- AIDWYC (Wrongly Convicted)
- About.Com Thyroid
- Anxiety Disorders Association of Ontario
- Anxiety/Panic Internet Resource
- Barbara Niven
- Boomer Women Speak
- Milgaard Inquiry
- Recovered Memory Debate
- Sigrid's Recovery
- Sigrid's Reviews
- Social Phobics Anonymous-Social Anxiety and Social Phobia Support Groups
- Thyroid & Anxiety and Panic
- Trafford Publishing
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- CONTACT ME
Saturday, April 28, 2012
Wednesday, April 04, 2007
I am a freelance writer and editor living in Ontario, Canada. My background is in psychology and social work. I have a special interest in women’s issues, wrongful convictions, and various physical and mental conditions such as hypothyroidism, hypoglycemia, menopause, and panic disorders.
This website is a collection of articles that I have published in the last five or six years. It is divided into three sections: one is on wrongful convictions, one on physical and mental health issues and another on miscellaneous, lighthearted topics.
In terms of wrongful convictions, I worked closely with Joyce Milgaard to exonerate her son David, who was wrongly imprisoned for 23 years. I was the Co-coordinator of the Milgaard Support Group in Ottawa and was also a member of the Association in Defense of the Wrongly Convicted. If you would like to hear a musical version of the Milgaard story, listen to the great song "Wheat Kings" on the CD "Fully Completely" by the Tragically Hip.
The David Milgaard Inquiry began in January of 2005. Since David's case is considered one of the worst instances of injustice in Canadian history, it is important to discover what went wrong, and what kind of prophylactic measures we can implement in order to prevent this kind of tragedy from happening to another innocent person. Please check my new blog above entitled Milgaard Inquiry to follow events week by week.
The article that I wrote on Feminism and False Memories was easily the most misunderstood piece that I have ever written. It was widely interpreted as an antifeminist statement when nothing could have been further from my intentions. I have always been a strong feminist and the only point that I was trying to make in the article was that the women's movement should allow for a wide variety of opinions and debate on controversial topics.
I have also added some speeches that I wrote and delivered at Toastmasters International. I have just received my Certified Toastmaster Certificate, which means that I completed 10 speeches in the Level 1 Toastmaster's manual.
If you want to discuss these articles with me, please sign my guestbook located at the very bottom of the page or email me by clicking on the link that says CONTACT ME. If you have a web site that relates to any of these topics, send me the URL and I will link to you.
In November of 2004, I published my first book called GETTING HIP: Recovery from a Total Hip Replacement. You can find more information about it on my web site, Sigrid's Recovery.
My second book, D'Amour Road, is now available from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Borders and Books A Million. Or you can get it for a discounted rate at Lulu.com. It's a novel about two women who are about to turn 40. One goes missing and the other launches a massive search to find her friend in conjunction with the police, her women's collective and a younger man whom she finds particularly captivating.
D'Amour Road is based loosely around the Louise Ellis story. Louise was a member of my Milgaard group. Instead of taking up David's cause, she became involved with a jailhouse informant who testified at David's Supreme Court hearing. She went to bat for this man and helped him to get out of prison early. He repaid her by killing her. You can read more about D'Amour Road on my blog at http://www.visitdamourroad.blogspot.com/.
Thank you and I hope that you enjoy my anthology.
I. David Milgaard
II. Rubin “Hurricane” Carter: A Prizefighter Wins Freedom from Injustice
III. Feminism, Fanaticism, and False Memories
IV. Overcoming Panic Disorder: a Woman's Guide
V. Social Phobia
VI. Menopause and anxiety
VII. Have You Checked Your Thyroid Lately?
VII. Could you be suffering from low blood sugar?
IX. Invisible disabilities
X. Last name first: labelling the rose
X1. Damn that appliance!
I. Watch what you say October 2004
II. Honesty in the workforce June 2004
III. Please don't rip me off! August 2004
IV. Talking to your computer October 2004
V. Smart women, dangerous choices -- February 2005
VI. It's never too late -- February 2005
I. "David Milgaard"
Published by JUSTICE DENIED, 1997
In July 1997, David Milgaard, one of Canada's longest serving prisoners, was formally exonerated from all criminal charges against him for the rape and murder of Gail Miller in Saskatoon in 1969. David's story is tragic: he was incarcerated at the young age of 16 and spent 23 long years in prison for this crime that he did not commit. He always maintained his innocence.
Thanks to the fierce and courageous determination of his mother, Joyce, who worked tirelessly for 23 years to clear his name, David's case was heard before the Supreme Court of Canada in 1992. At that time, the court ruled that keeping him in prison might constitute a miscarriage of justice because crucial evidence was withheld from his original jury.
Dave was released in 1992 but the province of Saskatchewan refused to grant him a retrial. This left him in a state of legal limbo. David, Joyce, his lawyers and supporters like myself continued to work for five more years to obtain approval for David to undergo DNA tests. He was officially cleared of all of the charges based on the DNA results in the summer of 1997. Although this victory was long overdue, Milgaard supporters were ecstatic.
Shortly after the exoneration, Joyce Milgaard spoke about miscarriages of justice on an Ottawa radio show along with local lawyer, Lawrence Greenspon. The moderator of the show said a number of interesting things.
Firstly, he said that the big cases of wrongful conviction in Canada - that of Milgaard, Marshall and Morin - all had certain commonalties:
1. There was withholding of exculpatory evidence
2. There was an overzealous Crown
3. The police had tunnel vision
To this, Joyce added that it is very difficult to have a fair appeal when the people in charge of appeals are engrossed in the same system that made the error in the first place. After Donald Marshall spent 11 years in prison for a murder that he did not commit, the Marshall Inquiry recommended that an independent board be established to hear appeals but this recommendation has never been implemented.
Lawrence Greenspon stated that the Milgaard case has huge implications internationally for freeing people based on DNA. He said that 36 cases in the United States have been overturned by DNA evidence, including that of Rolando Cruz who spent 11 years on death row. Both Greenspon and Milgaard were quick to point out that NOT everyone in prison has DNA evidence so it is not useful in all cases.
Canadians concerned with wrongful convictions may be interested to know that Joyce Milgaard was one of the founding members of AIDWYC, the Toronto-based Association in Defense of the Wrongly Convicted. Joyce sits on the board of directors. AIDWYC's Executive Director is Rubin 'Hurricane" Carter, a native of New Jersey who moved to Toronto after he spent 20 years in prison for a triple homicide that he did not commit. Subject of a Bob Dylan song and contender for the number one middleweight crown before his wrongful conviction, Carter was freed by a federal court judge.
Lawrence Greenspon has assembled a group of lawyers to start an AIDWYC chapter in Ottawa and last fall, a Toronto law school began "Project Innocence," a program that has already used genetic testing to help free nine prisoners. Working with AIDWYC students at Osgoode Hall law school at York University have been investigating the cases of people who have exhausted their normal court appeals but insist they were wrongfully convicted. Most of the cases handled by Project Innocence will involve DNA but it wiII also look at other causes of wrongful convictions such as false confessions, inaccurate eyewitness identification, jailhouse informants and improper Crown disclosure of evidence.
You can write to AIDWYC at 438 University Avenue, 19th floor, Toronto, Ontario M5H 2K8 or read more about it on their web site at http://www.aidwyc.org/.
II. Rubin "Hurricane Carter: A Prizefighter Wins Freedom from Injustice
Published by JUSTICE DENIED, 1997
"To see him obviously framed, Couldn't help but make me feel ashamed
To live in a land, Where justice is a game."
Bob Dylan, "Hurricane"
Rubin "Hurricane" Carter was a contender for the middleweight boxing title of the world before he was wrongly convicted of a triple homicide in Paterson, New Jersey in 1967. Narrowly escaping the death penalty, Afro-American Carter was sentenced to life in prison by an all white judge and jury.
In Rahway Prison, Carter would not obey prison rules nor would he eat prison food because he maintained that he was an innocent man and did not belong there. He would not do prison work, preferring instead to spend his time reading in his 5 foot wide by 7-foot long cell, built in 1850. It was there that Carter devoted his energy to writing the autobiography that would eventually lead to his liberation.
Carter published "The Sixteenth Round, From No 1 Contender to #45472 from his jail cell in 1974. Bob Dylan, who made Carter a folk hero with the release of the song ‘Hurricane’ the following year, discovered the book. Referring to Carter's trial as a "pig-circus, Dylan's song led to a public outcry that was largely responsible for his retrial in 1976. Carter was also supported by Coretta Scott King, Muhammad Ali, Joan Baez and Bobby Seale of the Black Panther Party in addition to a number of journalists and lawyers. It is hard to believe that Carter and his acquaintance, John Artis, were wrongly convicted again in 1976.
Both of Carter's trials were tainted by racism. In the first trial, the jury was told that two white men and a white woman were shot dead at the Lafayette Bar and Grill during a robbery. The prosecution argued that Carter and Artis committed the murders to avenge the death of a black man who had been killed by a white man that same night in Paterson. At the time of the shooting in 1966, racial unrest was erupting all over North America and riots had broken out in Newark and Jersey City, NJ It was within this social context that the prosecution argued that, in essence, Artis and Carter had killed three white people simply because they were black.
