Laura G Owens ~ Writer

Humanity. Health. Happiness.

Month: January 2012

Joe Paterno’s death reminds us of most complicated emotion – ambivalence

joe paternao, ambivalence, loss of a loved one, deathI recently experienced a death in our family. I’m not ready to write about it because it feels disrespectful to my departed and to my loved ones to talk directly about my ambivalent feelings.

Instead, I’ll write around my feelings.

I started to think about ambivalence, about loving someone “but” having mixed emotions.   Today I ran across an article about Joe Paterno, his death and how of course his family grieved. Along with mention of his passing was a link to his role in the sex scandal case.

Joe Paterno was revered, he was respected by an entire community — “and/but” the world was horrified.

Talk show show host Dr. Phil tells his guests when you follow a sentence with the word “but” you’ve nullified everything you just said.  I think love can be conditional, or rather, how you want to feel when that person is around has conditions.

How you feel about a person’s death depending on their age or circumstances, depending on the life they led, depending on the impact they had in your life or in your mind’s eye, can make “but” the only word that pulls incongruent thoughts together and softens your cognitive dissonance.

Without disclaimers we lie to ourselves and change history to our blurry convenience.

And while blurry memories may bring us closer to closure, to forgiving and emotional freedom, maybe we should SEE clearly before we fuzzy our thoughts so long that time muddies the truth — and then the truth no longer exists.

Anyone who followed Paterno’s role in the child sex scandal case knows the outrage over his failures, they knew about the fortress of worship and blind loyalty behind Paterno’s protected kingdom of collegiate football, an institution where it was blasphemous to question the ruling class of winning coaches.

This was a hierarchy not unlike the Vatican where power and prestige is sometimes cloaked in cheers, chants, prayers and scorekeeping, (Sinner Zero, Repenter 1) where the very highest servants of the Almighty God and Almighty Win keep the People looking UP with distanced worship, bowing from afar until evil is out of focus, recognition or even possibility — until all that’s left to see is what we want to see.

To speak ill of the departed is to slap the living and pummel the deceased.  Yet,  uncomfortable residue after someone dies while it doesn’t, (and shouldn’t) ever steer how we live our own lives, unresolved ambivalence about someone or something needs to be laid to rest for peace, for comfort to come.

Ambivalence is a topic that fascinates me endlessly. The paradox of emotions we carry with us, more, how we react to our ambivalence and what this creates in its wake.

Over the past ten years I’ve written about The Ambivalence of Motherhood, an institution so idealized, romanticized and revered that (at one time) to speak of anything but glory and gratitude and sheer bliss at bottles, bibs, breastfeeding and hours of laundry and Barney was akin to saying you hated your child and rebuked womanhood.

I never felt motherhood was black and white. I only felt my love for my daughter was crystal clear.

Betty Friedan in her landmark, groundbreaking book The Feminine Mystique, coined the vagabond emotion women used to chase with therapy sessions and valium as “the problem that has no name.”

Ambivalence is in fact, that wispy unharnessed inner nudge we can’t quite put into words or hold with utter confidence.

In the early revolution of inner discontent about something or someone, ambivalence doesn’t get a comforting nod of knowing from others who privately feel the same.  Ambivalence is at first a maverick, uncomfortable and unsettled and lonely. It never invites others to join the revolution until enough people say it’s okay — and then the shouting rolls out from every doorway and blog.

Ambivalence is left for people with “issues” or for pioneers to shape into slow and eventual acceptance.

To love and yet……

I now write so openly about ambivalence —  because I’ve written so openly about ambivalence.  The endless gnawing has to feed itself or it can never become peaceful resolve — at least for me.

Ambivalence feels as innate for me as saying I love you to people I trust, and even so, I feel compelled to frame my thoughts about motherhood into something people can easily reconcile, to put my disclaimer for those who can’t feel two sides of the same story at the same time, so they won’t think me a monster.  

So, this is what ambivalence feels like:

That you can love your child so deeply, so intensely so passionately so fully so gratefully and yet not love what as a new mother, motherhood takes away.

