Monday, March 30, 2015

Stretch, continued...

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I think many of us actually complicate our lives with a mindset that basic or simple concepts are too good to be true; over looking little things like a good stretch and the fact that it is so beneficial both mentally and physically.

I love when Deepak and Oprah come together to offer a space where we can take twenty minutes a day to go within, embrace stillness and absorb a calming positive message. Have you tried any of their meditations? I believe it is a worthwhile experience to try so if you haven’t, why not give the meditation a shot? You still have a week or so before this one ends and it is free so stretch your mind and embrace the opportunity.

I’m always running behind in the series, for example, I think they are on day 12 or 13 of the event while I’m am on day 9. They will keep the mediation up, per day, for five days in order to give people like me (late comers) more time for the experience. Many times I find myself falling to sleep during the first go around and if this happens I just re-do that day’s meditation if possible later on or the next day.

Like I said in the article, I am going to make an effort to incorporate more physical stretching in my life. I’m pretty good at the mental stretch but not so much physically anymore.

Leave me your thoughts; do you actively stretch physically and/or mentally? What does the process do for you?

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Turning strangers into friends, continued...

Photo of Carlyn Shaw and her friend provided by Carlyn Shaw

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Carlyn Shaw described how she shifted her life after the tragedy she suffered.

In her words, “I began to hear my own whisper on what I was to do to not only heal myself, but to connect with my friends (via a Spiritual Medium I have had in my life for the past 7 years). I have embraced all that has crossed my path as a learning experience. And, my intuition has yet to fail me. The only times I have let myself down, are the times I did not listen to it, but again, I am learning.” 

She has learned that she is her best advocate.

She described, “I believe we can heal ourselves from perceived labels and assumed setbacks. My mission is to share this with others because if I have been able to do this for myself, I know others can do it too. Our thoughts and our mind are way more powerful than most believe. If the little voice in your head, that only you will ever know intimately, is not being nice to you, then how is your body supposed to heal? Healing starts with self-love and acceptance; understanding that a label does not define someone, it is only a small part of them. I am not MS, but I do let MS fuel me. I learned how to get along with it, instead of fighting it. I learned to love all of myself. This did not happen overnight, it took work, but that is just it; so many want a quick fix, a pill, something to make us better, but we must start by looking in the mirror and making a choice to help ourselves. But, I also believe in the power of support verses sympathy. This is how my passion for Turning Strangers into Friends surfaced. I have met some of my best friends as a result of MS. These are the unlikely friends, the ones that we don’t expect to have in our life, but once we do, we can’t imagine living without them. We are all connected, this I truly believe. It is one of my additional gifts to see how all of these dots are connected and I try to share this gift with others, too.” 

The answer to healing is within.

Carlyn explained,I credit my 'why not' vs 'what if' mentality and my ability to follow my intuition as being key to my healing process. I was so young to experience what I did. Sure I am fortunate to have been raised by supportive parents, but even they did not know how to handle all that happened to me. I made the choice to not allow it to get the best of me; to celebrate life in honor of my friends and the fact that I could walk. Even when I lost my teeth, I never once thought to hide my face, but rather to have fun with the fact I was a pretty girl with a crooked grin...I never let my accident steal my smile. I don’t know where this power came from in me, why I have always been programs to overcome the obstacles along my path, but I don't know any other way to live. For me, it takes more energy to be negative because it comes natural to be positive. I am blessed to be as optimistic as I am. My MS Walk team (* a 3-day, 50 mile walk I did for 4 years) I named, Team OptMiStic.”

Her life is guided by a celestial power. 

