Open Minds – Show #017

With the story of Ray Rice and his act of domestic violence caught on camera, this is a great time to hear from my colleague, Kathryn Wagner, who has worked with victims of domestic violence for years. Sometimes it’s hard to say which group in our society is most stigmatized, as sadly, many vie for that title, but certainly “women who don’t leave” are a very misunderstood and poorly served group. And sometimes our ideas of how to help do much more harm than good. Victims of sexual violence – male, female, transgendered, young, old, etc. – are another group that are frequently blamed more often than they’re supported. In this interview, Kathryn shares her insights about how survivors and their friends and family can promote healing instead of re-traumatization, and speaks candidly about some of the reasons someone might choose not to come forward after such a painful experience. As with other mental health issues, many of us think we understand or know more than we actually do. Give this show a listen and see if it doesn’t open your mind when it comes to myths and stigmas around domestic and sexual violence!

Open Minds – Show #015

(Part 2 of my interview with Dr. Daniel Siegel. Part 1 of this interview is available here.)

“You’re out of your mind!” “I’m losing my mind!” “Uh-oh, I’m not in a good frame of mind today.” These are all sayings we’ve heard many times, yet, if someone asked you to define your “mind,” could you? You can probably easily describe your brain as that mass of grey matter in your head, but the mind is less tangible, not something we can point to or take pictures of or easily describe.

According to my guest, Dr. Daniel Siegel, that’s because the mind is not a thing to be x-rayed, but instead a process to be understood. Bringing together widely varied academic fields, his many books highlight what can happen when that process leads to harmony and integration, resulting in what we commonly call happiness, balance and mental health; and also how we can suffer mental illness when we lack mental and physical integration and harmony.

Whenever I listen to him, I’m reminded of how very much we still don’t really know about how our brain and our mind work. But as a psychiatrist, a researcher and a clinician, Dr. Siegel is the forefront of understanding and teaching about how our brain and our mind play profound roles in our wellness, and how even mental systems damaged by genetics or environment can be repaired through our everyday interactions with others and with ourselves.

I’m not exaggerating when I say I’m genuinely thrilled to have had the opportunity to interview Dr. Siegel. I am a better therapist and a better human being because of what I’ve learned from him over the last decade. He has profoundly impacted the way I understand myself and the people who come to see me. In writing and in person, he shows a gentle, compassionate, and accepting side of himself that encourages me to be the same. His thoughtful responses to questions about why stigma exists and persists put into words something I knew, but couldn’t articulate. And that, in a nutshell, is what Dr. Siegel does best: he takes incredibly complex ideas and concepts and puts them into language we can all understand and use to live happier, healthier lives. His evidence based theories give real hope to those who may have thought themselves beyond hope. He reminds us it’s never too late to heal, a belief I carry into my own therapeutic practice.

Because he was so generous with his time, this interview will run in two parts, but even both shows together barely scratch the surface of what this man understands about the human mind. I feel sure that if you give him a listen, this week and next, he’ll get you thinking about things like neuroscience and interpersonal relationships in ways you haven’t before. You can be a healthier parent, partner and human being by considering what he has to say. Read his books, check out his website, and if you’ll pardon the pun… get ready to let him blow your mind : )

Open Minds – Show #014

“You’re out of your mind!” “I’m losing my mind!” “Uh-oh, I’m not in a good frame of mind today.” These are all sayings we’ve heard many times, yet, if someone asked you to define your “mind,” could you? You can probably easily describe your brain as that mass of grey matter in your head, but the mind is less tangible, not something we can point to or take pictures of or easily describe.

According to my guest, Dr. Daniel Siegel, that’s because the mind is not a thing to be x-rayed, but instead a process to be understood. Bringing together widely varied academic fields, his many books highlight what can happen when that process leads to harmony and integration, resulting in what we commonly call happiness, balance and mental health; and also how we can suffer mental illness when we lack mental and physical integration and harmony.

Whenever I listen to him, I’m reminded of how very much we still don’t really know about how our brain and our mind work. But as a psychiatrist, a researcher and a clinician, Dr. Siegel is the forefront of understanding and teaching about how our brain and our mind play profound roles in our wellness, and how even mental systems damaged by genetics or environment can be repaired through our everyday interactions with others and with ourselves.

