Archives for healing
Hello, again. It's been a long time. I thought I was finished with this blog and with "Coming Out Crazy." I thought I had turned the page on my mental illness, since I'm so stable. I really never think about it that much, other than when I take my medication, along with the many more pills I take to keep my transplanted kidney stable or at my occasional "oil checks" with my psychiatrist, Dr. Bob, who is about to semi-retire. Life goes on and now I have other issues and passions to explore. The truth is, I haven't been writing much at all lately. I've joined my local library, though, and I've done a lot of reading and much of it good fiction. So, why am I here, now?
In this morning's New York Times magazine, former journalist Lori Gottlieb wrote a feature titled The Branding Cure, My so-called career as a therapist, about the dying practice of psychotherapy. As a newly minted psychotherapist, she sat in her empty office awaiting patients to flock to her door for her help. They neither flocked nor walked. They stayed away in droves.
No more traditional psychotherapy?In an effort to find out why, Gottlieb discovered that according to Dr. Katherine C. Nordal in a 2010 American Psychological Association paper titled "Where Has all the Psychotherapy Gone? that psychotherapy as we know it – or at least I know it as 50 to 60 minute face-to-face sessions with a caring and knowledgeable psychiatrist or psychologist – is quickly becoming archaic. Meanwhile, as "managed care" has declined dramatically, "pharmaceutical companies spent $4.2 billion on direct to consumer advertising and $7.2 billion on promotion to physicians, nearly twice what they spent on research and development," Gottlieb reported from Nordal's paper. Increasingly more and more patients are receiving medication only – 57.8% in 2007 or 30% more than 10 years before. I find that shocking and sad, but I know it's true. Having lost my only kidney (yes, I was born with one) to carelessly monitored Lithium Carbonate back in the 1970s and 1980s – iatrogenic acute endstage kidney failure – I know that unmonitored medication can be perilous. Nordal admits at the outset that "while medication is an appropriate part of a treatment plan for many mental health disorders, psychotherapy has been documented as the preferred treatment for many common psychological disorders." I have learned that medication PLUS psychotherapy is the best route, but that is my experience. My psychiatric experience started in the 1960s, its dark ages with precious few pharmaceutical choices.
Okay. It's not white and snowy up here yet, but if you're beneath the 49th parallel, Canada is definitely north and in many ways, great. For one thing, today is Canadian Thanksgiving, a national holiday that always corresponds to your Columbus Day, and a great season for thanksgiving, too. Harvest Time. All over my neighbourhood, walking my two Dandie Dinmont Terriers today, I've encountered people harvesting or clearing out their gardens, a little prematurely placing Hallowe'en pumpkins on their porches and celebrating the splendour of the autumn colours. You have to see them to believe them.
This Thanksgiving Is My Happiest EverLast Thanksgiving, I was starving, skeletal and anxiously waiting to start an eating disorder program.
I'm not dead. I'm still here. I'm not "away" in a mental hospital. I'm not manic and flying. You may have thought that and I wouldn't blame you.
Quite the contrary – I'm thriving on work...Work is the greatest therapy of all. Here's why: Work gives you a sense of purpose and we all need to feel purposeful and useful. It gives you a reason to get up in the morning, get dressed and get going. (I work at home, but I still get dressed every morning, no matter what. Otherwise I don't feel professional, and I'm a professional.) When you work you have to reach out and engage with other people. Connect with the world. That's exciting and exhilarating. The more you have to do, the more you get done. (That sounds like it should be an axiom with a name like Murphy's Law, which it is not. I cannot find it right now. When I do, I'll get back to you.) You feel a great sense of accomplishment, confidence, self-esteem, a wondrous natural "high" when you do a good job. You can't buy that feeling. It's truly priceless. I love it. You learn so much from the mistakes you make or the first drafts you have to rewrite. It's tough work. Writing really makes you bleed sometimes, it's so hard, but when you get it right, it's bliss. There's nothing better than falling into bed at night utterly exhausted after a hard day or night of work.
Last summer, before beginning his first year at Robert Land Academy 15-year-old Peter Darwin (who requested that his real name not be used) weighed 360 lbs. Since then Canada's only military-themed school for adolescent boys with multiple challenges has transformed him.
He Was A Poster Boy For Morbid ObesityNo more. Darwin has dropped 105 lbs., and now weighs 252 lbs., since boarding at the 33-year-old school in Southern Ontario's Niagara Peninsula. This summer he hopes to continue losing weight and ultimately reach his 210-pound goal. Morbid obesity, an increasingly critical societal, cultural, medical and emotional concern, especially for young people, jeopardizes every sphere of their lives.
