Month: February 2014

Alcoholic Transformations

One of my favorite people in the world is my grandfather. If you imagine a man, tall and slim, with thinning hair and unfashionable glasses, you’ll have my grandpa. He married very young—as most people during his time did—and has had over 13 children (I don’t give a specific amount because many have died, and many have been miscarriages) with my grandmother. He’s very old-fashioned, and extremely romantic. Because he lives in the Middle East, and I live in America, I unfortunately rarely get to see him, maybe once every 2 years. But the times when I do see him are an incredible treat.

My grandpa is one of the most beautiful people you’ll ever meet. For example, instead of telling me “good morning,” he’ll recite me a small poem. Instead of giving me a simple “hello,” he’ll tell me that the beauty of my face is one of the most refreshing he’s ever seen. Waking up to compliments is one of the most wonderful feelings in the world. When I’m having a bad day, he never ceases to make it better.

Going out with him is always a pleasure. He’s always so easy-going and willing to do anything. A camera always in hand, my grandpa jumps at the mere thought of creating more memories, of capturing every possible moment. He’ll never give up an opportunity to make a new memory. “Life is short,” he says, “and you’re too beautiful to not capture every perfect moment on camera.”

He and my grandma married out of love. My grandpa says that as soon as he saw my grandma, he knew she was the one. My father was their first child. My grandpa didn’t dote on him as much as my grandma would have liked, but my dad was a boy, and my grandpa was old-fashioned enough where boys didn’t need to have as much love as girls. He didn’t hate my dad—absolutely not. He just wasn’t as soft on him as he was with his daughters.

I said before that my grandpa is one of my favorite people in the entire world. But he’s also one of the ones I hate the most. Somewhere around his 5th child, he developed a liking for alcohol. And when he takes a sip of any of his special beverages, I watch him transform from one of the most poetic people in my life to one of the most blindingly cruel people. His kind eyes disappear, leaving only hatred in their place. His face becomes cold and expressionless, his mouth an endless grimace. One of the hardest things I’ve ever experienced in my life is seeing something once so beautiful and perfect morph into something ugly and hideous.

His sarcastically-said remarks start, usually aimed at my grandma first: Amalia, you know you’re a shitty wife? You know you’re really stupid? You know you deserve nothing? He hits her once. Gives her another insult. Hits her again. Insults her again. Then pushes her. Then kicks her. Then attacks her all at once until she’s on the floor, curled up in a ball and trying not to whimper as the endless rounds come and go, one by one. He hits her and kicks her and insults her and throws things at her. Even when unprovoked. My grandma can do nothing. She doesn’t know how to fight back, how to stop him, how to calm him down. She just lays on the floor, surviving, as her kids watch their father hit her again and again.

Sometimes my father and his siblings were forced to stay and watch, other times they try to run away to safety before he hits them, too. With so many kids trying to scurry out of the room, the exits get crowded and blocked, and sometimes my grandpa can catch one of his children before they are able to escape. My father told me that as they all would run away, they would all pray it wouldn’t be them he caught. Their need to escape became almost wild and savage, fighting and pushing one another to reach safety. But my grandpa always caught someone.

His alcoholism continued on for years and years, and my father tells me his memories of the good times before my grandpa drank are almost wiped away completely from those years of painful memories to replace them.

No one really knows why my grandpa started drinking—we’re not even sure he knows himself. But for years on end, there was no visible sign of my old grandpa anywhere. Even after my father married, even after my brother and I were born, my grandpa still drank. He still hit my grandma, and he still abused the children that were still too young to move out.

For some reason, my father never cut my grandpa out of our lives. I think he thought my grandpa would change, that he would stop drinking and that everything would get better.

Well he was right.

My grandpa and I have a connection—we always have. I’ve always been able to click with him in ways I couldn’t click with anyone. He would cheer me up when I was upset and I would give him the endless love only a child could muster. So when I was about 7 years old, I went to my grandpa and I told him I didn’t like how he hit my grandma. I told him I didn’t like how he hit anyone. I didn’t want him to. Please stop.

And he hasn’t taken another drink since.

I don’t know what made him stop exactly. I’m not sure if he had been thinking about it already, but just couldn’t find the motivation to do it. I don’t know if it’s because he really treasured my opinion that much. But what I do know is that he listened, that he cared. That he actually loved his granddaughter enough to not take another drink again for her sake.

I’m not trying to sugarcoat it; it wasn’t easy to stop, and he still had a lot of problems trying to apologize and rebuild all his relationships back. My grandpa must be one lucky man, though, because all of his children, all of his grandchildren, his wife, his in-laws—everyone—willingly forgave him and welcomed him into their lives like they had never cut him out in the first place.

My grandpa loves me. This is something I’ll never doubt. And I love my grandpa, I always have. But I also hate him. I hate a lot, for a lot of things. I hate him because of what he did to my grandmother, because of what he did to my father. The guilt I felt while watching my grandma get beat down was so crippling, I couldn’t imagine my father having to watch it every day of his life growing up. I couldn’t imagine watching my own father abuse my mother till she broke down. I couldn’t imagine having to grow up, never knowing whether my mom will die today, whether a sibling will die, or if it will be my fault. And I hate him for giving me the misfortunate of seeing a loved one endure so much pain.

My grandpa is perfect. He’s old and poetic, intelligent and thoughtful. But when he drinks, he turns into something else, something different. He’s not my grandpa anymore; he’s only an ugly imitation of himself. And this is something I’ll always have to see when I look at him.

But memories can be forgiven, if the person is willing to change, and my grandpa put every effort he had into changing. And I forgive him.

I said it before and I’ll say it again: my grandfather is one of my favorite people in the entire world. I love him, and I am extremely close to him. Despite the pain and abuse, I can’t imagine a world without him.

January 29, 2014

Blog pic

From left: My dad, my grandpa, my grandma, my uncle.

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What Motivates Us?

