Tag: Health

Depression and Cognition: A Correlation

Once upon a time, depression was viewed by many as a term used by desperate individuals, who were seeking attention or individuals lacking willpower and coping skills. Flash forward to today and we’re seeing the dangerous effects of untreated depression, such as suicide, murder, drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence and so on.

We all go through some form of sadness from time to time, whether it’s from a job loss, a failed relationship, a sudden death, and even poor family dynamics, however, when that sadness becomes a part of your everyday routine, you know it’s time for a doctor’s visit. Depression affects you in more ways than you would think and it’s absolutely vital to seek help when you notice certain changes before you begin to spiral out of control. Personally, the one symptom that got me to my doctor’s office was my lack of concentration. As a writer, you cannot function without it and I became very suspect that something wasn’t right, right away. Social isolation is also something I experience as I work from home. We know that friendships become scarce the older we get, so imagine working from behind your computer screen, while living alone and you get the perfect case study for depression and the deterioration of one’s cognitive abilities. My short term memory doesn’t exist, brain fog is consistent, focus is almost impossible and the two things I haven’t lost as yet are my sense of humor and wit, which I am almost positive will ultimately make an exit. Cognitive decline is one of the most embarrassing and debilitating thing to happen to anyone, in my opinion, especially due to its social effects such as losing your train of thought in the middle of an interview.

Recently, I was diagnosed with a mild form of depression known as Dysthymia, a persistent depressive disorder (PPD), which now puts everything into perspective. Like major depression, it’s a mood disorder with similar effects. “Diagnosis of dysthymia can be difficult because of the subtle nature of the symptoms and patients can often hide them in social situations, making it challenging for others to detect symptoms.” Sansone, 2009, Dysthymic Disorder: forlorn and overlooked. This disorder isn’t biological, however, just having family members living with depression can put you at risk of developing dysthymia. Research also indicates that this type of disorder is far more chronic than major depression because it can begin in early childhood and go undetected for many years until it manifests into major depression. It makes perfect sense as to why I’ve always felt a deep sadness within me that I couldn’t explain and being the social and charismatic kid that I was, made it impossible for anyone to suspect that I was depressed. As a child, I thought my sadness was the result of not having my parents around, but as I grew older the feelings never left. As a young adult, I spent my early 20’s feeling sad and depressed because everyone around me had their own ideas and opinions about who they wanted me to be. Being emotional as I am, I internalized everything, which eventually lead me to develop suicidal thoughts. The fact that depression and mental health weren’t taken as seriously as it is today, allowed my dysthymia to progress. Fortunately, with therapy, it is possible to regain some sort of normalcy and control in one’s thoughts. Will my poor concentration and memory loss be a thing of my past? I sure hope so because my writing nor 150 LSAT score won’t magically appear.

As I researched this topic, I spoke with several people dealing with some form of depression, who each had one thing in common, an innate fear of being labeled and stigmatized, so no one wanted to speak with me on the record. This alone shows that even though we’ve come a long way with educating society on depression and mental health, we’re still not in the clear and more work needs to be done. If we came together to discuss our experiences with the disorder then maybe people wouldn’t suffer in silence or resort to taking his or her own life. Time and time again we hear about suicide cases, especially amongst celebrities and we’re left baffled as to why because they seemed fine. Well, in most cases we don’t find out until it’s too late.

Depression isn’t a joking matter because it can affect anyone and at any given time, but the key thing to remember is that it’s possible to overcome. Wanting to end your life shouldn’t be your first thought, instead, think about ways to manage your symptoms and coping mechanisms that have been tried and proven to work. I think that a lot of sufferers are those with empty hearts, who feel burdensome by their limited or lack of fulfilling and gratifying relationships. For these sufferers, a simple “hello” or “how are you” can make a huge difference in their mood and energy. We all want to feel valued, loved, and cared for, thus making it important to stay away from abusive relationships and negative people. Negativity in every form is bad for your health and your well-being, and it’s crucial to find a balance if you want to improve your cognitive skills and life. Life is too short not to be happy.

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Tangy-Zesty Striped Bass with Dasheen Leaves and Asparagus

Two weekends in a row now, my trip to Salem, MA has been foiled, so to commemorate my dismay, I’ve decided to prepare a dish that I probably would’ve eaten, had I been there.