A Self-Described "Emotional Eater""At home, I used to raid the fridge whenever I wanted and I used to think I ate pretty healthy," Darwin said, at this year's graduation ceremony. "When I got sad, though, I'd eat a lot. Emotions controlled my eating. "Robert Land Academy taught me a lot. It taught me how to set goals properly, to value my nutrition, to work out properly. Now, I eat three times a day. I like the food here. It tastes good. They don't give you too much or too little. You control your portioning. Learn to make choices."
Brass buttons were bursting with pride at last month's 33rd annual Robert Land Academy graduation ceremony. Another class of mature, respectful, goal-oriented and successful young men completed their high school education at Canada's only military-style boarding school for adolescent boys, some as young as 11 years of age.
School Stresses Academic ExcellenceNestled in southern Ontario's Niagara Peninsula, these boys flourish in a school environment unlike any they've previously attended. It stresses academic excellence, athletics, leadership and teamwork. Extracurricular activities "make it worthwhile," said class valedictorian Paul Burrill, 17, from Burnaby, B.C., describing games and sports of every kind, plus rock climbing, boxing, wrestling, "even jumping out of a plane."
Students Struggle With ADHD, ADD, ODD and Other IssuesRLA's safe, structured environment often dramatically transforms its students, like Burrill, psychologically and physically. Their family relationships heal. They develop confidence while achieving top academic marks that open doors to any university, college and career they choose. Hailing from all over North America, Europe, Hong Kong and the Middle East, they arrive with a rash of challenges and diagnoses. ADHD, ADD, Oppositional Defiant Disorder and different learning disabilities. Some have critical physical problems demanding lifestyle regulation. Morbid obesity. Diabetes. Others have abused alcohol and drugs or flirted with the law.
In front of me I've placed two dog-eared, yellowing paperbacks from my library. I've kept them for years. Wallflower at the Orgy and Crazy Salad (first editions) both by magnificently multi-talented, versatile, prolific and relentlessly funny Nora Ephron. Ephron died yesterday of "pneumonia brought on by acute myeloid leukaemia," her son Jacob Bernstein told the New York Times in today's edition.
No one is forever...But somehow, I always believed Nora would be. (She was just 71.) She always brought a smile to my face. A giggle. Like another of my favourite resident New York writers, Calvin Trillin. They're both entirely different, but immeasurably engaging and amusing, at times laugh-out-loud funny because their writing in all its forms pricks our nerves, tickles us, speaks their truths with a visceral honesty that hits us where we live – in our heads and our hearts (and our tushes). Nora went beyond journalism into screenwriting, novel writing, directing, producing, and blogging. When it came to writing and a comic, but always humane vision, there was nothing she couldn't do.
I'm very tired. Blogged out. My blog posts are not up to scratch, in my opinion. I know because you're not commenting and a blog is a community. Without you, where's our community? So this little post is simply an update to let you know that I'm not going to spend hours posting today.
Today's a "mental health day"During my 30-year career writing for a daily newspaper, for radio and for magazines, as a freelancer, I always took a day off from time to time. Everyone needs to recharge, reflect and refresh to continue to write, which is enormously taxing work.
Me, too. I hope you'll understandNever, ever have I published 12 days in a row, as I have here. And here, I've actually posted 14 times in 12 days. That's a lot. You can get burned out at that rate. I need to prevent burnout. Also, my blog posts average between 500 and over 1,000 words. Ernest Hemmingway wrote 1,000 words a day. Would that I could write like Ernest Hemmingway – in my dreams – a journalist before he became a novelist. He wrote for The Toronto Star.
My Dandie Dinmonts are a rare and endangered breed. Only 200, if that, are born world-wide each year.
That's why I'm so passionate about this breedDandies have tiny and fragile litters. Usually only two or three puppies. One of Lucy's litters was a singleton. The only litter Riley has ever sired was four puppies, but one of them died. Dandies, with their distinctive white topknots, black button noses and penetrating black eyes, are so beautiful, they're a natural people magnet. We're often stopped in the street. They are sweet-natured, loyal, fun-loving, mischievous and very sensitive little animals. They wag their tails in circles. It's the most charming thing to watch. Often, Riley's goes so fast I can barely see it. He's won tail wagging contests.
The most wondrous thing about my dogs is their innate "cuddle-ability." Riley and Lucy love nothing more than to be held and petted. They beg for it. And who can resist a face like Riley's?