As I said recently, I’m a geek. And I tend to run experiments on myself, which is a time-honored tradition among psych researchers (and others; see also: hemlock).
Recently I’ve been making seven-league-boot levels of progress in therapy and related places. Why? Because a whole bunch of techniques are gaining legitimacy and visibility, and they are much faster and more efficient than the old methods. As one researcher said on a recent webinar about neurofeedback, “We used to have to go through the mind to get to the brain. Now we can go directly to the brain.”
Most of the research and techniques that are emerging relate directly to trauma treatments. Some, like hypnosis, have been around for a while but are becoming more accepted. Some, like neurofeedback, have been in development for a while but are just coming to a useful maturity. All of them have varying results, because the people who are the subjects vary, but the conclusion is that they are worth trying.
One of the things that makes psych research different from other fields is that even the industry standard treatments, like antidepressants, are a best-guess-shot-in-the-dark that don’t work for everyone, and don’t have the same effect on everyone for whom they do work. If you go to your psychiatrist and decide that you should be on antidepressants, you could well spend months testing drugs on yourself–get a PGT test to see if anything is clearly not going to work, and then take one, see how you do, if it works, great, but if it doesn’t then titrate back off of it and try another one, lather-rinse-repeat until you find something that really helps…and hope you don’t build a tolerance or develop an adverse reaction.
I can tell you from personal experience: doing this while depressed is one of the most exhausting things ever, especially since side effects can include things like lethargy and low sex drive, and sometimes you get all the side effects with none of the benefits.
Why does this matter? Because with statistics like the ones for Zoloft and Wellbutrin, the odds of effectiveness for hypnosis or neurofeedback or homeopathy suddenly look downright gorgeous, and with the timeline for standard meds involving weeks of titration up and down, it might even make sense to try the alternative treatments first.
I was staring down the barrel of traditional antidepressant treatment recently. It seemed like nothing was going to work. Then I saw a naturopath and started homeopathic treatment. Changed. My. Life. Your mileage will vary, so be careful. This is just my experience.
Time to adjust to a homeopathic treatment: typically 1 week. Time to antidote if it’s having an adverse effect: in me, 4 hours.
Time to full effectiveness of hypnosis: varies, as fast as right away, as long as several months. Time to reverse the effect: almost immediately, usually.
Cost for any of these treatments: usually about $150/hour, more for neurofeedback, less for others. Cost of homeopathic remedies: varies, but generally under $30 for a one-month dose.
If it doesn’t work, you can still try the pills.
But paying attention to how your body feels you can often get faster and more effective treatment without using anything from Big Pharma at all.
nota bene: 1) I am not a doctor. Do not take any of this as medical advice, because it isn’t. 2) don’t change your treatments without consulting with the appropriate professional. That would not be me. 3) there is a place for traditional antidepressants. for those for whom they are the right treatment, they are literally a lifesaver. But if that isn’t feeling like the right solution for you, you have some other options. 4) alas, insurance doesn’t cover most of this
NEXT TIME: I will talk about what happens when you suddenly fix what’s wrong with you after years of having a problem.
WANT MORE? Marcia Baczynski and I are doing a call, Embodiment for Brainiacs, on November 1st. We’re going to jam about bodies and intuition and gut feelings and how that all fits in our geeky and logical brains. Sign up here.
This post is the second in a series about geeky mysticism. The first post is here.
You’ve probably heard the story about the starfish-throwing little kid, who is busy throwing stranded starfish into the sea. An adult comes along and says, “There are so many starfish on the beach! Why bother? How can you possibly make a difference?” And the kid bends over to throw another starfish and says, “It made a difference to that one.”
That’s how I think about all the tools in my toolkit. It only has to make a difference to one person to be worth learning, investigating, and keeping around. This is how I figure that out.
Traditional scientific method has a series of steps. You probably remember them from 5th grade science class: you write down what you think is true or what you’re going to test. Then you write down what you plan to do to test it. You make a list of your materials. You do the experiment and make notes about what actually happens and any new thoughts or changes you needed to make. And then you write your conclusion. In the real world, 98% of conclusions seem to be, “Well look, there’s some stuff we didn’t anticipate that merits further study.”
Then they redesign and run the experiment again.