All of the evidence seemed to indicate otherwise. One of the shooting victims told police that Carter and Artis had not been the shooters; the victim and other eyewitnesses all claimed that the shooters were about 6-feet tall, thin, and light skinned whereas Carter was 5-feet 8 inches tall and stocky with very dark skin. Carter was also a celebrity prizefighter, well known for his bald head. As a local hero, it is likely that he would have been recognized in the Paterson bar. Lastly, Carter and Artis were both given lie detector tests the night of the incident and passed.
However, two white men did implicate Carter and Artis. Both of these men, Alfred Bello and Arthur Bradley had extensive criminal records. Both recanted their testimonies before Carter's second trial; they stated that the police had pressured them into giving false testimony by offering reward money of up to $10,000. However, Bradley left town before the retrial and Bello retracted his recantation and perjured himself on the stand yet again.
Fortunately for Rubin Carter, his luck changed when a black teenager became interested in his story. Lesra Martin was 15 years old when he was adopted by a group of white Canadian social activists. He was malnourished and functionally illiterate from a life of poverty in a Brooklyn ghetto. The Canadians restored Martin's health and taught him how to read. Within a year, he was studying black history and had read "Native Son" by Richard Wright and "The Autobiography of Malcolm X".
As told in the book "Lazarus and the Hurricane" by Sam Chaiton and Terry Swinton, one propitious day Martin went to a book sale at the Metro Toronto Public Libraries where he found a copy of "The 16th"' Round." Intrigued by the title since there are only 15 rounds in boxing, and empathizing with Carter's plight, Martin began to write to Carter in prison. It did not take much persuasion on Martin's part to interest the group of Canadian's in the Carter cause. Horrified by Carter's continued incarceration, the group did research and prepared legal briefs that led to Carter's final appearance before a federal court judge.
Judge H. Lee Sarokin overturned the conviction and declared that both of Carter's two previous convictions had been based on "racism rather than reason, and concealment rather than disclosure." At long last, Carter was freed in 1985 but it took another three years before the charges against him were completely dismissed. Paterson, New Jersey, home to the beat poet, Allen Ginsberg, was a beat town indeed for Rubin Carter, who took up residency in Toronto after he got out of jail.
Today, Rubin Carter is a beacon for the wrongly convicted everywhere. He lost the sight in one eye in prison when he was refused outside medical care but Carter has never lost sight of the importance of fighting against racism and social injustice. Today, he is the Executive Director of a Toronto-based lobbying group called AIDWYC, the Association in Defense of the Wrongly Convicted.
AIDWYC was formed in 1994. Its first case was that of Guy Paul Morin, who was wrongly convicted of sexually assaulting and murdering his 9-year-old neighbor, Christine Jessop. AIDWYC consists of lawyers, law students, lay members and supporters. The group has worked on cases all over Canada from Nova Scotia to Quebec.
James Locker, an energetic and dedicated lawyer who sits on the AIDWYC Board of Directors, has defended several men who were wrongly convicted including David Milgaard and Guy Paul Morin, both of whom were exonerated based on DNA evidence. Lockyer is currently representing Steven Truscott, a man who was convicted of killing young Lynn Harper when he was a teenager nearly 40 years ago. Truscott served all of his time and now lives under a pseudonym somewhere in Canada. Many Canadians have always thought that Truscott was innocent; soon we will know for sure.
Rubin Carter defied the odds. He was released from a life of hell and exonerated. Now he works tirelessly to make sure that the same travesty of justice is not perpetrated on other innocent people. So does the teenager from Brooklyn, Lesra Martin, who is now a lawyer and a member of the AIDWYC Board of Directors.
III. Published by the Women's Freedom Network Newsletter
Summer 1997, Vol. 4, No.4.
Feminism, Fanaticism, and False Memories
In courtrooms and scientific communities all over the world, a debate rages over the existence and reliability of recovered memories of child sexual abuse. The American Medical Association has issued a warning to doctors that recovered memories may not always be accurate and need to be verified. The British Royal College of Psychiatrists recently banned the use of memory retrieval techniques such as hypnosis, guided imagery and regression therapies to uncover past sexual abuse. Nor are recovered memories faring well in the courts: the Supreme Court of New Hampshire and the Court of Appeals in California have ruled that recovered memories are not sufficiently reliable to be admitted as evidence.
But in mainstream feminist circles, it is still considered taboo to challenge the veracity of any recovered memories. An unwritten law in the women's movement dictates that we must accept every claim of sexual abuse by another woman, or else we are not being supportive of survivors. Many campus feminists act as though the recovered-memory debate were moot and dismiss it as part of the increasing reactionary backlash against women.
A few years ago, I worked as a collective member at a local university women's center. One day, I walked into the center carrying a copy of Mark Pendergrast's book, Victims of Memory, in the hope of discussing it with other women. An investigative journalist, Pendergrast has written an exhaustive, well-researched treatise that favors the false memory syndrome perspective. His own two daughters, after being in therapy, accused him of unspecified acts of sexual abuse and cut off all contact with him.
Pendergrast and I disagree on the extent of true recovered memories. While he acknowledges (and documents) corroborated cases in which people forgot sexual abuse and then remembered it later, he does not believe in massive repression in which years of traumatic events are completely forgotten and later recalled. I believe that massive repression is possible and that many recovered memories may be essentially accurate reconstructions of events. Nonetheless, we both concur that false memory syndrome is a serious problem for the women who have rewritten their pasts and for parents who are on the receiving end of unwarranted accusations.
Imagine my surprise when I sat down with a group of six female students in the women's center and asked if anyone had read Pendergrast's book. The women visibly shuddered. They raised their voices. They called Pendergrast a "perp" and me a "perp defender" because I had an ongoing correspondence with him. One woman shouted, "Too many trees died to make that book." All of the women refused to read the book. Some barely spoke to me for months afterwards and referred to me behind my back as "that friend of Pendergrast's."
I was astonished that such closed-mindedness could exist in academia. At the age of 44, I have been active in the women's movement for 25 years. I have worked in women's centers in three universities, headed task forces for the National Organization for Women, and sat through the original mover-shaker consciousness raising groups of the '70s. Over the years, I have engaged in heated conversations on topics as volatile as the exploitation of sex trade workers, the safety of S&M, and the role of pornography in male violence. Yet I have never encountered a topic as contentious as that of recovered memories of sexual abuse.
How could these students have assumed that Pendergrast was guilty of incest without knowing anything about the science of the recovered memory debate? According to the students, false memory syndrome was merely a legal defense contrived by accused perpetrators. If FMS does not exist, parents like Pendergrast who are accused on the basis of recovered memories have to be guilty.
This logic ignores the retractors--individuals, usually female, who have declared that their therapists have recklessly and erroneously encouraged them to believe that they were victims of sexual abuse. According to Pamela Freyd, Executive Director of the False Memory Syndrome Foundation, more than 300 retractors have contacted the foundation. Students at the women's center viewed the retractors as "survivors in denial." They did not want to hear the stories of the retractors' anguish in therapy. They did not wish to read the works of cognitive psychologist Elizabeth Loftus or of sociologist Richard Ofshe, who are critical of recovered memory. They did not want to hear about the FBI report by Kenneth Lanning indicating that there is not a shred of evidence for the existence of multigenerational satanic cults in which children are subjected to ritual sexual abuse.
There should be no place in academia for such a rigid refusal to hear both sides of an argument. In Professing Feminism, dissident feminists Daphne Patai and Noretta Koertge speak of the "silencing" and "ideological policing" that often occur in women's studies classes to prevent women from espousing beliefs that run contrary to the feminist party line. I felt silenced at this university women's center. I have been made to feel guilty on countless occasions because I have argued for false memory syndrome, although I believe strongly in recovered memories as well.
The feminist view that self-proclaimed survivors of sexual violence must be believed under all circumstances arose in response to a centuries-old history of callously dismissing women and children's complaints of abuse. It is a sign of social progress that victims of sexual abuse are taken more seriously today. However, the feminist community must acknowledge that repressed and recovered memories are extremely controversial.
When I was growing up, my brother and I had political disagreements at the dinner table. Often, he would jokingly interrupt me to say, "Excuse me! I didn't mean to confuse you with the facts." This served as a reminder to me that I had not armed myself with enough information to hold up my end of the debate. Certain segments of the women's movement are currently suffering from the same righteousness that I had in my twenties. Regardless of the ultimate cost of sacrificing fairness to rhetoric, these feminists do not wish to confuse themselves with the facts.
IV. "Overcoming Panic Disorder: a Woman's Guide"
Written by Lorna Weinstock and Eleanor Gilman
Reviewed for the Anxiety Disorder Association of Ontario by Sigrid Macdonald, 1999
In their latest book, "Overcoming Panic Disorder: A Woman's Guide," Lorna Weinstock and Eleanor Gilman discuss the reasons why more women than men suffer from panic disorder. They present a number of case studies of individual women and offer a comprehensive review of current treatments that are available for women and men with recurrent panic.
Weinstock and Gilman ask the complicated question why women are more prone to PD than men. They state that "out of 3 million Americans who have or are likely to develop panic disorder, two thirds are women, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.” One wonders how the NIMH could estimate the number of those who were likely to develop panic, but clearly, women do outnumber men two to one in the panic statistics. Why is that?
