Sunday, November 8, 2009

Paper Roses

I was in Las Vegas this last week, and in Phoenix the week before. I had the privilege of seeing Marie Osmond in her Las Vegas show with Donny. She was kind enough to see me back stage for a hug before she had to go to a photo shoot, and yes, she was just as beautiful as these pictures show!

I remember hearing her first hit on the radio, Paper Roses. She sang that song in her show, and it was fun to remember. "But they're only...imitation..."

But this blog isn't just about Marie, though I love her dearly; it's about all of the things I learned in Las Vegas at the conference for the American College for the Advancement in Medicine (ACAM) and in Phoenix at the conference for the American Academy of Environmental Medicine. They were both about Autoimmune Diseases, and the speakers at both conferences presented many studies showing the profound effect the pollution in the environment is having on our health.

Below are some of the things that I learned. This isn't just hype but backed by rigorous scientific studies.

Arsenic, a toxic chemical often found at low levels in U.S. public drinking water,usually due to leaching into ground water from pesticides and fertilizers, may increase the risk of developing diabetes, according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

The study showed Americans with high levels of arsenic in their urine were almost four times more likely to have diabetes than those with trace levels. The risk was apparent at levels in the water which were generally considered harmless and grew with increasing exposure.

While previous research showed chronic exposure to high levels of arsenic could lead to diabetes, the new report is the first to show that even levels that meet U.S. regulations may be dangerous. Arsenic in drinking water is also shown to increase risk of heart disease and high blood pressure.

Lead levels in the blood of children are considered safe if they are below 10 mcg/dL. However, a recent study of men of an average age of 67 and an average blood lead level of 2.85 mcg/dL had lead levels taken from bone samples, where lead tends to congregate over time in the body. Those with higher levels were six times more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than those with lower levels in their bone. Their blood levels were not indicative of the amount of lead in their bones. What does that say about children with a blood level of 10 mcg/dL? Other studies also are indicating that there is no safe level of lead.

One study (I'm not sure where it was done), showed that up to 200 chemicals were found in the umbilical cord blood of newborns. Mercury blood levels in cord blood were twice as high as levels in maternal blood. For some reason the levels are concentrated in the fetus.

Pesticides have an estrogen-like effect on the body. Endometriosis has been highly linked to dioxin, which has been banned in this country, but still seems to show up in the blood. There is evidence that young girls with increased pesticide exposure have early puberty. Animal studies have shown that pregnant mothers exposed to these pesticides at specific times during fetal growth have offspring that exhibit same sex attraction.

There are greater levels of autism in the areas of coal burning plants, which emit a lot of mercury. Pregnant women exposed to pesticides also have a higher number of children with autism. Pregnant women who eat a lot of fish have a higher number of children with genetic defects and autism. And the current multidose vial of flu vaccine STILL has thiomerisol in it, which contains ethylmercury.

Up to 60% of the population are gluten sensitive to some degree, but most do not know it. A person has to be off of gluten for 6 months to lose the effects that it has on the body. Even eating gluten once a month can bring back the effects. The effects can be celiac disease, increased allergies, eczema, asthma, cognitive problems, etc.

The elevated levels of gluten sensitivity are thought to be related to several things: the hybrid forms created over the last 50 years are much different than what our ancestors were eating and the high levels of pesticides with heavy metals that are found on the wheat, causing sensitization.

People who are gluten sensitive have much higher rates of autoimmune diseases, especially thyroiditis. A majority of those with autism and ADHD are gluten sensitive.

These are just a few of the things we learned. It seems quite scary, especially when we seem unable to do anything about it. The United States and all of the world has ADHD--poor impulse control. Industry has grown and developed and utilized multiple chemicals without considering the long term consequences of their behaviors. Some of them had no idea what they were creating, many of them were in denial, and some of them knew exactly the risks they were taking for humanity but did it anyway for profit. There is still mostly denial in industry of the effects they are having on their communities and in the world.

But there are things we can do. We can live as clean as we can, drink filtered water, grow our own organic gardens, detoxify ourselves, consider gluten sensitivity and staying away from wheat,etc., be tested for chemicals and heavy metals BEFORE pregnancy by a knowledgeable doctor, keep chemicals out of our homes as much as possible, and be as pro-active as possible in keeping our communities safe. It was the citizens of Love Canal that rose up in arms and finally had their homes moved because of the severe toxicity of the Niagara River. Because of them the Superfund was created to clean up toxic sites. Be aware of what is going on in your community. Be aware of what is in your water and what your home is built on.