“What a man can be, he must be. This need we call self-actualization.” – Abraham Maslow

I wanted to find something more positive to psychology than psychopathology. I’ve read blogs about depression, schizophrenia, and child abuse. There are so much negative aspects to psychology that people focus on currently. The emphasis of psychology has a lot of to do with crisis, trauma, and depression. I started thinking of what drives people to do what they do? How are people motivated? How do we find our true potential in life? How do these ambitions affect us?

I found the study of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. Abraham Harold Maslow was an American psychologist that had the same questions as I do. He trusted that people have a set of motivation systems unrelated to rewards or unconscious desires.

In 1943, Maslow stated that individuals are motivated to achieve certain needs. When one need is fulfilled, people seek to fulfill the next one and then the next one. Need in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary states that a need is which someone or something must do or have something.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs is arranged in a hierarchy of five stages of needs that are modeled on a pyramid.

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The original hierarchy of needs model

  1. Biological and Physiological needs – air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, etc.
  2. Safety needs – protection from elements, security, order, law, limits, stability, freedom from fear, etc.
  3. Social Needs – belongingness, affection and love, – from work group, family, friends, romantic relationships, etc.
  4. Esteem needs – achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, self-respect, respect from others, etc.
  5. Self-Actualization needs – realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.

Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs states that we must satisfy each need in all stages in order to reach our higher potential or our self-actualization. Only when the lower needs are satisfied, then we are motivated to do are. For example, in order for me to be truly motivated and study a test, all of my physical desires such as hunger and sleep deprivation must be fulfilled. I would need to feel secure and comfortable, and make sure my social relationships are virtuous such as I would feel distracted if I were in an argument with my boyfriend. Lastly, I would need to feel good about myself, or respect myself to a level that will make me feel like I could nail that test.

The expanded hierarchy of needs

The crossed out levels are the additional stages that were later discovered.

  1. Biological and Physiological needs – air, food, drink, shelter, warmth, sex, sleep, etc.
  2. Safety needs – protection from elements, security, order, law, limits, stability, etc.
  3. Social Needs – Belongingness and Love, – work group, family, affection, relationships, etc.
  4. Esteem needs – self-esteem, achievement, mastery, independence, status, dominance, prestige, managerial responsibility, etc.
  5. Cognitive needs – knowledge, meaning, etc.
  6. Aesthetic needs – appreciation and search for beauty, balance, form, etc.
  7. Self-Actualization needs – realizing personal potential, self-fulfillment, seeking personal growth and peak experiences.
  8. Transcendence needs – helping others to achieve self-actualization.

Here is video that explains more about the extension if interested. It explains more about cognitive needs, aesthetic needs, and transcendence needs.

Maslow’s hierarchy of needs model was extended in the 1970’s. Although he reviewed those certain aspects, he did not include ‘Cognitive’, ‘Aesthetic’, and Transcendence’ as stages in his own expression of Hierarchy of Needs.

Psychopathology is the scientific study of mental disorders, which was very popular in the 40s’. In 1943, Maslow was more fascinated in human potential, and how we accomplish that potential.

Self-Actualization

Abraham Maslow discovered the following:

  • Human motivation is based on people wanting fulfillment and change through person growth.
  • Self-actualized people are those who were fulfilled and doing all they were capable of.
  • Growth of self-actualization is the need for personal growth and discovery that is present throughout a person’s life.
  • Self-actualization could be measured through the concept of peak experiences. This could only happen if a person experiences the world for what it is and feel nothing but joy.

He stated the following:

“It refers to the person’s desire for self-fulfillment, namely, to the tendency for him to become actualized in what he is potentially.

The specific form that these needs will take will of course vary greatly from person to person. In one individual it may take the form of the desire to be an ideal mother, in another it may be expressed athletically, and in still another it may be expressed in painting pictures or in inventions” –Maslow, 1943

Self-Actualized People

Maslow studied 18 people he considered to be self-actualized, including Abraham Lincoln, Albert Einstein, Thomas Jefferson, William James, Aldous Huxley, Gandhi, and Beethoven.

Characteristics of Self-Actualized People

  • keen sense of reality, aware of real situations, and objective judgment rather than subjective
  • see problems in terms of challenges and situations requiring solutions, rather than see problems as personal complaints or excuses
  • need for privacy and comfortable being alone
  • independent, and not reliant on culture and environment to form opinions and views
  • non-conformist
  • democratic, fair and non-discriminating
  • socially compassionate
  • accepting others as they are and not trying to change people
  • comfortable with oneself, despite any unconventional tendencies
  • a few close intimate friends rather than many surface relationships
  • sense of humor directed at oneself or the human condition, rather than at the expense of others
  • spontaneous and natural
  • true to oneself, rather than being how others want
  • excited and interested in everything, even ordinary things
  • creative, inventive and original
  • seek peak experiences that leave a lasting impression

Are You Self-Actualized Or Know Someone Who Is?

Of course my natural response is that I guess not all my needs are satisfied because I do NOT feel self-actualized. On the other hand, researching and writing this entire post definitely reminded me of one of my best friends, Estevan Munoz. I have known him for about 6 years now, and he is unquestionably the motivated person I know. He’s very kind and funny, and I’ve rarely seen him angry.

First meeting him, you’d know his passion is for movies. I could bring up a movie and he would go off for hours about his opinion on it. He doesn’t just watch movies; he studies them as for own personal satisfaction. He knows every actor, actress, and director out there and easily remembers all of their names.

A few months ago, Estevan told me that he realized his true potential in life was to become a director, and I have done nothing but support him. I have been in one of his films called I Have Aids.

After first reading all of this information I instantly texted Estevan saying that he reminds me of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. He texted me back later and said that someone already told him that about a month ago! What?! NUTS! He said it’s the nicest compliment he’s ever heard. He is a great guy and a great movie director. To me, he’s met all of his motivational needs and is ready to do anything he sets his mind to. Looking back, he fits every single characteristic of self-actualization especially the last one, seek peak experiences that leave a lasting impression. He is leaving to Portland to make something of himself because he “has not experienced enough”.