Striped Bass is native to the Northeast, specifically New England. Living out there by the water means everything to most of the population and so, fishing is a common thing. Striped Bass is plentiful just as much as Lobsters are in this region. Rather than using a well-known Striped Bass Recipe, which the Internet is saturated with, I decided to do my own thing, but still incorporating the basics when it comes to preparing fish. Here’s the list:

2 5oz Striped Bass Steaks
1 Orange
1 Lemon
1 Lime
1/2 Tsp Salt
1/2 Tsp Dill
1/2 Tsp Cilantro
1/2 Tsp Parsley
1/2 Tsp minced Onion
1/2 Tsp Garlic n’ Herbs
1/4 Tsp Black Pepper
1 1/2 Tbsp unsalted Butter

Preparation: mix all seasonings together in a dish first then after cleaning your fish, simply place it into the mixture. Toss it around for a bit, making sure to coat the entire fish then cover your dish and refrigerate overnight. Don’t worry about your fish drying out, it won’t! Next day, remove fish from refrigerator, place skillet on low to medium fire, add butter to the pan and then begin adding your fish. Once your fish is in, immediately add about a 1/4 cup of water, so the butter doesn’t dry up before the fish is cooked. Cover your pan and let fish cook for about 20 minutes on each side before turning it over. Tip: always remember that the steam from the pan is crucial to perfectly cooked fish. When the pan begins to dry down then you’ll know your fish is ready!

1 lbs Dasheen leaves
1/2 Tsp Salt
1/4 Tsp Garlic n’ Herbs
1 Pinch Black Pepper

Tip: Dasheen leaves are very large, so I advise that you cut it into smaller pieces in order for it to fit into your pot. Add 1.5 cups of water to a small pot, put it to boil on low fire and while it’s boiling, go ahead and prep your Dasheen leaves. Wash the leaves out before cutting then once you’re finished, add it to your pot along with the other ingredients. Stir to mix it all in and continue stirring occasionally to ensure that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pan. Let it cook for about 30 minutes or until it has completely broken down into a “soupy” mixture. *Add more water if needed*

1/2 bunch Asparagus
1 Pinch Salt
1/4 Tsp Olive oil
1 dash Garlic n’ Herbs

Wash asparagus and place them into pan (break them into two if your pan isn’t large enough) then add your ingredients along with 1/2 ounce of water. Toss asparagus around making sure to mix everything together then let it steam for about 7-10 minutes. Once everything is cooked, serve as usual. Enjoy!

Hypothyroidism and its Effects on the Mind and Body

Ever felt tired just because? Or maybe you’ve noticed your mind drifting off more than normal? Or your friends are more prone to confessing their deepest secrets to you because well, you have no memory? Are you moody and not just during your menstrual cycle? Maybe your blood flow is heavier than before and your abdominal bloat feels worse than previous months? Stubborn fat that won’t reduce no matter how much you workout? Perhaps your body has a tough time regulating your Basal Body Temperature? Well, sorry to say, but you might have a thyroid condition, more specifically, Hypothyroidism.

The thyroid gland produces hormones, which is responsible for regulating the body’s metabolism. It’s a very small butterfly-shaped gland in the middle of the lower part of the neck, which secretes hormones that directly affects every cell, tissue, and organ in the body. When the thyroid gland becomes sluggish and stops producing hormones, the process is known as Hypothyroidism. There are many symptoms associated with the disease, including weight gain, memory loss, depression, and fatigue. According to the American Thyroid Association, “More than 12 percent of the U.S. population will develop a thyroid condition during their lifetime.” The numbers might seem small or irrelevant to some, but just think that you too, could be one of these sufferers. Patients with undiagnosed thyroid disease are at risk of developing “Cardiovascular diseases, osteoporosis, and infertility.” It’s estimated that roughly 20 million Americans are currently battling some form of the disease, with women being “Five to eight times more likely than men to have thyroid problems, [that’s one in eight women and] up to 60 percent [of them] are unaware of their condition.” Some people unknowingly suffer for many years prior to a diagnosis and that’s usually because it only shows up when a patient’s thyroid hormone level is at its lowest, and just having symptoms alone isn’t enough for most doctors to make a proper diagnosis. In fact, a lot of doctors misdiagnose patients due to the fact that your thyroid level could inaccurately place you in the normal range. On the flip side, another type of thyroid disease is known as Hyperthyroidism, which happens when the thyroid produces more than enough hormones, leading to weight loss, anxiety and a host of other conditions.