Up until now much of industry has been giving us paper roses; promises of safety that are only imitations of reality. They can no longer hold up under scrutiny. They are going to have to do business a different way in order for our children and children's children to survive.

Until we meet again,
Dr. Judi

Friday, September 25, 2009

To Flu or Not to Flu

As autumn rolls around (these beautiful trees are in my back yard!) the big health concern on everyone's mind (besides the so-called new health plan Congress will never agree on) is the H1N1 influenza virus. I would say Swine flu, but that's no longer politically correct, so we can please the hog farmers :-) Even though this new strain of flu is generally very mild, it has been surrounded by a lot of fear. It is quite a friendly little virus, passing easily from one person to another, so if it comes around your neighborhood, you are quite likely to be visited.

Joking aside, there have been deaths from this virus, just as there are every flu season. This one seems to be more serious for pregnant women, which is a major concern. So there is a rush to get a vaccine out to protect those at risk.

And the question on everyone's mind is, should I get the vaccine or not? Is it safe? Will I have problems if I get it? Will I get pneumonia, or even die, if I don't vaccinate?

The hard fact is, no one knows. Ever since there was a higher number of people who suffered from Guillain-Barre Syndrome (ascending paralysis) who had received the 1976 flu vaccine, the safety of the flu vaccine has been suspect in the minds of the public. And because the flu vaccine causes an inflammatory reaction that often feels like the flu, a lot of people say they feel worse when they get the shot than they do from the flu.

But there are others who swear by the flu shot, and feel it has made a big difference for them. They are ready to be vaccinated yearly, because they have had good results.

For most people, getting the flu can cause them to feel miserable and often put them to bed for a few days, but rarely is it serious. It is generally more serious for those with weakened immune systems, such as the chronically ill and the very elderly, and infants who are not being breast fed. And rarely, someone seemingly healthy gets very sick and may die. But this is rare enough that most of us don't worry a lot about getting the flu.

But because of the hype surrounding the H1N1 flu virus, more of us are considering the possibilities of ourselves or our loved ones being possible victims of a more severe illness.

However, the vaccine for the H1N1 virus is being pushed through trials quickly, and no one knows the long-term effects. Is it going to be safe? We hope so, but we don't really know.

So what do we do?

This is a decision that each person must make within their own heart. There is something inside that will give us guidance about if the vaccine is the best thing for us and our families.

However, whether we get the vaccine or not, there are many things we can do to protect ourselves and prepare our immune systems to be able to fight whatever may come. Here are a few things that may help prepare you:

1. Wash your hands. With soap. Frequently. Of course. We've known this since kindergarten. But it works! Better than the alcohol anti-bacterial gels. However, both hand washing and alcohol gels work only to kill the germs in that moment. The next thing you touch will contaminate again. So I recommend a product called PureWorks Antibacterial Foam. It is non-toxic, and not only kills germs for several hours, but kills the germs on things you touch as well. I'm not a distributor, but I buy and use the product in my office.

2. A good multi-vitamin mineral supplement. Making sure the body has what it needs to be healthy is important. I would recommend my new line of supplements, but they are still in manufacturing. But even the CostCo or Sam's Club brand are good. If you do get sick, take two a day.

3. Extra Vitamin A, Vitamin C and Vitamin D. These are all important for a healthy immune system. Unless you are pregnant, consider taking 10,000 IU of Vitamin A during the flu season. If you get the flu, increase the dose to about 100,000 IU a day for 3 days (not longer). Vitamin A has virus fighting properties. If you are pregnant, it is recommended you take no more than 5,000 IU a day, or it could be toxic to the baby.
Take about 1,000 mg. of Vitamin C a day. If you start to get sick, increase it to 1,000 mg. every hour while you're awake. It that gives you diarrhea, back down to the level where it stops.
Vitamin D is very important for a healthy immune system, and most of us are deficient, even if we get enough sun. I recommend in general 1,000 IU a day, though some may need more. Ask your doctor to check your 25-hydroxy vitamin D levels.

4. Dramatically reduce sugars and refined carbohydrates this flu season. Sugar, besides using up essential minerals, has a depressing effect on the immune system. The sugar from one soda can inactivate the macrophages (that destroy viruses and bacteria) for up to four hours.
And don't depend on artificial sweeteners as a substitute. They have some toxic effects and are stressful to the body.
However, raw honey and xylitol have anti-bacterial and viral properties. And stevia and agave nectar are safe to use. Xylitol comes in a nasal spray as well to reduce bacteria in the nose and sinuses.

