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May is Blood Pressure Awareness Month. With 1 in 3 people affected by hypertension in the United States alone, high blood pressure affects a significant portion of the population. In the short term, hypertension results from hormones released during times of stress and anxiety. These hormones cause the heart to beat faster and blood vessels to narrow. In addition to short-term hypertension, stress can lead to long-term hypertension through coping behaviors. Behaviors associated with stress that cause long-term hypertension include: overeating, drinking alcohol, and poor sleeping habits. In addition, mood disorders put the body on constant high alert, which places a strain on many organ systems.

In honor of Blood Pressure Awareness Month, many people have chosen to focus on blood pressure lowering foods to incorporate health benefits into their menus. One of the power players in the fight against high blood pressure is the often-maligned yet humbly delicious potato. Potatoes contain blood pressure-lowering compounds called kukoamines. In addition, potatoes contain a variety of phytonutrients that have antioxidant activity. While physicians recommend focusing on fighting high blood pressure using traditional methods of lowering stress, reducing anxiety, fighting depression, and using traditional pharmaceuticals, food can aid us in the fight. This particular potato salad recipe is a much healthier alternative to the traditional mustard potato salad of the Deep South.

Ingredients:

For the Potatoes

  • 10 ounces very small purple Peruvian potatoes (about 20)
  • 10 ounces very small yellow creamer potatoes (about 20)
  • 10 ounces very small red bliss potatoes (about 20)
  • 9 cloves of garlic, lightly crushed with the side of a knife
  • ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil or melted bacon fat, plus more for drizzling
  • ¾ teaspoon Kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
  • 3 3-inch fresh Rosemary sprigs
  • 9 3-inch fresh thyme sprigs

For the Arugula Pesto

  • ¼ cup roasted, salted sunflower seeds
  • 1 clove of garlic, coarsely chopped
  • Zest and juice of 1 ½ lemons (about 3 tablespoons)
  • ¼ cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
  • 4 cups loosely packed baby arugula, stems removed
  • ¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup finely shredded Singing Brook Ossau-iraty, or Pecorino Toscano cheese (About 2 ounces)
  • ¾ teaspoon Kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup lightly packed baby arugula, for serving
  • 1 cup pickled red onions, drained for serving (see recipe below)
  • Deviled eggs, for serving

Directions:

  1. To make the potatoes, preheat the oven to 375 F.
  2. In a large bowl, combine the potatoes, garlic, oil, salt, and pepper and toss to coat.
  3. Transfer the potatoes into a large baking dish or roasting pan.
  4. Tuck the rosemary and thyme around the potatoes.
  5. Cover the dish tightly and roast until the potatoes are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 1 hour.
  6. Uncover the pan and let the potatoes cool to room temperature.
  7. Discard the thyme and rosemary sprigs.
  8. Meanwhile, prepare the arugula pesto.
  9. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with the metal blade, place the sunflower seeds and garlic and pulse to combine.
  10. Add the parsley and half of the arugula and pulse to combine.
  11. With the machine running, add half of the oil in a slow, steady stream.
  12. Add the rest of the arugula and pulse to combine.
  13. With the machine running, add the rest of the oil in a slow steady stream.
  14. Add the cheese, salt, and pepper and process until smooth.
  15. You’ll have about 1 ¾ cups. (Alternatively, for more of a workout but a beautiful result, try using a mortar and pestle.)
  16. Use soon or transfer to an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
  17. To assemble the salads, cut the potatoes in half and divide them among 6 serving plates.
  18. Tuck a little arugula among the potatoes and scatter the pickled red onions across the top.
  19. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of the pesto over each salad, drizzle with a little olive oil or bacon fat, and season with salt and pepper.
  20. Serve at once, and pass a platter of deviled eggs at the table.

Pickled Red Onions

(Makes about 3 cups)

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup red wine vinegar
  • ½ cup (3 ½ ounces) natural cane sugar
  • 2 whole allspice
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed with the side of a knife
  • 1 3-inch fresh thyme sprig
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 2 red onions, cut into ¼-inch Julienne slices

Directions:

  1. In a medium, nonreactive saucepan, place the vinegar, 1 cup water, and the cane sugar.
  2. In a spice bag or large square of cheesecloth, place the allspice, star anise, garlic clove, thyme sprig, bay leaf, and red pepper flakes.
  3. Tightly tie the bag and add it to the saucepan.
  4. Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring occasionally until the sugar has dissolved.
  5. Add the onions, remove the pan from the heat, and let stand until cool.
  6. Discard the bay leaf.
  7. Use at once or transfer to a 1-quart Mason jar with the pickling liquid and spices and refrigerate for up to 2 weeks.

