All that Glitters Is Not Gold…

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Let’s talk mental health without focusing on labels for a change. There are many informative sources which can provide thorough descriptions and examples of mental health disorders so I won’t go into detail about them. I will mention them periodically and provide references for you to gain descriptive explanations if you need clarity. What I want to do is talk about it so we can reduce the stigma attached to mental health or specifically mental illness. It is so taboo to discuss mental illness because of the stigma associated with it which is sustained by the media and society in general. Many believe that if you have a mental illness you are “crazy” and somehow not worthy to be deemed a “productive member of society”. FYI: I use quotes with certain words because I take into consideration that everyone has different perceptions of different concepts so what is crazy to one may not be crazy to the other. What is considered productive to one may not be considered productive to the next person etc. etc. It actually is okay but according to society’s standards and values not so much.

We often get caught up in thinking that we must adopt certain beliefs and values which defy our own personal beliefs as if we even know what they are due to conditioning. Societal beliefs and values shape standards which we have been conditioned to believe. Key word here is “conditioned”. Hold that thought…Mental illness is so taboo in our society which is why many people do not seek help when they need it. Also, the labels can sometimes serve the purpose of putting people in a box making them feel inferior to everyone else. Everyone else consists of those we consider “normal” in society. That word “normal” is really more complex than most think it is as well. What is “normal” anyway?…Hold it and let it marinate…

So amidst all of this holding and marinating, I think it is safe to say that we as a society have been conditioned to believe that people with mental illness cannot be “normal, productive members of society”. Somehow having a mental illness deems them unworthy. Clearly, there are people with serious mental illness whose disorders prevent them from being able to work and/or require hospitalization. These are the exceptions. They are also perceived to be the token mentally ill individuals who are exploited for the eccentricity of their symptoms. This appeals to the masses because as we all know anything eccentric get lots of attention these days. In many cases, overexposure occurs and leads to a misconception of what mental illness looks like. This is the image of the mentally ill individual portrayed in the movies and on television. What we don’t give attention to is the large amount of seriously mentally ill individuals who are “high functioning”.

Yes, people can be mentally ill with high IQs, hold some of the most reputable jobs including doctor,lawyer, therapist (YES!!), successful actors and actresses, and can also maintain households. Sad part is that many go undiagnosed because according to them and society they do not need help because they fit the mold of what is deemed “normal”. Normal consists of being able to hold a job, maintain relationships, and carry on with daily tasks with no “issues” as mentioned above. This is the portion of the population that is overlooked when considering psychiatric treatment. Contrary to popular opinion these individuals are still in need of treatment as much as those who are “lower functioning”.

This is a very gray area as there are many factors to keep in mind to determine the need for treatment in general. Remember this the next time you assume that just because your child who made honor roll all throughout school but displayed obvious symptoms of depression did not need therapy. At some point repressed issues will come to the surface and when not dealt with accordingly this can lead to an explosion. All that glitters is not gold. We have to look beneath the surface sometimes because that is where source of many people’s problems are located. This is why psychological evaluations require a full psychosocial evaluation in which all aspects of a person’s life are considered including childhood history. What happens during childhood is a contributing factor to what happens in our adulthood. This will be revisited in a future post because there is so much to elaborate on.

There are many who just opt out of seeking professional help period. Either way these are very unfortunate situations as the worse case scenario could be avoided if people would seek help asap. Asap being when they begin to notice mood and behavioral changes before it gets to the point of harming themselves and/or others. This would be ideal but just not possible for everyone. These are some of the risk factors associated with not having access to mental health treatment. There are clear signs which indicate a need to seek psychiatric treatment. You can find a general description of symptoms that would indicate a need for a psychological evaluation here.

Be mindful that the earlier you seek help the better off you will be. Just as with any situation, the longer things pile up and pile up without being cleaned out or emptied the bigger the mess will become. This leads to confusion, disorder (hence the term mental disorder), and an explosion as mentioned earlier. Eventually, this pile will overflow. Consider this “pile” when you think of how the brain and body endures years and years of pent up, unresolved issues due to biological, psychological, and environmental factors.

Biological influences include imbalanced brain chemistry,inherited traits, and prenatal damage due to exposure to toxins. Psychological influences include severe psychological trauma such as physical, emotional or sexual abuse, neglect or an important early loss such as the death of a parent at a young age. Many do not realize how much childhood trauma affects us emotionally and behaviorally later on in adulthood. Other psychological factors include impaired ability to relate to others. Take parents who raise their children based on belief systems which are inherently irrational as they perpetuate a negative or detrimental perception of reality. An example is when a mother who was raped at night forces the belief onto her children that going out at night is completely dangerous and should be avoided. Her children grow up with a fear of going out at night despite having positive experiences going out at night. Ultimately, if these issues are not addressed the end result could be self-destruction. This can be a slow and painful process for all involved.