5. Take time for relaxation and Get enough sleep. Stress, more than anything else, makes us susceptible to getting sick. When we burn the candle at both ends and don't allow time to rebuild, we are more apt to get sick. Our bodies break down during the activities of the day (catabolism) and use the rest and sleep time to rebuild (anabolism). Make sure your body has adequate time to rebuild itself.

These simple things can be extremely effective in keeping us well this fall and winter. Take care and be flu-proof!

Until we meet again,
Dr. Judi

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Breaking Away from the Chronic Depression Cycle

The Vanguard Center, a neurotherapy center I work with, has invited me to come and speak at one of their teleseminars on July 21st at 7:00 PM MST.

The title of the teleseminar will be Breaking Away from the Chronic Depression Cycle. It's free; you register at and then call in using the information they send you. Anyone is welcome to attend.

Here's what they had to say about it:

Every day, millions of people struggle with issues of chronic depression. Here in Utah we have the highest rate of antidepressant use in the nation. Many avoid antidepressants, seeking to avoid the side effects from long-term medication use, and continue to suffer without any assistance whatsoever. Fortunately, there are a variety of additional options and alternatives that people can take advantage of to break free from depression.

Nearly everybody knows someone that is struggling with depression. But often we are unaware of the extensive offering of effective solutions. Too often, professional advice is merely, “Take this prescription. Call me if it’s not working and we’ll try a different one."

Unfortunately, precious few take the time to understand that there are solutions to depression and other emotional issues. Indeed, there is no such thing as a hopeless case. There is always a way to reduce or eliminate the problem.

Join us to learn how!

They have more information about it here on their social media page.

If you have any questions on the topic, you're welcome to post them in the comments!

Until we meet again,

Dr. Judi

Sunday, March 22, 2009

ADD-ADHD Alternatives to Medication 3

It seems that ADD-ADHD is becoming epidemic. Why are so many more children being diagnosed with this problem today? The following may give a few answers.

Deficiencies and problems often found in ADD-ADHD:

1. Deficiencies in nutritional value from food. The diet many children eat today contains chemicals unknown to the human body and lack nutritional value. Many of these chemicals can affect our brains in a negative way. For example, Feingold hypothesized and did many studies showing that artificial colors and flavorings dramatically increased ADD-ADHD symptoms in those with that propensity. Eliminating processed foods, artificial flavorings, colorings, preservatives, and sugars have been shown to help the hyperactivity aspect of the affliction.

Many children are not introduced to or fed adequate fruits and vegetables to improve their nutrition. When they are used to eating the prepared foods with chemicals and sugars to make them taste better, the natural foods don't taste good to them. When they do get natural foods, often these foods are do not have adequate nutrient value because of the soil depletion.

The deficiencies found in the modern diet have a profound effect on the health of the brain. These deficiencies which have been found in many ADD-ADHD children include:
  • B-vitamins, especially Vitamins B5 and B6, folic acid and Vitamin B12.
  • Calcium, necessary for proper bone growth, muscle and nerve function.
  • Tryptophan, an amino acid which is a precursor to serotonin and melatonin.
  • Zinc, necessary for the function of many enzymes, required to make fatty acids and immune system function, deficiencies can add to mood disorders.
  • Tyrosine, an amino acid which helps make dopamine and norepinephrine, and is needed for the thyroid hormone.
  • Magnesium, necessary for the function of many enzymes. Depleted when eating too much sugar or over-stressed. Deficiency of magnesium causes the muscles and body to be hyper-excitable.
  • Omega 3 and GLA fatty acids, because of the high levels of trans fatty acids (man-made fats that are unable to be used in the body and cause oxidation and inflammation, including in the brain) in todays diets, especially in processed and snack foods, the excess trans fats in the body also cause a deficiency of omega 3 fatty acids, which include EPA and DHA, and an omega 6 fatty acid called GLA, all very necessary for brain and for cellular function. It has been shown that a majority of ADD-ADHD children have excessive trans fats in their cells.
  • Iron, necessary for adequate oxygen to the brain, as well as the executive centers in the brain. If iron is low, it affects learning and behavior. (Check with your doctor to see if iron is marginally low, as too much iron will also cause problems.)
  • Good, clean water—few children like to drink water any more. They drink juice, sodas, artificially flavored and colored drinks, sweet drinks, etc., which do not increase the fluid levels in the body, and sometimes are actually dehydrating. Most children are marginally dehydrated. If the brain is only 5% dehydrated, brain performance will drop remarkably, and they will feel fatigued.

