Category Archives: Mental Health

Boundaries


ImageEmotional boundaries can be tough to define.  On the one hand, we want to welcome people into our lives and keep them there.  On the other hand, we want to make sure our hearts and bodies do not become damaged by another person’s presence. To accomplish this balancing act, we create boundaries.

Sometimes, these boundaries are so loose, they don’t prevent much more than someone drowning us in a pool.  Others have parameters that are so stringent, no one has access to the person’s vulnerability.  Both of these places can be very lonely for very different reasons.  The former creates loneliness because often, we are so ashamed that we will not discuss the situation with others.  The latter is lonely because we push everyone away who wants to get close.

Boundaries are a necessity, though.  Some view the production of boundaries as an ego-based activity.  I do not happen to believe it is.  I believe that these boundaries are a healthy way of building an emotional home in which to live.

“I welcome you to speak freely to me,” means there are a lot of windows from which light can bathe the room.

“I will only discuss things with you that are spoken respectfully,” means that orderliness in the home is vital to healthy living.

“I will not tolerate physical violence,” means that no one may approach your home with a wrecking ball.

“All people in my home will be respected… always… no matter how deeply you disagree with them,”  means that your home is a safe and healthy place to be for those who value those qualities, and a place from which others must leave if they do not choose to live according to these rules.

Arguments and disagreements are understandable.  Even anger has its place; however, one must always remember that love comes first.  One must love one’s self enough to act according to one’s highest expectation of himself, and one must love the other enough to not lose control over his words or actions.

Boundaries are healthy if not too loose or too stringent.  The best tool to determine how they work is to evaluate whether one is lonely or feels overwhelmed by the presence of another.  If one feels appropriate levels of both freedom and responsibility, joy and challenges, strength and growth, then one is in a marvelous place.

Neurocracy in America


I finally figured it out!  It’s taken me a long, long time to define what the issue is in United States politics, but I’ve done it!  I have the answer!  We are not moving from a democratic republic to an autocracy or theocracy, or toward socialism or any other known form of government.  The form of government we see looming on the horizon is much worse.  We are moving toward a Neurocracy!

An increasing number of our leaders have lost touch with their constituents, authentic, reasonable American values, and the purpose of government so deeply that their neuroses are taking over.  Narcissism, bipolar disorder, dissociative identity disorder, compulsion, obsession, and myriad other diagnoses are running rampant everywhere throughout our local government to our national leaders of all parties.

Add to this fertilizer of ideology the mass hysteria created by abusive and judgmental language and philosophies, the willingness of the media to feed these delusions, and we have the beginning of our American Neurocracy.

So for those who would like the definition of this new term, here it is:

Neu-ro-cra-cy /njʊə-rəʊ-krə-si/ (noun)  Greek  neuro-: sinew, string, nerve;  -cracy:   strength, power.  A government run by many individuals who suffer from myriad neuroses (mental or emotional illnesses), and who attempt to make laws to satisfy the needs brought on by these conditions.   ~  The James C. Glica-Hernandez Dictionary

Hopefully, this will help clarify the issue in politics and government so that we can set ourselves toward treating our national woes by replacing those suffering from these conditions, and repairing our overarching ideology before this national diagnosis becomes more of a reality.

You’re welcome.

When Depression Strikes


There are many clinical components to depression including hormones, enzymes, physical manifestations, and emotional experiences.  They can be objectively and subjectively assessed, categorized, and treated.  What about the personal experience of depression?  How would one describe that?

For each person, depression is a deeply personal event.  Each episode is varied and unique in its expression.  For me, today, it is a lethargy, a dark shadow cast over everything and everyone I see.  No matter how much I love those around me, these momentary glitches in my brain chemistry leave me feeling very much alone, inadequate, and sad.  These dips in my otherwise healthy emotional state, are surprises to me, even after nearly 40 years since receiving my diagnosis of bipolar disorder, then called manic depression.

I hated the medications prescribed for me.  Some made me feel like a zombie.  Others gave me hives.  Others caused me to go to sleep.  None of them truly helped.  I chose a more spiritual path in my treatment.  I chose to look at the disorder as something that was present irregularly or mildly because I am fortunate to have a less injurious level of bipolar.  Some of my peers, with a more serious condition, could not afford to take the path I take because it could lead to severe and deleterious effects.  I suppose by some accounts, I am lucky.

