Archive for May, 2007

24/Idol Thoughts

May 24, 2007 1 comment

I have purposely tried not to write about 24 or American Idol much because so many other people do. With this week being the season finale for both shows I felt it appropriate to finally have my say.

I must admit that this was a disappointing season overall. The plot was very goofy and the ending was less than creative. Jack Bauer has been in so many situations that it is really difficult to find a new storyline that is believeable and unpredictable. I am going to send in a script for next season. Jack Bauer is going to have 24 hours to save the world from aliens. He will team up with Superman, Captain Kirk, and E.T. to bring peace to our universe. Let’s see FOX top that!

American Idol
I did not start watching this season until the top 10 began performing. It was getting a bit old seeing them make fun of so many people. I was not really attached to any performer until about week 8. The talent was great overall. Here are 8 thoughts about this past season.
1) Haley needed more clothes!
2) Idol needed Sanjaya more than he needed them.
3) Phil Stacey was a great singer, but did not seem to “fit” any particular music style.
4) There is much more we will hear from Lakisha Jones. “You go girl!”
5) Melinda made Nashville proud. She was humble, dressed modestly, killer voice and did not
give up her morals for fame. She will remembered with such greats as Tina Turner and
Gladys Knight.
6) The two hour finale went long and my DVR did not get the results. How disappointing!
7) Blake Lewis and Doug E. Fresh: A match made in beat boxing heaven.
8) Jordin deserved to win (only because of the absence of Melinda). Many great things will
come from this talented young lady.
Ok so enough of my ranting about these shows. What did you think?
Categories: 24, american idol

Dealing with Grief

In my work as a mental health therapist, I have seen many clients dealing with losses of all kinds—loss of loved ones through death and divorce, for instance. These experiences are difficult for everyone.

Stages of Recovery from Loss
There are some predictable stages that most people pass through after losing something or someone important. In her work on death and dying, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross outlined five stages of grieving.

Shock and Denial: The first reaction to loss is often the inability to feel anything. This may include feeling numb, weak, overwhelmed, anxious, not yourself, or withdrawn.

Anger: Blaming yourself or others for the loss.

Bargaining: “If you’ll just let him live, I’ll promise to go to church every Sunday for the rest of my life.”

Depression: Feeling deep sadness, disturbed sleep and eating patterns, thoughts of suicide, excessive crying.

Acceptance: Beginning to look for the lessons of the experience.

Kübler-Ross said that the grieving process involves experiencing all five stages, although not always in this order. She also said that people often cycle back and forth through a number of the stages before coming to the stage of acceptance.

Kinds of Losses
Some examples of significant losses are:
• Loss of a person through death
• Divorce
• Job loss
• Loss of your good health when you are diagnosed with a disease
• Loss of a body part through accident or surgery
• Loss of an ability, such as blindness
• Loss of a friend who has moved
• Loss of everything familiar when you move away

Each kind of loss affects each person in a different way, but the recovery process usually follows Kübler-Ross’s five stages.

Recovering from Loss: Some Key Points
1. You are responsible for your own grief process. No one can tell you how to grieve, and no one will do your grieving for you. It is hard work and you must manage the process by yourself.

2. The grief process has a purpose. It is to help you learn to accept the reality of the loss and to learn from the experience.

3. Remind yourself that your grief will end. You will not feel like this forever. You will heal.

4. Take care of your health. Grief is extremely stressful, and it requires energy to manage the stress.

5. Be careful with food and drink. While it may be tempting to numb the pain with food and drink, this can lead to the additional problems of alcohol dependence and overweight. Also, numbing the pain means you are prolonging denial. This will make your grieving process longer.

6. Talk about the person who is no longer in your life. People sometimes avoid talking about the loss as a denial mechanism. However, this prolongs denial and the grieving process.