And in the world of pharmaceuticals and medical study and other things that deal with people and not, say, chemicals or rocks, there’s this thing called a controlled double-blind study.
What that means is that you have a group of people who don’t get the treatment you’re testing, to see what would happen if you did nothing. And no one, not the researchers or the participants, knows which participants aren’t getting the treatment and which ones are. So, for example, if you’re testing a new medicine for depression, half the people get pills that will not chemically interact with the body and half the people get the medicine, but the researchers don’t know who is who until they start analyzing the data.
And then they look for what they call a statistically significant result. They’re looking to see that a more-than-random number of people (usually above 5%) had a result.
But my world is a little different.
Because all experience is data, and people vary.
And magic and energy work and prayer are all basically the same thing, the effects of which have been investigated (both well and badly) for thousands of years across all or nearly all cultures.
So what that means is that if it works for one person, I’m interested. I don’t need 500 people in my study, and I don’t care if it’s double blind, especially since the focus and energy of the person matters so much. Your belief matters when it comes to magic.
Here’s where my process deviates really really far from standard scientific process. Because most scientists don’t usually act like a result matters unless they saw a lot of the same result. Fifty percent of study participants, or seventy-five. Five percent barely meets the test for statistically significant. Below statistically significant it might not have happened at all. It might be a mathematical error. Now the issue of how a recorded data point can become a mathematical error (and therefore nonexistent) aside, in my world if something works for me, even if it’s just for me, even if I only tried it twice, it goes on the list of things that work for me, and the result is real.
It means that one time that reiki helped my cramps was enough for me.
It means that one month when I kept pulling the same tarot cards was enough for me.
I share my experience and I make no promises. But testing doesn’t have to be a giant formal study, because if it works for me, I will use it regardless of whether it works for other people, and I will tell people about that, and invite them to run their own experiments. I don’t care if I’m in a small population that’s a fraction of 1 percent. What I care about is whether I have seen results. And I encourage all the people around me to do the same.
Want to find out what kinds of stuff I do, and why I do it? Join Marcia and me on Embodiment for Brainiacs, Nov 1, from anywhere! Sign up here: embodiment-for-brainiacs
I’ve hinted about this before, here and there: I’m a critical-thinking, logic-oriented intuitive mystic who believes in magic. In other words, I’m a geek and a mystic and a mage. This makes some of my friends crazy (thank goodness they love me anyway!) because for them, geek and mystic are mutually exclusive–you can’t be one if you’re the other. Mysticism and intuition and magic are the realm of religion and imagination, and geekery and science are the realm of logic and fact and never the twain shall meet.
I used to believe that. My father is an engineer, my mother is a mathematician, my brother is a computer engineer and scientist with a specialty in artificial intelligence, and my best friend from childhood is a seismic geologist. And don’t get me wrong, I have great respect and admiration for science, its learnings and processes, and the gains we’ve made from them. But I’m also mindful of two important principles: people vary (expressed so succinctly by Havi Brooks over at fluentself.com) and all experience is data (for the grammar mavens: all experiences are data.)
What makes a geek get into energy work and take magic from the fantasy books to the real world?
When I have an experience that supports something I was previously skeptical about, I have to rethink it. That’s the geeky scientist child-of-an-engineer in me. When I was SURE there was no higher power, and then I started to have the felt experience of connection to earth and trees and water…I started to pay attention.
And now there’s research showing that plants are aware when they’re being eaten (http://www.wnd.com/2014/10/study-plants-can-tell-when-theyre-being-eaten/). There are kinds of awareness that we don’t know about yet; things we’re still learning. Since my sense of a higher power involves a kind of interconnection of awareness of all things, this supports my experience.
When I was highly skeptical about reiki, I had really bad menstrual cramps that nothing but reiki would help. So I got trained and then I felt the energy in myself. I had to rethink my skepticism. When I don’t think something is hot, and then I put my hand on it and I experience it as hot, I don’t wonder if my experience is real. I pull my hand away to avoid being burned. To me, these experiences are as real as that one.
My most recent experiment has been one of the most surprising for me. Despite all this, I was still very resistant to things like tarot. It seemed too far from my experience, too close to the edge of impossible.
But I kept thinking about it. So finally I bought myself a deck and started drawing cards every day.