Weinstock and Gilman claim that one of the reasons that PD is more prevalent in females is due to their hormones. Hormones do indeed play a large role in women's panic, says Dr. Stuart Shipko, psychiatrist and neurologist, and Director of the well-renowned Panic Disorders Institute in Los Angeles. Dr. Shipko believes that the neurotransmitter cholecystokinin is the major cause of panic disorder and that "the reason more women have active panic than men is progesterone; when it falls during the premenstrual phase, the irritable nervous system becomes even more irritable. The fluctuations of the hormones cause greater instability and hence more overt attacks and more florid attacks." Shipko says that in his own practice, he sees about the same number of women as men but this seems to be atypical.
Although Weinstock and Gilman acknowledge the importance of hormones, genetics and biology in the development of panic disorder, their central premise is that women are more likely to panic than men due to their low self-esteem, perfectionism and dependency on others. This view of women as inherently shy and insecure is an outdated concept, as is the authors' statement that "like most women with panic, you are probably too passive."
The book describes numerous stories of women who were always afraid even as children, who had extreme conflict in their family life and experienced trauma as a child or in early adulthood. This may be an accurate description of some women with panic but it does not reflect al of them. Moreover, the concept is at odds with current biopsychosocial theories of panic which suggest that people develop panic disorder because they have a genetic susceptibility which is often triggered by a major life stress such as death, divorce, illness, sexual abuse, a car accident or other life traumas.
The authors also neglected to mention other factors that may make women statistically more prone to panic than men such as women are more likely to seek health care than men. It may also be true that women are more comfortable telling their doctors that they are experiencing anxiety whereas some men may still be embarrassed to ascribe their symptoms to panic; perhaps, those men drink to quell their anxiety, end up in AA and are not counted in the PD statistics. There are certainly a large number of men posting on Internet news groups and bulletin boards for panic and anxiety.
All in all, there is a wealth of good information in "Overcoming Panic Disorder" including sections on the difficulty of getting a proper diagnosis since panic mimics physical illness and vice versa and because doctors may be more likely to view women as hypochondriacs than men. Relaxation, visualization and exposure therapy are discussed at length as are other forms of cognitive behavioral treatment but there is neither mention of alternate health treatments nor the effects of diet; caffeine is only mentioned once in relation to one woman who was drinking 30 cups of coffee a day!
This book may help someone with mild to moderate panic who needs a good introduction to the basic therapies offered for panic, someone who cannot or would prefer not to take medications; or who has received modest relief from medications but not significant. It will be of limited usefulness to those with severe panic and agoraphobia. Only one chapter in the book deals with agoraphobia although it can affect up to one third of those who have panic disorder. And the book will not be at all illuminating to those who have been reading about panic for years
One also wonders who the target reading audience is as the authors recommended reading good humor by Erma Bombeck and Art Buchwald. I would prefer to watch Dennis Miller and Chris Rock or reruns of Seinfeld or Roseanne. The over emphasis on psychological factors in this otherwise good book is as outdated as its suggested reading list
V. "Social Phobia"
Published in the Anxiety Disorder Association of Ontario Newsletter, 1999
Many of us know the feeling of paralysis that strikes when we attempt to speak in front of a large group: our hands shake, our stomachs feel queasy and we fear that we will not be able to deliver our speech. For those with social phobia, performance anxiety is an everyday occurrence. Social phobia is a common disorder affecting approximately 7% of the population, according to the Social Phobia/Social Anxiety Association in Phoenix, Arizona. It is characterized by an excessive fear of embarrassing oneself or performing inadequately. In order to qualify as a phobia, this fear must interfere with work and social life and cause "significant distress".
There are two types of social phobias: the specific or discrete phobia which includes a panicky reaction to situations such as public speaking, eating in restaurants or going out on dates and the generalized social phobia which involves a fear of almost all social interactions. The former may permit people to have fairly normal social lives but may disrupt jobs (e.g. stage fright is a specific phobia that is common among actors.) The latter can be quite debilitating and may prevent people from holding down a job at all or finishing school. Isolation and loneliness are the inevitable consequences of generalized social phobia.
Social Phobia is thought by some theorists to have a genetic origin; others believe that it results from an overprotective or extremely critical upbringing. Like Panic Disorder, treatments include psychodynamic therapy, cognitive behavioral therapy, relaxation and situational exposure. Social skills training may also be offered in conjunction with medications such as a Benzodiazepine or MAO inhibitor like Nardil or Meclobomide. Beta-blockers like Inderal have been especially effective for performance anxiety and are frequently used by musicians or actors with stage fright. The Tricyclic antidepressants do not seem to be helpful with social phobia and use of the SSRIs has not been well studied.
One roadblock to obtaining relief is that people with stage fright. The Tricyclic antidepressants do not seem to be helpful with social phobia and use of the SSRIs has not been well studied.
One roadblock to obtaining relief is that people with social phobia rarely seek treatment due to their embarrassment of the condition. They usually seek treatment for something else such as depression or substance abuse, and will then discuss their social phobias. People with panic disorder alone are much more likely to go for treatment than those with social phobia. However, social phobia often overlaps with panic disorder, and generalized anxiety disorder, and may lead to agoraphobia. According to the Harvard Mental Health Letter, one study found that 49% of people with social phobia also had panic and agoraphobia.
How can we tell the difference between social phobia and regular panic disorder? With panic alone, a person generally fears the panic attack itself and avoids situations that may provoke an attack. These situations may or may not be social (i.e. an agoraphobic driver may avoid driving over bridges or through tunnels.) The person with social phobia panics in response to the real or imagined reaction of other people's criticism or disapproval.
If you would like to read more about social phobias, check out the Anxiety Panic Internet Resource web site at http://www.algy.com/anxiety/ or the Social Phobia/Social Anxiety Association at http://www.social phobia.org/. You may also wish to read the following books: "Social phobia: From shyness to stage fright" by John R. Marshall and "Anxiety and its disorders" by David H. Barlow.
VI. "Menopause and anxiety"
Published in the Anxiety Disorder Association of Ontario Newsletter, 1999
Menopause can be a time of great relief to many women, a time when they are finally able to dispense with contraception and lose the fear of unwanted pregnancy. We leave behind the irritation of PMS and the need for feminine protection. But menopause and the years that precede it, can play havoc with some women's hormonal systems causing anxiety, panic attacks, depression, muscular aches, pains and fatigue.
Most women cease menstruating at approximately age 50, however, hormone deficiencies can occur for 4 to 5 years before the menarche (last period) itself. There is also a great variability among women, such that some females experience penmenopausal symptoms in their 30s or early 40s and are not aware that these are related to hormones until the more well known symptoms of menopause arrive, such as hot flashes, vaginal dryness and menstrual irregularities.
Some women sail through the "change" years without any difficulties. Others may experience panic, anxiety or agoraphobia for the first time. These women may be misdiagnosed as having panic that is purely psychological or biochemical and put on antidepressants which will not help to correct an underlying estrogen deficiency. A simple blood test can be performed which will measure your estrogen level, progesterone and FSH (follicular stimulating hormone).
There are several different schools of thought about how to treat perimenopausal-related anxiety. Dr. John Lee, author of "What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Pre-menopause," believes that pre-menopause is characterized by too much estrogen and too little progesterone. Dr. Lee is a great promoter of natural progesterone cream to alleviate anxiety and other symptoms caused by hormonal fluctuations. You can read more about Dr. Lee and the best types of progesterone cream to purchase on the website http:/www.heaith-science.com./
Unlike Dr. Lee, Dr. Sandra Cabot, an Australian gynecologist, advocates the use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT). She has written an excellent and comprehensive guide to the menopausal years entitled "Smart Medicine for Menopause." Cabot discusses the wide variation of HRTs available as well as the controversy surrounding their safety. For those who choose the natural route for hormonal anxiety and insomnia, she advises herbs such as passion flower, valerian root, skullcap and high potency B vitamins.
Diet is also important in the pre-menopausal years; reducing one's consumption of sugar, caffeine, refined carbohydrates and animal protein can ameliorate certain symptoms along with a good exercise program. It may also help to boost your intake of foods such as soybeans, whole wheat and seeds like flaxseeds, sesame seeds or sunflower seeds which are rich sources of natural plant estrogen. Eating more fish, soy and dairy products will help ensure proper calcium intake although soy must be taken in small quantities since it may adversely affect the thyroid gland. If you think that your anxiety may be related to hormonal imbalance, talk to your family doctor or holistic health practitioner about treatment options.
VII. Have You Checked Your Thyroid Lately?"
Published by the Carleton University Women's Center Newsletter
There are many causes of persistent fatigue including iron deficiency, low blood sugar, fibromyalgia and depression but one of the most common causes of fatigue among women is an underactive thyroid gland. Contrary to popular conception, thyroid disease (TD) is not as easy to diagnose or treat as we have been led to believe. According to Mary Shomon, author of "Living Well With Hypothyroidism", "more than 10 million Americans have been diagnosed with thyroid disease and another 13 million people are estimated to have undiagnosed thyroid problems. Women develop thyroid problems seven times more often than men." The Thyroid Foundation of Canada cites a more conservative estimate of "one in twenty" people being affected by thyroid disorders but agrees that the condition is more prevalent in females.
Tiredness, low body temperature, weight gain, dry skin and hair, and heavy or irregular periods can be symptoms of an underactive thyroid; weakness, insomnia and anxiety are more likely to occur with an overactive thyroid. Ironically, the treatment for overactivity – radiation or surgery - often results in an underactive thyroid. Moreover, thyroid production often decreases around midlife so that women in their 40’s or 50’s who complain about fatigue, insomnia or menstrual problems are often misdiagnosed as menopausal.
