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.

35 Fantastic YA Books on Mental Illness

  1. Suicide Notes by Michael Thomas Ford
  2. Words on Bathroom Walls by Julia Walton
  3. The Mystery of Hollow Places by Rebecca Podos
  4. Eliza and Her Monsters by Francesca Zappia
  5. The Words We Keep by Erin Stewart
  6. Impulse by Ellen Hopkins
  7. Paperweight by Meg Haston
  8. When We Collided by Emery Lord
  9. Clean by Amy Reed
  10. It’s Kind of a Funny Story by Ned Vizzini
  11. If I Wake by Nikki Moyes
  12. Therapy by Kathryn Perez
  13. Our Chemical Hearts by Krystal Sutherland
  14. How It Feels to Float by Helena Fox
  15. Every Last Word by Tamara Ireland Stone
  16. Turtles All the Way Down by John Green
  17. Challenger Deep by Neal Schusterman
  18. The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
  19. The Fault in Our Stars by John Green
  20. Speak by Laurie Halse Anderson
  21. Perfect by Ellen Hopkins
  22. They Both Die at the End by Adam Silvera
  23. All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven
  24. Girl Interrupted by Susanna Kaysen
  25. A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness
  26. 13 Reasons Why by Jay Asher
  27. The Fear of Doing Nothing: Notes of a Young Therapist by Valery Hazanov
  28. Under Rose-tainted Skies by Louise Gornall
  29. Cut by Patricia McCormick
  30. Faking Normal by Courtney C. Stevens
  31. Made You Up by Francesca Zappia
  32. The Last Time We Say Goodbye by Cynthia Hand
  33. Beneath the Skin by Kyla Stone
  34. Glass Screams by L.R. Claude
  35. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine by Gail Honeyman

These are the ones that come to mind when asked about my favorites. I know I must be missing some; but it’s a great list, nonetheless.

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.

Book review for Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers: The Acclaimed Guide to Stress, Stress-Related Diseases, and Coping by Robert M. Sapolsky

Synopsis: Why Zebras Don’t Get Ulcers vividly explains the biology behind stress and its impact on our lives, functioning as an effective way to deal with immediate problems, while also posing serious health risks in the long run. The author also offers plenty of practical tips on how to keep stress under control.

Humans, unlike zebras, feel and create stress with the help of our complex brains by envisioning problems in the future (conjuring up intense situations like traffic jams, upcoming deadlines, the mortgage payment, or tense arguments) which other mammals don’t experience. From a evolutionary perspective, sustained psychological stress is a very recent phenomenon. Stress then is not only bad in itself but has effects on our cardiovascular system, insulin production, reproduction, and our overall health.

The author goes into how stress originates as an acute response to physical crises, but also imaginary things. Our brains autonomic nervous system (two systems that work in opposition to each other) manages the way we respond to and recover from stress. The way these systems interact is crucial to how we respond to stress. When under stress, the body prioritizes short-term, high-cost actions over long-term projects. These protective measures, while helpful, also are taxing on the body in the long run. Stress speeds up our blood flow, making us more likely to develop arterial and heart diseases. Then the stress of transferring energy in the body increases the risk of diabetes which can lead to other illnesses. Stress produces changes in the brain that resemble depression and make recovery from trauma more difficult.

Our intricate reproductive system is easily affected by stress, leading to problems for both men and women. Stress is unavoidable, so understanding and balancing our stress response systems is key. We need to take responsibility for the things we can control and providing social support can have a strong stress reducing effect.

The book has detailed how isolated instances like fleeing predators or pre-test anxiety contribute to stress; but poverty, goes beyond isolated incidents and thereby causes chronic stress. Note that our place in society affects stress levels and has a great impact on resistance to illness and mortality rates. The author points out a study of elderly nuns that lived in the exact same conditions for fifty years which had disparity that endures even after out of poverty and stays in the body through old age. Income inequality promotes lack of trust and social cohesion, which translates into worse health for the wealthy and the poor. Just constantly comparing yourself to those around you can create stress even for the rich.