That you can love your child and hate the boredom of at home. That you can want to be home and yet want to be at a career you worked big hours to achieve — that you want enough hours for you, but not too much away from her.  That men can grapple this with zero societal reproach but when women grapple out loud they are selfish. 

Resolved ambivalence is having a secure foot in both doors, it is to acknowledge and finally shrug at ying and yang, dark and light, cold and warm. It is to admit to wanting it all and why you want it all. It is to know that one feeling can exist with another and yet you are still full and complete and good and enough.

I know this unharnessed emotion doesn’t sit well for most people because it asks for confessions that haven’t been reconciled and approved by others.

I know it’s why after my loved one died and I carefully with pause, emailed my family my feelings of ambivalence — that no one responded. Urgent and pressing matters trumped my ruminating about my mixed emotions. I genuinely understand that the unfinished business and feelings simmering behind “the one who died” will need to sit in escrow until/if, people are ready, that it is not for me to make someone else’s ambivalence come to light.

Ambivalence is “the problem with no name” until it is time to give it one.

Where does your ambivalence sit?

Photo credit: David Castillo Dominici

 

 

 

 

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Conserve your willpower, because it can get tired and run out……

willpower, decision fatigue, ego depletionDecision fatigue, a phenomenon increasingly intriguing psychologists today given the growing culture of endless distractions and over-stimulation, is a term coined by social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister. Vaguely introduced by Freud, he believed people constantly struggle to manage their inner desires against the external pressures of the ego, which in turn requires mental energy.   Willpower is much like a muscle and when fatigued through overuse or when the brain is deprived of the energy necessary to sustain willpower, e.g. glucose etc — your willpower wanes.

Every decision you make, even insignificant ones like whether to have lemonade or water, and every temptation you avoid depletes your willpower.

How can you prevent ego depletion and bolster your willpower for what really matters to you? Read more…. (original article on Healthmango.com).

Photo credit: Ambro

 

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Tiger or pussycat mom? Amy Chua’s book stirs parenting controversy

amy chua, tiger mom, parenting advice, parenting philosophy

Amy Chua makes no apologies because she once called her daughter “garbage.” As a child, her father called her garbage after she was disrespectful to her mother. “It worked really well. I felt terrible and deeply ashamed of what I had done. But it didn’t damage my self-esteem,” Chua writes in her Jan. 8, 2011, article for The Wall Street Journal online.

Chua says Chinese moms and dads demand their kids respect them and excel, forcing children by cultural default to live up to their parents’ highest expectations in every area: discipline, school, music and even appearance. Read more… 

(copyright Sheknows.com). 

Photo credit: Michal Marcol

 

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New and improved: What’s interrupting YOUR joy?

Happy New Year 2012I’m not one for making lists of resolutions because I think if you want to change, today is as good a time as any. But, when January 1st nears it’s ingrained to think about resolutions, to use the date as our deadline to get going, or at least start simmering ideas for what to improve, change, add, drop or enhance.

Having recently come out the other side of some pretty severe “chronic” insomnia (I don’t believe anything has to be chronic) that wreaked absolute hell on my mind and body (and poor husband), I can finally focus on what I want the New Year to look like.

Before Christmas, I was too self-absorbed in my exhaustion and misery (sleep deprivation was used as torture for soldiers — I now know why) to think too much about transformation and goal-setting.

My singular goal was to fall asleep, to stay asleep and to feel like the person I once knew, void of the wretched anxiety and depression that crept in every day and night (the side effect of the mind and body not getting regular REM sleep, and the despair of spending hundreds, gulp thousands? on supplements, sleep medications, a pricey sleep lab and insomnia books to figure out what was keeping me up — only to come up empty and tired).  After I did about 200 hours of research and ordered my own tests the answers came (adrenal fatigue and gluten-intolerance, more posts to come on that topic).

Health is wealth might be a trite saying but it is irrefutably true.

When you’re swimming in the middle of physical or emotional pain, any state of unbalance in your mind and body, most everything and everyone around you dims and fades to the background. Pain of any kind is all-consuming and selfish, because chronic pain takes you into its clutches and moves all other facets of your life to the periphery.

