Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Are you respecting others and yourself?

I think one of the biggest problems of this generation is the lack of respect people have for others — and also the lack of respect people have for themselves.

Maybe I'm biased since I live in this generation, but it seems like the most disrespectful era there has ever been. And I think people forget that those around them are human beings with emotions and fears — and not just objects to be used for their professional, sexual or any other kind of gratification.

It's a vicious cycle. There are people who don't respect others. And the people who aren't respected start to view themselves that way too — that maybe that's all they're good for.

But, the sad thing is, many people are afflicted with both. When you are disrespected, it's easy to stop respecting yourself. And when you don't respect yourself, it's difficult to respect those around you.

Here's a way to find out if you are disrespecting yourself without realizing it.

Think about the activities you are taking part in. Is it something you enjoy and want to do? Or is it something you know, in the back of your mind, you are only doing because someone else talked you into it? Or, even worse, because you're afraid someone will be mad at you if you don't agree to it?

Sometimes we're so used to letting people walk all over us that the line becomes blurred of what we actually want to do and what we're doing because we want other people to like us.

When you realize that you are doing things you don't actually want to do — stop doing it. Yeah, you may lose people in your life. But, when all is said and done, those people only thought of you for what you could do for them — and not as an actual person.

Do you let people talk down to you because either a) you think you deserve it or b) you don't want to cause waves? Try sticking up for yourself because you deserve better than that.

Now, think about the way you are treating other people. Do you stop and think how your actions affect those around you? Do you care about the people in your life? Or, when you are with them or talking to them, are you thinking about what they can do for you?

If there are people you are only friends with (or dating or having sex with) because you want them to benefit you, start thinking of them as a human being, just like you are. How would you feel if you found out one of your "friends" felt this way about you?

These are questions I've started to ask myself on a daily basis. And I think if everyone started thinking this way, it really could change the world.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Suicide from a first responder's point of view

Brandon Tubek, paramedic for Community EMS 
I have so much respect for emergency medical technicans and paramedics. They see so much on a daily basis that I cannot even imagine.

My friend Brandon Tubek, a paramedic for Community EMS, said one of the worst calls he ever has to respond to is for a possible suicide.

It's not the blood or the gruesome ways people take their lives that make suicides the worst calls  though. Brandon said it's seeing the family members' reactions as they first see the body of their son or daughter, brother or sister, husband or wife. That's the "worst thing in the world," he said.

Brandon recently responded to the suicide of a young man in the Novi area. He said he and the other responders worked for an hour, trying to revive his lifeless body.

"His parents stood by — helpless — all while knowing it was futile," said Brandon.

For anyone who thinks, "No one will miss me if I'm gone," Brandon can say firsthand that this isn't true.

If you are considering suicide — imagine being a fly on the wall as your family and friends find your body. Maybe that will make you rethink the decision.

"Most of the time, the family has no idea there was even a hint of a problem. So they feel such guilt. The faces of the parents is something that is forever burnt into my mind. It always makes me think of my mom and dad," Brandon said.

"If you know someone who seems depressed, especially around the holidays, talk to them and make sure they know that people care or get them the help they need. ... If this helps one single person, then I have done my job."

If you or someone you know is considering suicide, call Common Ground's 24/7 hotline at 800-231-1127 or the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 800-273-8255.

Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Actress Lena Dunham's battle with obsessive compulsive disorder

AP photo
I've recently started reading actress and producer Lena Dunham's autobiography "Not That Kind of Girl," which documents her struggles with obsessive compulsive disorder.

I admire how open Lena is while writing about her OCD, which she was diagnosed with at age 9.

Usually when people think of OCD, they imagine someone who is constantly washing his or her hands until they become red and chapped. But, really, OCD can be any compulsion a person may have.

Compulsion is defined as "an irresistible urge to behave in a certain way, especially against one's conscious wishes."

The Mayo Clinic characterizes OCD as "unreasonable thoughts and fears (obsessions) that lead you to do repetitive behaviors (compulsions)" to ease the stress.

