Chapter 2 Lies of the Magpie

Postpartum Depression Memoir

Ch. 2 Lies of the Magpie

The story of my journey healing through postpartum depression and chronic illness. 

The thing Aaron remembers most about me from college is my fast-paced walk around campus. His tennis class met at three o’clock at the courts across from my off-campus housing. For weeks he watched me leave my apartment, hurry across the road, rush past the tennis courts, short cut across the grass and disappear into the Humanities Building. His tennis partner noticed him staring and said, “Don’t waste your time. That is Maleah Day. She is the Academic Vice President. Ten bucks says you can’t get her to stop to talk to you. She walks that fast everywhere she goes.”

It was my sophomore year. I was ten years older than the straggly nine-year-old girl from Ms. Wickersham’s fourth grade class. My bean-pole figure had filled out in a few key places. Two years of orthodontic work and contact lenses had tamed my profile, but my ambition—if possible—was still as potent. I’d traded my dream of becoming a firefighter and astronaut to becoming an Airforce pilot and a foreign ambassador. I declared a Political Science major and carried an application for the Peace Corps in my backpack.

Still, I’d never forgotten my dream to become Mrs. Murry from A Wrinkle in Time and have my own kitchen/chemistry lab. My scholarship covered full tuition and fees, regardless of number of credit hours, so in addition to my social science courses, I registered for a Biochemistry Series, Anatomy, Microbiology, and Physiology. These would cover all lab science prerequisites, just in case I changed my mind about Foreign Diplomacy and decided to apply to Medical School. It was a good plan, I thought, to keep both options open.

Play button above to hear the full chapter.

Listen to Chapter 1: https://maleahwarner.com/?p=1258&preview=true&_thumbnail_id=1269

Listen to the Introduction of Lies of the Magpie https://maleahwarner.com/new-summer-series/

 

Book Cover Art by:

Bethany Baker  of Midsummer Studios https://midsummerstudios.weebly.com/

What’s New On the Podcast This Summer?

New on the Podcast

New Summer Series

I have a confession. I am nervous. My brain is working overtime throwing out all the reasons why I shouldn’t do what I’m planning to do this summer. 

What is it?

I am podcasting my book!!!

Some of you are thinking, “Well, it’s about time.” Others, especially you who are new (welcome, by the way, so nice to have you here) are thinking, “What book?”

Over the past eight years I have been writing the story of my journey through postpartum depression, autoimmune disease, and chronic illness. The manuscript has taken many forms and gone through multiple titles. If you’ve been here since my blogging days, you know the title “Prozac and Prayer.” It has a new title (and it’s a very good title, if I do say so myself).  In today’s episode I’m giving some background on the writing process and why I am so nervous about reading this story, out loud, in my own voice.

Most importantly, I will be presenting the new title and reading the introduction. 

The rest of the summer (through mid-August) I’ll present one (or maybe two) chapters a week. They might be chronological or I might skip around. Likely all 40 chapters won’t fit into one summer. What will you do then? You’ll just have to read the book! (Yes! I’m working to get it published!) 

Thanks for joining me on this journey out of my comfort zone. I hope you enjoy selected chapters from the manuscript formerly titled “Prozac and Prayer.” 

mw

Summer Screen Time: Set It & Forget It

Ep. 20 Summer Screen Time: Set It & Forget It

Why NOT to Limit Summer Screen Time

should i limit my child's screen time?

Ep. 19 Why NOT to Limit Summer Screen Time

Has anybody else out there, like me, been fretting over the question: How am I going to control my kids’ screen time this summer? I know you are because it’s what we’re all talking about in our mom circles: How can I get little Johnnie to stop playing Minecraft? My Jaden is addicted to YouTube. How many hours of TV is too much for a 4 year old? I hear you. 

Summer is barely underway and I’m already seeing instagram photos of zombie children glued to ipads with the caption “Help!” Collectively, as mothers, we are posting questions on FB, “How many hours of Minecraft is too much for a 5 year old?” We are scrolling Pinterest for solutions searching everything from printable chore charts, to cheap summer adventures, and (my personal nemesis) ideas for homemade craft projects to keep kids busy and engaged during the LONG summer days. We have lengthy discussions with our sisters and moms friends about managing screen time. And where are we having these conversations? On Marco Polo.

We are in dire straits. We are in desperate need of advice, guidance, directions. Where do we turn for help? In our moments of crisis, when we need to know how to keep our children off their screens, we, their mothers, turn to our screens. In fact, at this very moment I type these words onto one screen while my children downstairs interact with at least two different screens, and my husband in our bedroom looks into yet another . . .you got it . . . screen.

I Dread Having to Be the Screen Police

I’ve been stewing over this media issue for a month now as summertime approaches. What bothers me about this question—How do I control my kids’ screen time?—is the nagging tug of obligation I feel in my gut that if my family is going to have a successful screen-free summer, it’s going to be up to ME. I’m the one that will have to plan the pinterest-worthy summer outings collecting a representation of local flora and insect life to paste on our poster board panorama. It will be ME spending hours on the computer designing personalized chore charts and graphs of practice and reading time and devising a captivating behavior-based award system with coinciding coinage.

Years ago, in an attempt to control the unscheduled hours of summertime, I devised a form of currency called Warner Bucks. This was money I designed and printed myself (the closest I’ve ever come to running a counterfeit cash operation) and featured faces of family members. The kiddos—all under age 7—could earn Warner Bucks for doing chores and demonstrating good behavior. Then they paid a Warner Buck for every 30 minutes of TV time. Brilliant, huh? It was a disaster. Essentially, I had created several full-time jobs for myself. I was running my own little company and I was in charge of payroll, human resources, management, job descriptions, job trainings, employee performance, and employee evaluations. I was spending all my time giving and collecting crinkled cash, all with the goal to limit screen time. Yet the television was blaring as loudly and for as many hours as ever before. It seemed that every conversation, every action, every motive in our house for that summer centered around buying more screen time.

