Insight

  • MY ADHD Story MY ADHD Story

    MY ADHD Story

MY ADHD Story

In 2008, I attended a workshop given by Dr. Gabor Mate. He is a renowned expert in addiction, addiction treatment, and the impact of childhood stress on the developing brain. Needless to say, I learned more than I could write down and ultimately decided to put my pen down and just listen. What I did write down were the names of the books he has written. I then went and bought all four of them and started reading them all at once (hint #1). They were all full of awesome insight and scientific ammunition. Anyway, one of the books was called “Scattered Minds”, and it was a book about ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder). Since so many of my clients have been (or should have been) diagnosed with ADHD as children, I thought I should learn more about it. What I discovered as I madly devoured this book, was that I displayed almost all of the characteristic signs of ADHD and had done so throughout my life. I realize this is a common experience, even the subject of research, called “psych student syndrome” where people tend to over-identify with lists of signs and symptoms and diagnose themselves with every condition […]

  • Things I Was Wrong About, Vol. 1 Things I Was Wrong About, Vol. 1

    Things I Was Wrong About, Vol. 1

Things I Was Wrong About, Vol. 1

Things won’t get better I’ve experienced darkness in my life. Deep darkness. When I was a kid, I was in boy scouts. One time, on a day trip, our scout leaders took us to an abandoned mine shaft. I know, this story has a very promising beginning, just like the last one. Because we didn’t know anything, and apparently neither did our leaders, we wandered into the mine shaft, deeper and deeper into the mountain. Our way was lighted by an actual torch, not a flashlight or lantern. One of our leaders, who just happened to be the one holding the torch and also happened to have the most severe case of ADHD of the bunch of us, thought it would be a funny trick, once we were several hundred feet into the mine shaft, to knock the torch on the ground, extinguishing the flame. The tunnel that we were exploring had curved to the left, meaning that when the torch was gone, the entrance to the shaft was out of sight around a corner, leaving us with absolutely no light. In review, we were 12 year old kids in an abandoned mine shaft and it was so dark, we […]

By |April 23rd, 2015|Blog, Insight, snippets, things I was wrong about|Comments Off on Things I Was Wrong About, Vol. 1
  • 10 Favourite Quotes from Dr. Gabor Mate 10 Favourite Quotes from Dr. Gabor Mate

    10 Favourite Quotes from Dr. Gabor Mate

10 Favourite Quotes from Dr. Gabor Mate

In no particular order, I present 10 of my favourite pieces of wisdom from Dr. Gabor Mate, bestselling author of “Scattered Minds“, “When the Body Says No”, “In the Realm of Hungry Ghosts”, and co-author of “Hold on to Your Kids”. 1. It is impossible to understand addiction without asking what relief the addict finds, or hopes to find, in the drug or the addictive behaviour. There is a purpose to all behavior and feelings. We just need to look a little deeper to find it. On the surface, addictive or self-destructive behavior seems illogical but if we focus its benefits, few though they may be, we will be able to unlock the mystery of the behavior and put ourselves in a position to change it. 2. The DSM … defines attention deficit disorder by its external features, not by its emotional meaning in the lives of individual human beings. I’ve noticed this in discussing the symptoms with doctors, even those who specialize in treating the condition. The list of symptoms and signs makes very little room for the emotional impact of poor time management, poor attentional control, lack of follow-through, impulsive behavior, and constant restlessness. The list doesn’t touch […]

By |April 7th, 2015|Blog, Insight, snippets|Comments Off on 10 Favourite Quotes from Dr. Gabor Mate
  • Hard Things Made Easy? Not Quite Hard Things Made Easy? Not Quite