Since the early 1900s, hypothyroid patients were treated with natural desiccated thyroid. Diagnosis was based on clinical symptoms or on various tests including the measurement of thyroxine levels (T4). When synthetic thyroid was introduced, patients were switched to compounds like Synthroid or Eltroxin because their absorption seemed to be more stable. In 1973, clinical observation was replaced by the TSH test, which measures thyroid stimulating hormone. Until recently, a TSH of 0.5 to 5.0 uU/ml was considered to be normal but in January 2001, the American Association of Clinical Endocrinologists announced that a TSH of more than 3.0 uU/ml might indicate hypothyroidism.
Some women are returning to desiccated thyroid like Armour or Parke Davis Thyroid in Canada, which contain both thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). Others are adding a synthetic form of T3 called Cytomel to their T4 meds. Not everyone needs T3. Many people feel perfectly well on an adequate dose of T4, although Synthroid does not seem to be as stable a compound as Eltroxin or Levoxyl. Synthroid was the last T4 drug to receive FDA approval even though it is the number one choice of doctors who tend to be influenced by the pharmaceutical industry. Some people do well on Synthroid but others notice an immediate improvement when they switch to Eltroxin or to a T3/T4 combination.
When T3 works, it can be a miracle. Leslie Blumenberg from Waldoboro, Maine told me, "I found my success after 23 years on Synthroid only when I asked my doctor for a T4/T3 combo. I had to experiment with various doses but I'm finally doing well. I've lost more than 50 pounds in the last 6 years, 22 of which were since last September after getting my thyroid meds optimized."
Jeanette from Boulder, Colorado was misdiagnosed for 12 years. T4 helped a bit but she needed T3 to relieve her "extreme fatigue, slow weight gain and severe depression." She focused on getting her free T3 and free T4 levels to the midpoint of the reference range rather than relying solely on the TSH test. Jeannette told me that it took her almost 18 months to feel well again and she strongly recommended a healthy diet, exercise and ample amounts of patience to recover from thyroid disease.
Thyroid sufferers meet to chat and learn more about the condition at http://thyroid.about.com/mbody.htm. "About Thyroid", coordinated by Mary Shomon, is easily the best thyroid web site on the Internet. Most of the women on the "About Thyroid" message board avoid soy products and supplements or eat soy in small quantities despite the fact that doctors have encouraged women in perimenopause to increase their consumption of soy for its phytoestrogen properties. Soy has been known to act as a goitrogen, meaning that it can inhibit thyroid function. Other goitrogens include raw broccoli, cabbage, brussel sprouts and cooked millet. Dr. Larrian Gillespie, author of The Menopause Diet, claims that she went hypothyroid in 12 days by taking soy isoflavenes! But she still recommends small servings of soy foods to her patients. You can read more about the soy controversy at http://www.soyonlineservice.co.nz/
Unfortunately, most doctors are still following the old protocol. If your blood tests come back with a TSH under 5, your doctor will probably say that thyroid is not your problem. And many physicians believe that synthetic T4 medications are the only form of reputable treatment; these doctors may be reluctant to prescribe T3.
What can you do? If you are already on thyroid medication, try the following:
* Take your thyroid on an empty stomach, preferably before breakfast
* Wait 4 hours after taking thyroid before taking iron or calcium
* Try 50 to 100 micrograms of selenium daily
* Consider desiccated thyroid or adding Cytomel to your T4 meds
If you are not on thyroid medication:
* Ask your doctor to run a free T3, free T4, and TSH test and request copies
of your lab results
* Read "Living Well With Hypothyroidism" by Mary Shomon and "The Thyroid
Solution" by Dr. Ridha Arem.
* Get a second opinion if your symptoms strongly suggest thyroid problems
VIII. "Could you be suffering from low blood sugar?"
Published in the Anxiety Disorder Association of Ontario Newsletter, 1999
Anxiety is one of the primary symptoms of hypoglycemia or low blood sugar. In a study of several hundred people conducted by Dr. S. Gyland, fully 94% of those afflicted with low blood sugar complained of nervousness. 89% suffered from irritability, 77% mentioned depression and more than 50% noted palpitations and internal trembling. This association between hypoglycemia and anxiety is easy to understand when we examine what occurs in the body as the glucose level drops.
Hypoglycemia is a metabolic disorder caused by the inability of the pancreas to digest simple sugars and refined carbohydrates; when sugar is ingested, blood glucose rises too quickly. Insulin levels soar to bring the blood sugar down. Consequently, sugar levels fall too low or too rapidly. The first areas of the body to be affected by hypoglycemia are the brain, the retina and the central nervous system since, unlike muscles, these organs cannot store glucose. Symptoms of LBS include weakness, sweating, palpitations, dizziness, shakiness and blurred vision. These symptoms can feel very much like a panic attack.
Many things can cause LBS including chronic stress, a poor diet high in refined carbohydrates, stomach surgery and various malfunctions of the endocrine system. LBS can be organic or functional; the most common form of LBS is functional, otherwise known as reactive hypoglycemia.
A formal diagnosis of hypoglycemia is made by a 5 hour glucose tolerance test (GTT) which involves ingesting 50 to 100 grams of sucrose and then having one's blood taken numerous times to measure the glucose and insulin levels. This test can be quite challenging physically and very anxiety-provoking for those who do have low blood sugar and can be extremely difficult for anyone with a panic condition.
Many people decide to forego the GTT and to concentrate instead on following a strict diet for 4 to 6 weeks to see if their physical and psychological symptoms subside. If you consistently feel shaky and anxious when you miss meals or snacks and your anxiety decreases markedly when you eat, you may wish to try the hypoglycemia diet.
There are several different schools of thought related to the diet but most agree on the absolute avoidance of all sugar products, white flour, caffeine, alcohol, and tobacco. Most also concur that people should eat 3 meals a day with frequent snacks every 2 hours.
Dr. Seale Harris devised the original diet for hypoglycemia in 1923. It consisted of foods high in fat and protein, and low in carbohydrate. Many doctors recommend a variation of this diet today; they are the traditionalists and they suggest eating lots of meat, fish, poultry, dairy products, vegetables, salads, nuts and seeds. This diet is touted by Dr. Harvey Ross, author of "Fighting Depression" and by Ed and Patricia Krimmel, authors of "The Low Blood Sugar Handbook; the Book of Solutions." Ross and the Krimmel's recommend no more than 2 pieces of fruit per day and limiting dairy to 4 oz of milk or yogurt at a time.
Dr. Robert Atkins went one step further by dramatically reducing carbohydrates. Some hypoglycemics swear by his diet whereas others find that it does not give them enough energy or that the dearth or carbohydrates result in the blood sugar falling too low.
Dr. Paavo Airola proposed another school of thought in 1977. In his book, 'Hypoglycemia: A Better Approach,' Dr. Airola advocates a diet rich in natural, complex carbohydrates with less protein, especially from animal sources, and less animal fat. This diet consists mainly of fruit, vegetables, dairy products, grains, nuts and seeds and is supported by many nutritionists.
Certain medications can affect the blood sugar, in particular Xanax, Klonopin, some of the older tricyclic antidepressants and estrogen. If other measures have failed for you and your anxiety appears to be relieved by eating, you may wish to try the hypoglycemia diet. Detailed versions of the diet appear on various websites on the Internet including:
'Hypoglycemia' at http:www.dynanet.com/bodychem/hypo.html
and the Hypoglycemia Homepage Holland at http:www.huizen2.dds.nl/~hypo
IX. "Invisible disabilities"
Published by the Carleton University Women's Center Newsletter
It's almost 6 PM. You're sitting in the pub finishing off a burger and a quick coffee before your next class. You see a woman stumble past you, holding on to the wall. She passes by the women's restroom and walks right in to the men's restroom. You laugh, turn to your friends and exclaim, "Wow, she must be really hammered!" But the woman is not drunk. She has retinitis pigmentosa, a degenerative eye disease that destroys night vision, peripheral vision and depth vision.
When we picture someone with a disability, we tend to think of someone in a wheelchair, using a cane or perhaps even limping. We focus on mobility impairments and forget about the host of other conditions that can disable people such as carpal tunnel syndrome, tinnitus, hearing impairments, arthritis, lupus, chronic pain, learning disabilities, panic attacks, affective mood disorders or severe clinical depression.
There is a fine line between illness and disability. Some people are sick but they're not disabled. Other people are disabled but they're not sick. It depends on how severe an illness is as to whether or not it disables or handicaps a person. For example, rheumatoid arthritis may cause such pain that it limits a person in everything that he or she does. Or the arthritis may be well controlled by medication and exercise and go through periods of remission, which would make it much less debilitating.
The red haired woman who sits next to you in economics class may seem cold and unfriendly to you when you converse with her but what if she is really thinking "Don't talk to me. I'm having a panic attack!" And the woman who refused to have lunch with you may like you perfectly well but doesn't want you to know that she has bulimia and is highly uncomfortable around food.
How can we tell who has an invisible disability? We can't. We just have to understand that we can’t always see another person's experience. We don’t know who is grieving the death of their parents nor can we tell who was molested as a child or raped as an adult unless they tell us about it. The same is true of physical disorders. They are not always apparent to us.
