April 29, 2013

You don’t get very far in helping people who have addictions when they are not ready to receive the help. In a recent FIX MY LIFE IYANLA episode which aired on the OWN network, Iyanla was quite determined to produce some kind of breakthrough with DMX. He seemed, for the majority of the time, to be rejecting her help. Even when she agreed to back off, she did not. Even when it was all said and done, she came up with some sort of twitter site to ” SAVE DMX”. I thought this was so patronizing. In fact, I thought the airing of the show was exploitative of him. He is obviously in pain. Offer your support, then back off. When and if he is ready he will get help.

It is understandably hard for the people around a person with addictions to watch them deteriorate. This is painful business. But there is no magic answer. Often the addicted person has to have very unpleasant consequences like severe illness, or incarceration to stop them. Addiction is mind bogglingly powerful and illogical. Sometimes “hitting bottom” doesn’t even work.

So, I say to OWN and Iyanla, you cannot FIX everybody. I actually think you cannot FIX anybody. You can only offer support and guidance when they are ready to help themselves.

For people who are ready there are many ways to get started in recovery. Not everything works for everyone, but motivation to stay clean must be at the bottom of any approach you choose or you will waste time and or money.

There are self-help meetings like Alcoholics Anonymous, and Narcotics Anonymous. There are detoxes if you have physical addictions and have withdrawal signs like shakes, tremors or flu like symptoms when you stop using.

There are rehabilitations and multitudes of treatment programs. If you are ready it can be done.


Combating The Winter Blues

November 27, 2010

Check out Episode #15 of this great blogtalkradio show:  “United We Stand as a United Front”.  Make it Plain addresses some of the issues related to depression and healing from depression.

And please listen to other broadcasts from this show; there was and excellent broadcast (Episode #14), about debt and foreclosure!

Listen to internet radio with Jazz on Blog Talk Radio

 ***If you are not getting the widget on your computer, click on JAZZ, just above to get to the show.

Information is Power!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Learning Disabilities 101

November 6, 2010

I remember a few years ago when it was revealed to the public that Fantasia (the singer) had difficulty with reading.  There was a lot of misinformation floating around and suggestions that this was somehow her fault and she needed only to practice reading more to rectify the problem. 

Okay, I do not know why this isn’t more common knowledge in our “information age”, but some people are just not hardwired to read.  Their brains aren’t able to organize and make good sense of what they see on a page.

Furthermore, because I do so many evaluations to determine learning disabilities, I will add that this issue is not one related to ethnic background or privilege.

I worked in a school for children with learning disabilities and a great many had this problem.  In every other way they were normal and in some cases obviously very bright, but they were unable to read.  (Another huge misconception is that if you are unable to read you are not bright.  So Wrong!)

The lack of understanding among many about this issue was a source of great stress for many children as they often find themselves misunderstood or even labeled as “stupid” .  It is a tremendous burden for these kids.

Nonetheless, many of the children find their way, employing their strengths to make up for their weaknesses. In fact, because children with a reading disorder or other learning disabilities (there are many) face obstacles in terms of learning in “traditional” ways,  in other areas they can become more flexible thinkers and people who are creative or think outside the box.

It helps to know that many people familiar to you  in the media or through history identify/identified themselves as having a learning disability.  Some include:  Walt Disney, Thomas Edison, Cher, Whoopi Goldberg, Wintson Churchill, Albert Einstein, Mozart, and Dr. Cox from the tv show, Scrubs (I forget his real name, sorry).  See the following link for a comprehensive list:  http://www.buzzle.com/articles/famous-people-with-learning disabilities.html.

So What is A Learning Disability?

Having a Learning Disability may involve difficulty in memorizing and retaining things, and with retrieval and presentation of retained information.  There are four main forms of Learning Disabilities associated with four stages of information processing:





With care and support, children with Learning Disabilities can go on to have fulfilling lives.  I did.  Yes me.  I didn’t have any problems reading or writing (in fact, I was well above average in terms of those things) but I certainly have a speech processing issue on the OUTPUT end.  There is an enormous discrepancy between my ability on the INPUT end verses my ability on the OUTPUT end with regard to speech production.   You learn to maximize your strengths.  For instance, it’s easier for me to write than give speeches.  I used to think it was stage fright but I understand that it is a speech processing issue that runs in my family.

Teach your children to know their strengths are and support them around any weaknesses.

A Good Resource Site:  http://www.ncld.org/

People who are Domestic Violence abusers come from a variety of backgrounds.  Some of them have been labeled as having mental illness and some have not.  Usually, if they have an official psychiatric diagnosis they have a more difficult time changing the behavior.

My recent observations of Chris Brown have had me thinking that he may have Borderline Personality Disorder.  Personality Disorders are long-standing patterns of behavior.  Unlike Anxiety Disorders and Depression that are treatable and have ebbs and flows throughout a person’s life, personality disorders are relatively fixed.  Sometimes people with Personality Disorders may have symptoms of anxiety or depression that are secondary to the personality disorder.  Personality Disorders are difficult to change but if the sufferer is motivated psychotherapy may be helpful to manage symptoms.

Upon perusal of the literature, I actually found there is a significant amount of  overlap between common attributes of people who engage in domestic violence and people with Borderline Personality Disorder.  I am not implying that all people who abuse have a personality disorder or vice versa, but some do.

According to a list of abuser attributes at PSYCHCentral:  http://psychcentral.com/lib/2006/who-are-the-abusers-of-domestic-violence/, abusers may:

Need a great amount of attention.