I find this topic to show such a brighter side to psychology, rather than disorders and addiction. It is encouraging to know about motivation and the different aspects to it. I will think of self-actualization when I meet some that seems over the top and galvanized and maybe even compliment them about it. Everyday I now always try to keep my motivational needs balanced and maybe one day I will feel self-actualized.

Here is a link if anybody is interested in the film I was in: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JhO5sneqcG0

 

New Seed and Poison Water

The Scenario

It was a stormy night where Holly stayed indoors to play. While observing her, she had so much passion and joy. But does this one sided view tell the story of her whole youth period?

(Please watch the video. It is only a minute and a half, but has a very important topic to cover for the rest of this post)

“Oh honey, how was work?” Holly plays with her dolls.

“Good.”

“What would you like for dinner?”

*Snap*

As Holly played with her dolls, one of them lost an arm. Holly called and went to her mother with the doll and broken arm piece in hand. The mother was on the phone with her “honey” having a pleasant conversation as suggested by her laughter. Holly successfully obtained her mother’s attention. Mom puts down the phone and turns to Holly abruptly.

“What?” The mother said with annoyance.

Can you fix this for me?” Holly raises her toys.

The mother looked at the toy, then at Holly with seemingly, impending indignation. She grabs the doll and throws it down. Holly is scared, signaling that this wasn’t the first time that-

“Now listen here you ungrateful loving brat!” Mom raises her voice. “You’re going to show your loving mother some little respect!” She pushes Holly. “Let’s go!” She immediately grips Holly and drags her outside, slamming the door of the front entrance of the house to leave her daughter in the rain after yelling more.

“I didn’t do anything Mom.” Holly softly whispers looking down and covering herself from the cold.

As time shifts into the future at an unknown period, we hear a loud bang on the door in front of a now grown-up Holly. Holly appears to have locked herself into a secular room away from her mother who repeatedly bangs on the door violently.

“Get outta there, I’m going to beat the crap!” Explicitly yelled mom, “Get outta there you stupid whore!”

“Let me alone!” Holly shouts back. “I can’t take this anymore!”

As mom continues to throw offensive words at her daughter, grown-up Holly opens and leaves through the window behind her. Mom continues to throw explicit words now echoing in the background. The video concludes with Holly walking away from that terrible place and fading to black.

“How long will this go on without your help?” Followed by, “National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-CHILD”

It was hard…hard for me to watch this video the first time around. Friends and I have remembered being toss out of the house like Holly by relatives.

Why was this video created and what did I choose to show it? It’s because it’s an issue that is not always obvious and requires a careful awareness.

What they don’t tell us

Child abuse should be brought to attention and its consequences directly relate with fellow classmate, Dreanna’s post about “child rage,” Destruction of the Mind, Body, and Soul. How could parents treat their children like this? They wouldn’t harm their pet(s) or friends, but would do this to a child who traditionally should be the figure closer to the parent than a friend?

The effects of child abuse shouldn’t be ignored. The article, provides additional in depth overview of the issue. Child abuse has been on the rise during recent years. They come in different manifestations that are mutating even today.

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This graph was taken from a 2012 statistics

-Child abuse occurs every ten seconds (In the nation only)

-Child abuse can occur regardless of socioeconomic, ethnics, culture or education status

-Costs of child abuse have range up to $124 billion in 2008.

-Maltreatment was not accurately displayed in this investigation, but 50-60% of child abuse have led to death.

When a parent physically attacks a child, that child learns that aggression is appropriate for handling conflicts and performs it when away from parents, say at school. In addition, children under age 4 die from abuse in 70% cases.

Some say it isn’t abuse unless violence is involved. This is not really true as emotion can be just as damaging as physical contact (Correlating to how cyberbullying seems more impacting than traditional bully). The child can be given the “silent treatment,” being ignored as punishment. Yelling, constant belittling, shaming and humiliating are another set of extreme cases. And because the parent is supposingly the main source of protection and caregiver, losing this essential bond may cause the child to not know what a healthy relationship is. She may end up in poor relationships imaginable during her journey through school, workplace and marriage.

Perhaps another form of this hidden, dark world is neglecting. Some parents see that their responsibility is to only give food and nothing else to the child. This is not enough. Child neglect occurs when a child does not have sufficient food, clothing, hygiene or supervision. Besides homeostasis, the parent may not do anything or stick to emotional abuse should the child develop diseases, both physically and mentally. This includes depression or an injury. The parents’ judgmental ability may, of course, be affected by use of alcohol or other mental conditions. But in the end, the child suffers.

Substance abuse may even become more of a problem. Returning to the graph shown above, two-thirds of abused individuals have reported being abused. In fact, a third of abused victims will be more likely to use substance before their 18th birthday.

In the long run, as children mature, just like Grown-up Holly in the video, they probably won’t show signs of any abuse (This wasn’t covered in the video) as they have already adapted for the real world. Still, victims are still at risk of continuing this terrible cycle. About 30% of abused children can later abuse their own children. It is true that abused victims are most likely to repeat this form of child abuse in later generations, but those who developed awareness are carrying data to the next generation. Those parents, whom developed such awareness, will have a strong motivation to protect their children again from they have encountered.

Please, don’t ignore what trauma or PTSD can do. Again, I will bring up fellow classmate, Dreanna’s Post, Destruction of the Mind, Body, and Soul. Child abuse can lead to criminal activities in the future:

-14% of men and 36% of women in prison were abused as children.

-Children who experience child abuse or neglect are 9 times likely to commit criminal acts.

This is very disturbing. Both bullying and child abuse contribute to the shootings occurring in recent years, including this year. Parts of the children’s brains were poorly developed.