Limits Increase Want

In her book  Parenting in the Age of Attention Snatchers,. Author and clinical psychologist Lucy Jo Palladino  says “Forbidden fruit is the tastiest. Completely banning screen time may simply double the desire of your kids to get online.”

Marketers use limitation and limited quantity as methods to increase demand. If screen time becomes a dangling carrot, then I actually  WANT MORE SCREEN TIME! But AHA! We’re onto their schemes and trickery and will not fall prey to their tactics. So our objective as parents isn’t to limit screen time, but to help our children discover what they want to do more than they want to stare at a screen. 

Instead of Limiting, Create a Family Plan

We most often default to doing something on a screen because we don’t know what else we would rather do instead. In the moment, making a decision or making plans requires too much effort. It’s easier to click on Candy Crush. So the best method to beat over-indulging in screens is to have plans made in advance. 

Something we’ve done for a couple of summers that has worked (much better than Warner Bucks) has been to create a summer bucket list. We have a family meeting and everyone gets to say things they want to do for the summer. It’s fun and energizing. Suddenly all kinds of possibilities open. The local aquarium that is so awesome but we haven’t visited yet. The special hike to that awesome waterfall. Trying to relocate that secret swimming hole. Picnics at favorite parks. Puzzles. Board games. Outdoor movie nights. Family video game tournaments.

We don’t exclude screens from our summer bucket list. We plan screen time intentionally.  

This year we are creating family and personal summer bucket lists. Our meeting is next Sunday and we prepped our kids a few weeks ago to start brainstorming. Since my kids are older (ranging from age 10 to 19), their personal lists will include 1) Something to practice 2)  something new to learn 3) a daily physical activity and 4) a list of books to read.  My advice for families with young children is to go easy on goals. With younger children, set yourself up for success by scaling back what you think is possible. It’s better to achieve one goal successfully than fail to achieve five goals. Success breeds success.

On Sunday we will pull out colored markers to decorate our summer lists. Basically, we are creating a vision for our summer. Vision and energy are more powerful than limitation.  Instead of focussing on what we can’t do or what we shouldn’t spend too much time doing, we are going to empower ourselves, as a family, with vision, energy, and fun.

You can learn more about the energizing power of desire by listening to Episode 2 “What Do I Want?” It’s one of my most downloaded episodes, I think because so many of us don’t know what we really want or we don’t believe we can have it, so we don’t even try. The best method to get away from screens this summer is to KNOW, ahead of time, what we want more. This helps us to not sacrifice what we want long term for what is easiest right now.

Conclusion

Today we’ve explored the broad principles of why NOT to limit screen time: because limit increases want. And we’ve learned that a more powerful way to embrace summer adventure is to brainstorm, as a family, activities you want to do more than sitting in front of screens.

Next week we’ll dive into the nitty gritty of how to set up this empowered summer. We’ll talk everything from the words you choose in talking about screens to the power of boundaries. Any why boundaries are NOT the same as limits.  These tools help kids and parents feel their screen use is abundant and satisfying rather than feeling left wanting more.

Leaning Into Discomfort

Leaning into Discomfort

Ep. 18 Leaning Into Discomfort

Leaning in is a power principle with multiple applications. Today we’re discussing the power of leaning into discomfort in a specific area. I invite you to stay with me to the end and I have an invitation that I think you’ll accept, even if you never thought you would.

What Does it Mean to "Lean In"?

Have your ever heard the expression, “Lean into the wind?”  

Growing up, my brother and I walked to and from school no matter the weather. Which meant that sometimes we would push forward through fierce storms and arrive at the school building to learn that school was cancelled because buses couldn’t get through the snow. Anyone who has walked in strong wind know that in order to stand up straight in high wind, you can’t just stand up straight, you have to lean forward. You have to lean into the wind. Leaning into the wind means pressing forward in the direction opposite the way the wind blows.

Last summer I did a pioneer handcart reenactment in Wyoming. I don’t know if it has something to do with being near the Continental Divide, but that Wyoming prairie gets a LOT of wind—like blow your tent away in the middle of the night with you in it—kind of wind. And when we were walking and pulling our handcarts, if we wanted to move forward, we had to lean into the wind.

Traditionally lean in has been used in the context of sports to mean “to shift one’s body weight forward or toward someone or something.” In water and snow sports, you can lean into a wave, the wind, a slope, or a turn. You can lean in to a pitch or a throw. You can even lean in to a catch.

The first printed use of the term “leaning into”  comes from Hartley Burr Alexander’s 1906 Poetry and the Individual, where Alexander uses the phrase “leaning into the future” in reference to the power of poetry deriving from its “leaning into the future.” And Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg, used “lean in” as the title of her 2013 book, a call for women to embrace challenge and risk in the work place and leadership. All uses of the term “lean in” point to the act of moving forward against an opposing force.

Leaning Into Discomfort

Why would we talk about leaning into discomfort? Why would a nice person like myself, ask you to lean into discomfort?

Episode 12 The Power of Imbalance, has been the most downloaded episode to date. (If you haven’t listened, go there next.)  I think because it strikes a universal instinct in all of us. We don’t like to feel out of balance or out of control or out of our comfort zone. We don’t like to feel uncomfortable. But, as Shawn my personal trainer taught me, growth happens in the zone of imbalance, in the zone of discomfort. If  you never lean into discomfort, you can not grow.

