Honesty about anxiety from a Canadian broadcasting icon

Icon? Yup – I would have called John Moore an icon even 10 years ago. But listening to his talk and his coming back to radio? I’m a 54 year old man and I am in tears of happiness right now.

Thank you for having this courage to share. And to offer hope to so many others.

You’re a class act. Always knew that. But … this upped it a few more levels yet again.

Rossy art therapy and well-being

The Michel de la Chenelière International Atelier for Education and Art Therapy makes it possible for the MMFA to consolidate its developmental focus on art therapy and well-being. All actions put in place are aimed at the same goal, namely to promote the well-being of a variety of groups, whether or not they have special needs.

In this connection, some new programming, designed in partnership with the health and academic communities, is offering a whole range of innovative projects adapted to persons living either with mental health issues, autism or eating disorders, or with difficulties related to learning, living together and social inclusion. Whether they visit exhibitions in the company of an educator, participate in creative workshops or present their creations to Museum audiences, program participants have meaningful artistic and social experiences.

Numerous professionals from the medical world and the community can join forces in an unusual practice setting, thanks to the Museum’s facilities, which include an art therapy workshop, a medical consultation room and an Art Hive, created in collaboration with the Department of Creative Arts Therapy at Concordia University.

Art has a positive effect on the physical and mental health and well-being of individuals. To back this up, researchers from various institutions in Quebec are studying the beneficial effects of a visit to the Museum, which may be comparable to the benefits of physical exercise.

Furthermore, the MMFA Art and Health Advisory Committee, composed of experts from the fields of health, art therapy, research and the arts, as well as representatives of philanthropy and the MMFA, offers its expertise and support for the development of potential partnerships and innovative projects implemented at the MMFA.

See more at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

Alcohol Awareness Month: Depression, Alcoholism, and Recovery

As the opioid crisis continues to rule news headlines, it can be easy to forget that alcohol still poses a serious problem to those who are addicted to it. April is Alcohol Awareness Month, founded and sponsored by the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence. Its purpose is to spread awareness and education to the public to shatter the stigma that so frequently surrounds alcoholism while increasing understanding and acceptance of alcoholism as an illness.

Alcoholism is particularly common among individuals who suffer from a co-occurring mental illness. While studies vary regarding the comorbidity between depression and alcoholism, there is certainly evidence that individuals who suffer from major depressive disorder are 2-4 times more likely to suffer from an alcohol use disorder than those who do not. In addition, Individuals who suffer from an alcohol use disorder are twice as likely to suffer from depression in their lifetime. Regardless of whether depression or alcoholism appears first, each condition commonly perpetuates the other.

My Story

For me, depression came first. From a young age, I struggled to gather up the energy and ambition I needed to get out of bed and go to school. I recall my mother having to nearly drag me out of bed even though I had no problems in class. I was a smart, approachable young girl. I could put a bright smile on my face and make friends easily. Regardless of the facts, I felt as though I simply didn’t fit in with others. I had no desire to socialize or do things the other kids did. I was happier alone in my bedroom.

This isolation led me to a place where I began to deeply hate myself. I was slightly overweight and was made fun of for having a big forehead. Insecurity took hold of me and I let it run my life. I learned at the innocent age of 12 that a little Jack Daniels from my parent’s musty liquor cabinet would take away my feelings of insecurity and desolation.

Over the next few years, I began to go to high school intoxicated and alcohol was playing an exhilarating and important part of my life as I sought confidence through a bottle of liquid courage. It was my best friend that later became my worst enemy.

Although alcohol gave me a solution to my depression in the beginning, it eventually made everything worse and substantially changed life as I knew it. By the time I went to college, I couldn’t get out of bed without experiencing alcohol withdrawal. Around this time I was also introduced to opioids – which provided me with the functionality to go to class high until I could get home and take my next drink.

It wasn’t until alcohol and drugs had stolen my desire to live from me that I realized that I had been self-medicating all those years. When I went to a dual diagnosis treatment center I was diagnosed with depression and put on the right medication while receiving therapy to help me get to the root of my problems.

Depression and Alcoholism

The problem with self-medicating through alcohol abuse is that it usually leads to both tolerance and physical dependence towards alcohol. As alcohol is taken in excess over a period of time, the brain undergoes changes which involve judgment and decision making. The pattern of alcohol abuse soon becomes second nature, resulting in alcoholism.