How can we tell who has an invisible disability? We can't. We just have to understand that we can’t always see another person's experience. We don’t know who is grieving the death of their parents nor can we tell who was molested as a child or raped as an adult unless they tell us about it. The same is true of physical disorders. They are not always apparent to us.
How should we treat someone when we find out that they have an invisible disability? We should treat them just like we treat anyone else except that we should strive to accommodate them without making them feel inadequate or as though they are imposing upon us.
X. "Last name first: labelling the rose
Published by the Globe and Mail, Facts & Arguments
Thursday, August 15, 2002 – Page A20
On my own street, we have a Naveen, a Nizam, a Faruk and a Yaneck. No wonder people don't question Sigrid as they once did.
By SIGRID MACDONALD
Sigrid is an Old Norse name; it means "a beautiful victory." Apparently, when my mother was pregnant with me, she was reading a three-volume saga set in medieval Norway called Kristin Lavransdatter by Sigrid Undset. She named me Sigrid and my sister Kristin. Little did she know that one name was to become popular whereas the other -- my name -- would remain highly unusual in New Jersey where I grew up.
I was born in Canada but my father was part of the 1950s brain drain; unable to establish a thriving medical practice in Winnipeg, he moved the family to New Jersey when I was 5. My town, Wyckoff, NJ, was predominantly Anglo-Saxon but there were some Europeans, including a large number of Italians and a modest Jewish community. Susan was a common name. Sigrid was foreign. Susan was pronounceable. Sigrid was distorted into the most unimaginable forms like Sigreid, Seegrid, Singrid, Zigrid and Sigfried. I was teased good-naturedly by other students and called "Cigar," "Cigarette" and "Sigmund."
My only consolation was that I didn't have psychedelic parents who had named me Moon Unit or Zowie Bowie.
Slowly, in my 30s, I began to grow into my name. I bought a Saab. I studied my Icelandic family genealogy and yearned to travel to Scandinavia. I found that there were advantages to having a unique name. For example, I could just refer to myself as Sigrid and everyone would know me -- it was like being Sting or Madonna! When I moved back to Canada in 1988 and entered the age of multiculturalism, it was infinitely easier to have a different name. On my own street, we have a Naveen, a Nizam, a Faruk and a Yaneck. No wonder people don't question Sigrid the way they used to in my previous, homogenized Anglo world.
Now, we are in yet another era: the age of Internet baby naming. For not much money, expectant parents can buy computer software that will generate thousands of "cool baby names." Or they can pay more money to the baby-name generators for "professionals" to choose 20 names based on one's ethnicity and individual likes. Or people can simply get a great laugh by visiting the web site called "The Institute for Naming Children Humanely," where "The Chairman" (i.e. the web site owner) lists hundreds of names and tells people whether or not they are appropriate. Most names are inappropriate in his opinion because they might subject children to ridicule or ostracism.
Unsuitable names include first names that are commonly used as last names, such as Taylor and Madison or names like Richard Alan Thomas which look fine at first glance but closer scrutiny reveals it spells the initials RAT. Think of his monogrammed towels! Equally offensive are the "Let me spell that" category of names like Amie instead of Amy. Poor Amie, estimates The Chairman, "will spend 58 days out of her lifetime correcting the spelling of her name, enough time for her to learn sign language, join an extra-curricular club, or otherwise allow her parents to live vicariously through her."
Wow. According to this logic, if I'd been named Susan, I could have done an MBA with all the free time I would have saved by spelling both my first and last name! (That's Macdonald, M-A-C with a small d.) Obviously, the name Sigrid was not mentioned by the Institute and would no doubt have been deemed inappropriate, although the Chairman did concede that names that are popular with one's ethnic group are acceptable.
Clearly, the Institute for Naming Children Humanely is meant to be satirical but far too much time and effort went into it to dismiss it as pure sarcasm. Much of it is truth in jest. The author believes that there is a right and a wrong way to name children and dozens of other web sites agree. Many sites offer useful information with huge databases including lists of political names, names for Utah Mormons, names on the Civil Rights Memorial, and even Harry Potter names. Ironically, on one hand, the Internet attempts to increase the name pool for prospective parents -- yet, at the same time, all of the "do and don't" tips tend to narrow the name field considerably.
I'm glad that my mother used her literary creativity to bestow upon me a distinct ethnic name, despite the difficulties that it presented to me when I was young. As an adult, I value the great diversity of names around me and I hope that expectant parents won't rely too heavily on cyberspace for naming their newborns. After all, The Chairman only approved the use of 220 names for both genders! I suspect that he would have preferred my father's Scottish side of the family to the Icelanders. The Clan Ranald Macdonald repeatedly named hundreds of years of offspring John, Ronald, Donald, Catherine and Mary. No spelling problems there, but then again, naming a child Ronald Macdonald in today's fast-food world would surely constitute cruel and unusual punishment.
Recently, I helped my mother track down long-lost friends, Helen and Robert MacDonald, using the Internet. When I looked up Robert MacDonald in Ontario on the Canada 411 Internet phone directory, I found 85 listings, so I looked up their children on their high-school alumni message board. Eureka! I found Bobby MacDonald within 10 days and my mother was reunited with her long-lost friend.
I'll wager Sigrid Macdonald would have been found much faster.
Appliances have an uncanny ability to communicate with one another. Although they are a mystery to those who service them, ordinary household appliances can send secret signals to each other indicating that it would be quite a lark if they should all break down at the same time.
I am recovering from a hip replacement. At least, that's what I tell people but the truth is that I'm spending the better part of my time arguing with service people and attending to a series of broken appliances. I believe that I can say with full confidence that most of these people have come to dislike me.
This all started when I attempted to build in some relaxation time to my day by lying down and listening to a talking book. My tape recorder ate one of my tapes and it became apparent that I would need to replace the machine. With dread, I limped off to the local appliance store where I had purchased my portable headset phone. The headset phone had given me a near nervous breakdown because it gave off a loud buzzing noise, which could be heard by everyone I called but of course, the noise never occurred when I brought the phone into the store. I returned the headset phone at least five times because the store only exchanged merchandise and did not offer refunds. The manager and I were both delighted when inexplicably, the fifth phone worked and we no longer had to bicker over this issue.
Fortunately, the manager was not on duty when I crept furtively into the store one Sunday afternoon and quickly located a voice-activated tape recorder. Remarkably, it worked. I was able to lie down peacefully and listen to the end of Margaret Atwood’s THE BLIND ASSASSIN.
Shortly after purchasing the recorder, I decided to buy a pedometer. I had just graduated from a walker to a cane and wanted to know exactly how far I was walking. Off to the athletic shop. I was so excited to be literally counting every step that I took. One day, the pedometer said that I had walked a mile! I was thrilled. That seemed like very good progress. However, the next day I took the same walk and the pedometer registered 1649 steps and .03 of a mile. Was this the New Math? I got out my calculator and soon realized that 1649 steps were much closer to .5 of a mile. Time to return the pedometer.
Could I coordinate this trip with the broken VCR? The Rolling Stones broke my VCR. Honestly. The machine was working perfectly well until I taped the Rolling Stones concert on July the 30th. After the final encore, my machine collapsed. Luckily, the VCR was under warranty but because of my hip surgery, I could not lift or carry it downstairs. I called the boy next door and he kindly put the VCR in my car. I was really pleased that I managed to get the machine into the major appliance shop by myself only to be told that they no longer serviced VCR's. I could send it to Toronto if I wanted to part with the machine for 4 to 8 weeks or I could have it serviced locally. The local repair shop was out of my driving range so I hired a woman to take the VCR down to the new shop, which looked to be the size of my kitchen.
Days went by without hearing from the shop. I started calling them and everyday they promised to return my call but no one called back. Finally, I threatened to remove my machine and the receptionist confessed that she wasn't sure that the technician had even looked at it and that he was having "personal problems." As Frank McCourt would say, "Sorry about your troubles!" She assured me that she would discuss my situation with the owner and get back to me right away. True to her word, she did leave me a message saying that the technician had finished examining my VCR and had concluded that there was nothing wrong with it. I called back, got a different receptionist, and told her that I would eat my shirt if my machine functioned properly.
Meanwhile, my scanner stopped working. Cleverly, I decided that I would fix this matter in order to avoid the grief of dealing with yet another service person. Reloading the scanner software did not work so I reformatted my hard drive. In order to save my data, I copied half of it to floppies and sent about 40 e-mails from my regular e-mail account to my Yahoo! account so that they would be stored for me on the Web. Not only did the reformatting fail to resolve the problem, but when I went to check my Yahoo! account, I only had four new e-mails instead of 40. Who knows who received the other 36 e-mails? Hope that I didn't send those naked pictures of myself off to Aunt Marg!
While other people were experiencing frustration and distress during the major power outage in August 2003, I was feeling greatly relieved. For once, I knew why my appliances weren't working. It also helped to put technology in perspective. It is critical that the traffic lights are operating properly along with our water supply and refrigerators but the electrical devices that I worry about most are really non-essential tools. I could learn to live without many of these luxury items and that is exactly what I plan to do as soon as I fix the CD player in my car.
My father was dying of leukemia. It didn't seem possible. He was a physician. I remembered him treating me with his little black bag when I was a child. I always felt safe knowing that my dad was a doctor. Those were the days of Marcus Welby, M.D, when doctors were accorded great respect. I thought that my dad had magical powers because he could heal people. I suppose that on some subconscious level, I viewed him as invincible. He had suffered several serious illnesses during his lifetime but had always prevailed. His slow descent into the fatal abyss of cancer seemed surreal.