Source: The Foothills Cuisine of Blackberry Farm

Published in Brookhaven Blog
Sunday, 31 May 2015 00:00

Believe

Sometimes prayers are answered. And I realize I have to listen to my intuition and trust it even more than I already do. I walked into the local deli where I hang and sell artwork I make out of seashells and sea glass as a daily effort to keep calm and not embrace my DNA and the periodic urge to run screaming to a depression rehab. It actually works. When I allow my imagination out to play, I’m not prisoner of my thoughts and my mental health is stable, which is why I’ve turned it into a business called Groovy Beach House. It creates a sense of accountability around what would otherwise just be a hobby that I may not make a priority. I don’t want to turn into someone who doesn’t make time for the things I truly love doing because I’m working to pay bills, though it’s such a common tragedy.

Anyway, so I walked into the deli hoping I wouldn’t see my single-panel painted sign that says, “Believe” collaged with pieces of sea shells I collected on a local beach. If it wasn’t on the wall, it could only mean that it was sold. Sure enough, it wasn’t there, and every cell of my body smiled with the sense of validation coursing through my veins.

“Hey, Warren,” I said to the owner of the place. “I see my sign sold.”

He stared at me blankly. “I thought you took it. I was wondering why you didn’t replace it. I figured you were just busy.”

“You mean it didn’t sell?”

“Not that I know of.”

“Someone stole my ‘Believe’ sign? Who would do that?”

“I’m so sorry,” Warren said, “I really thought you took it back because you sold it.”

I was holding another smaller sign that said, “Café,” which I had intended to hang on the now empty nail on the wall. “I don’t feel good about hanging this one. I like it too much to have it disappear too.”

I had to choke back tears as I walked out of the place into the drizzly day wondering why this would happen. I hate wallowing, so I decided to think of it as a complement. Someone who couldn’t afford to pay the $20 for it wanted the sign so much that stealing it was the only way. The idea that someone would choose to risk being deemed a thief in order to have my artwork is a big peacock feather in my cap.

But something about that didn’t resonate either. I tried to imagine someone taking it off the wall and walking out the door without being noticed. No way. And of all the signs to lose. Believe. Hmph!

Over the next couple of days I thought about it. I even went to an interior design shop across the street to sell some of my work and the owner mentioned seeing the sign I had made for Freshicas Juice Bar, which is also located at the deli. I told her about the stolen sign and she couldn’t believe it either.

I’m not one to post on Facebook every time I sneeze twice in a row, but I couldn’t hold this story back. I had to vent. My post received a few consolations, but one comment came from a doctor/acupuncturist friend from Indiana who wrote, “There are no accidents, chica! The universe has bigger plans here. Every ‘loss’ is actually an opening, an expansion.”

It was as if my conscience was talking to me because I know this and agree with it, which is likely why I couldn’t believe it was stolen in the first place. Yup, there’s that word again. It’s everywhere. I believe... I don’t believe... Can you believe?... It would never go unnoticed again!

The next day, my friend who owns the Indy Healing Center in Indiana and practices Chinese medicine, asked me to make her a sign proclaiming that everything happens for a reason. We were instant messaging back and forth the following day about the project. During the conversation I got a call from the deli. As soon as I saw the name on my phone’s screen, I knew what was coming. It was Warren saying that he was all ready to sit down with the surveillance tapes for the past two months, but resolved the mystery before that.

I was tickled and posted accordingly. I wrote: “I KNEW my sign wasn't stolen. The owner called to let me know that someone who works a couple days a week had sold it. My faith is restored because my post actually led to another project for which I am infinitely grateful.”

What now? I have to make another “Believe” sign, and another that says, “There are no accidents. Everything happens for a reason.” I should probably make another one that says, “Faith.”

