Monthly Archives: February 2016

Young Minds Matter

Santa Sabina, Ripa neighborhood, Rome

A friend recently said to me that if she has a daughter she’d want her to be a Virgo. My first thought was: Why would you want that? Then you’d have a daughter like me. I couldn’t fathom why anyone would want someone like me. Granted her daughter wouldn’t have a mirror image of my life, even if she were born under the sign of Virgo, as I was. She’d have different experiences, a different environment, different beliefs and a different world around her. But the fact is that I wouldn’t wish my life on my worst enemy. From the outside, my life doesn’t look that bad, and I’m sure some of the things I’ve done would make a number of people envious. On the inside, though, is another story.

I’ve been reading some of the articles the Duchess of Cambridge has commissioned for the Huffington Post UK for the campaign Young Minds Matter, which aims to raise awareness for children’s mental illness. A significant amount of the articles are directed at parents who feel ashamed to expose themselves and their children to the stigma of mental illness. I sincerely applaud the Duchess’ efforts. I think it’s wonderful that mental illness is finally coming out of the Dark Ages and being approach with openness instead of shame. I decided to share my Young Minds Matter story, though I’ve written before about my struggle with depression, because I’m what happens when childhood mental illness isn’t treated.

I’m perceived by many to be cold, abrupt, and unfriendly because I pretty much shrivel up in social situations. Throughout school, I never had any friends that I hung out with. I never learned social skills in my teenage years. When I got to college, people gave me looks that ran the gamut from pity to what is wrong with you. It was such a gift when I met some really good friends my sophomore year. Along with the friendships, though, came more anxiety, because I couldn’t believe they really wanted to be around me. I lived in fear they would figure out what a fraud I was and see me for the useless freak I was.

To this day, I try to have as quick a conversation as possible with people, so as to not inflict myself unwanted on other people. I don’t believe they want to be around me, so I eliminate the small talk and just ask my questions, get my answers, and quit the conversation. I’m an introvert naturally, so being social is incredibly stressful to me anyway, but a lot of my awkwardness is because I have no self-confidence or sense of self-worth. I assume I don’t belong anywhere and that people are just tolerating me, and because of this stiltedness people think I’m a bitch.

I’m just going to lay it on the line for parents out there who are afraid or ashamed to get help for their children. I understand shame and I don’t want to belittle anyone. Parenting is hard. I’m not a parent so I’m not going to give any advice in that area. I’m speaking from the child’s perspective.  I am what your child will look like in thirty years if you don’t get her or him help. I have no savings or retirement because I’ve never thought I’d make it to that age. I have no career because I’ve never believed I can achieve my dreams. I stopped dreaming a long time ago because I knew that, even if I accomplished the physical aspect, I still wouldn’t be happy or feel joyous about it, so it seemed pointless.

I’m in fight or flight 24/7. I have no reserves because my hormones are always pumping into my bloodstream. I have anxiety about everything. Little things are colossal to me because I know after one or two of them, I’ll be back to trying to talk myself out of suicide. I spend the majority of my time and energy trying to function normally with the burden of my depression and anxiety.

I actively avoid human beings for fear of being hurt. I am positive they’ll say something to insult me. It’s not a valid fear anymore but growing up, going to school was like being a soldier going to the battlefield. I had to be ready for an attack from any direction. Many times the verbal attack did happen. Other times it was a physical attack. Then I just imagined threats everywhere and my stress levels skyrocketed. While I don’t rationally think that I’m going to be attacked anymore, years of constant readiness have taken their toll. I’m so paranoid that I assume people have it in for me, that they hate me and will attack me given the chance.

Ask yourself if this is what you want to see in your adult child.  Please get your kids help. You don’t want them ending up like me.

#youngmindsmatter

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

Now that the temperatures are back up in the 80s here in LA, I’d thought I’d post pictures from an equally hot day back in November when I visited the LA Zoo for the first time. I wanted to practice my photography skills on animals.

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

Always, when I see animals, the babies are my favorite, which is the case with most people, as evidenced by the plethora of YouTube videos. The newest additions to the zoo are the baby hippo (in the middle), the baby giraffe, and the baby chimpanzee. The chimp was having a great time swinging all over the place while the adults took naps.

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

Because of the high temperatures, the animals weren’t very active, which infuriated a number of people, even though there were signs at the ticket booth saying some animal might not be visible because, DUH, they seek shade in the middle of hot days. I was rather appalled by the behavior of people. People thought the animals were there to perform for them. Parents allowed their kids to scream at the animals to move. They made as much noise as possible to get the animals to perform. The instant gratification of technology and social media has definitely been a detriment to our empathy and compassion for the natural world. These animals are in prison. They’re not in the wild. If they were, you wouldn’t be screaming at the lion to move. You’d be as quiet and still as possible so you don’t get eaten.

