Tag Archives: emotions

Boy Meets Girl

Boy Meets GirlLast night, my partner and I watched Boy Meets Girl, a touching, funny film  about transgender love and friendship.

No, we didn’t pick the title because of the hubbub around Caitlyn Jenner (though I’m sure Netflix moved it to the top of their list due to recent controversy and publicity).

I’m glad we had the chance to view the film. Powerful and witty, it offers insight into the world of a transgender woman, her friends, family and lovers. I don’t want to spoil the plot so I won’t give away too much information but, if you want to experience life from someone else’s perspective (unless of course you’re a trans person), I suggest you give this sweet, simple and funny film a try.

It was refreshingly honest without being cloy, depressing or one-sided. And, Michelle Hendley is a force to be reckoned with. Check out Michelle and her gorgeous web site. I’m simply in awe of people who are willing to “put themselves out there” and truly be, well, themselves.

When Vicious Behaviour Goes Viral

Towards the Light

Towards the Light

By now, most of the world has heard about Rehteah Parsons’ life and death.

Beautiful, young and said to show great compassion for both humans and animals, Rehteah was sexually assaulted at a party, photographed and then victimized all over again when the photo was posted and shared by who knows how many students.

Ironically, the cause of so much of Rehteah’s pain and torture (social media) is now one of the vehicles being used to express outrage and promote justice.

Just this morning I signed a petition on Change.org demanding an independent inquiry into the police investigation which declared that no crime had taken place regarding both the rape and distribution of graphic and revealing photos. There are also Facebook pages set up, tweets posted and emails being sent to Justice Minister Ross Landry.

Why does it take death and despair to invoke a change in our laws? How can we use social media in a way that’s innovative and useful without promoting hatred, bullying, stress and destruction? Obviously, the way we engage in and rely on social media must change. Now.

A Trip Down Bipolar Road…

Barry Shainbaum

Barry Shainbaum

I was recently introduced to Barry Shainbaum through a colleague. Creative leader, entrepreneur, broadcaster, mentor, counselor and “bipolar survivor”, Barry shares his history of mental illness and advice with us.

Q:  What advice do you have for children currently living with mental illness?    

A: You are possibly at the very beginning of a long journey — “a journey into yourself.”  The road to living with and possibly even overcoming mental illness can be multifaceted and one encompassing medication, psychotherapy and spiritual exploration.

Q: How has your struggle shaped who you are today?

A: My struggle of overcoming bipolar disorder was a tortuous winding road encompassing twenty years.   From an illness that came close to taking my life, today life is rich and full, both personally and professionally, with many creative ventures.  I have evolved to become a person who finds joy in each and every day, and in the smallest things in life.  I have also become aware of the power of persistence, hope, meditation, visualization, nature, love and synchronicity.

Q: Do you think mental illness (in adults and children) invokes creativity? Do you think people who haven’t “suffered” or felt pain can be truly creative?

A: The creative urge is often greater in those facing mental health problems, as there is a need to express the pain, confusion, and to search for meaning and joy amidst darkness.  Why has it been said countless times that there is a fine line between genius and insanity?   Perhaps, those with the most pain have to work so much harder on their lives, and often that means transcending boundaries.  I have also read that [people feel] joy to the same extent that they have suffered. I agree with that statement.

Q: Do you think society will ever be free of stigma or will people living with mental health always be stigmatized?

A: Stigma against those with mental illness is slowly being eroded.   The more that mental illness and mental health issues are discussed and the more that well-known figures come forward and talk about their challenges, the more stigma will be reduced. I see a future where, those diagnosed with mental illness are told, “In time your diagnosis will unlock the door to a life grander than it had been, had you never [been] ill.”

Q: What tools, tips, or resources helped you most as a youth struggling with bipolar disorder?

A: When I “fell ill” in 1970, there were not the resources that there are today.   As a volunteer, I currently run a men’s group at the Mood Disorders Association of Ontario and at the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health. I recommend that a person receiving a diagnosis of mental illness  begin [their journey] in the library. Read about the numerous aspects of mental illness: psychiatric, psychological, genetic, relationship, environmental and spiritual.   It can be overwhelming so read a little bit at a time. And remember: Life is full of problems. And by facing our problems, we evolve and grow.


