Tag Archives: depression

The Nerdy Lion

Although I am constantly told I am the funniest person people have ever met, there’s a new cat in town – and he’s funny. A distant second, to be sure, but funny.

I stumbled on The Nerdy Lion: Lions can wear glasses too through a post titled “Why no one is reading your blog – Part 1.” It was pretty damn funny. I laughed and laughed. Why? Because it was funny in the same way that tricking kids is funny:

One thing kids like is to be tricked. For instance, I was going to take my nephew to Disneyland, but instead I drove him to an old burned-out warehouse. ‘Oh no,’ I said, ‘Disneyland burned down.’ He cried and cried, but I think that deep down he thought it was a pretty good joke. I started to drive over to the real Disneyland, but it was getting pretty late.

Anyway, of the many and varied things Nerdy Lion writes about volubly, one subject he has a particularly good grasp on is anxiety & depression. As someone who has “conquered” anxiety, he’s got some useful tips and insight. And even if that’s not what you’re interested in reading about, still check out his site and explore. There are lots of great posts there for your reading enjoyment.

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Stigma: The Mental Health App

There really is an app for everything! One of the newer ones in town is Stigma, what Christopher Capps over @dailypocketnews described as “the new app from Stigma Inc: the mental health journal that you can carry with you everywhere you go.”

It’s totally anonymous and essentially comes down to this:

“Users select a mood describing how they are feeling (from a list of moods), then they write a 200-character journal entry describing ‘why, what, who, where’ was causing them to feel that way.”

My thanks to mymessedupmind.blog, who posted on the app and wrote a very candid review of it.

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Be Aware: Journaling Helps You

 

I wrote a piece last week titled “Beware: Artistry Kills.” Well, now I’m here to turn things around. Of what do I speak?

“There is research out of U.C Davis showing that just writing for a few minutes each day about things that you’re grateful for can dramatically boost your happiness and wellbeing.”

There was a piece in the Daily Informator recently called “A psychologist explains the best way to rewire your brain to let go of negative thoughts” in which social psychologist Alison Ledgerwood discusses the empirical proof that we as humans have a natural inclination to veer towards the negative, even when presented with positive information that overwhelms the negative.

You can watch the TEDx talk by clicking on the above link, but essentially Ms. Ledgerwood conducted an experiment and showed that we suck. Okay, I may be oversimplifying the results. But the point, I think, is that negative thoughts beget more negative thoughts, while positive thoughts can easily be turned to negative thoughts; unfortunately for us, it’s much harder to go from negative thoughts to positive ones.

Although that doesn’t seem like rocket science, her point is that it’s an instinctual trait (so don’t blame yourself for doing it), meaning the only way to make things better is to work at it. And the key? Writing, of course!

She suggests that everyone, but especially people who struggle with negative thoughts on a regular basis, start a gratitude journal. The formula is quite simple: Jot down a thing or two about what you feel grateful for, and try to remember those things as you navigate your way through/around your day.

So, I’ll get the ball rolling on this one and hopefully inspire at least one other person to do the same thing.

I’m very grateful for all of my friends, but I am especially proud of my friend Maria A., who begins a new chapter of her life journey today. She is returning to her new-old home of Mexico to start the exodus process. After four long years of endless hurricanes (literally), she’s found the strength to be grateful for her own experience and know that it’s time to move on. Where that will take her is still up in the air, though I know she’ll conquer whatever mountains she faces along the way and vanquish any unforeseen demons she encounters. As she likes to say, no matter how challenging the circumstances, “Follow your bliss, yo!”

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iFear: Cell Phones & Social Media in a Brave New Era

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Becky Mansfield over at Your Modern Family wrote a somewhat chilling piece on the extent to which cell phones and social media have altered a generation – in the not-so-good ways every parent fears – called “The scary truth about what’s hurting our kids.”

Reporting on empirical data presented through a number of mediums, notably Dr. Jean Twenge’s research and the findings she presented in her recent book, iGen:Why Today’s Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy–and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood–and What That Means for the Rest of Us., Ms. Mansfield helps break down some alarming information in an easily digestible, if uncomfortable, way.