You forget about better days even when you know  from years of your own attitude adjustments and experience and from loved ones that crappy stuff eventually changes. When you’re stuck in a mud hole and you’ve tried countless ways to dig out you tend to forget you can get out.

The excitement of possibility, your child’s cool project and silly laugh, your husband’s latest joke, a visit from a good friend, a jog in a brilliant sunset, a girl’s night out, stellar pizza, that ridiculous Will Ferrell movie — none if it feels like much but white noise.  For weeks, what used to easily tune me into life’s vibrancy felt like constant interruptions to what I was obsessively trying to figure out — how to sleep.

Is there anything right now interrupting your joy?

And if you feel joy after you came out from despair, please share.  The most inspirational and contagious stories are those that detail triumph.

Everything can improve. Everyone can prevail.

We’re empowered as humans, we’re programmed to survive and evolve.

We sometimes forget this in the eye of pain, with our bills, loss, envy, ills, pills, the nightly news, economic forecasts, political mudslinging, unemployment rates.

So turn off the bad news, and look for, search and dig hard — for the good.

Look for what it is you want to see.

And if you haven’t found your answers yet, keep looking. The answers will come. Keep asking, and asking, and asking, and asking and asking……..If a doctor tells you something you don’t want to hear, find a new doctor, a holistic practitioner who will help you find the healing that is waiting for you.   If a friend makes you feel worse when you’re around her, find a new “friend.” If someone tells you the world is going to hell in a hand basket, tell them — only if they want it to.

To your new year and new you —

With joy,

Laura

 

 

 

 

 

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High levels of homocysteine and depression – certain supplements may help

Researchers believe that depression, particularly in the elderly, may be related to elevated homocysteine levels. A deficiency in B vitamins may be the cause.

(Click here for supplements that lower homocysteine)

While elevated homocysteine levels are linked to heart disease and stroke, it may also contribute to depression, particularly in older people.

Negative effects of homocysteine

Homocysteine is a harmful amino acid that naturally occurs in all humans. It is involved in cellular metabolism and the manufacture of proteins.

Homocysteine irritates the lining of the blood vessels causing them to become scarred, hardened, and narrowed. This inflammation makes the heart work harder which can lead to heart disease. High levels of homocysteine also cause increased blood clotting. Blood clots decrease or block the flow of blood through blood vessels, resulting in strokes and heart attacks.

Homocysteine levels naturally vary according to age, gender, diet, hereditary factors, and general health. Approximately 5-10% of the population have levels that are too high.

In the 2000s, studies suggested that high levels of homocysteine were associated with poorer mental functioning, which lead to ongoing investigations into the role of homocysteine in Alzheimer’s disease. Additional studies suggested that high levels of homocysteine can lead to osteoporosis and an increased risk of broken bones in the elderly.

Depression and homocysteine

Our bodies naturally use vitamin B12 and folic acid to convert homocysteine into a compound called SAMe – a source of methyl-groups. Without sufficient B-vitamins, blood homocysteine levels rise. Elevated homocysteine levels are linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular, neurological and psychiatric diseases, including stroke and dementia.

Researchers believe that high homocysteine levels contribute to cerebral vascular disease and neurotransmitter deficiency, both which can lead to depression. A study conducted in 2005 found that total homocysteine levels were higher in elderly patients with late-onset major depression (Chen CS et al 2005).

Cause of elevated homocysteine 

Plasma homocysteine levels are strongly influenced by diet, genetic factorsa deficiency in folic acid, B6 and B12 vitamins, aging and smoking. Large amounts of coffee can elevate homocysteine as well as some medications.

Mayoclinic.com writes: 

High homocysteine levels in the blood (hyperhomocysteinemia) has been suggested as being a risk factor for cardiovascular disease, blood clotting abnormalities, atherosclerosis, myocardial infarction (heart attack), and ischemic stroke. Taking vitamin B12 supplements in combination with other B vitamins (mainly folic acid) has been shown to be effective for lowering homocysteine levels. It is not clear whether lowering homocysteine levels results in reduced cardiovascular morbidity and mortality. More evidence is needed to fully explain the association of total homocysteine levels with vascular risk and the potential use of vitamin supplementation.