There are 78 cards in a standard tarot deck. Drawing three to five cards a day and very careful about being random, over the first month I drew about 12 cards over and over and over, and when they changed, they progressed in a logical manner based on the card meanings. (From the 8 of swords to the 9 and then the 10, for example.)
There may be an explanation for this, but I can’t think of one.
I don’t have to be an expert in calculus or statistics to know that that’s highly unlikely to happen randomly.
I don’t think everything works for everybody. But I do thing my experiences are influencing my thinking and my future choices. That’s how science works. More on that next time
PS: Embodiment for Brainiacs! Marcia and I are going to hang out and jam on how we make intuition go with geekery. We’re both geeks with a huge body component to our work, and we’re going to talk about how exactly that makes sense. Signup page here: embodiment for brainiacs.
Who am I?
My name is Leela Sinha. I’m trained right across the board. My first job after college was in computer tech support. I’ve also taken a boatload of programming classes. I have a BA in American Studies and an M. Div. (Masters of Divinity) and ordination AND coaching training from CTI and sex ed training through the UUA and and a massage therapy license. Biology and theology and the neuroscience of change and pleasure…I am a huge believer in research and learning and study. And I’ve got my Level III reiki (Shinpiden) training and training in energy clearing.
Usually, I post here about pleasure, because…well, because yummy and awesome and so useful. Because pleasure makes us clear and whole; because pleasure gives us direction; because pleasure makes the difference between drudgery and service, between weariness and joy.
There’s more to life, and this has been bugging me for a while.
I have depression. It was in remission for about 2 years, but recently it has been back (in spades) (and very unpredictably).
As in previous episodes of depression, the well-meaning advice has come pouring in: you need to focus on yourself more, get out more, get exercise, have you seen a therapist? maybe you should make some new friends, learn a new skill, just eat better, take a supplement, take a pill, get a hobby…
and really, at root, you need to love yourself first.
With all due respect.
I do love myself. I didn’t, for years, but I do now. My self-esteem is really quite solid. When my brain is working properly, I know I’m smart. I know I’m skilled. I know I’m well-trained and that my work makes a difference to the people I work with. I know I have incredible capacity to see systems for what’s really going on and help their leaders adjust so they waste less energy on the way to their goals. I know I see people’s current realities and the potential they have. I know holding the vision of that potential and helping people plan to fulfill it makes a difference to them and to the world.
I know that. I know I learn fast. I know my love is incredibly strong. I know.
I have depression. It’s like having a cold in my brain.
When the depression is active, it takes over the circuits that relate to how I see myself in the world. It’s like an alien mind control game. What I know when I’m not having a depressive episode is NO LONGER RELEVANT.
Using the cold metaphor: my nose is stuffed up. I can’t use it to breathe. This doesn’t mean I need a new nose or that I never had one. It means the mechanisms that let me breathe are obstructed.
In real terms this means that I can’t access my brain’s pleasure mechanisms. They are still there (although they can atrophy over time–use it or lose it!) but I can’t use them. The circuits are circumvented or shut off. The less use they get the harder it is, but they can also be rebuilt with time and practice and sometimes medical or diet or exercise help.
So back to self-esteem and self-love: if you or someone you love has depression, self-esteem MAY be the problem, or it may not. But you cannot assume that just because a depressed person says hateful things about themselves when they are experiencing a depressive episode that they actually believe those things when their brain is their own.
If you have depression, ask yourself, honestly, when you’re not having an acute episode:
– am I smart?
– am I capable?
– am I loveable?
– am I interesting?
– am I strong?
– am I creative?
If you kinda think mostly yes, then I’m going to go ahead and say that while you HAVE DEPRESSION your self-esteem is just fine. What you need then are tools to not listen to the depression when it mounts a hostile takeover in your head. That’s a different set of tools than changing how you feel.
You wouldn’t send someone with a stuffy nose to a reconstructive surgeon.
I’m @leelasinha on twitter. Find me there and let’s talk!
Today’s guest post is by the lovely Heather Rees, a career change coach with a strong sense of the value of presence in the body. Please welcome her!
Go Back to What You Are: a Body Of Wonder
Your body is not gross, ugly, misaligned or any manner of wrong.
It is not too fat, too skinny, too tall or short.
It is not five pounds away from perfect or in need of hiding behind clothes.