In yoga there is an expression, “Breathe into the stretch.” Yoga instructors emphasize that you shouldn’t push your body to the point of pain, but you should take your body to the point of discomfort, then breathe into that discomfort. Yoga teaches that rather than resisting what feels uncomfortable to move towards it, and in this way your muscles grow. This is opposite our instinct. Our knee-jerk reaction is to move away, to back away, to shy away, or to straight out run away from any discomfort. But, someone the act of leaning into the discomfort, of breathing into it, lessens the discomfort. Keep this in mind as we move to our third point today.

Leaning In to End the Stigma of Mental Illness

Earlier I said I had an invitation that I thought you would accept, if you can stay with me to the end. I invite you (and me) to lean into our discomfort about discussing mental illness.  

When you hear the term “mental illness,” pause to observe your reaction. Do you feel a jolt of resistance? Maybe you really don’t want to hear about it or discuss it. Maybe you feel a strong urge to change the subject or leave the conversation. That’s okay. Whatever reaction you have is okay. I am NOT asking you to change your reaction. I am NOT judging your reaction or saying it is wrong or saying you need to have a different reaction. Not at all. I am simply inviting you to OBSERVE your reaction, your thoughts and feelings, and instead of resisting them, moving away, 0r running away, I am inviting you sit with your discomfort and see what you can learn about yourself. This is an invitation to lean into your emotions. And remember to breathe.

I am assuming that most, if not all of us, have what I would call an averse reaction to hearing the term mental illness. There might be some extremely enlightened yogis and gurus in the world who have no reaction, but most words aren’t neutral. Any word we come in contact with triggers some kind of thought in our brain, which triggers a related emotion. And most of you grew up in the same society I did, with the same social conditioning about mental illness.

And where did that conditioning come from? Movies, stories, experiences.

Did you know that the month of May is National Mental Health Awareness Month and has been since 1949. Congratulations. We are celebrating 70 years of Mental Health Awareness, and you didn’t even know it. I didn’t until this year. Now, think about our social relationship with Mental Illness 70 years ago, 40 years ago, 20 years ago, 10 years ago, (that’s when I was seeing doctors and getting confusing, conflicting, and unsatisfactory explanations about what was going on in my brain), to this year 2019. Good news. There have been a lot of positive changes in diagnosis, treatment and understanding of mental illness, largely due to development in brain science.  I feel optimistic and excited that we will continue to progress forward, AS LONG AS and to the extent that we allow ourselves to LEAN INTO the discomfort of entering conversations and getting educated about Mental Illness.

Misdiagnosed Mental Illness

What if all mental illness was simply misunderstood and misdiagnosed physical illness?

In past years, mental asylums were filled with people merely suffering from asthma, hypoglycemia, or diabetes. One of the most compelling stories to prove the negative consequences of misdiagnosing a physical disease as a mental illness is the story of Susannah Cahalan retold in the book (and Netflix Movie) Brain on Fire. 

At age 21, Susannah worked as a writer for The New York Post. Out of the blue she began to experience hallucinations and hypersensitivity to annoying noises. Coworkers notice her strange behavior. Her parent take her to a doctor, who says that Susannah has probably been partying too much, working too hard and not getting enough sleep. Later, Susannah has a seizure and her parents take her to the emergency room where doctors prescribe anti-psychotic medication. While in the hospital, Susannah goes catatonic and doctors want to move her to a more permanent psychiatric unit where she will be treated for mental illness.

Dr. Souhel Najjar is asked to help investigate her case. Najjar has Susannah draw a clock. She draws it with all of the numbers (1–12) on the right side of the clock, leading Dr. Najjar to believe that the right hemisphere of her brain is swollen and inflamed. Najjar has her undergo a brain biopsy in order to take cells from her brain for diagnosis. It is found that Susannah has anti-NMDA receptor encephalitis, an autoimmune disease where swelling is caused by antibodies.  Dr. Najjar describes it to her parents  as her “brain is on fire.” Dr. Najjar prescribes her a treatment, which leads to a slow, but full recovery of her cognitive abilities.

Here is an example of a regular girl nearly locked away for life in a psychiatric ward to be medicated with anti-psychotics that would only make her worse because they wouldn’t treat the root issue.  Thankfully, one doctor stepped in. One doctor leaned in and fought for her.

So, what if all cases of “mental illness” are really physical issues we don’t yet understand or haven’t correctly diagnosed?

A person acting strangely does not mean they are mentally ill. What is the WHY? behind the strange behavior?  What is happening in the body and brain to cause the unusual behavior? I’m excited for more progress to be made in brain scan technology for these neuro-diagnostic tools to become more available. This is why I want to change the term from mental illness to brain illness in order to emphasize the physical brain issue rather than the stigma of character weakness.

Oprah Winfrey, Prince Harry and Mental Illness

In coming months, we will have increased opportunities to lean into discussions about mental health. This is why I extend the invitation to resist shying away from these important conversations and to lean into our socially-programmed  discomfort. A lot of people and organizations are working to shorten the distance between current misdiagnosis and misunderstanding and future effective diagnosis and treatment. In fact Oprah Winfrey and Prince Harry have teamed up to release a docuseries on mental health.  In April CNN reported that the multi-part documentary series, which will air on the Apple TV platform in 2020, was co-created and produced by the Duke of Sussex and Winfrey.

Prince Harry said,  “I truly believe that good mental health—mental fitness—is the key to powerful leadership, productive communities and a purpose-driven self.” 

Winfrey added, “Our hope is that it will have an impact on reducing the stigma and allowing people to know that they are not alone, allowing people to speak up about it and being able to identify it for themselves and in their friends. We want to blow the stigma out of the water.”

Conclusion

What do you think? Are you willing to take on today’s invitation? The invitation is simply this: when you someone mention “mental illness” or “mental health,” pause and observe your initial reaction. Notice if your instinct is to move away, to shut down, to change the channel. Notice if you instinctually want to move away because you feel uncomfortable. Then, instead of moving away, I invite you to LEAN INTO DISCOMFORT.  Listen to the conversation, stay on the channel, keep engaged. Breathe.  discomfort. Open your heart and mind and be willing to learn and to see a new perspective. 