Without mincing words, Dr. Twenge has found that spikes began occurring in teen/tween angst, depression, anxiety, ADHD, sleeplessness and, in some cases, thoughts of suicide in 2012, the same year the first iPhone was released. Since then, the numbers are getting worse, not better. Here’s a summary per the above article of a few related stats:

1 in 5 children has mental health problems

The article does offer coping strategies to parents, but if we as adults have a somewhat unhealthy relationship with all these new gadgets, one can only imagine how hard it is for younger people to navigate these waters without a considerable amount of difficulty. This is doubly true when it comes to bullying. Imagine having your least desirable enemies armed with the ability to follow you remotely to your bedroom through social media on a daily basis. Where does someone’s “safe place” become in an age when we are always connected?

As if anyone needs more proof of how serious this problem is, the article from the NYT I wrote about from October 11, 2017 (@simonwilliam: “Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety“) is still on the website’s most popular emailed stories – 11 days after it went up, a longevity I’ve not seen before on that site’s page.

Ultimately, the onus lies on us, as parents and adults and mentors and teachers, to lead by example. But that’s easier said than done. High-tech gizmos aren’t going anywhere, and the world is only becoming more interdependent. Suddenly those fears our grandparents had that our parents’ minds were being poisoned by the gyrations of Elvis Presley and the absolute lack of decorum that the Beatles displayed (with shaggy hair!)seem like such Leave It to Beaver-like problems now.

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Anxiety, Not Depression

 

“Anxiety is the most common mental-health disorder in the United States, affecting nearly one-third of both adolescents and adults, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. But unlike depression, with which it routinely occurs, anxiety is often seen as a less serious problem.”

On the heels of World Mental Healthy Day, The New York Times has followed up with an informative article about the disorder which doesn’t get as much “play time” in the headlines as its more infamous sibling, depression, but is deadly nonetheless.

Benoit Denizet-Lewis has published a well-researched article titled “Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Anxiety?” and the answer, though never easy to pinpoint for any one specific person, is sometimes more obvious when looking at entire groups of people. As Mr. Denizet-Lewis writes:

“For many young people, particularly those raised in abusive families or who live in neighborhoods besieged by poverty or violence, anxiety is a rational reaction to unstable, dangerous circumstances.”

And for those who think that those raised in affluent families have it any easier, he adds this:

“Suniya Luthar, a professor of psychology at Arizona State University who has studied distress and resilience in both well-off and disadvantaged teenagers, has found that privileged youths are among the most emotionally distressed young people in America.”

Not surprisingly, one thing that ties all young people together – rich and poor – is the anxiety brought on by social media. As one college student put it, “I don’t think we realize how much it’s affecting our moods and personalities. Social media is a tool, but it’s become this thing that we can’t live without but that’s making us crazy.”

It’s disconcerting to learn how so many men and women, boys and girls, suffer from anxiety to the point that they shut down. When I was living in Korea, a lot of the people I knew from other countries would dismiss the heightened state of anxiety there as “Koreanness,” what was euphemistically called a “bballi, bbaali (quickly, quickly)” culture. But it’s not unique to Korea, nor does it only affect teenagers fighting to get into university.

It would seem that many of us are having a tough go of it in modern society. However, according to the article, there are certain things we can do to alleviate the pressure. While these activities are sometimes easier said than done, they include mindfulness techniques, art and equine therapy, and exposure therapy (facing your fears).

I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that when stress/anxiety starts building in my life, the best thing I can do is unplug from social media and, even more importantly, sit down and read a book. That one single act, I think, is the cheapest, quickest and most effective way to mollify the Demons of Angst and Anxiousness.

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The Letters of Sylvia Plath

 

And still she speaks to us.

Her editors in New York knew exactly what they were doing with this book design. Just as the Instagram campaign highlighted recently, what you see on the outside is rarely what’s happening on the inside. Look at this beautiful blonde woman, the cover beckons us. Striking debutante? Swimsuit model? New wife and mother who has already “recovered” to her perfect form?

Nope. That’s the face of someone who put her head in an oven while her kids were in their bedrooms and killed herself from carbon monoxide poisoning.

More than 50 years after her death, Parul Sehgal (@parul_sehgal) reviews what may the most intimate look at the famed poet and writer in “Sylvia Plath’s Letters Reveal a Writer Split in Two.”