Your body is this: Gorgeous.
It is perfect and miraculous and worthy of revelry.
It deserves to be licked, tickled and caressed.
It wants adoration and your deepest respect – so give it.
Listen to your body as you would a dear friend and, just like that, play with and love and care for your body with a heart full of abandon.
You want this.
I know you do.
You want this wild freedom to love openly that which we’ve been trained to abhor.
Deep down, deep within, there are places that call you back to this freedom. You once had it, back when you were young. Those sunshine days of wonder when the length of your limb was as worthy of love as the stalk of grass held between young fingers. What happened to those days?
We grow up.
We learn that such love is too brazen, to sure and not enough of everything that they tell us is worth accepting. We learn that our bodies are not that (whatever that may be), and therefore, and assuredly, not enough.
Underneath the nonsense, the rabble of violence, your down deep place still knows your beauty – revels in it! – and all the pleasure your body can feel.
Let’s get back there. Let’s buck the system. Be a revolutionary.
Decide to not worry for an hour or a day what exactly your body is (or isn’t) and tune into what exactly it feels. The rhythms, the shifts, the openings and aches.
Decide to notice what comes and goes: the breath, your pulse and all that you hear, see and smell. Touch and taste, too.
Decide on pleasure. Ditch the pain. Yes, you may have reasons to complain (pain is no lightweight) but what you feed will grow. Grow pleasure.
Pleasure comes in through our senses – those impeccably crafted inborn centers of pleasure making, and pleasure taking.
As small as a hair dancing on our neck. As big as a merlot. The sense you connect with gives back what you seek: Love, pleasure and down deep feeding of that place that knows how perfect you really are.
Heather Rees is a career change coach and strategic ally for women who want to do work that is meaningful to them. She is also the creator of the newly released Soul Revival: a Return to Your Senses – an exploration of the senses to spark creativity and reconnect with the soul. Read more here, or connect on Facebook and Twitter.
Just took a nap on the beach. That makes two hours today on the beach, one lying down. Here’s why that’s important: outdoors is not the enemy. It is awesome. Some days it is more nap-worthy than others but it is not a bad place to be. If, like me, you have made it your gym of choice, you need to love it as a general thing. Whatever your gym is, you should love it as a general thing. Not all the time but enough that you think, oh yay! I get to go to the [gym].
Because this is not about weight. This is not even about fitness. This is about pleasure.
I have an amazing friend who is working their tail off right now to recover from a back injury. They are partially paralyzed. That is .courage. yo. Also a definite fixation on pleasure. Like, the pleasure of tying your own shoes.
Walking three miles on the beach is awesome. It brings me back to joy and gratitude. That’s what it’s about.
Keep your focus on pleasure. That way you will be happy about doing your movement and play. Two, that happiness makes your body chemistry better. Three, beauty makes your life better. I’m always on twitter posting about how #mygymdoesnotsuck. I post pictures. Because it is gorgeous. Now i want to see who else does it.
What is your beautiful workout place? Gym? Park? Mountain? Use your gorgeous children as weights? Share on Twitter! I want to see. hashtag #mygymdoesnotsuck and #iamanathlete
I went swimming today.
Which might be no big deal.
Let’s start with the complicated: I had drowning dreams as a child. I used to wake up choking, mouth clamped shut.
And when the swimming teacher threw me in the pool to “teach” me to swim, I held my breath and let myself sink to the bottom.
That was it for swimming lessons, pretty much.
Despite all that, I love the water, love being in the water, lakes and pools and ocean.
I used to spend Far Too Long in the shower and in the bath.
I love being in the water.
And when someone very close to me discovered that, she bought me a wetsuit. Why? Because Maine. Specifically, Maine. Is. Cold.
Or at least the ocean is often cold. If you wait for times when the water feels good, you could be down to about six or eight weeks of swimming a year.
The first time I wore it, it was like magic. Just like the first time I wore Vibram five finger shoes, I suddenly felt like I had a new superpower. I could go in the water and Not Be Cold! Amazing. A-mazing.
But after that summer, by this and by that I didn’t get it out again for a while.
And then today happened.
