Dancing Without Music is Now Available

When major depressive disorder, seizures, and an eating disorder leads to hopelessness, lack of interest, loss of pleasure, and worse: alcohol abuse, self-mutilation, isolation, anxiety, panic attacks, physical illness, and suicidal feelings, seventeen-year-olds Mia Callan and Milo Chatham who only recently began dating find this brutal array of dangers overwhelming, and possibly even deadly.

Bullying on and off social media, spiked drinks at first parties, stalking, and sexual assault are just some of the obstacles they have to face as burgeoning young adults.

What happens when they try to get out of danger? Will it follow them anyway and wreak havoc upon their lives and those of their loved ones. Will they find the correct medications that will allow them to live normal lives full of success, satisfaction, and sobriety? Can a first true love win in the end?

Until my next post, why not check out my YA novels about mental illness, memoir writing, novel in verse, or even my Native American mystery series on Amazon, or follow me on Bookshop, TwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreadsLinkedInBookbub , BookSprout, or AllAuthor.

Book review: Wherever You Go, There You Are by Jon Kabat-Zinn

I first read this book ten years ago for a Spirituality & Resilience class. It’s pretty straightforward in that whatever has happened to you, it has already happened. Now how are you going to handle it? Don’t lose touch with yourself and fall into a robot-like way of seeing and thinking and doing where you break contact with your deepest self because if not careful, those moments can stretch out and last a lifetime. Don’t be preoccupied with the past, with what has already happened, or with a future that hasn’t arrived yet because you may fall quite unawares into assuming is the truth about what is out there in the world and in here in our minds because much of the time, it just isn’t so.

The author goes on to say that we may pay a high price for this mistaken and unexamined assumption by willfully ignoring the richness of our present moments. The fallout accumulates silently, coloring our lives without our knowing it or being able to do something about it. Instead, we lock ourselves into a personal fiction that is enshrouded in thoughts, fantasies, and impulses mostly about the past and the future that veil our direction and the very ground we stand on. This book tells you how to wake up from such dreams and the nightmares they turn into. Go from ignorance—our mindlessness, to being in touch with the not knowing which is mindfulness, by using meditation, and wakefulness which is present moment awareness.

It is important to note that meditation is not some cryptic activity, and does not involve becoming a zombie, cultist, devotee, or mystic. It is simply about being yourself, coming to realize that you are on a path that is your life, see that this path has direction that is always unfolding moment by moment and that what happens in this moment influences what happens next.

Reading this book in its entirety helps get out of the fog-enshrouded, slippery slope that we get into and that we may follow right into our grave or that fog-dispelling clarity at the moment before death where we realize that all the thought we placed on past and future was based on ignorance and fear. Instead shed those life-limiting ideas that aren’t the truth or the way our life has to be at all. When I first read this book, it seemed too straightforward in saying that “it is what it is.” But considering I had to lead a discussion on it the following day, I reread it and really got into it and got the message. It was one of the books that started me on this journey of Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction, as well as spirituality and resilience seeking. Get it here.

Until my next post, why not check out my YA novels about mental illness, memoir writing, or even my Native American mystery series on Amazon, or follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreadsLinkedInBookbub , BookSprout, or AllAuthor.

My Reason for Starting This Blog

I started this blog to reach out and connect to people with similar challenges in a healthy and positive way. The blog has personal history, ideas on lessening the severity of some symptoms, insight, goals, and therapies for those with similar diagnoses or those with family members or friends that are curious on how to communicate or help their loved one.

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It’s fulfilling and therapeutic to open up about my past, present, and future goals. I’ve enjoyed the messages that I’ve received from likeminded individuals through my books’ contact information. Some of the things that helped me aided them as well. That makes it all worth it.

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By finding articles and researching studies to write my own articles, I learn more about my diagnosis, symptoms, and treatment for my disorders and those of loved ones such as depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, eating disorders, self-harm, schizophrenia, and bipolar disorder, among others.

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Some people who read this mental health blog are concerned individuals who want to reach out and connect with the mental health community to understand what their children, family members, friends, or acquaintances experience. Some of the earliest posts on this blog are from a few years ago when I started it. My mental health took a downturn for a brief time, and I became distracted. This time around, I’m in a better place and have learned more than I knew before and continue to take part in therapies to lessen the illness. I welcome those new readers and thank those that have written to me about the topics I share here and those in my books.

