The Dragonfly Forest

They have been given names such as devil’s darning needle, ear sewer, horse stinger, skeeter hawk, and the snake’s servant. Actually, Dragonflies are beneficial, peaceful, and stunning. You are a Dragonfly if you are: ADD/ADHD, dyslexic, dysgraphic, Asperger’s, NLVD, autistic…

Friday, June 8, 2018

What you need to know about depression and suicide!

RIP Chester Bennington! UPDATE:  RIP Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain! So sad to have lost each of you!

Everyone had difficulties and challenges that need to be faced.  People should not have to face these alone but often some have no choice.  Yes, people will say "talk to me," "what's wrong," or "I'm here for you, all you have to do is ask."  Well, some of us can't ask.  Some of us know that others do not want to really hear how bad things are because there is nothing that can be done.   We have to put on a smile and make the world a better place for others and we can't share the cold hard reality of what is happening.

Sometimes we do ask and no one takes the time to listen.  We can even cry and share our pain only to have the other person minimize what we are feeling or try to sugar coat things.  Well, this only makes the person feel worse, not better.

So how do you convince someone that life is worth living?  You can't!  You can tell someone that you care and show them by listening to them unconditionally but that is only if they are willing to talk and chances are, the person may not be willing to share what exactly is going on.  Chances are no one can make things better.  Only the person who is dealing with the difficulties and challenges can actually make changes and make things better.  Often they just want to have someone listen to them, really listen with no judgment.  This is not an easy task for people to do- listen without judgment.

When a person commits suicide you often hear how shocked everyone was because the person who ended their life was always so happy and had everything going for them.  Why does this happen? This happens because no one really wants to face the reality that a person can be depressed, so depressed that they feel that life is no longer worth living.

Yes, the person thinking of suicide takes the feelings of others into consideration but what they know is that the relationship will still be there.  There will still be some good memories and the person contemplating suicide believes that they are saving their loved ones from more pain if they end their life because obviously they are such a burden, to begin with or the loved ones would listen with empathy.  People often see the "signs" of depression and suicidal ideations after the fact but these signs were there long before they just didn't care enough to notice.  Maybe that sounds cruel, to blame the ones left behind but I believe that it is the society we live in that needs to carry the blame. We live in a society where it is not okay to talk about depression and suicide.  We live in a society that shames people for being different.

If you have a friend who is depressed and shared some dark thoughts then be there for them, push them to open up and discuss their feelings and thoughts without judgment.  Help them!  Stop ignoring them and pretending that everything is okay.  If you suspect that something is wrong and ask the person how they are and they say "fine" with a smile on their face-- push harder because chances are your instincts are correct.  If you think that a person would not commit suicide because they have everything going for them, then think again, many people put on a mask every day and hide their pain. Don't accept an "I'm fine" from someone you suspect is NOT fine.  Seek them out and be there for them.  I promise you it will make a difference.  Sometimes all a person needs is to know that their life does matter.

So, here's my final word on this - there will be some people that no matter what you say or do will make the choice to no longer live in pain.  You must forgive yourself if you know that you did all you could to make a difference in their lives and prevent them from ending their own life - you did all you could do.  If you did not do all you could do.  If you were distant or avoided their dark side- all I can say is this is guilt you have to live with because people who are that depressed need support and you made the choice to not provide that support.

Take 11 minutes to listen to Kevin Breel talk about what it is like to be a person with depression and suicidal.  He could be someone you know!!!



Here's a song I sing often - from one of my favorite movies & TV shows - MASH:




I have written a few other articles about suicide and depression - check them out: My story is not over!Henry Rollins gives-adviceDepression in school-aged children; and many others.

(Image: photo of a brown and tan dragonfly and quote from Chester Bennington (frontman for the rock band Linkin Park)- "You're constantly trying to prove yourself, even after you've made it.")





(Image: blue and black dragonfly surrounded by blades of grass that are tinted grey and a quote from Orson Scott Card's book 'Ender's Shadow'- "In my view, suicide is not really a wish for life to end.' 'What is it then?' 'It is the only way a powerless person can find to make everybody else look away from his shame. The wish is not to die, but to hide.")

Monday, March 5, 2018

Motivational Monday - 3 ways to feel more secure and safe!

The world is a crazy place!  We can be told that the chance of getting murdered, raped, or harmed in a terrorist attack are actually statistically small but that doesn't ease anxiety and fear.  

