Monday, January 25, 2010

The Best of all Medicines

You've heard this a hundred times, I'm sure: "Laughter is the best medicine."

Apparently this isn't just a belief - it's a physiological effect that the activity of laughing has on the entire body and mind.

To take laughter apart - but not too technically or scientifically, the brain reacts to laughter as if the act of laughter has just been a 'reward' of some sort.

Laughter activates something called the ventromedial prefrontal cortex. In plain English, this is a place in the brain that makes endorphins following a rewarding action or activity. Endorphins contain 'the stuff' that makes us feel better or feel elated, somehow 'lifted up.'

There are a whole bunch more brain spots, neurons and chemicals involved in the laughter process but I like the idea of laughter as being a 'rewarding activity' and the good feeling that follows laughter as being connected with 'reward.'

Sometimes, particularly when we are stressed or are afflicted with mental illness to any degree, things in life don't seem very rewarding at all.

I like to think that if we take the time to laugh, we can be rewarded. Even if we have to (just at first) manufacture a situation where laughter is possible, I think that the rewards can be worth the effort of releasing endorphins that make us feel better - even if just for a little while.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Boundary Setting

I just went through a difficult situation for several months with a friend/room-mate whose mental illness culminated in hospitalization for treatment of out of control symptoms - but the hospitalization didn't occur BEFORE a lot of damage was done via the behaviors involved with his mental illness.

I stayed in the situation too long, even after boundaries had been breached on his part. This WAS A SIGN I missed - that showed where he was incapable of thinking clearly and determining that others have the same rights as he does. This boundary breaking was a sign that I should notify him of symptoms I was seeing right before I EXITED the relationship for a while so that health professionals could step in.

Now, here's where things can get tricky with people who suffer mental illnesses:

He spoke with a high vocabulary at all times, offering the illusion that he was mentally competent
He avoided controntation and was agreeable almost all the time - even when I introduced compromises about his behavior which most people would dislike and ask questions about - he'd just simply and always say, "okay."
He repeated, over and over again, behaviors I notified him of that were troublesome and he kept saying "Yes, I know that is a problem" but never "I'll take steps to change this unhealthy behavior."
He never stated on his own - ever - that he would make behavior changes but always agreed that the behaviors were, logically, a problem...

The very first symptoms were the ones I missed for a long time - the complex vocabulary and the agreeable attitude. These two things kept me from realizing that he was in no way ABLE TO control these or other, more distressing behaviors!

The attitude of agreeing all the time, however, is what I want to address in this little article because it has everything to do with BOUNDARY SETTING.

Boundary setting is a two-way street. In my efforts to assist my friend as well as physically protect myself, my belongings and interests, I decided to set boundaries. The agreeable nature of my friend at all times was not a two-way street and it took me a long time to realize this.

My friend never suggested any boundaries of his own, either - any changes he would like me to undertake in order for our friendship to get better. Sometimes people under influence of their mental illness have trouble seeing 'the bigger picture' and do not understand boundaries, even for themselves.

My friend never once said, "I'd like you to ...." or "I'd like to set a boundary where you do/do not ...." and this, when done respectfully leads to discussion of problems, positive changes in behavior, etc. I was willing to do almost anything to make my own changes if these were going to help both of us and our relationship, however, my friend never made any suggestions, seemed incapable of this sort of 'boundary awareness' and 'boundary setting.'

One of his behaviors/signs of his mental illness is religious fanatacism. He PRAYED - and prayed a LOT...and sometimes, he shared with me what he was praying about. He was praying, asking God to make ME be a certain way. I finally just told my friend, "Just ask ME these things yourself - Ask ME, not God, to make these changes happen."

To all this, my friend refused, and right after, things got drastically more severe in our relationship...

I finally realized that he could neither respect my boundaries NOR understand that he needed his own boundaries against me and my personality. Although I don't believe I was being a rotten friend or anything, everyone in every relationship needs boundaries. These are POSITIVE points of reference for everyone.

I still quite honestly do not know if I did anything to hurt my friend - I may never know...his illness was so severe that I left the relationship as completely and entirely as possible. He violated me and manipulated me and had no idea he was doing this - all due to his mental illness.

My friend's illness brought him to very sneaky and paranoid behaviors but for many, many weeks, these were hidden by the calm and agreeable face he wore. His meddling covered everything from his stealing my food, and I do mean ALL OF IT (he did not believe he was stealing it at all - God was involved - God brought me into his vicinity so he could have what I owned - only, I didn't give him PERMISSION to own ANY of my belongings) to compromising my income and banking (he told business people who called for me that he was looking after me, I would never need any money and they need not call again), and almost three months later, I am still recovering financially and emotionally from the whole experience.

In all of this, I still have to forgive him...due to his mental illness being in control for several months.

There are no boundaries I can trust that my friend will not cross in the future and so I have set a boundary with myself:

Never to let myself help another who refuses to respectfully AND productively discuss boundaries and negotiate behaviors - no matter how calm they appear on the surface.

If nothing else, this was a good lesson in observation and awareness. Fine words don't cut it - observing behavior CHANGES and, hopefully, improvements and not getting sidetracked by other matters is important...not the trouble-solving conversations that always seem to 'go alright' or 'turn out okay - with no conflict or yelling.'

Avoiding conflict and emotion is not boundary setting - it's manipulation. I knew that from textbook models before - now I know how this works in real life.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Objective Mental Health Perspective

Do you approach the topic of "Mental Health" objectively?