Ep. 14 What Rumpelstilskin Teaches about Curing Depression

The Power of Naming

The name depression implies personal weakness.

And people would rather be sick in secret than be perceived as weak in public.

Cure "Depression" by Changing its Name

I have an idea. A theory.

I think that one reason Depression (and resulting suicide) is a rampant problem in society is because we are calling it by the wrong name.

And I propose that we will never successfully eradicate  this disease UNTIL we identify and address it by its accurate name.

My thesis for today’s podcast is three-fold.

First: That using the word “Depression” to name a disease is a misnomer.

Second: That calling “Depression” by the wrong name leads to incorrect or insufficient treatment to cure the disease. 

Third: I propose that the simple solution of changing the NAME of the diagnosis from “depression” to a term that more accurately fits the physical causes of the disease will result in a decrease of resulting suicide, length of time suffered, and an increase of pro-active treatment.

Why "Depression" is the Wrong NAME for the Disease

Depression is an inaccurate name because:

  1. Depression is the name of an emotion, not the name of an illness. And not everyone who feels the emotion of depression has the disease the word is attached to. 
  2. Depression is only one of many possible symptoms of the illness.
  3. Not everyone who has this disease will have the one symptom it is named for.
  4. Depression can be a Symptom of Many Different Illnesses

Depression is an Emotion, Not a Disease

Have you ever been depressed? Yes! Depression is a human emotion. Feeling depression doesn’t mean you have the disease that society currently calls “Depression.” Why do we have an illness named for an emotion? The name “Depression” 

Depression is a Possible Symptom, Not the Cause

The term depression doesn’t go far enough. It stops at a symptom and doesn’t continue to address the root of the issue. Depression is an emotion, not a disease. Depression is a possible SYMPTOM of the illness, but it is not the illness. It’s like saying “Jody has low energy” and stopping there. When, if fact, Jody has anemia. Low energy is a symptom, not the cause. Low iron levels in the blood in the cause.  The name “Depression” puts all the focus on a symptom rather than focussing on treating the cause. 

I have had doctors explain to me the physical causes for “depression” such as low levels of brain neurotransmitters or malfunction in chemical absorption by the neuron synapses. So there is a physical cause. There is a malfunction in the body, in the brain specifically, yet we continue to call the disease after an emotion rather than for the physical cause. Diabetes is caused by the body not making enough insulin, but we don’t call the disease Shakiness or Exhaustion, we call is Diabetes.  

The fact that depression is only one of many possible symptoms of this disease increases the confusion caused by this misnomer. Other symptoms can be insomnia, significant weight loss or weight gain, loss of appetite, muscle pain, moving slowly, difficulty concentrating. Furthermore, it is possible for a person to have this “disease currently known as depression” without experiencing the symptom of depression. I did not treat my illness currently known as Postpartum Depression because I didn’t feel depressed. I didn’t feel well. I was exhausted but couldn’t sleep. I ached everywhere and my body felt heavy as if I were made of concrete. I moved slowly. I lost a lot of weight, not in a good way. My head was always foggy. But I didn’t feel “depressed.” And failing to treat the physical causes of my disease caused my overall health to get worse until I also had auto-immune disease and chronic illness. 

The inaccurate label “depression” hindered me from getting correct treatment.

Depression Is a Symptom of Many Illnesses

Another reason that the term “Depression” is a misnomer is that it’s too broad. The feeling of depression can be a symptom for multiple diseases, like head injuries, cancer, or MS. Also we can experience depression without having a physical disease. We can experience depression while grieving a loved-one’s death or after losing a job or because it’s winter and there’s not enough sunlight. Depression is a common and variegated emotion. I can feel depressed in the morning and be happy by afternoon. So to call a real brain illness after such a kaleidoscopic EMOTION, seriously interferes with treating the disease.

Calling it Depression Causes Misdiagnoses and Treatment

The name Depression deters people from seeking treatment and taking steps to heal the disease.

The word “depression” connotes a character flaw. The term “depression” does not separate the person from the illness.  Why? Because we identify with our emotions. Our emotional state is linked with our personality. We describe people by their emotions:  He’s a jolly person, a happy person, an energetic person, she’s a sluggish person. She’s always “down.” We even have a nickname for this personality type: “Debbie Downer”  Calling a disease after an emotional state creates a false perception that a person diagnosed with depression has a bad personality. This is viewed more as a personal weakness than a physical issue.

The equivalent assignation for a person who’s had a stroke would be to say, “He’s a mumbler, you can’t understand when he talks. Mumbling is associated more as a character trait. But we don’t say that. We say, “He had a stroke and it’s affecting his ability to speak.”

In most cases we are good at separating the results of an illness from the character of the person. But not with depression. And the social impact is that many people who have “the illness currently known as depression” don’t say anything, don’t seek treatment because the name Depression insinuates personal weakness. And they would rather be sick in secret than to be perceived as weak in public.

Change its Name

Rumpelstilskin had power to take the Queen’s baby unless she could call him by his true name. Calling a physical disease after one possible emotional symptom is like  calling Rumpelstiltskin by the wrong name and then crying as he steals our baby.

I propose we begin by discontinuing the term “Mental Illness” and instead calling it “Brain disease” or “Brain Illness.” The brain is an organ just like the kidneys, lungs, and heart. When the lungs are sick, you can’t breathe well. When the brain is sick, you can’t think right. Thoughts and emotions are processed in the brain through electrical-chemical reactions. If the electric wires malfunction, the thoughts go dark, just like when power lines go down. If the chemical recipes aren’t right, the emotions come out bad, just like using salt instead of sugar when baking cookies. It’s science, not emotion.