Enjoyed this post? Why not check out my YA novels about mental illness, memoir writing, or even my Native American mystery series on Amazon, or follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreads, LinkedInBookbub, BookSprout, or AllAuthor.

Anxiety and Nutrition, specifically Carbohydrates

What a strange combination? What have carbs got to do with anxiety?”

According to Harvard Medical School, natural foods rich in carbohydrates including whole grains, vegetables, legumes and fruit, are an essential element of a healthy and balanced diet but are also some of the best anti-anxiety foods. These foods are a good source of complex carbohydrates and fiber, provide a slow release of energy and are stable on blood sugar. But that’s not all, natural whole foods contain many other beneficial nutrients necessary for mental and physical health.

So, despite increased popularity of low carb and keto diets, carbs belong in your diet, and natural foods rich in carbs are very important foods for managing mental health.

What are Carbohydrates?

There are three types of carbohydrates: sugars, starches, and fiber.

  • Sugars are simple carbohydrates.
  • Starches and fiber are complex carbohydrates.
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Due to their simplicity, sugars absorb rapidly into the bloodstream and give a quick release of energy. But sugars (simple carbs) can affect blood sugar levels causing sudden spikes and dips. Low blood sugar can in turn affect anxiety levels. When your blood sugar drops suddenly, this signals hunger to the brain, which can activate the flight-or-fight response (stress response), causing irritability, nervousness, and other classic anxiety symptoms.

In contrast …

According to Harvard Medical School

Complex carbohydrates are metabolized more slowly and therefore help maintain a more even blood sugar level, which creates a calmer feeling.– Harvard Medical School

Carbohydrates are found in both natural (good carbs) and refined foods (bad carbs). Taking all of the above into account, the best source of carbohydrates for health and managing anxiety are natural foods high in complex carbohydrates.

How to Manage Anxiety with Carbs?

1. Choose The Best Source of Carbs 

If fruit and legumes are natural foods, a good source of carbohydrates and contain vitamins, minerals, and more why are they not the best source of carbs?

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2. Limit Fruit and Legumes

Fruit and legumes are healthy but while you can have whole grains and veggies for breakfast, lunch, and dinner, fruit and legumes need to be limited.

  • Fruits are high in natural sugars and if consumed in large quantities can affect blood sugar levels. Two pieces of fruit a day is healthy and sufficient.
  • Legumes are a good source of protein and a great meat replacement for lunch or dinner. But since we need protein in relatively smaller quantities than carbohydrates, legumes should also be limited.

So, it’s still important to consume fruits and legumes as part of health eating, but the bulk of your calories need to come from vegetables and whole grains.

Get into the habit of using the glycemic index to check which vegetables are better for your blood sugar. The lower the glycemic index, the more stable the effect on blood sugar.

Examples of Good Carbs

Vegetables such as Acorn squash, Artichoke, Asparagus, Bok choy, Beans, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Butternut squash, Cabbage, Carrots, Cauliflower, Celery, Chives, Green, red, yellow pepper, Kale, Leek, Onions, Parsnip, Potato, Pumpkin, Radish, Spinach, Sweet potato, and others

Whole Grains such as Barley, Corn, Oats, Quinoa, Brown, red, black and wild rice

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Legumes such as Chickpeas, Lentils, Peas, Kidney Beans, Black Beans, Soybeans, Pinto Beans

Fruit such as Apple, Apricot, Banana, Blackberry, Blueberry, Cherry, Cranberry, Grape, Raisin, Grapefruit, Kiwi fruit, Mango, Melon, Cantaloupe, Watermelon, Nectarine, Papaya, Peach, Pear, Plum, Prune, Pineapple, Pomegranate, Raspberry, Strawberry

3. Avoid Bad Carbs

When plant-based foods are refined, we have refined carbohydrates. For example, whole wheat grain is refined to produce white flour. During this refinement process, wheat grain is stripped of fiber, vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, and healthy fats, leaving behind only the starchy carbohydrate. Manufacturers also commonly use bleaching agents, additives, preservatives, colorings, flavorings, and other chemical ingredients which are bad for our health and can trigger anxiety. If foods are minimally refined, i.e. in the case of whole-wheat flour, then some of the nutrients are still retained. But foods such as pizza, cakes, chocolate, and similar are examples of heavily refined carbohydrates, and these are bad carbs.