7. Take time to be alone. In the days and weeks following the loss of a loved one, there is often a flurry of activity with many visitors and phone calls. Added to the stress of your loss, this can be completely exhausting. People will understand if you don’t answer the phone for an afternoon or go to your room and close the door for a while.

8. Maintain a normal routine if you can. You have enough changes in your life right now. Try to get up in the morning, go to bed at night, and take your meals at the same times you usually do.

9. Ask for help. You will need it. If you don’t want to be alone, or if you want someone to take you somewhere, it is okay to ask. People don’t expect you to be self-sufficient right now.

10. Let people help you. People want to help because it gives them a way to express their feelings. Staying connected with people is especially important now, and accepting help is a way of staying connected.

11. Keep a journal of your feelings and experiences during the grief process. Writing about your feelings helps you express them, rather than keeping them inside. It also gives you something to remember and review in the future, which you will appreciate. Writing about your feelings helps you express them, rather than keeping them inside.

How to Help Someone Who Is Grieving
1. Don’t try to get them to feel or be anything but what they are.
2. Don’t reward them for acting cheerful or “like your old self.” This teaches them to suppress their feelings around you.
3. Don’t avoid them. They need your support.
4. Let them tell about the loss again and again, if they need to.
5. Recognize that unexpected, perhaps inappropriate behavior is part of the grieving process. It means the bereaved person is moving forward.

I pray that these pointers will help you or someone you care about go through the grieving process in a healthy manner.

Categories: grief, mental health

I’ll Be Back

May 22, 2007 1 comment

To my two dedicated readers:
Please do not give up on me yet. Life with two kids has kept me busy lately. I will return on Wednesday with a new round of blog information for your reading pleasure. Have a blessed day.
Categories: weird

Identity Theft

A few weeks ago I preached a sermon on identity theft. Its purpose was to help us realize that Satan’s job is to steal the identity that we have been given by Christ. I told a story about how we had $2000 stolen from us back in 1999 due to identity theft. Well lightning does strike in the same place twice.
I was at the grocery store on Tuesday attempting to purchase a few snacks for the night. My total came to $7.38. My debit card was immeadiately rejected. I thought it was just a glitch so I swiped it about 10 more times (Yes I am persistent). Well I returned home to call my bank and Dana tells me that the bank had called while I was gone. This was not a good sign. The bank asked me where I had been today and what I bought. I went through my day and they determined that it was not me who spent several hundred dollars in Mexico on clothing that day. Since my checking and short term savings account are linked together I was wiped clean. I was broke and did not even get a chance to enjoy it.
I do my fair share of online shopping so I knew that this was always a possibility. My advice to all of you is to be very careful online and only purchase items from well known internet vendors. This will not totally protect you, but it is a good place to start.
Categories: weird

Recognizing and Dealing with Depression (Part 2)

This is the second of a two-part series on depression. In this blog, I will describe how depression is treated and prevented. If you or someone close to you suffers from depression, it is important to educate yourself about it and seek treatment from qualified mental health professionals.

There are three basic ways to treat depression: psychotherapy, self-help, and medication. Many people respond best to a combination of two or more methods.

1. Psychotherapy: Exploring one’s beliefs and ways of thinking, and learning new ways of
thinking and behaving, with the guidance of a professional.
2. Self-help: Exploring one’s beliefs and ways of thinking on one’s own.
3. Medication: Altering one’s brain chemistry by taking antidepressant medication.

There are four types of antidepressant medication available today:

• Tricyclic antidepressants (TCAs)
• Monoamine oxidase inhibitors (MAOIs)
• Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs)
• Structurally unrelated compounds

The TCAs and MAOIs have been used for decades. The SSRIs (such as Prozac) and structurally unrelated compounds are newer and are being prescribed more and more frequently. They have fewer and less pronounced side effects than the TCAs and MAOIs.

Treatment without Medicine

One of the leading methods for treating depression is cognitive therapy. Cognitive therapists help depressed clients feel better by identifying how faulty ways of thinking are making him or her feel bad. The client analyzes his or her thoughts and beliefs, and learns to substitute more healthy ways of thinking and believing.
Many mental health professionals believe that the ideal treatment of clinical depression is medication in conjunction with psychotherapy.