Today, though, most feelings of good fortune and joy elude me.  They are memories in my past and hope for my future.  I don’t usually talk about my depression much because most people are afraid of that word.  They fear it for themselves and for their families.  They avoid the possibility that someone they love could experience such deep sadness for no reason other than the body disconnecting with those chemicals that would heal the weighty malaise.  So, most don’t talk about it.

The funniest part is when some people whisper like chattering monkeys, “She must be depressed because she’s not very strong,” or “He must not have very good tools at his disposal if he’s giving into his depression.”  Anyone who knows me knows that my personal, emotional strength is abundant, and that my tools are many.  It simply is a fact that I have a medically psychiatric condition called bipolar.  That’s all.  In the same way as someone with high cholesterol or mild type-2 diabetes tries to keep his numbers down through diet and exercise, I work very hard at staying mentally healthy.  Most of the time I am effective.  Once in a while, like now, it gets away from me.

One of the things I’ve learned over the years is that silence magnifies my condition.  Isolation adds fuel to the fire of sadness.  So, here I am telling the truth about how I feel.  Acknowledging that I am struggling with what has become a lifelong difficulty.  Quite honestly, I feel better for doing so.

I share this information with you, dear reader, not because I need your sympathy or pity, because I don’t.  I simply want to share with you my process.  I want you to understand that perfectly normal people, strong people, wise people, happy people, sometimes have a condition that can, on occasion, get out of control.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, one-quarter of all adults in the United States  are diagnosed with one or more mental disorders.  That’s 75 million people.  2.6% of the adult population have severe bipolar disorder.   I am not the oddball by any stretch of the imagination. Many go undiagnosed because of the stigma of mental illness.  Sorry, but that’s just plain stupid.  If one had cancer, phlebitis, alopecia, or gingivitis, one would not have a stigma applied to those conditions or diseases.  So, why should mental illness?  There is no reason except that people are afraid that they will succumb to some mental insufficiency.

Again, fear plays out as judgment against a group of people.  So, to face that fear, I speak out against the ugly stigma, tell the truth about my disorder, and share with you what happens for me, at least.  And I’m one of the lucky ones.  It doesn’t strike very hard, even at its worst.  For others, it hits harder.  It is debilitating.  It is overwhelmingly lonely.  It can even be deadly.  Yet because of the stigma, they cannot reach out for help, even to professionals or programs that would certainly assist in diagnosis and treatment.

I reach out to you so that perhaps, somehow, you will find a way to reach out when you sense someone close to you is having difficulty with mental illness.  Speak honestly and without harsh judgment.  Avoid terms like, “buck up,” or “toughen up,” or “don’t worry, this, too, shall pass.”  Would you say that to someone with an obvious tumor on their head or bleeding profusely?  Not likely.

Thank you for reading this message.  I will feel better more likely sooner than later.  For those who need you, don’t be afraid.  They are simply the same people you love when they are healthier as when they are feeling worse.  They may reach out to you verbally, or by a change in their interactions with you.   They are not trying to drag you down in the darkness with them.  They simply are reaching for the light.

An Epidemic of Xenophobia in America


“Xenophobia – A fear of or aversion to, not only people from other countries, but other cultures, subcultures and subsets of belief systems; in short, anyone who meets any list of criteria about their origin, religion, personal beliefs, habits, language, orientations, or any other criteria. While some will state that the “target” group is a set of persons not accepted by the society, in reality only the phobic person need hold the belief that the target group is not (or should not be) accepted by society. While the phobic person is aware of the aversion (even hatred) of the target group, they may not identify it or accept it as a fear.” ~ Wikipedia (Oxford English Dictionary reference)

In research published by the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in 1994 [1], and  research in Belgium in 2000 [2], scientists found a strong correlation between authoritarian personalities and groups described as conservative, and xenophobia.  Those identified in various ways from conservative, authoritarian, or fascist, genuinely believe that they are morally, genetically, or otherwise superior to those toward whom they express their extreme fear.

