Category Archives: Well-Being

We Can, I Can: World Cancer Day 2016

I just learned recently that today, February 4, is World Cancer Day. It is an initiative started in 2008 by the Union for International Cancer Control. It aims to promote cancer awareness and education and to campaign for governments, groups and individuals to take action.

In the last few years, cancer has become personal to me. I’ve seen friends and relatives, adults and children, battle this terrible illness. Like so many others, my life has been forever touched by cancer.

“We Can. I Can.” That is the tagline for World Cancer Day 2016-2018.  It’s an invitation for all of us to reflect on what we can do, as individuals and as part of communities, to help fight the battle against cancer.

Just as cancer affects everyone in different ways, all people have the power to take various actions to reduce the impact that cancer has on individuals, families and communities. World Cancer Day is a chance to reflect on what you can do, make a pledge and take action.

I CAN educate myself about making healthier lifestyle choices. I CAN continue to support my friends who are battling cancer.

With my family, WE CAN educate ourselves so we can create a healthier environment and lifestyle. WE CAN talk about cancer prevention and early detection.

In one way or another, all of us are affected by cancer. Whether we choose to help a hospital or an advocacy, a family member or a stranger, a hundred people or one person, we can make a difference in someone’s life. We can take part in this global fight against cancer.

 

 

 

The Kindness of Walking

Girl - Tower of LondonI needed to go to BDO bank today to make a downpayment deposit and to send a gift. Being a trafficphobe and being fortunate enough to have a branch of that bank nearby, I decided to walk rather than drive. And what a brilliant decision that was.

From 1:00pm to about 1:40pm today, I was blessed with a wonderful 40 minutes of my day. It was a brief walk filled with kindness and a precious respite from the bustle of the holiday season.

Though the sun was out, the wind was blowing nicely and keeping temperatures fairly cool and pleasant. With an umbrella in one hand and a box of mamon (Filipino sponge cake) in the other, I took a 5-minute walk from my house to the village gate. Since I was on foot and in no rush, I was able to stop by the security/reception area to give the box of mamon to one of the guards as we greeted each other Merry Christmas. As I walked by the guard manning the boom barrier for the village entrance, he and I also exchanged Good Afternoons and Merry Christmases.

Feral Cat EatingAs I continued my short walk to the bank, I saw three feral cats taking turns eating food from a bowl placed on the sidewalk between two concrete posts. I saw that it was a native woven bowl lined with banana leaf and filled with some rice and meat. Someone had purposely placed food there for these feral cats.

I proceeded to walk to the bank and was there within 15 minutes of leaving my house. With the heavy traffic and full parking I had seen along my way, it would have taken me maybe 20-30 minutes if I were driving. My business at the bank was done in 15 minutes. Though I had to stand in queue for about 10 minutes, I wasn’t feeling stressed or rushed. And while there, I witnessed two ladies, probably regular bank clients, giving Christmas gifts to smiling and grateful bank employees.

A relaxed 10-minute walk and I was back at home. During the walk home, I was thinking about what Fr. Albert Alejo, SJ said in his homily during last Sunday night’s mass in the Church of the Gesu. He talked about asking ourselves what is the source of our joy during this Christmas season, and how we can find it through having a serene attentiveness to reality.

My brief experience of walking instead of driving today has given me a glimpse of serene attentiveness to reality. When I am not in my car, I am free to walk among people, to hear the street noises, to feel the breeze and the warmth, to stop and witness sights of beauty and and acts of kindness. We know that walking is a kindness to the earth, to the community and to the body. Yet in our rush to get here and there, in our car-centric societies, we forget that walking is also a kindness to the soul. It is a simple yet powerful way to give and receive kindness and to find a peaceful connection to our souls and to reality.

Not only during the busy holiday season but throughout the year, may we make the time to walk more, to be kinder to our world, our bodies and our souls.

 

 

 

 

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How Filipinos Can Show Support for Suicide Prevention

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All over the world today, September 10, there are events happening in support of World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD). The International Association for Suicide Prevention is having its annual campaigns for anyone from anywhere in the world to join: Cycle Around the Globe and Light a Candle.

