After hearing Ryan Ferguson speak yesterday, I have been watching lots of videos about the case. The one below was filmed after Ryan’s charges had been cleared, but he was still sitting in prison like a convicted man. After finding my purpose after the hell of PPD/Anxiety, I was glad to hear that the lessons learned in this hell had not been lost on Ferguson.
Please excuse my tardiness! I usually like to have a post ready to go first thing Thursday mornings, but I knew that I would have an interesting day.
Being actively involved with my local police department, law enforcement and prison issues are of interest to me. So when my neighbor invited me to go hear Ryan Ferguson speak at a nearby college, I was enthusiastic.
I was not disappointed by Ryan’s calmness, maturity and reluctance to say anything nasty about those who took away 10 years of his life. When asked how he handled any feelings of hatred he said, “Hate and anger are natural emotions to feel in situations like this. It’s how you express these feelings that really matters. I took this enormous energy and channeled into bettering myself and advocating for those who can’t do so for themselves.”
Wow. This, from a guy who was arrested at the age of 20 for something that he did not do and because of unethical prosecutors, witnesses and law enforcement personnel, spent the next 8 years in prison. There was NO physical evidence at all linking him to the crime; in fact, this evidence should have immediately exonerated him.
After hearing from his mom, dad and girlfriend, it became evident that this young man had an amazing support system. He had already accomplished many things in his life before he was arrested, including achieving the rank of Eagle Scout. He never wavered during his 9-hour interrogation, which included lies, threats and yelling from the officers and detectives. He never got in one altercation during his time in county jail and prison, despite lengthy stretches of 23-hour lockdown and no outdoor privileges. He never acted out or lost his temper, even after the judge put a $20 million bond on him, basically forcing him to stay in jail even though he was still, “innocent until proven guilty.” If this young man hated anyone, it was never evident today or in any of the numerous videos presented of his interrogation, trials and sentencing.
And in spite of his amazing journey, Ferguson told the audience to please remember one thing: that a man had died and no justice was done. He wanted us to think of Kent Heitholt. All I could think of was compassion, but maybe that was his real point.
I wanted to follow up on our guest blogger’s Kathleen’s post from Saturday about Mindful Eating and encourage you to read her post (below) if you haven’t already. I have experienced issues with food since my mid-teens. By my mid-twenties while in graduate school, I weighed 40+ pounds more than my ideal body weight. I had gained and lost weight multiple times by then but couldn’t keep it off. Now, few people believe me when I tell them this but it’s true.
To keep the weight off, I had to come to terms with my relationship with food. In turning my attention to my eating, I discovered I was using it to cope with my emotional life and relationships with men. I would eat if I was happy, sad, bored, and mostly stressed. It was my family’s way of dealing with our emotional life. I also ate because every time I became slimmer, more men would be interested in me and I didn’t have the self-esteem then to deal with them assertively. Although the reasons are slightly different for each of us, they are present. Two wonderful books for exploring this are: Why Weight by Geneen Roth and Fat is A Feminist Issue by Susie Orbach.
As I became aware of what was behind my mind-less eating, I began cultivating a more mindful relationship with food. I learned to distinguish physical hunger from emotional hunger and eat to physically nourish my body. I would eat slowly and intentionally without the distraction of TV, or reading or answering the phone. Just sit there and eat. We didn’t have cell phones or tablets or electronic devices to distract us then but I would include those now.
I learned to chew my food, one bite at a time, and pay attention to the texture and taste. While I’ve always LOVED food, it was much tastier and more satisfying to eat this way. By the end of a meal, I felt physically full not thinking about what I was going to eat next. We didn’t call it mindful eating then but looking back, that’s what I was learning to do. I found it extremely worthwhile and I know each of you will too whatever your size and weight.
Please read Kathleen’s post just below this one and try the “chocolate kiss” exercise. Let us know how it goes. Remember, we’re in this together. Have a good week. Namaste.
Hello Living Self-Care Community! My name is Kathleen Carroll, and I am the community manager at Regroup Therapy – a website that safely offers video sessions for therapists. I met Stacey and Diane through Regroup, and I have absolutely loved getting to know both of these inspiring women. Thank you Diane and Stacey for inviting me to post. I am grateful to be included!
Today, I want to write about Mindful Eating, and our complicated relationships with food. At Colorado College, I led a mental health support and advocacy group for students living with mental health issues. On our campus, eating disorders were the most prevalent concern. Colorado students are typically athletic and socially minded. The line between “outdoorsy vegan” and obsessively healthy-minded is often blurry, and as an ally, I felt it an important issue to address.