Do you approach those with mental illness conditions in an objective way?

Because of the stereotypes ingrained in society, it is often hard to think of the topic of 'mental health' without bringing up the idea of 'illness,' however the term MENTAL HEALTH is supposed to mean - MENTAL WELLNESS. The term 'mental illness' already exists for the condition of 'mental illness,' so it is strange, but far too common that the opposite, "Mental Health," is so often merged with the idea of 'illness.'

Because of the same stereotypes ingrained in socitey, it is also often hard to think of people with known mental illness conditions as PEOPLE (first) WITH HEALTH CONDITIONS (secondary).

For the latter, we often fall into 'mind-less' (not 'mindful') and easy connotations and descriptions of 'that mentally ill person' or 'that borderline person' or 'that schizophrenic person.'

How objectively do you use terms when thinking about and speaking about "mental health," "people with mental illness conditions," and "mental wellness" ?

Tuesday, October 16, 2007

Article: Mental Illness Isn't Contagious

A friend of mine wrote a really good, spirited article telling how frustrating STIGMA is to those who have to manage their Mental Health.

The article is short and will only take you a few minutes to read - but is well worth your time. It's on a HubPage, but don't worry - the following link is designed to open in another window:

Mental Illness Isn't Contagious (article by "Whirling Dervish")

There are several interesting comments about 'media' in this little article.

It should make you think, "Hmmmm"

Sunday, October 7, 2007

Choking Game - Accident or Sign of Something Else?

While watching television over the summer (2007), I viewed a program called 'The Choking Game' that made me check around some more until I gathered some information that partially confirmed more about the information from the documentary show.

I wondered whether the game 'played' by children could be a kind of addiction-forming activity and I did find some reports that said YES.

I wrote an article about this scary childhood activity over at Hub Pages:

The Very Scary Choking Game on HubPages
(opens in new window)

In the article I provided the name of the program and TV network that aired the documentary that piqued my interest in this topic. I also mentioned additional sites where some studies show that the 'euphoric' feeling that children may experience when they play the Choking Game can become addictive. You'll also find a 'support' site mentioned in the article, dedicated to spreading the word about this deadly game.

The 'game' is also called the 'passout' game and is known by a variety of names. Children actually design methods to make themselves pass out and lose consciousness, however MANY CHILDREN ARE DYING from playing this game.

It's not new...just 'covert.' People don't talk about it.

Just like people don't talk about OTHER things that they SHOULD talk about...

I hope you will visit the link and read the article as I've decided to take a little time off from the topic. It's quite an upsetting topic to research because kids who have died from playing this game often receive the cause of death label of 'suicide.'

While searching around, I had to go through a lot of articles and sites dealing with childhood suicide as well as abuse issues. Child abuse issues are more closely linked to childhood suicides, however, 'choking game deaths' are often not related to child abuse at all. The problem was - to get to the right topics, I had to wade through a great deal of the non-related stuff, anyway, so I've decided that now is a good time to take a break with this topic and try to process all the information I went through.

The Very Scary Choking Game on HubPages
(opens in new window)

I'll let you visit the hubpage and read. I think this information is very important to display in many locations - I'm just not up to writing a fresh article with prime details about 'The Choking Game' at this time.

I think the issue has been glossed over - in part, because the deaths are so senseless, and also, because the causes of death are often not uncovered until quite some time has passed. Typically, a family who has lost a child due to this game will suffer for many months, thinking that the child was suicidal and they are to blame because they missed all the signs...usually another child will come forward - one who played 'the game' with the deceased before - and admit that the friend was engaged in playing 'the game' for a while.

The issues surrounding this problem are very complex, but are typically hard to even determine because the game is almost always 'a secret,' within childhood circles. It is kept away from adults. Kids KNOW there is something wrong about 'the game' but they aren't quite old enough or mature enough to know what this great 'wrong' is. They also know that it's wrong to keep 'secrets' but the game doesn't work if everyone - especially adults - knows about it.

To Find Out More:

The Very Scary Choking Game on HubPages
(opens in new window)

There are 'signs' that children will display when they have been engaged in playing 'the game' for a while. My other article gives a few tips about what 'terms' to watch for in your child's vocabulary - to make sure that your child isn't involved with The Choking Game.

Please don't forget to rate the hubpages article - it's easy - just look for the thumbsup or thumbdown button

Sunday, September 9, 2007

I Can Be Reached At Yuwie

If you need to contact me before September 15, please send me a message through the Yuwie Social Site. On September 15 my website will be functional (, and you'll be able to track me down easily - but until then, don't hesitate to reach me through Yuwie.

If you're not already a member at Yuwie, don't worry - just sign up for free, look for 'teeray' and send me a message. The site is really easy to navigate and Yuwie also pays people for interacting on-site!

Friday, August 31, 2007

Heroes Are All Mental

The Television show, Heroes, is about ready to air for the second season. NBC will air the first show of Season Two on Monday, September 24th.

What is both surprising and very interesting about Heroes on NBC is that all the characters seem to exhibit Mental Illness symptoms, yet they are definitely HEROES!

Their quirks are seen as EXTRAORDINARY abilities.

Could this show help change our perception, in North America, about Mental Illness?

Heroes Characters Have Odd Psychological Profiles

This Television series is very popular in North America. The common age group watching, who are closely following every episode, are YOUTH and young adults.

Are you going to watch Season Two?