I’ve tried searching online for any organized events in the Philippines for WSPD but found none. However, this doesn’t mean we Filipinos can’t do anything to show our support for suicide prevention. Apart from cycling and lighting a candle to show support, here are some suggestions:

1. Sign the petition for the Philippines’ first Mental Health Act

Perhaps we don’t hear much about suicide in the Philippines, with exception of some cases that made recent headlines. The 2014 global report on preventing suicide by the World Health Organization says  that the Philippines has the lowest rate of suicide among ASEAN countries.

A low statistic, however, doesn’t mean it’s negligible. In that same report, WHO estimates that the number of suicides in the Philippines in 2012 was 2,558. That’s 2,558 lives we weren’t able to save.

Whether or not we know anyone who may need psychiatric help, we can support the initiative by the Philippine Psychiatric Association to lobby for the Philippine government to provide programs for mental health.

“An initiative by the Philippine Psychiatric Association, the Mental Health Act aims to protect the rights of people with mental disorders and/or disabilities by putting in place an official body that will oversee the policies and programs that need to be developed to prevent and treat mental illnesses, and to promote the mental health of Filipinos.”

2. Educate yourself about mental illnesses, the signs of suicidal thoughts and how you can help prevent suicide.

There are many free online resources to help people understand mental illnesses such as depression. I found this video about depression by the World Health Organization to be very simple, straightforward and enlightening.

The website SuicideIsPreventable.org tells us how to 1) know the signs, 2) find the words, and 3) reach out.

In the Philippines, the Natasha Gouldbourn Foundation aims to promote understanding of depression as an illness and how it can lead to suicide. They have various programs and resources to educate and empower communities about depression and suicide prevention.

3. Show your support online through words and images of kindness and encouragement.

Filipinos are very fond of social media. We can use this in a positive way by making it a channel for expressing our support and reaching out. We can post on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube and where else we frequent. Our positive words and images may get someone, friend or stranger, to speak out and seek help.

WordKind logoSome self-promotion here. I started a webpage called WordKind. It’s a Facebook Page that aims to collect words of kindness and encouragement for those who are dealing with depression, bullying, isolation and hopelessness. It aims to show our care and concern for them, to remind them that they are valued and that they can be helped.

Please visit WordKind (WordKindNotes) and post your notes, handwritten and photographed or written directly on the page, to show your support for suicide prevention.

 

World Suicide Prevention Day may only be one day, and Suicide Prevention Month is only one month, but we can show our support year-round by being there to listen when someone we know may be suffering, by watching out for signs of mental illness or suicidal thoughts, and by being open-minded about talks of mental health, mental illness and suicide prevention.

 

 

 

 

WordKind: Your Words to Support Suicide Prevention

WordKind logoDo you want to show your support for those around the world who are battling depression, bullying, feelings of isolation or hopelessness? Do you want to help a friend, a relative or a stranger thinking about suicide or self-harm but you don’t quite know how? How about reaching out with words of kindness and encouragement to let them know that they are not alone, that they have people like us who care about them, who value their lives, who are willing to listen without judgment?

Please join me in collecting notes of kindness and encouragement from around the world in WordKind.

Today is the first day of September. September holds a special significance for me. It used to only be about the excitement at the start of the “ber” months, which to me and to many Filipinos signals the start of the Christmas season. Two years ago, September took on a much more somber meaning. On 10 September 2013, a dear friend died by suicide. I learned soon after that September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day.

Last Wednesday, I saw this post on the Facebook page of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) asking if anyone needed suggestions for activities for World Suicide Prevention Day. Like last year, I plan to join IASP’s Cycle Around the Globe and to follow their suggestion to light a candle on September 10. But I wondered if there are any organized activities in the Philippines, especially in Manila. I searched online and found none. I saw that IASP was gathering information about activities from all over the world, including web-based activities. I figured that if I couldn’t join any group activity, I could start a web-based activity that I can share with others.

I believe in the power of words. Words can shape our reality, inspire our spirits and heal our wounds. If there are many others out there like me who are looking for ways to show support for suicide prevention, we can do it through words of kindness published on the Internet. We can put our kind words out there for anyone to read, especially those who need to hear these words, these heartfelt notes of hope and love.