    Hard Things Made Easy? Not Quite

Hard Things Made Easy? Not Quite

As a counsellor, I have been approached for help with a wide variety of issues. Sometimes it is a last-ditch attempt to save a relationship where years of muddy water has passed under the bridge. Sometimes it is eliminating the effects of a life-changing traumatic experience. Sometimes it is rewiring the brain of a child or partner who has special needs or mental illness. Regardless of the specifics, the basic element of many of these problems is the client asking me the following question: How can I do something hard in an easy way?” Predictably, my answer to this question is not always satisfactory. You can’t always clean up the mud, you can’t always erase trauma, you can’t always rewire someone’s brain, and even if any of these things are possible, it is never easy. There are many ingredients to change, but most important to the recipe is time and effort. Education that leads to understanding can certainly help this process, along with the support of the important people in your life, but even these tools can only go so far in the absence of time spent working on the issue. I’m not just referring to time spent on the […]

  • Understanding Self-Harm Understanding Self-Harm

    Understanding Self-Harm

Understanding Self-Harm

“Sometimes when I feel overwhelmed by my stupid life, I get the urge to hurt myself. I take anything sharp that I can find and go to the bathroom. I cut myself on my abdomen, where no one can see it. I don’t even really feel the pain, it just feels kind of numb. If my parents ever found out, they would lose it.” Self-harm is not a new phenomenon but it is becoming a more prevalent topic of conversation with the help of social media. As with anything, the more exposure it gets, the more armchair psychologists are willing to authoritatively speculate on its causes and what can be done about it. We hear everything from, “they’re just trying to get attention” to “they’re seriously crazy” to “it’s all just an act”. But what is the truth about self-harm? Why, when a person is already hurting, would they want to hurt themselves even further? The answer is actually much simpler than it seems. If a person is cutting, burning or hitting themselves, it may be a cry for attention, but not if they are doing so in an area that they keep hidden from view. That would defeat the […]

By |November 27th, 2014|Blog, Education, Insight, snippets|Comments Off on Understanding Self-Harm
  • Why Watching the News is Bad for Your Brain Why Watching the News is Bad for Your Brain

    Why Watching the News is Bad for Your Brain

Why Watching the News is Bad for Your Brain

It is a well-established fact that sex sells. When it comes to the news, however, sex is joined by violence, sickness, political unrest, and lawsuits. Anyone who watches or reads the news is aware that the information that is fed to us is overwhelmingly negative. It is so much so that that some news shows have specifically set aside time in their programming to focus on a positive story. However, even those positive stories are framed by negativity, as it usually involves someone rising above unfortunate circumstances such as violence, sickness, or unjust social circumstances. There are many reasons for this attraction to negativity. We can’t just blame the media organizations, since they only feed us what we want to eat. We may be more drawn to negativity because our primitive threat detecting system in the limbic portion of the brain is wired to be on the lookout for threats at all times. As I often say to my clients, if we are living in the jungle and forget to stop and smell the roses, the consequences are much less severe than if we forget which snakes are poisonous. We are wired to be wary. However, in our day and […]

By |November 25th, 2014|Blog, Insight, snippets|Comments Off on Why Watching the News is Bad for Your Brain
  • Three Kinds of Procrastination and What to Do About Them: Part 3 Three Kinds of Procrastination and What to Do About Them: Part 3

    Three Kinds of Procrastination and What to Do About Them: Part 3

Three Kinds of Procrastination and What to Do About Them: Part 3

Truth be told, even though these posts are all being published within a few days of each other, I originally started the series back in July. Don’t worry, three months is hardly even in the ballpark of my all-time record for procrastination. I once went seven years between journal entries. Anyway, I hope you’ve got something so far out of the series. Here’s the final instalment. 3. Defiance and Rebellion (Counterwill) Gordon Neufeld, child psychologist and author of the best-selling book “Hold On to Your Kids”, often refers to a natural, instinctive phenomenon which is known as counterwill. Simply stated, counterwill is the instinct to resist the efforts of others to control us. Neufeld demonstrates this instinct in his lectures by inviting an audience member to hold their hand up. He then pushes gently against their hand. As he does so, it is plain to see that, without any thought, the audience member instinctively pushes back. As I said before, counterwill is an instinctive response. However, it may grow much stronger in unhealthy environments. If you are a child who is overly controlled by a parent or authority figure, you may adapt by acquiescing and completely abandoning your own will […]