This book did well at describing the physiological processes in regard to how stress is handled in the body and how we can relieve it. I especially enjoyed how both giving and receiving social support is an extremely effective preventative measure against stressors which is why married people are generally more healthy than single people. All in all, we need to find a personal outlet for stress and do it regularly. Read this book in its entirety for a plethora of examples making it easier to understand and remember. 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.

Book review for Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones by James Clear

The author begins the book by describing atomic habits, introduces us to systems, goals and behaviors, the fact that we can’t produce any meaningful results if we don’t change the system, and that if indeed we have difficulty changing our habits, then it’s a result of the system not the goals. The change we desire comes at our identity level which emerges out of habits. Outcomes, process, and identity are the three levels of behavior change. “Repeated beingness” in our identity is the result as well as freedom.

So how do habits work? Cues trigger our brain with cravings, which are the motivational force behind our habits the responses, thus leading to a reward where we learn that craving results in reward.

The author goes into the laws of behavior change:

  1. the cue that we need to make obvious in our life
  2. the craving that we need to make attractive
  3. the response we need to make easy for ourself
  4. the reqard that needs to be as satisfying as possible

Thus, he notes that reversal of the above allows us to break a bad habit:

  1. invert the cue to make it invisible
  2. invert the craving to make it unattractive
  3. invert the response to make it difficult to achieve
  4. invert the reward to make it highly unsatisfying

Next he suggest we keep a habit scorecard to keep us accountable and to stay on track.

There are so many examples in this book to solidify the plan like compelling our brains to pick up cues and predicting outcomes thereby picking up lessons from experiences and the reason why the actions under the authority of our unconscious and automatic mind. The book teaches us that it’s a myth that we lack motivation when in reality it’s clarity we’re short on and that we need to subscribe to the habit stacking formula as well as create a motivation designed environment to help us eliminate previous habits through the use of visual cues. This optimizing the environment is the key to self-control making the cues of our good habits obvious and the bad habits invisible. It becomes a commitment device.

Habit stacking (place one habit atop another) is the way to go as is temptation bundling (attaching habits to more productive ones). The author delves into the dopamine feedback loop and how our habits are the driver. Then he points out that it’s the people we surround ourselves with that shape our behavior by our imitation of peers and the seductive pull of social norms. Again, he proffers many examples in this book that help strengthen our resolve.

Habits are more about associations than anything else. One example is our browsing on Google allows us to reduce the uncertainty in life. Likewise posting on Instagram gets us the approval of other people. That teaches us that life is predictive not reactive. Reprogramming our brain to enjoy hard habits is done by associating the habit with a positive experience. And those habits are dependent on frequency as opposed to time and not based on planning alone. It’s necessary to aim for actions and never on motion alone.

We need to make our good habits seem more automatic and repetitive with time by repeating so many times that our mind no longer has to think in order to execute the task we are thereby wiring our brain to maintain the good habit allowing us more freedom. This can only be done in an environment of least resistance, making it attractive and primed for us to complete tasks easily. In order to master the art of refining our skills we must decisively complete new habits in less than two minutes and preferably stack the little choices throughout the day to make it more successful.

So, creating good habits is about making it obvious, attractive, easy, and ultimately being accountable to someone else. The author also goes into how personality traits shape our behavior; therefore, we must tailor our habits so they sync with our personality. Do work that is fun and where you experience flow, which is a focused feeling where you lose track of time and all else seems to fade away. It is where we get greater returns than the average person by doing what comes naturally to us. But we need to remember that no matter how aligned our genes are to whatever we wish to do, we still need to add a significant amount of hard work. The goldilocks rule is where we experience the highest level of motivation when we are doing tasks that challenge ourselves but stay withing the range of our current abilities. And the only way to excel at something is if we can fall in love with the boredom that sometimes will come our way. Lack of desire is actually happiness because it is a state where we are actually content.

Mastery, while being important, doesn’t permit us to rest on our laurels. We need to continuously review our performance and strive to improve accordingly. Think habit stacking. Finally, the author concludes with reference to ‘Sorites Paradox’ which emphasizes the importance of smaller actions, when repeated create a huge impact. Being curious is better than being smart for emotions drive behavior. We can only be rational and logical after we’ve been emotional. Desire initiates; pleasure sustains.