I’m not exaggerating when I say I’m genuinely thrilled to have had the opportunity to interview Dr. Siegel. I am a better therapist and a better human being because of what I’ve learned from him over the last decade. He has profoundly impacted the way I understand myself and the people who come to see me. In writing and in person, he shows a gentle, compassionate, and accepting side of himself that encourages me to be the same. His thoughtful responses to questions about why stigma exists and persists put into words something I knew, but couldn’t articulate. And that, in a nutshell, is what Dr. Siegel does best: he takes incredibly complex ideas and concepts and puts them into language we can all understand and use to live happier, healthier lives. His evidence based theories give real hope to those who may have thought themselves beyond hope. He reminds us it’s never too late to heal, a belief I carry into my own therapeutic practice.

Because he was so generous with his time, this interview will run in two parts, but even both shows together barely scratch the surface of what this man understands about the human mind. I feel sure that if you give him a listen, this week and next, he’ll get you thinking about things like neuroscience and interpersonal relationships in ways you haven’t before. You can be a healthier parent, partner and human being by considering what he has to say. Read his books, check out his website, and if you’ll pardon the pun… get ready to let him blow your mind : )

Open Minds – Show #012

Today I have the pleasure of interviewing Alina Kislenko, who is not only a therapist and coach here in Guelph, but also a bit of a mentor to me in the world of radio! Long before I began Open Minds, I listened to her amazing show, Strange Brains which is a fabulous resource for those who want to understand more about ADHD and Asperger’s. That may be part of how I got the idea to do my show, actually, because I love how she normalized and offered accurate information about these conditions.

In today’s interview, she talks about her own experiences: how she got diagnosed, what benefits there have been for her, and how she has used accommodations to help her achieve all that she’s capable of!

If you can relate or want more info be sure to check out her website at ADHD Interrupted!

Listen now:

Open Minds – Show #011

When I moved to Canada in 1999, my very first job was running a support group at the amazing Sheena’s Place in Toronto. Fifteen years later, I was lucky enough to be invited back to speak during Eating Disorders Awareness Week, and the building and the people are just as wonderful as I’d remembered!

In today’s interview, program manager Ali Henderson, talks about the myths and misinformation that surround this very serious illness and the shame felt not only by the person with the eating disorder, but also by parents or partners who may wonder: Did I cause this? Did I do something wrong? And, how can I help? We discuss some practical ways to create encouraging, healing environments, and Ali also shares how easy it is for anyone in the Toronto area to access the amazing groups they have focusing on education, body image and family support.

If you or someone you love has an eating disorder, you do not have to suffer alone. Just like we encourage those with cancer and their loved ones to attend support groups, so too, do the folks at Sheena’s Place want to encourage you to seek support for this disease. Hearing the stories, seeing the artwork, meeting the staff – all of these might just open your mind about eating disorders, and bring you some comfort and relief!

Listen now:

Open Minds – Show #010

Here in Guelph we are fortunate to have an extremely active community dedicated to supporting those who struggle with eating disorders and body image dissatisfaction.

Last week, several members of that community came together in a unique event called the Body Image and Eating Disorder Expose at the University of Guelph. Sponsored by the Wellness Centre on campus, and specifically, their Acceptance Without Limits (AWL) and their Healthy Eating Active Living (HEAL) groups, this completely free event had tables set up in the middle of the university centre where anyone who passed by would have gotten great information about treatment for eating disorders; ideas about how to combat body image distortion; and fun, inspirational activities that offered them the opportunity to challenge the myths and stigmas that surround eating disorders.

I was pleased to be able to interview many of those who participated in this enlightening event. In today’s show you’ll hear from April Gates, program coordinator at the Homewood’s eating disorder program; Liz Martin from OUTline; Emma and Shawna who are both placement students with Women In Crisis; and Emilie and Erica who are students at UOG who volunteered their time. They speak about the stigmas and myths that keep people from getting the treatment they need, and about the misconceptions that may keep those who haven’t had eating disorders from understanding those who do. They also cover topics like how eating disorders manifest in the LGBT community, and about the overlap that can occur between abuse and eating disorders.

Whether you have struggled personally, you know someone who does, or you acknowledge that all you know about eating disorders is the bits you’ve heard in the media, tune it today to get the facts. I hope listening to these passionate women who generously contribute their time, will open your mind about eating disorders and give you ideas about what you can do to help! And if you struggle, I hope their compassionate words will help you find the courage to seek the treatment you need and deserve!

Listen now:

Open Minds – Show #009

When you think about treatment for mental illness, therapists, psychiatrists and medications could all come to mind, but you probably don’t think of dieticians! That may change after you listen to today’s guest, Lindzie O’Reilly, dietician at the University of Guelph, as she talks about what an important role nutrition can play in restoring and maintaining good mental health.