Published in Brookhaven Blog
Saturday, 30 May 2015 00:00

Habitual Creativity

Creativity is a terrible thing to waste. When your creative urges are neglected, bad things happen. I’m not trying to be funny. Not right now anyway. For me, creativity is a divine gift and something I don’t take for granted. It can also be developed if it doesn’t feel like it comes naturally.

We all have situations that require healing on some level or another, whether it’s bereavement, anxiety, drug addiction or alcoholism, to name a few. Creativity is medicine without side effects.

Here is a bit of important information for anyone who doesn’t routinely flex his or her art muscles because there’s no time or because it’s not believed to be time well spent. In 1979, the National Coalition of Creative Arts Therapies Associations, Inc. was founded for the advancement of arts as therapy. Creative professionals use arts modalities and creative processes to improve communication, increase physical, emotional, cognitive and social function in people with disabilities, illness and anyone who has a wound to heal. There are more than 15,000 Creative Arts Therapists who practice around the world, and have been in the U.S. for more than 50 years. I believe what defines me is my ability to express my ideas through writing, music and art. In fact, almost everything I do---on some level---plays some role in the development and satisfaction of my creativity. Until I became entirely mindful of this fact, I was depressed because I wasn’t living authentically. My authentic self wants to create all day, every day because it feels good.

Whether it’s singing, painting, masterminding a business plan, designing a building or writing a play or whatever it is your soul is begging you to do, to limit yourself is like cutting off your air supply. If you experience brain fog, take a walk.

According to Rhode Island College scientists in a study conducted in 2005, two hours of rigorous physical activity improves creative thinking. The Huffington Post reported a recent study published in the journal Frontiers in Human Neuroscience that discovered people who exercise regularly score higher on creativity tests than their peers who didn’t exercise as much or at all.

If depression is the manifestation of suppressed creative energy, you must consider what suppresses it in the first place. The answer is self-doubt, fear of judgment and approval-seeking behavior. Sylvia Plath, who ultimately committed suicide, wrote, “The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.”

My friend Dr. Melissa Laborsky says, “Depression can be a way of turning in, turning off and tuning out the world due to a fear of it. Energetically, depression extends from liver deficiency, stagnation. The liver is the organ responsible for managing stress and balancing emotions.”

In 2013, TIME Magazine took a poll and found out that 91% of people believe creativity is vital to their personal lives and 83% agree it’s key in one’s professional life. However, an Adobe survey showed that only 25% believe they are creative.

If you fall into that 25 percentile and want to be more creative, there are ways to develop it and work it like a muscle. Here are a few suggestions:

  1. Just do it. Don’t think, just do. Why wait for inspiration to grab you by the hair? Don’t concern yourself with the outcome. It’s about the process. Let go of judgment and ideas of perfection, and do it! Deepak Chopra said, “Non-judgment quiets the internal dialogue, and this opens once again the doorway to creativity.” The more often you “just do it,” the more likely it will become a healthy habit that may replace an unhealthy habit that was actually a place-holder for self-expression. Kurt Vonnegut wrote, “We have to continually be jumping off cliffs and developing our wings on the way down.” It takes courage and faith.
  2. Create space for solitude. Creativity flourishes in the quiet when you can hear yourself think, when you can focus and allow your imagination to travel freely. Mozart said: “When I am, as it were, completely myself, entirely alone, and of good cheer–say, traveling in a carriage or walking after a good meal or during the night when I cannot sleep–it is on such occasions that my ideas flow best and most abundantly.” Picasso said: “Without great solitude no serious work is possible.” Enough said.
  3. Invite criticism. But only if you want to expand and grow as an artist. It’s perfectly OK if you don’t. Again, it’s not about the outcome, just the process. If the process creates a desire to expand, find a mentor and ask for advice. Listen closely to the answers without judgment. You don’t have to follow what doesn’t resonate with you, but don’t be afraid to ask. It might pave the way to your next breakthrough. Also take into consideration that according to Twyla Tharp, “Creativity is an act of defiance.”
  4. Seek inspiration. In Julia Cameron’s book The Artist’s Way, she suggests “artist dates” to recharge your battery. Before you’re going to output, you need input. It can be anything you find stimulating like going to a movie, museum or performance, though mundane activities work just as well if you engage all of your senses and focus on details. Imagine a trip to the mall stripped of any intention except people-watching. Eavesdrop on conversations. Ernest Hemingway said, “I like to listen. I have learned a great deal from listening carefully. Most people never listen.” Watch the body language of distant conversations that you can only see, not hear. Look around with your artistic eye.
  5. Read. Words inspire thought and thought inspires any number of things. Go on a concept hunt. Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “There is creative reading as well as creative writing.” It’s the kind of reading that takes you on a journey from the question to an answer.
Published in Brookhaven Blog
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Friday, 29 May 2015 00:00