Turn on the news, and you will see a lot of negative in the world around you.  I want you to know that you do have some power and control over your own emotions.  You can reduce these feelings of anxiety and fear for yourself and your loved ones.

3 Ways to feel more secure and safe:

1~ Stop fueling the fire of negative!  What we focus on we expand so reduce the amount of time you are watching, reading, and interacting with the negative events.  Get just enough information to be informed and then turn the TV off or put on something positive.  Read only one or two articles in a day - don't let it consume you.  Finally, do NOT post propaganda of any kind on your social media or interact with those who do post this kind of information.  If you are the kind of person who feels the need to "educate" others on the reality of a situation, please understand that you are NOT educating anyone.  Each person has their own beliefs, and a post on social media will not change anyone's point of view.

2~ Know who really matters to you in your life!  Make a list of the people in your life that matter to you.  We have a lot of people in our lives that are surface people.  Surface people are the ones that we don't connect with at a deeper level.  You need to know exactly who matters to you in your life so you can spend more energy on them and less energy on the surface people.  Once you have your list made you need to take time each week to stay connected to each of those people.  You may not have had contact with them for years, but that's okay - reach out to them now.  If someone matters to you then they should know it!  If something were to happen to you or someone who is important to you and you have been staying connected it is more comforting.  Reach out and let others know they matter.

3~ Finally, Embrace the pain and bad things happening!  Bad things will happen, and you have control over how you deal with this pain and negative events.  Put joy back in your life no matter what is going on in the outside world!  Here's my best mentor - Leo Buscaglia - watch and enjoy!!!




Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Depression in school-aged children especially those with disabilities

 Please share to help save a life

A true story about depression – this could be you:

A student, "Thomas." has a learning disability and an IEP (the type of LD doesn’t matter as any will fit here for this story).  He knows that he doesn’t learn like the other students, is often excluded by his peers (bullied as well), and feels overwhelmed in the school environment.  Over time Thomas became depressed, he refused to attend school, and eventually, he contemplated suicide.  His parents have always been strong advocates for their son and contacted the school seeking help. The parents were surprised when instead of receiving support, they were attacked and blamed for his current situation.  The school principal became defensive and stated that the parents are at fault and they “need to work with them, not against them.”  The guidance counselor also condemned the parents stating as a counselor she is too busy to address all the needs of the students and she has done nothing wrong waiting for over a day to return the phone call.  The parents got help for their son outside of the school district but were not able to obtain appropriate support at the school which was the source of the problem. 
The Facts:


September is Suicide Awareness week, and October is Depression Awareness Month, so I want to address an issue that is often brushed aside and minimized.  It is depression.  Depression is one of the most common mental disorders, and according to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), 1 in 11 children will experience clinical depression before the age of 14.  Furthermore, the risk of depression increases as a child gets older and is the leading cause of disability among Americans ages 15-44 according to the World Health Organization (WHO).  Depression affects a person’s entire physical and mental well-being. 

Did you know that students with learning disabilities (LD) have statistically higher accounts of depressions than their peers without LD?  Having a disability makes attending school challenging.  Students with disabilities know that their lives are not under their control, they are painfully aware that they don’t fit in, have academic failures, and experience a number of social rejections. Unfortunately, depression is not addressed in schools (another forbidden “D” word).  Many if not all kids with learning disabilities experience Learned Helplessness and this does NOT mean the child is coddled by their parents! Read this article to educate yourself on Learned Helplessness!

One of the reasons depression is not discussed, is shame.  Parents already experience a variety of emotions regarding having a child with a disability.  To make matters worse, teachers, counselors, school psychologists, and administrators often blame parents for the child’s academic struggles and behaviors.  I am frequently in meetings where school staff members give parenting advice and have blatantly stated that the child wouldn’t have these difficulties if the parents would only…“read with the child, help with homework, stop doing the child’s homework, discipline consistently, stop cuddling the child, reduce their social/sports schedule, increase their social/sports schedule”, and the list is endless.  When parents already feel responsible for their child’s struggles these comments only make the situation worse, not better.  This “blame the parents” approach makes it more difficult for the parents to bring up concerns about depression and the school staff perceiving the symptoms of depression as a parenting problem.

The second reason depression is not discussed is that people don’t know the symptoms of depression in children and adolescents, especially ones with a disability.  The symptoms of depression are often common signs of other problems, and the severity of these symptoms is not taken seriously.    