There are several known causes of thyroid disease, however certain foods and lifestyle choices can also influence the thyroid by either elevating or decreasing hormone levels. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, “Hypothyroidism [can be caused by] Hashimoto’s disease, thyroiditis, or inflammation of the thyroid, congenital hypothyroidism, or hypothyroidism that is present at birth, surgical removal of part or all of the thyroid, radiation treatment of the thyroid [and] some medicines.” Having a pituitary disease can also affect the thyroid, as well as the amount of iodine in one’s body. While there are several causes, there isn’t much you can do to fight the disease. Doctors may prescribe a synthetic or natural thyroid hormone, which some people end up needing for the rest of their lives and you can also watch out for, and stay away from foods that irritate the thyroid. Because the thyroid depends on iodine for optimal health, foods like kelp and seaweed are highly recommended, and in addition, foods rich in selenium like eggs, salmon, Brazil nuts, mushrooms, and turkey are also helpful when battling hypothyroidism. Always remember to consult with your medical provider before starting a new regimen and keep in mind that there are also side effects from having too much of a good thing, so always check with your doctor.

In the case of Terry Doria, of Queens, NY, thyroid symptoms didn’t start showing up until about two months prior to her diagnosis, at age 24. Although she was slightly overweight, Terry was still a fit and active young woman, whose hypothyroidism was caused by the autoimmune condition, Hashimoto’s disease, which causes the immune system to attack the thyroid. I’ve had a chance to speak with Terry about her condition and here’s an excerpt from our conversation.

When I asked about the symptoms she experienced, Terry said, “I was diagnosed 26 years ago [and it happened] because I wasn’t sleeping, it had been several weeks and I felt off. My original General Practitioner wanted me to go to a sleep clinic as opposed to taking my blood. About a month and a half to two months later, my OB/GYN introduced me to a new General Practitioner, who I saw a few days later. He took my blood and prescribed me with Ambien to regulate my sleep. I took it twice and was able to start a normal sleep cycle. When the blood work came back, it showed Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis-an autoimmune thyroid condition that causes hypothyroidism. My other symptoms included lethargy, brain fog, muscle cramps, and a change in my menstruation.”

I then asked about the medications she uses to manage her condition and whether or not they were helping, and so she said, “The doctor [previously] prescribed synthetic thyroid replacement medicine, [but] I’m currently on natural thyroid hormone replacement medication, [and it’s] something I’ll be on for the rest of my life. There aren’t any side effects with the natural thyroid hormone medication, however, the synthetic forms did not do what it was intended to do. I’m also taking vitamin and mineral supplements as the Hashimoto’s blocks absorption of many.”

I followed up with Terry on how her life has been affected throughout the years with her hypothyroidism diagnosis, and she responded by saying, “My life has been drastically altered. Before the condition, I was fit, a bit overweight, muscular and active, [but] thanks to the many doctors not listening to my symptoms and [then] continually prescribing the synthetic thyroid hormone medication, I am currently overweight, lethargic and pre-diabetic. The natural thyroid hormone medication has helped a lot with the muscle cramps and brain fog.”

As Terry continued to discuss her struggles with getting a proper diagnosis, she mentioned that doctors usually go with the TSH level, which in most cases isn’t a good indicator for determining whether or not someone has hypothyroidism. “It took forever to get a doctor to do my T3 levels and reverse T3.” If you’re like Terry and are going through this process, be sure to educate yourself on the different tests, so you can accurately point your doctor in the right direction to ensure an expedited diagnosis. In the meantime, limit your intake of non-friendly thyroid foods such as gluten, cruciferous vegetables, dark greens, sweets and soy products, and your thyroid will thank you.

Because the body needs our thyroid for optimal health, it is even that much more important to do all that we can to protect it. Recently, Shark Tank’s, Daymond John, opened up to ABC’s “Good Morning America” about his stage two thyroid cancer diagnosis in which he revealed, “A nodule about the size of a marble was found on his thyroid in March 2016 during a checkup. Surgeons removed half of his thyroid and had the nodule biopsied, at which point it revealed that he had stage two thyroid cancer.” Thankfully he’s doing better and is now able to share his story in an effort to help others to be more proactive when it comes to his or her health. John knew it would be challenging, but didn’t let it stop him from taking control of his health, “If I would attack it now, then I wouldn’t have let it attack me and I had that removed.” Below, you’ll find some helpful links to additional hypothyroidism facts. Be well and take good care of each other.