J.K. Rowling’s message to fan: Don’t give up

One of the greatest wonders of modern communication is the availability of instant communication. You can reach your sister, your best friend, or even a celebrity. You can share your joys, your frustrations, and even your anxiety garnering instant input in return. While some people believe this type of instant interaction is counter-productive to socialization, a recent interaction proved just how valuable this interaction can be.

Recently, a fan of J.K. Rowling reached out to the writer in a moment of desperation when depression and anxiety seemed to threaten their ability to continue living due to feeling unfulfilled in their quest to find meaning in their life. Even the original message to Rowling was self-depreciated and referenced the possibility of getting lost in the noise of the Twitterverse. Rowling, a depression survivor, not only noticed the communication but also reached out to the message’s writer offering insight on persevering. Rowling’s responded with several breathtaking photos to help put life back into perspective.

While you may question why this fan reached out to J. K. Rowling, best known for writing the Harry Potter book series, the message was definitely sent to the right person. J. K. Rowling is a heroic survivor of depression and suicidal thought. Her heroism comes not just from surviving mental illness but also from publicly admitting to having survived it in the hopes of encouraging others to over come their misplaced fear and shame of diagnosis and to seek treatment. Rowling was quoted as saying “I have never been remotely ashamed of having been depressed. Never. What’s to be ashamed of? I went through a really rough time and I am quite proud that I got out of that.”

Shame is one of the biggest adversaries when confronting mental illness because people who feel shame over their condition are less likely to seek treatment. There is a societal stigma that surrounds mental health issues because the general public does not understand them. The stigma attached to mental illness acts as a barrier to proper treatment. People are not ashamed to visit the doctor for a physical ailment; they should not feel shame for visiting a psychiatrist or a psychologist for an emotional problem. Mental health facilities should be viewed in the same light as physical health facilities.

Some of the shame surrounding mental illness comes from the way the medical terminology has been thrown around in casual conversation, used as slang, or used to punctuate statements of conflicted feelings. If a woman changes plans too frequently, she is referred to as bipolar. One who suddenly decides to organize her kitchen is being OCD. Bereavement and grief are referred to as depression instead of as the normal grieving process. Unfortunately, the more the negative stereotype is perpetuated, the less likely people are to seek support when they really need it. Only 25% of people suffering from a mental illness feel that others are compassionate toward their situation.

Many people believe that seeking help for mental health is only for people who have reached the point of being dysfunctional. This is simply not true; most people who initiate counseling do not have a serious mental illness. They are simply transitioning through a difficult time in their life that might be temporarily challenging their ability to cope. Seeking assistance early is the key to successful treatment. Another common misconception with seeking mental health assistance is that once you start counseling, you will have to go forever. They view it as an unending process when, in reality, many people successfully complete a program tailored to their particular needs within a short time frame and are able to move on with their lives with a new perspective on their problem and a new toolbox of resources for coping with future stressors.

If you are struggling with an emotional issue or a mood disorder, reach out to friends or family that you trust. They may be able to refer you to a medical professional that they trust. Conversely, the only help they may be able to offer you is their unconditional support and love. If that is the case, keep in mind what Dana Shore said, “Trouble is a part of your life, and if you don’t share it, you don’t give the person who loves you a chance to love you enough.” Don’t be a victim of pride, if you are in need of assistance, reach out. Seek help so that you are not struggling alone.

Published in Brookhaven Blog
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Thursday, 28 May 2015 00:00

Anxiety – In My Own Words

Anxiety. How could any person actually define anxiety? The dictionary explains it as distress or uneasiness of mind caused by fear of danger or uncomforted. But does that really define what it is? Absolutely not. I could say almost everyone in this population has suffered or experienced this time consuming trait. But could you put your finger on it, could you explain what its like to live with this throughout your daily life? Every moment, everything consumed with this fear, sometimes not even knowing where the emotion comes from. If I could explain anxiety to the best of my experience, to let others in on the feelings, that many, many of the population feel, this is how it would be.