The following are some symptoms of depression (these will be unique to each person):
  • Irritability, anger, angry outbursts  
  • Continuous feelings of sadness, hopelessness, helplessness – feeling melancholy or sad most of the day
  • Withdrawal from family and friends
  • Over clinging to parents
  • Feelings of anxiety, phobias
  • Increased sensitivity to rejection or criticism
  • Changes in appetite - either increased (weight gain) or decreased (weight loss)
  • Changes in sleep (sleeplessness, too much sleep)
  • Crying, temper tantrums, or sulking
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Memory loss
  • Fatigue (tiredness) low or decreased energy
  • Physical Complaints or chronic pain (stomach aches, headaches) that do not respond to treatment (possible real physical problem or feigning illness)
  • Digestive Disorders
  • Reduced ability to function during activities at home or with friend, in school, extracurricular activities, and in hobbies or interests
  • Feelings of worthlessness or guilt
  • Getting into trouble, increased behavior problems
  • Inability to experience pleasure or excitement even when doing activities that were pleasurable
  • Mania or putting on a good front by being over happy
  • Experimentation with drugs or alcohol
  • Thoughts or talk of death or suicide
To get a direct perspective of what depression it is like for a popular non-learning disabled student watch this video of Kevin Breel (Confessions of a Depressed Comic):  Watch one of the two - sometimes phones do not allow a video to play so you have two options to choose from, but they are the same video!

Embedded video 

What can be done:

Depression can be treated and children experiencing depression MUST be treated because if they do not get help, it will only get worse.  According to the National Alliance on Mental Health (NAMI), once a child experiences depression, the child is at risk of developing another depression within five years.  Eventually, the child may contemplate or attempt suicide.  Did you know that according to the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, suicide is the third leading cause of death for 5-15 year-olds?    

If we continue to minimize depression, we risk losing children to suicide.  Is this a risk we want to take?  NO!

So, make sure you, as a parent know what to look for regarding depression.  Ask the school staff members to also be educated on depression and look for signs and symptoms in all children.  The earlier this is caught, the easier it is to treat. 

(Image: black and white photo of a student sitting at a computer desk with books and a computer on the top of the desk and the student is sitting with his/her head down being held up by his/her hands with elbows resting on the desk.  Quote from Stephanie Sergent Daniel's article 'Reading Disabilities Put Students at Risk for Suicidal Thoughts and Behaviours and Dropping out of School' - "In our study, poor readers were three times more likely than typical readers to consider or attempt suicide and six times more likely to drop out of school.  Educators and parents should be aware of the risk of suicidal thoughts and behaviors among adolescents with reading problems.")

(Image: a figure sitting with their hands clasped and their head down and the words "Did you know?  1 in 11 children will experience clinical depression before the age of 14 & suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for 5-15 year-olds?  It's time to talk about depression")


Monday, January 15, 2018

Dr. King & Lessons from A Class Divided

People really need to understand discrimination. RE-sharing this from past posts for Martin Luther King Jr. Day.  

To start watch "A Class Divided" 


Yes, Jane Elliott’s Brown Eyes/Blue Eyes is a powerful video on racism.  It gives insights into the personal experiences of how we discriminate based on the attribute of the color of eyes or the color of one’s skin.  Let’s think outside of the box on this one and see how this is also a great lesson on how we treat people with learning disabilities (Dyslexia, ADHD, Dysgraphia, Asperger’s….) and other types of disabilities (physical, deaf, blind…) in school settings. 

To help you understand this I’m going to explain it as “Butterflies” vs. “Dragonflies.”  Butterflies are “typical” students who learn easily; have athletic and/or academic talents; and viewed by others as beautiful.  Dragonflies, on the other hand, are students with disabilities and challenges (with or without IEP/504’s); they struggle academically, athletically, socially, and/or emotionally; and are viewed by others as scary, not fitting in, and different.   In school environments, it is often assumed that “Butterflies are better than Dragonflies.” 

The Butterflies are more likely to be given extra opportunities in schools such as crossing guard or member of student council.  Teachers are concerned if they give Dragonflies positions of responsibilities they will not be able to handle the job so they can only be given to Butterflies.   