When advocating for young people with eating disorders, mindfulness becomes a central focus. You must be mindful of triggers, mindful of coming off as judgmental and most importantly mindful of your own habits and areas for improvement. Preparing an Eating Disorder Awareness Week was one of the greatest creative challenges that I have ever faced! Thankfully, my friend’s mom is a mind-body specialist, who was eager to come out and visit her daughter. Dr. Claire Wheeler has both an MD and a PhD in Psychology. Her focus is solely on mindfulness and the mind-body connection. She came all the way out to Colorado with a prepared presentation on “mindful eating,” and its implications for both everyday use and for the the treatment of eating disorders. It was perfect! Not only was mindful eating a trendy response to preventative healthcare (and college kids respond to trendy), but it also allowed us to include a large scope of people, without the isolation that comes with, “this is for you, young people with eating disorders.”
The exercise began with a dark chocolate Hershey’s kiss. Claire asked us to let it melt on the tongue. We closed our eyes, as she led us in an almost meditative practice. I still remember how incredible it tasted – just a little chocolate Kiss! The entire process took about five minutes. She acknowledged that it would be all but impossible to assume that we can all mindfully eat for every meal. However, mindful eating allows both healthy control over food, and also a “reclaiming” of the experience of eating. She repeatedly emphasized food as fuel, taking the ritual out of mealtimes, and becoming present while eating, as necessary in creating a healthy relationship with food.
You may have a left-over chocolate from yesterday. Try eating it mindfully:
- Picture the chocolate – your mouth prepares by salivating;
- Put the chocolate in your mouth;
- Allow it to melt slowly, without biting into it;
- Experience all of the flavors and texture as it melts onto your tongue;
Happy post-Valentine’s Day to you all, and thanks again for having me, Diane and Stacey!
[Thank YOU, Kathleen! What a great exercise! You can do this with any type of food. And as Kathleen mentioned above, don't expect yourself to eat mindfully every time you eat; however, if you do use mindfulness during a meal, note how much more you enjoy it! - Namaste' - Diane and Stacey]
It’s no secret that most people make their own stress. We worry over things, which accomplishes nothing, and ruminate about the past, which is equally useless. I’m pretty good at catching myself when I am out in the worry-zone. This is a result of years of practicing present-moment awareness, which is something that I find extremely useful to manage my stress. My daughter, however, is another story.
She is a freshman in high school and a bit of an over-achiever (I have NO idea where she gets THAT from!). My husband and I both have been diagnosed with anxiety disorders, so we made a special effort to raise her in a laid-back atmosphere, which also helped us chill out. She seemed to be pretty mellow until about 6th grade, when the homework increased. And when I say increased, I’m talking going from an hour or so nightly to 4+ hours of homework every night. Part of the reason that happened is because she took many more pre-AP (pre-advanced placement) classes than she had before. This sent her into overdrive in junior high. Her anxiety levels got so high and she was so distressed that we got her some help from a therapist and a psychiatrist. That seemed to help a lot…until high school.
Now, she gets very upset if she makes a low A or (heaven forbid) a B in a class on her report card, progress report or even an individual assignment. I was obviously concerned with this unnecessary standard she has for herself, so I asked her why. She claimed that “everybody” already knew what University they were going to and what they were going to major in. She was worried that she wouldn’t be “good enough” to get into whatever college or University she decided to go to (and yes, she has some choices picked out). All I could think of was my 9th grade self, totally oblivious to colleges and majors. After all, I was a freshman. My college kind of got picked out for me when I was a Senior because I got a free ride to Blinn Junior College for graduating in the top 10% of my class (I still don’t know where that overachiever gene comes from). And even after I transferred to the University of Houston, I changed my major a couple of times. I always thought that college was where you figured out “what you wanted to be when you grew up.”
My daughter tells me that times have changed and that things are just more competitive than they used to be. That may be true; I have seen evidence of it in my readings and from parents of other (and older) high schoolers. But that pressure is nothing compared to what she puts on herself. I have a friend who teaches at my daughter’s high school and she told me that the friends that my daughter hangs out with are the “high stress” crowd. You know, the nerds. While I am proud that my kid has such great taste in friends (Who rules the world? Mean girls? No…NERDS!), their influence seems to be counterproductive to my daughter’s overall stress management.
It’s been my challenge to try and explain this to my sweet girl. Nothing I say seems to get through, to the point of frustration. She knows about present-moment awareness and uses it in extreme anxiety situations. She knows it works. But she won’t or can’t use it when it comes to her future. As a parent, it kills me slowly inside to see my daughter suffering while I hold the key to the “cure.” But I can’t make her take it. She has to get there on her own. The only thing I can do is be supportive of her, answer her questions honestly and tell her that I’m proud of her. Oh yeah, and stay in my own present moment, even if she won’t. I am the adult with more life experience and I know that this, too, shall pass.
I had the honor of being a “pioneer” at Happify, which is a site (an app) that uses scientific methods to help the user increase his/her happiness levels. They have just released this infographic, and I am “happy” to share it with you!
Click on the image below to view the entire thing.