Since alcohol releases feel-good chemicals like dopamine, it causes feelings of euphoria. This can make a person who suffers from depression feel better as it improves their mood and feelings of pleasure. On the other hand, in the case of a person who does not suffer from depression, when the alcohol is removed the brain will experience a lack of dopamine and serotonin. The lack of these chemicals can lead to depression. Left untreated, the vicious cycle of depression and alcoholism can be fatal.

Dual Diagnosis Treatment

Since the prevalence of depression and alcoholism co-occurring is extremely common and dire, it is imperative that both disorders be treated in order to increase the chances of success in sobriety. If only alcohol use disorder is treated, a person with an untreated mental illness is more likely to relapse than those who do not. Dual diagnosis treatment can be beneficial to individuals with co-occurring disorders as it focuses on treating both conditions simultaneously.

When I was in dual diagnosis treatment, I was armed with the relapse prevention tools I needed to both stay sober and treat my depression. I was surrounded by a group of other individuals who were also suffering from mental illness and alcoholism. They not only thoroughly understood what I was going through, but they were willing to listen to me, provide me with immense support, and hold me up when I was down. I learned how healing it can be to openly talk about my problems with other people who shared common experiences.

Treatment also encouraged me to incorporate healthy habits into my daily lifestyle that can also be used as coping mechanisms, such as yoga, meditation, and spending time in nature. These activities are all helpful in reducing stress and anxiety while promoting a sense of well-being.

Recovery

While the cycle of depression and alcoholism may seem a hopeless one, it is estimated that 20 million people are living in recovery from alcohol abuse. My own recovery proves this as I embarked on a journey of sobriety hand in hand with other alcoholics and addicts. I was given a life where my dreams were restored, my motivation came back with an enthusiastic outlook on life, and I found gratitude for the life I live today. Through treatment, hard work, and a compassionate support group, I believe that anyone has the ability to recover from depression and alcoholism.

Cassidy Webb is an avid writer from South Florida. She advocates spreading awareness on the disease of addiction. Her passion in life is to help others by sharing her experience, strength, and hope.

Feeling Stuck? 4 Ways to Overcome Roadblocks in Your Life

From Psychology Today

We’ve all been there—feeling stuck in a dead-end job, unfulfilling relationship, or stale routine. Or we begin a new project and lose momentum. Feeling exhausted and defeated, we lack the energy to move forward.

At times like these, even the best intentions and willpower are not enough. But research has revealed four effective ways to break through roadblocks.

1. Expand your perspective. Most people in Western cultures develop a linear mindset, expecting current conditions to continue (Alter & Kwan, 2009). This mindset reinforces the stories we believe about ourselves. If we grew up in poverty or a dysfunctional family, we expect more of the same. With the power of the self-fulfilling prophecy, we attract more of what we know. If we had a narcissistic parent, we attract narcissistic relationships. If we grew up in poverty, we continue to see ourselves as poor and make poor choices—until we change our mindset.

To break free, we need to refocus our attention. This means taking a wider perspective rather than hiding from the truth or ignoring our problems.

Remarkably, a study at New York University found that people developed a more dynamic mindset after seeing the familiar yin/yang symbol on a researcher’s T-shirt. Instead of expecting current conditions to continue, they began seeing the world differently, becoming aware of new possibilities (Alter & Kwan, 2009).

As this study reveals, the natural wisdom of the Tao Te Ching expands our perspective, affirming nature’s dynamic cycles of yin and yang, sunlight and shadow, day and night, and the changing seasons. We then develop what psychologist Carol Dweck (2009) calls a “growth mindset.” You can expand your own mindset by exploring the wisdom of the East, studying the Tao Te Ching or spending time in nature, observing its cycles of growth and change.

2. Move. Moving our bodies affects our minds and emotions. Research has shown that exercise helps relieve depression (Babyak et al, 2000). Increasing the circulation to our brains, it also enables us to think more creatively (Steinberg et al, 1997). You can build your energy to move forward in your life by adding move movement to your days. There are many ways to do this: going for a brisk walk, using the stairs instead of an elevator, taking an exercise class, working out at the gym, dancing, swimming, or riding your bike. Find a way to move that you enjoy and feel your energies rise.