Carlyn shared, “I know there is a power greater than us. First of all, I have been able to communicate with friends of mine that have died; just because we cannot tangibly see a power, does not mean it does not exist. There is way too much serendipity in my world to say it is coincidence. I can feel when I am in the flow, just as much as my sixth sense when something is not right. In addition, I am a manifester; long before The Secret and the movie What the Bleep, somehow, a few years after my journey began, I began living what these movies taught, completely unaware that there was a science or a power to thank for this. I began to feel the guidance I was asking for to show up in the most amazing ways and I knew, the Universe was not only looking out for me, but I could ask for help from my guides. If I declared with my head and my heart what I sought, and trusted it in the hands of this higher power, I could co create and manifest magic. It’s all pretty cool.”

Her advice if you’re struggling to heal, “Begin by being nice to yourself. I know it is hard, but please know that you deserve it. You deserve to be healed. You are loved and you are supported. I started, one step at a time, to take control of my thoughts and my ego. I had to stop beating myself up in my mind, stop comparing my life to others and start by creating the version of me I wanted to be in the world. No one can steal your sunshine. You are your own light. And even in darkness, there is always light.” 

Carlyn’s closing words, “This week marks 5 years I have been MS Medication free. This was a personal choice; one I knew I had to do for myself. It is also my 5th year being a runner, as I went off my meds within months of my first half marathon. Next month I will accomplish a dream I never knew I had until I gave myself permission: I am running the 2015 Boston Marathon for MS, as I say, I am running for those that can't and to remind all of those newly diagnosed people that they can still have the same dream.”

You can interface with Carlyn on her Facebook page, , twitter @Stranger2Friend and/or her website You can also email her,

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Unhealthy behavior pattern, continued

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Examiner article

When we are trying to make a behavioral change and we mess up, we must view our relapse as a blip on the radar instead of a life-altering event.

For example, tonight, I think I went for the chocolate cake because I wanted to further procrastinate the pain of gathering and rolling up my business taxes; it was an “in the moment” pleasure of diversion. But, realistically this doesn’t mean my healthy eating efforts have totally went to the wayside. Instead I need to figure out a healthier way to embrace my responsibilities especially the ones I’m not particularly fond of handling.

In counseling we would strategize around triggers to recognize weaknesses and make plans that can help us overcome relapse.  So, when we fail to meet our initial game plan we have back up plans ready.

Knowing I am likely to divert with sugary treats perhaps I can make sure these are not readily available at my house and instead a better strategy for me might be to motivate myself with a treat, maybe a healthier option like frozen yogurt, by setting up a reward for getting through my tax work instead of diverting my efforts in a short-term fix. Treats do not sabotage if we’re eating them in moderation!

I am getting better at being nice to myself when I get off track and this compassion is helping me to get back at it more quickly.

The weather and additionally sunlight that Spring gifts is going to add to my motivation and build the momentum of positive change in my life.

What are your thoughts about behavioral change? Are you kind to yourself when you relapse? I curious.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Are you wearing a mask, continued...

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Recently I was reviewing a binder of art therapy exercises and found one with a mask theme. and it inspired my article The exercise requires the participant to create and decorate a mask that represents how the world sees this individual and then the project is followed by a discussion about whether the mask matches the individual’s true identity or not.

It got me thinking about my life and my growth over the years. As I’m aging my worldly persona is the same as my private persona. This doesn’t mean I do not have boundaries or realize the need for privacy but fundamentally, what you see is what you get from me and I’m good with this.

I’ve learned long ago that it takes too much energy to keep up a fa├žade; to wear a mask and remember when to put it on and when to take it off. It’s just not worth my time to fake personas. I believe I am enough for whatever I want to pursue, I do not need to step into a cookie-cutter type persona in order to gain something. My uniqueness makes me an individual and if someone is not okay with me, the way I am, it is his or her problem not mine.

I truly believe this and I also believe you are enough too! God created us this way and now it is our life’s purpose to embrace our diversities and push forward creating our healthy lives!

Are you wearing a mask? Will you take it off? Talk to me, I’m here and you don't have to fake anything for us to interface!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Emotional safety never existed, continued...