Prevention of Depression

Depression can often be prevented. It is especially important to take preventive action if you are aware that you have predisposing factors such as those mentioned in the last blog.

1. Identify your risk factors and be aware of where you are vulnerable. Each of us has unique
risk factors, such as things we were taught in our families of origin, values we have learned,
and the presence or absence of a family history of depression. Anything that has been
learned can be unlearned and replaced with something healthier.
2. Learn to manage stress. You can learn proven techniques for calming and relaxing
yourself. Consider taking a stress management class or buying a set of relaxation tapes.
3. Learn problem-solving skills. Many people who develop depression never learned
problem-solving skills. They need to develop the ability to see problems from many
viewpoints and to look for a variety of solutions.
4. Learn self-acceptance. Instead of rejecting the parts of yourself you don’t like, learn to
manage them more productively.
5. Become aware of selective perception. Observe how you generate ideas and opinions
about people and events. Remember that these are just your views, not necessarily
objective facts.
6. Focus on the future, not the past. Depressed people tend to be focused on the past. People
who set goals and focus on the future tend to be more positive about life.
7. Develop a sense of purpose. Many depressed people lack a sense of purpose or meaning.
This means they have no goals and nothing in the future drawing them forward. To prevent
depression, develop your sense of purpose and meaning.
8. Strengthen your emotional boundaries and set limits. Boundaries define your role in a
social situation. They determine how you will or won’t behave in a given situation. Having
clear, strong boundaries is empowering, while boundary violations make you feel victimized
and helpless. Setting limits means having and enforcing rules for the behaviors you expect
in a relationship.
9. Build positive and healthy relationships. Think about what you need from others in
relationships. Learn to read people and trust your instincts about which people are good for
10. Avoid isolation. Talk to others about what’s going on with you. If you keep your thoughts to
yourself, you may be unaware that your thoughts are distorted. If you share them with
another person, you can become more objective. There is power in numbers.

Signs That Professional Therapy Is Needed

1. Thinking about death or suicide. This is always dangerous and you should see a
professional therapist immediately.
2. When symptoms of depression continue for a long time, you may need professional help.
Acute responses to events are normal, but they should not last beyond a reasonable time.
3. Your ability to function is impaired by your depression. Seek help before your life situation
deteriorates to a serious level.
4. You have become so isolated that you have no one with whom to test reality. Seek
someone out to share your thoughts and feelings with.
5. Depressive symptoms have become severe.

I hope these thoughts give you a starting point to become well and healthy. God bless.

Categories: depression, mental health

Recognizing and Dealing with Depression (Part 1)

This is the first of a two-part series on depression. In this issue, I will explore what depression is and what causes it. In the next issue, I will describe how depression is treated and prevented. If you or someone close to you suffers from depression, it is important to educate yourself about it and seek treatment from qualified mental health professionals.

Depression is a serious illness, not a harmless part of life. It is a complex disorder with a variety of causes. It is never caused by just one thing. It may be the result of a mix of factors, including genetic, chemical, physical, and sociological. It is also influenced by behavior patterns learned in the family and by cognitive distortions.

Depression affects millions of people in this country. It is always troubling, and for some people it can be disabling. Depression is more than just sadness or “the blues.” It can have an impact on nearly every aspect of a person’s life. People who suffer from depression may experience despair and worthlessness, and this can have an enormous impact on both personal and professional relationships. In this newsletter, I will describe many of the factors that may cause depression, and I will explore strategies for preventing it.

Depression Is Pervasive

When a person suffers from depression, it can affect every part of his or her life, including one’s physical body, one’s behavior, thought processes, mood, ability to relate to others, and general lifestyle.

