|Posted on March 6, 2017 at 10:30 AM||comments (0)|
Throughout my amazing experiences working on the Abandoned Asylums book series, I've had the inspirational experience of hearing some amazing stories. Telling the stories of these facilities, and all those affected within, has always been my primary goal. It's not just the horror stories, but what has come from these horrors, as well as from genuine kindness.
I have been mulling over some ideas for a new project. It's those of you, and your indiviual stories that inspire me. For that, thank you.
|Posted on September 21, 2016 at 12:30 AM||comments (0)|
Love Letter to a Friend
While sitting at my computer yesterday, in the midst of copious amounts of reading and research for school and book #3, I felt the need to stop and compose an email to a dear friend. Sometimes the mood strikes, and I know I won’t be productive until I take care of it. At times, it’s a simple hello, and sometimes it is so much more.
In this case, it was intended to be a quick hello, and to share a couple baby pictures of my family’s most recent additions…not one, but TWO last week! Though that did happen as well, I very quickly found myself in the midst of something I can only describe as a love letter to a friend. If I’m being completely honest, this isn’t a rare event. Not that I write letters to just anyone, but I find the most focus in the written word, and it often allows me to channel a deep love and admiration I hold for a few who have blessed my life.
Throughout my life, I have shared these “love letters” with many, though I learned very early, that some can’t handle my intensity, and sadly, I don’t write nearly as many as I would like. While they have brought some closer, my declaration of innocent admiration and gratitude has gone misunderstood, and even feared. Honestly, I think that’s the saddest of all…those who push away, because they can’t believe they are so very loved, and they have made a powerful difference in my life. Or that my motivations are nothing more than to express my gratitude. I speak from the heart, as openly and honestly as I can, and to some, that’s far too frightening.
To this friend in particular, I am especially grateful. She has been with me through the darkest and most difficult times in my life, and she’s been with me for the most beautiful and brightest. She has helped me to see a future of great possibility. If you’ve been to one of our talks, you’ve heard me talk about her, and how when I had lost hope, and was lost in the darkness, she was my light.
This is a small part of my most recent love letter to my dear friend.
Though I don’t see you every day, you are with me, you are a part of me, and I of you. I am eternally grateful for you. I am not just living, but I am alive. I am not just existing, I am thriving. I am not just here, but I belong. These, every one of them, is true because you shared your light with me.
Ringing through my mind as of late is, I guess an extension of this: Even the smallest light can break through the darkness. Perhaps not the most profound revelation, yet, to believe it wholeheartedly; to practice it, has been most enlightening. It has allowed me the privilege of connecting with some of the most amazing people, who perhaps, needed to be reminded of their contribution to this world. One light can illuminate a room, but together we can light a lifetime of hope.
|Posted on August 21, 2016 at 11:25 AM||comments (0)|
I recentl found this article about reading for Grad School. Ithought it was helpful, anfd you might too.
How to Read for Grad School
By Miriam / June 20, 2012 / ProTips / 10 comments
In graduate school the work load increases and students will find that they are expected to master two to three times the material that they were used to as an undergraduate. This can be intimidating to the point of overwhelming a student into paralysis. Following these tips should help you master your readings instead of allowing the readings to master you!
1. Read Strategically, Not Linearly. Reading for graduate school is different than reading a book for pleasure. When we read for pleasure we often start at the beginning of the book, reading carefully in a linear fashion. If you do this with your academic material, it will take twice as long and it is likely you won’t retain the right kind of information from the reading. Instead of reading linearly, read strategically. As an academic reader your job is to mine the text you are reading for information. Instead of cruising along the narrative, you need to dive in, find the information you need, and move along to the next stack of readings for class.
If you are reading a book this means you should look over the table of contents, then read the entire introduction carefully. In academic books, the introduction is where the author states all of their main points, the framework they will use, and an outline of what information will be covered in each chapter. Next, look over the last chapter. This is the conclusion, which will restate the main arguments of the author and will often contextualize these arguments in a broader context, suggest next steps, or speculate solutions or alternatives. From here you can go to the parts of the book you want deeper knowledge about. Individual chapters will be laid out similarly to the book structure with an introduction, and middle and the conclusion. Skimming the beginning and end of the chapter will give you the main points, then you can gather evidence by browsing the middle parts of the chapter. Remember, you are not really expected to read every single word of the book; your mandate is to understand the author’s main ideas, arguments, and be able to articulate why this discussion matters.