I began to have panic attacks, which had plagued me years earlier, but had been well-controlled with medication. My skin became as white as a ghost and I lost 20 pounds. I was irritable and snappy, and cried at the drop of a dime. I felt exhausted but the drowsiness alternated with sudden bursts of energy after I ate. Everyday for three months, I visited my fragile father in the hospital. When I thought that I couldn’t take one more day of his suffering, he died and I fell apart.
Prior to his death, I had been doing volunteer work as a research assistant at the local university. But after my father went to meet his maker, I could no longer drive to the school; I would have a panic attack at a particular intersection, and I couldn’t drive through it. It’s hard to explain the terror of such an episode to someone who has never had one. The only analogy that I can make is to imagine that someone suddenly stepped into your path, and put a gun to your head; your heart would race, your mouth would go dry, and you might feel weak or faint. That's what I felt like when I had an attack. It didn't matter that there was no gun or no real danger at the traffic light because my body was responding as if there were.
The first time that I had a panic attack was after I was hit and nearly killed by a drunk driver. I sustained multiple injuries including lacerations to my face and arm, a head injury, a punctured and collapsed lung, and numerous fractures. I spent three weeks in intensive care and three months in the hospital. It took me a year to relearn how to walk. When I got up on crutches, I had my first major anxiety episode. I had them regularly after that for four years until I went on medication.
That was what was so confusing when my panic returned after my father’s death. I was already on anti-anxiety agents. I didn't understand why the pills weren't working anymore. Raising the dose didn't help. No matter what I did, I kept feeling nervous and agitated, and I felt physically ill with nausea, exhaustion and daily headaches. I was also bored, isolated and depressed because I couldn't work or go out socially anymore. My life was rapidly disintegrating.
When I started slurring words and walking into walls, I knew that there was something wrong with me that went way beyond the grief process. But my family doctor was adamant that my symptoms were caused by depression. She did some rudimentary blood work, dismissed my problems as psychogenic, and referred me to a psychiatrist, who put me on strong antidepressants. I nearly fell down the stairs on the new drugs.
I urged the doctor to send me to a specialist, so she referred me to a neurologist. He wondered if I had sleep apnea and ordered a sleep test for me. This meant that in my drowsy, anxious state, I had to check into the hospital at 11 p.m., so that a technician could attach a dozen different electrodes to my head, hands, and legs. I felt like I had been beamed into a Stephen King novel, and was awake all night with the pain of the probes in my head.
The sleep test revealed that I wasn’t getting restorative sleep -- no surprise there! I don't think that I slept more than two hours all night. But this stellar piece of information prompted the neurologist to blame my illness on a pre-existing case of fibromyalgia. He attributed the word slurring to me taking too much Klonopin, a drug similar to Xanax, and suggested that I check in to the detox section of the local hospital. I was highly insulted that the man thought I had a drug problem! Worse: he had the nerve to announce this in the waiting room in front of a neighbor of mine.
I was terrified. My exhaustion was so severe that I slept my days away and felt like fainting whenever I stood up. The only abnormality that my family doctor could find in my blood was a B12 deficiency, which she claimed was insignificant but should be treated. I certainly did feel better after the B12 levels returned to normal, however, I continued to have the vast majority of my symptoms. And I cried everyday -- sometimes all day long -- for my lost father.
I decided to switch doctors. During a two-year period, I went through 10 doctors altogether including three family doctors, the neurologist, two internists, two gastroenterologists and two psychiatrists. I endured an echocardiogram, a CT scan, two endoscopies, a barium series, two sleep tests and an ultrasound. That was not to mention the $1200 that I spent on acupuncture, chiropractic and herbology. I even started attending the Christian Science Church hoping that faith would cure whatever ailed me.
Finally, a random blood sample taken at a neighborhood clinic indicated that my blood sugar was extremely low. The physician who ordered the test told me not to worry about it; she suggested that I eat more often and make sure to take sugar whenever I felt dizzy or weak. That was exactly the opposite of what I should have been doing!
Off to the Internet I went in search of more information. I discovered that a B12 deficiency in conjunction with severe reactive hypoglycemia could be caused by stomach surgery. Eureka! I’d had two stomach surgeries in 1989 and 1990. Could that be the mysterious cause of my problem? I begged the clinic doctor to refer me to an endocrinologist. The latter insisted on putting me through a glucose tolerance test, although my blood sugar had already fallen to 44 mg, which was a clear indicator of hypoglycemia. The endocrinologist felt that it was important to measure my insulin levels along with my glucose to make sure that the diagnosis of alimentary hypoglycemia (low blood sugar caused by stomach surgery) was correct.
The glucose test was a nightmare. I’ve never been so sick in my life! About an hour after I drank the sugary solution, I felt like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz when she was walking through the poppy fields. I could feel myself passing out. My mind went blank and my throat was dry. I felt like throwing up but I couldn't speak. Luckily, a friend, who had accompanied me, called the nurses. They took my blood sugar and it was at 28 mg; levels that low can cause permanent brain damage. Coma or death may occur at levels below 20 or 25 mg.
Right after the glucose test, I gave up caffeine, sugar, white flour and junk food. I put myself on a high protein diet and immediately, the panic attacks stopped. I still have some anxiety and fatigue. Part of that is a result of my fibromyalgia. The rest is due to the fact that my particular type of hypoglycemia is very hard to control. However, I do feel at least 60% better now than I did before I started the diet. At least I know what's wrong with me and what to do when I feel sick.
Why did it take so long for me to receive a proper diagnosis? I don't live in a Third World country. I’m an upper-middle-class, white woman with access to universal health-care. But these demographics were more likely to work against me rather than for me. There is a bias against female patients in our culture and there is antipathy towards chronic patients like me.
One thing that doctors need to remember is that having one condition doesn’t necessarily preclude having another. Just because I had fibromyalgia didn't mean that I couldn't develop something else. Frequently, the complaints of those with chronic pain or anxiety are not taken seriously. Over time, women with these conditions may develop problems with their thyroid, iron levels, blood sugar, or female hormones. These other possibilities need to be ruled out if new symptoms appear. In my case, slurring words should have been a red flag that I may have developed a new illness.
But hypoglycemia is not always accepted by physicians. Apparently, so many people were diagnosed with the condition in the 1970s that it was soon viewed as a fad disease. Now many doctors refuse to acknowledge that it exists at all and they rarely think to test for it.
In addition, just because someone is experiencing an emotional trauma in her life doesn't mean that she can't become physically ill. Many physical illnesses are triggered by severe stress and they require treatment with something other than antidepressants.
What I have learned from this experience is that I have to take responsibility for my own health. I need to be proactive and to take charge. I have to follow my intuition and if I believe that a doctor is wrong, I must speak up. In certain instances, I need to leave that doctor behind, even if I am labeled a "doctor shopper." I refuse to accept a doctor’s diagnosis if it feels wrong to me.
When I was a teenager, I had a poster in my bedroom that said "question authority." Many times over the last few years, I have had to invoke that inner teenager. Just because people have M.D. after their name, doesn't mean that they know what they're doing!
We are no longer in the era of Marcus Welby or Father Knows Best. We are the Boomers and we have high expectations for our lives. We expect to be treated with respect and courtesy. We expect doctors to listen to us and to make an accurate diagnosis. With some hard work and perseverance, we should be able to get it.
I. Watch What You Say - speech delivered on October 20, 2004
Fellow Toastmasters, welcome guests. Like millions of people around the world, I've been glued to the TV set lately, watching the presidential debates in the United States. Now that I've become a Toastmaster, I listen to speeches in a completely different way than I did before. I'm not here to talk politics today or even to say which candidate I like best -- for all you know, I could be voting for the Rhinoceros party! -- but I would like to talk about the way the candidates presented themselves and the effect that may have on voters.
I'm going to focus on two important issues -- one is the words that the candidates used and the other is their body language.
One big mistake that George Bush made during the first debate was that he used the word "Internets." Now, we all know that there's only one Internet -- and that Al Gore invented it! Seriously, within an hour of Bush making that slip of the tongue, college students had printed up T-shirts with the word INTERNETS on them. Al Gore never recovered from his fatal error of saying that he had created the Internet.
It's important to be accurate and to use the right words. But sometimes, even the right words can be used against us. For example, John Kerry said that Iraq was the wrong war, at the wrong time, and the wrong place. It was a catchy phrase and I'm sure that it sounded good to him at the time. But it gave George Bush the chance to attack Kerry's voting record. Bush asked Kerry how he could have voted for a wrong war. Bush said repeatedly that Kerry would never get US troops to follow him or other countries to join the United States in an effort to end the war if Kerry insisted on saying that this was the wrong war at the wrong time and the wrong place.
Body language is just as important as words. In the first debate, President Bush scowled and made faces. He looked angry, and impatient. I have a 17-year-old nephew named Oliver. When he was in grammar school, the teacher called his mother in to talk to her about Oliver's behavior. A gifted child, Oliver was much smarter than the other kids -- and, boy, did he know it! Whenever another kid in the class would get a question wrong, Oliver would groan out loud. Sometimes he'd even slap his forehead and laugh! We can tolerate this from an eight-year-old but it's much harder to take coming from a mature man.