Butterflies are picked more often for awards and accolades because they are “easy to teach” and “well-liked by their teachers and peers.”   For more details on this check out my post on Stop the Shaming: why ceremonies and graduations need to change.  The Dragonflies are often not given these awards and accolades because they are so challenging to teach; they may be experiencing Learned Helplessness (explained in the linked post) from the years of discrimination, shame, and pain that they have just given up trying; they just don’t fit in socially.

Butterflies are given positive reinforcements in the classroom while the Dragonflies often receive negative reinforcements.  When you observe an elementary classroom room where a teacher has a Colored behavior chart more Dragonflies are on Yellow and Red than Butterflies.    The Butterflies are most likely on Green and get to run special errands for teachers or get to sit in special places in the room. 

As you can see the list of the differences can go on and on but the key point here is how Dragonflies are not just discriminated against by their teachers but this treatment is seen as acceptable to their peers as well since the students will model the behaviors of the teachers. 

So when thinking about Martin Luther King Jr. today think about how we still treat students who learn differently (academically or socially) as less than the students who are “Mainstream” learners.  Dragonflies are often excluded from classes that Butterflies receive automatically such as gym, art, and other electives because the Dragonflies need extra teacher support to learn. Schools require students to take these foreign language classes and although students with learning disabilities would benefit from Sign Language it is too much trouble to make this happen so they just have to struggle (causing emotional pain) or not participate (excluded from a class open to non-disabled peers).  For some reason it seems acceptable to the adults to take away opportunities from Dragonfly students using the reasoning that teachers can’t work beyond school hours, it would cost too much to provide the services, or they don't want to make a specific accommodation.  For more details on this visit the following post: Dr. King’s Legacy Regarding Discrimination in Education.


So here is my question to you: What are we really teaching our children in schools?  Are we teaching them empathy or are we teaching them discrimination?  By excluding the Dragonfly students from the events and opportunities that are freely given to Butterflies we are condoning discrimination.  I am often told that the Butterflies have “earned” these privileges but the Dragonflies have not so they do not deserve them.  So you really think that because Little Johnny can’t read that he should have to be pulled from gym, art, or recess so he can be taught to read?   By the way, maybe we should go back to teaching student using the Orton-Gillingham reading program- look for this scene in the movie!


Maybe you think it is safer to not have Little Sarah as the library helper because she has impulsive ADHD and may get lost in the hallway or forget what she was doing (or is it really because it would just be easier for you to not have to supervisor her so you will send the “responsible” student).   Then there’s the student who is socially awkward and wanted to be a “student leader” but you think that a different student would be a better role model (the 'popular' student).  By denying students these opportunities you are discriminating against them and perpetuating the belief that there really is something wrong with Dragonflies.  

We need to practice lessons we have learned from Dr. King:


Tuesday, January 2, 2018

The 2 things you need to do to make 2018 great

Here we go again folks~  Another year has begun! So are you full of hope and excitement thinking that this could be an amazing year?  Well, you should be excited it will be positive because what we focus on we will expand.  So, if you are focused on the positive in your life every day this positive will expand.  

Now, remember this doesn't mean you will have a perfect year! It is important to make mistakes ~ check out this Resolutions post to learn why.  Don't think that if you focus on being perfect you will be perfect because there is no such thing as perfect and this only makes you have unrealistic expectations (which will only lead to disappointment).  

Here are 2 things you need to do today to get your year off to the right start~

1.   Reflect back on the lessons you have learned in 2017. These lessons may come from positive events and discoveries but most likely they come from events where things didn't work out as you expected.  Reward yourself for learning these lessons and acknowledge that you plan on living life based on these lessons learned (AKA: Don't repeat these mistakes).  Now, write down 1-3 goals you want to achieve this year - make them realistic goals. Every day in 2018 you must do at least one thing to work toward these goals.  So for example, if you have a goal of building a stronger relationship or business than every day you must do something to make this happen.  The key is your intent every day is to work toward your goals.

2.   Write down 1-3 things you will NOT do in 2018.  These can be things you already don't do such as ~ "I will not waste money on a gym membership."  This can be something more challenging such as ~ "I will not beat myself up mentally when I make mistakes."  This one may be harder but you will have to remember that when you do make a mistake and start belittling yourself you stop and say "nope, I'm not going to keep doing this."  The key to this resolution is to give yourself a different kind of power.  

I'm looking forward to our adventures together in 2018! On this journey together we will learn a lot, grow emotionally & spiritually, and eventually, we will soar!  