To start with, sometimes it’s the absolute irrational thought that comes to mind, like things an average Joe wouldn’t even think of. Anxiety makes you seem like you’re losing control, not capable of stopping whatever fear is consuming the moment. Your head, your head feels so swollen, like my grandmother’s feet at the end of the day, like if another thought comes to mind, I’m going to explode. My hands, they get so sweaty, its gross, and come to think of it, I actually can’t feel them, the numbness starts to kick in. Then my body starts to get antsy, like I can’t sit still, like every blood cell in my body is jumping up and down, up and down, not allowing me to rest or close my eyes to sleep. I tend to ignore the surroundings around me; like I am stuck watching those same re-runs my eyes won’t let me flinch as though I’ll miss something important. And my heart. I know its still there but I can’t feel it, I’ve become numb to the feeling and emotion.

Then my daughter’s smile comes to mind, or how her piercing blue eyes shine when I walk in the door. The feeling of her warmth from her hugs, and moist from her sweet soft kisses, I begin to fade down. I begin to realize that no matter what comes my way, or the toxic thoughts to come to my mind, my daughter needs me. She needs her mother to be strong and steady; to love her and protect her, and you can’t do so when you allow anxiety to take over you. Try to remember a loved one, or something that makes you happy, distract your mind when you feel bombarded or stressed. Sometimes you have to just breath and realize that things are going to be okay, that you are stronger then those things or others or whatever your fears are. You are in control of your life and surroundings. If vile things seem to re-enter and re-enter your life, remove your self. Know that anxiety is what you make of it. Don’t worry about the little things and wait for the big things. And remember you live once and live it to the fullest. You owe it to yourself.

Published in Brookhaven Blog
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Death is often more difficult for the living, and especially horrific when suicide is the cause. Whenever I come across someone who approaches bereavement with any amount of optimism, I have to step back and take notice.

My daughter recently performed in the school talent show. I overheard Marnie McClure Doherty, the show’s director and a parent who happens to be an overall beautiful human being, telling another parent about the run she was planning to do on April 26. At the time, it was about two weeks away. She was concerned about how well she would do.

To look at her, you’d never imagine she’d have trouble doing anything at all. But as I flexed my eavesdropping muscles, I could tell the run had a higher purpose than a typical race. Then someone else started talking and she mentioned something about her brother dying, and I was crossing the street, so I missed the rest of her story.

On Facebook, I saw Marnie’s post about the race the day before she would run. On a site called Crowdrise.com, whose clever tagline is “If you don’t give back no one will like you,” she created a fundraiser, “Running for ADAA.”

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America (ADAA) is a 35-year-old nonprofit organization that began as a meeting of a small group of people in 1980, who founded the Phobia Society of America in White Plains, NY. The term “anxiety disorder” was instead referred to as phobias. In 2012, the organization became the ADAA because depression and anxiety go together like peanut butter and jelly for a lot of people.

Here is her brief story on Crowdrise:

Dear Friends and Family,

On February 5th, I lost my brother and only sibling, Jim McClure, to anxiety, depression and ultimately the taking of his own life. He was just 43 years old. I am thankful for all the wonderful childhood memories he gave me. His wife and our family are missing him terribly!

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18% of U.S. population).

I am running my first half marathon in Long Branch, New Jersey on April 26th in Jim's memory and I am striving to make a significant contribution to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America. While I pray that Jim is now at peace, I am hopeful that more research will improve the lives of the millions afflicted with this painful condition. Thank you for reading and thanks in advance for donating!!

Three days after her run, another friend commented on Marnie’s post, “Congrats on your AMAZING run!! For those that don't know, Marnie McClure Doherty finished in the top 4% in her age group (11th out of 281)! More importantly, she raised over $10,000 for ADAA in memory of her brother Jim! Impressive and inspirational.”

Wow, I thought, she’s in her late 40s like me, and she ran 13 miles faster than most of the people who ran with her. “I started running a few months before my wedding 20 years ago as a way to keep weight off,” she says. “I was a soccer player in middle school through college, so in my mind, long-distance running was boring and arduous, but it worked! I ran a few races over the years, but never longer than a 10k. The half marathon is twice that distance!