Some examples of obsessions:

• Fear of germs and dirt
• Fear of shaking hands or touching others
• Wanting things orderly and neat
• Thoughts of harming yourself and/or others
• Unwanted/disturbing thoughts about sex

Some examples of compulsion:

• Washing and cleaning
• Counting
• Repeating a prayer or word over and over again
• Checking repeatedly to make sure the door is locked, the stove is turned off, etc.
• Following a strict routine
• Avoiding  situations that can trigger obsessions

Lena said that her compulsion is oversharing, and in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, she said that, as a child, she was afraid to fall asleep, which was when her parents first sent her to see a therapist, and she was also obsessed with the number eight.

"I'd count eight times…. . . . I'd look on both sides of me eight times, I'd make sure nobody was following me down the street, I touched different parts of my bed before I went to sleep," Lena said.

In an interview with NPR, Lena said, "You spend so much of your life, as a person with obsessive-compulsive disorder, a person with any kind of mental illness, trying to camouflage your habits, trying to appear normal."

She told US Magazine that mediation for about 20 minutes a day helps control her OCD.

"It gathers me up for the day and makes me feel organized, happy and capable of facing the challenges of the world, both internal and external. I feel so lucky that I found it," she said. "I found out there's a way to sort of take this gift that I've been given and give it outward."

The Mayo Clinic also advises people who have been diagnosed with OCD or who show symptoms of the disorder to see a doctor or mental health provider. The two main treatments for OCD are psychotherapy and medications and often treatment is most effective with a combination of these.

Lena is no longer ashamed of her OCD — even creating a character, which she plays on the television show "Girls," who also has the disorder. And I admire her for helping to continue the important subject of mental health and bring awareness.

Lena shows that people who have a mental disorder have nothing to be ashamed of and that it may even be a gift. For Lena, through treatment and mediation, she learned to channel her OCD into her creativity and hard work. Who knows, maybe without it, she wouldn't be where she is today.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Michael Hudson, who died from suicide 5 years ago, would have turned 25 today

One of my first published articles was for the Lake Orion Review about Michael Hudson, a 19-year-old Lake Orion High School grad who took his life in April 2009.

In August of that year, as one of my assignments for the paper, I covered a bowling fundraiser, put on by Michael's family in his memory. And, upon meeting his family, I was forever changed.

Michael's mother, Karen, and aunt, Sharon Carlile, inspired me to become a mental heath and suicide awareness activist. Without them, this blog, which you are reading right now, probably wouldn't even exist.

I have since written countless articles about young adults who have lost their lives to suicide because the Hudson family taught me that they deserve to be remembered and that their story can save the lives of others.

I must admit that before I met the Hudson family, I believed in the stereotype — that all people with mental illness were loners who wore dark makeup, were failing their classes and were easy to spot. While some people who suffer from depression can be described this way, not all are.

In an article I wrote about Michael for The Oakland Press, his mother Karen said, "People think it can't be the person who's everybody's friend, who's smiling all the time or the star athlete."

Michael was 6'7", graduated with honors, was popular, was a "stud" among the ladies and was embarking on becoming a model and actor. Not the kind of person anyone would guess was struggling with these internal demons.

I will always remember what his aunt Sharon said to me more than five years ago — "(Michael was) a kid who gave back so much to others and who just needed to keep some of it to himself."

And that's one thing I have realized — about myself and about others — that sometimes the people who seem the happiest and have the most friends are the ones who are secretly suffering the most. Sometimes, they think so much of others that they forget to think of themselves.

Today would have been Michael's 25th birthday. And his mom posted this on Facebook, which brought tears to my eyes:

"Can't believe we would have been celebrating Michael's 25th birthday today. So hard to think of what he'd be doing now, what job he'd have, if he'd be married or have any children as so many of his friends have. We miss him more than even imaginable. Yet, one thing we do know is that Michael is celebrating today and being celebrated in Heaven. Hugh's Dad and I would like to ask all of you to join us today in celebrating Michael's life. As many of you know, he loved going out for ice cream sundaes-or was that just a great way to meet girls??? Either way, you're never too grown-up for a sundae! So, get your favorite ice cream and your sundae best toppings and celebrate a memory of Michael. Better still, invite a friend or even buy them a sundae. Perhaps it's someone you can share a memory with or perhaps it's someone you know just needs a friend right now. I like to think Michael did a lot of that too. Or if that doesn't work for you, just light a candle. Just celebrate Michael with us and the love he shared with so many of us! Thanks!"