If you believe in the cause of suicide prevention, please consider sharing your words of kindness and encouragement on a new Facebook Page called WordKind, and please share the words with anyone who might need them.  Thank you.

 

 

 

 

Help Rianna Beat Cancer

Rianna is this towering 16-year-old package of talent and determination. Like her mom and some of her other family members, she is a passionate musician with a naturally melodic singing voice and able hands on the piano and guitar. She is an artist with a flair for drawing. Until recently, she had been a strong athlete and a fierce competitor in gymnastics.

Rianna is the eldest child and only daughter of a very dear friend of mine whom I’ve known for the last 29 years (note: we’ve been friends since we were very young; i.e. we’d like to think that we’re not that old!).  She is my goddaughter, and is perhaps the oldest friend and surely one of the closest friends of my daughter. (I have photos of them together as toddlers, but I won’t post them here so they will still talk to me.)

After going through six cycles of chemotherapy and radiation therapy last year, she is still battling Hodgkin Lymphoma (cancer of the lymph tissue). She needs high-dose chemotherapy and stem cell transplant to give her the best possible chance of beating cancer.  These treatments, however, are very expensive. Her mom has set up a GoFundMe.com page to help raise funds.

GoFundMe Rianna

I’m appealing to anyone who would like to help Rianna beat cancer by donating to her medical fund. Please help us give her the best chance of overcoming this hurdle to her dreams of college, of music and art, of helping others through her gifts.

 

 

 

A Little Meditation Everyday Goes a Long Way

Yesterday, I finally finished the 30-day meditation challenge with Faith Hunter on DoYouYoga.com. Doing the final meditation was bittersweet. I felt good knowing that I was able to finish the challenge, but I also felt sad that it was going to end.

Doing this 30-day meditation challenge was my very first time to meditate, and I an so glad I did it! Meditation has taught me some new lessons and reminded me of some forgotten ones.

1. Giving yourself moments of quiet and stillness everyday teaches you to get out of your head. 

Many times, I am focused on my lists of things to do for the children, for the household, for my writing, etc. When this happens, my bigger picture, my true goals and values are pushed aside. And when this happens, little mistakes, delays or inconveniences seem worse than they are and make things more stressful than they should be.

When I do my daily 8- to 10-minute meditation, I forget about all these lists, tasks, mistakes, delays and inconveniences. I am grateful to be alive and healthy, to be here in the safety and comfort of my home, to have this opportunity to enjoy peace by myself. I remember the things that I have that are most important to me: love, peace, family, friends, joy, health.  I am refreshed. And sometimes, I don’t think about anything specific.  In one meditation, Faith asked me to visualize floating amidst clouds. It was a very powerful image, and in my mind, I was floating, light and free.

2. Hearing a gentle voice of affirmation everyday is a gift of kindness and compassion. 

Faith Hunter’s voice is so soothing and gentle. Hearing her speak words of affirmation is like receiving words of kindness. Even though I was listening to her voice on a YouTube video, I felt her sincerity. I felt that she truly wanted every person watching her meditation videos to become calm and relaxed, to receive kindness and healing, to feel love and compassion.

If videos on the Internet can have this power, imagine the power of speaking and hearing kind words everyday. Imagine the difference we can make if we speak words of affirmation and compassion everyday to ourselves, our family members and friends, neighbors and strangers.

3. Words and images are powerful if we empower them.

In some of her meditation lessons, Faith Hunter talks about how to use visualization and words to affect our minds and our bodies. While focused on certain mental pictures or words repeatedly said, I was able to feel more calm, more motivated, more secure in my beliefs and goals.  I know that if I repeatedly see these beautiful mental images and say these inspiring words, I am bringing myself to a positive space where I am happy, blessed and empowered to be a good force in the world.

Until another free meditation challenge comes along, I will be going back to  Faith Hunter’s lessons. My first attempt at meditation has helped me regularly find peace, stillness and kindness in my days.  As often as I can, I will give myself some moments of meditation to nourish and sustain me, to refresh and rejuvenate my mind, my body and my soul.

If you haven’t tried meditation, maybe now is your time.