So let’s call it by what it is. Let’s name it for the cause, not after one of the numerous possible symptoms. I don’t have authority or the training to come up with the best name, but I propose it be scientific, sound official, and be related to the root cause of the ailment rather than a resulting emotional symptom.  

For example, the term diabetes is shortened from Diabetes Mellitus which comes from the Greek word diabetes which means to siphon – to pass through and the Latin word mellitus meaning honeyed or sweet. This is because in diabetes excess sugar is found in blood as well as the urine. Excess sugar is siphoned through or passes through the blood. This name helps us to focus on treating the cause of the illness rather than concentrating on the idea that in the United States we currently have over 100 million people who can digest their food properly.

Recently my son was experiencing lack of focus, bouts of anger or depression, head fogginess, and headaches. I dreaded hearing the diagnosis “Depression.”Rather he was diagnosed with Postconcussive Syndrome. That name empowered us. We know to let his brain rest, to cut back on learning new things like memorizing his violin music. He told his school teachers who were understanding and willing to accommodate if he needed extra time for assignments. It was much easier to tell his teachers that he had a concussion than that he had depression.

Currently, this same care and attention isn’t happening with the disease known as depression. The word Depression holds a lot of judgment and misperception. The stigma surrounding depression interferes with accurate diagnosis and treatment. 

To reNAME this disease will empower us to  perceive & understand in a different, more enlightened way. It will help us move out of the space of impatience. The attitude of “Snap out of it” and “This needs to be fixed NOW!”  and into the place of giving people time and  support to heal.

Ep. 13 The Power of Naming

The process of naming the animals demonstrated dominion over the earth.

Power of Naming

Have you ever had that feeling? Something is wrong but you can’t put your finger on what it is? Something is wrong with your child. Something is going on at work. Something is bothering your spouse. It’s there, but you feel powerless to fix it until you can name what it is. 

Naming is a power principle because naming the problem is the first step to solving the problem. My sister has always said, “I can handle anything as long as I know what it is.” She speaks truth. We are strong, intelligent, resourceful. It’s the unknown that gets us.

Science of Naming

Why is naming so powerful?

Scientists have long studied the power of words on the human brain. The brain receives thousands of  data impulses every second. These data impulses are processed as thought words or thought images.

What’s in a Name?

A name is simply a word—a combination of letters—assigned to a specific person or thing. In order to make its job a little easier, the brain names data and groups it together with similar data through categorization. It assigns words to data in order to know where to “file” the information.  Anything the brain isn’t able to name ends up in the dark abyss of  uncategorized info. The brain can’t do anything with this stuff until it’s identified. 

Examples of Naming Found in Literature

We intuitively sense the power of names. There are examples in stories of the power that can come from naming.

  1.  Adam & Eve  In the Book of Genesis, God gave Adam and Eve power to name the animals. From the moment they chose the word elephant, the process of naming demonstrated their dominion and stewardship over the earth and all living things.
  2. Rumpelstiltskin The classic Grimm Brother’s Fairy Tale tells of strange man who convinces a young woman to promise him her first-born child in exchange for spinning her straw into gold. At the birth of the child, the woman begs for a way out of the deal. The strange man agrees that if she can correctly guess him name in 3 days, he will relinquish his claim on the child. The ability to identify his true name is what frees the woman from his hold.
  3.  The Ocean at the End of the Lane  this Neil Gaiman story recounts the havoc worked by an evil entity disguised as a nanny named Ursula Monkton. The Hempstock women are unable to rid their town of the creature until they can successfully discover its true name. Once Lettie Hemstock learns that Ursula is really Skarthach of the Keep she chases Skarthach to the end of the lane where it cries, shrinks, and disappears. The power to remove the vexing thing came in calling it by its true name.

Naming Our Troubles

Sometimes the only thing we need in order to solve a problem is to be able to name it. This is why talking things is so helpful. The process of talking is the process of putting those ambiguous bothers into words. Meeting with therapists, doctors, coaches, or church leaders is helpful because they can offer words for what is troubling us. I might know I have a head ache and a sore throat, but don’t know how to remedy it. Once I know it is caused by the Streptococcus bacteria, I know to take an antibiotic.  

Naming our emotions is powerful. Most of the time we sweep our emotions under the rug without acknowledging what they are trying to tell us. Emotions are messengers. When we take time to say: This is sadness or This is frustration we are more effective at working through the emotions.

Ep. 10 Empower Kids Through PLAY

Empower Kids Through Play

Empower Kids Through PLAY

“The opportunity for kids to freely engage in play with one another has diminished considerably over the last 50 years.” Michael Yogman, AAP

Research shows one of the best ways to empower kids is through play. Play helps kids develop problem-solving, decision-making, and risk-taking skills that prepare them to be successful adults. However, play has decreased steadily. The ramifications are becoming so serious that doctors are prescribing play as a remedy for many ills. The American Academy of Pediatricians is encouraging doctors to implement a Reach Out and Play campaign to correspond with the Reach out and Read initiative. Doctors are asking parents to protect and even to enforce playtime.  Episode 7 discussed four specific ways to give yourself permission to add more play to your life. 

What is PLAY?

According to research by Dr. Rachel White: 

PLAY IS PLEASURABLE: Children must enjoy the activity or it is not play.

PLAY IS INTRINSICALLY MOTIVATED: Children engage in play simply for the satisfaction the behavior itself brings. It has no extrinsically motivated function or goal.

PLAY IS PROCESS ORIENTED: When children play, the means are more important than the ends.

PLAY IS FREELY CHOSEN: It is spontaneous and voluntary. If a child is pressured, she will likely not think of the activity as play.