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Bad carbs are poor in nutrients, can be very inflammatory, and should be avoided. Refined carbs are likely to impact blood sugar levels and anxiety levels, according to Harvard Medical School.

What are some of the side effects of consuming bad carbs? Due to the poor nutritional content and commonly added chemical ingredients and bleaching agents, refined carbs can cause or contribute to many health issues and chronic diseases. For example:

4. Become Good at Spotting Bad Carbs

Refined carbs are all sugars and starches excluding those in the form of natural whole foods. It might be easy for most of us to identify sugars because they taste sweet. Also, they usually come in the form of crystals, syrups, or powders. Refined starches such as refined grains, however, are a lot more confusing.

To help you, here are the main categories of refined carbohydrates:

  • REFINED SUGARS – Also referred to as added sugar. I.e. table sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, brown sugar, fruit juice concentrate. Manufacturers add refined sugar to foods as a sweetener or as a preservative. They use over 90 different names for refined sugars.
  • FRUIT JUICES – Purchased juices go through a heavy industrial process.
  • ALL KINDS OF FLOUR  – Also, from any type of grain. I.e. wheat flour, rice, and corn flours. Note, whole meal flours are less refined and healthier.
  • INSTANT/REFINED GRAINS – including breakfast cereals, white rice, and instant rice.
  • REFINED STARCHES – i.e. corn starch, potato starch, modified food starch. Or any powdered ingredient with the word “starch” in it.
5. Adopt an Anti-Anxiety Diet

According to Harvard Medical School, introducing complex carbohydrates into your diet is a great way to manage anxiety. But it’s also important to consume balanced meals, stay hydrated, reduce caffeine, cut out processed foods, eat magnesium-rich foods, get enough omega 3 fatty acids and follow many other anti-anxiety diet techniques

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Enjoyed this post? Why not check out my YA novels or Native American mystery series on Amazon, or follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreads, LinkedInBookbub , or AllAuthor.

Book review: All the Things We Never Said by Yasmin Rahman

Hot Key, 2019

As soon as I read the subject matter of this boldly designed book, I knew that I had to devour it. It’s a character driven; UK Young Adult contemporary novel based on mental health. Not to be disappointed when I began reading, I was drawn into the stories of the three girls. I loved the author’s note at the beginning which really set the tone for the book.

The book tells the story of 3 young girls from 3 very different lives, but they all have one sad fact in common, the want to die.  As a result the girls each sign up to a website that is designed to pair people with other people who want to die. But it is this pack that brings the 3 girls together and allows them to find the support that they each needed

As I learnt more about why Mehreen, Olivia and Cara had joined MementoMori. I really began to connect and empathize with the diverse characters which weren’t the sole focus of the story and didn’t define the characters entirely. Mehreen’s religion was an important factor, but she was so much more than just that and was such a real character that, despite me being from a totally different background, I could relate. I found it to be the same with all the characters and that was something that I think Yasmin really excelled at with this novel and its unusual typeface

So, the website sets a time place and course of death for the girls, and as the date of termination (as it is referred to) approaches the girls have to complete a task that is set and send photographic proof. The first 2 tasks the girls do with easy, but it is when the 3rd task arrives that the girls admit that they have changed their minds. 

The problem is the website doesn’t want to let the girls out. After all, they signed up and agreed to the terms and conditions. Pushing the girls to their breaking point the girls begin to crumble and turn on each other.  

This is an interesting book, but as I first mentioned you need to be careful when reading this story as it is an emotional and mental journey. It has to be noted that this book contains many triggers, for those that vulnerable to such material. Topics touched upon, besides suicide, include self-harm, rape and severe anxiety and depression. I personally was okay with all of these and found that they were handled very sensitively and not in a way that made for uncomfortable reading.

All the Things We Never Said is not a typical YA book. I believe that it is a book that can help to open dialogue and get people talking about their feelings and issues, instead of hiding behind a mask that so many people use today to hide how they are truly feeling.

This book highlights the importance of speaking, talking about your problems, and how you are feeling. As it is through these actions, the characters realize that they are not alone and that the simple act of talking to someone openly and honestly can change your perspective.