MayoClinic, WebMd, NIMH, NAMI, and PsycheCentral are all reputable sources for mental health information. Use them wisely but do NOT attempt to diagnose yourself with a mental health disorder. This must and only must be done by a mental health professional who is licensed and/or certified to do so or permitted to do so under the supervision of a psychiatrist.

Get comfortable with being uncomfortable by overcoming fear

There are many quotes about the concept “get comfortable with being uncomfortable”. One of my favorites is “Find your comfort zone, then leave it”. It’s simple and straight to the point. This applies to any aspect of your life where an opportunity for growth is waiting for you to take it but you don’t because it requires you to come out of your comfort zone. Typically the barrier between you and growth is fear. Fear of many things but in general, the unknown. We often become so engrossed with the “what ifs” and all that could go wrong that we lose sight of all that has an equal chance of going right. It’s all about perception and attitude.

Some may think this is easier said than done but who said anything about easy? It’s not easy. As a matter of fact, you will probably reach the most uncomfortable state you have been in physically, emotionally and mentally. Guess what though? It is okay. You will survive and there is a light at the end of the tunnel. This is not to say if your dream is to own your own business but you have a job that is paying your bills allowing you to live comfortably you should just up and quit to work on your business. On the contrary, if your lifestyle will allow you to go cold turkey by all means go for it. There are many people who have done so successfully.

Taking risks wisely is key. Planning helps as well. This is all a part of overcoming the fear. Either way, planning is essential but does not have to be a step by step process. It could be so simple as creating a vision board which I am in the process of working on as we speak. Vision boards puts your dreams on “paper” so to speak and is based on the notion of visualization as a main avenue to acquiring your dreams. It can also include taking baby steps to conquering those fears by addressing smaller fears like trying a new food or activity. Eventually this can lead to acquiring more confidence and possibly give you incentive to face those bigger fears which hold you back from doing some amazing things.

We ALL have a purpose. The problem is we lose sight of our purpose by getting off track due to distractions which include that dreaded fear. Question is are you willing to do what is necessary to find your purpose even if it means you must endure being uncomfortable?

Back to Oil Pulling…

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Not sure about anyone else but my allergies have been acting up lately due to the change of seasons. I have grown to love the Fall and I’m a Spring baby so I inevitably love the Spring season but with the changes come an increase of allergy issues. It hasn’t been that bad but just a little annoying especially at night with the itchy nose and congestion.

Usually, I reach for my Zyrtec when I just cannot continue to bear it but this time I opted for oil pulling. In case you haven’t heard (and you’re living under a rock), oil pulling is quite the craze. People have reported cleared sinuses as a result of regularly oil pulling. It is basically swishing a teaspoon or tablespoon of unrefined oil in your mouth for twenty minutes a day (preferably in the morning before brushing your teeth). Typical choices for oil are sesame and coconut. Although I have heard of people using others like olive oil, many have attested to having the best results from using coconut and sesame oils. It is really about preference. You can just google oil pulling and find loads of information including the health benefits and side effects. For the basics you can start here.

I did my own “research” on oil pulling before trying it out almost a year ago. I decided that I wanted to see if I would experience improved oral health, skin benefits, and other results including detoxing that I have read about. Just recently, I oil pulled with virgin coconut oil for months and stopped for no specific reason. I did not keep an official record of any changes I noticed besides whiter teeth possibly (my teeth are already fairly white). What I plan to do this time is to keep record of any changes I experience by journaling and posting about anything significant. I am currently on week 4 of oil pulling a few (3-4) days a week. Many people oil pull daily and that is fine. I actually read that oil pulling at least 2-3 times a week can be just as effective. Most people oil pull daily to address issues they may be having such as treating a cavity or just because they want to. I use the Trader Joe’s brand organic virgin coconut oil as my preferred oil.

Here’s my routine:

Three or four times a week as soon as I awake, I take a tablespoon of coconut oil and swish it in my mouth for twenty minutes. I’ve moved up from 15 minutes with a teaspoon to twenty minutes with a tablespoon within the passed few weeks. It really is mind over matter. If you don’t think about it you will be able to keep the oil in your mouth for the full twenty minutes. I suggest using a timer set for twenty minutes (or however long you can handle) and going about your regular am routine i.e. showering, making breakfast, reading, praying, meditating etc. This will make the twenty minute timeframe fly by. Trust me. It works. Let me mention that you do not have to swish the whole time and you can slow down. When I oil pull I give my mouth a rest by slowing down the swishing motion or stopping for a few seconds.