If I could say something to Michael right now, I would tell him, "I wish I could have met you. I wish I could have seen all the things life had in store for you. But I also want to thank you because, even though you are no long here, you changed my life. You made me realize what's important. And I know you will never be forgotten. Your story will touch the lives of so many people, people who you never even got to meet. And I am so lucky that I got to be part of sharing your story with others."

And I hope that, in Heaven, he can hear me.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

'Love is being yourself'

I never truly knew what being "in love" was.

Until now -- when, oddly enough, for the first time in my life, I'm falling out of love.

Okay, don't make fun of me, but I'm going to use a movie quote to describe what I have realized that love is (actually, two movie quotes).

The first is from the movie "What's Your Number," when Anna Faris' character says, "Being in love means being yourself." 

The second is from "The Wedding Singer," when Ellen Albertini Dow, who plays Adam Sandler's grandma, says, "You'll know when you meet the right girl because it's not how you feel about her, it's how she makes you feel about yourself."

I had watched both of these movies dozens of times and never understood these quotes. "Isn't loving someone completely about the other person? How does it have anything to do with how you feel about yourself?"

Now, I understand how wrong I was. Because you could think your significant other is a god among men. But if you don't feel good about yourself when you're with him or her, it's never going to work out.

If you're in a relationship, and you constantly feel like you're pretending to be someone else, then, please, end it right now. In my last relationship, I was not myself at all. I would have panic attacks at least once a week, when before, I would only get them, at the most, once every six months. I had a very short temper when, before, it was almost impossible to get me mad. I doubted everything, especially myself, when I was with him. And the two most used words in my vocabulary at that time were, "I'm sorry."

For people who know me, you know that this is not the person I am. At least not when I'm single.

It doesn't mean that it's the other person's fault that you feel this way about yourself. And it's not your fault either. No, you're not crazy. No, this isn't who you really are. It just means this person isn't "the one."

For the first time, I realize that, when I do find "the one," I will feel confident. I will be proud of the person I am, and I will know that I am exactly who I'm supposed to be.

I know it won't be perfect. When I do find true love, there will be days where I feel down. There will be days when I will cry. And on those days, I'll know it's okay to let it out. I won't be ashamed of my tears. I won't try to hide it. Because I'll know that's just another part of who I am, and that it's okay.

Never again will I ever settle for anything less.

And you shouldn't either.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Just because a person is different, doesn't mean he or she is a 'freak'

"American Horror Story" - FX
From the 16th century until the 1950s, people with unusual physical characteristics agreed to be part of "freak shows" — shuttled from city to city as they were gawked at by audience members.

But, according to History Magazine, many of the people who worked in these sideshows did not feel exploited. Instead, they felt famous and, oftentimes, became richer than those who came to see them.

According to the article, "Both showmen and performers, alike, argued that it was better if (they) were in public, displaying their abnormalities for profit, rather than struggling to live among everyday people without a job and in complete isolation."

But, by the 1950s, freak shows almost complete disappeared.

"In the early years of the 20th century, a rise in disability rights inspired people to turn against sideshows and what they deemed as exploitation parading as entertainment," the article in History Magazine reports.

This serves as the backdrop for "American Horror Story: Freak Show," which premieres on Oct. 8 on FX. The show will be set in 1952 Florida and follows one of the last remaining freak shows in business.

According to a review of this season by Merrill Barr of Forbes Magazine, the characters in this season "take it upon themselves to integrate into everyday life in order to be seen not as monsters, but as the people they truly are."

