Monthly Archives: January 2013


For some reason my stutter has gotten worse.  So I went to my local library to find a book on stuttering.  They were all out.  Since I’m fascinated by dreams, I picked up a book somewhat about dreams entitled The Dreaming Universe  by Fred Alan Wolf, Ph.D.   Imagine my surprise when I discovered that he is also a stutterer and even listed tips on how he dealt with stuttering. (Synchronicity , perhaps?)

Breathing Meditation

Fred Alan Wolf explains that he suddenly began stammering at the age of eight but cannot remember why he suddenly began.  He assumes he must have experienced a trauma, but is not entirely sure.  He does say that you should try therapy and a physical check up if you suddenly start stuttering for no real reason.  In his case, he hadn’t a physical cause or a trigger.

However, he learned not to be too stressed out about stuttering with help from breathing meditation.  This is where you concentrate on your breath and only your breath.  Over time, this becomes helps you calm down in nearly any situation.  Stress and worry about the future can aggravate stuttering, so dealing with your overall stress helped him deal with stuttering.

Word Substitution

I use this, too, and it has helped me quite a bit in the past in dealing with my stuttering.  You just substitute one word that is easier to say for the word that is hard to say.  For example, if you problems saying “bad”, then you can substitute “awful” or “wrong”, or something without a hard “B” or “P” sound.

A thesaurus is great for finding lots of words with basically the same meaning.  Of course, you might wind up sounding a bit like Porky Pig at times, but if you can still get your point across, don’t worry about it.

Altering Consciousness

This is what Wolf calls this method of dealing with stuttering and I can’t come up with a better term.  He doesn’t mean for you to take mind-altering drugs or become a shaman.  You do have to do some sort of head game to alter your perception on how you look at talking.

For example, Wolf realized that he didn’t stammer when he sung.  So, whenever he had to give a lecture, he thinks that he is singing, only singing in monotone.

Hope this helps.


Nibbling, Vibrating, Pounding and Frightening

Stress is a tool our bodies use to help us to survive. But if used too often, the stress that can help us flee from an enemy or fight for our lives can turn on us. Stress can do everything from raise your blood pressure to making you put fat on easier. All around the world, people have realized the need to manage their stress. Sometimes this involves them nibbling something and sometimes it involves them getting nibbled….

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 “I really don’t know clouds at all.”  — Joni Mitchell

Decision making causes stress.  ANY kind of decision making causes stress.  For those of us who have made some stink-bombs of decisions in the course of a lifetime, even making a minor decision like what to have for dinner can cause stress.  For small decisions, you could contact a fortune-teller to ask what your best plan should be.  Or, you could consciously relax and let a random image generator make the decision for you.  That way, if something goes wrong, you can blame the random image generator and not yourself.

What The Heck Is A Random Image Generator?

A random image generator is a fancy term for seeing patterns in patternless things.

Uhh, What The Heck Is A Random Image Generator?

Okay, let’s put it this way — you ever look at the clouds and see what shapes you can see?  This is a random image generator.  Sometimes our forebrain or consciousness gets in the way or our decision-making.  Give your consciousness a tea break and just relax, not really thinking about it, but just see the first thing the shape or symbol brings to mind.  Then, you act on whatever that symbol means to you.

If this sounds like fortune-telling, it’s because random image generators like clouds, tea leaves, soapsuds, smoke, Tarot cards, crystal gazing and even looking at the mold on cheese brings up all kind of images and associations to mind.  Even a Magic 8 Ball is a random image generator, although it shows you words instead of images.

How To Use One

Don’t take random image generators too seriously.  Use it like a great toy or like a mediation with your eyes open.  There is no right or wrong way of playing this game.  Pick an oracle in advance.  Ask yourself a question, or pretend you are mentally projecting this question out to the universe.  Whatever image you see next in whatever random image generator you like to play with is your answer.

You might be surprised at the results.  Sometimes like to use fortune-telling devices or random image generators just to see what to have for dinner, or what TV program to watch or what subject to base a short story on.  Over time, use of a random image generator can help you trust your intuition and build up your self-esteem.  This all leads to lower stress.

Hope this helps

“Always look on the bright side of life…”   — Monty Python, “The Life of Brian”

One of the favorite parts of living in England, even when I was homeless, was meeting the British people.  I tend to get along with them better than Americans.  On the whole, they seem to realize that life is absurd and just go with it.  Americans (or, at least, the ones I meet) tend to take life a tad too seriously.  I know I’m certainly guilty of this on many an occasion, which can lead to unhealthy stress.  One of the best gifts England gave to me was a very effective way to reduce stress through absurdity.


Probably the best way to describe what I mean by using absurdity as a stress reducer is to show you an example that happened to me last night.   I was just beginning a hot bath when my heart started to hammer (painlessly) and I felt faint.  I got out and had to lay down.  At first, I thought, “Am I now too old and decrepit that I can’t even enjoy a hot bath anymore?”

Then, I realized I was clenching my teeth and breathing shallowly.  This is not conducive to calming down.  So, I thought about UFOs, because I happen to be in a writing contest about UFOs over at Helium (which in and of itself can be an absurd thing for a professional writer like me to do).   And you can’t do any research on UFOs without bumping into a lot of conspiracy theories.