2. Deficiencies or imbalances of Neurotransmitters. This is often because of the lack of the nutrients above. Neurotransmitters are molecules in the body that transmit signals between nerves. There are many kinds, each having a different purpose. They each have their own receptors on the nerve endings that, when attached, tell the nerve what to do. Some tell the nerve to send signals, some tell the nerve to stop sending signals.

In ADD-ADHD, there are often deficiencies in some or all of the following neurotransmitters:

  • Dopamine. This neurotransmitter is very important. It is the lack of dopamine that causes Parkinson's Disease. The deficiencies in ADD-ADHD are not as severe as in Parkinson's, but there are still problems. It is hard to pay attention, to focus and concentrate, and there seems to be a lack of caring and difficulty loving and connecting to others.
  • Endorphins (natural opioids). These allow us to feel good and reduce pain. A lack causes a sense of urgency, a need to hurry, and an increased sensitivity to pain.
  • GABA (Gamma amino butyric acid). This is a neurotransmitter that tells the brain to calm down and stops signals. A deficiency often results in a feeling of anxiety.
  • Norepinephrine. This causes a release of adrenaline, and in many causes a good “rush” feeling. Many with ADD-ADHD become “adrenalin” junkies, seeking thrills to increase the feeling from this neurotransmitter.
  • Serotonin. This allows a feeling of well being and enables sleep. The lack may increase depression symptoms and cause difficulty sleeping.

A good amino acid and vitamin supplement to assist the body in creating the needed transmitters is often useful. Also, changing the brainwave patterns through neurofeedback will often assist in balancing the neurotransmitters.

3. An excess of neurotoxins in the food and environment. Many of the chemicals in our food and environment are neurotoxins, meaning they are toxic to our nerve/brain cells. The chemicals in the food used as preservatives, colorings, flavorings, fillers, and artificial sweeteners (especially aspartame--Nutrasweet and Equal) are unknown to the human body and can have neurotoxic effects.

Our water supply is not immune to these pollutants. The soil which our food is grown in is becoming more polluted. Industry is spewing forth heavy metals. Mercury is found in our teeth, fish and immunizations. Lead poisoning is still a problem for both children and adults because of old paint, old pipes, industrial pollutants, etc.

Children born to mothers exposed to pesticide spraying in farming communities have a much higher incidence of autism and other brain problems. Pesticides are in our food supply and the spraying of lawns and houses magnifies the problem. Pesticides are neurotoxins and children eating a normal diet compared to children eating an organic diet were shown to have up to 20 times more pesticides in their urine. A single apple can deliver an unsafe dose of organophosphates to a child.

The foods most contaminated by pesticides, according to the FDA, are US-grown strawberries, apples, and peaches, and Mexican-grown cantaloupe. These should be only consumed if they are organic. You can dramatically reduce the exposure by peeling the apple and peach, though there are still pesticides in the fruit itself.

The fruits and vegetable which are least contaminated are US-grown cantaloupe, watermelon, bananas, kiwi, pineapple, peas, corn and onions.

Exposure to electomagnetic frequencies (EMF) is increasing both inside and outside of our homes. Children who live near high powered electrical lines or microwave towers have been shown to have a higher incidence of cancers, especially leukemias. Some people are “sensitive” neurologically to EMF, and their problems are aggravated by televisions, microwave ovens, computers, cell phones, etc. There are products that can reduce the effects of EMF on people.

Next visit we will talk about treatments and possible alternatives to medication.

Until we meet again,

Dr. Judi

Saturday, March 7, 2009

ADD-ADHD Alternatives to Medication 2

Last blog we talked about what ADD-ADHD is, and the symptoms that often accompany it.

It is important for the clinician and the family to be aware and test for conditions that mimic ADD-ADHD:
  • Allergies—many children are affected neurologically by sensitivities. Often misbehavior can be attributed to reactions to things they are eating or are in their environment.
  • Hypoglycemia (Low Blood Sugar) –when the blood sugar goes too low a child may have ADD-ADHD symptoms.
  • Anxiety—sometimes when a child or adult is suffering from anxiety they have trouble staying still and focusing. ADHD medication will make this problem worse. A QEEG can often determine if the medication will work or not.
  • Learning disabilities—if a child is having problems learning, they will often exhibit poor behavior. School becomes difficult and they start losing attention. Many children labeled as having ADD-ADHD actually have learning disabilities.
  • Hearing and vision problems—an undiagnosed hearing or vision problem can cause similar problems to learning disabilities.
  • Hyper- or hypothyroid—the thyroid affects the metabolism and an imbalance in the thyroid can mimic ADD-ADHD in a child.
  • Elevated toxins—such as lead. There is still a high amount of lead poisoning in children. Other toxins such as mercury in teeth, environment and immunizations, and chemicals in food and air can have an affect on their brain function.
  • Poor parenting skills—we hesitate to blame parents for behavioral problems, as ADD-ADHD is very difficult for parents to live with and deal with. However, if a parent has not been taught good parenting skills by their own parents, they may be unaware that their way of treating their child may be increasing misbehavior by that child. Most of us can become better parents and help our children by learning better parenting skills.