And I couldn't help but wonder — are people with disabilities and deformities treated better or worse nowadays than they used to be? Are they viewed as monsters...or as the human beings they are?

In the long run, I am honestly not sure if things are better now or not. According to statistics, more than 65 percent of adults with disabilities are unemployed and, of those working, almost one-third earn an income below the poverty level.

And of course there still is, just as there always has been, cruel people who judge others based solely on their appearances.

For instance, until she had surgery two years ago, Stefanie Grant, 25, was called a "freak" by her peers because of her severe underbite.

 "It was really hard to deal with, especially as a teenager, I felt like people didn’t see the real me, they just saw my face," said Grant. "I was called a freak and long face. It was awful."

Others try to make the best out of their disabilities, and, similar to the shows all those years ago, they decide to shine a light on their diseases, instead of hiding and being ashamed of it.

Actor RJ Mitte, who has cerebral palsy, is known for playing Walter Jr. on the television show "Breaking Bad," a character who also had CP. In a recent interview with the Huffington Post, Mitte said he was bullied before reaching celebrity status

"I had kids that would push me and shove me. I had my hand broken," he said.

I wish that media would focus more on people with disabilities. There is more and more healthy representations in movies and television shows of people of different races and sexual orientations, but as the Huffington Post reports, "The same coverage hasn't been extended to those with disabilities."

Mitte said, "I try to bring awareness, not just to CP but to all disabilities in the sense that it's knowledge. My disability gave me so much knowledge that I was able to take into 'Breaking Bad' and to grow and to learn. You always have to bring in awareness because this is real. This isn't something that people are like, 'Oh yeah, that CP thing...' People live with this and people should see it because it is real. This is our world."

And I'm hoping that, besides just the expected scares and thrills inflicted on its audience members, that this season of "American Horror Story" will raise some awareness as well for people who actually have to deal with disabilities like this on a daily basis. Although the show is titled "Freak Show," I hope it shows that people with disabilities are anything but freaks. They are human beings, just like the rest of us.

Monday, September 29, 2014

People are not meant to go through life alone

As a psychology minor in college, one of the first studies we learned about in class was Harry Harlow's famous monkey experiment in the late 1950s.

Harlow wanted to prove wrong a previous theory that the only connection between mother and child is for food and safety. And so deprived baby monkeys were given a choice — to hang on to a fake monkey, made of soft terry cloth, or one made of wire with a baby bottle attached to it. And although it didn't have any food, the baby monkeys still spent significantly more time with the cuddly "mother" than the wire one.

Harlow concluded, "These data make it obvious that contact comfort is a variable of overwhelming importance in the development of affectional response, whereas lactation is a variable of negligible importance."

I am sharing this because I think, for all mammals, including humans, it's in our basic DNA to need others. No matter how independent and strong-willed you may be, I can guarantee that every once in a while, you get an unexplainable longing just to be held, comforted and told, "Everything is going to be alright."

And I don't think seeking the comfort of others makes you, in any way, weak. The world may tell you, "Toughen up" and "The only person you need is yourself," but we were meant to live in a community. Like the lyrics to the 1964 song "People," sung by Barbra Streisand, "People, people who need people are the luckiest people in the world."

I have always believed that the ability to swallow your pride and know when you do need help makes a person strong — not weak. It is unhealthy to be emotionally cut off from other people.

I know — trust me I know — that it is hard to let others into your life for fear that they will hurt you. Because yes, when you do seek the help of others, there is a chance you will be let down because people are not perfect. But that doesn't mean you should just give up on people either.

Last month, I dealt with a bout of depression. And thanks to the help of my family, my friends and a Common Ground volunteer, I have come out on the other side. Without them, I would probably still be in that dark hole, not wanting to get out of bed in the morning. But they showed me that sometimes, the love and support of others can cure you — or at least make life not feel so hopeless. And it that's not enough proof that we need other people, then I don't know what is.

If you need someone to talk to, call Common Ground's 24/7 support line at 1-800-231-1127. They can refer you to a psychiatrist or a counselor if you need professional help.