If you are reading a journal article, start by checking the name of the journal that published the article. This will key you in to the scope and boundaries that the article is working within. Next, carefully read the title and the abstract of the piece. A good abstract should clearly explain the main argument of the article, the kind of evidence the author uses, and a succinct conclusion, or what the author found out. Armed with this information, look over the introduction to see how the author is framing their work, paying attention to the citations they use. This tells you who the author is trying to be in dialogue with. Next, flip to the discussion section. Sometimes this is separate than the conclusion, sometimes not, depending on the disciplinary standards of the author and journal. Read the discussion and conclusion carefully. These sections will explain the author’s main arguments and the “why you should care” piece. Now you can go back through the article armed with the knowledge of where the author is leading you and browse over methods and results sections. Pay attention particularly to images and data visualizations. Note how these things relate to or support the discussion and conclusion sections you read.
Reading strategically instead of linearly will make you a more efficient and effective academic reader. Getting familiar with how different formats of writing are structured will give you the confidence and control to find the information you need in them more efficiently.
2. Take Notes! As you are reading strategically, you absolutely must take notes simultaneously. Otherwise it is guaranteed you will not remember the kinds of details you need to recall in class, in your paper, in your own research down the road. Develop a system of your own whether it is sticking a post-it note in the book and jotting something down, or opening up RefWorks or Zotero, or Word and throwing some notes down as you read. Whatever you do, remember that future you will have NO IDEA what present you is thinking, no matter how brilliant a thought it is. Be specific, include detailed citations and pages numbers for direct quotes so you don’t have to chase them later.
If you are reading as preparation for a class, make sure you are also jotting down 3-5 questions, observations, or provocations that you can use in class for participation. In grad school, everyone is expected to participate on a high level, so have something to say ahead of time to avoid the high-blood pressure that comes from your professor’s cold, hard stare.
3. Be purposeful. Being purposeful in your readings means that as you are moving strategically through the text you are also being deliberate about what you want to glean from the reading, what are meant to glean, and how this fits with the other readings and conversations you have had in class, along with your own life experiences. Ask yourself, “What is the author trying to say? What is motivating her exploration of this topic? What does this research contribute? What academic conversations is the author trying to align with? What are the main arguments of this piece? How does this relate to my other assigned readings?” Going in with these questions in mind will focus you as you read and aid you in pulling out the most relevant information.
4. A Critical Perspective. Lastly, applying a critical perspective in your reading is helpful for situating a reading in broader contexts. Contrary to how it sounds, being critical does not simply mean being negative or criticizing wantonly. Critical perspectives are those that trace and name flows of power: Who has power and who does not? Who benefits from particular social arrangements, and whom do they marginalize? Critical perspectives also question assumptions and values that are implicit in arguments: What values are underlying this work? What experiences and perspectives do these values privilege? How might centering different values or experiences re-frame the argument or conversation? Asking questions like this will help you have deeper conversations about your readings, and really, isn’t that the whole point of graduate school?
Time to make your reading work for you- good luck!
|Posted on August 1, 2016 at 5:15 PM||comments (0)|
In Science news...
Tapping Crowd-Sourced Data Unearths a Trove of Depression Genes
Pay-to-play gene typing leveraged for statistical power – NIH-funded study
August 1, 2016 • Press Release
Scientists have discovered 15 genome sites – the first ever – linked to depression in people of European ancestry. Many of these regions of depression-linked genetic variation turn out to be involved in regulating gene expression and the birth of new neurons in the developing brain.
But – in a twist – the researchers didn’t have to sequence anyone’s genes! Instead, they analyzed data already shared by people who had purchased their own genetic profiles via an online service and elected to participate in its research option. This made it possible to leverage the statistical power of a huge sample size to detect weak genetic signals associated with a diagnosis likely traceable to multiple underlying illness processes..
This novel use of crowd-sourced data was confirmed with results from traditional genetics approaches in the study, funded by the National Institutes of Health.
Roy Perlis, M.D., M.SC. , of Harvard/Massachusetts General Hospital – a grantee of the NIH’s National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) and National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI) – and colleagues from industry, report on their findings August 1, 2016 in the journal Nature Genetics.
It’s well known that at least some depression runs in families and some risk is inherited. Yet, prior to this study, conventional genome-wide approaches had failed to reliably identify chromosomal sites associated with the illness in populations with European roots. Since depression is thought to be like fever – a common set of symptoms likely rooted in multiple causes – lumping together genetic data from people with different underlying illness processes likely washed out, or statistically diluted, subtle evidence of effects caused by risk genes.