Read more here…

 

Be Kind, Retrain Your Mind: 3 Tips to Overcome Negative Self-Talk

From Tiny Buddha

“You yourself, as much as anybody in the entire universe, deserve your love and affection.” ~Buddha

In 1990, in an early encounter between the Dalai Lama, the foremost Tibetan teacher of Buddhism, and Western students, the Dalia Lama was asked a question about how to deal with self-hatred. He was confused and didn’t understand the question. The translator translated the question again and still the Dalai Lama was confused.

Finally, the Dalai Lama understood that the question was about how to manage negative feelings about the self. This was a new concept to him: he knew that people had negative feelings about others, but he had not encountered the challenge of self-hatred.

I wish I could say that I had never encountered the problem of self-hatred, but I’d be lying. Like so many people, even if I didn’t necessarily recognize my self-talk as such, I was inundated with internal negative self-talk.

My process of coming first to recognize what that voice was up to, then to listen to it with more compassion, and finally, once and for all, to ask it to grow up and step out of the room has been a journey of self acceptance, growth, and ultimately, freedom.

Here are three steps to deal with your own inner negative self-talk:

The first step is to become aware of the negativity of your internal voice. 

For the first twenty-eight years of my life, I was so familiar with my negative voice that I didn’t even recognize it.

I’ve been told that people with Tinnitus, a constant ringing sound in the ears, grow used to it and learn to live with it so successfully that they’re no longer really even aware the ringing’s there. That was the case with my negative voice: it was a kind of background hum.

If I did pay attention to it, I was tricked into thinking that its particular message mattered.

At sixteen it might have been the enormous, overly sweet corn muffin I’d eaten on the way home from school that was a sign of my failure.

At twenty-six it might have been that an essay I wrote hadn’t been accepted for publication; this was a sign, I was sure, that nothing I’d ever write would ever be fully understood.

It wasn’t until I’d been in therapy for a while and had a real mindfulness practice that I even began to notice the daily hum of background voices and to notice that the particulars of the negative voice I did hear were less important, actually, than the larger pattern it was a part of.

Any mindfulness practice can help you become more aware of the negative self-talk in your head. You can try guided meditations, deep breathing exercises, or mindful walking, or simply spend time tuning into your senses. When you become conscious of the present moment, it’s easier to recognize what’s going on internally.

The second step is to listen a little more deeply.

What was important was not so much what the voice was saying as what was under the voice. Often the negativity was there to distract me from something else.

Was the corn muffin or the publication rejection really the problem?

Read more here…

‘I felt bullied and harassed’: A Montrealer’s fight to get insurer to recognize his depression

Montreal writer Samuel Archibald was on sick leave while insurer tracked his activity on social media

Mental Health: Depression and boardgames, an unlikely friendship

Mental illness. Something that so many people deal with but something that is so scary to talk about. Statistics say that one in four, that’s right, one in four people will experience a mental health problem at some point in their life. That’s huge.

I try to speak up about the issues that I face but often feel like people will think less of me if I am open and honest about my mental health. However this must change, it has to. I want to create a space where anybody can come and talk about how they are feeling with no judgement and I want to talk a little bit about the many ways in which boardgames help me cope with depression and anxiety on a regular basis.

Having dealt with depression and social anxiety for as long as I can remember and often being unable to talk about it, I would like that to change. I’ve built my own little space on the internet which has helped my wellbeing and mental health in so many ways so if I’m able reassure or support even one person, then my work here is done. 

Discovering boardgames and the boardgaming community has had such a positive impact on my life. 

People often ask me why I play the kind of games that I do, what attracts me to them. One of the most simple answers I can find is that they provide an escape. A few hours away from the ‘real world’, a few hours where I am so immersed in a game that I can’t  afford to think about anything else other than what I’m doing in that moment. Planning my next move, working on a strategy, finding solutions to problems, something I often find overwhelming and exhausting in real life. It reassures me that I am able to come up with solutions, and see a way out of problems that I may face.

My brain is constantly in overdrive from the moment I wake up until the moment I go to sleep, consumed by negative thoughts, dread, worry, stress, over analysing every situation that happens throughout the day and pure exhaustion. Heavy games allow me to escape those feelings. A positive, healthy escape.