All a result of the author’s personal experience, the blueprint of habit-forming benefits explained are drawn from the fields of psychology, philosophy, neuroscience and biology so rest assured none of the strategies presented are grounded aimlessly. This book deserves to be read in its entirety to achieve maximum benefit. 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.

Book review for Atlas of the Heart: Mapping Meaningful Connection and the Language of Human Experience by Brené Brown

 

The author writes about how most people do not have the emotional language to name all the emotions experienced which can lead to mental, physical, and spiritual health problems. The fact that everyone faces stressors daily but feel it based on our thoughts not body reaction. Her research identifying emotions asked people to name the ones they experienced. The average number of answers was only three. That limited vocabulary, she says, can result in a crisis.

She delves into how envy and jealousy are different, and jealousy is more acceptable to say even though its envy being shown; but jealousy can have more dire consequences. Brown states that we can all use freudenfreude as a form of support for ourselves and others and how resentment is about ourselves not being able to have or do like others, not the other person’s fault. Freudenfreude is finding joy in other people’s success which is beneficial to our mental health, as opposed to schadenfreude which is finding joy in another’s misfortune and a cause of shame and guilt because of the insecurity and cruelty that was sparked.

I found it interesting how she shared her concept of resentment as partly cause of an unwanted identity which is one of the most powerful elicitors of shame and bitterness. She goes into comparison being a “pervasive social phenomenon” that we do that affects our well-being, self-concept and level of aspiration. It’s a creativity kill that tries to force us into conformity.

While delving into regret, expectations, disappointment, resignation, and boredom, she notes how it can leave us either wound up or lethargic based on our control of the situation then goes into the mild discomfort or deep pain that can lead to a disconnect followed by regret and feeling vulnerable. She says self-awareness is asking for and understanding why we need it.

With wonder, awe, curiosity, confusion, surprise and interest Brown notes that we can be overwhelmed by the expanse of something that is almost incomprehensible, how confusion can lead to motivation to trigger problem solving which is effortful and effective then a brief swoop into the shortest duration emotion which is surprise.

The often-conflicting emotions of amusement, nostalgia, cognitive dissonance, bittersweetness, irony, paradox, and sarcasm have an air of familiarity but what if two of them are contradictory and venture into complexity. Our willingness to stay in that confusing emotion can be a teaching moment while nostalgia isn’t always truthful, and we must recognize the inconsistencies so as not to be disconnected or fall into rumination. Cognitive dissonance is when one holds two inconsistent cognitions thereby creating tension and justification. The opposite is paradox because there the conflicting ideas inform the other.

Anguish, despair, grief, hopelessness, and sadness are discussed in comparisons with anguish never truly fading away. Hopelessness and despair are both emotions and experiences and can result in self-blame. When hopelessness and sadness flood our emotional landscape, despair is the result. Knowing sadness is life and it makes the connection to other people a collective “us.” Grief, being different has the elements of loss, longing, and feeling lost; and has to be shared to work through the process of grieving.

Compassion, empathy, comparative suffering, pity, sympathy, and boundaries lends into the debate about whether struggling souls deserve compassion or empathy which is a skill that connects us with humanity. Empathy is about connection while sympathy is a form of disconnection, a distant concern which the author takes one step further to discuss boundaries and the need for autonomy.

In the chapter on shame, perfectionism, self-compassion, humiliation, guilt, and embarrassment led into the author’s research on the connection between violence and humiliation. She says shame is based on the self, not a behavior. Guilt is a behavior. Humiliation occurs at our belittlement and feeling that we do not deserve the unworthiness making it different from shame which based on her research thrives on secrecy, judgment, and silence. On perfectionism the author notes that acceptance and approval are at its core. Guilt then happens when we fall short of expectations set for ourselves.

Belonging, connection, fitting in, insecurity, invisibility, disconnection, and loneliness are discussed with belonging (diversity, inclusion, and equity) being first and its essential nature for humans despite its vulnerability. Stronger connected individuals are said to be happier, healthier, and better able to handle stress. Loneliness she says is more dangerous to health that excessive drinking. Insecurity goes deeper than self-doubt and she notes that we can have insecurity despite having high self-esteem because of a self-critical nature. She ends that chapter with the dehumanization and disconnection that leads to the painful human experience of invisibility.