To the Horizons

Since doing this post, I have become more awareful in my surroundings. If I see others smoke, they have a story. If I see others with a bad group of friends, they have a story. If I see others shoplift, they have a story. If someone carries a weapon to school, they have a story. The story is the same and it could possibly be that same cycle of that hidden, dark world unconscious to all. It’s none other than what happened during the beginning when they were given birth.

When I see parents abusing their kids, it was something I wouldn’t want to treat my own children. Others, including relatives, tell me it’s not right to tell other parents how to treat their kids. I strongly disagree. If people can stand up to bullying in school or protesting in political matters, why can’t we do the same to cases of child abuse? People’s failure to notice other human beings’ sufferings relates to my other posts of “Behind the Human Exterior” and “Don’t Wait.” Why are we oblivious to what is going around in the world?

Children are like new grown seeds. If poison water or any polluting substance touches the seed, its growth is severely affected as it matures and affects other seeds. Children are no exception to this analogy. Trauma haunts the helpless child unable to realize or act out of this terrible situation. The abusing parents have already put a ticking time bomb inside their own child. It must stop and it will end this century as long every human being with a heart heeds this.

Suicide is Contagious

“My brother ruined my life.” He stated it outright multiple times.

If you were 19 years old and your older brother, who was essentially your idol, shot himself in the head in front of you on Thanksgiving, I’m sure your brother would have ruined your life too. This is what happened to my brother-in-law/roommate Zach. Losing the person you look up to is hard enough in itself. Losing the person you look up to to suicide is even harder. Losing the person you look up to to suicide in front of you on Thanksgiving? Now that’s just beyond words.

Zach came into my life in December of 2012. He and my older sister immersed themselves in a very extreme relationship from day one; they were soon living together, probably by about day 20. Day 30 or so, they were engaged. This is how Zach lived his life, to the extreme. I spent quite a few nights at their apartment, acquainting myself with Jack Daniels and  stories of Zach’s childhood, both of which entertained me greatly; the more I had of one, the more I wanted of the other. Zach was a very bright guy with a dry sense of humor, and we got along great. He was massive in a lot of different respects: he was 6’4″, he was ripped, he was extremely poetic, his intelligence was deep, and his wit was wide. When we really became close enough to open up with one another, our conversations went down some very dark roads. He told me stories about his brother, David,  what it was like growing up with him, how funny he was, how much he missed him, and the day he killed himself. Being exposed to something like this is not something you can ever get away from, it’s not a memory that can be easily evaded or repressed, it plagues your brain, and it’s safe to say that Zach’s mind was infested.

Once I graduated high school, my sister, Zach, and myself all decided that it would be a great idea to move in together. The date was set and we would be moving in in August. Zach and I spent quite a bit of the summer together. In June we all went camping, my sister, myself, Zach, and my girlfriend at the time. This was one of the best times I have ever had with any of my friends. During that trip Zach told me some of the nicest things that anyone has ever told me, granted we were both drunk, but the things he was offering were genuine. If I could go back to that summer forever, I would.

August rolled around and, sure enough, we all moved in. Things were great at first, but by about September there was some strife among roommates. The standard of living that I like to maintain was different from that of my counterparts on the other side of the house, and I voiced my frustrations often. Zach was always one to criticize, but taking criticism was not necessarily his strong suit. So, as you can imagine, he did not take too kindly to my offering of issues. October went on and things began to improve. Zach was trying to do more to keep the house clean since my sister worked six days a week, and on her only day off she took care of his two beautiful children, so he was putting forth an effort and doing much better.

Things went back to shit thanks to alcohol and some messed up emotions late one night during mid November. I had quite a few friends over, and Zach had been drinking as well as all of us, but Zach was drinking much more than anybody else, by a lot. He got obliterated and embarrassed me, himself, and my sister, so she told him to call his friend and go stay with him for the night. Being the extremist that he was, Zach took this as my sister breaking up with him, and all hell broke loose. I heard crashing on their end of the house so I went to their room to make sure my sister was okay. Their dresser was tipped over and Zach was flipping out. Threats of suicide were running rampant, as well as drunken insults.  I mentioned earlier that Zach has said the nicest things that anyone has ever said to me, but he has also said the meanest. Again, this goes back to the extremes within his personality. I took everything he was saying on the chin, and did everything I could to essentially talk him down (he was threatening to go drive, after drinking practically a bottle of liquor on his own), but things escalated and he wound up choking me out, grabbing his keys, and driving off into the night. He was back the next day, alive and intact, somehow. The trauma of a past Thanksgiving was still alive within him,  and it didn’t take a giant mental leap to connect the behavior with the calendar and the past.

The episodes that night caused Zach to get sober, and begin counseling. He was doing great. He was doing better with his kids, around the house, and at work. Everything was going great, for the most part, all through Christmas. My sister said without alcohol he was amazing, with the exception of growing more jealous and controlling. In mid January my sister broke up with Zach saying they needed some time for him to find some stability and essentially get his shit together. Zach being Zach, overfatalistic and extreme, made the absolute worst decision I’ve ever seen anybody make in my life. He got a 12 pack, four shots of whiskey, a 9mm Glock, a dark lonely hotel room, and a swat situation before shooting himself in the forehead while on the phone with my sister at 11:30 PM on January 21st, 2014.

Zach left behind two precious boys, a three year old Max, and a two year old William. They are spitting images of their father. Zach was an extremely intelligent man who had a lot of promise. He could’ve been something great, and I believe that with time, he would have. Seeing his brother kill himself at 19 was too much for him to shake. He had often talked about it with me, depicting it in a way as if it were a fantasy. If Zach’s brother hadn’t killed himself, he’d be on the other end of my house right now and I wouldn’t be writing this. For that reason, I believe that suicide is a disease, and it is ferociously contagious. Zach caught what David had.

I wrote this in the aftermath:

When Giants Fall

Nobody else could make me feel so small,

it had next to nothing to do with you being so tall,

nothing to do with you choking me against that wall,

but rather the magnitude of when giants fall,

if I could go back I would give you a call,

in my mind I know I could’ve caused you to stall,

I would conjure the words to help cushion your fall,

I think I could’ve helped but I know after all,

if a person is like me-truly this small,

you can’t catch a giant when they’re ready to fall.