Barry Shainbaum overcame bipolar disorder 24 years ago.   He works in 5 disciplines:  professional speaker, photographer, radio broadcaster, singer/musician in senior homes and as a mental health consultant.  He is also a juggler!  Barry is the author of two books:  Hope and Heroes, and Dancing in the Rain.  His website is: barryshainbaum.com

Mood River: Highs and Lows of Mood Disorders in Children

The murky waters of mood disorder

The murky waters of mood disorder

Recently I asked “Ashley” to share advice on my blog. Ashley is a colleague and parent to an 11-year-old girl diagnosed with Mood Disorder.

 I have learned a lot about mood disorders and was blown away by her candor.

1) Can you describe “mood disorder” and its symptoms?

Last spring, my daughter was diagnosed with ADHD and we put her on a stimulant. She began having rages, getting verbally aggressive (threatening to kill people) and physically aggressive (biting, hitting, kicking) family members to the point that she left bruises and other marks. We took her off the medication and the rages decreased for a while, but returned along with ADHD symptoms that interfered with school.

We tried another stimulant and the rages increased. Her pediatrician suggested that because she was raging on stimulants that he highly suspected that she had a mood disorder.  At his suggestion, I read the book The Bipolar Child and cried because the symptoms described in the book were almost a verbatim description of my daughter. 

2) Why were you surprised by this revelation?

I was surprised that the way that bipolar presents in children is very different from the way it looks in adults. Some of the symptoms that resonated with me:

  • severe irritability
  • night terrors
  • raging
  • oppositional behaviour
  • rapid cycling (going from giddy to irritated very quickly and back again)
  • sensory issues
  • carb cravings (my daughter would binge on sweets and bread)
  • hyper-sexuality

Another trait exhibited by my daughter was that she didn’t show her rages and violence to anyone outside the family and I was her main target.

3) Please provide some insight into the relationship between ADHD and mood disorders and how they’re sometimes confused.

According to the book The Bipolar Child, one-third of the children diagnosed with ADHD actually have early onset bipolar. Many symptoms of bipolar overlap with ADHD, such as being impulsive, emotionally volatile, hyperactive and distracted. When I was reading Bipolar Child for the first time, the description in temper tantrums between children with ADHD and children with mood disorders was what finally convinced me that my daughter was bipolar.

Bipolar temper tantrums can often last for hours, can involve destruction or violence and are typically triggered by not getting what they want. The book described that ADHD tantrums typically last 20-30 minutes and are caused by sensory or emotional stimulation. I thought about the previous evening and how my daughter had spent over two hours hitting us, screaming and chasing after us and realized that my daughter was bipolar.

4) What advice can you offer parents?

My biggest advice is to find support. I found the forums and support groups at The Balanced Mind to provide me great information on both the medical side and the coping side.

At first I was really scared to tell anyone about my daughter’s diagnosis and even more about her repeatedly hurting me. I would wear long sleeves to cover the bite marks and bruises and worry that someone would see. But then I shared with trusted friends what we were going through and was very surprised that instead of judgment, I received love and support.

My other advice is to find the right team of doctors and therapists. It took several tries to find the right fit for our family and my daughter’s situation, but we finally found a neuropsychiatric that has been lifesaving for us. We also began working with a behavioural therapist to help our whole family learn strategies to deal with the bipolar symptoms.

5) How do you and your family (and your child) best cope with this mental illness?

When she is raging, we try to remind ourselves that this is the bipolar talking, not our daughter. We also make sure that every member of our family gets time to enjoy the things that make them happy and get a break from my daughter. We also all meet with a therapist to talk about our feelings of living with the disease in our family.

6) Anything else you’d like to add?

If you suspect that your child has a mood disorder, get him or her evaluated as soon as possible. Life has gotten dramatically better once we found the right medication and have begun learning to understand the disease.

 —

 

Maybe It’s the Music

Take the edge off with some tunes.

Take the edge off with some tunes.

Mornings can be rough in our home. Nine times out of ten someone’s had a crappy sleep or is having a grouchy morning. If we get out to school/work on time, it’s a very good day.

My personal issue is that no matter how many times I tell myself, “Be patient” (through closed eyes and clenched teeth), I often end up yelling, cajoling, or making threats — No video games after school! No dessert after dinner! — in order to get the crew moving. That’s not fun for any of us.