If you or your child have one or more of these problems, medication will only cover the problem and sometimes not help. Even if you or your child has ADD, these problems will make the ADD worse. It's important to discover if these are part of the problem. Some of them will only be found by a more integrative physician, utilizing both regular Western medicine and alternative/complementary medicine, specialized optometrists (for vision problems), and specialists in learning disorders.

The next blog we'll discuss some of the deficiencies found in people with ADD-ADHD.

Until we meet again,

Dr. Judi

Sunday, March 1, 2009

ADD-ADHD Alternatives to Medication

Cameron is a sweet, darling boy, who has been suspended from kindergarten and first grade more times than you can believe such a young child could. Cameron suffers from Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder. It causes impulsive behavior that causes him to do things without thinking of the consequenses. The consequences are that he gets suspended from school.

Attention Deficit Disorder is a biologically based condition causing a persistent pattern of difficulties resulting in one or more of the the following behaviors:

  • inattention
  • hyperactivity
  • impulsivity

Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder is the name often given when ADD also includes hyperactivity and impulsive behavior.

This definition and the symptoms are very ambiguous. These symptoms can describe most children, especially in their younger years. So the diagnosis is not usually made until a child is seven to nine years old.

ADD is not generally something that is “grown out of.” Children with ADD generally become adults with ADD. It is still difficult to deal with as an adult, but often they do learn how to make adjustments for their disabilities to get on with life.

Diagnosis of ADD-ADHD

There is no conclusive test to prove a child/adult has ADD-ADHD. It is a psychiatric diagnosis based on reported behavior by parents, teachers and self. There are no specific physical signs or symptoms. The behaviors vary in severity and symptoms. It is often difficult to accurately establish. The diagnosis of ADD-ADHD is determined by the clinician, based on the number, severity and duration of symptoms and the degree of impairment in daily activities.

The following are common symptoms of ADD-ADHD:
  • Has difficulty sustaining attention in tasks or play activities.
  • Is often easily distracted by outside stimuli.
  • Often fails to give close attention to details or makes careless mistakes in schoolwork, work or other activities.
  • Often does not seem to listen when directly spoken to
  • Is often forgetful in daily assignments and activities
  • Often fails to finish activities started, such as homework, schoolwork, chores, or duties at work.
  • Often has difficulty following through with instructions.
  • Often has difficulty organizing tasks and activities.
  • Often loses things necessary for tasks.
  • Often avoids or has difficulty completing tasks that require sustained mental effort.

The following are common symptoms of hyperactivity:

  • Finds it hard to be still—fidgets with hands and feet and squirms in seat.
  • Often leaves seat where sitting is expected.
  • Moves around, runs and climbs inappropriately.
  • Often has difficulty playing quietly.
  • Often talks excessively.

The following are common symptoms of impulsivity:

  • Does not give others time to speak; often blurts out answers before the question is out.
  • Has difficulty waiting their turn.
  • Often intrudes on others; has little sense of another's personal space.
  • Acts on what he/she wants in the moment without considering the consequences.
  • Does not seem to learn from negative consequences.

Though brain scans are not done for diagnosis, it has been shown that children/adults with these symptoms have brain changes. Both functional MRIs and Quantitative Electroencephalograms (QEEGs) show that there is under-activity and slower brain wave activity in the frontal cortex of the brain. These areas are often smaller than that of a normal child's brain of the same age.

These scans are not used for diagnosis, but they can be used to monitor treatment.
The brainwaves produced when we are awake and alert are beta waves, which are fast, high voltage type waves. People with symptoms of ADD-ADHD often have excessive slow, low-voltage type waves called theta waves, which are common in the drowsy and daydreaming state. That is why they have trouble focusing and concentrating, and why stimulant drugs help their symptoms, because they speed up the brainwaves.

The pre-frontal cortex is involved with voluntary control of attention, the inhibition of inappropriate and/or unwanted behavior, the planning of actions, executive decision making, maintenance of arousal (or the awake and alert state), and the sequencing of complex activities. When the pre-frontal cortex isn't as active, there will be problems with inattention, poor impulse control, difficulty planning ahead and completing tasks, poor decision making, daydreaming and poor focus, and difficulty carrying out instructions.