I love and miss you brother. I know you’re with David.  Can’t wait to see you again. RIP Zach.

The Life of an Epileptic

In my last post, I talked about the depression I experienced, and how it was as a result of the seizures I was having. This post, I want to go over seizures and how they work. And share my side of the story, of what it was like having them.

I was diagnosed with Epilepsy during my junior year of high school. And just in case you didn’t know, Epilepsy is a seizure disorder. Basically, there are electrical signals in the brain that control the body. Seizures occur when those signals become overactive. Depending on the part of the brain that’s affected, different parts of the body may convulse—or some may not convulse at all. I, however, had tonic-clonic seizures, which are the “stereotypical” type of seizure that most people think of when they imagine them. My full body convulses, I bite my tongue, and sometimes I lose control of my bladder (which is really embarrassing, let me tell you). People that experience tonic-clonic siezures (more commonly known as “grand mal” seizures) are unconscious during the seizure, and don’t remember it when they wake up. Some seizures can last a couple of minutes, others can go on for days and days.

As for me, I wake up with absolutely no recollection of what had just happened. All I know is I’m in pain, my mouth is bleeding, and my pants are wet. But like most people that arouse from a toni-clonic seizure, I wake up disoriented and scared.

In fact, I still remember the aftereffects of my first seizure. I woke up confused, exhausted, and surrounded. Unknown faces peered down at me. The sky was white and lumpy. Frantic walls panicked all around me. My mind reeled with explanations of where I was, what had happened. But I didn’t understand; I was so confused. All I knew, all that I could comprehend, was that I hurt. My head, my eyes, my tongue. My legs, my shoulders, my arms. Everything hurt.

I remember peering around, trying to make sense of it all. But where was I? Who were these people? What was I doing there? I didn’t know anything. The last thing I remember were cold hands on my face as I slipped to a deep sleep.

Tonic-clonic seizures are strenuous and draining. Most people sleep at least 5 hours after a seizure. Some even sleep up to 22 hours afterwards. Confusion is normal upon awakening. Some people don’t know who they are, who the president is, or even what year they’re in. It can take up to a couple months to heal from a single seizure.

I had many repercussions from all my seizures; my body couldn’t keep up, and I lost a lot of strength. I couldn’t open doors or even pick up my dog. It was a pretty low period in my life.

Luckily, though, I have been on a medication called Keppra for over a year now, and have thankfully had no breakthroughs. I’ve slowly regained my strength and am leading a pretty normal life, my thoughts of my past seizures almost forgotten.

A seizure is a weird phenomenon. To be honest, I don’t really understand seizures, even though I’ve personally experienced multiple. If you or someone you know has ever experienced a seizure, here’s a sort of “guide” in what to do when they have one:

  • Do not hold the person down or try to restrain them
  • Do not stick your hand in their mouth (it’s a myth that they will swallow their tongue)
  • Make sure they don’t crash into sharp objects
  • Cushion head and make sure they don’t smash their head against anything
  • After the seizure is over, turn them onto their side (many people will vomit or bit their tongue, so this is to prevent any choking on their own vomit or blood)
  • If a seizure lasts more than 5 minutes, or if this is their first seizure, call 911

Just in case you’re curious, here’s a video of what tonic-clonic (or grand-mal) seizures look like. This person was brave enough to share his video; let’s not make fun of him. But be warned: it’s graphic.

Emotions are hard to describe…

ImageOnce I was listening to a big lecture from a man who was describing this old court room when I went on my journey to Washington D.C. in 2006. All of a sudden I hear two boys behind me saying, “Oh cool! Should we tell her? Yeah.. it’s probably a good idea. Excuse me, miss?” I turn around and smile. “Yeah?” I ask quietly. “Well, there is a huge spider on your leg.” Without hesitation I intermediately stand up, scream, and freak out. I was kicked out of the lecture because my emotions got the best of me.

My group’s topic is involved with emotional psychology. I had a hard time picking something to research about but then it got me thinking about emotions in general. Why do we react like we do? Are emotions just reactions to an event? If so, why can’t everyone have the same reaction? How come I wasn’t excited by that spider like those other boys, but was scared?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines emotion as the affective aspect of consciousness, but I wanted to know more. I discovered there are four popular theories to emotions.

Theory 1- James-Lange Theory

The oldest theory is known as the James-Lange Theory, which came from the two theorists William James and Carl Lange. They were both interested in the idea of emotion around the same time in 1884-1887. The theory is that “emotion is not directly caused by the perception of an event but rather the bodily response caused by the event”. That means that in order to feel emotion, we must first feel a bodily response or reaction such as your heart racing or fast breathing. For example, if I almost get into a car accident, my heart will race. Once I notice my heart rate, my brain figures out that I am experiencing fear.

Theory 2- Cannon-Bard Theory

The second theory is known as the Cannon-Bard Theory, which developed around 1927. They argued that the “same bodily responses accompany many different emotions.” Which means if my heart is racing, there could be many different emotions I experience such as fear or excitement. They concluded that when the experience of emotion and the bodily response occur at the same time, they are independent from each other. For example, when my heart races, it may not necessarily mean that I am angry but rather excited in a positive way. My brain cannot just rely on a bodily response to know which emotion I am experiencing.

Theory 3- Schachter-Singer Theory

Stanly Schachter and Jerome Singer discovered the third theory as the Schachter-Singer Theory (or Two-Factor Theory), which developed around 1962. It “suggests that experiencing an emotion requires both bodily response and an interpretation of the bodily response by considering the particular situation the person is in at the moment.” Even though the bodily response is the same for many emotions, it depends on the situation your in for a certain emotion. For example, if my heart was racing and a wild dog was chasing me I would interpret that as fear. If my heart races while I look at someone I’m in love with, it would be interpreted as excitement.