To increase their odds of detecting these weak genetic signals, the researchers adopted a strategy of studying much larger samples than had been used in the earlier genome-wide studies. They first analyzed common genetic variation in 75,607 people of European ancestry who self-reported being diagnosed or treated for depression and 231,747 healthy controls of similar ethnicity. These data had been shared by people who purchased their own genetic profiles via the 23 and Me website and agreed to participate in the company’s optional research initiative, which makes data available to the scientific community, while protecting privacy.
The researchers integrated these data with results from a prior Psychiatric Genomic Consortium genome-wide-association study, based on clinician-vetted diagnoses of more than 20,000 patients and controls of European ancestry. They then followed-up with a closer look at certain statistically suspect sites from that analysis in an independent 23 and Me “replication” sample of 45,773 cases and 106,354 controls.
In all, Perlis and colleagues found 17 genetic variations linked to depression at 15 genome locations. In addition to hinting at a link between depression and brain gene expression during development, there was also evidence of overlap between the genetic basis of depression and other mental illnesses. While the genome sites identified still account for only a fraction of the risk for depression, the researchers say the results support the strategy of complementing more traditional methods with crowd-sourced data.
“We hope these findings help people understand that depression is a brain disease, with it’s own biology,” said Perlis. “Now comes the hard work of using these new insights to try to develop better treatments.”
|Posted on July 17, 2016 at 3:20 PM||comments (0)|
In case you are thinking about taking an art class, or would like to expand your experience with a knowledgeable and a very encouraging teacher, then check this out below. Both Tammy and I had the great pleasure of learning about art from a friend and an amazing professor at Worcester State College.
Kat O’Connor, is an artist and professor based in Worcester, but well known throughout New England with her work seen on a national level. She is the featured (and cover) artist for Artscope magazine for July and August with her painting "Epic" and she will be teaching Painting 1 (both day and evening) and Cross Media this fall through Worcester State University. I have had Kat for several classes over the past few years, in fact, she is the reason I am an artist. Her work and full bio can be seen at Katopaints.com.
Whether this is your first art class or you've been and artist for years, Kat works with each individual student and instructs them to their highest potential. I have had many classes with advanced artists, and it provided me with an exceptional learning experience.
In her cross media class, she brings you through several mediums (charcoal, paint, stamp making, to name a few). She encourages free and creative thinking. If you are interested, or would like to learn more, you can register through the Worcester State University website Worcester.edu.
|Posted on July 14, 2016 at 1:20 PM||comments (0)|
Thi is a list of some common signs and symptoms of depression, according to the The National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) (see the link at the bottom to read more).
If you have been experiencing some of the following signs and symptoms most of the day, nearly every day, for at least two weeks, you may be suffering from depression:
Persistent sad, anxious, or “empty” mood
Feelings of hopelessness, or pessimism
Feelings of guilt, worthlessness, or helplessness
Loss of interest or pleasure in hobbies and activities
Decreased energy or fatigue
Moving or talking more slowly
Feeling restless or having trouble sitting still
Difficulty concentrating, remembering, or making decisions
Difficulty sleeping, early-morning awakening, or oversleeping
Appetite and/or weight changes
Thoughts of death or suicide, or suicide attempts
Aches or pains, headaches, cramps, or digestive problems without a clear physical cause and/or that do not ease even with treatment
Not everyone who is depressed experiences every symptom. Some people experience only a few symptoms while others may experience many. Several persistent symptoms in addition to low mood are required for a diagnosis of major depression, but people with only a few – but distressing – symptoms may benefit from treatment of their “subsyndromal” depression. The severity and frequency of symptoms and how long they last will vary depending on the individual and his or her particular illness. Symptoms may also vary depending on the stage of the illness.
Want to read more? http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/topics/depression/index.shtml
|Posted on July 11, 2016 at 1:30 PM||comments (0)|
I have accepted that my depression, my darkness is a part of me. In fact, at one of our book signings a couple months ago, one woman said something to the effect of “You wouldn’t be here, doing this work if it (my darkness) wasn’t.” She said it comes through in my writing, my empathy for those in similar situations, no matter the name they give it.
Today, I am moved to confess, lately, I am having a hard time fighting the darkness from creeping in. It starts with the little things … maybe I stay up a little later, then sleep a little later. Maybe I stay in bed until 2 or 3 in the afternoon, or even thought I get up, I can’t keep my eyes open as I work. Maybe I forget to eat, or even pee (personally, I never understood people who could forget they needed to pee… that is, until I was that person).