I got up, got dressed, got to the beach by seven. Walked/ran three miles (out and back) and felt like I wanted to swim. But about half a mile from the end of my route, the air changed. It got chilly. I knew I couldn’t swim without being chilled for the rest of the day. I put a bookmark in it, remembered I had a wetsuit, and…
came back in the afternoon. With the full wetsuit, not the halfsie one. I wore my version of a bikini (thank you, Moving Comfort bras!) and pulled the wetsuit on, zipped myself up (love those long zipper pulls!) and headed into the water.
Shock, shock, bliss.
The way a wetsuit works, it allows water through but then it traps water in the neoprene. That water warms up and insulates you from all the rest of the water. So those first few minutes are cold, but then you’re fine.
I also had my brand-new, so-excited-to-have-them, made-in-Italy, gee-these-really-fit open water goggles. They’re like a cross between regular goggles and a dive mask, with a big silicone seal that goes all the way around your eyes, but it leaves your nose exposed.
I stayed out there for maybe 30 or 40 minutes, backstroke, floating, playing, bouncing. The surf was strong, there was a storm coming in, but there wasn’t any riptide to speak of and I was so, so happy.
The ocean lifts me up.
The ocean sets me back on my feet.
What a gift.
There’s one caveat: if you are like me, the biggest risk is that you won’t notice how tired it makes you until you get out of the water and are shaking a little. That not-noticing can be fatal if you’re not super careful. If you’re thinking about heading in to shore, it’s time to head in. If you think it might be time soon, it’s time now. Play safe out there.
That said, everyone near a body of water should own a wetsuit and use it.
I swam in the ocean for 30 minutes. After I walked for an hour this morning. I loved it. It was a joy. I am an athlete.
What is your favorite thing, so good you can’t resist? Tell us! Tweet #Iamanathlete.
Let’s start here: Moving Comfort makes INCREDIBLE sports bras. So when I saw that they were making dresses for being active in, I was thrilled. YAY, I thought. The bra plus a skirt!
Not so fast.
My dress is an XL in black, and runs true to size. Empire-waisted, with obvious seams, it is not suitable for a formal office but meets my standard of “business casual” in a pinch. The fabric does have a sheen to it, and there is a logo down the middle of the back. The dress is a little tight around my middle only because I am apple shaped. None the less my therapist said I looked “professional” in the dress with a linen shirt over it.
The bra is a shelf bra with MASSIVE elastic underneath it. This saddens me because MC makes SUCH AMAZING sports bras, and I had high hopes that they had simply attached a bodice and skirt to a bra. That would be my ideal.
This bra is not sufficient for any kind of bouncy exercise. It is, however, just fine for going out and about. Unfortunately, the wide elastic then must be combined with a real sports bra (I use one by Moving Comfort, of course) for exercise which means a LOT of ribcage compression. On the upside, when you’re done you can remove the sports bra and still be reasonably dressed. Also, if your chosen form of exercise involves being upside-down, the built in shelf bra can be a handy asset.
Because I’m short (5’2″) and apple shaped, the bodice tends to scrunch up under the bustline, which is a little awkward but has the result of putting the fuller part of the skirt where it belongs.
Length: it’s a little long in the torso for me, but again, I’m short. The skirt is just about perfect, several inches above the knee, and completely nonrestrictive. The fabric is heavy–the weight of a lined swimsuit.
Color choices: I think this dress may be discontinued, as I can’t find it on the website for the current season. It was either black or multi–would love to have seen it in a bright red or cheerful tangerine or soothing aqua. I do hope they haven’t discontinued the idea of the running dress entirely–it has a lot of merit, and their version is really lovely. You can even go commando if you don’t plan to bend over…
Got a favorite exercise solution for the apple shape? Tweet it! #iamanathlete
I am an athlete.
Athletes, as I am discovering, come in ALL shapes and sizes and other things.
Do not let your brain determine who is an athlete and who is not. It will be wrong.
Now generally I consider myself female-gender nonconforming. What does this mean? It’s complicated, but for the sake of simplicity let’s just say this: as a general rule I don’t do pink and I don’t do dresses.
Except lately I do.
Because what being truly me in this body means to me is that I’m living, as much as possible, in authenticity. I want to really be me, and hell with what all y’all think.