Somehow, I concluded that extraterrestrials had read my articles, didn’t want me to win the contest and so struck me down in the bathtub with some sort of laser beam to my chest so I would cease writing about them and spilling their secrets.

This is totally absurd, of course.  However, it made me laugh, which helped me to relax and eventually feel better.

Use of Other’s Absurdity

Sometimes, you just get so tense and stressed out that you can’t make up any of your own absurd conspiracy theories.  It is perfectly alright to indulge in someone else’s absurdity.  For example, you could watch Monty Python or other satirical comedy DVDs.  Authors like Terry Pratchet often have a lot of absurd humor and yet have an ultimately hopeful message.  Or, you could check out one of several make your own conspiracy theory websites.

Hope this helps.

Americans have never had better access to health care and yet most Americans cannot afford health care, including life-saving drugs. According to a recent Gallup poll, 32 percent of Americans could not afford recommended health care. An estimated 50 million Americans cannot afford health insurance, notes CBS News.

One way to help reduce suffering and raise revenue is to legalize all drugs and make all of them available over the counter (OTC.) By getting rid of the need for prescriptions, this frees up patients and doctors’ time from making appointments solely to renew prescriptions. The prescription system only serves to help fatten the wallets of big pharmaceutical companies and insurance companies. There is no practical advantage for the patient.

Wouldn’t There Be More ODs?

People already overdose on legal substances that kill them – aspirin, acetaminophen, alcohol, tobacco, cars, knives, ropes and guns. People find a way to kill themselves with just about anything if they have no reason to live. Being forced to live with chronic illness can certainly lead to a suicide attempt. It can also lead to mass murders, such as the recent school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary, where the shooter Adam Lanza apparently suffered from mental illness and got access to his mother’s gun instead of therapy. …

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The closest national park to where I live is called Ridley Creek State Park.  In December, a 44-year-old woman, Teresa Mastracola, was found dead at the park. Now, that’s not so unusual.  There always seems to be a body or two that turns up every year at Ridley Creek.

However, this woman’s death was ruled as a suicide.  How?  By breathing in helium gas.

Now, this sends my spidey senses tingling.  I have a feeling that although foul play is still not suspected, there had to have been someone else involved in this “suicide.”

One of the Darwin Awards books wrote about two people who did die laughing (presumably) when they went into a grounded helium-filled advertising balloon.  Now, in that case, the Darwin Award winners both inhaled and exhaled helium.  There was more helium in that enclosed space than oxygen.  Without oxygen, you die.

But out in the woods, Mastracola apparently inhaled helium but it would have been mixed liberally with oxygen.  Police are not saying if she was found in an enclosed area (like a balloon) and, according to the UK’s Daily Mail (hey — their links don’t go down as often as my local news websites) are “unclear exactly how she committed suicide.”

I was wondering if someone considering suicide would think that breathing in helium gas would be a painless way to commit suicide.  Although some websites (and Final Exit)  state that sticking a plastic bag over your head and breathing in helium gas is “painless” I really doubt it.  When your body is starved for oxygen, your body starts gasping and vomiting (or dry heaving) in a desperate attempt for air.  I found this out the last time I tried to commit suicide.  This was incredibly painful.

I’ve also tried sticking a plastic bag (sans helium) over my head and that turned out to be very painful, too.  Also, your breath causes condensation that trickles down the inside of the bag and onto your skin so the urge to itch is maddening.

There is no painless way to commit suicide.  You might as well live.

As I write this, America is in the grips of a really nasty flu season.  I also happen to have the flu, too.  Flu season usually lasts from November to March, but sometimes I think it really lasts year ’round.  That’s just based on how I feel.  I don’t have any medical studies to back me up on that one.

I do have endogenous recurring depression and post traumatic stress disorder (and I think one of my docs may have diagnosed me with “depression and anxiety” but I have the flu and can’t remember my last psych visit, so bear with me.)

But I have been reading about something called “post flu depression.”  This is not an established medical phenomenon.  It’s only based on anecdotal evidence.  Apparently, after a patient gets over the flu, he or she gets depressed.  The depression does not occur because the flu is over.  It may not have anything to do with the flu.

There’s something about the flu which magnifies any kind of misery you have — physical, emotional or psychological.  If you’re like me, I can’t get comfortable because of my body aches, which makes it difficult to sleep.  Writing this blog post is very difficult for me but not as difficult as trying to take a nap. That’s how bad it feels.  My depression and PSTD does get worse when I have the flu.  However, that’s normal for me.

Depression: A Practitioner’s Guide to Comparative Treatments (Springer Publishing Company; 2007) contains a really good example of a typical (but fictional) patient with post flu depression.  The unfortunately named fictional patient Dick (OK, maybe doctors do have a sense of humor) has money troubles.  Then, he gets the flu at the same time his business enters into “tricky business negotiations”.  When the flu is over, Dick “lost interest in anything except staying in bed.”   Having the flu crystallized Dick’s feelings of helplessness and futility. Dick was diagnosed with depression.  Yes — even fictional characters can get depression.

ANYWAY, if you have not been diagnosed with a depressive disorder and feel really depressed after getting over the flu, you are not going crazy.  You’ve been through a physical ordeal and you are tired.  Post flu depression usually goes away on its own.  However, if it doesn’t go away after two weeks, call your doctor.