The title of the tome (1,388 pages), edited by Peter K. Steinberg and Karen V. Kukil, is The Letters of Sylvia Plath Volume 1: 1940-1956, so you can expect a second volume soon, I imagine.

While works like The Bell Jar are seen as semi-autobiographical, and her poetry now described as “confessional,” there’s no doubt that in these letters Plathophiles will see a side to a woman who has come to represent all that was wrong with mental health diagnosis in the past, especially when it came to depression.

In light of #WorldMentalHealthDay yesterday – and with Plath’s legacy still as strong as ever – hopefully these letters will illuminate parts to her past that have remained hidden up until now, shedding new light on awareness about mental health.

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Comparison Is the Thief of Joy

Image result for comparison is the thief of joy

I’ve been writing and commenting on some pretty shallow subjects these days, so I thought I’d up my game and post on a slightly heavier topic than HOW TO MAKE THE PERFECT PANCAKES IN JUST 10 MINUTES!

Let me begin my commentary on Stephanie Bitler (@stephiieb) and her incredibly brave and touching piece on adoption, biracialism, and, ultimately, depression called “It’s levels to this shit” by saying Korean adoptees have got to own the rights to some of the most unbelievable adoption stories. I remember interviewing adoptees for Faces of Korea all those years ago and scratching my head after each one and going, How does this kind of shitstorm happen? Ms. Bitler’s story is no different in this way.

Having recently been in a relationship with someone who suffers from depression, I’ve learned a lot about it, even if I can’t fully wrap my head around it from a firsthand perspective. Fortunately, much of (Western) society is slowly coming around and realizing that severe anxiety/depression is a “real” condition that requires the empathy of those who don’t suffer from its torturous side effects.

And it’s because of people like StephiieB and their courage to put their heart out on the table and expose their naked soul in the biting wind of harsh social critiques that others in her wake will have more strength to confront this subject both with themselves and with others.

By the way, if you like the title of my post, a line Ms. Bitler referred to as well, you can thank good ol’ Teddy Roosevelt, who apparently had something memorable to say every time he opened his piehole back in the day.

But I digress. I laud and applaud StephiieB for her soulful writing that was as down-to-earth as it was spiritually uplifting. With more discussions spurred by content like hers, we are sure to become a more open and tolerant society, especially when it comes to the subject of depression.

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Mental Health and the Success of Let’s Talk

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Just over one week ago, Bell Media continued with its multi-year initiative called Let’s Talk in support of mental health. In 2017, the campaign – which now stretches across the CTV network and the entire Bell network, as well as social media sites – raised more than $6.5 million. Now in its 8th year, the campaign has raised a total of $79,919,178.55 for mental health. As a result, “institutions and organizations large and small in every region received new funding for access, care and research.” The aim is to reach $100 million by 2020. Something tells me they’re going to crush that goal.

More importantly, just as the program name indicates, people are finally talking about the issue. The purpose of talking about mental health and depression in public and with the public is to reduce/remove the stigma attached to these subjects. Although Bell leaves much to be desired when it comes to telecommunications technical support(cough, cough), I have nothing but the utmost respect for what they started in 2010 with the Let’s Talk program, and to Clara Hughes for having the strength to be the national spokesperson. For that, if nothing else, Bell Media is to be lauded and applauded.

On a related note, I recently came across a site called Natalie’s Lovely Blog, which is run by a very brave and well-spoken 19-year-old named Natalie Breuer. She writes about a number of subjects, but it was the one entitled “On Depression” that caught my eye.

While I support the Let’s Talk initiative 100%, it’s important that we don’t address mental health for just one day out of the year and then forget about it until next January. For many people, it’s a crushing condition that spans every minute of every day – 365 days a year. If you want to help, reach out, donate or merely learn more, I can think of no better place to start than the Centre for Mental Health and Addiction (CAMH), an institute with a mandate and access to resources like no other I know of in Canada.

As Barbara Kingsolver, the acclaimed author of The Poisonwood Bible, wrote in The Bean Trees:

“There is no point treating a depressed person as though she were just feeling sad, saying, ‘There now, hang on, you’ll get over it.’ Sadness is more or less like a head cold – with patience, it passes. Depression is like cancer.”  

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