This image is an example of the first three theories of emotion

Theory 4- Opponent-Process Theory

The most common and different theory is know as Opponent-Process Theory by two psychologists, Richard Solomon and John Corbit in 1974. This explains our experience of emotions in relation to its opposites. “Emotions disrupt the body’s state of balance and that our basic emotions typically have there opposing counterparts.” Examples of opposites are pleasure and pain, fear and relief, and depression and elation. This also applies to taking an addictive drug and experiences the harsh withdrawal afterwards. For example, I would feel a very high level of fear before I bungee jump off a ledge. After the jump, I would then feel a very high level of relief, the opposite of fear.

What?!

I find this exciting because now it feels like I can read people a little better thinking of all the emotions that they react by. For example, I was thinking about if a clown walked into our classroom and how many students would either react with excitement or be completely scared out of their minds. Excitement and fear are completely different emotions that people would react by from their past experiences with clowns. This is all very interesting to me and I would love to know more such as what is the opposite of neutral? And can you feel emotion in your sleep? Can animals feel the exact same emotions as humans?

I think I agree with emotion and bodily response having to be related especially in a certain situation but it which one affects the other first? I think the main bodily responses to any emotion has to do with your heart rate, the sinking stomach feeling, and “butterflies”. Sometimes, feeling those “butterflies” makes me even happier because it feels so good. Lastly, why is it so hard for people be this emotionally happy and react to everything like this?

Why do “We love The Things That Hate Us”?

“We love the things that hate us, push snooze again girl I don’t wanna wake up, America the beautiful- that’s how she played us, wasn’t that cute-must have been her make up” (Slug, Atmosphere).

Cigarettes, alcohol, weed, opiates, pills, coffee, soda, fast food, gambling, cheating….think of how many of us indulge in at least one of the above on a day to day basis. I know that personally I can touch on four of the ten very easily on any given day. I drink a lot of coffee, smoke a lot of hookah, I’m a fan of red bull (sugar free of course), and sometimes I find myself having more than my fair share of alcohol. I’m a smart guy, I know better, but yet I still do it, and I’m not the only one. Is it cultural? Is it just us as Americans? Or is it something shared by the human race as a whole? Why do “we love the things that hate us”?

Anxiety, more specifically existential anxiety (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Existentialism), we feel it. Monotony, we want to break it. People have, and always will want more. We exist and we want more out of our existence. For that reason we indulge. We aren’t content with our minds as they are. We want to manipulate them, we want to escape reality. But, again, why? Our minds are powerful, but it isn’t enough. Day to day life weighs on everyone, I don’t care who you are, or where you’re from, nobody has it made. And for that reason, we all have our vices.  Obviously people get addicted to tobacco, and there are chemical changes in the body that make us crave them, but knowing this, why do we pick up a cigarette in the first place? Cigarette smokers, anything tobacco related, there isn’t a person on this planet who doesn’t know that tobacco causes cancer, yet there are 852 million (http://www.cancerresearchuk.org/about-us/cancer-news/news-report/852-million-people-use-tobacco-products-worldwide) of the seven billion on the planet out there who use tobacco anyway.

I absolutely loathe the feeling of waking up after a night of drinking. I hate that I more than willingly alter my state of mind, knowing full well the repercussions, yet I proceed anyway. Every time I drink, I am left in a haze for the days to come. My mind doesn’t process things on the level that it should, and I can’t function at the level that I like to maintain. In spite of this, I will find a pull out one way or another and happily drink the night away. If my mind is my most powerful and valuable asset, why do I alter it negatively? I know better, but I don’t care.

From a bit of a religious perspective, the seven deadly sins are lust, gluttony, greed, sloth, envy, wrath, and pride. We are all sexual beings, we love to eat junk food, we are all ruled by the almighty dollar, we enjoy relaxation and being lazy, jealousy exists in all of us, we all indulge in our own feelings of anger, and we are all prideful beings. So according to the Catholic Church, we are all pretty screwed. Looking at it in these terms, we all sin, when we know very well that we should not.

Quite frankly, nobody knows why we do these things that we know are so bad for us. We know we shouldn’t lie, but people lie. We know we shouldn’t get jealous, but we do. We know we shouldn’t eat doughnuts for breakfast, but they’re so damn good. This question isn’t one that can be easily answered, and that’s why it hasn’t been answered yet. All I know is that I am me, and I need something more. I need something more than myself, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. The best conclusion I’ve been able to come to is that we are all incomplete, and we long to feel whole one way or another during our existence.

Don’t Wait…

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   When the day of high school graduation came, I was sitting in my column. It seemed like someone just turned a stack of pages in our lives in a split second. Nobody took the time to read through each page thoroughly to embrace the moments we have had with teachers, friends or relatives. Then, there was the announcement of her name of one of the individuals nominated for being one of the school’s top academic students.

   “Ari!” *Followed by applause*

She walked down the middle to the podium as her name was called. She was bright, smart and unique. She really must have been very excited, but I wasn’t. We had a troubling chapter before that day as like we haven’t communicated enough. We were in the same English Honors class, in the same room. We remain silent from each other. Did she not see something that was wrong? Did she not see how I was feeling?

When graduation ended, we lost contact with each other permanently, probably from getting a new phone number. My best friend now gone…

When first semester of college begun, I often decided I wasn’t ready or in the mood to conversant with one of my instructors in her office hour, befriend that individual who was so bright and focused in class or explore the campus. Thus, I missed a chance to share my thoughts with other human beings. I lost the opportunity to take every chance I had to interact with individuals. Eventually, it came to the finals and the end of the semester and it became too late to interact with the individuals in my classes as we all leave that classroom never to come back together as a whole. I was saddened.