An audiobook is also available for those that may have issues with the typeface.

Enjoyed this post? Why not check out my YA novels or Native American mystery series on Amazon, or follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreads, LinkedInBookbub , or AllAuthor.

Lessen Depression through Thought Control

Depressive thinking is unrealistic and unfair:
1. unrealistic negative thoughts about your situation
2. unfair negative thoughts about yourself
3. unrealistic negative thoughts about your future

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The plan should be to replace depressive thinking with realistic thinking.

First, is spotting depressive thoughts: Here are the most common types of depressive thinking:

1. all or nothing: seeing situations as totally one way or the other.

2. perfectionism: where you think that you have to be the best in the situation, or it means that you failed.

3. overgeneralizing: based on one negative event, you expect that things will continue to go wrong; or based on one negative fact, you assume that everything else in the situation is negative.

4. labeling: talking oneself in a harsh way, calling yourself names like “loser”, or whatever the worst insults are for you. This kind of self-labeling is unfair.

5. exaggerating: exaggerating risks and expect the worst possible thing to happen.

6. mind-reading: imagining that other people are criticizing or rejecting you, even when you don’t have any real reason to think that.

7. filtering: paying close attention to events that are disappointing or to critical comments from others. When something positive happens, you ignore it and you treat praise as unimportant

Realistic thinking is:
1. accurate about your situation, seeing things clearly as they are;
2. fair about yourself, looking in a balanced way at the positive and negatives in your life;
3. accurate about your future, not exaggerating bad outcomes.

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Altering depressive thoughts by asking yourself these realistic questions: (preferably on paper because it helps in seeing it clearly):

  • What proof do I have? Would most people agree with this thought?
  • If not, what would be a more realistic thought?
  • Can I get more proof, like asking someone about the situation?
  • What would I say to a friend in a similar situation?
  • What is a less extreme way of looking at the situation?
  • What will happen if I think this way? Is there another way of thinking that is more encouraging or useful?

Enjoyed this post? Why not check out my YA novels or Native American mystery series on Amazon, or follow me on TwitterInstagramFacebookGoodreads, LinkedInBookbub , or AllAuthor.

Good Nutrition to Lessen Anxiety

Most of us know the benefits of good nutrition but don’t always follow that plan. Here are some thoughts on what to do and what not to do:

Eat an antianxiety diet introducing more anti-anxiety foods as part of your self-care routine to better manage your anxiety. Healthy eating is beneficial for mental health, but it also helps to control sugar cravings. Eating complex carbohydrates such as vegetables and whole grains give a slow release of energy and are stable on blood sugar, helping to control your sugar cravings, and I know this from experience. I used to be seriously addicted to sugar and this was yet another bad habit that I had to break in an effort to manage my anxiety.

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Avoid the added detrimental additives or toxins. Conventional farming uses chemicals such as pesticides, fungicides, and herbicides which are toxins that your body needs to eliminate. Processed foods are loaded with additives, preservatives, colorings, flavorings and other chemicals that also cause a lot of extra work for your detox organs. Research shows that these types of toxins affect the central nervous system and can contribute to mental health issues such as anxiety and depression disorders.

Some popular detox techniques include eating plenty of high fiber foods i.e., root vegetables and whole grains, Epsom salts baths, quality sleep, sweat in a sauna, and drinking at least two quarts of water daily.

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Eating a balanced, healthy meal. Research shows that nutrient deficiencies and poor diet are common in people with anxiety disorders. For example, essential nutrients such as B vitamins, Vitamin A and C, magnesium, zinc, iron and selenium, and omega 3 fatty acids are likely to be deficient. A healthy and balanced meal includes mainly carbohydrates (veggies and whole grains), in addition to heathy fats (nuts, seeds, cold pressed oils), healthy proteins (legumes, lean meats, and fish), vitamins and minerals (vegetables, whole grains, fruit, legumes, nuts, seeds, and herbs). Eating a diet like this, optimizes your intake of essential nutrients, required for both your body and mind to function properly.

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Eating too much sugar can cause or contribute to many health issues and chronic diseases, including mental health disorders. Studies show that overconsumption of sugar triggers imbalances in certain brain chemicals, that can potentially cause anxiety and depression or make its symptoms worse. Sugar gives a quick release of energy, followed by a sudden crash which results in more sugar cravings which is the opposite of our goals to reduce anxiety through proper nutrition.