I had spent many years trying to find an escape and often found myself doing so in unhealthy toxic ways, that actually made the battle with depression much worse. Im sure it can be said for any hobby, but putting myself out there, enjoying something again, feeling motivated and feeling a sense of achievement is something that helped save my life. 

Read more here…

Mental health matters every day of the year

Gaels rugby star comments on her struggle with mental health

It was the most important game of our season — the OUA semi-final.

Every season, we set our sights on making it to the U Sports national championship. And every year, we have the potential. But in order to get there, we had to win a critical game against the McMaster Marauders, a formidable force in the OUA.

Having lost to them in regular season play, the odds were against us, but we were determined to outwork our long-time rivals.

Before the match, the atmosphere in the team room was intense.

When I looked around at my teammates, I reflected on what could’ve been my last chance to make a national championship. I knew we were ready. We had just the right balance of pregame dance battles and a fierce focus that always produces our best performances.

We came out flying. Every hit, every ruck, every run was on point. Our unity was unbreakable, with every player executing their role with unmatched heart. I had the game of my life, scoring two tries to secure our ticket to nationals. When the final whistle blew, the score read 20-10 for Queen’s. Everyone was cheering and crying and bursting with excitement.

But I felt nothing.

In a moment where I would normally be overflowing with emotion — and embarrassingly drowning in a puddle of happy tears — I was numb. This is the most frustrating part about living with a mood disorder like depression.

Anhedonia is a fancy word for the inability to feel pleasure, even when doing the things you love. Rather inconveniently, these familiar symptoms of depression resurfaced at the outset of this season’s OUA playoffs. I had previously been diagnosed with Major Depressive Disorder while centralized with the Canadian national team, but this was the first major depressive episode I experienced since my return to Queen’s in 2016.

I’d like to think I’ve gotten pretty good at warding off the darkness — which at one point consumed me — but this was a not-so-gentle reminder that mental illness can strike even when we do everything right.

At the time, I was on top of my classes and feeling incredibly engaged in what I was learning. I got to spend every night playing the sport I love with my best friends, who I love more than anything else in the world. I was taking care of my mental wellbeing through mindfulness and self care, listening to what my body and my mind were telling me.

I was happy — until I really wasn’t.

Read more here…

How Addiction Affects Sleep

From The Sleep Help Institute

The quality of your sleep is affected by everything. From your habits and the food you eat, to the medications you take and drinks you ingest. So, it’s no surprise that if a person has developed an addiction—to an over-the-counter drug, alcohol, or other type of substance—that addiction could affect their sleep quality, too.

Sleep disorders and addiction have a bidirectional relationship: Each individual issue—alcohol dependence, insomnia, etc.—relate to and effect the other issue. The nature of this intricate relationship requires a person seek treatment for both issues to find a healthy, sustainable resolution.

Keep reading to discover how various forms of addiction affect sleep. This guide also will delve into various types of substance-induced sleep disorders, substances that can cause or lead to sleep disorders, and information concerning how an individual can recover from addiction.

The relationship between sleep and addiction
How do various substance addictions upset the body’s brain chemistry and disrupt the natural sleep rhythm? The answers vary. Each substance type has different characteristics, and affects an addicted person’s sleep in various ways.

Stimulants
Cocaine effects the brain’s limbic system. The system consists of interconnected regions that regulate motivation and pleasure. Cocaine’s short-term effects immediately cause a buildup of dopamine, which can cause euphoria. This euphoria can make a person want to take the drug again.

Because cocaine increases wakefulness, it can disrupt REM sleep. And cocaine withdrawal can lead to disturbed sleep and unpleasant dreams (also known as a parasomnia).

Amphetamines stimulate the central nervous system. Although amphetamines are used to treat multiple medical issues, such as depression and attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), people can develop a psychological amphetamine dependence.

Use of amphetamines can decrease the amount of time a person spends in REM sleep periods.