As I was in a meeting or appointment with several of my instructors during both semesters (This present one included) and after calling the Agora Hotline Service and coming back from the Deans of Student counseling, all the administrators and volunteers stated dearly that they wanted everyone to be comfortable in speaking to them about any concerns we had.  It was not like the stereotypical, mean gym teacher or principal shown in the media where they would act skeptical or tense the child who needed to speak about concerns or anxieties. Also included; portraying the majority of college students partying and behaving inadequately, which further separate us from each other with these false perceptions.  Portraying this for entertainment and money brings a consequence of possible social anxiety and distorting in perception of the world. (Fortunately, we’re already showing those companies and those so-called celebrities who’s in charge by electing ideal adults, with a heart, into the office.)

But in the end, why are we hesitating to approach each other? I have been through all my classes, some with 180 students and some with 30 students. But nobody took the opportunity to interact with another individual to share their troubling thoughts, and soon finals will come and we won’t return to the same wagon of people we have been around for 4 straight months. Here, individuals keep waiting, ignoring each other and forgetting that we’re in the same room chirping like parakeets until we fly away for good. When did friendship become so hard to establish?

   As I read articles, friendship seems hard to establish in college than in high school and before. In our youth, it might have been hard deciding up a list of whom to invite to our birthday parties. In our later years, such as in college, it seems students are very focused on their own problems. Completely understandable; there’s jobs requiring so many hours, not enough time for “beauty” sleep (Importantly, this really causes negative effects imaginable), financial concerns (including meal plans, dorms, groceries) and career planning. Here in college, we are told to “get involved.” However, it is becoming harder to do so with all these responsibilities listed above to make room for fostering new bridges to friendship.

   But, I grow disappointed in individuals or false friends who claimed that they’re “busy.” I made time to ask a former classmate for her phone number. One night during first semester, I decided to call her.

 She said, “Can I call you back later?”

A week later, she hasn’t called back. I texted her,

“You haven’t returned my call in a week.”

“Between work and school, I haven’t had time to talk. I’m sorry.”

When she says “I’m sorry,” I felt it was the same thing of using “lol (Shortcut for ‘laugh out loud’ from the texting culture)” in a text about writing a five paper essay, which I and most others don’t find particularly funny at all. I feel like she isn’t true to her words. I feel like I was the one participating in the friendship, something called One Sided Friendship. (Another article of similar nature can found here.)

Aside unacceptable degrees of citing busy as an excuse, a rather interesting article, Residential Mobility, Well-Being and Mortality claims that individuals who moved a lot during their childhood are more likely to suffer with social relationships. An individual will have already made a sizable amount of friends in her original vicinity, and then, for any reasons, moves to another state and is forced to “recreate social networks.” While this won’t have damaging effects with those who are extroverted, those who are introverted will have difficulty in a new, alien environment. I have had friends before who have moved from places to places during high school and even those who have moved to America for college. I can tell they were introverted due to lack of confidence when public speaking to the class, taking passive roles in group activities and often remain silent in the classroom. Still, I don’t want to judge individuals negatively and I want to lend a help. I just don’t know if they know I’m a friend worth befriending.

In the end, I still want to value friendship and encourage everyone to be more extroverted. Whenever friends come into our life, they open up a new world within us. Please take every moment to talk or call your friends about everything. Don’t wait. Don’t be silence. Don’t let there be another situation like mine where my friend and I didn’t bother approaching each other in the same room when something was wrong. The opportunity could be lost and we will never see each other and have the chance to make a contact. That’s why I’m asking for everyone to take every chance to come talk to anyone, professors, new friends or making up for old friends. Please don’t be afraid to approach anyone.

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http://www.hercampus.com/health/mental-health/what-do-if-you-re-feeling-lonely-college

“Each friend represents a world in us, a world possibly not born until they arrive, and it is only by this meeting that a new world is born” (Anais Nin).

Cigarettes and Anxiety

Nicotine cigarettes are a very dangerous and unhealthy stimulant. So why do people smoke them and why are they so hard to quit? Image

Credit: http://www.bridgewater.nhs.uk

They are highly addictive because of the soothing effects of the nicotine inside the cigarettes. Smokers develop a dependence on nicotine especially those who are depressed or have high anxiety. According to the text Understanding Psychology, stimulants are drugs that have an arousal effect on the central nervous system, causing a rise in heart rate, blood pressure, and muscular tension. Nicotine fuels the release of the chemical dopamine in the brain. Dopamine is a neurotransmitter that helps control the brain’s prize and pleasure centers. So for a smoker, a cigarette is a reward.

            People who are depressed or have high anxiety tend to have low dopamine. Most smokers use cigarettes to briefly increase their dopamine supply. Cigarettes motivate the brain to turn off its own instrument for making dopamine, which stimulates people to smoke more. It is unknown if smoking leads to depression or if depression leads to smoking but there is a relationship.

            Assistant Professor Darlene Brunzell and her colleagues did a study at the Virginia Commonwealth University where they observed that low doses of nicotine and nicotinic receptor blocker had similar effects to reduce anxiety-like behavior in an animal model. They discovered that “inactivation of beta2, specific sub-class of nicotine receptors that bind nicotine, appears to reduce anxiety.”

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Credit: Image courtesy of Darlene Brunzell, Ph.D./VCU

            “This work is unique because it suggests that nicotine may be acting through inactivation, rather than activation, of the high affinity nicotinic receptors,” said Darlene Brunzell. “Nicotine acts like a key that unlocks nicotine receptors in the brain. Usually that key opens the receptor, but at other times nicotine is like a key that has gotten broken inside of the lock. Our findings suggest that los-dose nicotine may block a specific subtype of receptor from opening that is important for regulating anxiety behavior.”

            Brunzell and her colleagues are continuously studying the subject and hope to classify which brain parts control the anxiolytic effects of nicotine. It will be a very significant finding if blocking beta2 subunit containing nicotinic receptors helps anxiety smokers. These discoveries could one day lead to helping smokers quit without feeling anxious.