By |November 1st, 2014|Blog, Education, Insight|Comments Off on Three Kinds of Procrastination and What to Do About Them: Part 3
  • Three Kinds of Procrastination and What to Do About Them: Part 2 Three Kinds of Procrastination and What to Do About Them: Part 2

    Three Kinds of Procrastination and What to Do About Them: Part 2

Three Kinds of Procrastination and What to Do About Them: Part 2

Ok, it’s been 10 days since I finished writing the first installment of this article. I kind of knew that would happen. I knew it would happen because it’s happened so many times before. Despite this knowledge, I often feel powerless to do anything about it. Today, I’m going to address another reason why I might feel that way as well as making some suggestions that might help to overcome it. Lack of Motivation This may seem overly obvious as an explanation but motivation is much more biological (biochemical, to be specific) in nature than people realize. Wanting to do something isn’t as simple as being interested in doing it and then doing it. In order for any activity to be motivating, even those that we experience as intrinsically rewarding or intensely pleasurable, we rely on the presence of a critical neurochemical known as dopamine. Dopamine has many functions, depending on where in the brain and body it is being used. It is a pleasure chemical (stimulants increase dopamine levels, as does sexual activity). It also provides physical energy. It is implicated in control of fine and gross motor control (Parkinson’s patients don’t have enough dopamine in the part of […]

By |October 28th, 2014|Blog, Education, Insight|Comments Off on Three Kinds of Procrastination and What to Do About Them: Part 2
  • Three Kinds of Procrastination and What to Do About Them: Part 1 Three Kinds of Procrastination and What to Do About Them: Part 1

    Three Kinds of Procrastination and What to Do About Them: Part 1

Three Kinds of Procrastination and What to Do About Them: Part 1

The idea for this article came to me some time ago. I cannot say how long specifically because I’ve avoided writing or thinking about it as much as possible, so the timeline has become a bit fuzzy. This isn’t because I think this subject is boring, or useless, or unoriginal, or any of those reasons. I have been procrastinating, something that I am especially adept at. If they ever make procrastination an Olympic sport, I will win the gold medal for sure, as long as I got around to registering for the competition. I know that I procrastinate. Everyone who knows me reasonably well also knows this about me. Many of my clients know this about me. It’s one of the reasons that I don’t let it bother me when other people procrastinate. Given my familiarity with procrastination, the question that must be asked is not regarding how I procrastinate, it is regarding the reasons why I do so. The word procrastinate, according to its Latin roots, means quite literally to “put off until tomorrow”. Wow, that means that even by procrastination standards, I’m an over-achiever. I’ve been putting some things off for years! I procrastinated throughout school, from early […]

By |October 27th, 2014|Blog, Education, Insight|Comments Off on Three Kinds of Procrastination and What to Do About Them: Part 1
  • So, What CAN I Say to Someone Suffering from Depression? So, What CAN I Say to Someone Suffering from Depression?

    So, What CAN I Say to Someone Suffering from Depression?

So, What CAN I Say to Someone Suffering from Depression?

I got a lot of feedback about my previous post on what not to say to a depressed person. I, myself, realized, after I finished writing, that my list seemed to eliminate most of the seemingly helpful things people actually say to depressed people, along with some of the more useless pieces of advice. So, have I thrown the baby out with the bathwater? I don’t think so, but let me explain. The purpose of the list was to describe, for people who don’t suffer from depression, what the mind can do to even objectively harmless and pro-social encouragement when it is weighed down under a cloud of darkness. The most positive and encouraging sentiments are quickly corroded in the acid bath of negativity, rendering them unhelpful at best and harmful at worst. This naturally leads to the question, “So, if I can’t even tell them that I love them, what can I say to them?” Check out this list of suggestions: 1. That must feel terrible… I’ve written before about the importance of validation, especially when it comes to getting someone to listen to your perspective. Much of the usual feedback given to depressed people is intended to be […]

By |October 10th, 2014|Blog, Insight|Comments Off on So, What CAN I Say to Someone Suffering from Depression?