At Vanguard Center for Neurological Medicine, we do QEEGs to determine if these problems are present in the brainwave patterns of people with ADD-ADHD symptoms. See

In the next blog we'll talk about other problems that could cause symptoms similar to ADD-ADHD, and deficiencies often found in the ADD-ADHD population.

Until we meet again,

Dr. Judi

Sunday, February 1, 2009

The Circle of Life

Another wonderfully enchanting new grand-daughter was born 2 weeks ago, Eden Rebecca Moore. The circle of life continues. This last year I lost both of my parents and a father-in-law, and 3 new grandbabies joined our family. They are coming and going; coming into a new adventure and going into a greater one!

Sometimes there is anxiety as I consider the world these precious babies are coming into. My parents lived through wars, my father fought in World War II, but they were "The Greatest Generation." The world today is changing rapidly. The wars are different, seemingly never ending, with no winners or losers. The increase in crime, drugs, loss of moral virtues, financial crises, pollution of the air, water and earth, increasingly alarming amounts of chemicals in our food, global warming, breakdown of families, extensive abuse--all of this causes wonder as to how these little ones are going to survive what we and our ancestors have created. And with all of these problems, how can even we survive to take care of them as they grow and learn? What if we get robbed, go bankrupt, lose our home, have to go to war, etc.? With our own issues and anxiety how can we appropriately raise our children? What will happen to these little ones if we are not capable to care for them?

This is a time of anxiety--a time when men's hearts are failing them, physically, emotionally and spiritually. Anxiety disorders are the most common emotional disorders in the United States, with at least 40 million adults over 18 affected, almost 1/5th of the population! And the numbers are growing. Medication seems to help in the beginning, but often over time the anxiety overrides the effect of the medication and worsens. Large numbers of children are also being medicated for anxiety.

There is a basic cause of anxiety, and that is lack of trust in the process of life. We have had what we consider to be negative experiences in our lives, and we expect to continue to have negative experiences. Because of the patterns created in our brains because of those negative experiences, our thoughts dwell on the negative rather than on the things we DO have, the positive things we are doing and that are happening in our lives. That which we focus on then expands. There is a saying, "The greatest pain comes from comparing what we don't have with what others have." The thing is, we usually don't compare what we have with what others don't. Our brains get stuck in the negativity rut.

Tragedy, stress, severe loss of some kind happens in all lives. But when we spend our thoughts reminding ourselves of past tragedies and loss, and preparing for future tragedy or loss, anxiety results. The past and the future are just in our mind. They do not exist. The past is clouded by the filters of our inaccurate memory, and no longer exists in the present. The future is simply in our imagination, and the fears that come are often lies. The only way to get out of anxiety is to live in the present.

When our house burned down, the fire set by my five year old son hiding under his bed because he knew he wasn't supposed to play with the lighter, I learned some important lessons that have truly reduced the anxiety in my life.

First I learned that possessions mean nothing. Yes, baby books and photographs and sentimental things were also lost, but really, they are just memories of this temporary world. My family was alive and unharmed, except emotionally. What is a house and things compared to that? Now, in the present, when finances make it so there is a possibility that in the future I might lose some of my things or even my house, there is no anxiety. Possessions are just things. Yes, my life will change, but things are just things, money is just money, and happiness can be found without either.

Second, I learned that change is always for the good, if we choose to see it that way. Change is something that is always present and yet we tend to fight it the most. Change of job, of living quarters, the city where we live, births, illness, deaths, our changing body, divorce, financial status, emotional state can all create anxiety. We often see change as hard or negative, and therefore fear the changes of the future. Anxiety results as we fight change, rather than embrace it as good. I have found the old adage to be true: "When God closes a door He opens a window." I just have to be patient, looking for that window, and when I find it, through it will always be a cloud shining with a silver lining.

Third, I learned that life is about learning to love, and to do that, life is about relationships, and relationships are always changing, and that is how we learn to love. When we moved out of our burnt house while it was being rebuilt, the family dynamics changed. Problems arose between us that have taken years to work through. But it also set each of us on a journey that is teaching us to love without expectation, to forgive by letting go of pain, by allowing change in each other, even if it brings crisis in the moment. This is the only way we can grow in our relationships, is allowing each person to go through their changes, whether they appear positive or negative, and learn to love them anyway.