Love, heartbreak, lovelessness, self-trust, trust, defensiveness, betrayal, and hurt are brought up next. Love cannot be given or gained but instead is nurtured and grown. We can only love others as much as we love ourselves and is damaged by betrayal as well as, shame, blame, and disrespect. Brokenhearted are the bravest among us because of the trust they lent. Betrayal, the violation of trust, can be healed but it is rare the author says because it requires healing, strength and vulnerability.

Joy is a sudden, internal, short-lived, higher intensity, spiritual, less-effort version of happiness, which is self-focused, circumstantial, and external trait, not a state. Foreboding joy is about being afraid to partake in wonderful moments because you live in fear of the bad things that can happen. Relief the author says is tension leaving the body while calm is about managing emotional reactivity, is intentional, and contagious.

Pride (a feeling of pleasure), humility (openness and accurate assessments of personal contributions), and hubris (inflated sense of ones abilities along with a need for dominance) are differentiated by pride’s positive connotation with self-esteem, hubris negative correlation to narcissism and lack of care what others think, and humility meaning groundedness that’s genuine, quiet, and powerful and the key to confidence and healthy social interactions.

Anger (an action emotion healthy in the short term) exists on a continuum from mild to rage by activating the nervous system which affects our health over time. Fear, betrayal, injustice, shame, vulnerability were noted by the author’s research participants when asked about anger which thereby is seen as a secondary emotion. Contempt, criticism, stonewalling, and defensiveness are damaging communication patters. Disgust comes about as an aversion toward something we find offensive whether identified through senses or ideas. Disgust towards people protects us from contamination of the soul as opposed to toxins that would hurt our body. Left unchecked, disgust leads to dehumanization which closes us off and removes empathy. Finally, hate is harder to do the closer you are to people and can only be minimized by seeing things from the other persons point of view.

This book on self-actualization is replete with studies, theories, and examples that must be read in its entirety to achieve the maximum benefit, particularly the notes on Martin Seligman on resilience and its personalization, permanence, and pervasiveness. I highly recommend this easy read that informs us on how we can be physically, mentally, and spiritually changed by understanding the information delivered in this book. 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.

Book review: The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F*ck: A Counterintuitive Approach to Living a Good Life by Mark Manson

The author proffers some important lessons such as: values that are uncontrollable are bad, improving takes letting go of assumptions, and focusing on leaving a legacy can be detrimental.

The key takeaways are:

  1. Avoid the constant pursuit of satisfaction because true happiness consists in only worrying about the essentials because you can only create positive experiences by experiencing the negative ones.
  2. Stop believing that you are unique because it leads to being entitled without sacrifice, i.e., grandiose narcissism bases itself on the belief that you deserve special treatment, and victim narcissism takes into account I’m bad and everyone else is great, so I deserve special treatment. Both lead to complacency.
  3. Accept reality as it is; don’t fall subject to self-help books promise of constant happiness and take responsibility for your own emotions and realize that dealing with negative ones is a daily struggle. Don’t avoid the problems.
  4. Happiness is a science (values are hypotheses, action are experiences and results are data) which requires smart decision making based on results not fear.
  5. Values are prerequisite to happiness and the ones you fight for define yourself.
  6. Take responsibility to focus your energies on improving your life.
  7. Choose how to react to life because we control our emotional response to problems.
  8. Doubt your beliefs because then you’ll steadily improve over time.
  9. Reduce your ego so you can improve by asking yourself what if I’m wrong, what would it mean if i was wrong, and would an error have a better or worse problem than my current problem?
  10. Failure is the key to improvement; instead of worrying about it and becoming stagnant, try it again.
  11. Better to do something that nothing because it leads to motivation.
  12. Say no so you can say yes so you can truly stand up for one thing even though you are denying another issue.

He also goes into the 3 lessons you need to know which are: only hold values that you can control, certainty hampers growth, and don’t obsess over leaving a legacy.

All in all, it’s an astounding book that backs its statement up with studies and facts about prominent people. While it defies the self-help industry, many of those books leave you wanting something elusive that you’re missing. It’s a good, albeit tedious read at certain points, but worth the effort. 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.

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