“I was very nervous about completing the race because during my long training runs, I would get cramps in my calves around 10 or 11 miles every time. I was dehydrated! When I felt the pain during the race, I drank Gatorade from one of the many volunteers, and all was remedied.”

But being hydrated also meant more tears.

“I thought of Jim many times during the race,” she says. “When I first took off I was happy I was wearing sunglasses because I was instantly emotional, which took me by surprise. The combination of finally being there and all my nerves about finishing and dedicating this big event to him really got me.

“Physically, I felt great and was very quickly relaxed and totally in sync with the pacer I started with. People who volunteer to run races holding signs with times on them to help other runners are saints! I was able to finish under the pacer time by 30 seconds---much faster than I had run during any of my training.”

Marnie’s running tip of the month: Train in very steep terrain and then run a flat race.

As for her brother, Jim, who also made her chuckle at the thought of how much he hated exercise and was probably wondering why she would suffer through such a long run, he had anxiety as early as preschool.

“My mom had to literally peel him off of her leg each morning she dropped him off at school,” she says. “His fear of failure was so intense throughout his life that the thought of completing any large task was often too much for him. He would quit most things that required any kind of stamina in order to not feel the embarrassment of failure. It was hard to watch because he was very smart and gifted with incredible mechanical skills.”

At 13 or 14, he began self-medicating and struggled with alcoholism until his early 30s, when he met his future wife. It is alarming to hear that he got sober, his addiction was replaced with prescription drugs, and yet, Marnie says, "His anxiety coupled with depression continued to cripple him."

The worst part is that he left no clues about what moved him to give up. “It's impossible to know what he was going through at the very end because he didn't leave us a note. All we can hope is that he's finally at peace and not having to endure the incredible burden of his demons any longer.”

Marnie added, “The reason I chose the Anxiety and Depression Association as the beneficiary of my half marathon fundraising is that I wanted to contribute to helping those afflicted with all that pain to find happiness and fulfillment in all the beauty that life has to offer.”

Published in Brookhaven Blog
Monday, 25 May 2015 00:00

Nellie Bly’s 10 Days of Insanity

The staunch work of Dorothea Lynn Dix was not a solo act. And a chance for Dix to see the inside of a prison for a taste of how people behind bars were treated was clearly the divine plan for the lifetime of good that came after.

Thanks to Dix, the mental health system was knocked on its ear with a reform movement in the mid- to late-1800s and has come a very long way since then. This is not to say that mistreatment of those fighting for their mental health came to a screeching halt. But the reform was most definitely a game-changer during a time when people with severe depression, bipolar disorder and other mental health issues were classified as insane (and therefore hopeless) and caged like animals in cold horrifyingly inhumane places called insane asylums.

The world is indeed a better place for the existence of mental health facilities or treatment centers like Brookhaven Retreat, where compassion and nurturing is an integral part of all treatment and creating a life worth living is the ultimate objective.

Enter Nellie Bly, a pen-name for Elizabeth Jane Cochran, a journalist, who, in the late 1800s, spent 10 days playing the part of someone who belonged in the Woman's Lunatic Asylum on Blackwell's Island for the sake of writing a book called---you guessed it---Ten Days in a Madhouse.

There she investigated unbelievable claims of abuse and came to realize that some of the women didn’t belong there at all. Her courageous and perhaps, dare I say, crazy and rather daring investigation resulted in funds for improved care and living conditions.

The introduction of the 75-page book begins with this quote: “I am happy to be able to state as a result of my visit to the asylum and the exposures consequent thereon, that the City of New York has appropriated $1,000,000 more per annum than ever before for the care of the insane. So I have at least the satisfaction of knowing that the poor unfortunates will be the better cared for because of my work.”

According to the book, she put on quite a show for everyone involved in deeming her sufficiently insane to go to Bellevue as a first stop. By the time she entered Blackwell's Island Lunatic Asylum where there were supposedly 1600 women, she began to feel the effects of poor treatment such as mild starvation (being served “slightly spoiled” food in small portions, and only meats, starches, broth and grains, all grotesquely prepared). Bath time was akin to almost drowning in freezing cold water and sleeping in itchy woolen blankets in rooms without much (if any) heat. Some patients were beaten; others choked and bruised from severe handprints.