Hallucinogens
Hallucinogens are a group of drugs that can alter a person’s perception, and cause sensations or create images that aren’t real. A few examples of hallucinations are as follows:

Ayahuasca
DMT
D-lysergic acid diethylamide (LSD)
Peyote (Mescaline)
4-phosphoryloxy-N,N-dimethyltryptamine (psilocybin)
In general, hallucinogens can interfere with serotonin. Serotonin regulates sleep and other major bodily functions. When a person takes a hallucinogen, they can experience short-term sleep problems. A study in the journal Therapeutic Advances in Psychopharmacology also states LSD users often experience a loss of sleep.

Sleep loss, which sometimes presentats as insomnia, can either be chronic (difficulty falling or staying asleep at least three nights a week for three months or more) or short-term (lasts less tan three months, or presents when a person has trouble falling or staying asleep).

MDMA, also known as 3,4-methylenedioxymethamphetamine or ecstasy, is a specific type hallucinogen and stimulant. It’s a synthetic drug. MDMA can make a person feel energized, and distort their perceptions and how they experience time.

People who use a lot of MDMA can experience persistent sleep disturbances. MDMA also can affect the human body’s monoamine neurotransmitters. These neurotransmitters greatly affect sleep and daytime alertness (also known as hypersomnia).

Depressants
Marijuana dependence is similar to other substance abuse disorders. People who have issues with this substance face social, psychological, and physical impairments. Dependent users also have sleep problems.

A study that appeared in the journal Sleep Medicine Reviews reports that people who smoke marijuana have a hard time falling asleep, and have strange dreams when they experience marijuana withdrawal.

Another study in the journal Addiction Science & Clinical Practice found that chronic cannabis use can negatively affect sleep during withdrawal. Insomnia, sleep withdrawal, and strange dreams were reported.

People often assume alcohol can help them sleep because it causes drowsiness. Although alcohol can help a person fall asleep, it causes disrupted sleep. Disturbances can occur during sleep stage transitions. These disturbances can worsen the effects of insomnia and cause sleep apnea.

The previously mentioned study in the journal Addiction Science & Clinical Practice also reports that alcohol users can experience:

A hard time falling asleep
Awakening during the night
Daytime sleepiness
Abnormal sleep quality
Also, insomnia is the most prevalent complaint from alcoholics after they quit drinking.

Opioids

Opioid drugs come in illegal and legal forms. Heroin, for example, is illegal, and other opioids, such as the synthetic drug fentanyl, and pain relievers, such as oxycodone, hydrocodone, codeine, and morphine, are available via prescription.

All opioids interact with opioid receptors on nerve cells in the body and brain. According to the U.S. government’s National Institute on Drug Abuse, 21 to 29 percent of patients who are prescribed opioids misuse the drugs.

Although most prescription opioids are safe to take for a short period of time, long-term opioid use can cause addiction. Addiction can occur because these pain relieving drugs also can cause euphoria.

The longer a person takes an opioid, the greater the chance they could develop an addiction. Addiction to opioids also can arise from prescription misuse.

Sadly, opioid addiction can lead to death. The CDC searchable database, CDC Wonder, reports that 20,000 overdose deaths in 2016 were related to fentanyl and synthetic opioids.

Why opioids are addictive
Environmental and individual factors impact how a person reacts to opioid drug affects. In general, however, opioids affect a person when the drug enters the bloodstream and travels to the brain.

A study in the journal Science & Practice Perspectives found that proteins that opioids attach to, which are called mu opioid receptors, are located on brain cells. This chemical/receptor interaction triggers the same biochemical brain processes that give people pleasurable feelings via “brain circuits” in the mesolimbic (midbrain) reward system.

According to the article, this “system” creates signals in the brain’s ventral tegmental area (VTA). This “area” releases the chemical dopamine (DA) in another part of the brain, which is referred to as the nucleus accumbens (NAc). Dopamine creates “pleasurable” feelings.

Opioids and sleep

Opioids are a well-known sleep disrupter. A study in the journal Anesthesiology explains that opioids can block the human body’s access to rapid eye movement (REM) sleep. These drugs also can block access to the deeper, restorative stages of non-REM sleep. A lack of sleep can actually make any pain a person may feel—for example, the pain they are taking opioids for—worse.

Opioids, withdrawal and sleep

When a person ceases using opioids, she can experience sleep issues. An article in the journal Psychiatry Research examined the quality of sleep in people who had “heroin use disorder” who were going through “early methadone maintenance therapy” (MMT). The study participants experienced less sleep and daytime sleepiness.