Favorite Foreign Film and How It Relates to the Plus Size Community

It was in the fall of 2014, while in the midst of finishing up my homework, when I suddenly felt the urge to stop and take a break from my studies. I turned on Netflix, went through my recommended movies and came across a film titled, “The Hairdresser” from 2010. It was written by Laila Stieler, directed by Doris Dorrie and featured Gabriela Maria Schmeide. It peaked my interest even though it was in German. I was intrigued and impressed to see that the film’s official poster featured a plus sized woman, so I had to see it!

The film was about an older, overweight and divorced, single-mother from East Berlin, who is unemployed and struggling to find work as a hairdresser due to her size, and finds even more problems when she tries to open her own salon. Through it all, Kathi (Schmeide) pushes on and refuses to give up. This movie makes you think about your own life and struggles, while you connect with the character. Although it works to show us a modern Berlin, I couldn’t help but wonder whether or not things had really changed from the 40’s and 50’s. Kathi lived in an apartment complex and it’s quite easy to see that the neighborhood was not the best, nonetheless, she was still very comfortable. She had a wonderful group of friends cheering her on throughout her journey.

The movie was written quite beautifully and it makes you wonder if this was based on the life of the writer due to the specificity and the believability of the details of Kathi’s life. Well, based on an interview with the writer, Laila Stieler, she explained that “the stimulus for The Hairdresser was the stories of my hairdresser.” We are still fighting for equal opportunities here in the states, to this day, with a cultural revolution that aims to open doors in television and fashion for plus size women, so it is rather unnerving to imagine the lives of these women in East Berlin. If it’s this hard in America for overweight women, then this movie, The Hairdresser, points out the global stigmatization and injustice that fat women experience.

It resonates with me a lot because I’ve experienced the rejection that Kathi has endured. As a plus size woman wanting to get into mass media, it’s exceptionally difficult. It’s what I have wanted to do and when I chose my major, I was obviously naive to think that my skills and abilities would be taken into consideration without regards to my fuller figure. With every interview, I’ve experienced anxiety, stressing and wondering if today is the day that someone sees past my physical appearance. Being plus size can be excruciating, knowing well and good that most people don’t even wait to hear what you have to say, instead they look at you and immediately decide that you don’t fit with their company’s “culture”. This is what Kathi went through each time she interviewed at a hair salon. She was mocked and treated like an outcast. The film did a great job at capturing her emotions and making her an easily likable character. Although her life was tough, she took it all in stride and remained optimistic. She was funny and resilient, patient and yet, persistent. She was kind and generous with her services, as well as her time.

I feel incredibly proud when I watch television or a film and see a plus size actor making her mark in the industry. One person in particular is Chrissy Metz from “This is Us.” She’s an amazing actor and she’s opening so many doors for larger women. By casting her on the show, it allows other casting directors and writers, as well as other plus size actors to become more involved and more open to having roles for the people who make up a large percent of the United States’ population. Approximately 64 percent of females are overweight. This is no attempt to promote or glorify being bigger, but simply an observation with the intent to create a positive dialogue on extending more opportunities to plus size individuals.

The world is changing and it’s imperative that we remain open minded to accepting people the way they are. It’s my hope that weight will one day become irrelevant during the hiring process and that everyone will get a fair chance when fulfilling his or her dreams. With adequate support, remaining proactive and determined, and keeping a positive attitude, Kathi was able to accomplish her entrepreneurial dreams. If you’re struggling with anything, continue on with the fight and never give up because eventually, it will happen.

 

Favorite Film and Why It’s Important

“Back there I could fly a gunship, I could drive a tank, I was in charge of [a] million dollar equipment, [and] back here I can’t even hold a job parking cars.” This is from the scene in First Blood, where John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) broke down in front of his former commanding officer, Colonel Sam Trautman (Richard Crenna) towards the ending of the film.

First Blood is and will be one of my favorite films and it’s rather interesting just how much his character relates to some veterans today. The movie was released in 1982 and is based on the 1972 novel of the same name, which was written by David Morrell. In the book, Rambo commits suicide at the end, but in the movie, the beloved character was given an alternative ending in order to continue with the film’s three sequels. Rambo was like every other soldier; well trained, disciplined, loyal to his country and ready to give his life for his fellow citizens. “[He was] a troubled and misunderstood Vietnam veteran who must rely on his combat and survival senses against the abusive law enforcement of a small town.”-Wikipedia. After seven years of being discharged from the military, Rambo traveled on foot to visit one of his comrades in the small town of Hope, Washington. When he arrived, he found out that his friend had passed away from cancer, which he developed as a result of his exposure to Agent Orange during the war. Instead of leaving the town, Rambo continued to wander around only to come across the town’s vile sheriff, Will Teasle (Brian Dennehy). He asked the Sheriff for directions to a diner, but was driven out of town instead and because he refused to leave, he was then arrested. Rambo fought his way out of jail, which ultimately sparked a vicious manhunt. Based off of my limited knowledge in the field of psychology, most of his decisions in the movie can be looked at as those of someone with untreated Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)-a form of mental illness that some people develop after experiencing or witnessing a traumatic event, such as war and sexual assault. Sadly, most of our veterans today are suffering from this dreadful illness, which can lead to several other psychological illnesses, as well as, homelessness and addictions.