When the time is up, I spit the oil into a paper cup, throw it in the trash can, and follow up with a rinse of warm salt water to rid my mouth of oil residue. Then, I brush my teeth as usual. If anything I believe my teeth and gum game will be on point! At my recent dental visit (last week), I did get quite the compliment on my oral hygiene and teeth in general from my dentist. I wanted to tell him that the oil pulling could be contributing to the condition of my teeth but I chose to keep it hushed.

Before I go, I have some suggestions to share based on my personal experience.

1. No swallowing: Whatever you do, DO NOT SWALLOW the oil. You are pulling toxins from your body and bacteria from your mouth during this process. You do not want to swallow that (Ew!).

2. Water is your friend: Drink more water than usual (I need to do better) when oil pulling. Some people suggest drinking a glass of water prior to oil pulling t help get the process going. It helps with flushing toxins out because not only are you clearing your mouth of bacteria but this is a form of detoxing. After you oil pull, your system will continue the process of detoxing and water will help flush those toxins out efficiently. It’s just beneficial in general.

3. No pressure: Do not feel pressured to start oil pulling for the full twenty minutes if this is your first time. Try using a teaspoon of an oil of your choice and start the timer for five minutes. If you feel fine and think you can go longer increase it to ten minutes. Work your way up to twenty minutes if necessary. Also, try different oils that suit you best. Everything isn’t for everybody. Do what works best for you and at your own pace.

4. Do your research: There is a ton of information on oil pulling on the internet. Look it up and decide whether or not oil pulling will benefit you. Everyone has different experiences with different things so do what works best for you. Depending on the individual, the amount and type of toxins you have in your system you may or may not have side effects. Some people have reported nausea and dizziness. I have not had any side effects. As with anything, before you act educate yourself so you know what to do and what to expect.

Learning to Let Things Go…

Forgive, not because they deserve forgiveness but because you deserve peace“.

This can be a hard pill to swallow for many for a number of reasons. We are so prone to evaluating what is forgivable versus what is not. In other words, people determine what is forgivable based on their perception and to what extent harm has been done. I know for me personally this lesson is still in progress but I have improved tremendously. That is what life is all about; living and learning. In the midst of living and learning there are a plethora of mistakes to be made. These mistakes can be perceived as learning experiences and opportunities to grow or as a sign of defeat as in you have been defeated with no chance of renewing yourself. Everyone is at different points in their life journey. Some may be ready to accept mistakes as opportunities for growth while others while others do not.

Understand and know that learning from mistakes is essential to survival. Some people are not at a point where they are ready to receive these life lessons as a contribution to their personal growth. Never mind the fact that some just don’t acknowledge their mistakes because they don’t see the “wrong” in what they do. Sometimes people just do not want to admit they are wrong because of ego or other factors that get in the way. It’s not always about ego though. Some find it difficult to accept reality because it can be tough. Reality may consist of them coming to grips with their past and that can put people in an extremely uncomfortable position.

Most people choose to ignore the past because it is just too painful to revisit those traumatic yet crucial times in life. At times it is unavoidable because the past creeps into the present inevitably by way of triggers. These triggers can be a real bitch but it truly pays off in the long run to learn how to cope with the harsh realities of life. Part of coping is learning to forgive. No one is saying that you have to forget or erase the memories completely.

Forgiving is a way to be set free by unleashing yourself from the choke hold of your problems. Technically, you are bound to your problems until you separate yourself completely. It starts with forgiveness and includes facing the past. In terms of our behavior and the way we perceive things, past experience plays a significant part. So, we must evaluate our behavior and past experiences as they relate to our current problems.

Some think there must be an admittance of fault from the other person for forgiveness to occur. Not necessarily. As mentioned before not everyone is ready to accept that what they did was “wrong”. Ultimately, we have a choice to make. Either we let our problems keep us stagnant by stunting our happiness and peace or we accept them as challenging parts of life that do not define us but help us grow. When it comes to forgiveness think of it like this: Holding a grudge or bitterness is deadweight and serves no purpose to you. The deadweight is only a burden and interferes with your inner peace. When it comes to forgiveness, would you rather let go of that deadweight or hold onto it?

Not to mention holding onto things can potentially cause all kinds of stress which affects you mentally, emotionally, behaviorally, and physically. Most of the time, people have no idea this is happening to them until they become ill but I’ll save that discussion for another post.

For the Love of Fruit!!!