PLAY IS ACTIVELY ENGAGED: Players must be physically and/or mentally involved in the activity.

PLAY IS NON-LITERAL: It involves make-believe.

Play empowers kids because it is intrinsic rather than extrinsic. The benefits of play are internal (for the individual) rather than external (associated with outside approval or award). Play is self-chosen and the players are free-agents, meaning they can stop at any time. Because play contains non-literal elements, it buffers the individual from real-life consequences and provides opportunities to practice and grow skills essential to living in our complex world.

There is a difference between accumulating knowledge and developing skills. Emphasizing math, reading, and writing at younger ages has forced teachers to remove playful elements from early childhood education. But learning new skills is best facilitated by social, playful interactions where risks can be taken with little consequence. The emphasis on performance measured by test scores is diminishing opportunities to learn from mistakes, even when failure is often the best teacher.  

Benefits of PLAY

According to a report of the American Academy of Pediatrics, “Play is not frivolous: it enhances brain structure and function and promotes executive function (ie, the process of learning, rather than the content), which allow us to pursue goals and ignore distractions. Play is fundamentally important for learning 21st century skills, such as problem solving, collaboration, and creativity, which require the executive functioning skills that are critical for adult success.”

Benefits of play are numerous and well documented. Play with parents and peers is fundamental for the development of safe, trusting relationships. Play regulates stress levels. Studies have shown that the lack of play increases ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Play develops the learning process, incites creativity, problem solving, and risk-taking. Specifically, play develops language and math skills and improves concentration. 

How to Empower Kids through PLAY

1. Lower the Stakes 

As parents, we can empower kids through play by making sure that for every performance-based activity kids are signed-up to do, they have equal opportunity for unstructured, experimental play. An AAP report states:  “Parental guilt has led to competition over who can schedule more enrichment opportunities.” As parents, organized activities like lessons and competitive sports feels good because they have measurable results which validate our investment of time and money. As adults, we like the structure of consistent time, date, location for activities. The unmeasurability of unstructured play can be a barrier. Which lead us to principle #2: 
 

2. Build Trust Through Play

Dr. Hank Smith, Ph.D conducted his doctoral research in developing trust in educational systems. He discovered that play is a powerful way to build trusting relationships. He found that one of the best ways to repair a struggling relationship (particularly a parent/child relationship) is through play. Get on the same level as your child and do something they love. Don’t talk about grades or problems or instrument practice. Playing together helps kids to know that they matter. You love spending time with them for who they are. They are valuable to you outside of their performance on a report card or in a soccer game. 

Play becomes even more essential in times of family crisis. In the midst of divorce, death, serious accident or illness, job loss, or jail sentence, it seems counterintuitive to play. However, play is exactly what will ease stress and remind family members that it’s possible to experience pockets of happiness in the middle of tragedy. Play helps all family members to grow through the struggle and to develop resilience and personal strength. 

3. Embrace the Mess

Play is messy. The toys buckets will be emptied. The legos and blocks and train set will be strewn across the floor. When our children were young, my girlfriend said the best thing to me. She said, “I love when my house is messy because it means my kids are playing.” Those blankets and beach towels that were folded so neatly in the closet are going to be stretched across the furniture to make forts, which means that every heavy book from the shelf is stacked to hold down the blankets.

Play doesn’t necessarily help with housework. On days that I’ve just mopped and vacuumed, I almost prefer my kids to watch TV instead of play in the sand box. In order to promote unstructured play, as parents we need to lower our standards of tidiness and embrace the mess. 

4. Trick Your Kids Into PLAYING

You know as well as I do that if command our kids to play, they protest. This is because play must be self-chosen. As parents, we can apply a bit of reverse psychology. When my kids have been staring at screens too long or are complaining about boredom, I give them a chore to do. This is a “nonessential” chore. Something like cleaning out the junk drawer in their bedroom, weeding the garden, washing the car, or organizing the game closet.

These are chores that I know will quickly devolve into play, and that’s okay because that’s what I wanted all along. Five minutes into sorting his junk drawer, little Johnnie will be exploring his imagination. One or two weeds might get pulled, but more likely the garden hose will get turned on and there will be a dirt castle surrounded by a muddy moat will appear next to the squash plant. Inevitably the bedroom, closet, and yard will end up more disorganized that they were to start. And that’s okay. That’s when I will smile and say, “I’m happy because my kids are playing.” We have plenty of opportunities to teach chore completion and organization at other times. For today, play is the priority.

Channel Your Inner-Child

Children learn best from example. As parents, we can model playful behavior by engaging in hobbies, being spontaneous, and taking time for activities we enjoy that don’t have any external benefits such as earning money or receiving an award. If you have children in your life, you are lucky. Being around children helps to re-prioritize our lives and help us tune in to our inner-child. There are myriad opportunities to volunteer for kids through Big Brother Big Sister programs, the YMCA, school PTA programs, or foster parenting.

The bottom line is to change our mindset that play is a waste of time. In truth, play can often be more productive than work. So give yourself permission to bring back the Power of PLAY.

Ep 9 The Power of a PLAYFUL Marriage

Give yourself permission to have a playful marriage

The Power of a PLAYFUL Marriage

A playful marriage is a powerful way to fuel and energize your life. Have you given yourself permission to have a playful marriage

Don't Let Brain LIES Sabotage Your Marriage

Marriage is a mindset. The most influential impact on a successful or failed relationship is what happens inside your own head. I’m not saying you can “power think” your way out of an abusive relationship. There are times when you need to leave a situation, but most often it is not our circumstances but how we think about our circumstances that influences our happiness in marriage.