Bly was perhaps the first woman journalist to conduct undercover investigations such as this before women were permitted to vote, and this wasn’t her only one. However, it was likely her most challenging one.

From the book comes the following passage that sounds more like a movie than reality:

"Who are they?" I asked of a patient near me.

"They are considered the most violent on the island," she replied. "They are from the Lodge, the first building with the high steps." Some were yelling, some were cursing, others were singing or praying or preaching, as the fancy struck them, and they made up the most miserable collection of humanity I had ever seen. As the din of their passing faded in the distance there came another sight I can never forget:

A long cable rope fastened to wide leather belts, and these belts locked around the waists of fifty-two women. At the end of the rope was a heavy iron cart, and in it two women–one nursing a sore foot, another screaming at some nurse, saying: "You beat me and I shall not forget it. You want to kill me," and then she would sob and cry. The women "on the rope," as the patients call it, were each busy on their individual freaks. Some were yelling all the while. One who had blue eyes saw me look at her, and she turned as far as she could, talking and smiling, with that terrible, horrifying look of absolute insanity stamped on her. The doctors might safely judge on her case. The horror of that sight to one who had never been near an insane person before, was something unspeakable.

The longer her investigation went, the less insane she would have to pretend to be. Strangely enough, when she told the doctors she was in fact sane and wanted to be released, they doubted her. That brought her to the point of pointing out the shortcomings of the staff.

She wrote:

"What are you doctors here for?" I asked one, whose name I cannot recall.

"To take care of the patients and test their sanity," he replied.

"Very well," I said. "There are sixteen doctors on this island, and excepting two, I have never seen them pay any attention to the patients. How can a doctor judge a woman's sanity by merely bidding her good morning and refusing to hear her pleas for release? Even the sick ones know it is useless to say anything, for the answer will be that it is their imagination." "Try every test on me," I have urged others, "and tell me am I sane or insane? Try my pulse, my heart, my eyes; ask me to stretch out my arm, to work my fingers, as Dr. Field did at Bellevue, and then tell me if I am sane." They would not heed me, for they thought I raved.

Again I said to one, "You have no right to keep sane people here. I am sane, have always been so and I must insist on a thorough examination or be released. Several of the women here are also sane. Why can't they be free?"

"They are insane," was the reply, "and suffering from delusions."

Bly called the asylum a “human rat trap.” Before being admitted, her plan was to be committed to the most violent wards, but what she experienced in the more common areas convinced her to save her health, her hair (from being pulled out) and mostly, her sanity.

She was finally released to friends with the assistance of a lawyer. After her release, she was summoned to appear before a Grand Jury, who would hear all of her testimony and then conduct their own investigation on the asylum.

The entire book as well as others can be accessed on http://www.nellieblyonline.com/herwriting.

Published in Brookhaven Blog
Saturday, 23 May 2015 00:00

Italian Vegetable Soup with Cannellini Beans

Spring gardens often yield a plethora of nutritious foods that are beneficial to your physical health as well as your mental health. Early spring greens are especially good. This particular recipe calls for a good quantity of freshly chopped spinach. Popeye was right about spinach; it is a super food that should be consumed frequently.

Spinach is loaded with folate, which lowers the amount of homocysteine, a dangerous pro-inflammatory amino acid, in your body. In addition, folate deficiency has a serious impact on mental health. Low folate levels have been associated with mental fatigue, nonsenile dementia, anxiety, depression, forgetfulness, and confusion. Spinach also contains L-tyrosine, which improves mental focus by aiding in the synthesizing of dopamine. Dopamine, also known as the happiness hormone, affects your mood.

By choosing to make meals that include foods to decrease anxiety and fight depression, we can be proactive in caring for our mental health. It certainly helps when the meals are as tasty as this hearty soup.