On the other hand, John Kerry continue to smile and nod throughout all three debates while George Bush was attacking him. He scored a lot of points in the eyes of the voters and newscasters. He came across as a polished speaker and a real gentleman. But I thought that his body language was completely inconsistent with his message.
Will the election be decided on the basis of these debates? It's possible. Most Americans vote for their party. They decided who to vote for 30 years ago because they plan to vote the ticket. But there are many undecided voters, which only exist to keep Saturday Night Live on the air! According to SNL, these people can hardly decide which chair to choose when they walk into a room, or whether to have coffee or tea, but I think they're just being careful. They want to make their decisions based on what the candidates really said. The debates gave the candidates a chance to tell the American people where they stood on the issues. It would be a shame if what they had to say got lost because of how they said it.
As Toastmasters, we can learn from the candidate's mistakes. We want to be careful about the words that we choose. We want to make sure that our facts are right and that our words are precise -- that they say exactly what we mean to say. We need to watch the nonverbal messages that we send out with our bodies. That way people will be listening to our real message rather than being distracted by something that we didn't mean to say.
Let's just hope that the presidential candidates expressed themselves well enough that voters can make a clear choice, and that this election does not have to be decided by the Supreme Court!
II. Honesty in the Workforce -- Delivered as a speech on June 1, 2004
"Honesty is such a lonely word, everyone is so untrue." Who made this sad commentary? Was it Michael Moore in his blockbuster summer hit, Fahrenheit 9/11? No, it was none other than Billy Joel. Honesty is crucial in all of our relationships, with our partners, families, acquaintances and especially at work.
A recent study found that 94% of the people surveyed, when guaranteed anonymity, admitted that they lied "regularly and often" at work. Most of these lies were to avoid conflict or to avoid drawing negative attention to oneself. This is intolerable in a business environment where critical decisions depend on rapid access to valid information.
In her book, Getting Real, life coach Susan Campbell discusses two different forms of communication: controlling and relating. Controlling revolves around our need to look good in front of other people. When we're afraid of what other people might think about us, we don't want to rock the boat, create controversy, upset anyone, or hurt their feelings. We try to appear to be more together than we really are, and we can't hear people very well when they speak because we're convinced that we are right and they are wrong. Communication is a two-way street -- it's just as important to listen as it is to talk. After all, we don't learn much when we're doing the talking! Most of us tend to be controllers. It's not our fault -- we been conditioned to interact this way.
When you relate, as opposed to when you control, you speak the truth of what you think, feel, and notice as a way of sharing information and making emotional contact- not as a way of getting a particular outcome. You speak your truth without knowing how this truth will be received.
I was watching a rerun of Seinfeld the other night and laughed when Jerry kept trying to get rid of a guy who kept asking him out to ballgames or the movies. Finally, Jerry devised an "excuse list," which he kept next to his phone. He couldn't go out on Monday night because he would be as choir practice. Tuesday's were impossible because he and Elaine volunteered at the cerebral palsy center. And so on. The next time that you're tempted to reach into your pocket to use a Seinfeld excuse, stop for a moment. Ask yourself "Is there some way for me to be more candid and direct in this situation"?
After all, the Piano Man told us, honesty is in short supply, but it's mostly what we need from one another.
III. Please Don't Rip Me Off! Delivered as a speech on August 17, 2004
Recently, I bought a new computer. It came fully loaded with a CD burner and a DVD burner. I was especially excited about the latter, until I asked myself --how was I to use a DVD burner legally? Theoretically, it is possible for me to use my CD burner in a lawful fashion. I could take several CDs that I already own, copy certain tracks, mix them together and create new CDs for the car. But do I really want to copy my digital photos and make a home movie on DVD? And is this how most people use the device? I wonder.
Software piracy is rampant. Illegal software is being used by businesses, schools and individuals, and costs developers worldwide more than $13 billion a year in lost revenues. Some industry analysts estimate that up to 50% of the software on computers in Europe is unlicensed. That figure rises to almost 95% in Asia and South America.
Is this a problem? Some people would argue that it is not. They say that Microsoft is a huge, monopolistic corporation. Windows software controls about 90% of the world's desktop computers and Microsoft boasts almost $53 billion US in cash reserves. How can we feel sorry for Microsoft when people bootleg their programs? The same may be said for musicians and recording companies. Many bands charge $50 to $75 for a concert and $20 or more for a CD. Why should we care about bootlegging programs from Microsoft or music by Aerosmith?
First, whether you care about Microsoft or not, if they do not make their desired profit, they will pass the cost of their research and development right back on to you -- the consumer -- by raising the price of their products. Secondly, recording companies may make a lot of money but this is not necessarily true of musicians, especially startup bands. Thirdly, it is morally wrong. We can call it anything we want -- copying, sharing, borrowing, lending, or burning a CD. But let's face it -- it's stealing. In the past, we had shoplifting. Today we have "soft lifting."
How can we resolve this problem? Microsoft itself has devised a registration program for Windows XP and office 2003. Other forms of software require activation codes. Certain CDs are now being protected by a formatting called Music guard, which prevents illegal copying. When someone tries to make any illegal CD, music guard either aborts the process or creates a CD with such for audio quality that it's not worth listening to.
It is sad that we need product activation keys. What it all really comes down to is to you and me. The only way to remedy the situation is on a grassroots level. It starts with the individual. We have to make an ethical decision that we will stop stealing software.
In the 1970s, Abby Hoffman created controversy with the publication of his manifesto, glibly entitled "Steal This Book." Hoffman was making a statement against capitalism. In today's world, we might see titles that more aptly reflect our current cultural dilemma. CDs that are called "Pay to play me" and DVDs that say what Janet Jackson should have told Justin Timberlake about her dress -- "Please Don't rip me off!"
IV. Talking to Your Computer -- Delivered as a speech on October 19, 2004
We live in the exciting world of voice-activated technology. In the past, people had to know how to type in order to use a computer. Now, that's no longer necessary. We can dictate directly into our machine by using a special type of software -- just like they do on Star Trek!
Talking to a computer is different from talking to a person. If a person can't understand us, we tend to raise our voice, to shout or repeat ourselves. This won't work with the voice program nor will it help to slow down or carefully enunciate each word. The computer doesn't really understand what words mean. It counts the frequency with which words are used and analyzes words in context. The computer doesn't know the difference between "ice cream" and "I scream". But if you are dictating during the summer months and telling your friends all about barbecues, corn on the cob, potato chips and ice cream, your voice program is likely to type in that word correctly. However, if you are writing a horror novel like Stephen King, the computer will soon learn to recognize the term I scream!
The advantages of dictating with a voice program are numerous. Firstly, you can type anywhere between 100 to 160 words per minute! Secondly, dictating decreases the risk of repetitive strain injuries to the wrists and neck. Thirdly, most of the time, you won't need to use your spell check because if you pronounced a word properly, your computer will know how to spell it even if you don't!
Are there disadvantages to dictation? Unfortunately -- yes. I use a program called Dragon Naturally Speaking, which often makes mistakes. For example, when I dictated the words "injuries to the wrists," it typed in "in between the race!" I then raised my voice and repeated "injuries to the wrists!" And it typed in "immunize the race," which might be a good idea, but it's not what I said. At the same time that I was dictating, my mother called to me from another room in the house. I forgot to turn off my microphone and I yelled to her through the closed door, telling her that I was busy dictating. Of course, the voice program typed in this entire sentence. Then I said something out loud that I will not repeat here in polite company. A word to the wise -- never swear at your computer because swear words have not been programmed into the software's vocabulary!
There are drawbacks to voice activated software. It makes mistakes if people don't speak clearly, at a moderate pace and enunciate their words properly. But dictating is fast and efficient and I would not go back to typing for all of the proverbial tea in China.
V. Smart Women, Dangerous Choices- Delivered as a speech on February 9, 2005
Some women are attracted to bad boys. They may be alcoholics, married men, or men with an attitude like Stanley Kowalski in Streetcar Named Desire, or James Dean in Rebel without a Cause. The worst type of bad boy is a convict or an ex-con and sad to say, there are many women who fall for these men. Why is that?
It may be that a woman likes an element of danger in her relationship. Some women like the idea of taming the beast. They choose a man who’s rough and tough, or brags about his infidelities because they believe that they are going to be the one woman who will make a difference in his life. They will be the one who will make him faithful. They will be the one who gets him sober. They will be the one to change him.
That kind of thinking can be very dangerous. An acquaintance of mine fell in love with a prisoner. She was a member of my David Milgaard support group. While the rest of us were working to free David Milgaard, a man who had been wrongly convicted of murder, my friend, Louise Ellis, worked tirelessly to get a guilty man out of prison.
Louise met Brett Morgan at Milgaard's Supreme Court hearing in 1992. Morgan was a "jailhouse snitch;" he claimed that he shared a cell with a man who confessed to killing a woman that someone else was doing the time for. Louise admired Brett for coming forward. His motives seemed altruistic at the time, so she introduced herself to him after the hearing. They exchanged addresses and began a correspondence, which culminated in a passionate affair.
Brett was in jail for killing a woman in Edmonton. He had been charged with manslaughter and only served eight years out of his 10 year sentence, thanks to Louise spending her hard-earned money to get him the best lawyers in town. How did he repay her? Brett went to live with Louise when he was released from prison. Nine months later, she went missing. I was part of a search team that went looking for her. Her remains were discovered in Wakefield, Québec three months following her disappearance. Morgan had strangled her after she told him that she wanted to leave him. He was convicted of first-degree murder, but he never served out his term because he died of hepatitis C in prison.