Fourth, I learned that it doesn't matter what it looks like. We often are very stuck and have great anxiety over what others think of us. We had lived in that beautiful house for a little over a year before the fire, but I was ashamed of it because much of our furniture was still from yard sales or hand-me-downs, gotten while my husband was still in school. My husband was starting his business and I was in medical school with a high tuition, and we didn't have the money to fix up our beautiful house, that we bought in foreclosure, the way I wanted to, the way I wanted to show off to the world. As we sifted through our smokey belongings, the people helping us were able to see what junk we really had. But I realized that it didn't matter what anyone else thought. We were doing the best we could, and that is all God expects of us. We had few clothes for a while, and had to wear the same things frequently, and sometimes two days in a row until we could get a washer we could use. But it didn't matter. We were safe, we were doing the best we could, it just didn't matter any more.

And the silver lining...after letting go of possessions, of the fear of change, of needing things to look a certain way, our house was fixed up brand new and shining, with new furniture, carpet, drapes, paint, and everything because of the insurance! Our house ended up so beautiful that friends jokingly asked to borrow our five year old son!

We left that wonderful house as change came into our lives, moving to a new state. We built a new one. I lost that house through divorce. Now I'm living my idyllic life in a log cabin. Lots of changes. Might I lose this home once again? I pray not, but I accept that change can still happen, and I trust the process of life enought to know that if I lose it, it will be for my best good.

When we can trust that God is good, and can make good out of every situation, then we can begin to trust the process of life. It's good to heal from the past and be prepared for the future, but to spend the majority of time living in either place brings anxiety. Anxiety is a lack of faith, a lack of trust. We cannot grow in faith if we live in fear. By focusing on the positive, by acknowledging our successes and the successes of those around us, by trusting that whatever happens it will be for our and our loved ones best good, by trusting that God loves us and our loved ones more than we can know how to love, and that He isn't abandoning any of us, we can move out of fear, out of anxiety, into the peace of the present.

This isn't always easy to reach this peace when our brain has been patterned in fear from childhood. But it IS possible, with time and effort, to change those patterns and learn to live in trust and love.

Then we can find joy in the Circle of Life.

Until we meet again,

Dr. Judi

Saturday, January 10, 2009

The ANTS Return

When I lived in Argentina there were many, at least to me, unusual sights. One of the things I enjoyed watching were the leaf ants. As I was walking I would come along a line of pieces of leaves that were moving. On closer examination I would find each piece of leaf being carried by an ant about 1/20th the size of the leaf. Of course they were fun to watch, but they were very destructive. If they weren't stopped, they could overwhelm a plant and decimate it quickly.

Just like the leaf ants can overwhelm and destroy a plant, the ANTs of our mind (automatic negative thoughts), if they aren't stopped, can overwhelm the mind and cause depression and/or anxiety. As discussed in the previous blog, one or two ANTs aren't necessarily a problem, but if we don't notice and change them, more come, thicker and faster, until they are overwhelming and we feel out of control.