Ingredients:

  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
  • ½ cup diced yellow onions
  • ¼ cup diced fennel
  • ¼ cup diced celery
  • ¼ cup diced carrots
  • 1 cup unpeeled diced tomatoes
  • ¼ cup diced zucchini
  • ½ cup diced yellow squash
  • 3 ½ cups vegetable stock
  • ½ teaspoon minced fresh oregano
  • ½ teaspoon minced fresh parsley
  • 1 small bay leaf
  • 2 cups chiffonade of spinach
  • 1 cup cooked or canned cannellini beans
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon freshly grated Parmesan
  • ¾ teaspoon sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.
  2. Sauté the onions, fennel, celery, and carrots until the onions are translucent.
  3. Add the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the zucchini and yellow squash and cook for 5 more minutes.
  5. Add the vegetable stock, oregano, thyme, parsley, and bay leaf and simmer for 1 hour.
  6. Add the spinach, cannellini beans, vinegar, Parmesan, salt, and pepper, and mix well.
  7. Remove and discard the bay leaf.

Source: Canyon Ranch Nourish

Published in Brookhaven Blog
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Saturday, 23 May 2015 00:00

Tiara Day – Empower Yourself

May 24th is Tiara Day. While some choose to celebrate by wearing tiaras a-la-Cinderella, Ana, or Elsa, others are less inclined to embrace that whimsical fantasy world. These women devalue Tiara Day as a celebration of an inner princess when, in fact, it is a celebration of female empowerment. Tiara Day is as much about women celebrating being empowered, intelligent leaders in control of their own lives as it is about wearing tiaras. It is a day when women around the world take out their physical or metaphorical tiara, dust it off, and wear it proudly.

In the past, tiaras were only brought out for formal occasions. There was no set standard for who owned or wore a tiara beyond marital standards. Women were allowed to wear a tiara once they were married, as unwed ladies were understood to not need additional accoutrements. The event, not the status of the wearer signaled when a tiara would be worn. Now, however, there are no hard fast rules about wearing tiaras yet, unfortunately, wearing tiaras has fallen out of style.

Nowadays, tiaras are often considered to be a girlish fantasy, something to be grown out of with maturity. That is faulty logic. Bianca Marie Carpio, founder of Smitten Creative Services explains, “Tiaras are not something you grow out of. They’re something you grow into, realizing that you’re a powerful person.” Everyone wants to feel confident, special, powerful, and beautiful no matter what age they may be. Tiaras, somehow, magically allow that to happen. Don’t believe me? Give it a try. Put one on and wear it around the house. Tell me you don’t catch your own eye in the mirror, stand a little taller, or smile a little more.

Tiaras, you see, have the power to stir the imagination. They are a bit of sophisticated whimsy in a vast ocean of sneakers and hoodies. Geoffrey C. Munn, author of ‘Tiaras: A History of Splendor,’ admires women who crown themselves with a sophisticated headpiece. He describes them as making an ironic statement that highlights female empowerment. Not to mention, tiaras are universally flattering.

So, on May 24th, take out your tiara, pin up your hair, place it on your head, and wear it with pride. Don’t make light of it. Don’t make self-depreciating remarks about wearing it. Don’t take it off because you feel silly. Most importantly, don’t let anybody tell you that you shouldn’t wear it. Choosing to wear a tiara is your right and should be respected by both the public and by you, its owner. As it owner, you are not just wearing it, you are harnessing its power. Who knows, you may just choose to wear your tiara everyday.

Published in Brookhaven Blog
Friday, 22 May 2015 00:00

Realistic Expectations

Coming from a family with a strong work ethic and more than its share of over-achievers, I have felt “less than” on more than one occasion. After pondering this idea that one has to achieve a certain status, I have decided that it is probably not other people who have unrealistic expectations of me but only my own expectations.

How does one measure success? And where do you feel you are on this scale? People tend to measure themselves against other people in their lives: friends, family members, classmates. Even the most successful business person may feel they don’t measure up in other areas of life, especially if mental health treatment is necessary. Often the stigma of treatment can nullify all the good we feel we have accomplished.

I enjoy my career and my place in life, and I have had to tell myself that it shouldn’t matter what others think. What matters is what I think of myself, and I don’t need to be hard on myself. Life has been hard enough. After working through my depression and anxiety following my divorce, and repairing my credit after a business loss, I am proud of what I have accomplished in such a short time.

Then why do I sometimes still feel not good enough? Why do I tend not to seek help for myself when it’s needed? It is at these times that I have to be mindful of my own self-care and remember that recovery is life-long. There is nothing derogatory about struggling, if you continue to move forward and have realistic expectations.

Published in Brookhaven Blog
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