Photo of Nancy Virden provided by Nancy

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Nancy Virden continued, “Therapy taught me the value of being me, validated those long-hid emotions, and I began to feel safer. When asked if I believed I could improve my health, my answer was no, but still I started to think about it. In September of 2013, I squared off with addiction and trauma at Timberline Knolls Rehabilitation Treatment Center outside Chicago. There I learned how addict behavior had interfered with healthy coping. I left that place with a distinct understanding of powerlessness with regard to food."   

Her hardship has strengthened her connection to a higher power.

Nancy explained, “Both major depression and food addiction have served as catalyst for deeper dependency on God. Despite feeling far from him at times because all my emotions, good and not-so-good, were consumed with food, prayer has grown into a meaningful interaction with the Higher Power. I absolutely and unequivocally believe in a Higher Power. That power is, believe it or not, in a God who thought to be one of us; of course, I am speaking of Jesus Christ. He is my Higher Power because I know he walks with me, and he has never left me alone. Because his crucifixion and resurrection is proof of God's love for me, my hope is not just for a better life, it is an eternal hope. 

I have my Higher Power to turn to each day; he helps me when I cannot help myself. He is the reason I am alive, and gives me the strength to say no when food calls my name.”

Nancy wants to share her testimony to help others.

“Sensitivity to people with shared pain drives me to tell my story publicly and in writing. My message to people struggling with depression and perhaps suicidal thoughts is to wait for the beauty. When it seems as if the path ends in a big hole, it doesn't; the miracle is around the bend. To people with food (or any) addiction, I speak of hope and the innate value of their lives, reminding them they are worth fighting for. I stand as an example of profound recovery; do not judge or dismiss anyone with mental health or addiction issues. Not only can I openly share with those who need realness and honesty from someone who has been in dark places, I can now also feel, and relate to what is happening inside myself without escaping my reality through food."

Therapy has gifted clarity.

She described, “In Pennsylvania I found a mental health organization that emphasizes Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT). A specialist in that field walked me through a new thinking process that allows me to exchange false and negative beliefs for reality. My individual therapist helps me to apply that new insight to everyday challenges. Also, a support group for food addicts has provided me with substantial help in that area.”

Nancy talked about the books she has authored. In her words, “My first book covers one year of my life. Called to Live: A Chronicle of Recovery After Attempted Suicide, shows the process of a major depressive episode as it occurs, not in hindsight. My second book, Always the Fight: A Living Testimony of What Only God Can Do, is my take on the sovereignty of God with regard to life's struggles. They Were Real: Short Story Gateways Into the Thoughts of Bible Characters, was released December 30. It takes key moments in the experiences of ancient people, and adds what the person may have been thinking or feeling at the time. I could not have written this before I learned to experience emotions.”

You can interface with Nancy via her website to gain insightful information.

Her closing words, “My website is and features a bi-weekly blog on depression, suicide, and how to be supportive to a loved one who is depressed. Information on what I offer to a group as well as a list of events is also on the site.

When it comes to major depression, it is vital to get professional help. To start, seek a medical specialist, a psychiatrist, and take the prescribed medications. Then reach out for support via talk therapy; I recommend CBT therapists because it is statistically the kind of therapy that works. 

For anyone struggling with an addiction, support is your answer, too. Get to a recovery meeting and allow the wisdom there to guide your next steps. If you need rehab, do not postpone it. 

Life begins today! You will never get yesterday back, and unless you change, tomorrow will be the same. Change is difficult but possible. Well-being is a challenge to maintain and it is worth it. Surrender to God can seem useless although it is the only way.

Diets will never solve a food addict's problems because they place our hope in losing weight. When our hope is in losing old thought patterns and beliefs, inner change occurs, recovery begins, and weight takes care of itself. I'm halfway to my goal weight, but almost 180 degrees from who I used to be. 

Depression and despair can be results of lost or misplaced hope. When I put my hope in food and escaped from feelings, I added to my suffering instead of finding healing. Now the disease of major depression is manageable, and food nourishes rather than destroys my health.  

I can be contacted at,, and”