Certainly not all who express strong beliefs in one area or another should be considered xenophobic.  Honest, good people from all walks of life are encouraged, and even obligated to participate in their governmental processes.  Their views may be diametrically opposed; yet, their divergent views maintain a healthy dialogue in our country.  There are those, however, whose extreme views teeter on, or fall over, the boundary of constructive exchange.

With the aforementioned research to consider, those who are more open to other cultures, races, and groups should exhibit compassion for those who have the psychological challenge of xenophobia, in part because the research also describes that some who exhibit the xenophobic behavior suffer from post-traumatic stress syndrome.  In addition to compassion, though, we must also recognize the symptoms of this condition and listen to the message with an educated ear.

As we follow the political machinations of the 2012 election process, we have an opportunity to assess whether groups exhibit this xenophobic-based authoritarianism, and if so, how the larger population should respond.  There are few tell-tale signs of this condition.  Their rhetoric includes correlations to:

  1. cultural conservatism;
  2. orthodoxy;
  3. a desire for social dominance; and
  4. racism/culturalism.

Additionally, those who exhibit these xenophobic qualities also are found to have a negative correlation to  empathy, tolerance, communality, and altruism.   Do we see those qualities exhibited in national politics today?  If so, how?

Fascism, authoritarianism in its extreme, is defined by Merriam-Webster in the following way:

“A political philosophy, movement, or regime… that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition.”

None of our candidates have suggested that a fascist government is what the United States needs; however, some aspects of fascism are becoming increasingly visible, including the stated desires of  “severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition” by those who believe their traditions and values are most important.  These beliefs would relegate certain populations in our society to the status of invisible.   This, too, may be indicative of the growing xenophobia in our country.  A vocal, if not large at this point, group of citizens sympathetic to these views are listening more attentively to candidates and public figures who espouse these exclusive behaviors.  The research indicates that those who suffer from xenophobia rarely recognize themselves as sufferers.  They simply see themselves as correct in their views.

Although as a people we will likely choose to ignore these evident signs, the xenophobic underpinnings of contemporary politics are nonetheless apparent.  These fears can be ameliorated in part with compassion, a focus on inclusion, support for those who value all aspects of American culture, and those responsible to the entire American population, rather than only to their closed, isolated group.

A welcoming, inclusive community for all is the antithesis to xenophobia.  How do we view America today?  Our leaders are saying it best.  I suppose it just depends on to whom we listen.

________

[1]  Pratto, Felicia; Sidanius, Jim; Stallworth, Lisa M.; Malle, Bertram F. (1994) “Social dominance orientation: A personality variable predicting social and political attitudes.”  Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, Vol 67(4), Oct 1994, 741-763. doi: 10.1037/0022-3514.67.4.741  Retrieved on February 9, 2012 from http://psycnet.apa.org/journals/psp/67/4/741/

[2] Duriez, B. & Van Hiel, A (2000) “March of modern fascism. A comparison of social dominance orientation and authoritariansim.” Personality and Individual Differences, Volume 32, Issue 7, May 2002, pp 1199-2013.  Retrieved on February 9, 2012 from http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0191886901000861

The Gentleman Doth Protest Too Much, Methinks!


Yes, I stole the title of this piece from a paraphrased quote in Shakespeare’s Hamlet, but no other title fit more profoundly.  A recent study shows that self-described straight men who, by their answers to certain questions, can be identified as homophobic, respond to gay male pornography by growing increasingly tumescent.  In other words, when they look at nekkid men, their willies grow as hard as the rocks they throw at gay people.

Specifically, the abstract from the study by the University of Georgia, and published in the Journal of Abnormal Psychology, states,

“The authors investigated the role of homosexual arousal in exclusively heterosexual men who admitted negative affect toward homosexual individuals. Participants consisted of a group of homophobic men (n = 35) and a group of nonhomophobic men (n = 29); they were assigned to groups on the basis of their scores on the Index of Homophobia (W. W. Hudson & W. A. Ricketts, 1980). The men were exposed to sexually explicit erotic stimuli consisting of heterosexual, male homosexual, and lesbian videotapes, and changes in penile circumference were monitored. They also completed an Aggression Questionnaire (A. H. Buss & M. Perry, 1992). Both groups exhibited increases in penile circumference to the heterosexual and female homosexual videos. Only the homophobic men showed an increase in penile erection to male homosexual stimuli. The groups did not differ in aggression. Homophobia is apparently associated with homosexual arousal that the homophobic individual is either unaware of or denies.”