Funniest comment of the day, overheard at the jaguar enclosure, by a grown woman: “I think the jaguar is way up in that tree. See that cheetah looking thing?…They need to put signs on the exhibits saying what’s not on display.” Umm, they do, when they remove the animals for repairs of the enclosure. The zoo can’t put up a sign every time the animals move out of sight of the screaming, clapping people trying to get their attention.

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

 

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

We need to honor these animals that have given up their freedom so we can see them alive, making it possible to develop respect and a desire to see them saved in the wild. I’m not a big fan of zoos or marine parks, but if the focus is on education not on entertaining the humans like at SeaWorld, I feel they are a good addition. If kids learn to feel compassion and love for the animals and it pushes them to help them in the wild, it’s worth it.

Towards the end of the day, when it started to cool down, the lions became more active and the tiger came out from hiding so I was able to get some good pictures.

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

LA Zoo

Book: This Changes Everything

This Changes EverythingI’ve always thought of myself as an environmentalist, but I guess I’ve gotten a little lax in my adult years. I got a big wake-up call with This Changes Everything. Naomi Klein lays it on the line about how bad it really is on this planet. I knew it was bad but I didn’t realize all that was going on behind the scenes. It’s not all gloom and doom; she does offer some hopeful inspirations and ways in which we’re getting it right, but she goes into detail about what is being completely ignored. Bottom line, in order to fix this problem, we’re going to have to get off oil and completely change our economy from a consumer, disposable, buy-buy-buy structure to one that’s not dependent on unlimited growth. Because there are limited natural resources on this planet.

One of the reasons the conservatives deny climate change so much is because if they admit that what big business is doing is destroying the earth, then in order to fix it, big business would have to give up trillion dollar profits. Oil and gas profits are enormous and no one, not CEOs nor shareholders, wants that to change, but profits would be zero if there’s no oil or gas extracted from the earth anymore, which is what is needed to keep us from cooking ourselves.

It’s easy to blame the oil and gas industry but Klein calls out all of us who complacently carry on with our lives. Is your retirement portfolio heavy with dirty companies that make you a lot of money? Are you constantly buying more, more, more? I have downsized a lot in recent years, but I’m guilty in the fashion department. I really don’t need a closet full of shoes.

I was rather shocked to learn that some of the big environmental companies like Environmental Defense Fund, Nature Conservancy and World Wildlife Fund are in bed with the oil and gas companies. A majority of their donations come from dirty companies. Oil and gas people sit on their boards or act as advisors. These companies that are supposed to be saving the environment have partnered with the oil and gas industry on bills that have gone through Congress and killed the environment. The Nature Conservancy put an oil well on a preserve for an endangered species of birds so they could add to their coffers. Because the oil well was close to the birds’ breeding grounds, there are now no more of the birds on the preserve. Ironically, the land for the preserve was donated to the Nature Conservancy by an oil company looking to get good PR about saving the birds. I’ve given to these companies over the years because I wanted to support the environment, but I will not be giving another cent.

The bright spot that Klein points out is that because people feel helpless in the face of the big business, whether environmental organizations or oil and gas, there have been countless grassroots movements that have taken everyone by surprise. Communities saying no to mines, fracking, and new wells because they know the companies will come in, extract everything, pollute everything and the people will be left with dirty water and countless illnesses. “You can’t drink oil.” has become one slogan. Time and again Klein puts forth scientific data about what is really going on. It was eye-opening. Native American communities have started fighting back against extracting on tribal lands and it’s a way that might just work. They have lived much closer to the land, something that all of us need to get back to. One of the Native Americans Klein talked to said the goal should be “continuous rebirth”. That’s a good goal for the planet and from a personal well-being perspective.

We talk about destroying the earth, but frankly, the earth will be fine. It has survived dinosaurs, meteors, the ice age, you name it. The earth will recover; it’s been here for millions of years, it’s not going anywhere. Humans, on the other hand are another story. We may be the only species to voluntarily extinguish ourselves.

Looking at this from a metaphysical angle, I can see a slightly different perspective. We have the power to change anything, instantly. Whether you believe that or not will determine whether you see a change instantly. There are always enough resources. There is unlimited energy. Nothing is impossible. You just have to focus your energy. In doing that, the Earth will heal as well.