Challenge your thoughts. Just because a thought flashes through your mind does not mean it is your thought or that it’s a true thought. Question those thoughts: “Who says so?”  “Do I believe that?” “Do I want to believe that?” “Who does that thought benefit?”  If a thought doesn’t serve you, then get rid of it and choose higher-quality thoughts. Replace sabotaging thoughts with empowering thoughts. Think to the possibilities

The EGO tries to sabotage relationships because it likes to be miserable. The EGO loves being a victim, so the EGO is going to feed your brain full of relationship-sabotaging thoughts. On this episode I share stories of how brain lies nearly sabotaged my date night and a Seattle getaway with my husband. 

Be a Fun-Living Spouse

Have you given yourself permission to be a fun partner? Who says life has to be serious all the time? Who says we can only talk about problems with our companions? Remember the power principle from Episode 4 about making life easier by solving problems without a fuss? Marriage is the perfect place to practice solving problems simply without making a huge ordeal. 

In marriage, keep your problems small and your pleasure BIG. 

Author Merrilee Boyack says that a fun-loving spouse enjoys watching other people have fun. Instead, be a fun-living spouse, the person who jumps right in to the middle of fun. Merrilee says that if you buy garbage bags as gifts or if your last date together without your kids was to attend a funeral, you might need to add some spice to flavor your dull marriage. 

Give Yourself Permission to be PLAYFUL in Marriage

Marriage needs energy. Date nights and fun can fuel a marriage. As a rule, don’t spend more than 20% of your date night conversation talking about your kids, your bills, or life issues. It’s okay to having “planning dates” where you have dedicated time and space to discuss the budget, the remodel, jobs, kids, and even in-laws. But separate those conversations from your playful date nights. Gives yourselves permission to take a break from life and do something just for fun. 

If you’ve gotten out of the habit of dating your spouse or have run out of ideas of things you enjoy doing together, you’re not alone. It happens to all of us. Have fun brainstorming together. Write down three things you would enjoy doing together. If you haven’t had common interests in the past, it’s okay to start now. Dream together often. Talk about wild, crazy things you would enjoy (and don’t allow your brain to sabotage the dream by throwing up all the reasons you couldn’t or shouldn’t dream that dream). Imagine your life together after children leave home, after retirement. 

Be physically playful, and I’m not just talking about s-e-x. Hiking, biking, playing tennis, working out at the gym together, boating, getting a pair of matching mini trampolines . . . physical play is powerfully energizing for relationships.  

See Your Marriage as a PERK rather than Work

Ask yourself,  “Does my marriage feel like a perk or like work?”  Give yourself  permission to be married and to enjoy the perks of marriage, not just  to endure the work of marriage. A few years ago my husband and I went to a life-changing marriage conference and I realized I could give myself permission for my marriage to be a source of energy and strength in my life. Rather than seeing my marriage as one more thing on my To Do List, I began to discover my marriage as a source of enjoyment and fun. 

I started to give myself permission to be playful with my spouse, to be more lighthearted, to lower the stakes, and to not take everything so seriously. As a result, my marriage is becoming a safe place, a source of strength, support, courage, and energy.  

 

Give Yourself Permission to RECEIVE Love

The number one BRAIN LIE that we all share in common is that we are not enough. We aren’t worthy of love. We don’t deserve love. Subsequently, we deflect love when it’s offered, then cry and mope because we aren’t loved. My brain lies tell me that I haven’t worked hard enough to deserve a night out with my man, or that I don’t deserve a trip to Seattle with my husband. My brain lies and tries to convince me that I can’t be playful and intimate if my house, bedroom, or hair is messy.

BRAIN LIE = I can’t relax and enjoy time with my husband if I have work to do.

TRUTH = there will always be work to do. It’s okay to take time to play with my spouse.

BRAIN LIE = You haven’t done enough today to deserve your husband’s love.

TRUTH = I can receive my husband’s love any time, in any condition because he wants to give his love to me. 

Marriage is a Seesaw

Merillee Boyack says that marriage is a Seesaw, the intensity is going to fluctuate up and down, but if you find your butt sitting on the ground, it’s time to kick off. You have the power to kick off the ground. You have the power to jumpstart the energy of playfulness in your marriage. Experience the Power of a PLAYFUL Marriage by challenging your brain lies, being a fun spouse, viewing marriage as a life perk, and giving yourself permission to receive love. And have a blast in your playful marriage!

 

Ep. 6 Permission to be Happy

Happiness is not a Destination

Permission to BE HAPPY

I learned this past week of two more young adult suicides. This is an epidemic. We are losing too many beautiful people to unnecessary deaths from treatable diseases. I remember being stuck in darkness that felt so real, heavy and impossible to fix. I didn’t want to die, but I didn’t know how to continue existing that way. There were many factors that helped me to heal from depression and chronic illness, but the number one thing was learning how to recognize and change toxic thoughts.

Thoughts are real. Thoughts are powerful. Thoughts are electricity and ask anyone who has been struck by lightning or a loose wire how strong electricity is.

Thoughts can convince you that life is so bad that you can’t be happy. Thoughts are so strong they can create emotions of fear, worthlessness, and feelings of impending doom, panic attacks, and the desperate need to to escape. 

In my healing process, I discovered six LIES that my brain told me about why I couldn’t or shouldn’t be happy. I learned to counter those LIES with the powerful ANTIDOTE of TRUTH. 

False Belief #1: I Can't Be Happy Because Life is Supposed to Be Hard

On the drive to music lessons this morning, my husband and son saw a beautiful bald eagle perched in a tree off the side of the road. Seeing an eagle in town is a rare and magnificent siting. They stopped the car to watch its grandeur and expected other drivers would do the same. Instead they were chastised by shouts and blaring horn. And this was on a leisurely country road on a Saturday morning. Other drivers pulled around them in frustration, so busy glaring and making angry gestures that they failed to notice the beautiful eagle. 