Yoga and Meditation Challenges at Home

wc yoga shootAfter all the recent Christmas season indulgences (eating, lazing around, skipping exercise, etc.), I’m happy to be doing yoga at home again. And since our household schedules and routines have gone back to normal, I’m more able to stick to my commitment of practicing yoga 3-4 times a week. Yay!

I’m so glad I discovered (thanks to a friend’s referral) DoYouYoga.com’s free 30-Day Yoga Challenge with Erin Motz last year.  That was my first attempt at doing yoga at home, and I loved it!  I finished the challenge, but not within 30 days.  More like 90 days probably.  But for me, that’s ok. I enjoyed the easy, friendly and forgiving approach of Erin Motz.  I appreciated that the video course was completely free. I found that the short length of her videos, about 12-18 minutes each, made it much easier to squeeze in a short-and-sweet yoga practice at home even on busy days. In short, this yoga challenge made me appreciate and enjoy practicing yoga at home.

This year, DoYouYoga.com is offering a new challenge that piqued my interest, so I signed up. The 30-Day Meditation Challenge with Faith Hunter starts this coming February 1. I have never meditated, and after watching these videos by Faith Hunter, I was convinced that this meditation challenge might be a good way to help me achieve better life balance and clearer focus in setting and pursuing my goals.

Till this new meditation challenge starts on Feb 1, I am happy to repeat some of my favorite sessions from the 30-Day Yoga Challenge with Erin Motz.  And as Erin Motz would always say, I’ve been doing good and feeling good. 🙂

 

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Healing and Love after Postpartum Depression

In June 2014, nytimes.com posted a video by Margaret Cheatham Williams entitled “Unexpected, Unplanned, Unwanted.” In the video, Emily Guillermo of Texas, USA talks about her struggle with postpartum depression/psychosis after Benjamin, her second son, was born.

Benjamin is now two years old. With hard work, professional help from a therapist and support from husband and father Jeff, respectively, Emily and Benjamin are doing much better now as they learn to enjoy and embrace their relationship as mother and son.

Are you still dealing with postpartum depression now?  What symptoms are you still experiencing?

I am no longer experiencing postpartum depression/psychosis. I do struggle with depression, but not as deeply as I did before. I am still left with feelings of guilt at times from the experience. I have always wanted what was best for Benjamin, and knowing that he didn’t get the best of me as his mother in that first year is a tough thing to swallow. I still continue to see a therapist once a month to help me with these feelings.

Has your experience with postpartum depression/psychosis affected your son’s growth and development?  

Benjamin is now 27 months old. He has been evaluated by a child therapist to ensure that he has developed into a normal 2-year-old psychologically. He began to exhibit signs of having an attachment disorder very early on and it was of great concern to me that he could have been affected mentally from my postpartum psychosis. It took several months to determine that Benjamin was in fact, a normal 2-year-old, although he does have some slight abandonment issues. It is very difficult to be out of eyesight of him even for just a few moments. This is typical for his stage of development, except that his feelings are far more intense than what other children his age may feel. When Benjamin was 14 months old, we began doing attachment exercises that many foster parents do to create stronger bonds with their children, and we still do them daily. I make it a point to spend lunchtime alone with him while his older brother Christopher takes his afternoon nap, so we can interact and bond without any distractions.

Benjamin has always been on the smaller side of the growth scale, but he was also born at only 3 lbs. and 34 weeks early, so it took him a long time to catch up to other babies his age. At one of his checkup appointments, we were told he had a slight iron deficiency that could be preventing him from growing as well as he could be. After a simple diet change and a growth spurt, he is closer to the normal height/weight range as other 2-year-old boys. I don’t think that my illness had anything to do with his physical growth.

How is your relationship with Benjamin now compared to how it was in the first year of his life?

My relationship with Benny is infinitely better now than it was during that first year. It took me a long time to finally feel bonded with him. It took me even longer to understand and accept that my relationship with him and my love for him are entirely different from those with Christopher. Sometimes it feels like my bond with Benjamin is far more complex and unique because we worked so hard to overcome postpartum psychosis. We won the battle together.