            Megan Piper, a psychologist of the University of Wisconsin-Madison Center for Tobacco Research and Intervention (UW-CTRI) wanted to define why smokers are hooked. Megan Piper and her colleagues studied 1,504 subjects who had enrolled in a voluntary UW-CTRI smoking termination program. About one-third of the subjects met the standards for an anxiety diagnosis currently or in the past at the time of the study, which is almost twice the number of incidences of anxiety in the whole generalized population.

            Megan Piper thinks that nicotine acts like a patch that covers the underlying anxiety condition, which is why it is so difficult for smokers to quit. Nicotine supplements will only please the chemical part of the addiction, not the emotional component. According to Piper, many smokers will start to have withdrawal symptoms before they actually quit, which doesn’t help with anxiety what so ever. Piper recommends that those anxious smokers, who are trying to quit, when visiting their doctors for a treatment, should also be assessed for anxiety and should consider therapy.

            Even if cigarettes can possibly benefit the symptoms of mental health problems, it is definitely outweighed by the health problems that are smoke-related such as lung cancer or heart disease.

            This topic of psychology relates to me because I, myself, am a cigarette smoker and I do have high anxiety to the point where I have been prescribed an antidepressant. This information confirms for me what I often wondered about, which is whether there is a biological or scientific correlation between people who have anxiety and tend to be smokers.

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Credit: www.timeforwellness.org

Citations

http://www.mentalhealth.org.uk/help-information/mental-health-a-z/S/smoking/

http://healthland.time.com/2010/10/26/anxiety-keeps-some-smokers-from%C2%A0quitting/

  www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2012/11/121108181723.htm

 http://www.news.vcu.edu/article/Researchers_Find_Why_Nicotine_in_Cigarettes_May_Relieve_Anxiety

Strength

There was a point in my life when I felt very lonely. The seizures I was having at the time ate me up and consumed me. I felt so isolated from the world around me. My parents didn’t understand what depression was or how I was feeling. My friends made me feel like an outcast because they couldn’t relate. I felt almost demonized by them because they were afraid of what was happening to me. I had no one to talk to; I had no support system.

On a whim, I looked up “depression” on a Google search. And what I found amazed me. A lot of people had written stories about their own depressions online; there were so many, it seemed almost endless. I read about other people’s stories. I experienced their sorrows and empathized with their pain. And I learned about their recoveries and was so emotionally invested that it was almost terrifying. But I was also stunned by how many people could verbally express how I was feeling. It was amazing to me how anyone could take such intense feelings—feelings that I couldn’t even comprehend at the time—and turn them into words.

So I kind of went online on a whim, but what I found had become my support system. Learning that other people were in similar situations, and that it wasn’t just me that felt that way made me feel relieved; I didn’t feel alone anymore. I had people to relate to. I had people that I could talk to. Having gone online inspired me, and it definitely helped me. So I want to share my story, in hopes of helping someone one day, too.

 

I had a lot of seizures. So many that eventually my body couldn’t keep up and I lost a lot of strength. Opening doors became a struggle, and I barely made it to a single class. The school I went to saw me as a liability. Teachers dreaded me, students feared me, and the number of friendships I possessed dwindled quickly to only one. I can’t really tell you when the depression started; it sort of crept up on me in an ugly way. I was naïve. I remember starting off only afraid of my seizures. Of maybe falling unexpectedly and hitting my head. Of waking up one day, drowning in my shower. I was only afraid of my seizures and what they possessed; I didn’t realize yet I also needed to be afraid of the people I loved, too. I trusted my friends. When I think about the pedestal I had placed them on, I almost hurt. The seizures didn’t just take away my friends, they took away my naivety, too.

I still remember the pain I caused my parents. I still remember my guilt. I remember thinking, “How will this ever get fixed?” and then deciding that it probably won’t. My parents didn’t understand: What is depression? Why are you hurt? But I didn’t understand why they didn’t understand. I was wrapped in a bubble, a tight bubble of dark clouds filled with loneliness, guilt, and anger. And no one could really get me out of it.

I remember losing my independence. I couldn’t open up doors, couldn’t pick up my dog. I couldn’t lock my bathroom and I couldn’t drive. I was never alone—I couldn’t be. I couldn’t go out, couldn’t hang with friends. My options decreased to only one: get better. I was allowed nothing else. It wasn’t even acceptable to try to be myself. I wasn’t Bisaan anymore; I was the seizures. And that hurt me more than anything else.

I remember trying to escape. I couldn’t do this anymore! My school, my friends, my family. Even my own parents. Everyone had deserted me. Who was I? Why did I exist? What was the purpose of all of that? I just wanted it to stop. Please just stop. Only my clouds grew in response.

Running away had been a form of escape, a result of feeling pushed over the edge. Suicide was a daily thought, a daily struggle. I remember it wasn’t anything but fear that really prevented it, and it made me feel weak. Why wouldn’t I just die?

But I didn’t. And I still haven’t.

There are only a number of guesses as to why I didn’t, most of which probably only make sense to me. At some point, my depression had hit rock bottom, which at the time was horrible. I saw nothing but my clouds; my vision was only black, and I could feel myself drowning in a sea of darkness and loneliness that devoured me so thoroughly, I thought I couldn’t resurface. But I did. Somehow I did. And I almost destroyed everything in the process. But when I look back at it now, I’m really thankful for it. I had finally hit rock bottom. And from there, I could only go up.

My memories of my third year of high school are only filled with struggles.

I don’t know… but the following memories are only filled with pride. Pride for myself for overcoming one of the hardest struggles of my life—of anyone’s life. Depression is not an easy beast to battle, and it’s definitely not a fun one. But I fought it. I fought depression, and I won.

I refuse to ever let it beat me again.

 

Depression is not a weakness. It’s a constant struggle. It takes strength to keep going. Please seek out help if you or anyone you know is going through depression. It may not seem like it now, but you deserve more. Everyone deserves more. Stay strong, and keep going. It’ll all be worth it in the end.

 

The National Suicide Prevention Line:

1-800-273-8255

Please call it if you need help.