People using the following drugs should discuss increasing their intake of folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12 with their doctor:

  • Lipid-lowering drugs such as fenofibrate (Tricor) and bezafibrate (Bezalip);
  • Metformin (Glucophage), a drug to modify insulin resistance;
  • Anti-epileptic drugs such as phenobarbital, phenytoin (Dilantin), primidone (Mysoline) and carbamazepine (Tegretol);
  • Levadopa (Sinemet) for treatment of Parkinson’s disease;
  • Methotrexate (Rheumatrex, Trexall) for treatment of cancer, psoriasis, rheumatoid arthritis, and systemic lupus erythematosus;
  • Androgen treatment; and
  • Nitrous oxide (“laughing gas”), a mild anesthetic.

Sam-e and other supplements may lower homocysteine 

Many nutrients and supplements influence the body’s use of the brain’s neurotransmitters. Similar to prescription drugs used to treat depression, these natural therapies increase the production of neurotransmitters or reduce their rate of breakdown. Unlike prescription drugs, however, natural therapies can also minimize the effects of oxidative stress and inflammation that contributes to depression.

(Click here for supplements that lower homocysteine)

According to an article by Life Extension on natural treatments for depression, the following supplements may decrease homocysteine levels and improve or eliminate depressive symptoms:

  • Folic acid
  • Vitamin B12 (cobalamin) (sublingual (under the tongue), transdermal (skin) or injection form only)
  • Vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)
  • Trimethylglycine and zinc
  • SAMe (“Does SAMe increase or decrease homocysteine?”)
  • N-acetylcysteine
  • Cysteine
  • Creatine & choline-producing nutrients (inhibits the release of homocysteine)

While high plasma homocysteine levels increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, it can also lead to depression, particularly in elderly patients who are often deficient in folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12. People struggling with depression that has not responded to other therapies may want to have their homocysteine levels tested and begin supplementing with B vitamins.

(Click here for supplements that lower homocysteine)Sources:

Chen CS, Tsai JC et al, “Homocysteine levels, MTHFR C677T genotype, and MRI Hyperintensities in late-onset major depressive disorder,” American Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, 2005 Oct;13(10):869–75.

Folstein M, Liu T, Peter I, Buell J, Arsenault L, Scott T, Qiu WW, “The homocysteine hypothesis of depression,” The American Journal of Psychiatry, June 2007.

“Depression,” Life Extension online, Accessed November 18th, 2009, http://www.lef.org/protocols/emotional_health/depression_01.htm.

Parkavi Chellappa; Radhakrishnan Ramaraj, “Depression, Homocysteine Concentration, and Cardiovascular Events,” Journal of American Medical Association. 2009;301(15):1541-b-1542.

Henning Tiemeier, H. Ruud van Tuijl, Albert Hofman, John Meijer, Amanda J. Kiliaan, and Monique M.B. Breteler, “Vitamin B12, Folate, and Homocysteine in Depression: The Rotterdam Study,” American Journal of Psychiatry, Dec 2002; 159: 2099 – 2101.

Simon Gilbody Tracy Lightfoot Trevor Sheldon J, “Is low folate a risk factor for depression? A meta-analysis and exploration of heterogeneity,” Epidemiology Community Health2007;61:631-637

“Cardiovascular disease/hyperhomocysteinemia.” Mayoclinic.com. Updated October 1. 2011. Accessed January 9th, 2012.

McCully, Kilmer S. The Homocysteine Revolution. 2nd ed. New York: McGraw Hill 1999.American Heart Association. 7272 Greenville Ave., Dallas, TX 75231. (800)242-8721.

Homocysteine.net, May 10, 2004. [cited March 23, 2005]. http://www.homocysteine.net.

“Serum Folate, Vitamin B12, and homocysteine in Major Depressive Disorder, Part 2: Predictors of Relapse During the Continuation Phase of Pharmacotherapy,” Journal of Clinical Psychiatry 65, No. 8 (August 2004).

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