with syndrome, it is an annual ritual in Northern Ontario often lasting a series of weeks. 
Back to the line ups…yes, the main item being served up seemed to be caffeine (in its various forms of coffee, tea, chocolate, ice cream and soft drinks). This has led me to wonder if we are “addicted” and if we are, is this a problem?
According to the Manual, caffeine can be.   It includes:  Caffeine induced anxiety disorder, Caffeine induced sleep disorder and for the true hard core addict, an over dose of caffeine can lead to  Caffeine intoxication (jitteriness, nervousness, anxiety, insomnia, muscle twitching,  gastro intestinal upset, fever, sensory disturbances, muscle twitching and rapid heartbeat). 
The latest revision of the Manual now includes Caffeine Withdrawal as a disorder:  which includes fatigue, headache and difficulty focusing but only if it affects your daily functioning.  (Try and take the morning coffee pot out of the common room at work in the morning and we’ll see who has difficulty functioning).
Is caffeine addiction really that serious, is it really a problem?  Can we really equate it with life changing mental illnesses such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder that have a major impact on day to day life?  Perhaps you may not even know what these significant illnesses are….but you have likely heard about them in terms of “wacko”, “nuts’ or “crazy”.
I personally think that adding illnesses and addictions such as Caffeine related disorders to the official psychiatric manual is watering down our perception of what real mental illness is.
The question is: Do you really want to wear the same label as someone who is mentally ill because you love your Tims?  How would that feel?   Persons with a true mental illness have no more choice in the matter than someone who “chooses” cancer.  So let’s not water down mental illness by including coffee, but let’s think about it the next time we refer to someone as being crazy or nuts.  According to the DSM Manual, we could all be there.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Stand Up To Bullying?

On Monday, the Government announced that it will spend $250,00 (through the Red Cross) to help put an end to Bullying and hopefully some of the tragic suicides that take place because of it.

In this initiative, 2,400 teenagers aged 13-17 will be trained to deliver prevention workshops.  After this training, each teen will commit to reach out to at least 20 others peers in his/her community to create more concern about bullying.    The campaign is called: Stand Up to Bullying.
There will also be three youth led forums, one in B.C., one in Ontario and one in the Atlantic region.
Rehteah Parsons, Amanda Todd, Emily McNamara, Jenna Bowers-Bryanton, Courtenay Brown, James Hulbley: all youth whom died by suicide who endured bullying through social media.   5 youth, in 3 years…. but how many more? 
In Ontario alone, 3 busloads of children/youth will die by suicide each year….how many of these deaths are linked to bullying? 
It is good to empower youth, but is this funding enough?  Does the responsibility lie with youth to take the initiative to train other youth….and do we really expect youth to “stand up to bullying”.  Are we implying that youth should be strong enough to “fight back?” 
What about changes to the criminal code that are aimed at bullying through social media and technology?  What about having more discussions as adult to adult about what is happening to our children?  Who needs to get tough and “fight back?”  Perhaps as adult we should take a look around and  Stand Up to Bullying?  Who needs to set the example?

Sunday, June 2, 2013

The Beat of the Drum



Sudbury’s CBC Morning North radio program hosted Jeff Stewart this week to talk about the healing benefits of drumming.  This is something I am completely unfamiliar with, and thought I would help in passing the info along.  Here’s Jeff’s site where he explains a lot about drumming as well as his own recovery from serious illness:

Research is proving that drumming is an effective tool in promoting good health.  While drumming is not a cure for serious illnesses such as cancer, drumming certainly doesn’t hurt.  For example, blood samples from participants of an hour-long drumming session revealed a reversal of the hormonal stress response and an increase in natural killer cell activity: Bittman, Berk, Felten, Westengard, Simonton, Pappas, Ninehouser, 2001, Alternative Therapies, vol. 7, no. 1

Drumming is also proving to be an effective tool in promoting good mental health.  Drumming decreases depression and anxiety.  Drumming also enhances concentration, increases energy and decreases fatigue, and enhances spirituality.  But why specifically drumming?  Why not spend more time playing the piano or the flute?

When you are drumming, you are physically transmitting a rhythmic energy to the brain which causes the two hemispheres of our brain and the frontal and lower areas of the brain to be synchronized.   Bottom line: drumming accesses and is effective for the whole brain.   Dr. Barry Quinn states that even a brief drumming session can double alpha brain wave activity, and it’s the alpha brain wave activity that dramatically reduces stress.

You can drum alone, or join others in drumming.  A drum circle (getting together with other drummers) alleviates feelings of isolation.  Isolation is often a “side-effect” of poor mental health, as we “normal” folk often disengage ourselves from others whom we feel are walking through life to the beat of a different drum….those who are part of a different group.  However, the drum itself bears no prejudice and can be found in every culture.

Can’t afford or find a drum? Metal bowls, wooden boxes, empty paint or coffee cans….the ideas for making drums can be endless.  Why not start right now and find something in your own home to drum to?  Try the beat of a “different” drum, let it decrease your stress and increase good mental health.  Join the group!