Book review: Underwater by Marisa Reichardt

Farrar Straus Giroux, 2016

High school junior Morgan Grant can divide her life into two parts: Before and after the devastating events of October 15. Before, Morgan was a bright, popular athlete with a promising future, whose days were filled with friends, sun, sand, swimming and school. After, Morgan is a survivor of a deadly tragedy whose worsening anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder have caused her to become a shadow of her former self.

Traumatized by what she has experienced, terrified of a world she can neither control nor predict, and haunted by feelings of guilt and culpability for what has happened, Morgan’s agoraphobia worsens until she no longer is able to leave her family’s two-bedroom apartment and she seeks comfort in a familiar, daily routine filled with little more than soap operas, home schooling, and grilled cheese sandwiches. Underwater is a sincere, heartfelt exploration of mental illness and a topical, all too important reminder that the story does not end when the final shot has been fired and the cameras finished rolling. For some, the story has only just begun.

Morgan’s journey to recovery is a difficult one. This YA author offers no easy answers or simple solutions for Morgan’s agoraphobia, anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder, but rather demonstrates the impressive mental and emotional labor and strength required to rediscover and remake oneself in the wake of a tragedy. Though Morgan’s progress is gradual and she often becomes frustrated with her missteps and failures along the way, Reichardt’s inherently charming and endearing protagonist is never presented as any less worthy of help, love or acceptance or as being beyond hope or recovery. Morgan is allowed to shine in other ways, most notable of which is evident in her devoted relationship with her single mother, a hard-working nurse, and her precocious younger brother, Ben, for whom she clearly cares deeply. Though the circumstances surrounding Morgan’s illness and the severity of what she suffers are arguably extreme, there’s little doubt that the essence of Morgan’s story – of being unashamed of one’s illness and working to better take care of oneself – will resonate with Underwater‘s readers, particularly those who also suffer from anxiety, as Morgan does.

There have been many novels written the about the subject of school shootings in recent years. Many writers have tried to make sense of an act that is, by its very nature, senseless, but what’s different about Underwater from its peers is its chosen focus. While other stories have focused largely on the psychology and motivation of the perpetrator or the details of the shootings themselves, debut author Marisa Reichardt instead chooses to focus on the devastating aftermath of such an event. Reichardt neither sensationalizes nor exploits this topic, instead offering a sensitive, empathetic portrayal of the repercussions of such a tragedy. In doing so, Underwater has the potential to act as a source of comfort for those who suffer from anxiety, agoraphobia and/or post-traumatic stress disorder and an excellent resource for readers who wish to better understand and empathize with those who do.

Underwater‘s synopsis does the novel a disservice in that it implies that Morgan’s recovery is mainly due to Evan’s appearance in her life. In reality, this could not be further from the truth. While a potential romantic relationship with Evan can provide Morgan with an additional incentive to pursue treatment and regain some semblance of normality, it is not the sole motivating factor in her recovery. Before Evan’s introduction, Morgan had already been undergoing treatment for her anxiety, agoraphobia, and post-traumatic stress disorder for four months. This treatment includes both the use of prescription medication and ongoing therapy with her psychologist, Brenda. Evan is not perfect–Evan grows frustrated and impatient with Morgan’s progress (or lack thereof) and is not always as supportive or as understanding as one might hope–but it’s to be commended that their blossoming romance is never presented as a solution to Morgan’s problems. There’s also something to be said for the strength and empowerment that can be drawn from a strong support system and the grandness in forming such a community. From her burgeoning relationship with Evan to her unconditional love for her mother and brother, Ben, Morgan has several positive relationships in her life from which she draws comfort and courage.

Underwater is a poignant, powerful, and ultimately uplifting and inspiring story of recovery and forgiveness that successfully attempts to lessen the stigma surrounding mental illness. It accomplishes this by providing readers with a positive and responsible portrayal of therapy and medication as effective tools in managing mental and emotional trauma and encouraging readers to embrace hope and possibility, even in the face of what might initially appear to be insurmountable obstacles. This YA novel is a genuinely kind and heartwarming narrative about triumph and love in the wake of adversity. 

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