There have been some fruits that I just did not eat because I was not familiar with them or did not have the desire to eat them in general. Mangoes, blueberries, and raspberries fit that description. Also, avocados!! I LOVE avocados!! I’ll share my recipe for avocado toast eventually but let me focus on the subject at hand. While we’re on the topic of loving food, speaking of fruit…mangoes and blueberries are in heavy rotation in my home. It took me years to start eating them regularly. I stuck with what I knew which usually consisted of apples,oranges,bananas and strawberries. When we lived in NC there was a strawberry patch where we used to pick our own strawberries. Seriously, NC had the biggest and sweetest strawberries I had ever seen!

Here in Massachusetts they have so many farms where you can pick your own fruit too. Of course the options depend on what is in season. Recently, my family and I have discovered apple orchards and a few other farms which allow you to pick your own fruit. Thus far we have picked our own apples, blueberries,and raspberries.

Here are a few pics from our fruit picking excursions:
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Now I am so used to eating fresh fruits that I don’t care for the ones in the grocery store as much…lol…It is a big difference in the quality for sure. The apples are crisp and the colors so vibrant. After tasting fruit right from the trees and bushes I felt no need to purchase any from the store anymore. The blueberries and raspberries are so sweet and plump! We pick about a quart and freeze most of them so they last longer. I’ve used the berries to make popsicles, put them in my oatmeal, and made homemade blueberry pancakes. Homemade pancakes with fresh blueberries is just heaven on a plate!!

With that said, I have begun to explore new things more as I have gotten older especially when it comes to foods. It can be challenging at times because some foods have an acquired taste but once you find out what works best for you things fall into place. I’ll continue to share my experiences and lessons learned as I have been on this healthy lifestyle journey. Until then, I highly suggest you check out any local farms that may have pick your own fruit. Not everyone can appreciate the experience but I find it relaxing, fun and it beats picking fruit in the grocery store. Kids love it too! If not, look into local farmer’s markets or Amish markets that sell fresh produce.

Quinoa for breakfast anyone?

As I try to incorporate healthier options to my daily meals especially breakfast (most important meal of the day), I have learned to kick up my oatmeal by adding quinoa. Over the past year, I have mixed quinoa in my oatmeal to add more protein to my breakfast as this was my pre-workout meal. I needed the extra protein for that energy boost πŸ˜‰ I usually add bananas after I add the oatmeal to the quinoa/water/almond milk mixture for added sweetness. Then, I add blueberries (frozen or fresh), top it off with banana slices and cinnamon and it leaves me satisfied until lunch.

With past failed attempts at trying my hand at plain quinoa for breakfast as a porridge sans the oatmeal, I tried it this a.m. determined to get it right. I’ll be rock climbing (actually the rock climbing wall; no real deal rock climbing for me) with friends and my family for the first time today. So, I figured it would be a good idea to get an extra boost of protein.

I was inspired by a post I saw on HeyFranHey.com where she shared a recipe from here. I left out the coconut flakes because I don’t care for the texture of coconut. I just added what I like using the recipe as a guide. Aside from organic quinoa, my quinoa breakfast bowl consisted of fresh peaches we got from a local farm in the Boston area and was spiced up with cinnamon, a dash of nutmeg , sliced almonds, dried cranberries and a splash of almond milk for added creaminess. The results:
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This is progress for yours truly who at one time did not even know how to pronounce quinoa (I pronounced it “Kwi-no-a”)…lol…Now, I have incorporated it into our meals as a side dish and as breakfast with oatmeal or solo. It can be challenging for some to try new things especially when it comes to food. Later this week, I’ll be composing a list of tips on how to incorporate new foods into your daily or weekly (whatever you choose) meals based on my personal experience.

Inspirational Song of the Month: I Am Light


I am light, I am light

I am light, I am light

I am light, I am light

I am light, I am light

I am not the things my family did

I am not the voices in my head

I am not the pieces of the brokenness inside

I am light, I am light

I am light, I am light

I am light, I am light

I am light, I am light

I’m not the mistakes that I have made or any of the things that caused me pain

I am not the pieces of the dream I left behind

I am light, I am light

I am light, I am light

I am light, I am light

I am light, I am light

I am not the color of my eyes

I am not the skin on the outside

I am not my age, I am not my race, my soul inside is all light

I am light, all light

I am light, all light

I am divinity defined

I am the God on the inside

I am a star, a piece of it all

I am light

Music is very powerful and has the ability to change lives if one is receptive to it. I have always been a lover of music as it was/is my escape and main coping mechanism aside from prayer. I don’t know anyone who does not like music and it would be extremely hard for someone to convince me that there are people is one person in this world who does not like music. With that said, I thought it would only be absolutely necessary to include a music component to this blog because music is an important part of my daily motivation.Β  Continue reading “Inspirational Song of the Month: I Am Light”