In all honesty, my relationship with Benny is far from perfect. For example, I can read the emotions on Christopher’s face precisely and act accordingly, while I find that Benjamin is a very difficult child to read emotionally and that makes it harder for me to meet his needs and wants. This also makes everyday tasks with him more arduous than should be. The one lingering effect that I have from postpartum psychosis is the trigger of his cries. His cries used to be like nails clawing down a chalkboard; it was excruciating to hear him cry during my affliction. Now, it’s no longer so severe, but at times it can still become frustrating to hear him cry. I’m not certain why this particular thing has stuck with me, but I have perceived it to be dissipating, especially as my relationship improves with Benny.

Has your postpartum depression/psychosis had any effects on Benjamin’s relationship with his father?  With his older brother Christopher?  

Benjamin has had no trouble bonding with my husband. Not surprisingly, Benjamin adores Jeff just as Jeff adores him. On some occasions when my husband comes home from work, I no longer exist to him and he is completely focused on Daddy. I have noticed that he comes out of his shell a little more with Jeff as well; he becomes more vocal and more eager to please. It makes me extremely happy to know that Benny has someone who has been a constant in his life from the day that he was born until now, and it definitely shows in the way that he trusts Jeff more than me. As for Benjamin and Christopher, they fight like typical boys over who gets to sit on Mommy or Daddy’s lap or the most awesome red firetruck ever. I see them becoming closer as they get older and understanding what one another is saying. When I began to accept having another baby in our household and was on the way to recovery, Christopher began to accept having another person to share his life (and toys) with.

 

Presbyopia: When Your Eyes Feel the Forties

Sarah 10 (Explore)It’s been a week since I last blogged (until now), and a week since I’ve read a book. It’s a crazy, undesirable but necessary diet. And because of it, I’ve been learning to be kinder to my eyes.

A week ago, I started having headaches, with heavy, sometimes throbbing pain on the top left side of my head. It came on and off for three days. It made me lose sleep, kept me from enjoying my daughter’s football tournament and caused me to cancel on a family commitment. I rarely suffer headaches, and these episodes reminded me of how much being sick sucked.

A trip to the opthalmologist confirmed my suspicion – it’s my eyes and my age. I spend many hours a day doing close work or near work, such as reading books, reading online and writing. Some months ago, I noticed that I couldn’t read very clearly anymore while wearing my eyeglasses for my nearsightedness. I just resorted to removing my glasses when I needed to read something. Now, it turns out that I need eyeglasses to see clearly not only at a distance, but also for reading and close work.  As the doctor put it simply, I’ve hit my 40s, I have presbyopia and it’s time for progressive lenses, i.e. new lenses for both distance vision and near vision. Without the help for reading and close work, my eyes are exerting more effort and this eye strain is causing the headaches.

And so I’ve ordered new lenses which would take about a week to be made.  Since last Monday and until I get my new glasses, I’ve been giving my eyes plenty of rest. I’ve avoided reading a book (argh!) and till now, I stopped blogging. I forced myself to spend less time with my computer and my phone. I’ve been listening to music, playing with my dog, sitting and just resting, and trying to declutter my desk. I’ve been looking up and looking around. And it has been an eye-opening experience (pun intended).

I cannot, will not permanently stay away from reading, writing and going online. I will, however, remember to be more conscious of how I take care of my eyes and eyesight. And I will remind myself to strike that balance between looking down and looking up and around.

 

 

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World Suicide Prevention Day and Saving Lives

Candle2WSPDThis year’s World Suicide Prevention Day (September 10) is coming to a close. I have cycled in support of Cycle Around the World, in solidarity with many others who are showing support for the cause of suicide prevention. I have my candles lit, in memory of a dear friend and of a relative who died of suicide. Keeping busy today has somehow kept me from grieving personally, allowing me to save it for a quieter day.

This day is about being connected with one another in our grief and loss. It is a day to reach out to victims and survivors of suicide, so we can remind one another that we are not alone and that we can get through this.

It is about finding ways to stay connected with those who are struggling with depression, addiction or other illnesses. Today, we remember to really listen and pay attention to the people around us. We are called to educate ourselves on the warning signs of suicide and what we can do to help prevent suicide.

I rediscovered this song today, “How to Save a Life” by The Fray. For me, this day is about saving lives. We save ourselves from drowning in sorrow or guilt by opening up to and supporting one another. By educating ourselves about suicide prevention, we may end up saving a life from suicide.