However, the other day, I put a few videos on YouTube while the kids were doing last minute school prep. Before everyone got too stressed out, the mood lightened as we listed to Trouble by Taylor Swift and Dynamite by Taio Cruz. Heads bobbed, lyrics were sung… it was a very relaxing and fun way to head out the door.

Anything I can do to avoid the crazy half-dressed-where-are-my-socks-I-can’t-open-the-toothpaste-cap type of morning is absolutely worth it. And, if music is added to the mix? Even better.

For Extreme Parenting Read The Glass Castle

Have you read The Glass Castle? Written by Jeannette Walls, now a successful American writer and reporter, this memoir takes the reader on an unbelievable journey through a traumatic, wild, raw childhood in the American south.

Next time you feel guilty about not being able to give your child the latest gadget, activity or toy, read The Glass Castle – it will instantly make you feel like you’re the best parent in the world.

Even now on my second read, I gasp at the outrageous acts of neglect foisted on Jeannette and her three siblings by parents, Rex and Rose Mary. These children often went for days without food, heat, electricity, proper clothing or even needed medical attention.

Here are a just a few examples from the book:

  • In the book’s opening chapter, Jeannette, at three years old, is cooking hotdogs on the stove top. Her pink dress catches on fire and she suffers severe burns. Rushed to the hospital, she entertains herself by picking at dead skin, happy to stay in the hospital where she receives fresh food, enjoys a cozy, clean bed and has a TV all to herself. She’s not eager to leave.
  • At one point the family moves to Welsh, West Virginia. First staying with Rex’s mother and father, a dour, unkind couple, the family later moves to a heatless, rusted old shack where they sleep in boxes, rarely have enough to eat and are traumatized by river rats who sneak into their home.
  • Jeannette suffers a nasty gash in her leg from a rusty nail. Her mother takes a quick look and declares it nothing but a flesh wound.
  • We find out later that Rose Mary inherited Texas land from her mother worth well over a million dollars. She could have sold the land to pay for the family’s food, medical expenses, and education. She never does.

Sure, the family enjoys extreme adventures – moving constantly from city to city, state to state, and all four children learn more about physics, astronomy, art, history, geography and hard knocks from their parents and their own ingenuity than the average child.

However, it’s only through sheer luck – or a kind angel looking down on the family – that anyone in the Walls’ family survives.

SNAP to it!

Stop Now and Plan program logoWhat if, when confronted with a stressful or contentious situation, instead of instinctively fighting or fleeing, we made the decision  to SNAP – stop now and plan?

Sounds simple doesn’t it? Alas, if it were, there were be a lot less brutality and trauma in this world. SNAP was developed in the 1970s at the former Earlscourt Child and Family Centre, Toronto, Canada (now called the Child Development Institute). The program teaches children to come up with positive and proactive strategies and is aimed primarily at kids under the age of 12 who experience behaviour issues.

A more formal definition from the SNAP web site: It is a cognitive-behavioural strategy that helps children and parents regulate angry feelings by getting them to stop, think, and plan positive alternatives before they act impulsively.

More key info:

  • SNAP is available across Canada and is utilized by social workers, psychologists, parents and teachers in Australia, the U.S., Sweden and the Netherlands.
  • Its emotional regulation techniques are universal but social workers do tweak the program to accommodate clients in different regions/cultures.
  • Dr. Leena Augimeri, SNAP’s co-creator, explains that behaviour can’t be changed overnight but the techniques help clients to “slowly undo and unwind”.
  • The program is free of charge for clients who meet the SNAP criteria!

“Families are the key to success,” explains  Dr. Augimeri. However, she understands that sometimes “families are depleted and have nothing else to give...” Based on this, SNAP staff work with what/who they have in the program.

I was wowed by the awards and honours bestowed upon SNAP and its creators.

  • Just recently, Prime Minister Stephen Harper presented SNAP with the inaugural Prime Minister’s Volunteer Award. SNAP won in the category of Social Innovator in Ontario.
  • Last month, Dr. Augimeri was the recipient of the 2012 Elizabeth Manson Award for Community Service in Children’s Mental Health from the Department of Psychiatry at The Hospital for Sick Children.

If you know a child who fits the criteria outlined in the SNAP model, I urge you to read up on this fantastic program. If it’s not available in your area, try asking your local social services agency to adopt it or contact the CDI or Children’s Mental Health Ontario for more information.