The biggest tell for me, when the darkness creeps in, is my self-induced isolation. This has been my life for the past few weeks…maybe months. I have somewhere I need to go, in fact I want to go, but I just can’t move. Days like these, even if I make it out the door, I seldom reach my intended destination. Then the internal struggle begins. I tell myself I should go, that I want to go, yet still I can’t move. Then I chastise myself for thinking this way. Whomever I am supposed to meet or see will be disappointed, or upset. Do I make an excuse, or do I do nothing and hope they will understand? But I don’t understand, how can they?
Yet, still, I am paralyzed by the darkness.
There are things I know I can do to help me through this, but it is a fight to move.
There are so many wonderful things going on in my life, yet still, the darkness is relentless.
I fear getting lost in that place, that prison within my own mind. It is a place I swore I would never again live. But I see it before me. I need to make a drastic move. I need to find a way back to the light. I need to remember I am not alone, and I can make it though.
Only time will tell.
I need to write. I need to make art. I need to renew with sunlight and the love of those around me. I need to fight my way back, but I am so tired. I am so very tired.
#BeTheLight I remind myself. It is inked into my skin, always with me, reminding me to keep fighting, reminding me of the joy I can attain. #BeTheLight is not just a catchphrase, it is my lifeline.
It is my mantra, it is my battle for life and for happiness. #BeTheLight
|Posted on July 9, 2016 at 1:15 PM||comments (0)|
#BeTheLight started for me as a means to share my own story of returning from a place of despair, largely due to one person who took the time to share her light of hope with me. In a time when I felt unable to move past the pain, the loss of control in my own life, and the isolation I felt walled in by.
It has grown since I began this journey, and I pray it continues to.
Anyone who has been to one of our book signings with a talk has heard the story of my depression, my darkness and I call it, and how the compassion of one person, a stranger at the time, was able to reach me, and guide me back to a place of well-being. A place where I now feel strong enough to share the light with others, and feel so uplifted, and hopeful by the goodness and honesty I have received in return.
I posted the following this afternoon on my facebook page. With all the hatred, violence and fear taking over our lives, I have been led to fight for compassion, hope and love. In the face of the darkness, no matter what form it presents itself, we are faced with some of the most difficult choices we may ever face. We can choose to perpetuate the darkness, the pain and destruction, OR we can fight against it with love, advocacy and hope. HOPE, can make the impossible possible. HOPE can pave the way to understanding. HOPE is the key to a happy life. Hope can take a world of confusion and fear, and pave the way to a better tomorrow.
So for just this moment, put the fear and pain aside, and breathe in a soul full of hope. It is infectious, and it will see us through whatever battle we may face.
#BeTheLight my friend, the rewards are beyond amazing.
Okay folks, so I have an idea. How about you join me in filling Facebook with positive, uplifting posts. I've seen several of you comment about how, in these trying times, the feed is filled with horrific news events and the pains of this world, and I understand the passion, and longing for understanding. But, just fora moment, let’s stop and rejoice the life we have.
So I am challenging each and every one of you, for just a moment, let’s put some positive energy out there.
Please post something uplifting, something as simple or complex as you wish, so long as it is something that will bring some joy into that moment when others read or watch it.
I'd like you to post it with this hashtag #BeTheLight so we call all share in this moment of prayer, or sending out good energy, or just good old fashion laughter.
#BeTheLight started with me, wanting to share the incredible gift I was given when I was lost in my own darkness. It has become my own personal crusade to share the light of joy and hope.
If you'd like to share this, great, if not, that's okay too. Just know, right now, there is at least one of us (me) sending out positive intentions and light to a world in need.
(Also, if you like to learn more about #BeTheLight, you can read about it on my website LFBlanchard,com, or join us at one of our book signings (also on my site). )
Share the love, spread the light of hope, and take time, every day to find your own personal peace.
|Posted on June 25, 2016 at 3:20 PM||comments (0)|
The question I hear, over and over, and infact, often ask myself is, how do we fix the mental health system? Let me clarify "fix"; by fix, I mean how do we make it more accessable? How do we drive out the stigma associated with mental health?
I was recently asking a friend (who is a Psychologist and Professor of Psychology) this exact question. She suggested that we start, here in Massachusetts, although this could be applied anywhere, including an annual mental health check up to go along with our annual physical. I love this idea.
Thoughts? Drop me a line (my info is on the contact page), I'd love to hear what you think, and your ideas as well. Lets come together and spread the light!
|Posted on June 25, 2016 at 3:20 PM||comments (0)|
In response to a recent question at one of our book signings. We were asked, if the asylum is on the national historic register how can it be torn down? The answer is...so long as the property, or the property owners, are not receiving any federal aid, they can pretty much do what ever they want with the property. The registry mostly makes note of the historical significance of the "place".
Keep those questions coming!!