Happy New Year my Dragonfly Friends~

Monday, December 18, 2017

Not everyone likes Christmas

Today is Christmas!  Some people are not celebrating Christmas due to religious reasons, but there are also people not celebrating today for other reasons.  There are even people who are celebrating today, but it is only for show.  

This post today is for those who struggle with December and Christmas. 

You don't have to explain to others why you don't celebrate or like this time of year. In fact, don't worry about having to explain because most of the time other people won't even notice because they are caught up in their own lives & your life will be oblivious to them.   

I just wanted you to know that you are not alone out there.  There are probably more of us than you know.  

Remember to keep positive and just ignore all those things that bring you pain, sorrow, unhappiness... Let them go!  Focus on the positive things you have in your life and the positive people who make it better.  It is hard to let go of our past, but I know we must to keep on going.  

Special message~~~  Thanks for being a part of my Hero's Journey.  Together we are stronger.  Support and trust are difficult but vital so thanks for never giving up on me & know I will not give up on you!  As the narrator of my life, I am choosing to perceive it the way I want it to be and not the way others want me to see the world.   Always know I have deep love and devotion to you, and you will always be in my heart!  Because of this love, I will make everyday magical I will just make today, Christmas, more magical for myself in my own special way!  



Tuesday, December 12, 2017

We all have Bias - learn to stop being so judgmental

Re-sharing - a post I wrote back in June 2013 but think it needs to be addressed again!  

There has been a lot of discussion in the media about racism, sexism, homophobia, equality… (There is no need to identify these stories because they could be any story; even your own story of being oppressed, discriminated against, of judged).   I will address these issues because they are vital to making the world a better place; so we can do better now that we will know better!  To do this we must first understand implicit bias and confirmation bias.  EVERYONE makes judgments based on both of these biases.  They are rooted in our upbringing and may be so deep you are not aware they exist.  But do not think that you are not prejudice or bias because we all are; it’s human nature. 
Understanding Bias:
Implicit bias is the unconscious attitudes and beliefs that can be expressed overtly or covertly.  These implicit biases develop early in our lives and can occur even if we believe we have no biases toward others.  Implicit bias can be measured (Harvard has done some great research in this area).  These biases are not only about race but also about: age, disabilities, religion, gender, and so on. 
Watch this video of Alan Alda taking this test and explain implicit bias.





Here’s the link to check your own implicit bias: Implicit Bias Test 
People do not base their decisions and opinions on fact but instead on confirmation bias.  Confirmation bias is the process of paying attention to information about a person/topic/issue that confirms (validates) your belief/opinion and ignoring, minimizing, or rationalizing the information that does not support your belief/opinion.  The more emotionally charged an issue or topic is the more this bias occurs.  The recent political race is a perfect example of confirmation bias.   If a person liked one presidential candidate then most of the things that candidate said or did was spun in a positive light.  The other candidate could have done or said the exact same things but these would have been seen in a negative light. 
 Here’s a quick video that explains confirmation bias:




Our brains automatically engage in low-effort information processing which consists of stereotyping and judgments (implicit bias).   We then look for information that validates these beliefs and opinions while we ignore or minimize information that disproves these beliefs and opinions (confirmation bias).  This happens with EVERYONE!  
This can change only if we do a few things:  First, we need to acknowledge and accept that we have biases.  We need to be openly admit these to ourselves.  Second, we need to willingly look at all the evidence and use our OWN critical thinking skills.  Decisions need to be made based on evidence (not only the evidence you want to look at - that's confirmation bias).  This is not easy because your biases will get in the way.  We expect others to be emphatic  to understand us, our points of view, and accept our values and beliefs but we often don’t practice empathy to others. 
Remember that empathy is NOT feeling what another person feels it is UNDERSTANDING the other person’s emotions, experiences, situations…  It does not mean that you have to agree with the person but that you understand why they believe what they believe and feel what they feel.  When you have empathy you don’t try to change another person’s belief to your belief.  You don’t judge others because empathy is the antidote to bias, bigotry, and bullying!
When people become aware (conscious) of the potential for prejudice, they often attempt to correct for it and are less likely to exhibit bias behaviors (overt and covert).  Nevertheless, just understanding implicit bias and confirmation bias is not enough.  Actions, with the intent to do better, must occur on a daily basis.
Please watch the final video of Oprah speaking about Maya Angelou words “when you know better, you do better.”  (If you have not watched any of the other videos than please watch this one.)