If their results are correct, what can we assume by these new data?  Should we estimate the number of gays in the country by adding the number of homophobes to the count?  If so, that would make the percentage of gay folk in the United States enormous.

Of course, the last line of the study is an important one.  Those men identified as homophobic are clearly in denial of their sexuality or experience a complete lack of awareness that they are subconsciously attracted to other men.  Whether in denial or unaware, these men require our compassion because they are either deluding themselves or completely self-unaware.  Either way, it’s a challenging way to live.

So, to those men who shout at the top of their lungs epithets and derision toward gay folk,  carry  placards decrying the end of American culture because gay people can be seen in public, or excoriate homosexuals from the pulpit or political platform, just know that we hear you.  And, after this study, we hear you even more clearly now.  In a way, every time you exhibit your homophobic rants and rages, you’re coming out just a little bit more to the rest of us, aren’t you?  Welcome to our world… grrrrrl!

Alcoholism in a Family


It’s just a few drinks.  What does that matter?

It matters.  It matters a lot.  Before we know it, everything has the light of alcohol cast upon it.

It is easy for us to ignore the signs and symptoms of alcohol and drug use in our families.  We excuse it in a thousand different ways.  We ignore the increasing impact on the lives of our loved ones and us as the consumption of these substances increases.  It’s too hard for us, sometimes, to acknowledge that addiction is a snowball rolling down a hill that eventually will be so huge, there will be no stopping it until it reaches the bottom, crashes against something, and bursts apart.  Often, that crash is permanent, as it was for my brother, David.

David was forty-five-years-old when he died.  He was a father of two and grandfather of two beautiful little girls. 

David had been drinking since his teens.  The first time I ever saw him drunk was in 1974 when he was thirteen-years-old.  He had stayed at a friend’s house and they had gone to a party in the forest surrounding our small, mountain hometown.  There was ample alcohol there.  He came home the next morning and passed out. 

Teresa and David Glica, Mother and Son

After he had become an adult, his drinking didn’t prevent him from going to work, graduating from trade school, and eventually achieving a great deal of success in his work as an electrician.  No one spoke about his alcoholism in any significant way until his wife left him and took his children.  They lost the house, his job, their boat, and everything else he had worked so hard for.  He now had several DUI’s he’d collected along the way, as well.  Most importantly, he lost his family.

It’s not as though he didn’t love his family.  He did very much.  It was that his addiction was too great.

He had come to Dunsmuir to stay at our mother’s house as she was dying from pancreatic cancer.  David hadn’t been drinking to excess during that time.  He was drinking enough to keep the withdrawl symptoms at bay, but the closer Mom got to her death, the more he drank.  

After she died in November 2005, my daughters and I left, after having spent two months caring for Mom.  David had inherited the house and chose to stay there.  He didn’t pay the bills, though.  He wouldn’t answer the phone, while it was on.  It was winter and eventually, the house got very cold after he didn’t pay the gas bill.  He developed frostbite.  Between the alcohol and the freezing weather, he was growing more ill.

In the early morning of March 9, 2006, he was walking to the gas station at the corner to get some beer.  He collapsed and had a seizure.  After a very messy rescue, he was transported to the hospital where they were warming him up from the frostbite.  He was doing very well.  As his veins began expanding, however, a blood clot was released, it went into his lungs, stopped the blood flow to his heart, and he died instantly. 

This deeply loved father, grandfather, brother, and friend, was gone.  We had lost my mother on November 23, 2005 and David on March 9, 2006.  One was unavoidable.  The other was not.

There was a political battle being waged in the newspaper over my brother’s death regarding the response by the police and fire and rescue departments.  His death was dragged through the newspapers for months afterward.  It was very painful. 

All this start with just a few beers.  It was those few beers… times thousands… that  killed my brother. 

Contact Above the Influence for information about how to identify addiction, find treatment, and deal with the consequences of these addictions.  This call won’t wait another day.  This call could save you, your loved one, or someone you’ve never met.

For great websites presented directly to you, go to:  http://alphainventions.com/

The Many Faces of Mental Health


Facing grief, hearing voices, fighting addiction, stopping cutting, riding the rollercoaster of manic depression. 

These are all experiences that some people have with their forms of mental illness.  Why is it, then, that the moment the words, “mental illness” appeared in your line of sight, you froze?  Your back straightened.  You may have looked around as if to see if anyone else was looking.  You may have even gasped inaudibly. 

depression_by_thirsty5Don’t feel bad.  Everyone does that.  It’s our natural response to the conditioning we’ve received regarding discussions about mental health. 

When we hear of someone who suffers from anything from prolonged sadness to schizophrenia, we shake our heads solemnly side-to-side in piteous sympathy for the poor wretch and his long-suffering family.   Sometimes, we even grow impatient with the sufferer. 

“Why can’t they just get over it?  Toughen up!  Stop being a drama queen!”

It’s not that simple, my friends.  It’s just not.

Even staying on a treatment regimen is difficult for those of us who are fighting our denial. 

So, as you hear yourself speaking the words above, I just ask the following: 

Stop it.  Just stop it now. 

If I said I had cancer, you would likely feel awkward, but concerned.  If I said I had to have a root canal for a long-term dental condition, you would regale me with a story of your own endodontic therapy.  Yet, if I tell you that I have mild bipolar disorder, you become frightened.

Well, I have mild bipolar disorder, as well as seasonal affective disorder.   

If you’re agitated by knowing that about me, I’d ask you if you are frightened that my mental illness is catching, or if by hearing it, you will soon discover that you or someone you love will be diagnosed with some like condition.  In this particular case, ignorance is complete bliss.  It is the kind of bliss you fight hammer and tong to maintain. 

I understand, though.  I really do.  I’m just asking you to rethink your belief system about mental illness.  I’m inviting you to become more educated about this pervasive disease. 

The latest numbers by the National Institute of Mental Health indicate that 26.2 percent of adults, 18-years-old and older, have some form of mental illness.  No wonder we worry about it when fully 1 in 4 Americans have to contend with it.  What does it say that 57.7 million people in the United States of America have been diagnosed with some mental disorder.  That’s not including the many who are suspected to have yet been diagnosed and/or treated.

With the economic crisis still causing fear, with the threat of terrorism crossing our borders, with the increasing costs of medical care decreasing our treatment resources, we are being herded like sheep into a world of untreated mental illness.  Only through education and activism are we able to find our way out of this morass. 

The last thing we need to add to this process is shame.  The truth is, shame is a very real component for most people with mental illness.  That, more than anything, must change first for real social growth in this area to happen.

schizophreniaHaving been a consumer member of the Executive Board of Directors for the Northern California chapter of the National Mental Health Association (NMHA) many years ago, I know that this organization can be of immense assistance to all people involved in the mental health arena.  As patients, diagnosed or not, family members, friends, and co-workers, I’m asking that you take this step in participating in the care of those most at risk. 

Education is a small thing to ask.  Take 15 minutes.  Look up a definition for something you’re interested in knowing more about on the websites for  NMHA, or the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) or the WebMD Mental Health page.  Your choice to investigate another’s process will make all the difference in the world.  It will be a testament to your love and concern.

Thank you in advance for taking the time to read this and to go the websites I’ve recommended.  With your fearless choice to grow in understanding, you have no idea just how important your education is to others and to yourself.  

By the way, what’s it like to have such an open heart?

___________________

Source:  http://nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/the-numbers-count-mental-disorders-in-america/index.shtml

The Humanity of Public Figures


Compassion is the new Vision

Compassion is the new Vision

The poignancy of entertainer extraordinaire, Michael Jackson’s death, the resignation of Alaska Governor Sarah Palin, and the family scandal of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, while extremely different events, remind me of the humanity that must be recognized about our celebrities. 

As we peer through the glass of our televisions and computer screens onto the countenance of one luminary after another, we tend to forget that they are whole human beings, as flawed, gifted and sometimes confused as any of us in the mundane world of suburbia. 

Each of these individuals are parents.  Their children are so deeply affected by the events surrounding their famous father or mother, that we cannot fully assess what that impact is, yet.  The challenge is, of course, that none of these people, particularly Mr. Jackson, will be able to do much about it by the time the issues fully fulmigate.

There have been several articles written in this blog about the need for compassion at a variety of levels.  There seems to be a bit developing in some arenas; however, we are still focused on consuming every scrap of information thrown to us, like hogs scurrying for their slop.

Is it possible for us to step back, even for a moment, and call out to ourselves for restraint and compassion?  I certainly hope so, if not for ourselves and the energetic quality of our spirit, but for our children.  They are learning how to be from whom they see us choosing to be. 

Remember, my friends, that behind each face lies a mind that holds sweet and bitter memories just like ours.

Behind each toned or surgically altered chest, beats a fragile, insistent heart that loves and is made sad in the same way ours are.

Under their feet lies the dirt of thousands of miles they have trodden on their paths, exactly in the same way we find the dust on our sandals, as well.

In the same way that 50 is the new 30, and gay is the new Black,  compassion could be the new vision. 

I wonder if it will catch on?

Death Photos


Rather this than that.

Rather this than that.

It is grizzly to conceptualize, let alone view, a photo of someone at or immediately after their death.

When I saw the photo of Michael Jackson in his final moments on the front of a couple of magazine covers, I was simply mortified!

Shame on those editors who decided it was a good idea. They just lost a little of their souls in that moment.   Sadly, it only cost them $5.95 per issue.

No matter how public a figure, the family should not have to have photos like that plastered all over places like supermarkets and liquor stores for public consumption and I, for one, condemn those who opted to publish those photos, especially on the front cover.

While I understand that publications have the right of free speech, I always learned that one’s rights ended at another person’s nose.  These filthy rags should be sued, and sued well, for their horrific invasion into the Jackson family’s tragedy and grief.

I shall never again purchase any magazine that held those images.

The Shortest Distance Between Two Points


There is a consciousness in which I live that is so clear and aware of the world around me.  I can analyze, synthesize and evaluate in a speed faster than light, all the while intuiting at equal velocity.  It’s nothing different than anyone else can do; however, it is only one side of the coin.

The Shortest Distance Between Two Points

The Shortest Distance Between Two Points

There is another point at which my ability to remember the past seems larger than my ability to see the present.  I drift into my history more and more easily and sometimes it’s to the level that I feel as if I were to let go for just an instant, I would forever be floating in that previous personal epoch.

Whether it be my childhood, early parenthood, first concert, or the birth of my first grandchild, I can be there in such vivid reality that I almost forget I’ve already traversed this much of my personal  journey.  Sometimes, it scares me a little.

The triggers seem to be growing in number.  A television ad.  A sound or a song.  A smell emanating from the kitchen.  A photograph.  They all take me back more and more quickly all the time. 

The challenge, of course, is that sometimes I feel as though I might prefer my memories to my present.  Although I know in my intelligent, purely cognitive mind that it isn’t possible to live in the past, it often feels like I can.  The beauty of those nostalgic moments is that they’ve been filtered so cleanly of everything that hurt.  Now, everything I remember is sweet and loving and in those snippets, I see things with my current level of experience while enjoying the moments of yesterday with my children’s precious faces and the laughter of my father, mother and brother.  I hear the sounds of my grandparents as though I have the phone to my ear and they are sitting in their home listening to sports and making tortillas.

“Can you pick me up, Dad?” 

“When are you coming up, Jim?”

“Apio verde, to you, Apio verde, dear Jiiiiiim, Apio verde to yooooou!”

“I love you, m’boy.”

“Helluuuuu?”

There are no more sounds like that except in my heart and in my head.  I miss them.  I miss them very, very much.

I have no intention of allowing those memories to become more important than my waking, alert life; however, there is a very short distance between these two point… and, it grows shorter all the time.