Daniel Amen, M.D., in his book "Change Your Brain, Change Your Life," describes many types of ANTs, which we discussed previously. He also talked about how the ANTs often lie to us. Today we are going to discuss how our ANTs can deceive us and make the situation seem worse than it really is. It is important to recognize and stop these ANTs, because they are harmful and lead us astray. See if you can recognize these lies in any of your own thoughts:
  1. "Always/never" thinking. Words like always, never, no one, everyone, every time, everything are rarely true. Very rarely does something "always" or "never" happen. But it is very common to think "He's always putting me down," "No one ever talks to me," "I'll never get a raise," "She's always so mean to me," "Everyone takes advantage of me," "You never listen to me." The truth is she may often listen to you but you only notice the times she is occupied. Or she may be listening but doesn't like what you say so doesn't respond. It is important to catch ourselves as we use these phrases and examine them to see if they are really true. Using these words pulls our energy and our feelings down, and is a picnic for more ANTs.
  2. Focusing on the negative. It seems to be very easy to see only what's wrong with ourselves, others, our jobs, our lives, and difficult to see what is working, all the things that are going right, all the ways we are blessed. What we focus on is what expands in our lives. When we are constantly focused on the negative, that's all we are able to see and experience, and then our life fills up with negativity. When we focus on the positive our mood lifts and we are able to see how good we really have it, in spite of the things that aren't working for us. A wise friend of mine, a professor, Russell Osguthorpe, stated that when we focus on the negative, we lose faith. Faith only comes by counting our successes. At the end of the day, acknowledge what didn't work, but focus on your successes, on what did work, on what your blessings have been. And remember, sometimes just getting out of bed is a success! Count it!
  3. Fortune-telling. This is when you predict the worst possible outcome to a situation. For example, you're a little late coming home from work. You predict that your wife will be mad, and the kids will be irritable because you made them late for dinner. You start thinking how it isn't fair that your wife would put that burden on you when you are just doing your job, making money so there can be food on the table. By the time you get home, whether your wife is upset or not, you are upset and the whole evening continues down in a negative spiral. If you must fortune-tell at all, imagine how happy your family is going to be that you are home, and what a wonderful evening you are going to have together. You can imagine anything, so why not focus on the positive? Whatever anyone else is feeling, you, at least, can be feeling good.
  4. Mind reading. It is very common to believe that we know what someone is thinking, and when our deep limbic system is active, we usually believe the worst about their thoughts. We may be able to pick up on someone's feelings, but we rarely know exactly what they are thinking to cause those feelings. "He thinks I'm incompetent," "She's upset at me," "They don't like me," etc. We cannot know what anyone else is thinking unless they tell us, even in intimate relationships. Don't assume anything. Ask. The next ANT is that we don't believe what they tell us. "She says she's not mad at me but I don't believe her." Why choose to be miserable? It doesn't matter. If she says she's not mad, then believe her. If she seems mad, believe that it is about something that has nothing to do with you.
  5. Thinking with your feelings. This happens when you believe your feelings are true and act on them without examining them. "I feel this way so it must be true." "I feel stupid," "I feel like a failure," "I feel like you're mad at me," etc. Look for the evidence behind the feeling. Feelings can lie to you as well. Is there good evidence to back up the feeling? Or are the lying ANTs creating the feeling?
  6. Guilt beating. Guilt is not productive. There is a difference between godly remorse and guilt. Godly remorse allows us to see what didn't work and what it caused, and to pick ourselves up, let go and try again. Guilt by its very nature holds us down and keeps us from moving forward. The guilty thoughts often include the words should, ought, must, have to. These words are heavy and create ANTs. We are not created to be forced to do anything. These words feel like force, and when we believe we must do something, we have a harder time making ourselves do it. Use instead the word choose. Put away the guilty beat-up stick. That kind of self-punishment doesn't work, and increases the number of ANTs we end up dealing with.
  7. Labeling. When we attach a negative label to ourselves or someone else, we lose the ability to see the situation or person clearly. Some examples of negative labels are "jerk," "irresponsible," "lazy," "arrogant," "frigid," etc. These labels are lies, and whether we give them to ourselves or others, increase the ANTs in our world.
  8. Personalizing. We always tend to take every action by others personally. "My boss didn't speak to me this morning. She must be mad at me." Even when someone is upset at us, it really isn't completely about us. Their own pain has been triggered in some way, causing their reaction. If we choose to think, "This really isn't about me, but is about their pain. How can I assist them?" the negativity and our ANTs will greatly diminish. Stop taking things personally. Others' actions rarely are about us.
  9. Blaming (the most poisonous red ant). Blaming others is very harmful to yourself. If you blame others for your problems, then you become a victim and have no control over your life. ANTs like "It wasn't my fault," "That wouldn't have happened if you had..." "How was I supposed to know..." "It's your fault," cause us to completely lose our own power. We can never change how someone else acts or thinks; we can only change how we ourselves act and think. We can only change our perspective. As we choose to take accountability to how we reacted in a situation, then we can take control and change it. We can only be offended if we choose to be offended. We don't have to be angry because someone did something mean. We can be strong and protect ourselves; we don't have to stay around mean people, but if we act rather than react, then there is no blame; there is no offense, and the ANTs go marching away. Let go of blaming both others and self. Acknowledge what didn't work, and work towards doing it differently next time. Sometimes it takes a lot of experiences and learning to get it right, but don't blame. Being accountable is different than blaming self, which leads to guilt. We must be accountable to be able to change our lives.

Dr. Amen states, "Your thoughts really matter. They can either help or hurt your deep limbic system. Left unchecked, ANTs will cause an infection in your whole bodily system. Whenever you notice ANTs, crush them or they'll affect your relationships, your work, and your entire life. First you need to notice them. If you catch them at the time they occur and you correct them, they will lose their power over you. When a negative thought goes unchallenged, your mind believes it and your body reacts to it."

It is possible to heal your body in many ways by changing your thoughts. Many thoughts come unbidden, from years of experiences, hidden in the subconscious mind. We may not be able to always stop the ANT from coming, but if we notice it and change it, we will stop the stream of ANTs from destroying the entire plant.

Until we meet again,

Dr. Judi