Was Louise Ellis a fool to have taken a chance on Brett Morgan? Some people think so but I disagree. Louise was a 46-year-old freelance journalist. She was bright, pretty, spunky and spiritual. She was a dynamic person and a social activist. Louise gave Brett a second chance in life. She believed in him and he was convincing -- I know because I met him. Louise wanted to save Brett. She tried to play Florence Nightingale and it cost her her life.
In the past, women were often held responsible for their own misfortunes when they met violent ends. If a woman was out alone at night, wearing a short skirt in a bad neighborhood, and she was attacked or raped, people would shrug and say, "She asked for it." We now recognize that archaic attitude blames the victim.
What can we do about this tragedy without blaming the victim or judging these women for their actions? We can all encourage the women that we know and love to take a good hard look at the men that they’ve chosen as partners. Do these men have a temper? Have they ever struck a woman physically? Are your female friends constantly choosing men who have glaring flaws, hoping and believing that they can change them? No one changes another person. The only time that anyone ever changes is if he or she decides to do that for their own reasons.
We all have daughters, sisters or colleagues who might benefit from our advice, even if they don't want to hear it at the time. Women who are consistently attracted to the wrong men may need counseling. Or maybe they just need to know how valuable they really are, and that it’s not worth the risk to be involved with a bad boy.
If we manage to save one life by speaking up, it's worth it. I'm sorry that I didn't voice my disapproval about Brett Morgan more emphatically to Louise Ellis. Perhaps if I did, she might be here with us today. By the time that she decided to leave him, it was already too late because that is precisely when certain men become dangerous. Think of Nicole Brown Simpson. Neither Nicole nor Louise realized that they needed police protection after they told their spouses goodbye.
On a larger scale, women's magazines and Hollywood movies need to recast their male heroes. There's nothing sexy or romantic about an ex-con or a tough guy. A goofy, kindhearted man like Ray Romano on Everybody Loves Raymond is a lot more attractive than Marlon Brando in Streetcar Named Desire. If we can get that message out globally, we could save some women and their families a lot of heartache.
VI. It’s Never Too Late -- Delivered as a speech on February 2, 2005
Many of us make mistakes in our lives. We hurt other people and disappoint them. That doesn't make us bad people. We're all works in progress. We're bound to let each other down from time to time. That’s why it’s so important to learn how to say “I’m sorry,” and to accept other people’s apologies when they are brave enough to offer them.
When I was in my twenties, I had a best friend by the name of Meg. Meg and I had known each other since junior high. We used to hang out at my friend Jill's house. Jill lived across the street from me in Wyckoff, New Jersey and owned 5 acres of property. She had several horses and we spent many happy hours in the pasture, grooming the horses, and riding if we dared. One summer when Jill was away in Mexico, the rest of us stole moonshine from her stepfather's cellar. We paid a stiff price for that escapade!
When I was old enough to drive, I spent more time at Meg's than I did at Jill's. Meg's family was Italian -- directly from Brooklyn -- and they became a second family to me. They were inadvertently funny, kind of like the folks in Mambo Italiano, and they were beautiful people. To this day, I'm still in touch with Meg's mother and her sister, whom we nicknamed “Peanut” because she was so short.
Throughout our teens and twenties, Meg and I saw each other four to five times a week, and talked to each other daily on the phone. We took the bus into New York City and went to the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Guggenheim and the Cloisters. We saw concerts at the Fillmore East in Greenwich Village and at Madison Square Garden. And Meg and I spent many quiet nights alone in her room. She played guitar and sang Joni Mitchell songs with the voice of an angel. We talked about everything from relationships to politics and literature. It was the late sixties and we sat on the floor of Meg's bedroom, smoking cigarettes and other cash crops, and solving all of the world's problems. Unlike Bill Clinton, we never claimed that we didn't inhale!
In many ways, being best friends was like being married. No one could have been more intimate or loved each other more than Meg and I. But one day I betrayed Meg. I got involved with her boyfriend and she stopped speaking to me for three years. That broke my heart. I did everything I could to make things up to her but she wouldn't accept my apology.
If I hadn't had a nasty car accident in 1981, Meg may never have forgiven me for hurting her. But as it turned out, I was seriously injured by a drunk driver when I was 28 years old. The accident received a lot of publicity and I appeared in the newspaper and on TV. Because of this, Meg called me up in the hospital and made amends. She forgave me and asked if she could come up to see me. I said no. I accepted her apology gratefully but I was wary about seeing her in my fragile state. I had broken 11 bones, punctured and collapsed a lung, and had a head injury. I was connected to all kinds of tubes and on heavy medication.
I didn't want any arguments or drama in my life, but I promised that I would call Meg when I got out of the hospital. I felt good about our friendship again. And I didn't think anything about postponing a meeting with her because I was preoccupied with my own recovery. I spent three weeks in intensive care and almost three months in orthopedics. It took me a year to learn how to walk again. Recovering from the accident took up all of my time and energy.
About six months after my car accident, Meg committed suicide. She shot herself in the head with her brother’s gun. 26 years old. She had everything to live for but she had been depressed for years, and had a drug problem that she could not kick. I was devastated. I went to her grave regularly to cry, to talk to her, and to yell at her for taking the cowardly way out. It took many years for me to come to terms with Meg’s suicide, and I would never have fully accepted it if she hadn't called me in the hospital a few months before she had taken her life.
Forgiveness -- it's such a simple concept but such a hard thing to practice. How much easier it is for us to hold on to our resentments, thinking that we have all the time in the world to straighten things out with someone else down the line.
I would like to encourage all of you to think about the people in your life. Is there someone that you’re mad at? Have you been holding on to a grudge, or waiting for a certain person to approach you? Be a big person. Make the first move. Let go of past hurts and disappointments. The hardest people — the ones that really push your buttons — are the very people you need to address first to make a huge leap forward in your emotional life.
It's not a question of whether or not they deserve to be forgiven. You are not forgiving them for their sake. You're doing it for yourself. For your own physical and mental health and well-being, forgiveness is crucial. It frees you from the toxic drain of rage and disappointment.
My friend Meg may be dead and gone but she forgave me before she passed on. I've learned a hard lesson from her sad demise. I don't stay mad at anyone anymore. If there are problems in my relationships, I make every effort to resolve them. I urge you to do the same. It's never too late to say that you're sorry or to accept someone else's apology. Even the Dalai Lama has forgiven the Chinese and anticipates the day that the Tibetans and Chinese can be friends again.
To quote an old anonymous proverb: ”To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was YOU."
Copyright 2012. Sigrid Macdonald
Monday, March 05, 2007
Coming Soon! March 12 at 2 p.m. Virtual Interview with Talk Radio Host Francine Silverman on my webpage.
Talk Radio for Authors – Getting Interviews Across the U.S. and Canada, by Francine Silverman, is hot off the press from Infinity Publishing.The book is a valuable resource for authors and others since the guest criteria includes several specialties.There are 40 categories and each listing contains the show’s theme, guest criteria, email address and website, along with host and guest bios providing background information and host opinions on what constitutes the best and worst guests.
All this is designed to simplify the process of matching the guest with the show’s specialties and provide an intimate look at each program. Talk Radio for Authors is available at Infinity Publishing at toll free number 1-877-BUY-BOOK http://www.buybooksontheweb.com/search.asp?cat=Business%20%26%20Economics/Marketing&action=browse
Francine Silverman was a newspaper reporter for many years but her writing/marketing career really began in 2003 when she was author of two local guidebooks, Catskills Alive (1st and 2nd editions, 2000 and 2003) and Long Island Alive (2003), both published by Hunter Publishing. Having trouble marketing them and hungry for ideas, she decided to start an ezine for authors of all genres.
Book Promotion Newsletter was born in March 2003. She compiled a questionnaire with all her burning questions that she continues to send to each new subscriber. Two years later, she had so many creative marketing strategies from subscribers that she put together a book called Book Marketing from A-Z (Infinity Publishing 2005), containing the best marketing tactics of 325 of them.
Fran was spending so much time on the computer that she decided to start an on-line publicity service and began offering a membership service to her subscribers in which she sends out Expert Sheets with their bios to radio hosts and columnists. At present, Fran has 50 clients and continues to find them radio and newspaper spots.
Then she began a radio show on Achieve Radio, http://www.achieveradio.com/, called "Book Marketing with Fran," in which she interviews authors about their marketing strategies. Meanwhile, she had accumulated so many radio show websites while doing publicity for her authors that she decided to compile her new book, Talk Radio for Authors - Getting Interviews across the U.S. and Canada.
I can personally attest to Francine's effectiveness since she landed me an interview on Sirius radio last year. I was a guest on The Good Life Show with Jesse Dylan -- a program that has featured Deepak Chopra and health guru, Andrew Weil. In fact, my interview is still up on The Good Life Show Web site, which ended up being an excellent advertisement for my first book on total hip replacements.
Fran will be doing a virtual interview with me on March 12 at 2 p.m. It will be posted on my D'Amour Road website which is located at http://damourroad.blogspot.com and it's entirely free! If you're a writer who is interested in promoting your work on air, make sure to participate in my interview with Fran. It will be well worth your while.
Tuesday, April 05, 2005