Just like getting enough sleep, there is evidence to suggest that getting the right “fuel” can help you combat depression and anxiety, and be of benefit to anyone who is trying to fight a mental illness. And, if you struggle with an eating disorder, a dietician is sure to be at the very core of your treatment, helping you restore weight when needed and helping you establish a healthy, consistent relationship with food, maybe for the first time in your life.  Dieticians have strategies to help break the binge cycle, and offer the facts, not the fiction, about nutrition and weight that might help you stop purging.

Despite these benefits some people hesitate to make that first appointment. Lindzie has heard firsthand lots of the misconceptions people have about food, weight and nutrition, and the fears people have about being judged or embarrassed. But, in her gentle, respectful way, does more than her share in challenging the myths through individual counseling and advocacy work. She works hard to help people see themselves as more than how they look or what they weigh, and guides them to a relationship with food that doesn’t include guilt, shame, self-denial or self-recrimination. Her work, and that of other dieticians like her, can help you learn to feel safe, competent and even happy in your relationship with food and your body.

Lindzie has worked with many people who have bought into the “diet” mentality of our fat-phobic culture, and has successfully helped many to stop feeling they’re only good enough when they’re starving. She does this not only one person at a time, but in public forums like the Eating Disorder and Body Image Expose at the University of Guelph, and at the Faces of Recovery Community Panel Discussion, also in Guelph, which are free to the public, incredibly informative, and do lots to de-stigmatize eating disorders.

So, if you thought dieticians just helped diabetics and recovering cardiac patients, I invite you to listen to Lindzie. I feel pretty sure she’ll open your mind about food, weight, and the important role nutrition plays in your mental health!

Listen now:

Open Minds – Show #008

In my interview this week with Marie, you get to hear from someone who has experienced mental health issues since childhood, and who has used those experiences to become more – not less! – hopeful and powerful in and about her own life. She talks about negative judgments and experiences that could have very understandably held her back and held her down, but shares how instead they eventually inspired her to help herself and others.

After two years of stability and mental wellness, Marie can see how these experiences contributed to greater self-acceptance (though, as she’s the first to admit, it’s not perfect acceptance!) and compassion for others. Her struggles have influenced her education and career choices and have gotten her in touch with a passion to support others who are still caught in the pain of mental illness. With honesty and a sense of humor, she bravely challenges the stigmas that still exist around mental health issues, and listening to her may help you do the same!

Listen now:

Open Minds – Show #007

This week I talk with Siobhan, a University of Guelph student who experiences trichotillomania – an uncommon name for a surprisingly common condition that leads people to compulsively pull their own hair as a form of comforting or self-soothing. Notice I said she “experiences” trich, not that she “suffers from” trich. One of the most enlightening things Siobhan shares in this interview is how she does in fact experience the illness on a daily basis, yet this does not hold her back in her life, or cause her great distress!

One of the common misconceptions about mental illness is that they are incapacitating and that they cause, or are caused by, deep, deep unhappiness. While this is sometimes true, it’s also true that some people live with mental illness as they do diabetes. They know it’s there, they make adjustments and have to be thoughtful about choices they make, but they are otherwise capable of success in relationships, school, work and other areas of their life.

Siobhan makes clear that that what caused her the most distress was not the illness itself but the stigma she experienced from others because of her struggle, the lack of understanding, and the very painful sense of alienation from others. And that happens a lot in our culture, sadly. A person can feel worse about the reaction they get from others, than they do about the illness itself. I believe we could reduce or eliminate this pain by better understanding mental illness.

Resources like the Trichotillomania Learning Center and the Canadian BFRB Support Group have been helpful to Siobhan and others in providing accurate information and the awareness that they’re not alone in their experience. I hope that listening to Siobhan will give you the courage to get the support you might like and deserve if you struggle! I also hope that what she has to say will help open minds about the reality of life with mental illness instead of perpetuating the myths!

Open Minds – Show #006

Many people think they know lots about addicts and think of them in derogatory, demeaning ways. But listening to Stephen, a University of Guelph student, and Sonia Waters, an addictions counselor with Homewood in Guelph, who are my guests on the show this week, may open your mind and challenge some of what you think you know.

Stephen talks with tremendous honesty and clarity about his “symptoms” of using drugs and alcohol to cope with what he calls a “life long problem with living.” He cuts to the heart of the illness, and together he and Sonia talk about the ways in which someone struggling can still go on to lead successful, productive lives. They make the distinction between getting rid of the symptoms vs. treating the core of the disease and they offer hope for those who are in the grips of addiction and for those who are doing their best to live a life in recovery.

Listen now: