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Why Shame Isn’t Worth Dying For

Question on Quora:

Why did you still live even if you felt shame?

My answer:

I wish I could give you a compelling and inspiring personal experience story about my own struggle with shame. I can’t. However, I have struggled with depression deep enough that I’ve contemplated suicide more than once in my life. Since depression is related to shame in that they can both involve feelings of unworthiness or guilt – and I’m guessing you asked me to answer to receive encouragement more than anything else – I’m going to dive in and do the best I can with the help of my forty-nine years of wisdom and life experience.

Let’s start by getting things in perspective. Like depression, shame can hook into one’s soul deeply and painfully, making it feel like it’s going to last forever.

But truthfully? It’s a temporary emotion caused by a temporary action or circumstance.

So number one, understand that this emotion, however strong it may be, will not last forever.

Number two, where is the shame coming from? If it’s coming from something you did that was wrong, you can ask for forgiveness – from God, from the person or people you wronged. The people may not give it, but God always will.

You won’t necessarily feel forgiven right away. But knowing that you have truly repented in your heart will likely give you the courage to move on with life. Determine not to make such a huge mistake again, to live the Golden Rule, and the shame will eventually shrivel away and you will come out a stronger person for having experienced it.

Perhaps the shame comes from more from how others perceive an action you took. “My parents are ashamed of me because I married a waitress and became a chef instead of becoming a lawyer and marrying the doctor’s daughter next door.” If that’s the case, you need to realize that it’s the other people’s problem, not yours. There is no shame in living an authentic life, being true to yourself, taking the paths you believe are right for you. And no one else has the right to put shame on you for doing so.

All that to say…you have control over the shame, over how much it affects you and how long it drags you down.

Now let’s look at the “Why did you still live” piece. First of all, in my darkest hours I still knew deep down that God would bring me through the misery. I also knew that God put me on earth for a reason, that to take my own life would be to be deprive the world of the unique gifts and abilities God gave me to help make the world a better place.

I know I’m going to ruffle atheist feathers with all this “God talk”, but I’ve had a close relationship with my heavenly Father for most of my adult life, and it’s my faith that has prevented that fragile thread I was sometimes hanging by, from breaking.

Outside of that faith, would I still have reason to live? I think even without my faith, even if I didn’t have a child to raise or a husband to keep my vows to, I would still have a reason. Why? Because I see suffering all around me and I know I can help. I know that if I left this earth, there would be one less person to help. I also am a visionary. I always have goals to achieve, dreams to shoot for. They pull me out of bed in the morning.

Sure, shame might drag you down for a while and make it hard to see a brighter future. Just like depression does.

But ultimately, I am still alive because I know that even I don’t feel like my existence isn’t making a positive difference, I know that it is, anyway. I’m a fighter, and refuse to let negative emotion defeat me and take away all I know I could have. I choose to be strong and courageous.

And I know that God has my back, come what may.

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The TRUTH About ADHD

Question on Quora:

Do you believe ADHD, anxiety & severe depression are genetic or an environmental problem? Is there a cure? My son was diagnosed with all 3.

My answer:

I’m going to address the topic of ADHD first, then the anxiety and depression.

Your son does not have a disorder. People labeled as having autism, ADHD, and dyslexia are labeled because their brains are wired differently from the other 80% of society. And because society doesn’t like people who don’t conform to the norms of behavior and thought processes, it feels obligated to label them.

Go ask your son right now if he thinks in words or in pictures. Go ahead. I’ll wait.

If he’s like my son, and you’re like me, he told you that he thinks in pictures, and you just about fell on the floor because you never heard of anybody who thought in pictures.

This is critical to understand for a few of reasons. First, your son has awesome artistic/mechanical potential in his head. Do some digging, and you’ll find that the geniuses of the world tend to be those whose characteristics match those of autism, ADHD, and dyslexia.

Second, your son is going to be able to concentrate on things that interest him for long periods of time, and remember facts that interest him forever. But learning by rote (such as the math facts) and focusing on things he couldn’t care less about will be (already have been, I’m guessing) a major struggle.

Because, third, your son needs a lot of mental stimulation. Let’s face it: memorizing the multiplication facts by rote isn’t very stimulating. The reason for the “hyperactivity” in the diagnosis is that the children who receive it can’t conform to the extremely unnatural and unhealthy expectation of the school society (and, often, family society) to sit still for long periods of time.

What do I mean by mental stimulation?

  • Reading, or having read to him, books that interest him.
  • Engaging in fun games with other children.
  • Working on a project that interests him (sketching animals, or building a jet with blocks).
  • Watching movies or T.V. (or YouTube).
  • Playing video games.

Schools don’t allow children to involve themselves in this level of mental stimulation all day long. Indeed, they can’t. The classroom setting just isn’t set up that way.

ADHD is a misnomer. Your son does not have a deficit, nor does he have a disorder. He simply doesn’t fit in with the mainstream. This is genetic, not environmental.

One of the frustrating things about this for parents is that many (most?) children diagnosed with ADHD are developmentally delayed. They are two to four years behind their average peers in cognitive and emotional development, especially when it comes to speech, reading, and understanding social cues. You need to forget “average” and focus on loving your son for who is right now, knowing that he will eventually “catch up” to “everybody else.”

Another issue you need to understand is that your son is also a Highly Sensitive Person (if you’ve never heard of that, google it). His temper is explosive and he can be downright destructive when he gets angry. Am I right? He is also likely a picky eater, and certain smells, tastes, and textures bother him. He may be sensitive to loud noises.

The good thing is, he’s going to grow up to be one of those sensitive men that every woman wishes their husband was.

The better thing is, some of these sensitivities can be ameliorated by diet and nutrition. Hang onto that thought for a moment.

Now I’m going to address the anxiety and depression. While people diagnoses with autism, ADHD, and dyslexia tend to develop anxiety and depression – creativity slamming into perfectionism slamming into trouble conforming to society, I think – when they reach the point of causing a problem in someone’s life, they are most probably caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain, which is caused by nutritional deficiencies and improper diet.

Correct those, and you will also see your son’s sensitivities diminish to a much more tolerable level. I speak from personal experience with my own son.

As far as diet and nutrition healing depression and anxiety, also from personal experience. With myself. I go into great detail about it on a blog post I recently wrote. Click here to read it. It’s long and I don’t want to reiterate it here.

In closing, if your son is also dyslexic (which many children diagnosed with ADHD are), I highly recommend you read the book The Gift Of Dyslexia by Ron Davis. There is also a book The Gift of ADHD by a different author, Lara Honos-Webb. I haven’t read it, but it looks promising.

All the best to you and your family. 🙂

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Question on Quora:

My fiancé says it isn’t cruel to kick one’s child out of the house on their eighteenth birthday, for no other reason than, “They are now an adult, and they have to be reliant on themselves.” Is this true?

My answer (which I may or may not post on Quora, but thought it would make a great topic for my blog):

Parents should be able to kick their eighteen-year-old children out of the house because they are legally adults.

This belief has become ingrained in today’s culture. But how true is it? Yes, I know, way back when young people were taking on apprenticeships and getting married in their mid-teens. But today is today, not back then. First of all, children are not raised with the same values and beliefs today. Our modern world teaches children that they are incapable little people until they reach their late teens. It also imprisons children in a system that drains them of all their creativity and motivation, starting at age five and not ending – at the earliest – at age sixteen.

We call this system “education.”

Way back when, children weren’t forced to succumb to this soul torture, so by the time they were in their mid-teens they actually still were brimming over with creativity and energy, and because of this felt confident to take on the responsibilities that today we don’t consider worthy of anyone under the age of twenty.

Of course, one might also argue that encouraging early marriage and other adult responsibilities was probably not the best thing for every single teen.

Neither is it now.

My brother’s story

My parents kicked my brother out of the house when he turned eighteen.

Let me give you some backstory. My brother has to have an I.Q. of at least 150. On a good day, mine is about 140, and I know he’s smarter than I. He has photographic memory. In elementary school, he shone academically. He could sing, and at one point started to teach himself to play the piano.

He could write brilliant stories and was a gifted artist. He was a decent – though teasing – big brother, too, until he reached about sixth grade. His personality changed. And not in a good way. I’ll get more into that in a moment.

Then he hit seventh grade, and found out that boys who played the piano, sang, or did art were “gay.” This was back in the ‘80s, so that was not a cool label to receive. So he stopped all of the artistic things he was so good at.

As he grew older, his behavior worsened. He and my dad were constantly fighting, in part because my brother seemed to drastically overreact to every perceived slight. For example, if he stubbed his toe on the leg of a chair, he would kick the chair and push it violently, all while cursing the poor thing out at the top of his lungs.

My parents viewed this extreme lack of self-control as misbehavior, and that in and of itself was reason enough to make him leave the house.

He knew that the flipping of burgers he’d been doing since he dropped out of school two years ago – oh, did I mention he dropped out of school at age sixteen? – would lead to a bleak future, so he decided to join the Marines.

A few months later, he was dishonorably discharged because he couldn’t submit to authority.

Long story short, he spent the next almost thirty years in and out of motel desk jobs.

Remember, this is a man with a photographic memory, who read voraciously and had all sorts of talents and abilities.

Long story short, a few years ago he finally went to see a doctor about all the migraines and dizziness he’s been suffering from…since the age of twelve. Turns out the chicken pox he had at age eleven destroyed one of his inner ears. This is why he had a personality flipped right around that time in his life.

He never told my parents about his physical problems until about ten years ago. Maybe he thought everybody suffered from them? Or that my parents wouldn’t be able to afford to give him proper medical care (because our mother’s mantra was a constant, “We can’t afford it”)?

A couple of years ago, I figured out that he is a high-functioning autistic. I’ll explain why in a moment. For now, let me go back to the assertion that all kids should be able to handle leaving the house at age eighteen.

My brother obviously couldn’t, because he hadn’t received the help he needed for his issues. Had my brother told my mom about his physical ailments, I’m not sure whether thirty years ago a doctor would have been able to get to the root of the problem and thus be able to provide any lasting help.

As for being autistic, well, back then there was no such thing as “high functioning” autism. A child was only diagnosed if they didn’t communicate and constantly engaged in self-stimulation activities. But had my brother been diagnosed when he was young, he could have at least received some counseling about how to effectively engage in society. How to get along with the other kids at school.

Of course, many of them were among the cruelest human beings who have ever lived. But then, knowing that my brother couldn’t deal emotionally with the horrific verbal and emotional abuse going on at the school, maybe my mother would have pulled him out to homeschool (he did get his GED taking night school classes, by the way).

In addition, my father was several years away from being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. If we had known why his memory was deteriorating, had been able to ameliorate some of the symptoms by good nutrition and a better diet, he may have been able to get along better with my brother.

What does my fifty-year-old brother do now? He sits in my mother’s old house, leaving only to go to the library, buy groceries, and visit my mom – who has to provide him with grocery money. His migraines and dizziness have apparently gotten worse as he’s aged, making it hard for him to find a job.

I don’t fault my parents for not knowing what wasn’t possible for them to know. I simply offer my brother’s story as exhibit number one against the rationale that every eighteen year old is ready to leave their parents’ house.

The next story: even closer to home

Exhibit number two is my son. The reason I figured out my brother is autistic is that I began to suspect that my son might be autistic. There was something going on with him. His emotional sensitivity has always rivaled that of my brother, plus he has physical sensitivities, is an extremely picky eater, and engages in stimming (self-stimulation) to a moderate extent. (Like spinning around in circles while he’s talking, or constantly brushing the bottom of his feet.)

I knew, at the very least, that B was dyslexic. He also didn’t retain any information that he didn’t deem important. Couldn’t memorize math facts worth beans. Had to have his name called several times before he realized somebody was speaking to him. And until about the age of eight, couldn’t for the life of him connect his behavior with ensuing consequences.

Has always had a witty sense of humor, and remembers facts and ideas that interest him for a long time after hearing them. He also goes wild when he’s bored.

I searched online, “criteria for diagnosing autism.” I found a page that was geared toward professional. BAM! A minute later, I had an autistic brother. But though B fit some of the criteria to an extent, he didn’t fit enough in order to be categorized as autistic.

Long story a bit shorter, I finally realized that he would qualify for the diagnosis of not only dyslexia, but also ADHD.

Turns out that people diagnosed with ADHD, autism, and dyslexia simply think differently than the rest of the 80% of the population. They think in pictures rather than words, rendering them naturally artistic and good with their hands. Their brains are wired in such a way as to make them much more sensitive emotionally and physically as everybody else.

And for the child who is wired in the way that would lead to the ADHD label, his brain development is two to five years behind that of his average peer. In a school setting, he would additionally be labeled as “developmentally delayed.”

B is nearly twelve now, but he acts and thinks much closer to your average nine-year-old boy. I know this because I taught elementary school for thirteen years at several grade levels. Add that to the fact that the average person’s frontal lobe – the decision making part of the brain – isn’t completely formed until the age of twenty-two or twenty-three, and J and I are looking at having B at home with us until he’s somewhere in his mid-twenties.

No way am I going to plan to boot him out of the house in six years. It would be a case of neglect, if not abuse.

Some children need more time to grow up and become self-reliant, and that’s just the way it is.

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The Most Ridiculous Tip EVER!

Question on Quora:

Has anyone helped you and told you to just “pay it forward”? What happened?

My answer:

When I was about seventeen, I had a job serving tables at a family restaurant. One day, a lady who was a semi-regular came in and just had a drink, coffee or a soda or something. When she paid for the drink, she left me a tip that was something like three times its amount. It wasn’t much in the monetary sense, but it was far beyond what I usually made from a cup of coffee.

I was flabbergasted.She told me with a big smile, “One day you’ll do this for someone else.” (This was long before the phrase “pay it forward” came into vogue.)

What happened? I had my first real lesson in generosity. I came from a poor family with a penny-pinching mother, and up until that moment had never given any thought about giving lavishly to someone else, just because.

What else happened? Obviously, I still remember this woman’s deed, though her face has faded from my memory long since.

What else happened? As an adult, I have flabbergasted a few table servers myself. Given groceries to homeless people sitting on busy street corners.

I’ve fulfilled that beautiful woman’s prophecy. And discovered that indeed, ’tis more blessed to give than to receive.

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Question on Quora:

What should I do that I am bored with my married life?

My answer:

Most married couples hit that point eventually. It’s normal. Understand that right up front.

The next thing you need to understand is that it might not be your married life that you’re bored with. You might just be bored, period. And that is not your spouse’s fault. It’s either a spiritual problem that you need to delve into, or your mind is about to give birth to some creative idea and in the meantime, you’ll feel restless and bored.

What if the latter is the case, that it’s not really the marriage, but you? Find something interesting to do. Something, I mean, that won’t dishonor your spouse or the marriage vows. Start a new hobby. Start a humorous YouTube channel. Declutter the attic or garage.

If the problem really is your married life, see if your spouse will do that interesting thing with you. Or start alternating planning creative dates a couple of times a month. You plan the first date, your spouse plans the next, and so on. I read a book by a romance novelist who did this with her husband of, what, 20–30 years when their marriage had become humdrum, and it took their relationship to a whole new level.

If the problem is the married life, remember that it’s not a problem with your spouse. Or you. It takes two to Tango. The problem is, you have both gotten lazy in keeping some spark in the relationship. A good marriage takes work; a great marriage is like trying to pull a full cement mixer up a steep hill with your bare hands.

But the work is worth it.

You made some promises – serious promises – when you got married. I encourage you not to take the easy way out here, and do what so many people do and make themselves liars, heartbreakers, and family wreckers. Instead, be a person of your word. That takes integrity.

And in this day and age, being a person of integrity takes more hard work than ever.

But the work is worth it.

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