Be Possessive, jealous or controlling of their partner.

***Fear being abandoned by the partner.

Have Low Self-Esteem

***Have Rigid Expectations about the Relationship

***Have Poor Impulse control and Low frustration Tolerance

***Have a proness to Explosive Rage

Lie to Keep the Victim Psychologically Off Balance

***Manipulate the Victim and Others to Get on Their Good Side  (Chris Brown’s crying on the BET Awards was in my opinion quite manipulative; I did not buy this one).

(*** represents a symptom that is common in both Domestic Violence Abusers and People with Borderline Personality Disorder)

OK.  Now let’s take a look at those Attributes commonly ascribed to people with Borderline Personality Disorder.  (Taken from the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual from the American Psychiatric Association) You need five of the following symptoms to qualify.

***Frantic Efforts to Avoid Real or Imagined Abandonment

***A pattern of Unstable and Intense Interpersonal relationships characterized by alternating between extremes of idealization and devaluation

Identity disturbance: markedly and persistently unstable self-image or sense of self

Impulsivity in at least Two areas that are potentially self-damaging (e.g., spending, sex, substance abuse, reckless driving, binge eating)

Recurrent suicidal behavior, gestures or threats or self-mutilating behavior

***Affective Instability (Mood Shifts)

Chronic Feelings of emptiness

***Inappropriate, intense anger or difficulty controlling anger

***Transient stress related paranoid ideation or severe dissociative symptoms (He had quite a dissociative experience: Chris stated on Larry King last year that he did not have a memory for the incident with Rihanna and stated that when he saw photos of what he had done it was “Like, wow.”, and in response to the news he said:  “I feel like they are talking about someone else”)

How do you get Borderline Personality Disorder?  Due to the increased sophistication of neuroscience, they are finding that many are born with a predisposition to develop certain mental illnesses.  Interaction with the environment dictates if and how the illness will progress.

I will tell you in my experience with Borderline Personality Disorder, many have had parents who were unable to provide safe and structured environments.  A child who is not born with a predisposition to the illness may be more resilient.

(Just like with other celebrities I have discussed in this blog, there is no way to truly know what is behind their behavior unless they were to walk into my office and I could fully assess the situation.  However, their behavior is so public, it is relatively easy to come up with a rough estimate of what may be going on.  This is really for informational purposes only.)

Please use the following resource for more information about domestic violence: http://www.dvinstitute.org/

BP and My Anxiety

July 5, 2010

I have so many topics I want to cover on this site, but lately I am keep coming back to thoughts such as:  “How important is this topic?” and “Does this really matter in light of the condition of the world?” 

In the mind of an anxious person, these are the thoughts that may consume the person.  The worst oil spill in history?  Those pictures of the gushing oil bother me, and I wonder when and how we are gonna get out of this.  Should I be worried?  Should I let go of it and just hope it will work out for the best?

Anxiety runs in my family.  We are worriers, sometimes prone to catastrophizing (worrying so much that your mind goes to the worst case scenario).  The anxiety tends not to be so overwhelming that it interferes with functioning but it is present.  I have had  a few crazy dreams and nightmares lately about disastrous situations.  I am sure this is due to the anxiety I am feeling about the BP oil spill.

Same thing happened to me with 9/11.  I was in NYC on that day. I was not close enough to have witnessed the attacks or see the towers collapse,but close enough to see enormous plumes of smoke at a distance, and see carless New York streets where droves of people were walking covered with dust.  I think I am more susceptible to anxiety over man-made disasters, maybe because the anxiety distracts me from some of my anger.

There are different kinds of anxiety and differing degrees of severity.  In my opinion, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder is one of the worst types because it is difficult to treat.  This involves combined anxiety and depression symptoms one could experience after a trauma.  A related problem, though less severe is Adjustment Disorder with Anxiety (Depression and conduct Problems may also be present), that a person may experience after an event such as divorce, or losing a job.  Generalized Anxiety Disorder is probably the mildest type, but the symptoms tend to pervade the person’s life.  Other Anxiety disorders include:  Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder, Panic Disorder and Social Phobia/Social Anxiety.  Go to this link for more information:  http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/anxiety-disorders/index.shtml.

What kind do I have?  Well, it would probably be Anxiety Disorder, Not Otherwise Specified, which means I don’t fall easily into any of the categories, but have prominent symptoms.  My symptoms include:  excessive worry, nightmares, and restlessness.  Most of the time I do not have symptoms but the sense of not having control may trigger them.  Yes, therapists have issues too.  We are human after all.  See:  https://makeitplainonline.wordpress.com/2010/04/21/how-to-find-a-therapist-part-i/ 

Under these extraordinary circumstances many people may have anxiety related symptoms.  There is more focus lately in the media about Americans in the Gulf region who are suffering in terms of mental health (probably a great deal of Adjustment Disorder and PTSD).  I do empathize deeply with what it may be like for them now.  However, we are really all in this together in many ways.  The health and well-being of the people in the Gulf region along with the environmental fallout created by the spill, affects us all. 

I am able to control symptoms with deep breathing and yoga practice.  What helps me more than anything else though is getting on with my life; trying to care for the people I love, and trying to do the best work I can do.  So, all of this blogging is important to me.  Part of my work as I see it is to share information.

More severe cases that interfere with functioning may need therapy.  Some people prefer medication or some combination of therapy and medication.  If you believe you may be suffering with severe anxiety, talk it over with your physician, shaman, pastor or other helper in your life, and make a plan to address it.