Another study in the journal Drug Alcohol Dependence also found that people in the early stages of methadone detox had issues getting enough sleep. Their sleep quality was poor, too.

When sleep deprivation leads to drug use

Although heavy drug use can lead to sleep issues, sleep issues, such an insomnia, can also lead to drug use.

A study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence found that lower levels of weekday sleep were related with substance use, specifically alcohol. An association also was found between alcohol and cigarette use and weekend oversleep, which is defined as “wake time on the weekends as compared to weekdays”. The study also posits that lower sleep times could also lower an individual’s inhibition, and their ability to regulate their emotions, which can lead to substance abuse.

Although the study examined youths’ relationship with the previously mentioned substances, the findings may relate to adults, as the study also discovered that after a follow-up, which occurred two years after the study, alcohol use was associated with weekend sleep delay (defined as a person’s time to bed on the weekends compared to weekdays). Alcohol use also was associated with greater weekend “oversleep”, too.

Read more here.

4 Ways You Can Help a Senior After the Death of Their Spouse

Watching someone you love grieve is heartbreaking in its own unique way. Many people experience this when one of their aging parents dies and leaves the other widowed. They find that the sadness they feel over losing their parent takes a backseat to the empathy they feel for their surviving parent, who they know is grieving more deeply and intimately than anyone else. When this happens, many people find solace in helping their surviving parent work through the after-death preparation and grieving process.

Here are four ways you can help your parent (or any senior) after the death of his or her spouse.

Assist with Funeral Arrangements

Nobody wants to think about a budget or paperwork when they are grieving, but financial limitations and bureaucracy are a reality in this day and age. A grieving spouse is often not the best person to make rational, wallet-based decisions, so offer your help in handling arrangements related to disposition of the body, burial site, and funeral or memorial services. If you need to cut costs, you can be the one to run numbers and find creative but respectful solutions, such as hosting an “open house” instead of a full funeral procession. Don’t let unscrupulous people upsell or take financial advantage of your loved one’s grief. Be their rational eyes and ears. That said, some grieving spouses prefer to take on a more active role in funeral planning than others, so don’t take on more responsibilities or tasks than your loved one is comfortable with.

 Contact Friends, Family, Acquaintances, and Authorities

 In the days, weeks, and months following a death, there is no shortage of people who need to be contacted. One way you can help a new widow is to handle the notification of death for them. Offer to be the person who calls close friends and family to tell them about funeral arrangements. Inform organizations like churches or social groups that the deceased was a part of. Likewise, the Social Security Administration and life insurance providers need to be notified so that the spouse can begin receiving the financial assistance he or she is entitled to. Open bank or credit accounts should be closed and all debt collectors informed. However, you’ll need the official death certificate before some of these notifications can be made.

Let Them Grieve

Remember that there is no definitive formula or timeframe for moving on after the death of your spouse. People grieve in their own ways, and it’s your job to respect that. Funeralwise suggests being available, being patient, referring to the deceased by their name, and avoiding unhelpful statements like “you have to be strong now” or “God won’t give you more than you can handle.” Listen more than you speak. This is their pain to share, not yours to fix. For some, grief will come on strong and dissipate over time. For others, grief will be delayed. It’s important you recognize the signs of grief so you can address them when they do manifest. Signs of grief can include forgetfulness, disorganization, an inability to concentrate, and a lack of interest or motivation.

 Help Them Adjust Their Life

 For many people, the loss of a spouse necessitates many long-term legal, lifestyle and financial changes that might require some tough decisions. For example, if the recently departed spouse was the beneficiary of the new widow’s insurance policies or wills (and no secondary beneficiary is named), then those documents need to be adjusted to reflect the living’s desires for disbursement after death. Similarly, many aging seniors find that downsizing or moving homes after the death of their spouse is the most practical and economical. While it may not be advisable to address such issues immediately after a death, you would be responsible to make sure that a grieving senior does not let such decisions fall by the wayside indefinitely.

Although the death of a spouse if never easy, you can ease some of that pain by helping your loved one during this difficult process. However, remember to be respectful and pay close attention to their specific needs as they grieve.

Photo via Pixabay