According to the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, it is estimated that “PTSD afflicts almost 31 percent of Vietnam veterans, as many as 10 percent of Gulf War (Desert Storm) veterans, 11 percent of veterans of the war in Afghanistan and 20 percent of Iraqi war veterans.” The numbers may seem small in comparison, however, it is enough to persuade the military to take more action into providing better care for our veterans. Based on recent PTSD statistics, it was reported that “17% of combat troops are women; 71% of female military personnel develop PTSD due to sexual assault within the ranks.” Last summer, I met a young woman in Florida named Chrissy, who is part of the 11 percent of Veterans from the war in Afghanistan. Although she hadn’t experienced rape, Chrissy lost her parents at an early age as a result of a car accident, and so she suffers from depression and addiction, as well as PTSD. She is also a mother to a beautiful baby boy, but due to her illness, she often spends time away from him whenever she experiences an episode. During our discussion, we both agreed that the military isn’t doing enough to reintegrate veterans back into society, something Rambo could’ve benefited from. They go through vigorous physical and mental training in order to be combat-ready and once they’ve passed all requirements, they’re deployed to their specific locations around the world. Now, when they’ve completed their missions and are ready to be discharged, there’s little to no counseling prior to their exit. According to Chrissy, they’re given their discharge papers and a pat on the back wishing them luck on the outside, similar to the treatment prisoners receive. Although there are resources available to our vets, it’s not always utilized. Many vets are sometimes too ill to even realize that there’s a problem and so he or she may not seek help in time, which can lead to an array of additional issues. The consensus remains that upon dismissal, each veteran should be offered extensive counseling prior to reintegration. It’s not only a good idea for the individuals, but also for communities nationwide because the violence and murder rates among veterans are steadily rising. According to a recent survey conducted by the Washington Post and the Kaiser Family Foundation, “nearly one-third say that their mental health is worse than it was before they left, and nearly half say the same of their physical condition. Almost half say they give way to sudden outbursts of anger. Only 12 percent of the surveyed veterans claim they are now “better” mentally or physically than they were before they went to war.”

“After an argument about a leave denied, Specialist Ivan Lopez pulled out a .45-caliber Smith & Wesson handgun and began a shooting spree at Fort Hood, America’s biggest stateside base, that left three soldiers dead and sixteen wounded.”-The Nation. We hear about these acts of violence being committed by our service men and women suffering from PTSD far too often. Although males mostly perpetuate these acts, women too, experience bouts of violence. Based upon data from 2011-2012 from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, roughly 1,400 female veterans were imprisoned with another 1,600 jailed. For every female jailed there are just as many, who are experiencing abuse and neglect from her spouse battling PTSD. It’s also important to note that the unemployment rate is significantly higher among female veterans with an estimated 15 percent of females between the ages of 18-24 and another 10 percent between the ages of 25-34. Sadly, 9.8 percent of our homeless veterans are females and this is a problem that our military should address.

In First Blood, Rambo was showcased as a nuisance, a lost soul, a troublemaker, a wanderer and a dangerous man. Behind his “damaged” exterior was a resourceful and fair man with great leadership skills, who would’ve thrived in a position of authority if given the chance. Never mind the sight of powerful machinery and a gorgeous human evading the law, Rambo was a hero to 12-year-old me because he consistently fought for what he believed in and never feared questioning authority. With proper care, this character would’ve been a much better person and that too is true for veterans like Chrissy. Our military needs to work harder at protecting and helping all veterans, but because women are at a greater disadvantage, they deserve to receive an extra 50 percent of the help currently offered. The treatment Rambo received from law enforcement is what we should strive to not do to our troubled veterans. Instead, be proactive and get him or her the help they so desperately need without ostracizing the individual.

If you or any veteran alike is experiencing hardships, please visit these websites for more information:

http://www.nchv.org

http://nvf.org

http://www.endhomelessness.org

https://www.va.gov