Why do we believe that life is so serious? so busy? so burdensome? It is a false belief that life has to be hard. Episode 2: The Power of Want explains that if all we think about are problems, the Universe will give us more problems.

The antidote to this false belief is explained in Episode 4: Permission to Make Life Easier. Give yourself permission to enjoy life, to be happy now, stop and see the eagles! 

False Belief #2: I Can't Be Happy While Others Suffer

My son is living in South Africa. He emailed pictures of a house he was helping to build build. This woman had acquired some land and some supplies and was building her own home. They dug a trench and stood some rough pieces of lumber in the trench to create a one-room, wooden shack. When I see pictures like this, my brain fires a string of thoughts about how unfair it is that I have an airconditioned/ heated home with  a microwave and automatic dishwasher and that I shouldn’t be so comfortable and happy when so many people around the world are suffering. 

This is a version of Survivor’s Guilt, the false belief that I shouldn’t be happy, healthy, and have a good life when others around me didn’t get that chance. Survivor’s Guilt causes people to self-sabotage through addiction or failure or just finding misery.

Truth: There will always be tragedy and suffering happening somewhere in the world, so if we all wait for no suffering, then no one would ever be happy. What’s more, we are powerless to help ease suffering if we are also miserable and depressed.

Truth: People don’t have to have identical lives and circumstances in order to be happy. This South African woman was ecstatic with her house because it was her own, she had worked for it, planned it, and built it. Likewise, I don’t need to have what other peopl have in order to be happy in my own life.

Truth: The Ego feeds on comparison, on being “more than” or “less than” others. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “Comparison is the thief of joy.”

Antidote: Give yourself permission to be happy in your life the way it is and be happy for others the way they are.

False Belief #3: I Don't Deserve to Be Happy because I'm Too Imperfect.

I wonder about these young college students whose lives ended far too early. Did they believe they weren’t good enough? Did they believe they were too flawed, too imperfect to be worthy of life and happiness. Instead of happiness did they feel guilt, worthlessness, and despair?

I caught my brain telling me lies like: “You can’t enjoy this because you don’t deserve it.” “You shouldn’t be happy because you didn’t do enough to earn happiness.” or “You have messed up you own life too much to deserve happiness.”

These are ALL lies!

Truth: Happiness is not based on a merit system. Happiness is an emotion that can only come from inside ourselves and never from any of our actions or accomplishments.

Antidote: Give yourself permission to be Imperfect and Happy. They can coexist. 

False Belief #4: I Can't Be Happy if Other People Don't Approve of Me

While working to heal through depression, my counselor explained that I was Codependent. What? That was a surprise because I thought I was one of the most independent women I knew. But I relied on the approval of others in order to approve of myself. If someone else wasn’t happy with my work, then I couldn’t be happy either.

I had a False Belief that  unless someone else noticed and validate me and my work, then I couldn’t be happy with me.

As a result, I learned to search for happiness inside of me.

Truth: I can be happy even if others don’t notice, validate or approve of me.

Truth: I can be happy even if someone isn’t happy with me.

Antidote: Give myself permission to choose my own happiness.

We need to change how we talk about happiness. “He makes me so happy.” or “I want to find a partner who makes me happy.” Because the truth is that you have chosen to be happy with that person.

False Belief #5: I Can't Be Happy Until . . .

The above image of a highway sign reading “Happiness Next Exit” represents a False Belief that Happiness is a destination and we spend a lot of time wondering how to get there. 

This is the False Belief that we can’t be happy until we arrive at the completion of a certain event or circumstance.

I’ll be happy when:

  • I finish my degree,
  • the baby sleeps through the night,
  • when the toddler is potty trained,
  • the house is clean,
  • the debt is paid off,
  • my spouse changes,
  • my boss recognizes my work, 
  • when my book is published,
  • etc.  

Truth: Happiness does not exist outside. Happiness happens inside. Happiness is here, now.

Truth:  If I’m not happy now, then I won’t be happy when my book is published either. Why? Because happiness is a feeling and feelings are a result of my thoughts, not a result of my circumstances. I can choose to feel happy right now, sitting in the middle of a messy kitchen. The best evidence for this comes from WWII and the stories of Holocaust survivors like Victor Frankl, the author of Man’s Search for Meaning who learned to find meaning, beauty, and even bits of happiness in the most extreme circumstance of human brutality. And if Victor Frankl can do it, then I know I can be happy now.

Antidote: Give yourself permission to be happy NOW. 

Antidote: Understand that events don’t make you happy. YOU CHOOSE to feel happy and you can choose happy RIGHT NOW. 

False Belief #6: I Have to Be Happy 100% of the Time

Do you ever feel like you have to fake happy? Maybe people expect you to be happy. Maybe they think you should be happy and can’t understand if you aren’t happy. Maybe you think people rely on you to be happy so they can be happy to. It’s a False Belief that we have to be happy 100% of the time.

Truth: I am not responsible for other people’s emotions.

Truth: I don’t have to be happy and chipper all the time. That is a big burden.

Truth: I am meant to experience the range of human emotions. And it is important (and healthy) for me to acknowledge and feel all of my feelings from sadness to disappointment to grief.

Antidote: Give yourself permission to be real, to feel all your feelings and to not fake happy. 

Antidote: Give other people permission to be sad. Allow people to feel what they need to feel and avoid the instinct to want to cheer them up or fix their emotions.

Conclusion

Learning that my thoughts and emotions were making me physically sick was the key turning point in my healing process. Thoughts and Beliefs are powerful and they can be changed. Giving myself permission to let go of false beliefs and choose happiness has helped me find a more rich, more authentic, and more meaningful life. I’m not happy 100% of the time (and that’s a good thing). I am happy more often than I am  depressed, discouraged, or despairing. I have learned how to choose happiness and I give myself Permission to Be Happy.