Symptoms of Depression

People who are diagnosed with clinical depression have a combination of symptoms from the following list:

• Feelings of hopelessness, even when there is reason to be hopeful
• Fatigue or low energy
• Much less interest or pleasure in most regular activities
• Low self-esteem
• Feeling worthless
• Excessive or inappropriate guilt
• Lessened ability to think or concentrate
• Indecisiveness
• Thinking distorted thoughts; having an unrealistic view of life
• Weight loss or gain without dieting
• Change in appetite
• Change in sleeping patterns
• Recurrent thoughts of death
• Suicidal thoughts
• A specific plan for committing suicide
• A suicide attempt
• Feelings of restlessness or being slowed down

When a person is suffering from depression, these symptoms cause significant distress or impairment in social, occupational, or other important areas of functioning. This means that the person’s family and social relationships, as well as work life, are impaired.
When a person is suffering from depression, symptoms such as these are not the result of a chronic psychotic disorder, substance abuse, general medical condition, or bereavement.

Grief, Sadness, and Depression

Depression may include feelings of sadness, but it is not the same as sadness. Depression lasts much longer than sadness. While depression involves a loss of self-esteem, grief, disappointment and sadness do not. People who are depressed function less productively. People who are sad or disappointed continue to function.

Depression and Socioeconomic Factors

Depression does not seem to be related to ethnicity, education, income, or marital status. It strikes slightly more women than men. Some researchers believe that depression strikes more often in women who have a history of emotional and sexual abuse, economic deprivation, or are dependent on others. There seems to be a genetic link; depression is more common among parents, children, and siblings of people who are diagnosed with depression. The average age at the onset of a depressive episode is the mid-20s. People born more recently are being diagnosed at a younger age.

Physical Causes

Many physicians believe that depression results from a chemical imbalance in the brain. They often prescribe antidepressant medication, and many people find relief as a result. However, there is no reliable test to identify such a chemical imbalance. It is unknown whether life experiences cause mood changes, which create changes in brain chemistry, or whether it works in reverse.

Depression may be associated with physical events such as other diseases, physical trauma, and hormonal changes. A person who is depressed should always have a physical examination as part of the assessment process to determine the role of physical causes.

Signs That Professional Treatment Is Needed

If you or someone you know is depressed and exhibits any of the following signs, it is extremely important to seek the assistance of a medical or mental health professional.

1. Thinking about death or suicide. This is always dangerous and you should see a
professional therapist immediately.
2. When symptoms of depression continue for a long time, you may need professional help.
Acute responses to events are normal, but they should not last beyond a reasonable time.
3. Your ability to function is impaired by your depression. Seek help before your life situation
deteriorates to a serious level.
4. You have become so isolated that you have no one with whom to check reality. Seek out
someone to share your thoughts and feelings with.
5. Depressive symptoms have become severe.

In my next blog, I will discuss the treatment and prevention of depression.

Categories: depression, mental health

On The Other Side of the Tracks

What would you do if you woke up one day to the following situation? You do not have your identification, car, job, or cell phone. The only thing you have on you is $3. You need to get into a court ordered detox program because of your alcoholism and fourth DUI. You have two kids at home who need someone to watch them while you are gone for treatment. You only have a few hours to get this process started and you must still eat today.

I am currently a member of the 2007 Leadership Lebanon Valley Class. This is a group of about 36 individuals throughout the Lebanon Valley. We are a mixture of business and community members who are learning how to become better leaders. We meet once monthly to discuss the happenings of our community and to learn how we can take a leadership role in seeing them improve. The above paragraph is the situation that I faced a few weeks ago.

It was a comfort to know that I only had to endure that situation for four hours. It was not comfortable having to ask for help from others. My pride kept me from this on several occassions. This experiment helped me to see the plight of the some 43 million working poor in our country. Sometimes it is easier to call someone lazy or unmotivated rather than try to see life from their point of view. I hope we can all take the time to consider those in our community who are struggling and do something about it.

Categories: mission