Of course, authentic me does, to some extent, care what you think. I want you to have as accurate a picture of me as possible. I also want to honor your limits. If you don’t want to see random nudity, I want to make it possible for you to avoid seeing it on my website. I might have it up here somewhere (not yet, but it’s possible) but if I did I would give you the chance to make a choice about whether or not to see it. Consent, it’s sexy.
But I’m not really willing to change what I do because you don’t like it.
Or because you think something about it that I wish you wouldn’t think.
Which brings me to dresses.
When I traveled to India 15 years ago, I chose to wear Indian clothing while I was there. In India at the time, clothing was pretty sharply gendered. But what I discovered is that when everyone wears the same thing, the definition of what that thing means has to get bigger, not smaller.
So people wore “girl clothes” and climbed scaffolding with pots full of cement; people wore “girl clothes” and worked in factories. People wore “girl clothes” and did everything.
And I realized this: our clothing has become limited in its meaning because we have allowed ourselves more flexibility. If I don’t feel “girly” I don’t have to wear “girl clothes”. I can express my inner non-girly-ness by wearing jeans and an oxford shirt and a tie. (I wouldn’t because I don’t like wearing ties. but I digress.)
So when I wear a dress, it signals “girly” because I had a choice about whether or not I wore it. I can play with it, but regardless of what I intend it becomes a public flag about my gender.
Dresses and skirts (and kilts!) are practical fuckers. As I’ve said recently, dresses are particularly suited to apple shaped bodies (NB: of all genders) because they don’t rely on waist tightness to stay on. I have a Utilikilt that I love the hell out of because I can do ANYTHING in it,and for some reason it doesn’t fall down like most of my waist-based garments do. It seems to cinch below my belly. Shoutout to them for figuring out how to do this a little better.
So now we have a dilemma, if we are practical, which I am.
On the one hand, society has decided that non-bifurcated garments are for people who express at least a certain minimum of femininity. (At some point I will rant my rant about hair on my legs and wearing skirts).
On the other hand, for many of us of many genders, the non-bifurcated (skirt-like) form is super useful. If you are into draped clothing, it is also hella easier to drape.
My conclusion: practical trumps what the culture has decided. I have decided: this is what I look like, this is what I wear.
One of the most liberating things I have realized is that I can do any damn thing I want in a dress.
Fortunately utilikilts and running dresses have taken the delicate out of skirts and dresses so I can sit on the ground and run my feet off with impunity. I’d love to see a cotton twill tunic…
So you may see reviews of running dresses here. Because I’m wearing them and I have opinions. And that is that.
What do you think about reclaiming all garment shapes for all people? Tell us! Tweet #genderanddresses #iamanathlete
I went running this morning. Just a short run, on the beach. it’s 50 degrees and windy, and this is my first .run. this season, and my first barefoot run.
You saw my clothing rant–today’s solution: running dress from Mountain Hardwear (size L) (shoutout to them for also having a men’s kilt!) with a wind-resistant fleece (LL Bean. I live in Maine) and a Moving Comfort bra (they rock. Totally completely rock.). Bare feet (running on packed sand ftw) and bare legs.
Result: exactly the way it should be. I didn’t notice anything bouncing or chafing or otherwise distracting from my workout.
That said, it was cold. I ran until I felt like walking (my usual start-exercising routine. It works.) and once I slowed down my much-neglected calves started cramping.
What I didn’t do: “push through it”
What I did do: keep moving. Because cold plus stillness equals trouble.
I stretched and eased and moved and kept walking.
And I cut my workout a little shorter than usual. Generally I go about 3 miles walking and running. Today, more like 1.
1) pain is information. It tells you something’s not right. I don’t believe in ignoring it.
2) working out should be fun and enjoyable. This doesn’t mean you can’t challenge yourself but it does mean not making yourself miserable. If I’m miserable today, I likely won’t go tomorrow. Today I get points for going in the drizzly, grey, cold morning. Things I will remember: that I wasn’t cold once I started moving, that running felt good, that I recovered easily. Things I won’t remember because they didn’t happen: that I was miserable, unhappy, or sick afterwards. The thing about movement is that when it feels good we do more of it. It felt good to move. I’ll remember that. Plus, I got to pet a friendly dog.
I am an athlete. Therefore I listen to my body. It makes me want to move, and it makes me want to take good care of it.
How do you want to take care of your body when you’re moving? Tweet it! hashtag #Iamanathlete